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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this budget will benefit all businesses in Canada.

As I said earlier, we have an integrated economy. When big business suffers, they cannot buy more from their suppliers. I used restaurant, paper and computer suppliers as an example.

It is an integrated economy. When big business grows, they buy from their customers. Also, small business is grown and will continue to grow with the low-tax regime we have introduced with this government.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, since this is the first opportunity I have had to stand in this Parliament I would like to thank my constituents of Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale for trusting me once more and allowing me to serve here for them.

My colleague from Oakville mentioned Tim Hortons coming back. The Ancaster business park is also blessed with Tim Hortons investing in a coffee grinding plant with high quality manufacturing jobs. In fact, in my colleague's riding in downtown Hamilton, Max Aicher, an international company, invested in the old rod plant of Stelco. They have a highly integrated product and have created over 100 jobs.

Since we live in a modern 21st century world where the Internet and mass travel is inexpensive, when a business starts up they compete globally. That means they have an opportunity to locate wherever they want globally.

What would happen to the jobs that have been created by these companies that were attracted here by a low tax regime if we did not have that tax regime? Where would those jobs go?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to a lot of business owners. I also talked to a lot of business owners in the early 1990s when we had an NDP government in Ontario and businesses fled the jurisdiction.

Businesses could go to South Carolina, Kentucky, or anywhere in the U.S. where there is a more favourable tax plan. They could go further afield. Sometimes they just stay within one province in Canada.

My biggest fear, as it was in the early 1990s, the jobs would go primarily to the United States.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate you on your re-election and of course your re-appointment to the chair. I would like to congratulate all members on their election to the House. Before I start, I would also like to thank the constituents of my riding, the great riding of Leeds—Grenville, who once again, for the fourth time, placed their trust in me to represent them in the House of Commons. I really am humbled by their support and I have committed to do my very best to make sure that they are well represented here and in all the work that I undertake on their behalf.

It seems like a long time ago, because we have now had two budget presentations and an election in between, but back in January I travelled throughout my riding, meeting with constituents and discussing with them what they wanted to see in this year's federal budget. I was told in January to keep working on the economy, wind down the stimulus program, keep working on job creation and eliminate the deficit and the gun registry.

I was also told that the eastern Ontario development program needed renewed funding. Homeowners required help to retrofit their homes to help reduce their energy bills, and our most vulnerable seniors required assistance. I would like to thank the Minister of Finance for listening to the constituents of Leeds—Grenville when he developed the budget first on March 22 and of course his budget that was delivered just the other day.

The residents of my historic riding are like most other Canadians. They are hard-working, they pay their taxes, they enjoy their families, their homes and their freedom and they are concerned about the economy. They play by the rules and they expect others to do the same. Our election platform, which was based on our March budget, reflected their thoughts.

There are many items in the budget that are not only welcomed by Leeds—Grenville, but they are crucial for its continued recovery. I could stand here all day and go through the budget, item by item, and explain, but my time is limited. I want to talk a little bit about a few measures in the budget that are especially crucial for the residents of Leeds—Grenville.

Even before the economic downturn, my riding was suffering from a loss of manufacturing jobs. These were jobs that had been around for generations, and families in my riding had grown up knowing that those jobs were available. At the same time the Community Futures Development Corporation was established in three locations serving my riding. The Brockville area is served mostly by the Thousand Islands Community Futures Development Corporation. In Grenville county it was served by the Grenville Community Futures Development Corporation and the other part of my riding was served by the Valley Heartland Community Futures Development Corporation. These are the folks who deliver federal economic development funds at the community level. I have to say that this is a model of federal investment that works extremely well.

The CFDCs are operated by local people and governed by a local board of directors. They know what works in the area. They know what is needed in their communities and they have the business expertise to assist entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses. Their success stories are many.

In this year's budget there is a notation that the eastern Ontario development program will be continued with a commitment of $20 million over the next two years. This program, administered by the CFDCs, not only in my riding, but in all of eastern Ontario, has been a huge success. Tom Russell is the executive director of the program at the Thousand Island CFDC in Brockville, Heather Lawless performs the same function at the Grenville CFDC, and John Doherty at the Valley Heartland CFDC, and they have provided this brief overview.

Since its inception in 2004, the Thousand Islands CDC and the Grenville CFDC have invested almost $8 million in over 700 clients. The program provides increased access to capital for rehabilitation of vacant or underutilized commercial spaces, skills development subsidies, subsidization of expert customized business, export or marketing plans, community capacity building initiatives and incentives to attract and retain youth.

As a specific example, the EODP has played a pivotal role in developing and supporting new programs at St. Lawrence College Brockville Campus, a campus which had experienced a decline in enrolment and programming, received funding to develop and staff an art gallery which subsequently led to the creation of a performing arts program, followed by a music theatre program. These programs are now the St. Lawrence College's cornerstone, each receiving critical acclaim and each a driver in securing the future of the campus.

The college also recently received EODP support for the Centre for Training and Development. The centre identified a looming shortage of power engineers and EODP funding was provided to develop a power engineering program to address the shortage and further strengthen St. Lawrence College's efforts to be a leading training facility. Dozens of graduates already have meaningful employment that would previously have been unavailable to them.

Applications for funding for this renewed program have been lying in wait in the various CFDC offices serving my riding. With this budget we would be pleased to see it move forward.

I would also like to talk about another budget element that has been critical to job retention in Leeds—Grenville. That is the work sharing program. The work sharing program helps employers maintain jobs by offering employment insurance benefits to workers who are willing to work a reduced work week while their company recovers. In my hometown of Gananoque, there was a company that took advantage of this program and people remained on the job during the economic downturn.

Many thousands of workers across Canada were able to keep their jobs during the recession because of this program, throughout my riding of Leeds—Grenville and there were some right in my own hometown. I know the workers were thankful. I have heard it from them individually. In many cases these are small family-owned companies that have benefited from this program and I know they were thankful as well.

This year's budget will extend existing or terminated work sharing agreements by up to 16 weeks while the economy continues to recover and I know there are owners of manufacturing plants in my area who will be pleased to hear about this measure.

In Leeds—Grenville, as in other parts of the country, we have witnessed rapidly rising energy costs which have led to cost increases for other basic items. Especially in the winter heating season, I received letters this past year in my office from vulnerable seniors who were concerned about their cost of living. It was especially critical this past winter, which of course was long and cold. This measure was met with a great deal of support in this budget, as we promised to increase the guaranteed income supplement for these, our most vulnerable seniors.

Over the last few years, I have had many representations from local volunteer firefighters wishing to see a $3,000 tax credit as a reward for their commitment. In my riding, similar to many other rural ridings, most of the firefighters are volunteers.

I want to read a quote from a local fire chief who reacted to the announcement of this credit. The quote is lengthy, but I will cover what needs to be said. This is from the Augusta Township fire chief, Rob Bowman, who is himself a volunteer firefighter. There are 40 volunteer firefighters in this township.

He said: “It's very important for volunteer firefighters. These guys and gals do a lot of work for very little money. They risk their lives. It's hard for us to recruit firefighters and keep them because of the time commitment. Volunteer firefighters must leave work at a moment's notice to respond to fires and accidents. They are also held to the same standards as professional firefighters, meaning they must spend the time training. We have to meet the same legislation, but do it after work and on weekends”.

Mr. Bowman believes “the tax credit will provide an incentive to counterbalance these drawbacks to becoming a volunteer firefighter. The credit will help offset other costs firefighters incur, such as gas in their vehicles to get to the scene of the fire or to the fire hall, and the ruined clothes they often discover after getting out of their bunker gear when their job is done”.

I think it is clear that this tax credit will be well received.

Another tax credit that is being well received is the children's arts tax credit. When our government introduced the children's fitness tax credit back in 2006, it was seen as a positive step in all of the communities in my riding. However, there are questions about arts and cultural learning experiences and why they were not recognized.

Participation in arts, cultural, recreational and developmental activities also contribute to a child's development in a positive fashion and many such programs exist in my riding. The tax credit will be provided on up to $500 of eligible fees per child under the age of 16 or age 18 if the child also qualifies for the disability tax credit. This is a positive and welcome step in my riding.

The final point I would like to raise is the firearms licence-fee waiver. Hunting is a traditional pastime in my riding. Everyone in the riding knows not to schedule a special event during the opening week of duck hunting or deer hunting. As well, farmers maintain firearms as part of their operations.

This new budget commits $20.9 million to waive firearms licence renewal fees for all classes of firearms. From May 2011 to May 2012, no firearms owner will have to pay to renew a licence. Leeds—Grenville not only welcomes this, but the residents look forward to hearing more news on the firearms registry, hopefully this fall.

As I mentioned at the outset, I could go item by item about this budget until we could explain why it is so popular in Leeds—Grenville and I am pleased to have this opportunity to highlight just some of the important measures that have been taken in this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, as this is almost the first time I have spoken in the House, I want to take this opportunity to quickly thank the voters, the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, very much for the trust they have placed in me. They voted for the NDP in order to have change and a presence in the House and in the riding. That is what I plan to provide. I will work as hard as I can to represent their interests.

In the Conservative budget before us, there are many measures, including tax credits, that are supposed to improve the lives of Canadian families. However, I think the budget falls quite short and the government is failing to achieve the goal of tangibly improving life for families. I am thinking about family caregivers. A non-refundable tax credit is being offered for family caregivers, but they need immediate and concrete help. In my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier we have the Portneuf Association des proches aidants. Along with other family caregiver associations in the area, it is calling for concrete and immediate measures.

Can someone explain to me how this non-refundable tax credit is really going to give these families the means to improve their lives and how this will really provide support to family members?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on her election and welcome her to the House of Commons. I think she has asked an excellent question.

We have recognized in this budget the importance of caregivers and there have been many measures taken. We can never do enough to help caregivers. I know of people in my riding who have had to care for sick children. We are taking measures in this budget that I know will be well-received. There is always opportunity to do more, but I think what this government has done in recognizing this in the budget is something that will be well-received. I know that it will be well-received by the constituents in Leeds—Grenville.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, and to my colleague across the way.

I know of the member's interest with multiple sclerosis, which affects 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians. I know he is aware of new research that shows that the prevalence of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency in MS is about 90%, that there have been over 12,500 procedures performed worldwide now in 50 countries, and that they are showing an improvement in the quality of life for MS patients.

We absolutely need evidence-based medicine in Canada. That means we must collect the evidence.

I would ask him, why the refusal to undertake a nationally-funded, multi-centred clinical trial to determine if treating CCSVI will improve the quality of life for MS patients?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to, first, congratulate the member on her re-election and also thank her for all her efforts on behalf of those who suffer across Canada from MS.

As the hon. member noted, I have become very familiar with the CCSVI procedure, which I see does help mitigate some of the symptoms that those who are suffering from MS have to deal with.

As the hon. member knows, we did make an announcement not that long ago of about $100 million for brain disease research. In terms of MS, we are creating a monitoring system that will also include monitoring of those who have undertaken the CCSVI procedure out of Canada. I think this is something that many members are concerned about. I know that the government is concerned about it.

However, it is not something to be just dealt with here in the federal Parliament. It is something that the provinces are also involved with. I know that some provinces are now working on clinical trials. I know others, and myself, are continuing to encourage this across Canada because there are so many people suffering from MS. There are some in my riding and I know that the hon. member has been in contact with some of the people as well. I will continue to work hard on this issue and I thank the member for her interest in this.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-appointment to the Chair. The robes look good on you. It is a good fit. The tailors in the House are obviously quite skilled and congratulations on the good job you have done from the Chair.

As it is my first time rising in the House, I wish to thank the good people of Skeena—Bulkley Valley in the northwest of British Columbia, an area a little larger than the country of Poland and stunning in its beauty and diversity. I am speaking not just about the natural environment, which is most impressive for any who have been to British Columbia, and people are most welcome at any time to the northwestern part of B.C. where residents know how to lay out a good table and roll out the invitation mat to all, but it is also a place diverse in its views, a place that has relied on the natural resources and wealth of our country to create economies generation after generation.

About 35% of my riding consists of first nations, representing some of the strongest and longest historical occupation of North America, more than 15,000 years, and since time immemorial for some, the Haida, the Haisla, the Tlingit, the Taku River, the Tlingit, the Tsimshian, proud nations that have learned over multiple generations to work in harmony with the environment, to produce an economy that sustains them, and in fact restores and replenishes that environment which we rely upon.

That is one of the things that comes first to attention and notice when looking through this budget. This is obviously one of the largest opportunities the federal government has to affect the lives of Canadians. It is one of the largest expenditures by any source, if not the largest in the country. Every year some $280-odd billion goes out the door. The lack of accountability of the government in taking care of some of the most fundamental concerns of Canadians is somewhat breathtaking.

Having so recently gone through an election and having met with constituents from across the country who presented concerns to members on the economy, the environment, pensions, and the public safety net that has been so eroded over the years, it is surprising to me what a missed opportunity this budget now represents to Canadians and to the government. One would have thought that rather than rehash the document from 60 days ago, the government would have reflected on what it heard from Canadians, if it was listening at all.

That brings to mind that the Prime Minister never actually took any real questions from real Canadians during the election, that the entire scripted process led to some sort of preordained public event that was meant to look like a campaign but was in fact nothing more than a public relations exercise. The failed opportunity in that was that Canadians were trying to express something to the Prime Minister and his party, suggesting that there is a need to balance the views they hold, that no one party or ideology in this place has all the answers available to us, and that we have to take from different pieces.

The helmets to hardhats is a good example of a program that was initiated by all parties, seeking a way for our veterans land in good, sustainable jobs, but it is a small piece and there are many more pieces available that we could have grasped on to. There has been much mention within the ranks of the 103 New Democrats sitting as the official opposition that four and a half million Canadians responded to the message we offered them, saying we wanted a government that was a little more caring and balanced, and that looked at the books of our economy.

The government is running two deficits now. It is not just running the fiscal deficit, it is running a social deficit as well. These programs are very quick and easy to tear down. The finance minister has contemplated a staff reduction in the federal government by as much as 30%. Cutting and slashing is easy to do. It is much more difficult to build efficiency and proper services to Canadians who are in fact paying for them.

When we look at the other side of the ledger, we see the government willy-nilly cutting the corporate tax rate another couple of points and saying this will obviously bring jobs to the economy when we compare it to the U.S., as one of my colleagues did. We are sitting below half of the corporate tax rate that the Americans are enjoying right now. There is such a thing as a law of diminishing returns. If the tax rate were 50% and we lowered it to 40%, we would see some results. If we were to lower it to 30%, we would see a few more but less. If we were to lower it to 20%, 15% or 14%, we would see less and less, to the point where we would see nothing at all.

The leader of the official opposition today, the member for Toronto—Danforth, asked a direct question of the Prime Minister about $100 million to one oil company alone in the last budget. That is a lot of money. He asked the Prime Minister a simple question: Has the finance department done any assessment at all as to what kind of return we got back for $100 million?

I know what kind of return we could get back for $100 million to help seniors get out of poverty. I know what kind of return we could get back to help Canadians create the green economy that they have been so desperately looking for. We in the NDP know those facts and figures because we have done the research. If the government were to do nothing else, it should build its policies based on actual evidence as opposed to mere rhetoric.

We asked the government to assess the cost of its crime agenda, a very simple question. In fact, it is the same question the government put to us when we pushed for climate change legislation. It asked, “What's the program cost? Can you give us the dollar figures?”

We proposed a bill that said that the Government of Canada, every five years, should declare its intention on climate change initiatives, what it planned to do, and every five years should report back on the successes and failures of the previous five years. That is what we asked for.

The government went ballistic saying that the costs would be insane to have such an open and transparent government, as if somehow there would be a cost for being honest with the Canadian people.

Now let us reverse the tables for a moment and talk about crime. It says it is going to increase the prison population by this much. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and others have come forward to say this. We can do the math, but when we ask the government to actually put some figures forward, as to the efficacy of its crime agenda, as to the actual costs, it says that if one victim is saved then the cost is worth it. What simple-minded rhetoric.

We can do better in this place. We can bring forward evidence when making policies. When we look to this budget and ask the government to justify a further two point reduction in the corporate tax rate, it should justify it and show us the evidence or some research. There are all these folks working around the Hill and all over Parliament who are very bright. There are some folks in the finance department who are extremely accomplished. I am sure they could punch a few numbers into a calculator and then tell us what two points more gets us in terms of job creation in this country.

We can do the math quickly because in the law of diminishing returns it gets us nothing. We do not get any more if we are half of what our closest competitor is charging for business and corporate taxes. It does not pay off. For American companies working in Canada, they have to declare their profits in the United States anyway. We know this. We have been through this. We have seen governments around the world try the same mantra, replacing good politics with rhetoric.

The results are that the public sector will be starved to the point where people will seek it through the private sector. It is privatization through starvation. If the government runs down the public sector enough, when Canadians still need the services, roads, hospitals and schools, they will start to seek the private solution more and more. They are being handed this carrot that it will be better in this Shangri-La private world, that the public sector cannot deliver these things.

The whole fundamental and basic concept of governance is to come together collectively to do what we cannot do individually. I cannot pave the road in front of my house, nor can my neighbours slap the money together to do it. We do it collectively and we see priorities from one to the other.

My kids are not in school yet, but I fund the local school in my region because I understand the value that education is expensive, but ignorance is much more expensive.

There is a fundamental concern I have when the budget is presented like this. We have a crisis in the northwest with the fishing sector. We are going to go into one of the worst fishing seasons on record. There is nothing with regard to employment insurance, which I know my friend from Acadie—Bathurst will talk about.

Instead, the Conservatives are going to cut $57 million out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, rather than monitoring or assisting the fishermen who are going to go broke this summer. The solution from the Conservatives is to cut another $57 million out of a department that is already starved.

This is not a solution. This is not a practical result. We in the official opposition seek not just to oppose but to propose, to make suggestions that there are such things as investments in the public sector, that government can do things well, that government must in fact do things well and exceedingly do things better. That is the expectation from the people who put us here.

The people in the northwest have been going through a recession that many who sit in their seats would loathe to experience. I have communities that have upward of 80% unemployment. That is structural unemployment. It gets to a level where the need for assistance, the collective operation of government, is required.

We have a government that is starting to believe its own spin. It says the recession must be over, so it must be over. So it makes a budget that does not have a recession in mind.

I have news for the government. The recession is still going on in too many parts of our country. This was not a time to pull back. This was not a time to play politics with our economy. This was a time to give serious and honest consideration to the needs of people, not cutting western diversification as the minister is now going to oversee, but helping, putting it back into those places that we know create jobs, helping the small business community, and ending the handouts and freebies to the government buddies in the oil and banking sectors.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure in my youth to plant trees in the member's riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, so I am familiar with the economy of the region.

I would like to ask the hon. member the following question. How many jobs and how many communities would stand to benefit from the free trade agenda proposed by the government and new trade liberalization measures with the Americas, Asia and other parts of the world? That is the only way to generate new jobs and new employment across this country, including in his riding.

Has the member done the math? Has he done the calculations? After having done them, will he not consider supporting this budget and its ambitious trade liberalization regime for those reasons?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, we absolutely have done the math in my part of the world, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome my colleague to come see the devastation that has resulted from free trade and the softwood lumber agreement. It is a loss. We have done the math. The math is that 250,000 jobs have been lost in the forestry sector and mills have closed throughout British Columbia and Alberta. We have seen those mills reopen south of the border using tax havens that were allowed for in previous Conservative budgets. The softwood lumber agreement helped fund the people who were suing us in Washington. Of the $4.5 billion that was collected, $3.5 billion stayed in the United States and helped fund the lawyers who are now suing us again.

We in the New Democrats are for trade. We are for fair trade. We are for trade agreements that are worked out with principles of fairness, of the environment, of the society and of the economy. However, to simply put forward free trade, as my hon. colleague said, as the only way to create jobs is a blindness of ideology that forbids the idea that evidence can be brought forward.

Exporting the raw logs of the trees that my hon. colleague planted is not good for the economy. Exporting raw bitumen out of the oil sands is a loss of 15,000 jobs for every 400,000 barrels exported. If that is the member's idea of a good economy for the future, I loath to think what else he would do to the manufacturing sector, the auto sector and the aerospace sector, sectors that we built up with good government policy, not with this mantra of free trade for all and everyone will have a chicken in their pot. It is much more complicated and better than that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley back to the House and congratulate him on his re-election to the House.

Liberal members have been committed to corporate tax fairness for a great number of years. We proceeded with corporate tax cuts through years when the books were balanced and years when there were surplus budgets. However, now that we are in the midst of a deficit, I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague that this is not the time to cut corporate taxes.

My colleague brought forward a point in his speech on the issue of the law of diminishing return. If we had no corporate taxes that would be fabulous and there would be jobs all over the place. However, let us look at Ireland. I know my colleague is a well-read man. Ireland brought its corporate tax rate down to 13%. How is that working out for Ireland?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as an Irish descendant, it pains me to say that the Celtic Tiger did not work out so well. It was the law of diminishing returns on steroids. Ireland kept dropping the rate and that was celebrated as the solution by many of the more Conservative economists and by members who are sitting on the front bench of the government today. The solution is not working out so well. It creates a false economy. It creates bubbles. It creates things that cannot be sustained and then things like the public service gets absolutely annihilated because the revenue is not coming in.

I would like the member to know this. When the government cuts taxes while running a deficit, it is borrowing money for corporate tax cuts. That is what the government is doing. It is not $1 billion off the corporate ledger. It is $1 billion plus all of the interest payments that need to be made on that borrowed money. Canadians get the math. If people re-mortgage their house to go to Disney World, it is not $2,000 for the trip. It is $2,000 plus all of the interest payments.

These tax cuts cannot pay for themselves. The math will not work out because the law of returns is well since passed. We are diminishing. My fear is that in place of this argument around helping the economy, it is more of an ideology that simply says that those guys simply do not like the idea of government very much. They love the private sector in all cases. The private sector does wonderful things. However, the public sector is where we go to get our health care. It should not matter what is in a parent's wallet when they show up with a sick kid. If the government opposes it, we will stand in its way every day.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate you on having been elected as Speaker of the House of Commons. We are very proud of how you direct the House of Commons. I wish you luck.

I would like to sincerely thank the people of Acadie—Bathurst, who have put their trust in me for the sixth time. I will try to live up to their expectations. I would also like to thank the people of Quebec who brought our NDP cousins into the family fold. Welcome.

As a francophone member, I am very pleased to be part of a francophone caucus like the one we have, and I am pleased that we can work together.

And now the fun begins with the Conservative budget. Today I listened to the Prime Minister say that Canadians placed their trust in the Conservatives by giving them a large majority and the mandate to form the Government of Canada. He forgot to say that only 61% of Canadians voted. And only 41% of that 61% voted for the Conservatives, which is not that many people. Another 60% of those who voted did not put their trust in them.

The budget they tabled is cut and paste, to use tech talk. That is exactly what we got, with the exception of the $2.1 billion promised to Quebec if there is a tax harmonization agreement.

Let us talk about job creation. How can the Conservatives proudly claim that jobs are being created in our country when we look at what is going on in the Atlantic region today? What kind of job creation are they talking about when we see that Smurfit-Stone has shut down in Bathurst and that UPM has shut down in Miramichi? In the forestry industry, AbitibiBowater has also closed down in Dalhousie and Smurfit-Stone has shut down in New Richmond. In this little corner of our country, there are all these closures, and the Conservatives are bragging that jobs are being created. The jobs created by the Conservative government are part-time jobs at minimum wage. The government should focus on creating real jobs. What is even more insulting is that it is cutting $15 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, whose mission is to promote economic development.

Let us talk about job creation. In 2010, the Conservative government reduced the crab quotas in our region, in the Atlantic and in Quebec. The quotas went from 20,000 metric tonnes to 7,500 metric tonnes. This year, they were increased to 8,700 metric tonnes. Just two years ago, people working in the crab industry worked for at least eight weeks. That was not a lot, but now they do not work more than three or four weeks.

What did the Minister of Natural Resources have to say when I ask her about this? She said that it was New Brunswick's problem, that the government gave money to New Brunswick, and that it was up to the province to sort out its problems. That is what the Conservative government said in the House yesterday: that New Brunswick should take care of its own problems.

My office receives calls from women and men, women who have children, single mothers, who are told that if they want to work in Shippagan, they are going to have to make the short drive to Cap-Pelé, two hours away. They just have to stay there for one, two, three or four weeks and be separated from their children. That is what the Conservative government—both provincial and federal—told us. That is shameful and unacceptable.

There is nothing in this budget for employment insurance. At one time, people applying for employment insurance for the first time had to have 910 hours of work in order to qualify. The government reduced that number to 840 hours and then turned around and increased it again to 910 hours. Why? Because it had to do with workers. The government has no respect for workers. Then again, it has no problem granting large corporations tax breaks worth $15 billion. Banks made $20 billion in profits and paid out $11 billion in bonuses, yet the Conservatives are giving them taxpayers' money.

This is completely shameful and unacceptable. It is a slap in the face. Giving tax cuts to large corporations is nothing to brag about. Even the Obama administration has said that now is not the time to give any tax cuts to large corporations that are making money.

I am sure that our constituents know that oil companies have no problem raising the price of gas to $1.34 a litre. They want to make money and they do make money. They make billions of dollars. And these are the people getting tax breaks? This is going to create a debt that will eventually have to be paid by the government and by taxpayers. On top of that, the government is going to reduce services. When we talk to our constituents about taxes, they understand that when taxes are lowered, services have to suffer.

In hospitals right now, people are lying in the hallways, waiting for a bed. Our constituents want services. People are applying for employment insurance and there is no one left to even answer the telephone because of federal government cutbacks. And there will be even more cutbacks. We have not seen the worst of it.

Billions of dollars have been cut and will continue to be cut on the backs of the people in order to serve the people on Bank Street in Toronto. They are the ones who will get this money. It is totally unacceptable.

Let us talk about job creation. There are jobs out west and people back home are moving west. They tell me that immigrants are being sent to work out west, in Fort McMurray, and that people from back home are being laid off and told that there is no work. However, the immigrants get to stay there. I thought an agreement had been reached whereby immigrants are hired and kept on only if there is a labour shortage. People from back home are calling me to say they would like to work out west, but they cannot because the positions have been filled by immigrants. It should not be like that. When we need immigrants during a labour shortage, then we can bring them over. However, there is currently no labour shortage, since the unemployment rate back home is 16%. People are prepared to go out west to work. Where is the program to help those people? The government could help those people.

On top of all that, the government is boasting that our seniors will receive an additional $50 a month in the guaranteed income supplement. When you are not getting much to begin with, $50 is not very a lot. Seniors are calling me to say that they are unable to pay their rent or electricity bills. These people are in need. Rather than giving billions of dollars to big corporations, we should be taking that money and giving it to the community, to people who have worked hard their entire lives.

As I said before, I am receiving calls. Does the government really want to promote this? To show just how anti-worker the government is, Canada Post, a crown corporation owned by the government, has just announced that in the coming weeks, it will be cutting off benefits for people who are sick and who have been granted sick leave. This means that people will not receive their medication. Why are they being punished?

The member opposite is indicating that such is not the case, but they are going to cut these benefits; they have already sent a memo about it to all employees. Canada Post has currently reduced its services to Canadians to two days a week to increase pressure to accept the collective agreement. The benefits of workers will be cut and the government is going to line the pockets of big corporations by giving them piles of money because big corporations are friends of the federal government and the Conservatives. I do not think this is right.

That is why we will not vote in favour of the government's budget. It is not a good budget. I want to remind the House that the Conservatives received only 40% of the votes of the 61% of Canadians who went to the polls.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would look more for clarification. In his comments, the member made reference to the fact there are many jobs in western Canada and many people living in Atlantic Canada who are looking for jobs. However, he seemed to be of the opinion that immigrants were filling those jobs in western Canada and thereby not allowing individuals from Atlantic Canada to fill those jobs.

Perhaps he could provide a bit more on that particular comment. Does he have some statistics that could clearly demonstrate that?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I get the statistics every time I take a plane. Some guy from down home will tell telling me that he cannot go back because has been laid off.

I did not take figures and use scientific statistics, but I will tell you about the calls that I get from people saying that they would like to get a job and work in their own country of Canada but that they have to go home because someone has come from another country and gets the job and now they have to go home without a job. I am getting lots of these kinds of calls in my office about people not returning, which I feel is not right. It is not the right thing to do. We should serve our people first and if we have openings for other people, we can allow that.

We brought that issue to the minister many times. We have told the minister that it is not right, but the government is not looking into it. I think it should be looking into it to ensure that Canadians work first and then after that, if we need immigrants to do work here, there will be a place for them and they will be welcomed to our country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, first off, I would like to welcome you to the Chair. It is great to see you back up there where you belong.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. He continues to refer to 61% of the people in this country not voting for the Conservative government. However, our system is a democratic system and we are the government. We form a majority of the seats in this House. We have a strong, stable majority Conservative government. I would also like to remind the member that a full 70% of the people in this country also did not vote for the New Democratic Party of Canada.

There are many members of my constituency who have actually gone out west to work. They are finding gainful employment in the oil sands. Over 500,000 Canadians currently find their employment in the oil sands, many from my own riding. The New Democratic Party has said that it wants to shut down the oil sands.

I wonder if he could make a comment to the people from his riding who actually find employment in the oil sands. What does he say to them?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I would say to them that they are welcome to go to work in the tar sands and that they have their jobs. What I would say, though, is that it has to be an environmentally friendly place to work.

The way the oil sands are being exploited makes no sense. There could be a better way. Personally, when I went down there, I saw piles of uncovered sulphur with particles flying in the wind. This is not right. I saw the pond located just beside the river. The companies are saying it is okay, yet it breaks down and contaminates the river. We could do things differently.

When I met with people at the University of Edmonton, they said they had some solutions, which they had told the company and the government, but were told in turn that it would cost too much and that it could not be done.

The environment is too important. The earth does not belong to us, as we are just here in passing. It belongs to the next generation and the one after that, our children. We have a responsibility to look after our children and to provide them with a healthy place to live.

That is what I tell people back home and they believe what I say because it is the right thing to say.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

I listened to his passionate words and great concern about the high levels of unemployment in his riding. I am aware that some of the companies in the oil sands areas are using temporary workers under the temporary workers program, which does not allow temporary workers to accumulate any rights in Canada. For instance, the Canadian Natural Resources Horizon mine, I believe, has had up to 400 workers from China at a time.

The hon. member has raised an interesting issue here today. I am wondering how he would suggest we ensure, or should we ensure, Canadians jobs first in such Canadian projects.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, one thing I believe is that companies use immigrants as cheap labour. They do not give them the benefits they should get. That is one of the reasons they want to have 400 workers from China. Then they say to Canadians, those who are unionized with good benefits, to go home because the company does not need them.

What the government has to do is to take leadership in this area to ensure that does not happen and to serve Canadians first, instead of just using people from other countries and taking away the benefits that a human being should get and treating workers in this country the way should be, with respect.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before resuming debate, I would like to remind all hon. members to direct their questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time today with my colleague, my good friend from Newmarket—Aurora.

I want to thank the people of Wellington—Halton Hills for re-electing me as their representative in Ottawa. I am humbled by their support and I pledge to them to work my hardest to uphold the trust they have placed in me to represent them in this House, the people's House.

In the weeks up to the election on May 2, I spoke to thousands of people throughout my riding of Wellington—Halton Hills, on doorsteps and porches and over the phone. I heard consistently from these Canadians they were concerned about their jobs and economic growth. They were concerned about food and fuel prices and about a number of other economic issues.

We have heard those concerns and this Monday past, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, the member for Whitby—Oshawa, introduced budget 2011 in this House, a budget that addresses the concerns I heard during the election campaign and throughout this year from the Canadians I represent. On May 2, Canadians gave us a very strong mandate to continue with our economic action plan. Through their democratic votes on May 2, they decided to re-elect our government because they had confidence in the first phase of our economic action plan and wanted to see a continuation of that plan in the next phase introduced in this budget of 2011.

Today I rise in this House to support the motion by the Minister of Finance that this House does approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Budget 2011 is a plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a plan ensuring that Canadians can continue to meet the challenges we face in this ever-changing global economy. This budget responds to the concerns that I and many of my colleagues heard at the doorstep and on the front porch in the recent election. It introduces the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, building on the successes of the first phase that we introduced in January 2009.

I want to take members of this House back to give them a bit of an overview, from my perspective, of what has happened in the last three years. Just over two and a half years ago, one of the worst global recessions to hit our shores arrived in September 2008. Our government reacted swiftly to what was an unprecedented global slowdown by introducing Canada's economic action plan in its budget of January 2009. Our government's swift actions ensured that Canada's economy not only weathered the storm better than any other major developed economy in the world but also has actually emerged from this recession stronger and better positioned than any other major economy.

The facts speak for themselves. We are on the right track. Over 540,000 new jobs have been created since the recession ended in July 2009, and we have had seven quarters of positive economic growth. Our job-creation machine has been the envy of other major industrialized nations. Our job growth has not been concentrated in low-wage-paying sectors but in full-time positions in relatively high-wage industries.

While this is positive news, it is also true that many Canadians are still looking for work and the global economy remains fragile. It remains fragile because we face three major external risks as an economy. We are facing continuing turmoil in the energy markets as a result of the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. We are facing continuing troubles in sovereign debt markets as a result of the ongoing challenges faced by the eurozone and its sovereign debt markets. We are also facing the continuing economic aftershocks of the terrible earthquake and tsunami that hit the Japanese economy. In fact, many parts suppliers, parts companies, auto-part companies and automobile manufacturers in southern Ontario, both domestic and foreign-owned, have actually gone into shutdown mode because of sourcing problems with their components from Japan.

These risks all present an unsettled and unpredictable global economic environment. That is why it is crucial that we implement a prudent and long-term economic plan. It is crucial that we adopt the motion by the Minister of Finance because it will lay the foundation for future prosperity and build on the successes we have had as an economy and as Canadians in the last two and a half years.

The next phase of our economic action plan, as presented in this budget, has a number of elements that I want to highlight for members in the House. It introduces a hiring credit for small businesses to encourage them to hire new employees. It also includes a two-year extension of the 50% straight line accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers to purchase new equipment and machinery. It provides additional support for the work-sharing program that has ensured the protection of more than 277,000 workers.

It has renewed two special EI measures that have assisted Canadians in their search for a job and is providing $420 million over the next 12 months in this area. It extends the targeted initiative for older workers, who often have a difficult time transitioning from one sector of the economy to another, to have additional support for the next couple of years.

We have also introduced a well deserved helmets to hardhats program to help transition men and women leaving our Canadian Forces into the civilian workforce. It has introduced a volunteer firefighter tax credit as well as measures to help younger Canadians by extending and enhancing the benefits for Canada student loans and grants.

These are some of the new measures that are in the budget to help Canadians with their jobs and help the Canadian economy with economic growth.

In the last few years we have introduced a number of measures to help households with the rising cost of food and fuel and the rising burden in paying bills. We have done that by reducing the taxation burden. In fact, the average family of four now receives almost $3,100 in extra tax savings, thanks to the numerous tax reductions that we have introduced over the last number of years. This is also why the federal tax burden is now the lowest it has been in 50 years. We are building on that record in this budget by introducing additional measures.

We are introducing an enhanced guaranteed income supplement for seniors. For a typical single senior this would mean significant new money for their monthly GIS cheques and for a senior couple it would also mean additional new money. This would help raise up more than 680,000 seniors across this country, people who have worked hard and contributed greatly to our society over their lives and now need a little extra help to meet the monthly bills they have to pay.

Also in the budget is $400 million to help extend the eco-energy retrofit for homes program in order to help make homes more energy efficient for Canadians. This is another way that our government is going to help Canadian households tackle the rising cost of fuel.

Despite many of the external risks facing our economy, our future looks promising. Our plan is working and the next phase introduced in this budget will ensure that we are laying the foundations for prosperity for this coming decade.

The budget also contains a plan to help reduce our deficit and eliminate it in three years, a year earlier than we had originally planned. We are not going to do this by raising taxes. Our balanced budget proposal will be arrived at by conducting a strategic and operating review designed to realize substantial savings. We expect to realize $4 billion in savings annually. Over the next three years, along with the wind-down of the stimulus money, we expect that these savings will help us balance the budget by 2014-15, a year earlier.

This is a responsible, credible approach. We have met our deficit targets for the last two years and we expect to do so in the coming three years.

I would like to finish on this final note.

Just as it is important for the Canadian government to balance its books and ensure it acts prudently on our federal debt, so too is it important that Canadian households do not increase their debt in an unsustainable way. Our government has played a strong role in that regard and I want to commend the Minister of Finance for his efforts in this area by recently reducing the maximum amortization for mortgages from 35 to 30 years and by removing the insurability under CMHC's program for home equity lines of credit. These were two prudent measures to take to slow down the increase in household debt. Canadian households and governments need to be vigilant about the levels of debt that we have taken on in recent years.

In a democracy the people are always right and a month ago the people of Canada decided to elect a stable majority Conservative government. I ask members of the House to respect the will of the Canadian people by supporting the motion that the Minister of Finance has tabled and by allowing us to lay the foundation for prosperity in the next decade.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on being re-elected to the House.

I have a question with regard to page 115 of the budget, where it talks about the $400 million that the government will put into the eco-energy retrofit program. The last sentence in that short paragraph states that further details regarding this program will be announced in the near future.

Could the hon. member tell me whether the government will reconsider the people who were affected by the cutoff date of retrofit program, which I think was back in March, in this new application?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is, I do not know. We will have to wait until the Minister of Natural Resources releases the details of how this $400 million one year extension of the eco-energy retrofit for homes program will work.

What I will say is that the item on page 115 falls under the rubric of protecting Canada's environment. I am quite proud that our government has, as part of the Speech from the Throne, announced its intention to establish a new urban national park in the Rouge Valley. This is great news for the residents of the greater Toronto area. It demonstrates our government's strong commitment to expanding and enhancing Canada's national park system.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I welcome and congratulate the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. I always appreciate the sincerity in his remarks in the House.

He mentioned the plan to reduce the deficit and he talked a lot about the restraint that had to happen, but we know there will be cuts in programs and in services to Canadians.

However, while we talk restraint in the House, the Prime Minister is having a Challenger repaired so he and the heritage minister can go to Boston to watch a hockey game, at a $10,000 an hour cost for that Challenger jet.

How can members in the Conservative Party sit over there and talk about restraint when the Prime Minister is costing taxpayers that much money? Is it just restraint for Canadians and excesses for the cabinet? Is that is what is taking place? Why will Conservatives not stand and say no to the excesses by the cabinet?