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House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I have worked in health care and health care public policy. Funding through cash transfers is allowed and has been the federal government's policy. This allows accountability regarding federal spending. Tax points are another way of doing things. However, greater decentralization might be better. Considering the current role of the federal government with its Canada Health Act—whose five principles or pillars were supported by the former Bloc leader in 2009—we think it is important to maintain the minimum standards derived from these five principles under the Canada Health Act. Accordingly, we support cash transfers.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Beauharnois—Salaberry. First of all, I want to thank the people of my riding for the confidence they showed in me. I will defend their interests every day. I also want to thank my family, my friends, my precious volunteers, the staff of Baie-Saint-François school and my dear students, who encouraged me throughout the election campaign.

Communities like mine did not just choose a new member of Parliament. I humbly accept, of course, the mandate they have given me to work constructively for the NDP and with all the members of this House to achieve tangible results.

I have talked with people who cannot get to sleep because they are so worried about their retirement income. Our seniors cannot make ends meet any more because their income has stopped rising. Beauharnois—Salaberry is in the Montérégie region, which holds the North American record for the greatest increase in the number of seniors. Some of them want the guaranteed income supplement increased and they want it made automatic. Many did not know they were entitled to it until they heard about it from friends.

The government should therefore be fairer and more transparent in its delivery of guaranteed income supplement benefits and it should ensure that our seniors no longer live under the poverty line. All socio-economic areas will feel the effects of our aging population, including health. According to figures from Quebec's health department, hospital visits in Quebec have increased by 3.5% since 2010 and the number of patients aged 75 or older has increased by nearly 6%. In case the government has not noticed yet, there is a shortage of medical care all across the country.

I have spoken with people in my riding who cannot find a family physician, who wait in emergency rooms for more than 17 hours, on average, or who wait months to see a specialist. Specialists are very hard to find in Beauharnois—Salaberry and it is hard to attract them there.

Finally, has the government ever taken an interest in the tough lives of nurses? When will it make the necessary investments to deal with the shortage that forces them to work overtime in order to ensure that patients have continuity of care? This is very worrisome. The Conservatives should strength the public health care system instead of trying to privatize it, which not only widens the gap between rich and poor but also leaves our health care professionals overburdened. Increasing the number of doctors and nurses in the system, as proposed by the NDP, is a social investment that absolutely must be made.

The people of Beauharnois—Salaberry are also very critical of the government’s lack of leadership on social housing. There has been a housing crisis in Quebec since 2000, and the situation has hardly improved at all for large and low-income families. The vacancy rate in several municipalities in my riding was around 2% in 2010. The government knows very well that this rate should be at least 3% in order to have a balanced rental market. Otherwise, there is a housing shortage.

There is a need for hundreds of new units for the riding, which is one of the poorest in the region. Access to affordable, safe, clean housing is an important factor in someone's level of health and it has a direct impact on the reality of homelessness. However, the government seems completely indifferent to this reality, since the latest budget does not include any investments in social housing. This is the first time in 10 years that the federal government has not allocated any money to this area. For Quebec, that is a loss of $85.6 million compared to the last two years, which is the equivalent of 1,200 affordable housing units.

Furthermore, the Minister of Finance has once again refused to increase the budget allocated to fighting homelessness, which has not been indexed in eight years. Yesterday, I spoke to representatives of the PACT de rue organization. They told me that the government needs to create a homelessness policy in order to develop an overall vision of the phenomenon and take concrete action. The fight against homelessness must be considered a collective responsibility. The Réseau solidarité itinérance du Québec has developed a platform to advocate for and defend the rights of the homeless who are excluded from society and marginalized. This year, the Nuit des sans-abri will focus on the right to a decent income, which includes improved access to employment insurance. It will also focus on five other rights, including the right to occupy public spaces.

Our community organizations are very proactive in the fight against homelessness.

For example, over 30 local organizations implemented a housing service for youth between the ages of 14 and 21 who run away from home or are forced to leave home, in order to help them reintegrate into an environment that has been deemed acceptable.

Since April 1, 2008, the number of youth who have benefited from the program has doubled from 14 to 30 per year. It would be to the government's advantage to focus on prevention measures for youth rather than focusing on its tough on crime agenda and investing in prisons.

I have spoken with other people who have lost their full-time jobs and now have to deal with unstable part-time jobs with no benefits. The Conservatives' lack of action in this regard is exasperating to many families in my riding. In just seven years, over 2,200 jobs were lost in Beauharnois—Salaberry. Yesterday, the Rio Tinto Alcan recasting centre in Beauharnois contacted me to tell me that 10 more jobs may be lost in the coming months.

The number continues to grow since the government decided to close the border crossing in Franklin in April.

In so doing, not only has the government eliminated jobs and decreased civil security, it has also negatively affected tourism in the region and thus the region's economy, since visitors will no longer come to this area, which is well known for its magnificent orchards.

People in the community have not yet managed to wrap their heads around this decision, particularly since the American government is planning to add more border crossings. The government should talk to the Americans before hurting the economy of its own people.

Here is an example of a third situation in which the Conservatives' choices leave something to be desired. Last Saturday, I met with one of the employees responsible for visitor activities at the Lake St. Francis National Wildlife Area. She indignantly explained that the Canadian Wildlife Service, which falls under Environment Canada, cut over 60% of their budget. Rather than receiving the $24,000 it usually receives every year, the park is expected to provide the same visitor services and educational services, do the same monitoring and maintenance and produce the same outcomes with only $10,000 over the coming years. It borders on the ridiculous.

Is the government aware that the team that works at this national wildlife area provides environmental education through water activities that do not leave an environmental footprint, creates good jobs, develops positive and lasting relations with the Mohawk people on the Akwesasne reserve, and helps to promote tourism in the region? If so, how can it choose to take funds away from a environmental protection organization that does so much good for our region? The government's attitude is unacceptable and disrespectful.

Finally, in my riding many people are disappointed that Ottawa is subsidizing major polluters instead of standing up for the environment.

People who live near the U.S. border along New York State have been waiting for three years for the government to intervene in the Westville dump issue. People are worried because the landfill site is being expanded to six times its current surface area, which could end up depriving 100,000 people of drinking water in the event of an environmental mishap.

The dump is just above a water table that supplies the Upper St. Lawrence area. It is easy to see how the project might have disastrous consequences for people in terms of health, property value and contamination of farmland and ranchland.

In 2008, a coalition against this landfill project was formed and more than 6,000 people signed a petition. The government still has not taken charge of the situation or defended the interests of the people of my riding.

We are an official opposition that has its priorities in the right place and does not hesitate to defend them. We will propose practical solutions for families and we will oppose the government whenever it makes bad decisions. We will work together to achieve tangible results that will put the country on the right path. I will stand up for the well-being of all my constituents.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for her win and also for speaking to her concerns so eloquently.

In my province of British Columbia the former NDP provincial government did not add a single new doctor space to the UBC Faculty of Medicine in an entire decade. With support from our government in transfer payments for health care, today British Columbia has doubled the number of new doctors being trained.

Will the NDP acknowledge the increased health care transfer in our budget and will it support it?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has always advocated for more doctors and nurses in the public health care system. No action has been taken since we first called for this. People are still lining up to get a family doctor. Nurses are still being forced to work overtime. Clearly the NDP is in favour of increasing the number of family doctors.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, picking up on the previous question, the NDP has been in government in Manitoba for the last 11 years.

Many rural communities in Manitoba do not have doctors. In fact, they have not had doctors for years. There has been a lot of talk in Manitoba for years that we need to get more doctors into our communities. There is a sense of disappointment, whether it is in rural Manitoba or even in north end Winnipeg, where it is difficult to find a GP. It seems that the provincial government has not been able to meet the needs.

To what degree does the member believe the federal government and what specifically does she think the federal government could do to ensure that there are going to be more doctors for our communities?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. As I mentioned, the opposition—the NDP—is in favour of federal investment in health care to increase the number of doctors and health care professionals.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry on a very fine presentation today. I am sure her constituents will be impressed by her ability to represent them in the House and also by her knowledge not only of the issues but of the many issues in her own constituency that she can bring to the floor of the House.

In terms of generating more doctors and nurses in Canada, the NDP policy has talked about increasing the number of students in professional schools as well with federal support.

In terms of nurses, I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that nurse practitioners can also play a role as part of the medical team to present primary health care in clinics throughout her riding and throughout Canada.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. Nurses are a key part of the health care system, and their work of providing care to patients is very important. The more opportunities we give them, the better they will be able to do their job and provide numerous services to patients.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the name of my riding is so difficult to pronounce. I would like to congratulate the NDP member on her speech. She and I have many of the same values and social concerns. However, I am wondering how we can reach the fundamental objective of increasing the number of family doctors and nurses in the public health care system. I would prefer a public system to a private one, but what can we do when the provinces are usually worried that the federal government is infringing on provincial areas of jurisdiction? This is especially true of Quebec, which is quite clear that it does not want any infringement on its areas of jurisdiction.

How can we inject more money into the health care system, as the NDP wants, given Quebec's concerns about respect for its areas of jurisdiction?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. The NDP is very concerned about respect for provincial jurisdictions. However, there is the Canada Health Act to consider. Any funds invested in health care will be allocated at the discretion of the provinces. We want to improve the public health care system. We are proposing an increase in the number of doctors and nurses, which could only improve the system and relieve the pressure in emergency rooms.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Huron—Bruce.

As this is my first opportunity to speak in the House during the 41st Parliament, I would like to take a moment to thank the voters of Palliser for the trust that they have placed in me by re-electing me to this place. I am humbled by the many opportunities I have had to serve the communities of Saskatchewan as a principal, a mayor, a consultant, a director of education, a director of provincial examinations and now as an MP. I am proud to serve with this government and will continue to work to make things better for the residents of Palliser and Canada.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Speaker on his election and I would be remiss if I did not take the time to congratulate all other members of the House who are serving for the first time or who have been re-elected.

I welcome this budget which will form the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. This is a good budget for Saskatchewan and the riding of Palliser and it will bring benefits to my constituents. This budget is an important step in ensuring that Canada's government is supporting Canadians as we work our way out of the economic crisis and into a period of sustained economic growth.

Canada has had seven straight quarters of economic growth thanks to our action plan and its parts. These parts benefit the measures that have been added to things like 540,000 new jobs to the Canadian economy and all measures point toward this trend continuing. Although the recession of 2008-09 set back the economies of Saskatchewan and Canada, the measures that our government took to deal with these problems put Canada's economy on the right track.

In my riding, the economic action plan helped convince Thunder Creek Pork to create 200 much needed new jobs for Moose Jaw residents. Our government also worked with Premier Brad Wall and the government of Saskatchewan to develop the global transportation hub, which has already created 800 new jobs for the people of Saskatchewan and will create many more in the years to come as companies relocate their facilities for centralized distribution.

More importantly, however, the economic action plan took important steps to save jobs and protect the finances of Canadians. Measures such as the tax-free savings account helped give Canadians the confidence they needed to invest adequately and to help ensure their profits went to their pockets and not to the pockets of government.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan builds on the successes of these measures and introduces a number of new ways in which Canada's government can help Canadians help themselves. Measures such as the fitness tax credit demonstrate that our government is working to help all Canadians help themselves by encouraging good and healthy lifestyle choices. Our budget demonstrates our commitment to getting things done for all Canadians and I am encouraged to see that this will continue both now and in the next four years.

Let us take a minute to talk about agriculture. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will also provide benefits that will promote sustainable agriculture. Programs such as a $50 million two-year agricultural innovation initiative to support knowledge creation and increased commercialization of agricultural development will benefit agriculture-related businesses across Canada, including those in Saskatchewan.

In Moose Jaw, Thunder Creek Pork will benefit from the initiative for the control of diseases in the hog industry, which will be extended for an additional two years. There will also be $24 million provided in order for the Canadian Swine Health Board to complete initiatives directed at national bio-security standards and best management practices that will benefit hog producers across the country.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will also work to strengthen food safety by providing $100 million over five years toward targeted investments for inspector training, additional science capacity and electronic tools to support the work of front line inspectors.

I am sure that my constituents in Palliser will welcome the action that our government is taking to build on the support in place for seniors by providing new measures to improve the quality of life and expand opportunities for older Saskatchewanians and all Canadians.

In this budget we are taking action to support seniors through the expansion of several programs, such as the guaranteed income supplement, which we are topping up by $600 per year for single seniors and by up to $840 per year for senior couples.

We are also proposing to expand the new horizons for seniors program, which would receive an additional $10 million over two years to provide funding to organizations that help ensure that Saskatchewan seniors can benefit from activities that improve their quality of life through active living and participation in social activities.

Also in support of seniors, we are proposing to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to ensure that federally regulated employees across Canada will be able to choose how long they wish to remain in the labour force, based on their individual circumstances.

We are working hard to support justice and public safety. Through the budget, the government is working with the provinces to invest $20 million in youth crime prevention programs, including several programs in Saskatchewan. In these programs, we are proposing to promote community-based educational, cultural, sporting and vocational opportunities for youth to encourage them to make smart choices and encourage them to resist pressure to become involved in gangs.

Although our government continues to plan to end the long gun registry, in the meantime we will continue to waive licensing fees of up to $80. I can assure residents of Palliser that we will not rest until this registry is repealed. I look forward to seeing legislation to do this being introduced in the future.

As a supporter of victims' rights, I am proud that we will continue to support this position by providing $26 million over two years to help the federal victims ombudsman, which will help provide access to justice and encourage participation in the justice system by victims, including victims from Saskatchewan.

As an individual who has been deeply involved in the education system of the province, I am proud that the government is taking real action to improve the financial stability of Canadian students so that they can take steps to better their own prospects. Through our budget, our government is proposing to enhance and expand access to eligibility for Canadian student loans and grants for full- and part-time post-secondary students. Post-secondary students from Saskatchewan and across Canada will benefit from several steps that our government is taking in order to increase the tax exemptions that students are eligible for.

I understand that the government is working with the province and territorial partners to put its proposed improvements into place as quickly as possible so as to have the benefits flowing to students in the 2011 academic year.

As someone who knows the benefits that higher education can bring to people of all ages, I applaud the steps the government is taking to make education more affordable to all.

I am proud to be part of a government that is reducing the tax burden on Canadians. Since being elected in 2006, our government has lowered the tax burden on individual Canadians by an average of $3,000 per person. In Saskatchewan, the measures proposed in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan will provide taxpayers with approximately $60 million in tax relief over 2010-2011 and the following five fiscal years, including over $13 million through the family caregiver tax credit and almost $19 million through the new children's arts tax credit.

I am encouraged to see that the next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes steps to improve the fairness and neutrality of the tax system. Improving the integrity of our tax system means lower tax rates for all. All members of this House can agree that lower tax rates are better for Canadians.

In conclusion, with these important improvements to all aspects of Canada's interactions with government, I am proud to support the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. I hope all members of the House will join me in supporting this important budget.

I look forward to hearing from all members about their thoughts on the budget.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the member on his speech.

I paid particularly close attention to his comments on the parts of the budget concerning seniors, because I too care deeply about seniors. I think this is true of all of my colleagues in the NDP, since we ran a very strong campaign on this very issue and 59 ridings in Quebec voted for the NDP platform. I have a few questions about the government's position in the budget regarding the guaranteed income supplement.

The member made a point of telling us he is happy about the $600 a year increase. I will address only the increase he mentioned for single seniors. Based on my calculations, we are talking about $50 a month, and that bothers me. Yesterday evening, I took part in an event with people from the Alzheimer Society, and I spoke with many seniors about the budget. They asked me if it was some kind of joke, since $50 a month does not even cover the increase in the price of gas, for example. The member talked about amending the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to allow seniors to retire whenever they want, but they will not have a choice. I understand that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms needs to be amended, because right now, they will not be able to retire and collect a pension, because they will be forced to work.

How does the member respond to the comments I heard from seniors yesterday evening?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that we have, as a government, supplied more help for seniors than any other elected body that has sat in this House. There have been decreases in terms of shutting down the expansion of sales tax; it started at 7%, then went to 6% and then to 5%. That number affects all seniors.

The CPP has been directed to help seniors, and it has, because all of us pay into the program. The additional $600 and $840 particularly will help seniors as they move forward. This is not meant to be all of their funding, but it will be a start for funding. My constituents are most pleased with that increase.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is in regard to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Given that the member is from Saskatchewan, I am sure he has the pulse of the community in terms of what the wheat farmers in Saskatchewan are saying with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board.

My understanding is that support for the Canadian Wheat Board is well in excess of 65% across the Prairies and is even greater in Saskatchewan, yet for whatever reasons, reasons that many would suggest are of an ideological nature, the government has made the decision to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, even though a majority of the wheat farmers in Saskatchewan, a good number of whom I suspect supported him, would not want to see the Wheat Board go away.

Does the member see the value in allowing the wheat farmers to determine whether or not the Wheat Board should remain?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board is not going to disappear. The idea of the Canadian Wheat Board is that it will take its place as an independent agency like every other agency that buys grain. It is not going to disappear; it is going to be matched up with other operations that purchase grain.

The constituents in Palliser were very vocal and very pointed in their direction. They said they did not want a monopoly. Currently the Canadian Wheat Board has a monopoly: either the farmer sells through the Canadian Wheat Board or the farmer does not sell wheat and barley.

The farm folks do not think that is right. They produce it and they should have the right to say where they market it.

We are of that same mindset, and that is the direction I am sure we will move with the agriculture sector.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the member on his re-election.

This is my first opportunity to address the House since my last election. First and foremost, I would like to thank the constituents of Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me in yet another election. These elections are hard work, and it is an honour and a privilege to serve such a great riding as Huron—Bruce.

As well, I note that we were able to achieve some historic results in the last election, receiving the largest number of votes ever in the history of Huron—Bruce's riding as well as the largest margin of victory. Certainly the government's actions over the last number of years have made a significant impact on the voters in Huron—Bruce.

I would be remiss if I started my speech without thanking my wife, Andrea, for her support during the three elections I have participated in. As well, I thank my parents and my in-laws. They provide tremendous support.

I would also like to thank the great number of volunteers who help day in and day out, year in and year out, to carry on these election campaigns. Volunteers are important not only for our party but for the other political parties. They help carry on the democratic process, so we certainly owe a big thanks to all those who have volunteered.

I would like to highlight some aspects of the budget.

Much of the budget presented June 6 was also captured in the budget that was presented on March 22. We have heard much debate in the last number of days, but I thought it would be important to highlight a few pieces in the budget that would have an impact on rural Canada, rural Ontario and even perhaps the riding of Huron—Bruce.

First and foremost would be the commitment again to the eco-energy retrofit program. This has been a popular program coast to coast and certainly in the riding of Huron—Bruce. It provides a great number of economic opportunities. It allows citizens in Huron—Bruce to upgrade their homes, whether through insulation, windows, doors, a new furnace or what have you. It provides them an opportunity to make their homes more energy efficient.

The other opportunities it provides are economic. We have a few manufacturers in the riding of Huron—Bruce. An example is Dashwood Industries, which manufactures certified and approved windows that would go into retrofitted homes from coast to coast. I would encourage all Canadians who are thinking of using this program to make sure they ask their contractors to install Dashwood Industries windows. As well, MDL Doors provides a great quality product and is located outside of Brussels, Ontario. It would provide insulated doors for homes.

These are great opportunities, and the economic spinoff always follows through to the individuals who audit the households as well as to the contractors who provide the work. In spite of the fact that it has been a wet spring, a program such as this is going to be another stimulus to the construction industry and is certainly welcome.

We also know Huron—Bruce is a very significant agricultural riding, and this government's commitment to agriculture in many consecutive budgets has certainly been appreciated.

There have been a few highlights in this budget for new money in agriculture. Foremost is the $100 million investment over five years to the CFIA to help implement the Weatherill report that came out of the listeriosis outbreak a couple of years ago. This investment will help the CFIA to fully implement the recommendations in that report.

As well, there is $50 million over the next two years for innovation and research in agriculture. We know the agricultural community welcomes these dollars. It realizes the importance of innovation and research in continuing to push along the agricultural products we produce in Canada. The riding of Huron—Bruce welcomes those dollars for innovation because we know we have taken great advantage of those investments, as our yields certainly indicate.

There is also about $24 million over two years committed to the hog industry. These are vitally important dollars that are going to address some issues around disease. The circovirus issue a number of years ago caused great strain to the hog industry, so added dollars to help the hog industry in Canada are certainly welcome.

From my perspective, the budget delivered a couple of days ago addresses these issues and will help push agriculture forward.

Also vitally important to agriculture are our export markets. It is important that we continue to push forward with our international bilateral free trade agreements.

The minister has been working hard on two vitally important trade agreements, the Canada-EU trade agreement and the Canada-India trade agreement. These will give farm exporters the opportunity to provide their goods tariff-free to nearly two billion people. They have a combined GDP of nearly $20 billion.

These are certainly welcomed by the agricultural community, especially in Huron—Bruce. The white bean capital of the world is located in Hensall in my riding of Huron-Bruce. It is the white bean capital of the world due in large part to the producers and the heads of co-ops. These agreements provide us with a great opportunity with respect to trade.

Our government has completed eight bilateral free trade agreements since 2006. We have more than 50 on the go right now that would provide Canada with a great competitive advantage on the world market. In addition to that, we are working closely with the countries to educate them on the great regiment that our producers and our processors maintain in Canada to produce world-class food and commodities.

The Conservative government's 2011 budget addresses a great number of these issues. The Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Trade have worked very hard abroad to continue to open these markets.

There are a great many manufacturers in Huron—Bruce. Another important aspect in the budget for manufacturers is the two year extension of the capital cost allowance that will allow manufacturers to do an accelerated 50% straight line depreciation on new plants and machinery. This is important because it will allow our manufacturers to continue to make investments in plant and plant machinery to continue to make Canada more competitive. This is an area we need to address. The government is committed to reduce tariffs on machinery bought outside of Canada. This is a tremendous opportunity.

I worked in the automotive parts manufacturing sector for many years at Wescast Industries. This company has really taken advantage of the opportunity in recent years to upgrade its machinery to make its products more competitive so it can produce a product at a lower price, which allows it to add more employees. The manufacturing community coast to coast appreciates this and I certainly appreciate this because it helps manufacturers in the riding of Huron—Bruce.

In addition, we have provided a hiring credit for small businesses. It will help offset the employment insurance premiums that small and medium-sized businesses will pay when they hire new employees. This will help about half a million small businesses from coast to coast. The economy is recovering. Canada has come through the recession better than any other developed nation. This is another way to help businesses create new jobs and not impede the hiring of new employees. Canada was built by small business. The backbone of rural communities such as Huron—Bruce are agriculture and small business. This is another tool in the tool box of small business to allow it to be competitive and not afraid to hire new employees.

Huron—Bruce is a beautiful tourist community located along the coastline of Lake Huron. It is a place where people come to retire. The commitment in this year's budget to add another $300 million to the guaranteed income supplement is welcome and appreciated. This will increase the income of low income seniors, and they will appreciate that. They appreciate a government that looks out for seniors.

The government brought in pension splitting in past budgets and that has also been a great tool for seniors to make their retirement dollars spread forward.

The budget document is 375 pages. I could on for days, but I realize I only have 10 minutes.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the budget speaks of a plan for responsible spending to deliver programs and services more efficiently. Does this mean the hon. member will guarantee that the government will stop its own wasteful spending, such as the quarter million dollars in speech writing services spent by the previous minister of transport? Will the member guarantee it will cut its own pork before it cuts essential services of Canadians?

Why does the government insist on telling Canadians that we need to cut services when it will not cut its own wasteful spending?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member will note that my speech was not written, so I have no dollars invested in speech writers. This comes from the heart.

I would ask the member opposite how he feels about the per vote subsidy and if he is willing to look at that as a possible opportunity to reduce partisan spending. That would save Canadian taxpayers $30 million year in and year out. I would offer that up for that hon. member, to take a long hard look at that and perhaps support our commitment for saving taxpayer dollars.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member inform the House of his and his party support or lack thereof for the proposal to create a two-tiered guaranteed income supplement program?

The member must be aware that under the current terms and conditions of eligibility for the guaranteed income supplement program, the GIS program, senior citizens would have to earn a baseline income of approximately $16,000 a year or less. There are various grades and scales to that, but that is the baseline. However, the government's proposal is to reduce this, to create a second tier of benefits, a two-tiered program whereby any senior citizen making $7,000 a year or less would be the only ones eligible for the top-up the government is proposing.

Is the hon. member and his government suggesting that those senior citizens who make anywhere between $7,000 and $16,000 are living in the laps of luxury?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his hyperbole. I also remind him that a couple of months ago, when his party was on this side of the House, it had an opportunity to make an investment of $300 million for our low income seniors. That member voted for another option for the $300 million. He voted for a wasteful, unnecessary election. He voted for election signs.

This side of the House voted for seniors and low income seniors specifically on this initiative, yet he has the audacity to get up today and ask about this government's commitment to low income seniors.

He had better look in the mirror tonight when he goes home and ask himself this question. Was the $300 million better spent on low income seniors or on his wasteful $300 million worth of election signs?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, it is great to hear that the member opposite extolls the virtue of the eco-energy program because it was the Conservatives that cut it initially and our party fought to keep it. If it is such a job creator, which it is, and so good for the environment, we do not understand why it was cut in the first place.

We welcome the government's decision to put that back in the budget. However, we are mystified by the fact that it is only in it for one year.

Is this a good job creation program for just one year or is it a good job creation program? That is the question I would like to ask the member opposite.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I would offer for the hon. member are the copies I have in my office of the last three budgets. In there are dollars allocated to the eco-energy program.

I know the member is new to the House. That is fine. The fact is when his party sat over there, it voted against it each and every time.

He may be mystified as to why we put it back in. I am mystified as to why his party has always voted against it.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Rivière-du-Nord.

On May 2, the voters of LaSalle—Émard entrusted me with a great responsibility, and it is a privilege for me to be their member of Parliament. It is an honour to rise for the first time in this House on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard. First, I would like to thank my constituents for trusting in me. I would also like to commend them for daring to vote for change. I want to highlight their courage and their belief that we can change things and do better, and that it is possible to do politics differently. I will be listening to their concerns. Every day I will defend their interests, and I will be pleased to work for them for the next few years.

What an honour it is for me to rise in the House for the first time on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard. Above all, today, I want to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me. I will put their priorities front and centre every day. I will be listening to their concerns and working to make their lives better. It will be a pleasure to be at their service.

Communities like mine did not simply choose a new member of Parliament. On May 2, they sent a clear message: we can change things; we can do better. That is the message sent by 1.5 million Quebeckers out of a total of 4.5 million Canadians across the country. They all came to share the NDP's vision for a better Canada, a Canada where families are a priority and where no one is left behind, a country Quebeckers can identify with, and a country that reflects their progressive values.

I am proud that my constituents are participating in this wave of change, and I humbly accept the mandate they have given me. I accept their mandate to stand up for families and make them a priority. I accept their mandate to work constructively with all members of this House to get concrete results, because the challenges we spoke of during the campaign are the same challenges that my community faces.

I listened carefully as the government members presented their budget. I would like to remind my distinguished colleagues in the government that the economy is a means, not an end. I am here to speak for all the people of LaSalle—Émard, but especially those who are without a voice, who cannot benefit from tax cuts, who cannot find affordable housing or stable, well-paid employment, or who cannot find a family doctor.

I am here to lend my voice to those who are not as fortunate as we are in this House. I am here for those who have been left behind by our society, those who are the most vulnerable. I hope to make my colleagues on the other side understand that they are here for all Canadians, whatever their origins or standard of living. The values we embody are those of social justice, sharing and mutual assistance. That is why I find it difficult to see any reflection of myself in this government’s program. Their priority is big business, to the detriment of small businesses and the people of my riding.

I remind members that the economy is a means, not an end. It is a way to organize our society. I believe the role of government is to ensure that all Canadians have a chance to succeed. I believe we are at the service of all citizens, from all walks of life.

During the campaign, I had the privilege of meeting many of my constituents. It was really amazing to see people open their doors and share with me their concerns and their hopes. I had the pleasure of meeting many new Canadians. They talked to me about the difficulties of bringing their loved ones to Canada and of gaining Canadian experience so they could contribute fully to our economy.

Since being elected, I have received numerous requests from immigrants who want to find their way through the morass of immigration regulations. I salute their perseverance and patience. I will do my best in helping them to find their way.

During the election campaign, people opened their doors to me. They told me their hopes and fears. I spoke with people who are worried about their retirement incomes and with seniors who can no longer make ends meet because the cost of living keeps rising while their income does not. I spoke with people in my riding who cannot find a family doctor or have to wait months to see a specialist. I spoke with others who had lost full-time jobs and have to get by now on short-term jobs with no benefits.

A freeway completely surrounds one section of the eastern part of my riding of LaSalle—Émard. The vehicular pollution has a direct effect on the health of these people. Vehicles are also a major source of greenhouse gases. I hope the budget will address the need to reduce greenhouse gases. Our health and our future are at stake.

Protecting the environment is a challenge but a promising one. It is a question of health and well-being. Our country is known for its vast territory and we need to recognize that more often and protect that territory. We have unparalleled wealth in our lakes and rivers. Unfortunately, this natural wealth is more and more often being exploited with no regard for the long-term implications.

That is why we need to immediately recognize that environmental protection and responsible economic growth are not incompatible. I hope to be able to count on the co-operation of all members in the House to adopt practical solutions that will bring real change.

Instead of handing over a blank cheque to large corporations, we propose investing in green technology in order to protect our environment for future generations. In addition, by investing in technologies of the future, we will be offering new opportunities and interesting, well-paying jobs to youth.

Four and a half million Canadians voted New Democrat and they know exactly what they voted for. They voted to strengthen public pensions. They voted to improve public health care. They voted to help families make ends meet. They voted to grow our economy with new jobs and opportunities. They voted for concrete measures to protect the environment. They also voted for that stronger Canada with a proud place for Quebec.

The extraordinary team that is now the official opposition will be the voice of those Canadians who put their trust in us. The team is dynamic, unified and ready to work with others—that is guaranteed. We are here to serve the people. We will work to bring forward proposals that will meet the expectations and needs of our constituents, and that is what I want to promise to my constituents in LaSalle—Émard.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's statements with respect to investment in green technology and economic diversification. She also spoke quite passionately about bringing forward projects that will be of interest and benefit to her constituents.

I have risen on this point a couple of times in the chamber earlier today, but I would just advise the member that in my riding of Charlottetown and in our province of Prince Edward Island, we are leaders in the generation of wind power. Our aspirations in that regard have been severely limited by the refusal of the government to fund a subsea cable to the mainland to allow us to sell that power to the Atlantic grid. It is a prime example of a green energy initiative and economic diversification, and it is something on which our province is being held back.

Would the member comment with respect to green energy and economic diversification for all provinces?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for giving me a very fine example of the green energy the opposition members would like to encourage. We have to ensure that these green energies are distributed where they should be and promote their development, whether in the Montreal area, where my riding is located, or elsewhere in Canada.