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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

Board of Internal Economy

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that the following members have been appointed as members of the Board of Internal Economy for the purposes and under the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act, subsection 50(2).

They are: the Hon. Peter Van Loan and the Hon. Gordon O'Connor, members of the Queen's Privy Council; the Hon. Rob Merrifield, representative of the government caucus; Mr. Thomas Mulcair and Ms. Chris Charlton, representatives of the New Democratic caucus; and Ms. Judy Foote, representative of the Liberal caucus.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the reports of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at: the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Twelve Plus Group, London, United Kingdom, September 25, 2009; the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, New York, New York, United States of America, November 19-20, 2009; the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Twelve Plus Group, London, United Kingdom, March 1, 2010; the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Twelve Plus Group, Paris, France, September 3, 2010; the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, New York, New York, United States of America, December 2-3, 2010; the Parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: the Role of Parliaments in Promoting Access and Participation of Women and Girls to Education, Training, Science and Technology, New York, New York, United States of America, February 23, 2011; and the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Twelve Plus Group in Paris, France, March 14, 2011.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 7th, 2011 / 10 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition that has been signed by literally thousands of Canadians from all over Canada drawing the attention of the House of Commons that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known.

In fact, more Canadians die from asbestos than from all other industrial causes combined. Yet, the petitioners point out that Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world, spending millions and millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry, and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all of its forms, institute a just transition program for any worker who may be affected by such a ban, end all government subsidies to asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Visitor VisasPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I present a petition from a number of constituents and others expressing a great deal of concern regarding those individuals who are unable to have their families come to Canada in order to visit. At times this can be very challenging, whether for funerals or celebrations such as weddings, where visiting visas are being denied.

The petitioners are calling upon the government to take more action, so that we can enable some of these family members, who are of good character and in good health, to visit Canada.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 6 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Toronto—Danforth Ontario

NDP

Jack Layton NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, with this budget, the government missed a golden opportunity to reach out and work with others, and to show the majority of Canadians that Ottawa can work for them.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the new mandate he received from Canadians, but I will continue to remind him that his majority in the House does not represent the majority of the public. Sixty per cent of voters chose another party in the May 2 election. They rejected this budget which is, essentially, identical to the one tabled just before the election.

I expect the Prime Minister, of course, to make choices that honour his values and his voters. That is what I would do as prime minister myself. But a prime minister also needs to govern on behalf of all Canadians.

The message we heard from voters this election is that they want us to work together to get results that can bring people together across partisan and regional lines. This budget could have moved in that direction by responding to concrete proposals made by other parties, including our party, proposals to help middle-class families, not just the well-connected insiders who all too often get their way here on Parliament Hill, proposals that millions of Canadians voted for in the election, such as hiring more family doctors and nurses; making life more affordable; securing pensions and retirement security for seniors; and lifting all seniors out of poverty. We could have seen proposals to spark full-time job creation.

Millions of Canadians voted for change, but I see very few signs that this government is listening.

I am pleased to see that this budget contains the long-awaited compensation for Quebec's sales tax harmonization. My caucus made this demand several times during the last Parliament. We are pleased to see that the government has made the right decision.

I welcome the return of the eco-energy home retrofit program. We saw how much this program stimulated job creation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and helped families save on their energy bills.

It is a program and an approach to economic and energy policy that I have been urging the Prime Minister to adopt since our very first meeting.

I also want to salute the government for its adoption of a non-partisan initiative emerging from this country's building trades called helmets to hardhats. I would like to thank all of the members of Parliament who participated in the informal discussions that we had prior to the last budget that generated the consensus that will allow returning veterans and retiring service personnel to connect with jobs and employment opportunities in the construction field as this program unfolds.

Where is the effort to reach out to the five million Canadians who do not have a family doctor? We have suggested working with the provinces and territories to tackle this critical issue to provide more training spaces or adopt the CMA's ideas in this regard which suggests that we can repatriate doctors who have gone to work abroad and bring them back here. However, this budget will not get more doctors into practice. Therefore, it will cause millions of Canadian families with sick loved ones to experience inevitable anxiety due to the fact they do not have family medicine readily available. It will result in more people going to emergency departments rather than nipping in the bud an illness or a disease within the family. Therefore, at the end of the day it will cost Canadians more money. It is an issue that should have been tackled and we propose must be tackled.

We are also not positioning Ottawa as a leader with concrete proposals and ideas while heading into the health accord renegotiations. Although we should have heard a vision for the future of our health care system in both the Throne Speech and the budget, one was not forthcoming.

We need to reach out to families who need help with their budgets. During the election we talked to countless people who have great difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month. In fact, many of our members of Parliament met with people who were overcome with emotion as they described their situation. As we spoke with them regarding which party to vote for, their main concern was how they would cover their bills at the end of the month. Would they choose to pay the costs of their housing, put food on the table, or afford the medication that their doctor told them they needed?

These are the intense personal stories that people are hoping we will take account of, listen to, and motivate us in our work here. Household debt is at an all-time high. We should regard this as a critical issue. People are working hard. They are working harder than ever. How many members in this chamber have met people who are working two or three jobs just to try to make ends meet at the end of every month?

We suggested some concrete measures to help address these issues. For example, taking the federal tax off the skyrocketing heating bills that people are confronted with. We suggested capping those credit card interest rates which are really tough on families.The budget was a golden opportunity to address these issues. However, we did not see anything about that at all.

Regarding our plea for action for the quarter of a million seniors who are living in poverty, the government responded with less than half measures, less than half of the investment needed to pull those seniors out of poverty using the guaranteed income supplement. Accordingly, will the government lift half of all seniors out of poverty or will they lift all seniors halfway out of poverty? It turns out it is neither.

I believe that there is not a Canadian who would disagree with that objective. In fact, in a country as rich as Canada, every Canadian, irrespective of political orientation, background, income or anything else, would agree that no senior should have to live in poverty.

Solving the problem is affordable. It would cost us less to lift every senior out of poverty than the government spent in the last 12 months on new tax breaks for the six chartered banks. I would bet that if we could have a private discussion with the bank CEOs, they would probably say, although I do not know if they would do it publicly but I bet some of them would, that it is actually more important to lift seniors out of poverty than it is to give us another tax break.

Let us look at that issue from the raw standpoint of the economic impact. If we were to give seniors a little more money to spend, what would they do with it? They would spend it within walking distance. Wherever they happen to live, they would spend it at local stores and businesses which would prime the economic pump as well as resulting, hopefully, in a drop in the number of seniors who have to go to food banks.

Is it not a measure of failure when seniors have to go to food banks? I cannot think of very many measures of a failed economic policy that would stand out more dramatically than that, except perhaps when children are going with their parents to food banks, which is an equally dramatic indication of the growing inequality in our society that is certainly not being addressed in the budget at all.

This budget does not meet the needs of most Canadians on issues surrounding health care, retirement pensions and the financial burden on families.

It is time to make sure that the 1.4 million people who are unemployed return to work in jobs that will meet their families' needs.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance said encouraging things about job creation. He said that employment and growth are key to balancing the budget. Unfortunately, he also ignored our practical solutions for stimulating the creation of good-quality jobs, which include reducing taxes for our economy's real job creators, small businesses; instituting job creation tax credits as a reward for each new job created; and investing in infrastructure that will attract good jobs to our communities.

I spoke to municipal leaders at their annual convention this weekend in Halifax. They are ready to partner with Ottawa to renew this country's infrastructure. They are ready to build those modern roads and bridges, transit systems, affordable housing and water systems that we need if our cities are to be successful into the future. They are ready to modernize Canada's housing stock and transit systems so we can become world leaders instead of falling further and further behind as other countries make investments in these areas, which will position those countries, cities and communities much better for the economic competition that lies before us.

Instead, what we see here is an entrenchment and a withdrawal. The government continues to ignore the calls from the municipalities. It ignores their call to work together to create those jobs in design and construction, and to make our cities more competitive economic engines in the global workplace and marketplace.

This budget talks about jobs but offers essentially the same old failed plan. It contains billions in corporate tax giveaways to Canada's most profitable corporations. Billions are squandered when Canada's corporate rates are already competitive. It contains billions for banks, big oil and other companies that do not need our help, billions that too often just pad the CEO bonuses or the corporate cash reserves.

This is not an economic policy that will generate the jobs that we need. The rate of unemployment in this country is far too high. International observers have suggested that Canada risks being in a situation where we could have structural unemployment, in other words a basic level of unemployment, which is dramatically higher than it should be and could act as a real block to Canadian economic success.

What is worse, in many cases these tax reductions given to companies, which have no conditions attached to them, the companies turn around, take the money and run. Oftentimes the companies will shut down the very factory that was making money in the first place and will move the jobs somewhere else where they will pay half the wage or less, where there are no protections for workers who might want to organize to have health and safety on the job, where the workers cannot speak out for fair wages to feed their families.

With this policy and this budget, we are helping those companies to do exactly that, throw Canadian workers out of work and allow workers elsewhere in the world to be exploited.

How can we identify with a policy like that and say that somehow it is good for the country? The truth is that it is not. I will give concrete examples. Electrolux in Quebec is a case in point. Quite often these companies will leave their head office here so that they can continue to take advantage of the Canadian tax cuts but meanwhile they are shipping the jobs elsewhere. Canadian workers are out of work, which means they are not paying taxes anymore. In fact, those workers must collect employment insurance, if they are able to qualify.

We notice that the government's approach to that, which was picked up from the previous administration, is to make it more difficult for people to qualify. There is a heck of a way to save money. People who need help from government because they have been thrown out of work are unable to get access to the help their family needs. They then end up on welfare and, in many provinces, they must get rid of most of their assets before they can even qualify for welfare.

In other words, what we have here is a system where a tax cut given to a corporation here can ultimately result in a Canadian worker being thrown out of work and ending up on welfare. How the heck can anyone say that policy makes any sense whatsoever for the working families of this country? The truth is that it does not and it needs to change.

Another example is John Deere in Welland, a long-standing Canadian firm that generated lots of work over many years. It took the corporate tax cut and shut down its factory. We have Vale that went on the attack against workers' pensions.

What are we doing here? Are we trying to help in the race to the bottom so that workers in any country have less access to a secure retirement? That makes no sense whatsoever. The list includes Merck and Xstrata. I could spend the entire day reading off a list of companies that have taken the money and run. A small business will not do that.

Small businesses, which cannot transfer their jobs to China or elsewhere, will use the tax cuts to create jobs in companies here in Canada. That is why we must support our small businesses now. It is their turn.

We have to wonder whether this government has not lost confidence in its employment strategy. We have to wonder whether it is continuing to provide tax breaks for big corporations just to please its privileged friends. If this government really wanted to stimulate growth, it would not make large cuts to balance the budget. Yet that is what is found in this budget—$17 billion in cuts over the next five years. We are talking about $17 billion. In what areas will these cuts be made? Health care? Education? Help for seniors? We do not know. There is a certain lack of transparency in this regard. The government hopes that we will not see the effects of its cuts. Will cuts be made to regional development programs? We know who will have to pay the price of these federal cuts. It is families.

I want to say that the official opposition will press the government to balance the budget through growth rather than cuts. Our diverse and talented team will be monitoring this government's actions. We will show in detail the human costs associated with each cut that the government plans to make.

The real test of the government will be its ability to deliver on its own priorities while respecting the majority of Canadians who voted for something else. That takes wisdom and statecraft. On balance, the budget fails that test because it fails the sweeping majority. It helps out the corporations and insiders, to be sure. I do not want to suggest that the budget is not helpful to anybody. However, it leaves millions of families at the back of the line. Too many of them are without family doctors. Many are concerned about their jobs and retirement. Many are struggling to make ends meet and are worried about the spending cuts that are to come and what the impact might be on their families. We all remember Walkerton and we do not want to see the absence of government involvement in protecting Canadians resulting in tragedy.

I choose to remain optimistic about what the House can accomplish. It is not a government known for compromise, and old habits can die hard, but we have seen some glimmers in some areas, as I mentioned: the HST compensation for Quebec, the return of the eco-energy home retrofits and the helmets to hard hats for veterans. Therefore, in good faith, I will reach across the aisle and say to the government that it just needs to try harder.

Canadians of all political stripes have sent us here to work together. They will not let the government forget it. The official opposition will not let the government forget it. This budget, unfortunately, does not come close to delivering enough for Canadian families. However, we are still eager to work with the government to get the job done.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:

That the House not approve in general the budgetary policy of the government unless the government brings in additional measures to correct the government's poor record of fiscal management, to address adequately the current jobs crisis in the economy, to address the shortage of family doctors and other health professionals, to deal with the need to provide Canadians with a comfortable retirement and a secure vehicle for their retirement savings, to lift every Canadian senior out of poverty, to make life more affordable for low and middle income Canadians and to address the government's failure to substitute a more targeted approach to job creation for its ill-conceived, across-the-board, corporate income tax cuts.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment appears to be in order.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to welcome the leader of the Opposition and congratulate him on a well played election.

I do have a question for the leader of the Opposition with regard to the GIS increase. He mentioned in his speech that there are number of seniors who are going to be depending on that money. The fact of the matter is that if the budget does not quickly pass, those seniors are truly at risk of not being able to recoup the money that is actually set aside in the budget.

How is the leader going to explain to the seniors, when he votes against this budget, that they are not going to receive that $600 increase for a single senior or that $840 increase for a senior couple? How is he going to explain that to Canadians across the country who are counting on this money?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate the member on her re-election.

We have offered an amendment to the budget that could be accepted by the government that would not only ensure the cheques would be delivered on time but they would actually be sufficient to lift seniors out of poverty instead of--

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Papineau.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the people of Papineau for once again placing their trust in me. I would also like to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his new role.

I am concerned because in this budget, there is almost no mention of youth, apart from talking about young offenders, of course. Furthermore, the speech just given by the opposition leader also made no mention of the challenges facing our post-secondary students.

New numbers show that the cumulative student debt in this country has reached more than $1 billion. The Leader of the Opposition waxed eloquent about workers, seniors, small businesses and families, which are all extremely important.

However, particularly given the youthful caucus that he has around him, would the hon. member please let us know how he is going to ensure that the government invests properly in our young Canadians, our future.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me first congratulate the member for Papineau on his re-election. We look forward to working with him and all members on the issues that he has just now identified.

He will know that the New Democratic Party is the only party that has submitted legislation to the House of Commons that would address the very issues of which he has spoken. I believe that is legislation that would have wide support across the country. Therefore, I would hope he would be supporting our initiatives in that area which would really help to tackle the crisis of student debt and ensure that post-secondary education, working with the provinces and understanding fully the constitutional framework within which we operate in that area, is able to be addressed by our national government in the appropriate fashion.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the other day I met a man at Tim Hortons who told me he was going back to work underground at the mine at age 68 because his pension was not sufficient for him and his wife to live on. He said, “I paid into this system my whole life and I thought the government would be there for me”.

I see the budget and I see the government is there for the CEOs. I see the government is there for the big banks.

I would like to ask the leader of our party why he thinks the budget is not there for the millions of working Canadian people who do not have a proper pension so that they can live their lives in dignity?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Timmins—James Bay on his re-election. His tireless representation of the workers in northern Ontario and the first nations communities there is well known across the country. We are glad that he is back.

I have a short answer to his question and it is that it boils down to blinders on ideology. The economic policy of the government essentially is predicated on the notion of sink or swim. That is too bad for someone who decides to go back to work after having worked all of his or her life in the mine. It is too bad for the individual and his or her co-workers who have to go back to work at age 68. Why not 75? Why not 85? The government's philosophy is that it is a tough world out there and one just has to make his or her own way.

We have a different view. We believe that together we can actually create instruments of policies, programs and strategies that can give us a dignified and secure retirement. Seniors are not looking to live high off the hog. I do not know any senior who wants to be able to live the life of luxury. All they are looking for is to be able to cover their housing and their food costs and be able to enjoy a little recreation and have something left over to give a gift to a grandchild every now and again.

We need to have a properly functioning Canada pension plan so that we are not held for ransom by the gamblers who want to roll the dice and take their bonuses and too bad if we lose money. They win either way.

That is the philosophy that the government is bringing to the issue of retirement security. It is wrong. We should make sure that the Canada pension plan is strengthened. We have a golden opportunity to do that in the next number of months with most provinces onside for this idea. We should make that a top priority for the House of Commons.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here for a third term, thanks to the support of my constituents in Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition recognizes the excellent measures in our budget, particularly for our veterans with the helmets to hardhats program, as well as sales tax harmonization, which is an important issue for many Quebeckers.

However, he now has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 680,000 seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement by $600 per year for single seniors and up to $840 per year for couples. The people of my riding have been waiting for this measure for weeks and months, if not years. We have seen this budget before. We, the members of this House, have the opportunity today to pass this budget before the summer recess, in order to deliver real change that will help our seniors and to adopt measures that will stimulate our economy.

This budget contains measures concerning energy efficiency. It also contains an important project for the Quebec City region: the National Optics Institute or INO.

Will the Leader of the Opposition support measures to give our most vulnerable seniors extra income, to improve energy efficiency and to support the INO in Quebec City?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Minister of Veterans Affairs. We will work with him to improve life for our veterans and their families. It is a priority for us.

As I was saying in my speech, there are indeed some positive initiatives in this budget. I mentioned in particular the non-partisan helmets to hard hats initiative. It is a fine example of how the various political parties in the House of Commons can come up with positive ideas that are widely supported. We support this program.

We want to help seniors. We have proposed initiatives to help seniors get out of poverty. The measures proposed by this government will not achieve that goal. They will leave quite a large number of seniors in poverty. How can the minister justify that? How will he explain to seniors in his riding that they have to remain in poverty because of the inaction of their government?

We have proposed concrete solutions in our amendment to their budget. I hope the minister and his colleagues will study it and support it in order to achieve concrete results for all Canadians.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. In doing so I also take the chance to thank the good people of Toronto Centre who have seen the wisdom of returning me to this place once again. This has been my 11th meeting with the voters, both federally and provincially, and I am very proud of the fact that I have managed to achieve this point in my life and have been able to receive the confidence of a great many people.

I think of my own constituency and we all do when we talk about budgets. I think of a constituency that probably has some of the wealthiest people in the country living in it; some of the most successful entrepreneurs, younger couples who are achieving great success, people who are doing very well in their lives and see great opportunities for themselves and for their families.

At the same time, Toronto Centre happens to have the largest amount of social housing in the country, as the Leader of the Opposition will well know because of his work municipally. It has a vast and considerable population of homeless people. It also has a number of people who fall somewhere into the middle of that group. So, we have the richest and the poorest and we have the people in between.

The essential message that I bring to the House and to the people of Canada about this budget is that it is not a budget for everyone. It is not a budget that brings Canadians together. It is not a budget for one Canada. It is a budget that focuses on a certain group of people. It does far more for those who are better off than for those who are not. In that sense, it is a budget that fails our vision in the Liberal Party, of being able to talk out of all sides of our mouth at exactly the same time, when we say that the search for prosperity for Canada is exceptionally important and the success of our businesses is exceptionally important.

We have learned the hard way, as a country, what I call the “Billie Holiday maxim”. When she was asked what was the big lesson she had drawn from her life, she said: “I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better.”

Canada needs to become richer. We need to become more prosperous. In achieving that prosperity, both for individuals and as a country, we become more successful, but we are also more able to share that prosperity and to ensure that everyone is included. Perhaps as much as any member in the House from my time in politics, I have learned a very simple lesson. That is that the water buffalo look at each other very differently when there is no water. We understand that is what can happen in a recession.

When I look at this budget, not only do I see the elements it contains, but I also see what is missing. The budget contains some measures, but there are measures missing. That is essentially the problem with this budget. I also see that this document is permeated by a sentiment that is not good for Canada at this time: complacency. I see complacency in the attitude of the government, which seems to think that, having won a majority, it no longer needs to talk about the needs of all Canadians and that it can concentrate instead on the interests of a few. That is the problem I see.

When we look at what is missing, let me mention three words: the first word is “poverty” and the second two words are “climate change”.

When we look around the world, we see a world that is far more unstable than the one the Conservatives are describing. We see a sovereign debt crisis taking place in Europe, a crisis that has now become infectious and threatens the economic balance of the entire world.

We saw just two years ago, and who among us needs to be reminded of it, that because of the degree of integration of the world financial system, a failure of the banking system in the United States from people making loans to people to whom they should not have been lending money created a world economic crisis that we can now all read about.

We are facing the same risk with respect to the failure, not of a few homeowners or a few thousand homeowners or tens of thousands of homeowners, but of entire countries. None of us should be unaware of this. None of us should be unaware of the difficulties facing our neighbour in the United States with respect to its economic growth and the challenges now facing Japan because of the tragedy of the tsunami.

Therefore, I find that the Conservatives are playing a game in this budget of what I call “let us pretend”. Let us pretend there is no continuing instability in the world economy. Let us pretend there is no poverty in Canada and no challenge of a shared prosperity, which we in the Liberal Party believe is the central challenge of our time. Let us pretend, on behalf of the Conservative Party, that we know what we are doing, that we have a plan.

The finance minister is asserting a very false certainty in his deficit projections. He is pretending that he knows what the deficit will be next year. He is pretending that he knows what it will be two years from now, and then he is pretending that he knows what it will be three years from now.

The trouble is that we remember the Minister of Finance. We remember that he was the one who came into this House in 2008, after the last election, and told Canadians, “Crisis? What crisis? Deficits? What deficits? Problems? What problems?” thereby causing a political crisis that dominated the affairs of this country for two full months, forcing him to a deathbed conversion of saying, “Aha, now we have to do the economic action plan. Now we have to start putting money into the economy. Now we have to start running deficits”.

I heard the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance talking for a full two years about how vital it was for Canada to run a deficit, how important it was for Canada to take on more debt, that this was a crucial act of national statesmanship. I only wish I had heard those words from the Conservatives around 1990, 1991 and 1992, but I digress.

The only thing missing in the government's statement and its description of the costs and challenges that we will face is the cost of certain key programs, one of which has been covered by the Leader of the Opposition in his comments, but one of which was not.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke a lot about the cost of the corporate tax cuts, which are in fact a significant bleeding of the fiscal capacity of the Canadian federal government to address the financial problems that all of the country faces.

Our view is that further corporate tax cuts at this time are unnecessary to achieve tax competitiveness, which is a very important objective of public policy but which has gone from becoming something that seemed like a wise course in public policy to becoming an indulgence that we can no longer afford.

However, I want to refer to one other item that is not in the list of things, because it relates to a major debate that we will be having in this country in the fall, and that is the cost of prisons. The government is about to take this country on a course with respect to the reform of the criminal justice system that will repeat every significant error made in the United States and made in Europe, particularly in the U.K., for which those countries are now repenting and seeing the folly and unwisdom of their ways.

The government is pretending as if the simple solution to every act of crime and every misdeed in our society is to simply throw the accused into jail and, essentially, to throw away the key.

The cost of that is going to be borne by every Canadian and the provinces and the municipalities. It ignores the fact that our correctional institutions are about to become the largest mental health institutions in the country.

It is a direction for Canada that is completely unnecessary and that is also going to have devastating impact on the overall economic and social health of the country. I can assure the government that we in the Liberal Party intend to fight these measures every step of the way.

The government speaks a lot about its majority. In fact, I think I heard the phrases “majority mandate”, “mandate” and “majority” at least a hundred times yesterday, and I am sure I will hear it a thousand times before the day is done and before this week or the next three weeks are done.

Let me just remind the House—

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Paul Calandra

Much more than that, for the next four years.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I note the heckling. I am not listening to it.

Forty per cent of those who voted have spoken, but that still means that most Canadians are looking elsewhere for leadership.

We simply have to understand that reality.

I will come back to that point.

The majority of Canadians do not have the same priorities as the Conservative Party. That is important. We acknowledge the facts: the Conservative Party has a majority in the House, but it does not have a majority in the country. It is difficult for the Conservative Party to accept this reality. In fact, the Conservatives can do as they wish in the House, but they cannot shirk their responsibility to respect public opinion in Canada.

I would like to talk about the options available to Canadians. Throughout the country, a movement that is open to and ready for change recognizes that Canadians want a different kind of politics. This movement believes that the government is there to serve Canadians. It is a popular movement that understands the economic challenges, but that does not believe that the ideologies of the past will help.

We in the Liberal Party believe that public policy should be driven by facts and evidence, not by ideology. Every step of the way we will be challenging those policies coming forward in the House from wherever they come that are not supported by facts and evidence.

We also know that a great majority of Canadians know that poverty and climate change, words that we in this party insist on using, are realities that we want addressed. I would say to the Leader of Opposition that the problem is not just poverty among seniors but among all Canadians. It is poverty among children that is a problem and it is poverty among our aboriginal population that is a problem.

We in the Liberal Party know that Canada's prosperity cannot be taken for granted. We also know that this is no time for smug or self-satisfied complacency.

When we look at health care and at the issues of crime and social justice that I have talked about and at our tax policies, and, particularly, when we look at the importance of aboriginal issues that have still not been faced up to by the House and Canadians, we must recognize the real and present danger that we are dealing not with one Canada but with two, with those who are in and those who are out; with those who are benefiting from the good things in life and those who are not; those who have a stake, a position and security, and those who have none.

These things are avoidable. As Canadians, we do not have to accept this fate. We can lead the way as a country by saying that we want to set a standard for our country in the world and that we want to be at our best in the world. Yes, we want prosperity. Yes, we want our businesses to succeed. Yes, we want to create a truly progressive entrepreneurial culture in this country. However, we understand full well that it will mean nothing if there are still millions of people unemployed and millions of people living in poverty, and if there are those who go to bed at night in a room with six or seven people who wonder, as the wind is whistling through the windows of an overcrowded house on Big Trout Lake, in their aspirations if there is not a better world and a better place.

We must recognize that despite all of our successes, Canada has the highest suicide rate in the western world. That principally is because there are far too many young Canadians, young teenagers, young aboriginal people in particular, who do not see a way out, who do not see hope and who do not see opportunity.

As we reflect on our budgets, they are not just about what businesses or the chamber of commerce think. A budget is not just there for taxpayers, even successful taxpayers, but a budget is there for every single Canadian, whether homeless or with a home, whether on the street or in the most comfortable place, whether living in rural Canada or urban Canada

The definition of a good politics is a politics that brings everyone together. When I look at the budget, I see a consistent politics that tries to divide, that tries to separate, that says the government is there for some but not for all.

One simple fact would demonstrate this, the tax credits the government has given. These tax credits only go to people with taxable income. It is very simple to understand. I was attempting to explain it to the media yesterday, because they were asking what the difference was between a refundable tax credit and a non-refundable tax credit.

Let me provide the simple facts. Last year 24.5 million returns were filed , of which 15.2 million owed net federal tax and 9.3 million owed no federal income tax after all the credits and deductions. The fact is that without net income, one will not get the benefit of the tax credits.

In my riding, who needs piano lessons but does not get access to them? It is the poorest kids in my riding. Who has problems taking care of their loved ones? Who has problems taking care of their mother or their father?

Who needs the tax credits provided by the Conservatives? They are not simply tax credits for Canada' middle class. They should be for everyone and not just for some. Quite frankly, that is the difference between the vision of the Liberal Party and that of the Conservative Party.

For those reasons, I will be moving an amendment to the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I move:

That the motion be further amended by adding the following:

“and rejects the government's budgetary policy because it does nothing to improve the worsening living conditions and opportunity gaps facing aboriginal people, fails to present any plan that fosters long-term, sustainable prosperity and equal opportunity for all Canadians, deliberately excludes low-income Canadians from qualifying for new tax measures by failing to make them refundable tax credits, abandons the federal government's role in the development and maintenance of affordable housing, continues to display a lack of federal leadership on health care particularly by ignoring the need to begin negotiations with the provinces on the successor to the 2004 health accord and leaves Canadians in the dark as to which programs and services will be cut in order to meet the government's deficit projections”.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment to the amendment is in order.

The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Toronto Centre for his speech and on his re-election to the House. However, I note that, as I look across the House, my colleague has moved considerably to the right.

My colleague indicated in his speech that public policy should be driven by facts. However, it was ironic to me to notice that during his speech he ignored a number of facts. He ignored that more than 80% of Canadians voted against his party. He ignored the 540,000 net new jobs that have been created. He also ignored that on May 2, Canadians chose to elect a national, stable, majority Conservative government.

How can my colleague oppose a budget that has measures, such as providing this hiring credit for small business to encourage hiring? How can he ignore the work-sharing program extension that the budget includes and g the support for the manufacturing and processing sector that is here? All of these measures are key and crucial to increasing job creation. Not only will that increase the ability of families to provide for their needs, but it increases the sense of self-esteem and purpose that is so necessary in our society.

I would like his response as to why he opposes those great measures that are in this budget.