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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

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I did not mention that the 15% mineral exploration tax credit will be continued for an additional year into 2012. This will help our companies raise capital for mineral exploration.

I am proud to say that the Yukon territory is currently enjoying a 4% unemployment rate because of Conservative government job creation. That is the lowest in our country for consecutive months. We used to have the highest unemployment rate in Canada. The Conservative government's action plan has allowed Yukoners to work.

We will continue to work on poverty issues, but I am very proud of that fact.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver East.

It is an honour to rise again in the House as part of a much bigger NDP team, now the official opposition. I would like to begin by thanking the people of northern Manitoba who have sent me back to Ottawa to fight for them. I would like to thank people from Sakgeeng to Churchill, from Berens River to Pukatawagan, from The Pas, Flin Flon and Thompson, people from first nations, Métis communities, urban centres and communities all across the north, people who were all part of sending a strong message that they wanted Ottawa to work with them.

People in northern Manitoba recognize that a lot of wealth comes from our area. It comes from the north, from our industries, from traditional territories, from people's hard work. However, we in the north also know that we do not see a federal government that works with us to give back. This is yet another federal budget that fails to give back to our north.

With this budget, the government is ignoring first nations and the real struggles they face day to day.

First nations in northern Manitoba face some of the most appalling living conditions in our country. My question is this. Where is the removal of the 2% cap for which first nations have been asking for years? Where is the funding for housing? Not only was there no increase, but there was a reduction when compared to commitments made in previous years. Where is the funding for water and sewer investments?

The Island Lake First Nations have been asking for a federal commitment to water and sewer services as a way of preventing some of the most severe health challenges they face year after year. Yet when I visited Garden Hill First Nation just two months ago, people showed me the latest response of the federal government to their call of action: a big blue water bin and a small grey pail with a seat on it. This is the kind of dignity that Canada's first peoples have been shown by the federal government.

As we sit here today, Tadoule Lake, one of the northern-most communities in Manitoba, is struggling, given the breakdown in water and sewer services in their community. Children have been forced to not attend school on a regular basis. These are the basic needs of first nations in my constituency and this is the reflection of the federal government's neglect of first nations people and the third world conditions in which they live.

Where is the investment in education and post-secondary student sponsorship? Gods Lake Narrows, Gods River and Oxford House have been calling on the need for federal investment, to work with them in building new schools, to meet the demands of an increasingly young population in their communities. Aboriginal people are among the youngest people in Canada. Why is the government failing to invest in their future?

When it comes to urban aboriginal people, the budget shows no commitment to working with urban aboriginal peoples and showing the necessary long-term support for critical services, as provided by the aboriginal friendship centres. The government continues to fail first nations and Métis people in northern Manitoba and across Canada.

With this budget, the government is ignoring Canadian workers. There are corporate tax giveaways to big profitable corporations, but no action to keep jobs here at home. My home community of Thompson is having a fight for its life with a foreign-owned mining company, Vale, whose purchase of Inco was allowed by the federal government. Instead of keeping the wealth of our resources in our hands, the government approved a $1 billion loan to Vale, the very company that is taking hundreds of jobs away from Manitoba. The government has essentially assisted and given money to Vale to shift jobs away from our province.

Young people working in the refinery and the smelter in Thompson are very worried about their future and that of their young families. People nearing retirement are worried they will be left out in the cold. An entire community that has helped build the wealth of a corporation and a country stands to lose the very wealth that comes from the resources on which we stand.

Where is the commitment to stand by workers in our communities? Where is the government's plan to allow Canadian people, and not foreign companies, to benefit from our resources?

With this budget, the government is taking the west for granted. I stand here as a voice from western Canada, speaking out for the thousands of people who are saying no to the government's plan to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

Why is this government showing such contempt for the democratic rights of farmers to choose? Where is this government's concern for the livelihoods of prairie people and prairie communities?

In our part of the west, the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board would mean the loss of the port of Churchill that depends on CWB shipments. This government is supporting the loss of that port and the livelihoods of people in Churchill, along the bay line and across the north, in addition to ignoring the wishes of farmers across western Canada.

This government is also ignoring the west through its extreme cuts to Western Economic Diversification Canada, a cut of 54.4% to its budget. Our regions have a constant need for diversification in economic development. Yet the rural regions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are being left out in the cold when it comes to the cooperation they need from the federal government in order to diversify. What will these cuts translate into? There will be fewer businesses opening up, fewer services emerging and more young people leaving our communities, communities that are struggling to survive. Is this truly the government's vision for western Canada?

With this budget the government is ignoring the number one priority of so many Canadians, the priority of health care. People across northern Manitoba and across Canada do not have the most basic care from a family doctor. In fact, five million Canadians do not have a family doctor, that first line of support when they face health challenges.

I remember going door to door throughout the election, even during the last parliament, in communities such as Flin Flon and hearing in house after house people express to me their anxiety, their worry, that they did not have a family doctor. I heard the stories of northerners about family doctors who came into their communities for one year, or maybe two years if they were lucky, and then leave, leaving their patients to hang, leaving families to worry, leaving people less healthy at the end of the day.

When we look at the leadership that we need to see from the federal government in working with our provinces, in working with our regional health authorities and in working with our first nations in aboriginal communities across the north, what we see is deflection and a real lack of vision when it comes to supporting the universal public health care that Canadians are so proud of.

In closing, we in the official opposition are sending the message that the federal government has a duty to stand up for the priorities of all Canadians, from housing to education and health care and for maintaining and creating quality jobs based on our controlling our resources and our livelihoods. Canadians are looking to a federal government to stand up for them.

However, what we see today in the budget is the continuation of a record of failure in standing up for them. Instead, the federal government is looking at the big corporations and at friends who are already doing quite well at the expense of looking at what first nations, Métis, northern people and people across our country are looking for.

What northerners and Canadians have to count on, though, is an official opposition that will fight for them, that will fight for the dignity and social justice that every Canadian deserves.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest that not all aboriginal people from her riding share her opinion. I am not one of them. Of course, I originally resided in Thompson and I know that many people have a different philosophy.

On the topic of aboriginal issues, though, I would like to ask her a question in relation to property. As an aboriginal person, I can own property anywhere I live. However, first nations people cannot do so within their communities on reserve. I am just wondering if she feels that first nations people should be second-class citizens without the opportunity to purchase property, or if in fact they should have that right.

I am wondering what her opinion is on that topic.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the member across actually visiting my constituency and spending some time with some of the first nations people there, who have not only expressed a great deal of support for our party but also a great deal of concern about this member's government's agenda when it comes to the very needs they have. Whether it is the complete lack of funding for them for education, health care, economic development or housing, first nations in Manitoba, and northern Manitoba where this member comes from, arguably see some of the highest rates of neglect in the country.

As far as issues such as matrimonial property rights are concerned, this has been a critical issue in our last Parliament. I would ask the member to hear the loud and clear messages coming from regions like ours where there is a respect for the treaties and a respect for the aboriginal communities' role in self-government, an important debate that will continue in this Parliament.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have known the hon. member's father for in excess of 18 years, a good number of years. He is one of the more articulate individuals in the Manitoba legislature and, in fact, one of the most effective hecklers. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say about the NDP policy on no heckling.

Having said that, my question is with regard to the east side versus west side development of the hydro transmission line. When she makes reference to the importance of federal-provincial relations and trying to assist the aboriginal population in northern Manitoba, I would point out that there are many east side residents within the aboriginal community, including chiefs, who are saying that the line should be going down the east side.

Does the member feel that the federal government has a role to play in the whole east side-west side issue? Given the importance of the aboriginal community, what role does the federal government have to play in that whole debate?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a great deal of interest in the communities that I represent. I invite the member to visit the east side first nations and hear directly from them, the chiefs and the councils that have signed the memorandums of understanding for road development. Considering the importance of economic development in the region, it is something that the east side grid would not bring to their region.

What is the federal government's role when it comes to east side first nations? It is listening to them for the water and sewer services they need, listening to them for the housing they need, listening to them for the new schools they need. The federal government has a lot of work to do and we hope to see it start work now.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate you on your new role in the House.

I would like to ask the member about a national child care strategy. Of course, the member ably pointed out the great lack in this budget before us, whether it is housing, health care or first nations. One of the other glaring absences is a national child care strategy. Women and their families across this country have been working since the early 1970s to have a national child care strategy in place.

What would the member have liked to see with regard to quality, affordable, accessible and publicly funded child care?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan on her return to the House.

One of the great proposals put forward by my party is the need for a national child care strategy. I represent one of the youngest regions in Canada and the need for such a strategy is the most acute in my region. The NDP hopes that the federal government will listen to Canadian families and young people and women who are saying that they want a national child care program working in their communities.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, for being appointed to the chair.

I am happy to rise in the House today and follow the member for Churchill, hearing what she had to say about the budget. Although we represent very different parts of Canada, she from the north and I from an urban centre in the south on the west coast, it is really quite incredible to know that what she heard on the doorsteps during the election was very similar to what I had heard from my constituents in Vancouver East.

I would like to thank the good folks of East Vancouver for re-electing me the sixth time. It is a pretty amazing community of very diverse neighbourhoods. It is a place where immigrants come, where people make their way in Canada. It is a place that has a lot of labour history and social activism. However, it is also a place that is really struggling. People are struggling with the incredibly high housing costs in Vancouver. It is a good place to live, but people are really hurting and are having a hard time.

I feel so incredibly proud to be part of this amazing caucus of New Democrats. So many young people have been elected, it feels like a breath of fresh air has come in. I hope that they turn politics upside down in this place, as we get new perspectives and experience from these young people.

In the election campaign we heard so many people say that young people had to get involved. They asked why young people did not vote, why they were not engaged. Here we see it with some incredible candidates. In my riding of East Vancouver, the engagement of the youth vote was really something that we have never seen so strongly before. We had vote mobs. People were raising the visibility and the awareness of the campaign and the issues. The use of social media, whether it was Facebook or Twitter, was quite wonderful to see. It provided a new way of interacting with voters and constituents. I feel very proud to be part of a caucus that has an historic number of women and also so many young people who are going to give us strength and a sense of hope about what politics will be in the future.

Regarding the budget that we heard yesterday, there are two things that I want to focus on because they are important to folks in my community. One is health care and the other is housing.

I received an email from a young family just a couple of days ago. They have lived in Vancouver for about 14 years. They have a combined income of $80,000. They are working hard. They talk about saving to buy a house and say it is like running toward a finish line that is moving away from them faster than they can run. They point out that they are currently paying $1,450 a month for a small one bedroom apartment in a house of three suites in East Vancouver. East Vancouver used to be relatively affordable but now Vancouver overall is a very expensive city in which to live.

Therefore, one of the things I was looking for in the budget was whether or not there would be any commitment by the government to an affordable housing program. I was incredibly disappointed to see there was not even a mention of housing in the budget. It is not just in my community but right across this country, whether it is in the north where people are living in appalling third world conditions, or whether it is in urban centres or among the homeless.

Metro Vancouver just had a recent homeless count and we know that nearly 2,000 people are living in shelters. Part of the count included people who were staying overnight in jail or detox or an addiction facility. We know that the number of people living in shelters is still going up. It is a crisis across the country.

The fact that the Conservative government has turned a complete blind eye to the housing crisis that has developed in this country is quite astounding to me. Maybe the Conservatives believe it is something that government should not worry about.

However, the reality is that in metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland there is now a rental housing supply coalition. It may surprise some members opposite to know that part of that coalition includes the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, the Canadian Homebuilders' Association of B.C., the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association and the Tenants Resource and Advisory Centre. These coalition partners usually do not work together but they are now because the crisis in our city is so severe. The City of Vancouver is doing as much as it can, but the federal government has been absolutely absent.

I heard the minister of HRSD say in question period that the government has put all this money into the economic action plan, et cetera. The fact is that was a one-time infusion. What we need in this country is a long-term national housing strategy. I have fought tooth and nail for that for many years and I know that all of us in the NDP are going to continue to do that. We cannot just continue with a society where some people get more and more wealthy and other people, even middle-class people now, are suffering. Coming back to this young couple that makes $80,000 a year. Once that was a good enough amount of money to buy a house, a modest house, but no longer. So not only have we people at the very bottom who are more and more vulnerable, but we also have students, seniors and young families who are finding the housing affordability crisis something that is now eating into their food money, their education money, and it is getting harder and harder to make ends meet.

That is something that I know we, as New Democrats, are going to fight tooth and nail for.

The second thing I want to mention is health care because this is obviously a huge issue that is looming before us.

I heard the Minister of Health today, because we raised it in question period, talk about the health accord that is coming up for renegotiation in 2014. She basically said not to worry, that it is three years away. I want to tell her and the Conservative government that we are really worried about what is going to happen with the health accord. The accord that we had in 2004 that came about with Paul Martin's government, basically had no strings attached, but it did make some commitments for a national pharmaceutical program, for long-term care, for home care. It made some commitments that there would be progress on these things, like a renewed phase two of medicare.

This week the Health Council of Canada, which is the monitoring group for the accord, basically said that the national pharmaceutical program has been stalled. Why? Because the federal government has been absent.

This is an issue that crosses every political stripe. It crosses every part of society in terms of people's concern about what is going to happen to our public health care system. It is often portrayed and there are myths put forward that somehow medicare, or our public health care system, is not sustainable. This is actually not true. It is something that the Conservatives would like to make us believe because there has been a great lobby from powerful pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists to privatize our system. However, medicare is actually very sustainable. It is actually the private health costs like the costs of drugs, that are driving up the costs of health care. We see a situation where 25% of Canadians do not have any drug coverage. It is astounding that people are digging deeper and deeper into their pockets to pay for basic prescription costs.

I want to put the other side of the House on notice that on the issue of health care members will see an enormous amount of vigour and vigilance from the NDP to hold the government to account and to ensure that the health accord that is renegotiated covers these basic quality of life issues around medicare so that we uphold the five principles of the Canada Health Act.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Vancouver East for being re-elected, I believe she said for a sixth time. That shows the confidence that the people from Vancouver East have in their member. I can assure them that they are well represented.

I would like to ask the hon. member to explain to the House what a national housing strategy would do for the poor of Canada.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to thank my good colleague on his re-election. I know that he has worked very hard for his constituents. Also, he is one of the members who very much supports the idea of a national housing strategy.

It is very simple. It is the idea that the federal government has a critical role to play in the most basic of human rights, that is, the provision of safe, affordable, appropriate and accessible housing.

In fact, we used to have really good housing programs in this country. The federal government always played a role. But, in the name of cutting the deficit in the 1990s, that was all gone. We should learn from that. It was a former Liberal government. The consequence of that public policy decision has been disastrous in terms of increasing homelessness.

We are absolutely committed to the need for the federal government to be a player, to participate with the provinces, the territories and the municipalities to ensure that there is a national housing strategy so that no Canadian, wherever he or she lives, is homeless or does not have safe, secure and affordable housing.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to be here and to represent Okanagan—Coquihalla. I want to applaud my colleague's election win and thank her for bringing up her concerns in the House today.

I have a simple question on health care. Health care is something that we are all concerned about, as Canadians did say at the doorsteps, although it seems that we all must have selective hearing because what I heard at the door is much different than what many of the other members on this side of the House have said.

However, when it comes to health care, we have said we will carry through with our commitments. We have said we are going to continue to fund the 6%. Since it is a provincial responsibility, how does the member propose we carry forward, knowing that? It is not something to be bullied or pushed. It is something the provinces have to work with in conjunction with the federal government. I would just like to hear how the member plans to do that.

Also, how does the member plan to pay for it? We all know we have the best of intentions but there are real issues here as far as where the money goes and where it comes from.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have not actually heard anyone, and far be it from us, to suggest that there is going to be any bullying that takes place. It is a negotiated agreement and I would agree there has been a commitment by all parties that there should be a 6% increase, even two years after the accord continues.

However, it is not only about the money; it is about where that money goes and what it is used for. One of the real challenges we face is that we now have a patchwork across the country. Some provinces have some drug coverage programs. Some provinces have some long-term care or home care. It is a real patchwork.

Medicare was started by Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan, and that is really an icon of Canadian value. We believe that phase two of medicare must encompass at least a national drug coverage plan. That is what we have to negotiate. Believe me, the provinces would love to do that, but what has been absent is the federal government.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, to follow up on the previous question, health care is a provincial responsibility, but the Canada Health Act ensures and guarantees that the federal government has a role to play, as it should I would ultimately argue.

Does the member believe that the Canada Health Act is something that should be enforced? If so, to what degree? Also, is there a need for any amendments to the Canada Health Act?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Health Act is the foundation of our health care system and we need to live up to the spirit and the law of what the Canada Health Act is.

I was asked earlier if it is affordable. If we took even some of the $31 billion in corporate tax cuts that has been taken out of the public purse, we could easily afford what we need to do, whether it is health care, housing, childcare, name it. The pie is there; it is just the way it is divided.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake.

I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on budget 2011. Before I begin, I would like to thank my constituents for putting their trust in me to again represent them in the House of Commons.

The budget we have before us today represents the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It builds on our government's previous successes. In January 2009, Canada found itself in the midst of a global economic recession, the worst since the Great Depression more than 80 years ago.

Our government responded swiftly with Canada's economic action plan to deal with the crisis. The results speak for themselves. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Canada has weathered the recession better than any other country in the world. With Canada's economic action plan, we protected jobs and made long-term investments that are allowing the economy to emerge stronger than ever before and created over half a million jobs since July 2009.

Now it is time for the next phase of our plan. We will be focused on the economy, on creating jobs, reducing the deficit and making key strategic investments.

I spent a lot of time listening to Surrey residents. Their message was loud and very clear. The economy is the number one issue facing Canada and our government. Our Conservative government rightly has a reputation for sound financial management. Prior to the global recession we kept the budget balanced, we paid down the debt and we cut taxes.

In fact, since coming to office in 2006, our government has cut taxes more than 120 times. Over one million Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls. The average Canadian family is paying $3,000 less in taxes each and every year.

We did all of this while investing new money into social programs and bringing our military out of its dark ages with important investments in modern equipment. Thanks to our prudent management of the nation's books, when the global recession hit we were in the financial position where we used stimulus spending to spark the economy without doing permanent damage to the books.

The stimulus spending has now come to an end and it is time to return to balanced budgets. Budget 2010 contained a three point plan to accomplish this goal, winding down temporary stimulus, putting in place targeted spending, restrained measures and reviewing government administrative and overhead costs.

We will not balance the budget by cutting transfers to the provinces for important social programs, like health care and education. That is the Liberal way, not the Conservative way.

With budget 2011 federal support to provinces and territories will reach an all-time high of over $56 billion, which is almost $2.2 billion more than last year. For B.C., this totals over $5.4 billion in 2011-12, or $1,182 per capita. There is almost $3.8 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $216 million from last year. The health transfers will continue to grow annually through a 6% escalator.

There is over $1.5 billion through the Canada social transfer. For my province of British Columbia, this payment represents an increase of $349 million since 2005-06. This long-term growing support helps ensure that British Columbia has the resources required to provide essential public services.

With this budget, we are building on our plan laid out last year to balance the budget. With our government-wide strategic and operating review, we will balance the budget by 2014-15.

Building on the ambitious agenda of continuing tax relief, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan takes additional steps to reduce taxes for Canadians and businesses. These tax measures will provide taxpayers in B.C. with approximately $270 million in tax relief over the following five years. This includes a new family caregiver tax credit that will provide almost $103 million in relief, and a new children's arts tax credit that will provide almost $68 million in relief.

The next phase in Canada's economic action plan also takes steps to improve the fairness, neutrality and integrity of the tax system, closing tax loopholes and limiting tax planning opportunities.

Our government recognizes our seniors as valuable members of our society who contribute a diversity of skills, knowledge and experience to their families and communities. Canada's seniors helped build and make this country a great place for all of us to live. That is why we are supporting our seniors in a number of different ways, including: over $2.3 billion in annual tax relief; removing over 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls; introducing pension income splitting; doubling the pension income credit to $2,000; increasing the age credit amount by $2,000; and establishing the tax free savings account, which is particularly beneficial for seniors.

In this budget, we are taking additional steps to support our seniors. We are enhancing the guaranteed income supplement so that low-income seniors will receive additional annual top-up benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This will help more than 680,000 seniors across our great country. We are enhancing the new horizons for seniors program with an additional $10 million to promote volunteerism, mentorship and the social participation of seniors, and to expand awareness of elder abuse. We are extending the targeted initiative for older workers and eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees to give seniors more choice.

Our Conservative government knows that seniors are a diverse group with different interests and concerns. We are committed to ensuring that policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of all seniors. Taken together, the initiatives we have introduced will help to ensure that more seniors can live with dignity and security as they grow older.

Another key point of this budget deals with public funding for federal political parties. I am speaking about the annual per-vote subsidy introduced by the former Liberal government in 2004. Governments have a duty to use taxpayer dollars wisely, especially in a time of fiscal restraint when families are struggling to make ends meet. That is why we are now following through on our government's campaign commitment to phase out per-vote subsidies for political parties.

The government will introduce legislation to eliminate the subsidy in 51¢ increments starting on April 1 next year until it is completely eliminated by 2015-16. It will generate savings of up to $30 million. Our government has always opposed direct taxpayer subsidies to political parties and believes that political parties should rely primarily on their supporters for their funding.

When one considers everything that we are proposing, it is no surprise that this budget has been so favourably received all across the country. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities declared that budget 2011 delivered a vital commitment to cities and communities to develop a new, long-term federal infrastructure plan.

Our members appreciate that this budget is focused on ensuring that our officers have the tools and resources necessary to protect our communities effectively and efficiently. This is a good budget that ensures safety, security and prosperity for all Canadians.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the voters in my magnificent riding, which is unique both in its composition and in the challenges it faces.

Earlier, we were speaking of challenges such as climate change, the development of natural resources—which contribute greatly to the wealth of this country, environmental protection, the future of aboriginal peoples and the future of our relations with aboriginal peoples. Today, there is a lot of talk about a national action plan. Today, I can tell you that there are major challenges to be faced by many of the communities that I will be representing over the next four years. Whether in terms of education or health, one of the issues that has come up time and again in aboriginal communities in recent years is the issue of housing and living conditions in aboriginal communities.

In my riding, there are 14 Inuit, 9 Cree, and 2 Algonquin communities. This problem has been talked about by aboriginal leaders everywhere in Canada for many years.

When will this government give us an action plan to address the crisis that has been going on for years?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and congratulate him on his election.

This budget is good for Canada. It is good for Canadians. It is good for my constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells. This budget includes child care. It has something for everyone, including farmers, students, families, seniors, businesses and aboriginals. There is $97.2 million to support various aboriginal initiatives.

There is a diverse range of organizations, public interest groups, and commentators that are applauding budget 2011 as a positive plan to create jobs and promote economic growth. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said:

The extension of the two-year write-off for investments in manufacturing and processing technologies announced in today's federal budget is critical to sustaining Canada's economic recovery.

This tax measure gives manufacturers the confidence to invest in their future by boosting productivity and enhancing technologies.

Let us see what--

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I appreciate the interest and enthusiasm, but we do have to get a couple of more questions in.

Questions and comments, the member for Kingston and the Islands

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things in the hon. member's speech that I just cannot let pass.

One is the statement that “prior to the global recession, we kept the budget balanced”. I might remind the House that the budget actually went into deficit because of increased spending before the recession.

Second, I find it very strange and perverse to be bragging about all the people removed from tax rolls. In fact, the 20% of people in my riding who live below the poverty line might like to be in a position to have the income to pay taxes.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate this member as well on his election.

Under the leadership of the Conservative government, Canada has weathered the global recession better than nearly all other industrialized countries. I am very proud of our government. Indeed, with the help of Canada's economic action plan, we have emerged as one of the world's top performing advanced economies.

Here are the facts. Canada has had seven straight quarters of economic growth with nearly 540,000 new jobs created across Canada. We are proud of our record. We are proud of our government and we are proud of our Prime Minister.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to be back in the House, I first want to thank the constituents of Selkirk—Interlake for sending me back for the fourth time. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to represent the great people of Selkirk—Interlake.

We had an incredible election. I travelled almost 10,000 kilometres across my riding, which is slightly bigger than the province of Nova Scotia. However, it is great to be here to advocate on behalf of my constituents.

I want to thank the almost 300 volunteers on my campaign team for helping to get me re-elected. I also thank my staff in both my constituency office and here on the Hill for all the great work they have done for me over the past several years.

I extend my deep love and appreciation to my wife Kelly and my daughters, Cortney, Taylor and Cassidy, for their continued support and love and for allowing me to do this job and to be so far away from the farm.

I also congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your new appointment. This is your first day on the job in this new role and we are looking forward to working with you over the next four and a half years.

Indeed, I congratulate all members for being elected to this esteemed House. This is a great opportunity for all of us here to debate policy and acts and to deal with legislation that will improve the lives of Canadians. We always have differences of opinion but it is a great opportunity to talk about those opinions in the House in a respectful way. I am looking forward to the improved decorum that we will bring to the House.

What we are dealing with today is budget 2011, which is a rerun of what we dealt with back in March. I congratulate the Minister of Finance for retabling this document because we took this document to the people after March 25 and we campaigned on it. We talked about all the great things that are happening in the budget and Canadians overwhelmingly said yes, that they supported it. In my riding, over 65% of the people support the government's policies and this budget.

This budget is great for my riding of Selkirk—Interlake. It is great for Manitoba and it is great for all of Canada. I really want to talk about how this budget, which is so fiscally responsible, getting us back to balanced budgets, eliminating the deficit and continuing to grow our economy and create opportunities for Canadians, is so important for rural Canadians.

One of the highlights in the budget, at least for me, is the way that we will attract more doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to rural areas. In my riding of Selkirk—Interlake, and indeed in Manitoba, we see the provincial government and different health agencies trying to recruit doctors from all over the world. That is not sustainable and that has not really worked. A lot of them do not want to stay in rural areas and so they move away.

The Conservative government is proposing a made in Canada solution. We will offer student loan forgiveness for doctors up to $40,000, and for nurses and nurse practitioners up to $20,000 if they practise in rural communities. They would get to come right out of university, establish themselves in rural communities, maybe meet a significant other, start up their practices and really get to fall in love with our rural way of life. To me, that is exciting and something that will really pay dividends long term.

Another thing in the budget is a new $3 million initiative to help communities develop a more integrated approach to dealing with palliative and end of life care. In Manitoba, unfortunately, palliative care is treated differently in rural areas than in the city of Winnipeg. In the city, the provincial NDP government funds palliative care. However, in rural areas, we need to volunteer, do all sorts of fundraising drives and hospice walks just so we can pay for coordinators and programs. It is important that our government is stepping up at the federal level to supply $3 million to communities that want to develop an integrated approach to palliative care. That is something that is so desperately needed across Canada.

Tying in with that is the new tax credit for family caregivers. That is something that will provide dollars to those people who take care of a loved one who is sick or is in palliative care and allow them to be recognized economically for the service they are providing that is not being provided through the health care system.

We have heard a lot of talk today about the increase in the guaranteed income supplement. It is a great move. We will see dollars go up for individuals and for couples, and it will help the most disadvantaged seniors.

If we look at rural areas, we often see seniors who are widows or who come from a farm family or a small business where they did not contribute to a pension or do not have any CPP. They really do live on their OAS and GIS. Therefore $50 a month, $600 a year, is a big improvement for those seniors who are still living below the poverty line.

Maybe it is not enough. We hear that all the time. However, it is the first step and it is the first time anything has been done. The former Liberal government did absolutely nothing.

I am proud that our government recognized it. Now we are stepping up and providing the assistance that is so desperately needed.

We have also instituted the new horizons program and are increasing it to $10 million a year. That new horizons program for seniors has been very well received in my rural communities. New horizons groups and different senior resource groups have been able to access money to help seniors be mentors in our areas, to provide accessibility into different facilities and to develop programs and places where they can meet and gather. That is also where we have stepped up. We developed the program, and seniors across this country have thanked us.

Of course this budget really does support our business community. Up and down my main streets, it is all small business. We do have some manufacturing and some medium-sized enterprises, and there are a few large corporations in the riding, but overwhelmingly it is like most of Canada, where two-thirds of the businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises. They employ over 60% of Canadians. That is where we should be putting our efforts, and we have.

They have benefited from the tax cuts we have brought forward. They will benefit from the new EI holiday for new hires. That tax credit will assist in developing more jobs and long-term gainful employment for people in our areas. That is important for rural Canada.

We also see that they will benefit from the new capital cost allowance. We are extending it so they can pay off their purchases over two years on an accelerated basis. The accelerated capital cost allowance will see them retool, be more productive and be more competitive, which again helps our manufacturing base. We are seeing a growth in manufacturing in my riding.

Our rural municipalities have really benefited. They thank the federal government for making the gas tax fund a permanent measure that they can now count on and bank on. They can go in a year ahead and know that these dollars are coming from the federal government. They find it just fantastic.

The infrastructure investments we have made throughout my riding and throughout Canada have been very well received by the municipalities because they were in such a deficit position from the standpoint of infrastructure and the need for infrastructure investment. Now they have that investment and they thank us for it, because they were ignored by the previous government and often the provincial government.

In Manitoba the provincial NDP has not stepped up and put in its share of the dollars to ensure that infrastructure investments happen. They thank the federal government for stepping forward and bringing in the building Canada fund, increasing the federal-provincial-territorial base infrastructure program, bringing economic stimulus dollars and even the community adjustment fund so that they are able to access dollars and make significant investments.

In the province of Manitoba the NDP government is thankful for this budget. It is really pleased that we have been able to increase transfers for health care. The total budget for health care is almost a billion dollars in Manitoba. It is up significantly, up by almost 30% from where the Liberals were. We have also seen an increase in investments and in transfers for social assistance and infrastructure to the provinces.

Overall in the Manitoba budget, $3.4 billion comes from federal transfers. Almost 40% of its entire budget is coming through transfers. The provincial NDP in Manitoba thanks Canada's Conservative government for ensuring that it will have those investments.

One of the things I am quite pleased to see in this budget is that we are doing away with political subsidies. Over the last number of years in this House we have heard a lot of name-calling and braying. We have heard people complain about dollars used for partisan purposes. Nothing is more partisan than giving taxpayer dollars to fund political operations and political mechanisms within parties across this country, and funding organizations like the Bloc Québécois, which used Canadian taxpayers' dollars to advance its separatist cause.

That is just ridiculous. I hear about it all the time. When I was campaigning, my constituents were asking over and over again why we were giving money to a political party that wanted to completely ruin Canada.

It is a great budget.

I know my time is up. I look forward to answering questions another day.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The member for Selkirk—Interlake will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments the next time the House considers this issue for debate.

It being 6:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. tomorrow, pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)