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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

Flooding in MontérégieOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

What I can confirm, Mr. Speaker, is that within 24 hours after predeploying, we had hundreds of Canadian Forces members on the ground in the region supporting the people who were suffering from this flood.

In total, over 844 soldiers helped to protect thousands of acres of farmland. They built two major dikes that needed repair. They put 224,000 sandbags in place and helped community members. They did check visits, went to residences with assistance, water and food. This was an outstanding effort by members of the Canadian Forces.

Flooding in MontérégieOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, over 50 days after the major flooding began in the Haut-Richelieu area, the Prime Minister visited the affected areas and clearly improvised an announcement to calm the rumble of discontent.

Since the fact that the government will assume 50% of the costs under its own cost-sharing program is not new and since the budget does not make any mention of new, additional aid, can the Prime Minister tell us how much money his new mitigation plan will give to flood victims in Montérégie and to those in the Gaspé who are still being ignored?

Flooding in MontérégieOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to work with the provinces in respect of disaster financial assistance. We have worked well with other provinces in respect of mitigation. New changes have been made to the disaster financial assistance agreement.

I note some of the Prime Minister's comments both during the election and during his well-received tour of the flood areas in Quebec.

I look forward to working on those details with the provinces and with my colleagues in cabinet.

Business of SupplyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to inform the House that as a result of the order adopted Monday, June 6, two days will be allotted for the supply period ending June 23, 2011.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to apologize for the language I used earlier in the House. I could give an explanation as to why I said it, but I will not choose to do that at this point. I apologize for the language.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate you on being elected to the position of Speaker of the House. Congratulations.

I am also pleased to rise this afternoon to discuss our government's 2011 budget and I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Let me first thank my family for the love and support not only during the election campaign but also each and every day that I am asked to serve the people of Canada.

I would also like to thank the people of Red Deer for putting their faith in me once again by re-electing me to represent them in the 41st Parliament. It is an honour to serve and represent them.

It was made clear in the recent election that the people of Canada supported the direction and goals of our government. Canadians want the economy to continue to be the number one priority and our government has listened.

I would also like to thank the Prime Minister and the finance minister for their invitation last winter to participate in the long and beneficial consultation process of budget 2011.

This budget contains many points that my constituents raised in round table discussions. I am glad to see that the government once again heard the input of my constituents. I appreciate the advice that every constituent has given me, from the Red Deer chamber of commerce to municipal councils and everyone in-between. Every view is important to me.

From the meetings I held in Red Deer and the surrounding area I heard a few recurring themes: continued elimination of red tape in government policies and bureaucratic procedures, continued reductions in personal taxes, and the cost of employment to businesses. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan helps to achieve these goals.

Red Deer is an extraordinary place where small and medium-sized businesses thrive. Its location in the corridor of Alberta provides immense economic advantages and makes it an ideal area to start a business. The people of Red Deer are independent and entrepreneurial, and they understand the impact that our fiscal policies have on them and the economy. They know that lower taxes provide the freedom to be profitable and to create more jobs, and that good social programs come from strong economic fiscal policy.

The economy though is still fragile. I know that the resilience and determination of the hard-working people of Red Deer will continue to prevail and succeed.

Canadians have given us a mandate to stay focused on the economy and to pass measures aimed at strengthening both our economic recovery and our country. We are following through on these commitments.

We are focused on improving the financial security of Canadian workers, seniors and families. I am pleased that budget 2011 proposes programs that will respond to the needs of central Alberta. For example, the hiring credit for small businesses in budget 2011 will be extremely helpful to many people who need jobs and many employers who need more employees.

The hiring credit will have a direct and positive impact on Red Deer by providing incentives to hire and create jobs. This credit addresses many of my constituents' concerns about keeping the cost of employment down to help stimulate more hiring.

We are also supporting job creation by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance, helping manufacturers and processors to make new investments in machinery and equipment.

There are still many Canadians who need to find work, and it is wonderful to see that the government is doing what is necessary to help them by spurring job growth and investment.

Business owners in Red Deer are also pleased with our efforts toward reducing red tape, and this is an issue that has repeatedly been addressed within our business community.

Upgrading the BizPal service and engaging business owners by further consulting Canadians through the red tape reduction commission is a welcome initiative to tackle the bureaucratic problems that my constituents face.

From employers to families, we have a strong record of tax relief. Canadian families are benefiting from tax relief measures such as the first-time home buyer's tax credit , the public transit tax credit, and the GST reductions.

Further individual tax relief measures in this budget will provide taxpayers in Alberta with approximately $310 million more in tax relief over the next six years. This includes a new family caregiver tax credit which will provide almost $73 million in relief and a new children's arts tax credit which will provide over $69 million for Alberta families.

I am proud that we are offering a new tax credit for our volunteer firefighters who bravely serve our communities. We can attain these tax cuts while returning to balanced budgets because this is a government that is also focused on eliminating government waste and closing tax loopholes.

A secure and fair tax base allows us to maintain low tax rates.

I want to address central Alberta farmers as they finish seeding their fields. Agriculture is a primary sector of our local economy in central Alberta and so my round table discussions have included farmers who are a unique kind of business people. They face all of the challenges of other business owners and then some, with more risk, uncertainty and variable conditions from year to year.

Alberta is a bit unique as it is one of the few provinces that administers the agristability program for its producers. Therefore, we need to identify what needs to be done at the federal level and work with the Government of Alberta to address producers' needs.

We know that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food continues to work with all of his provincial counterparts to address gaps and strengthen the income support programs within the federal-provincial framework. We look forward to his continued leadership in this regard.

Budget 2011 provides $50 million for a two-year agricultural innovation initiative. This new program will support knowledge creation and increase commercialization in agriculture innovations.

Innovation is a key component of farm gate profitability. Whether it is finding new varieties to increase yields or improving livestock genetics, innovation is the driving force for Canada's competitiveness and produces profits. Agriculture-related businesses and producers will all benefit from this important investment in budget 2011.

The support of the government through programs like the agricultural innovation initiative will help Alberta grow.

This budget also provides $24 million to extend the initiative to control diseases in the hog industry. This new funding will enable the Canadian Swine Health Board to complete its initiatives directed at biosecurity standards and best managerial practices to protect producers' barns. Red Deer is home to western Canada's largest pork packer. Therefore, this is welcomed news for the entire value chain that is relying on the completion of this strategy.

While we recognize the significant work of our agriculture producers, our government also recognizes the significant contribution that seniors have made to our country. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan builds on the support network already in place for seniors by adding several new measures. This budget will enhance the guaranteed income supplement by providing eligible low income seniors with additional benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. I often hear from low income seniors in my riding who have trouble making ends meet. This increase to the guaranteed income supplement will be welcomed help. Our seniors deserve a secure and dignified retirement that reflects the contributions that they have made.

We are also ensuring that community level supports exist so that seniors have the opportunity to participate in social activities. The new horizons seniors program is helping seniors be together and active in their communities. In 2010, the government invested an extra $10 million in this initiative to assist community level programs.

Budget 2011 provides another $10 million over two years to support the new horizons program. This program has assisted in Red Deer with such things as equipment replacement at the Golden Circle, which is a popular gathering place for central Alberta seniors, and with women's wellness events administered by the Red Deer Family Service Bureau.

The new horizons seniors program raises the quality of life in communities through active living and participation in social activities. It is a responsible way to respond to social needs in our communities.

The next phase of our Conservative government's plan keeps taxes low to promote jobs and economic growth while supporting families and seniors. The previous actions that this government took during the recession kept Canada's economy strong and supported Canadian jobs.

What needs to be done now is to stay the course. I encourage all members to support this budget so Canada can continue to move forward.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague and, like him, I represent a very large rural region. What I find absolutely staggering in this budget is the complete lack of a plan for a digital strategy for rural and northern Canada, specifically the need for a broadband strategy.

We hear the government talk about a digital strategy but it is all talk because the money that is needed is not there.

I will give an example. In Australia, under a labour government I might point out, there is the most comprehensive broadband strategy infrastructure plan to ensure that every rural part of Australia is up to speed. The government talks about broadband but its numbers are at 1.5 megabytes. Rural Australia will be 100 times faster than what rural northern Ontario and rural Albertans can have.

Why has the government ignored the broadband needs of rural Canada?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the broadband industry has been going through a lot of changes. I think we are looking forward to a lot more in the communities in the future.

I was with the northern development committee last year and we had the opportunity to meet with many different groups and organizations in the territories. They have seen a lot of different action. I believe we will have great co-operation between the provinces, the territories and the federal government in the future.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is with regard to the whole issue of priorities in government expenditures.

At a time when our seniors are looking to government to demonstrate leadership, to demonstrate it cares about the plight of our seniors and the need to increase their income, the government has seen fit to only give something like $1.67 a day.

Given the wealth that our country has and given the expectations that Canadians have in the sense that the federal government should be a compassionate government that provides for our seniors, why has the Government of Canada only given our seniors $1.67 a day in terms of that increase?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is one component of the budget, which is a very significant part, but there are many other things that we are doing.

As I mentioned in my speech, when I talked to seniors, they looked at the fact that we had made that commitment. They were also concerned about the fact that it would have been passed already if there had not been an election at that point in time. Nevertheless, we do have the opportunity right now to continue with it. There have been so many other things that have happened as well.

I mentioned the new horizons program for seniors. We have also talked about targeted initiatives for older workers. We are extending the eco-energy retrofit program to help seniors as well.

The tax measures that are already in place have taken over 85,000 seniors off the tax roll, which is very significant.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has told us that jobs and growth are the number one priority for our government. We also know that small businesses are a force in the Canadian economy and its continued recovery. I believe three out of every four jobs are created by small business. The administration and paperwork requirements that these businesses go through are often a burden that restricts productivity and growth.

Could the hon. member please explain to us how cutting red tape will benefit his constituents?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, allowing small businesses to grow and prosper will help the economic recovery that the government has strategically and successfully led Canada through this far.

In my riding of Red Deer, entrepreneurs know the value of time, especially time that is wasted. The red tape that slows down businesses, slows down our economy.

In January 2011, the Red Tape Reduction Commission was created. The commission will identify where the business irritants stem from in the federal regulations and will find effective solutions to enable small and medium-sized businesses to grow.

I will give an example of a small business. We have a 23-year-old entrepreneur who probably has 12 to 15 employees. She has done a great job putting all of this together. She will be able to use this particular initiative. I am extremely impressed with our ability to help people in this regard.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I speak to the budget, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election as Speaker. Your family is proud of you and your colleagues are proud of you.

I also want to take this opportunity, as it is my first time to speak in the 41st Parliament, to thank the fine people of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for their overwhelming trust and support given to me in the recent election.

I also congratulate the Minister of Finance, the hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa, on his sixth budget and the second this year. As promised, this government is continuing to focus on the economy. It is our top priority.

Canada's economic recovery is still fragile so we are focusing on creating jobs and economic growth for Canadians. The Speech from the Throne and yesterday's presentation of the 2011 budget outline priorities that are important to residents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and certainly all Canadians.

Today I want to discuss what this government is doing for our economy, families, farmers, our seniors, students, our businesses, large and small, our small towns and rural communities, and the actions our government will take to return to balanced budgets in the years ahead.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will invest in the key drivers of economic growth: innovation, investment, education and training. Canada's economic performance during the recovery stands out among advanced countries having posted the strongest employment growth in the G7 since mid-2009.

We are proud to say that we have more Canadians working now than before the recession. Jobs and economic growth are important to the residents of my riding and certainly to all Canadians. Canada's economic action plan is working. This government's investments have been effective in shielding hard-working Canadians from the worst of the global recession. Over 28,500 projects have been completed or are under way, which have generated new jobs in small communities right across Canada. These projects have contributed to the creation of approximately 540,000 jobs since July 2009.

However, this government recognizes that our economic recovery remains fragile and, for this reason, we are continuing to take measures that will foster long-term growth and support job creation.

I spent 12.5 years in municipal government. I worked hard, along with other colleagues at the time, to have the gas tax funding refunded to municipalities. In 2008, our government, a Conservative government, announced that the gas tax fund would become a permanent measure. This measure will provide greater certainty to the provinces, territories and municipalities. The budget proposes a permanent annual investment of $2 million in municipal infrastructure through the gas tax fund, which will be welcome news to municipalities in my riding.

Budget 2011 also invests more than $300 million per year to enhance the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, for seniors. This measure will provide a new top-up benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This will improve the financial security of seniors in my riding and of the more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.

This government also recognizes the personal sacrifice that many Canadians make to care for their family members with serious illnesses such as MS or ALS. We are proposing a family caregivers tax credit, which will provide a 15% non-refundable credit on an amount of $2,000. This will help many families in my riding and an estimated 500,000 caregivers across the country.

My sister suffers from MS so I understand the toll that this disease and other diseases can have on victims and on their families. This tax credit can help to ease the financial burden of individuals who provide care for family members who are combatting serious illnesses.

An issue that is currently impacting communities in my riding as well as other rural and remote communities is access to health care. Our government is committed to health care and to strengthening health care in underserved communities. To combat the shortage of doctors and nurses in these communities, the budget proposes to forgive a portion of the Canada student loans for new family doctors and nurses who practice in underserved rural and remote areas. This is good for my riding.

Starting in 2012-13, practising family doctors will be eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000 of their Canadian student loans and nurses will be eligible for loan forgiveness of $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.

This government is also committed to enhancing federal financial assistance for students. We will provide financial support to college and university students through the Canada student loans program. In the 2009-10 academic year, more than 400,000 students benefited from over $2.5 billion in federal student loan assistance, whether in the form of a loan or a grant. The 2011 budget proposes to enhance and expand the eligibility of part-time and full-time post-secondary students for Canada student loans, with an investment of over $34 million a year once fully implemented.

This government has also pledged an additional $37 million per year to the three federal granting councils that support research at Canada's universities, colleges, and research hospitals. We are also proposing to invest $53 million over five years to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

Now, on to agriculture, the biggest business in my riding and certainly a major one in Canada's economy. One of our government's priorities is to continue to promote the long-term profitability and global competitiveness of the Canadian agricultural sector. We have announced a two-year, $50 million agricultural innovation initiative to support knowledge creation and transfer and to increase the commercialization of agricultural innovations. This is on top of the present agricultural programs.

In early 2011, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food had the opportunity to travel across Canada during its biotech study. One key theme that was top of mind, which we heard everywhere we went from producers and industry stakeholders, was the importance of research to the competitiveness and profitability of Canadian farmers.

Another thing that I am very happy to see the budget is the abolition of the gun registry. This registry has been an anchor around farmers and law-abiding rural people all over this country for 16 years. Thanks to this government, it is going to disappear.

Our government also recognizes that small businesses are job creators and help stimulate our economy, which makes them a crucial part of economic recovery. A lot of people do not realize that small businesses employ more people collectively across this country than big business by far. For this reason, we have created the new hiring credit for small business, which will provide a temporary one-time credit of up to $1,000 against any potential increases in 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010. This new credit will help over 525,000 employers pay the cost of additional hiring.

My riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound relies very heavily on the services of volunteer firefighters. Our government is proud of the nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters who keep our communities safe. This budget introduces a 15% non-refundable volunteer firefighters tax credit on an amount of $3,000.

This government is also committed to strengthening integrity and accountability in government and political activity. We have announced the phase-out of quarterly allowances for political parties. This government will introduce legislation to gradually reduce the $2.04 per year per vote subsidy in 51¢ increments, starting on April 1, 2012, until it is completely eliminated by 2015-16. The hard-working taxpayers in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, in the Yukon, in the Maritimes, or in any other community across Canada should not have to fund political parties they do not support, such as the Bloc Québécois, which wants to pull our great country apart. All Canadians have the opportunity to provide financial contributions to the parties they believe in and support. That is what they should be doing.

This government has a plan in place to balance budgets one year ahead of schedule without raising taxes or cutting transfer payments. Our plan for returning to balanced budgets includes winding down the economic action plan's stimulus as the economy recovers, targeted measures to restrain growth in direct program spending, and a comprehensive review of government administrative functions and overhead costs.

The long and short of it is that this budget is a sensible, realistic budget, and I urge all my colleagues in the House to support it. I look forward to taking some questions.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to take this opportunity to thank the good people of Vancouver Kingsway for once more giving me the privilege of representing them in the House.

During the last election, many people in Vancouver Kingsway, and I think across Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and across the country, told candidates of every party that they were having great difficulty finding affordable housing. Many parents are also telling politicians of all parties that they are having difficulty obtaining accessible, affordable quality child care.

I wonder if my hon. friend would comment and explain why the budget does not really do anything to address those two major concerns by providing affordable housing and affordable child care for the millions of Canadians who need those services.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome my colleague back to the House.

On the issue of child care, three or four years ago this government brought in the very first child tax credit to allow parents the choice of who would look after their children, not to have the government look after them but to help parents look after them and give them a choice. That credit is still there and I regularly receive comments from young parents on it. It is certainly a strong program and it will continue. I have two young granddaughters who are in day care, as my son and his wife both work. I understand the issue.

On the housing issue, we talk about the price of affordable housing and so on. When a government makes the kind of tax cuts it has done for seniors and others, that goes a long way to addressing the problem the member referred to.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the things the member talked about was the importance of research. As the critic for industry, science and technology, I frequently have the pleasure of meeting with university presidents. The single most important issue they keep bringing up is the need to boost the indirect costs of research program in our universities. They were asking for it to be doubled, and we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.

I noticed that in the budget there is an increase of $10 million for all the universities in this country. We are talking about over 80 universities. If we divided that up equally, it would be about $120,000 per university for all researchers to take care of their indirect costs, which are very appreciable.

Does the hon. member really think that $10 million is anything more than just a microscopic sprinkling of pixie dust on this important program?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, it is nice to be congratulated for increasing the money for research. I am glad that the member noticed it in the budget. It is something that this government recognizes, as I said. When I was a member of the agriculture committee in the last Parliament and travelled across the country with the committee for its biotech study last spring, that was a common theme that we heard from every university and every stakeholder.

I thank the member for recognizing that this government has increased the money for research.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech, and I am surprised that he did not talk about the $4 billion in cuts announced in the budget. We have not heard any details on that. Public servants and social and community groups are worried.

Does he not think that giving tax breaks worth over $1.5 billion to oil companies and large corporations could prevent the $4 billion in cuts? Cuts could also be made in the area of defence, where the government plans to spend over $48 billion over the next 20 years.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank with all due respect our senior member in the House of Commons, our dean, for the great job he did in the chair during the election of the Speaker the other day.

Many tough decisions on cuts have to be made in times like these. We have done that and have pledged not to make cuts to health care like the previous government did or cut transfers to the provinces. We have to be prudent. It is that time, and we will be prudent.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for York West.

I would like to begin by thanking the people of Kings—Hants, who have given me the honour and privilege of serving as their member of Parliament in this House six times now. Fourteen years ago, June 2, 1997, was my first election. I want to thank them. They have stood by me and I have stood up for them. It is a wonderful constituency and there are wonderful families and friends in Kings—Hants whom I am very proud to serve.

The Conservatives have always blamed their lack of big ideas and plans and vision on having a minority government and the short-term focus of minority parliaments. Therefore, one would have expected with this budget, in their first majority government, the Conservatives to seize the opportunity to provide Canadians with a long-term vision, with some real plans for the future to build a better Canada and to stop focusing on this week's polls and instead focus on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Those Canadians who were expecting the Conservatives to seize the moment and the opportunity provided to them by a majority parliament to actually offer long-term vision and bold ideas to build a better Canada will be very disappointed by this budget, which lacks long-term ideas, bold vision and clear direction for the Canadian economy.

I would like to speak first about the whole debt and deficit issue. The Conservatives talk a good line on this but they really have not delivered. It is critically important that we remember that they inherited a $13 billion surplus. They spent through that surplus, they wracked up record deficits and in fact put Canada into deficit even before the economic downturn in the fall of 2008. They are on track, they say. Yes, they are on track to add $150 billion to $200 billion to Canada's national debt. They have no credibility when it comes to controlling spending or deficit reduction. They have missed every deficit target they have set. There is no plan.

In fact, if we look at the previous Conservative government's record, it is one of waste and misuse of tax dollars. The Conservatives increased government advertising by 300%, and increased spending on ministers' personal offices by 14% just last year. Now, with a majority government, what was the Conservatives' first attempt at fiscal restraint? It was to expand their cabinet. The Conservatives are not leading by example.

They have now named an expenditure review committee of cabinet. In fact, it is to replace the expenditure review committee of cabinet the Conservatives eliminated when they formed government. The Liberal government of Paul Martin had an expenditure review committee; we respected every hard-earned tax dollar in that expenditure review committee during a time of surplus. The Conservatives got rid of that committee while in deficit and they went on to add hundreds of billions of dollars to Canada's national debt.

The Conservatives talk about how well Canada is doing in terms of our debt as a per cent of GDP compared to other countries. The reality is that most of the time they are comparing Canada to other countries. They are ignoring the fact that in Canada, with our system of government and provincial governments, if we combine federal and provincial debt as a per cent of GDP and if we recognize that there is only one taxpayer who is responsible for all of the debts of the provincial and federal governments, and if we consider gross debt numbers and compare them to other countries' gross debt numbers, we get a very different picture.

Our gross debt in Canada, federal and provincial debt combined, is 81.7% of GDP. That is actually almost as bad as the U.S. gross debt figure at 84% of GDP. It is worse than the U.K.'s gross debt figure at 77% and worse than Germany's gross debt figure at 75%.

Thus, I think that part of our dealing with these issues responsibly is actually telling Canadians the truth and accepting that Canadians, when given the truth, will accept measures to restrain and control government spending.

One of the biggest reasons we have had better recovery numbers than some other economies has been our natural resource wealth, oil and gas and mineral wealth. We are blessed with natural resource wealth in Canada. As countries like China, India and other emerging economies have an insatiable appetite and need for natural resources and energy, Canada is in a great position to provide it, not because the Conservatives put the oil and gas under the ground off the Atlantic coast, everyone knows that was Danny Williams, but because we are fortunate.

The reality is the benefit we have from all of the natural resource wealth is a bit of a double-edged sword because it is creating two economies in Canada: a have economy for the provinces and people in the oil and gas and mineral sectors and a have not for the provinces, families and sectors that are not part of the oil and gas and mineral boom. It is creating a balkanized Canadian economy and further dividing the haves and have nots in Canada.

As gas prices rise, so does our dollar. As commodity prices go up, our dollar goes up and value-added manufacturing jobs vanish. They are crowded out. In my part of Nova Scotia, Hants County, Kings County and Annapolis County, since the fall of 2008, 10,700 full-time jobs have been lost, mainly in manufacturing.

Our unemployment rate has gone from 5% to 12.5%. Companies like Canard Poultry, Eastern Protein and Fundy Gypsum have gone out of business. There have been massive layoffs. At the very time families are faced with the challenge of losing full-time jobs and replacing them with part-time jobs, gas prices are going up and it is harder to fill their car tanks, heating oil prices are going up and it is harder to heat their homes and the cost of living and food costs are going up and it is harder to feed their families.

The reality we face as a country now is that Canada has what some refer to as the Dutch disease, because Holland went through a similar challenge: a rising dollar fuelled by growth in the demand for our natural resources, but crowding out manufacturing jobs and driving up the cost of living. There is nothing in the budget that addresses this massive challenge, this bifurcation of the Canadian economy, this gap between rich and poor, this gap between have and have not regions that is a reality for our country and Canadian families.

Have not provinces are facing rising health care costs, an aging population and a diminished tax base because young people are going to the have provinces as they need to work. At the same time, families and provinces are facing increased levels of debt load. The situation is actually getting worse.

In Nova Scotia, the provincial government is now slashing funding for public education. What does that do? It creates less of an incentive for young families to stay in Nova Scotia and reduces its capacity to grow and ensure that young families and people are given the skills and education they require to compete and succeed globally.

The gap between rich and poor and the economic growth focused only on petroleum and mineral wealth is leading to a greater inequality of opportunity in Canada. There is nothing more fundamental as a Canadian value than equality of opportunity. It is time the Conservative government start to work with the provinces to address some of these issues and challenges.

The premiers know they have a challenge. They know we are coming up to a 2014 deadline for a health care accord. The last time that accord was negotiated was in 2004. I was part of the Martin government then and the country was in surplus. We were able to provide $40 billion to the provinces, the largest single investment in health care from a federal government in Canadian history.

We are not in surplus now and neither are the provinces. We need to be working with the provinces to address aging demographics, the health care costs that are rising and the gap between rich and poor regions in our country. This what the government ought to be doing.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I remember 2008 when the government came in at the beginning of the greatest economic collapse since the depression. We heard Mr. Magoo say, as he was walking on the ledge of the building, that there was not a problem, that the world was great and that we were not in a recession. We knew we were in a structural recession. The only plan of the Conservatives was they were going to cut political subsidies for political parties. That was it. They swore we would not spend a dime on the recession. Then within three months they had blown $50 billion. It was staggering.

When I see this budget, I see the Mr. Magoo factor once again walking out on the ledge saying that the Conservatives can cut $4 billion and not a single service is going to be hurt and that they can get all this new money based on an economy that is tanking around the world.

Does my colleague feel that it is kind of like déjà vu when the only thing the Conservatives have offered in this budget is to once again attack political party subsidies? There is no plan for dealing with the ongoing economic crisis and they are not being honest with the Canadian people about from where the cuts will come.

We know the Conservatives are going to put the boots to the public service as soon as the media stops paying attention to the House.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, in fact it is not just déjà vu, it is déjà vu all over again. I remember in the fall of 2008 when the Minister of Finance presented the budget. In order to balance his budget, theoretically at least, with $100 million rounding error of a surplus, he pledged to sell $11 billion worth of government assets.

We kept asking, day after day, for a list of those assets. In fact, there was no list of those assets because there was no plan to sell assets. That was never realized because the Conservatives never intended to do it in the first place. This is very similar to their expenditure review process. Once again, there is no plan.

What I am concerned about, and I expect the hon. member shares my concern, is the Conservative cuts will be ideological. They will not be based on evidence. They will be cutting programs they do not like for ideological reasons in order to preserve ones they like. And they will not be cutting the fat, but they could cut into bone and sinew and muscle with regard to a good government's capacity to help real Canadians.

I have one last point. The government could be working with provincial governments on a shared service agenda to work together to cut the administrative costs of government. That would be part of a good, constructive federal-provincial discussion on how they could work together to cut the cost of government and to respect hard-earned tax dollars from Canadians.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Kings—Hants focus on long-term plans. The opposition also talked about when we actually did that. Earlier on there was criticism of how to focus on the long term and reach out for two years or three years because we could not do that.

I want to make a comment about ideological cuts, the ones that they do not like. I remember when there were some recessions, nothing like the global recession we have had. How the party the member is a part of balanced the budget was to cut transfers to the provinces on health care. It cut the transfers to the provinces on education. It decimated our Canadian Forces to where it was an embarrassment to walk down the street in uniform. We will not do that.

How does the member consider that as being an ideological comment with regard to cutting and being responsible in our budget?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague knows the Liberal government inherited a record deficit in Canada of $42 billion at that time, which held the record until the Conservative government provided Canada with its latest record deficit of $56 billion, and it had to reign in spending. It had to control spending and make difficult choices in order to get Canada back on track.

There is a reason why the IMF and the international financial community are saying that a government of a country that is having fiscal challenges today that wants the recipe to fix those challenges should look to what the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did in Canada during the 1990s. In fact, that is what think tanks within Canada are telling the current government.

Beyond that, when we look at making decisions based on evidence as opposed to ideology, we know that the crime agenda the government is pursuing does not work. We have seen it fail in the U.S.—