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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for York West.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak today. It is my first opportunity since the May 2 election.

Needless to say, I want to thank the wonderful residents of York West. This is my sixth federal election. They were there for me throughout the election, as they had been in previous ones. I am very grateful for the trust and the confidence they have in me and I am thrilled that I represent such a wonderful riding.

It has been often talked about in a negative form, the Jane-Finch corridor. I would not represent any other riding in our country. My riding has all those wonderful, caring people and I am thrilled to represent them.

I also thank my family, my grandchildren and children and my husband Sam for their complete commitment for the 22 years I have had in public office. They are always there and will continue to be there. With the help of my residents, I intend to be there for as long as they want me to be. I look forward to that.

I have a wonderful staff. All of us here know how important our staff is. I thank Greg, Sam, Sonia, Antoinette and others, and my riding president. I thank them all for their continued commitment.

I am pleased to be back. We are in an interesting spot with lots of opportunities for the future and to grow and we are very excited about all of that.

Yesterday the government presented its do-over budget to the House and indeed to all Canadians. There is not much different from what was there, other than taking a shot at political subsidies, but so be it. That is not a problem. We will overcome that. We are very good at dealing with issues that are tough to deal with and finding solutions to all of that.

I say a do-over budget because as we know, this budget is the second such document that the government has presented in just three short months. While this type of second chance typically does not happen, these are clearly extraordinary times.

The government presented its first budget in March and then, as a result of being found in contempt of Parliament, all of us spent the following weeks speaking directly to Canadians. However, at least in theory, candidates were supposed to be asking constituents for their input on the direction of the country, both fiscally and socially.

In my riding of York West, the message I was given was very clear. It is about jobs, more jobs, full-time jobs, not part-time jobs, pension reform and seniors issues. We have heard a lot today about seniors. We heard a lot through the recent campaign. I hope we will hear more in the oncoming years about the importance of supporting our seniors and their quality of life.

Settlement funding for new immigrants is another issue that is very significant in the riding of York West. It happens to be home to many newcomers, most of whom we get to know through our office. The settlement funding cuts have really hurt their ability to settle sooner so they can get themselves into the marketplace, hone up on the language skills and things that are necessary to get the jobs they want, to pay taxes to help our country grow and also to grow with their families. The lack of settlement funding for many of them has clearly hampered those opportunities.

Those were the issues identified in my riding when I was knocking on doors.

However, I would suggest that most Canadians agree the Conservative budget presented in March 2011 was a budget that again failed to address some of the key issues in any real, substantive way.

Again, the Conservatives resorted to their traditional position, first adopted by the former U.S. president, the late Ronald Reagan, of cut taxes, reduce programs, throw it all up in the air and let everything sort itself out. Clearly, it is not the way the Liberals think we should be running the country.

Budget 2011 was, by all accounts, a budget that focused attention on the wealthiest corporations and those individuals on the upper end of the income scale. While I strongly support measures designed to support those outside of the low end of the income scale, I also believe we can and must do more to address poverty and isolation in Canada. Leaving the poorest Canadians to get sorted out by the markets or by large corporations just does not seem right to me. People who need help have every right to expect that their government will stand by them and with them.

The government had an opportunity to take the feedback given during the recent campaign and then apply it to Canada's fiscal course. By implementing and sustaining measures to address the concerns of new Canadians and older Canadians alike, Canada could again boast an inclusive and compassionate approach to problem-solving. The opportunity to end politics of division was very real and I believe it is a missed opportunity.

Contrarily, the second Conservative budget included a range of items, everything from tax changes for large corporations to phantom and undefined predictions of impending government program cuts. It could be said that the budget was more newsworthy for what it failed to include.

Real pension reform is a very serious issue facing this country. Many of the seniors we were talking about earlier today did not have a vehicle that would have allowed them to save in a successful way for their retirement days, or they did not have the income to put away because they were new immigrants to Canada and were finding their way. They may end up in poverty once they become 65 if we do not change our retirement system, and we need to start that plan today, not tomorrow.

Affordable housing is a big issue in Canada, as any of us who have been out there in our ridings would have heard in talking with seniors and those suffering from mental illness who have ended up living on the street. That is not the kind of Canada any of us in the House want regardless of what side of the House we sit on. I believe we need to work collaboratively to find solutions for these very important issues.

On refundable tax credits for home care and other areas where people need help, having a non-taxable refundable tax credit would not help as we move forward. For those people we are very much trying to help who do not have any taxes to pay, how would they would get a refund?

Families struggling to make ends meet need help. There are many people that I have met who want to stay in school, but they need child care in order to do that. They want to join the workforce and achieve the same dream that everybody else wants to achieve, but they need child care in order to go to school and they need help with tuition.

That is everybody's dream. I do not believe people want to sit at home and collect a cheque. We need to give them a hand up so they can achieve their goals. However, it does not seem to make any sense to the current government when it comes to giving a hand up rather than just a hand out.

When we do the math on assistance for seniors, as we have talked about in this budget, we find that the $1.67 is not going to everybody but only to seniors who qualify; the poorest of the poor. It is the equivalent of a good cup of coffee every day.

When it came to pension reform, we put forward proposals for a supplemental Canada pension plan, a revamp of the cost of living calculations used for pensions, and a stranded pension agency, to name a few of our ideas. These were measures that could have made a real difference. Again, I would ask the government to set aside its partisan focus in favour of really helping seniors, really helping Canadians in our country.

The government spent more than $1 billion on things such as fake lakes, snacks, hand lotion and glow sticks. Just think what we could have done with that $1 billion for the many who are struggling in our country. CARP tells us that 200,000 seniors are still living in poverty. That $1 billion could have been put into the hands of seniors to get them out of poverty. We would then not have to say that we still have Canadians, specifically seniors, living in poverty in this country.

This debate is not just about the budget, it is about our collective priorities for the future. Aside from pensions, Canada faces challenges in areas such as integration of new Canadians, as I referred to earlier. Prior to the election, the government summarily slashed funding for the settlement service agencies throughout Canada, a move which hobbled many community service groups that provide essential roles in countless communities.

In York West, groups such as the Delta Family Resource Centre, Northwood Neighbourhood Services and the Afghan Association of Ontario, just to point out a few, have for years provided language, employment and cultural support to thousands of new Canadians. Because of the government's short-sightedness, these groups have been dealt a blow from which they will never recover. As a result, thousands of new Canadians will be left adrift without the support they need to become productive and prosperous members of society.

Budget 2011 talks about helmets to hardhats, but there is no money. It talks about helping with foreign credentials, but there is no money attached to it. Rhetoric is easy, but we need the actual vision to make a difference.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, as was mentioned earlier, we know that the Liberals always have great intentions. They always make a lot of promises but when they are in government they actually never accomplish anything. What they do is live off all of the hard work that has been done before them.

In the nineties they hoisted all their cuts on the provinces and they did all the heavy lifting. Thanks to the provinces we were able to balance the budget. It was also because of the hard work of a Conservative government in the eighties, which brought in the GST and free trade, that the Liberals were able to accomplish many of the balanced budgets that they like to talk about.

I want to ask the member about settlement funding. I come from a part of the country where thousands of immigrants are settling. We have moved immigration settlement funding to where immigrants are settling and we have actually increased settlement funding.

I am wondering if the hon. member is trying to suggest to the new immigrants who are coming to my riding that they are not as valuable as immigrants in other parts of the country and that they should receive less funding for settlement as they would in Toronto.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

That is another insult, Madam Speaker. That is simply the same issue that the Conservatives are famous for and that is dividing communities, one against the other. I am very glad that the member has new Canadians moving into his riding and that he has extra support money, but it does not mean you have to take it away from my riding in order to give it to your riding.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I would ask the hon. member to direct her comments through the Chair.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is all about building. It is not about taking from one side and giving it to the other or vice versa.

I do appreciate the fact that we are being very strict in the House today and that is a good sign for the future.

I would remind the hon. member that when we were in office in 1993 and had to make those cuts, we had a $43 billion deficit as a result of the previous Conservative government. The provinces were all awash in money and doing very well. We made the cuts that we needed to make in those years and brought in very well-balanced budgets. We also left a $13 billion surplus on the table for the Conservative government that has now squandered it.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for raising some important points around poverty. She specifically referenced seniors poverty.

I want to come back to a report in 2007 from the National Council on Welfare wherein it talked about the fact that in 2007 Canada had no long-term vision, no plan, no one accountable for carrying out the plan, no resources in sight, and no accepted measures of results on an anti-poverty strategy. One of its recommendations was that the government take on a national anti-poverty strategy with a long-term vision and measurable targets and timelines.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that here we are in 2011 and Canada still does not have a national anti-poverty strategy.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, if we have not had it up until now, I doubt that we are ever going to see it.

I talked earlier about having a long-term vision and that takes a government that is committed to making a serious difference and eliminating poverty in this country. While we are investing in our businesses and small businesses to make sure they are successful and all of that, we have to invest in the people of the country at the same time.

I recall a young woman I met who was in her second year of college. She was hoping she would have the money to complete it, so that she could join the workforce like everybody else. She said the one thing that she wanted to do was get up in the morning and get dressed, and go to work like everyone else. That was her degree of success.

In order for that to happen for many people, whether they are new immigrants or whether they are suffering from mental illness or a lack of opportunity and encouragement, we need to invest in the people of this country in order for our production to increase.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to ask a clarification question.

The member said that the provinces were awash in cash in the nineties when there were unilateral cuts. I just want to remind the hon. member that the current leader of the Liberal Party was the departing NDP premier of the province of Ontario when it was awash in a $11 billion deficit. The province was spending about $1 million more an hour than it was taking in.

I am wondering if that is the type of leadership that we can expect over the next four and a half years from the Liberal Party. Is that what those members mean when they talk about the provinces being awash in revenue and that is why the Liberals unilaterally cut $25 billion from health care?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, they clearly were not as well off as some of the other provinces. I am really pleased with the leadership of our Liberal Party. I look forward to our party coming forward with very fiscally responsible and socially progressive plans for the future. I am very proud of the leader that we have.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin today by thanking the citizens of Kitchener—Conestoga for returning me to Parliament to work on their behalf and by congratulating all members of this House on their election to this chamber.

A special word of thanks to all of those who helped me return to Parliament, my family, children, grandchildren, my campaign team, John, Linda, David, Scott, Beverly, Doug, and many others, and also my EDA board, my president especially.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of hundreds of volunteers who made it possible for me to enjoy this great honour and privilege of serving here in the House of Commons.

I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the ongoing work between the campaigns of my constituency and Ottawa staff. Certainly, on a day-to-day basis the issues they deal with make it possible for me to represent the area and to address many of the issues that the constituents bring to my office for help.

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.

I rise today to speak in support of budget 2011, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. I am pleased to note that this budget is very similar to that one tabled on March 22, a budget which the opposition parties chose not to debate in favour of forcing an unnecessary election.

The citizens expressed their contempt with the opposition action through their ballots. I return to this House not only as part of a majority government but with the strongest mandate I have ever enjoyed in three elections. I understand where the voters were coming from. I understand what motivated them. They told me at the doors. I met thousands of them over the five weeks of the campaign.

Canadians are concerned about the economy. They worry about their jobs, the ability of their children to find that first job while saddled with debt, the ability of their parents to access the health care they need, and where their mortgage or rent payment will come from.

When the voters were given a choice between a low tax plan for jobs and growth on one hand and continuing the political games of the opposition on the other, Canadians voted for the leadership that brought them seven straight quarters of economic growth, more than half a million net new jobs since July 2009, and the strongest fiscal position among the world's advanced economies.

Members on this side of the House ran on our government's record. We ran on the budget that we proposed on March 22. That budget promised to support job creation through a variety of means, all contained in this budget as well, extending the capital cost allowance, improving the programs that help employers return their skilled workers, renewing programs to help the unemployed, making it easier for small businesses to hire and grow, and support for young entrepreneurs.

In Waterloo region, we heard praise for the March 22 budget. Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo, noted that our future prosperity was dependent on innovation and research. Our universities will be on the edge of that, thanks to that same budget.

That budget promised to support families and communities, as does this budget tabled yesterday, through an enhancement of the GIS, tax credits to support children's art programs, volunteer firefighters and family caregivers.

The support for volunteer firefighters is crucial. Many times these are the frontline responders to the emergencies that occur in our communities. I believe they deserve the honour and respect of all of us here in this House and indeed of all Canadians.

There was also support for family caregivers, so that families like the Simpson family in the region of Waterloo, whose son suffers from cerebral palsy and will require care for his entire life, can make ends meet more easily.

When the opposition rejected its chance to debate that budget in March, it missed an opportunity, but thanks to the wisdom of Canadians, it has been given a second chance to offer criticism and amendments, and to adopt a budget that will see Canada maintain its economic leadership on the world stage.

Before I move to the substance of why I believe what is contained in this budget is the best possible course for Canada's economy, I would like to digress for just a moment to discuss what was not contained in this budget and nor was it contained in the throne speech which we heard last week.

As I mentioned, this most recent campaign was my third election. Through each of these campaigns, honourable opponents from some other parties told the voters there was a reason to be afraid of the Conservative Party and afraid of a Conservative majority. My constituents were told most recently that a Conservative majority would veer from the good governance and prudent stewardship we have offered Canadians to instead pursue some secret agenda.

Through three campaigns now, our party has defended itself from similar charges, charges that if we were given a majority, Canada and Canadians would be somehow harmed by nefarious actions our party would undertake. These were the accusations.

A stable, national Conservative majority government now governs this great country, but contrary to the predictions of the doomsayers, this government is delivering exactly what we said it would: a low-tax plan for jobs and growth.

Contrary to the fear-mongering to which Canadians were exposed, this budget demonstrates that this government will deliver on the promises it makes to Canadians. It will continue to focus on creating jobs now and fostering long-term growth going forward.

Canadians saw past the doomsaying. They saw one party fighting the recession and an official opposition fighting the recovery. Canadians saw where our focus was and returned us to government with a decisive majority. That previous official opposition, meanwhile, was found wanting by Canadians and was reduced to third-party status for the first time in its history. More than four in five Canadians voted against the Liberals' self-interested policies. More than 80% of Canadians voted against those policies.

Canadians now enjoy a majority government and a new loyal opposition as well. I extend my congratulations to the member for Toronto—Danforth on his party's success. While I disagree with many of the official opposition's policies, I do not question its belief that it acts in Canada's best interests rather than its own.

However, I digress.

On March 22 the proposed budget, just like the one tabled yesterday by our finance minister, provided a clear path to improving Canadians' lives today while positioning us for future stability and growth. Once again this budget is receiving praise in the Waterloo region. The Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce was particularly happy to see our government follow through on a hiring credit for small business to apply against their EI premiums.

The senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Dan Kelly, said, “We think that a lot of the provisions are going to help some small firms come out of the recession a bit better than they would have otherwise”.

I know it is easy for us to dismiss the endorsement of business groups. However, I am sure members of the third party will recognize the names of former Liberal candidates who have also praised this budget. Carl Zehr, chair of the big cities caucuses of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Berry Vrbanovic, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' new president, were both grateful that this government follows through on its commitments.

This government will make the gas transfer permanent. This government will work with municipalities on a long-term infrastructure program that Mayor Zehr notes includes traditional roads, bridges, water, infrastructure and other community needs.

It is true that the document tabled yesterday is not identical to the budget proposed on March 22. By forcing an election, the opposition parties gave this government an opportunity to seek new mandates. Our platform committed to end political subsidies.

Our region's daily paper, the Waterloo Region Record, today stated as clearly as possible the case for stopping this political welfare. It says, “The best argument for the change is that political parties should have no automatic right to financial backing from taxpayers”.

Our platform also committed to returning Canada to surplus a year earlier than forecast. Deficit spending will end in 2014, and we are committed to finding the savings needed to achieve this goal.

We will not repeat the mistakes of the previous Liberal government. Canadians have turned the page and are ready to close the book on that party. We will protect transfer payments for health care and education, but we will return this country to surplus. According to the chamber of commerce, budget 2011 will secure the fiscal flexibility that is crucial to our long-term competitiveness.

Finally, I heard the leader of the third party refer to this budget somewhat derisively as a “déjà-vu budget”. It may be that Canadians elected us to provide exactly that: a low-tax plan for jobs and growth.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, this is the first time I have stood in the House, and it is a privilege that has been given to me by voters in Surrey North. I want to take this opportunity to thank the voters in Surrey North for the privilege of allowing me to be their voice in the House of Commons.

The government claims to want to deal with crime, yet again we see that the budget has made very minor commitments to areas in need of serious investment, crime prevention being one of the prime examples. The government has committed only a few million dollars, at a time when it is planning to spend billions of dollars on prisons. Victims' services have also felt these cuts by the government. Proposed spending will not go far enough.

Safety in our communities and across the country is a very serious concern, yet the government prefers to build mega prisons ahead of investing seriously in crime prevention programs for youth at risk and providing the proper resources for the RCMP to fight organized crime.

My question to the member is this. Please explain why the government continues to ignore the real concerns about crime and gang violence in our communities and continues to cut programs for victims and prevention while spending billions of dollars on prisons.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on being elected to the House. I know he will immensely enjoy representing his riding.

I want to point out that the Conservative government believes we need a balanced approach to crime prevention. We agree with, and have supported enthusiastically, many of the crime prevention programs. We have invested heavily in the anti-drug strategy and many other crime prevention programs. I personally have worked with groups in my riding that are active and successful in crime prevention programs.

However, we cannot simply put everything into that arm, the prevention program, without recognizing that we also need to protect victims. When a person who has committed a criminal offence is kept in prison long enough to be rehabilitated in order to protect those in the community, it is important that we support those kinds of initiatives as well.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, I have appreciated the discourse so far. However, I have to ask a very simple and straightforward question. Is there a certain satisfaction that the member and the government get in knowing that they are restricting any increase to the guaranteed income supplement benefits for seniors who make between $4,000 and $16,000?

There is something that needs to be made clear. It was made clear during the election campaign in my riding, but not necessarily across the entire country. It is that the current GIS proposal is not for a universal increase for all current GIS recipients, for all seniors who live on annual incomes of $16,000 or less; the current proposal is strictly limited to those who make $4,000 to $7,000 or less. If seniors make $4,000 a year outside of the OAS and GIS, they do not get the $1.67; they get only a part of it. If they dare to make $7,000 a year or more, they get none of it.

Is that a particularly pleasing policy that the government has introduced?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, all of us in the House would like to do far more for seniors, especially those who helped build this country and who gave us many of the benefits we currently enjoy. However, the reality is that there has been no adjustment to the GIS for something like 25 years. When the previous Liberal government was in power, it could have changed that. We have at least started to address some of the major shortfalls in this area.

Of course, we want to continue to expand on that. Many of the other initiatives we took in the past to support seniors were welcomed. When I go door to door, it is seniors who embrace the changes this Conservative government has initiated over its past terms. Pension income splitting has been a very popular way to help seniors address this issue.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, as this is the first time I have stood in the House since the election, I want to thank all the residents of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for once again showing their support for me and returning me to Parliament.

I would also like to congratulate all members of the House and all my parliamentary colleagues on their re-elections, and also congratulate the campaign teams that worked so hard and diligently day and night to send them back here.

The democratic process is something we all value. People who put their names on a ballot, whether they are successful in the election or not, should all be congratulated for the effort they put forward.

I wish to encourage all parliamentarians to support this excellent budget, because I believe it is the right budget for Canada.

One major priority that budget 2011 outlines is this government's commitment to lowering taxes. It was Winston Churchill who said, “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle”. Canadians know this. They know we have to keep taxes low to grow the economy and to create jobs.

This budget does just that. It lowers taxes on job creators. It lowers taxes on families who enrol their children in artistic activities. It lowers taxes for volunteer firefighters. It lowers taxes for those who stay at home to care for an infirm parent or a disabled child. It also forgives student loans for doctors and nurses who settle in rural areas and provide needed health care service to those struggling in rural communities.

This is a budget that Winston Churchill would have been proud of. It keeps taxes low, invests in projects of national importance and maintains Canada's brand as one of the best places to live 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 and education and training. It promotes research in leading-edge technologies and provides Canadians with the opportunity and the 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 and to keep Canada's economy growing strongly.

For families, it implements a new child arts tax credit worth $500. That is money in the pocket for people to embrace when they engage their children in artistic and community activities such as Scouts, Cubs, Guides, drama, art. This is a big advantage to the youth of our nation and to their parents, who struggle to pay registration fees. It is something the federal government can do to provide them a little help.

There is a new family caregiver tax credit of $2,000 for someone who stays home and gives up income to stay home with an infirm parent or a child who is struggling at school or who has a disability. We need to support these people who are willing to give up their employment to stay home and support a family member.

There is an enhanced medical expense tax credit. It is a $10,000 tax credit for those families who desperately need it when they need it the most.

The budget will also allow full-time students to earn more money without affecting their student loan income. This is a good initiative for young people across this country.

For small business, it establishes a new hiring credit of $1,000 in EI premium forgiveness. This will help over half a million small businesses defray the costs of hiring a new employee.

I also want to compliment the Minister of Finance in extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing, which is something that is very important in my community. This measure will support many manufacturers across Canada and will protect jobs.

There is an additional support of $10 million for a work-sharing program. This was implemented by companies like Stanfield's in my hometown of Truro. It allows these companies to retain employees by having the government cover part of the costs for those employees. It will allow industries that have periods of boom and boost, such as the textile industry, to retain employees during these tough times so that they will still be there when the market recovers.

There is help for farmers in rural areas of this country in terms of a $50 million initiative for agricultural innovation. The budget provides for an increase in funds for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada by $500 million annually and also establishes a $1 billion investment in income stabilization programs for farmers.

In this budget, one of the most important planks for rural communities is the $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters. Our government recognizes that many rural communities across Canada are struggling to maintain their fire protection.

As some of these rural communities become smaller, it is becoming more difficult to attract volunteers to become firefighters in those communities. The issue is a negative spiral, because the fewer young people we have living in a community, the smaller the pool becomes for recruiting volunteers. In some communities, families are finding a challenge in obtaining insurance coverage, as the community does not have adequate fire coverage. If a young family looking for a place to raise children cannot get a homeowner's insurance policy because it cannot find adequate fire coverage, it is not going to move to that small rural community. This is having a devastating effect on many small communities across Canada.

We have 33 fire departments in my riding and, of those 33, 30 are staffed solely by volunteers. In fact, the riding is about 18,000 square kilometres and 98% of that geography is protected solely by volunteer firefighters. These are 600 volunteers who give up their time to train and risk their lives to protect the private property of others. We owe them a great debt.

This budget provides part of the solution by providing a $3,000 tax cut credit, which will amount to roughly $450 in the pockets of our volunteers to help reimburse the money that they invest out of their own pocket to support and protect their own communities. We have recognized that the government should not benefit financially from these volunteer activities and this will be a start to rebuild our fire protection in rural communities across this country.

We are investing in key areas like innovation and research at universities and colleges, which is why universities and colleges have spoken out strongly in support of this budget.

There is some other funding in terms of investment in research and development contained in its pages. Over $50 million over the next five years will be provided to support the creation of 10 new Canada excellence research chairs such as the one at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in my riding.

There is an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its work. This was called for by all four political parties in this House before the election.

There is another $60 million over three years to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy, one of the fastest growing segments of our economy.

I do not want to ignore seniors because they are an important part of this country. They have made sacrifices in previous generations to build Canada into the great country that it is now. For seniors, the budget puts an additional $300 million into the GIS program, which will increase money for our lowest earning seniors, those who rely on their old age security and their GIS for their income. It will be a $600 boost to single seniors who are living alone and an $840 boost to qualifying seniors who live as couples. As the House knows, this was asked for by the parties and was strongly supported by our caucus. I ask all parties and all members in this House to support it when the budget vote comes up.

As well, I would like to recognize the extension of the eco-energy retrofit program which will allow Canadians, many of them seniors, to reduce their carbon footprint while allowing them to lower their own personal energy costs.

The budget also paves the way to a balanced budget. In addition to lowering taxes and making targeted investments, this budget will allow Canada to eliminate deficits in the future. Our government will complete a strategic view of government spending and find efficiencies so we can balance the budget one year earlier than announced.

Unlike the Liberal Party, which, in the mid-90s, devastated health and education transfers to the provinces, we will not choose that path. That path closed hospitals, closed schools and laid off teachers. We will choose a path to first look within the federal government for efficiencies, and we are committed to that.

In the time remaining in my speech, I will to quote a number of organizations that have come out strongly in support of this budget.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauds this low tax budget. It stated:

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

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business also came out and endorsed this budget. It endorsed the EI hiring tax credit. It stated:

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.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons said that it was very happy to see the guaranteed income supplement increase. It said that it has been an issue that it has raised many times before and that it is finally something that is being addressed.

The Canadian Police Association said:

The inclusion by the Conservative government of a renewed investment in the Youth Gang Prevention Fund...will help provide police services across Canada with the tools and resources they need to target at-risk youth, and keep them away from the lure of organized crime.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said:

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) commends the federal government for reintroducing a $3000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters in the 2011 Federal Budget. We were delighted.... This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country, which will in turn help protect Canadians and our communities.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations says:

...(CASA) is pleased to see positive reforms to the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP), such as an increase to in-study work income exemption, improved access for part-time students--

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member. Perhaps he could complete his comments in response to questions.

The hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking the voters of Vaudreuil-Soulanges who sent me here to the House of Commons.

Today, I want to focus on the gas tax and infrastructure. We applaud the government for wanting to make the gas tax permanent. Nonetheless, our party feels that this tax should be indexed to inflation. I also want to ask the government what it is waiting for to address the $123 billion infrastructure deficit. This is an urgent matter. Immediate action is required and this matter should be addressed in the budget.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to this House. It is a place of democracy and, at times, we tend to argue and disagree on policy. However, we can all agree that Canada is one country, united from coast to coast to coast. Every member of the House can support that Canada is a united country and we will progress through the next century in that manner.

I totally agree that we must take some strong action to ensure that the infrastructure across this country continues to be rebuilt. That is why we had the economic action plan, which saw millions and millions of dollars placed into the hands of the municipalities, working on projects for provinces and municipalities so that we can have better infrastructure going into the future.

This is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In its release it stated:

We applaud the Government of Canada for committing in today's budget to develop a new long-term infrastructure plan in partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), provinces, territories, and the private sector.

This government is working for municipalities. It is working for the provinces and the private sector to rebuild the infrastructure that is Canada.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the first time I have spoken in the House. I first want to thank the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue for sending me here. It is a great honour for me to represent them.

In its budget, the government talks about a measure for paying off student loans for new nurses working in remote regions, but the entire health care system is suffering from the shortage of medical personnel.

What does this government have to offer nurses who have been working for many years, holding the public health care system together, and who work extra, often mandatory 16-hour shifts and do not get to watch their children grow up?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, our government strongly supports the nurses, doctors and other health care professionals who work to deliver excellent health care across this country. We are committed to a strong public health care system in our provinces. We have shown that, not just by talking about it but by action.

We have met the commitments made in the Canada Health Act and the agreements made almost 10 years ago. We have indicated that we will continue the 6% escalator of health care funds that we will be sending to the provinces. We will help them work, develop and continue to deliver excellent health care across the country.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member made reference to home care services. The first thing that came across my mind in terms of home care services is the fact that there is a tax credit as opposed to a refundable tax credit.

Would the member not recognize that, by doing it in that fashion, the government is taking away the opportunity to have a break from those individuals who need it most? Many of those individuals are not eligible to take advantage of the program because it is a tax credit.

Does the member not see the merit in turning this into a refundable tax credit so that more people would be a part of the budget?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, if we look back in the history of the Government of Canada, this is the first time the Government of Canada has introduced a tax credit to support people who stay home to take care of a parent or a child with a disability. These people are giving up incomes to remain at home and support their families. This is something we need to support, which is why the government has taken strong action. Of course we always want to do more. There are probably other programs that could have been put in place. However, I think all members of the House can recognize that this is a strong start and the tax credit is the first step in supporting them.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you right away that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

This is not the first but the second time that I have had the opportunity to rise in this House. However, it is the first time that I have really had the time to thank the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who honoured me by placing their trust in me on May 2. I want to assure them that I will work extremely hard in the next four years to defend their interests and to defend public services in Quebec and Canada.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say hello to the students in grades four and six at La Mennais elementary school, who had the good idea of inviting me to visit after my election win on May 2. I went to their school and they asked me questions for an hour and a half. Question period in the House of Commons is tough, but there are some real up-and-comers in our Quebec schools, because the students were really excellent.

I am very proud to represent the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. It is a great, densely populated, urban riding, where people are very involved in their community. There is a plethora of community groups and a very rich civil society. It is truly exemplary. I meet amazing people who give their all to help each other and those around them. I must recognize the work of people like those at the Corporation de développement communautaire de Rosemont and the Corporation de développement économique et communautaire de Rosemont, or CDEC, who do extraordinary things, as well as those at the Regroupement des tables de concertation de la Petite-Patrie, which is located in the western part of the riding.

There are great success stories in Rosemont thanks to people in the community who get involved, like those at Technopôle Angus and the Campus des technologies de la santé. These are the ways of the future, and I am very proud to think that I will be working with these people over the coming years.

Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is also a riding that faces major challenges, such as poverty. It is a riding where the average income is lower than that on the island of Montreal. This creates problems. People have trouble making ends meet. There are fathers and mothers who are working—they are working—and who still have to get food hampers to feed their families. This is unacceptable. This is a riding that has a high proportion of seniors. Seniors face isolation problems and poverty. The NDP will therefore put forward various proposals to urge the government to act. The riding also has a shortage of family doctors and nurses.

With regard to housing, 75% of people in Rosemont are renters. Affordable housing is thus very important to us. There are also public transit issues. We live in a city. We are therefore focusing on active transportation and biking or walking to get to work or to the grocery store. There are also environmental issues. I will come back to them. Finally, there is a wide variety of particularly vibrant cultures. It is wonderful to meet stimulating and enthusiastic people.

Yesterday, like all of my colleagues, I had the honour of listening to the government's budget presentation, which, I must say, contains some worthwhile measures. I would like to mention two here today. First of all, it promises compensation for Quebec for its sales tax harmonization, which the Leader of the Opposition and the House Leader of the Official Opposition have been calling for for some time. I consider this a victory and a real win, which can be attributed largely to the work of the NDP and the work of the NDP in Quebec. It was very interesting to hear that yesterday. The budget also renews the eco-energy program. This will allow people to renovate their homes to make them more energy efficient. That is a positive thing.

Overall, however, the rest of the budget is disappointing. The government did not hear the message sent by Canadians on May 2. I would remind the government that 60% of Canadians did not vote for its agenda and its policies. Yet it is stubbornly sticking to its doctrine.

This budget does not meet the basic needs of the people we represent and stand up for. For instance, the budget contains a series of tax credits. These tax credits can be beneficial for families like mine, but they do absolutely nothing for families that do not earn enough money to pay taxes. Therefore a huge segment of the population is being abandoned by the federal government simply because they are too poor and do not have the means to benefit from or claim these tax credits.

The throne speech and the budget were also very disappointing when it comes to fighting poverty.

I was blown away when I realized that the word “poverty” was nowhere to be found in the government's throne speech. Furthermore, the proposed measures in the budget do absolutely nothing to address poverty. Nothing. It is not on their radar, while there are thousands and thousands of people living in poverty across Canada. This is a shame in a society as rich as ours.

The NDP has a vision. We do not let anyone fall through the cracks. We must all stand together.

The situation with seniors in our country is tragic. We must respect the contribution they have made. They left us something. They worked hard their entire lives so that their children would have a better society than the one they had. By and large, they were successful. Today, I get the impression that they are being abandoned, forgotten.

The government is injecting $300 million into the guaranteed income supplement. That is a step in the right direction, but it is not nearly enough. Much more is needed. That is not even half of what we need to bring all of our seniors out of poverty. In the meantime, on January 1, 2012, major corporations, banks and oil companies will receive a $2 billion gift. We do not think that is the direction our country should be headed in.

Access to family doctors is a very dramatic situation. In Rosemont, hundreds of families do not have a family doctor. What are they to do? They often go to the emergency department. They burden the emergency departments unnecessarily because they cannot make an appointment with a doctor who can look after their problem or that of their loved ones. I understand this situation, as I myself do not have a family doctor.

The government is not coming up with any plan to train new doctors and new nurses, but poll after poll suggests that access to a good public health care system is a priority for Quebeckers and Canadians. This government is disregarding the public's priorities.

Housing is an essential aspect of everyone's quality of life. In Rosemont, we have 5,500 families who spend more than 50% of their income on housing. There are even 2,000 families who spend more than 80% of their income on their housing. Just imagine that. How do they manage? That leaves 20% of their income for everything else: transportation, food, clothing. Those people are stuck in deep poverty. The federal government is doing nothing to reinvest in affordable housing.

The government is ignoring this basic issue, which provides quality of life for families. At present, there are people in Rosemont and elsewhere in Montreal who have to settle for housing that is unsanitary or requires significant renovations to become livable.

In an urban area such as Rosemont, public transit is a vital issue. The people of Rosemont are obviously disappointed that the government has not made any provision to relaunch infrastructure programs. They are essential for municipalities.

We want investments in infrastructure, whether bridges or transfers to municipalities for water mains and sewers. It is very important. In Montreal, 30% of treated water is lost because of holes throughout the system.

There must be a vision to modernize our infrastructure and improve public transit. Improving this service would also reduce pollution and dependence on automobiles.

As for the environment, the people of Rosemont are worried about pollution. There are periods of intense smog, especially in the summer, when people with asthma and seniors suffer because of the poor air quality at certain times.

However, in listening to the throne speech, we realized that the Conservatives consider the environment to be a natural resource rather than an essential element that should be considered when any decision is made.

Global warming was mentioned once in the throne speech, but there is no action. There is a void. There is nothing even though the experts informed us this week that greenhouse gas levels are continuing to rise and that we are approaching the point of no return. It will become impossible to prevent global warming. I hope that Canada's performance at the Bonn conference will be better than at the Copenhagen conference.

In closing, it is unfortunate to see this government stubbornly making irresponsible tax cuts that deprive it of revenue it needs. The government is continuing to make bad choices. The NDP believes that we can and must do better.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his exemplary first speech in the House of Commons. Clearly, the future of the NDP is in very good hands. My question is for my colleague, who spoke about seniors and the food banks that they must go to from time to time.

What more could the government have done to help our seniors get out of poverty?