Mr. Speaker, let me say once again how very honoured I am to be back in the House and to represent the constituents of Parkdale—High Park, the people who voted for me and put me here. I am very proud to have earned their trust and honoured to be part of a record-breaking complement of women in the House.
I am also honoured to serve as finance critic in the first ever New Democrat shadow cabinet and look forward to a constructive, energetic and positive relationship with the finance minister.
I congratulate my friend on his re-election and on receiving a stronger mandate for his government. But I will commit to regularly reminding him that he must defend the interests of all Canadians.
The reason that the Minister of Finance had all the freedom of his majority government to table his budget yesterday is because there is something wrong with our voting process. A majority of voters—60%—opposed his party and his budget during the election.
Although I respect the government's majority in the House, I hope that he will agree to respect the majority of the citizens of Canada—the real majority.
Many of the people who voted for change are still looking to Ottawa for help. They are working harder than ever and their household debt is soaring, student debt is soaring, their retirement has never been less secure and they are tired of being pushed to the back of the line.
Four and a half million Canadians just voted for my party's plan to take practical first steps to make their lives better. They voted for better front line health care, stronger retirement security, a break on their family budget and full-time job creation, good quality jobs that will support them and their families. Those Canadians will clearly feel let down by this budget that once again puts well-connected insiders ahead of their families.
Canadians want us to use a constructive approach in the House of Commons. In that vein, I will take the time to acknowledge the positive aspects of the minister's speech.
We welcome the fact that Quebec is being compensated for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST. It is something our party often requested, and we feel that we have been heard on this issue.
We also welcome the reinstatement of the eco-energy retrofit program, even if it is just for one year. As we have said all spring, that program has created thousands of jobs and leads to billions of dollars in economic spinoffs. It also allows us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tonnes a year. Many families have been able to save hundreds of dollars. This program should never have been abolished. It is a very important program. We must now consider adopting a permanent program to retrofit various types of buildings in Canada in order to make them more energy efficient.
We also welcome in principle the government's commitment to strengthening Canada's fiscal bottom line. As the finance department itself confirms, New Democrats have the best fiscal record, bar none, across all orders of government. We are very proud of that record.
Provincially, by and large, these governments have built their record while investing in families and avoiding destructive program cuts that other parties here have engaged in.
Federally, we will have to wait four more years to try our hand, but Canadians can count on us to share our best practices and advice in the meantime. We look forward to that.
The $36 billion federal deficit is now $13 billion lower than the minister projected in the budget of 2010. It is $13 billion lower. That is quite a change. The deficit is declining largely because of economic growth and our economy has substantial capacity for more growth.
More than 1.4 million Canadians were unemployed on April 1. That is nearly 300,000 more than before the recession took hold. So when my hon. colleagues say that we have recovered all of the jobs lost since the recession, they stand corrected. We are 300,000 jobs behind where we were at the start of the recession.
Hundreds of thousands more find themselves struggling in involuntary part-time work. We all know people who are working two, sometimes three jobs to support themselves and their families. This is the tragedy lurking behind the government's job numbers.
We see a steady shift away from quality jobs to less secure work with uncertain hours, fewer benefits and no pensions, the so-called precarious jobs. Getting these Canadians back to work in family supporting jobs could inject another $75 billion into our economy in wages alone, before multipliers.
Here is how the official opposition would return Canada to fiscal balance. We would do it by investing in quality jobs, boosting household incomes and GDP, and therefore government revenues. We would create good quality jobs. That is a key priority for Canadians right across this country.
We have also proposed reducing the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%. Why have we done that? This would give a boost to a sector that creates nearly half of all new Canadian jobs, small businesses right across the country. I think of my own riding of Parkdale—High Park where we have small businesses that are really the lifeblood of our local economy.
We have proposed direct job creation tax credits to reward every new hire in small, medium and large businesses. We have proposed investing in vital infrastructure to create jobs that make our cities more competitive hubs in the global economy.
However, this budget picks up on none of these practical suggestions to spark job creation.
The budget continues to bank on a job creation strategy that is not effective, namely the unconditional tax cuts for corporations.
After lowering corporate tax rate to 16.5%, they intend to lower it even more next year to 15%. It is not really necessary to lower taxes even more, and it will cost the public purse another $3 billion.
The combined tax rate of the federal and provincial governments is currently far below the tax rate in the United States. These cuts are therefore not necessary. The Department of Finance points out that investment in infrastructure creates seven times more economic spinoffs.
There is no evidence that corporations are using these tax cuts to create jobs. Instead, they prefer to use the money to pay off their debts, increase their profits, give their CEOs bigger bonuses, or even invest abroad and lay off workers here at home.
I look at Electrolux which eagerly accepted Ottawa's largesse before shipping 1,300 manufacturing jobs to Memphis. It took the money, put it in its back pocket and then laid off all the workers.
The six big banks just received an additional $1.1 billion bonus from Canadian taxpayers over the last four quarters. That money is not going toward creating jobs.
Why would the minister expect a job strategy that failed yesterday to succeed tomorrow? We have a job crisis in this country. Why would he plough ahead knowing that finishing his rate cutting experiment will leave an annual $15 billion hole in the treasury?
After giving big businesses $15 billion every year, the minister is trying to get that money back by shifting the burden to Canadian taxpayers. First of all, over the next five years, he plans to collect $17 billion more in EI premiums than he will pay out in benefits. That is completely unacceptable. It is a slap in the face to workers and employers. The Conservatives do not seem serious about their desire to help small businesses and to lead Canada back to recovery.
In addition, now the minister is threatening to cut federal spending by another $17 billion over the next five years. Focusing on cuts instead of on economic growth is not the right strategy for returning to a balanced budget.
Let me ask the question my leader asked earlier. Where will the minister find this largely unspecified $17 billion? Will he cut transfers to health care after a few years? If not now then later on perhaps. Is that why we see no first steps in this budget toward training more doctors and other health care professionals, nurses, midwives? If not health care transfers, will he cut funding to Health Canada, Statistics Canada, Environment Canada or any of the countless departments and agencies that contribute to a stronger, healthier population of Canadians, programs that Canadians count on?
Will the minister make the spectre of deep cuts his constant pretext to ignore calls to invest in Canadian families because the needs are huge? We need to strengthen front line health care. We need to make life more affordable for Canadians. Canadians are stretched. We need to improve pensions for people who are retired or about to retire. We need to invest proactively in job creation. We need to pull seniors not just some of the way but all the way out of poverty. It is unacceptable that we have any senior living in poverty in a country as wealthy as Canada.
These are the priorities that millions of Canadians voted on in the recent election.
The budget deficit is $13 billion lower than the minister projected in budget 2010. The year before he was off by $22 billion so I guess he is getting a bit closer. Accurate deficit projections have not been the forte of the Minister of Finance. Canadians are all too familiar with governments overstating deficits to justify spending cuts. This is no time for deep spending cuts.
We are also hearing credible warnings about the possibility of a double-dip recession. We are hearing it from U.S. economists and from the Governor of the Bank of Canada. This is no time to be pulling $34 billion out of this economy in combined spending cuts and over-collected EI premiums, not with Canada perched on the edge of a fragile recovery.
Even when things are going well, we know that workers and their families tend to be hit the hardest by budget cuts. These families are already worried about their retirement pensions and the bills they need to pay at the end of the month. These families need high-quality jobs to contribute to Canada's economic recovery. Instead of shifting the burden onto them, we should be making investments that benefit these families, taking affordable and effective action, and creating jobs to stimulate growth and increase income in order to achieve a balanced budget in the long term.
The government needs to remember that it governs for all Canadians, not just well-connected Conservative insiders, not even just for its own voters, but for all Canadians, and certainly they include the sweeping majority of Canadians who want to see parties work together in the House of Commons. The sweeping majority of Canadians want to see solutions that bring people together across party lines and across regional lines.
We are ready to do our part. However, if the government wants to meet the challenge with us, it is going to have to do much better than it has done in the budget.