Canadian families certainly do deserve better. I would have thought, after seven hours of debate, that my colleagues would have been tired but they are as energetic in the House of Commons as they are defending their constituents. What an amazing team.
As we go into the eighth hour of debate, Canadians are providing the debate. It is Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are faxing, emailing, tweeting and posting on Facebook. It is Canadians who are saying that this debate needs to be engaged. It is Canadians saying that they have heard about the budget and now they want to have their word on this budget. What makes this debate fascinating is that it is generated by the Canadian people. It is generated by younger and older Canadians, by Canadians who are raising their families and have finished raising their families, and by Canadians who are single and in large families. The pinnacle of democratic debate on the floor of the House of Commons is when ordinary Canadian families can have their voices expressed here in the House of Commons as they are doing today.
I will move on to to a woman from North York in the Toronto area. She says, “Thank you for mentioning the blue collar workers such as carpenters, construction workers, painters, et cetera, in the budget debate. My husband is a letter carrier for Canada Post and his knees are damaged and his body almost broken. He will be lucky if he can make it until he is 60, never mind 67. He will be able to retire at 65 but I worry about the generation behind him who will not be able to. Keep fighting for all of us Canadians”.
I would like to thank all the letter carriers and all those who work for Canada Post who get our mail delivered everyday for their devotion.
That is exactly the point we are making with OAS. This is not some kind of academic exercise where we simply raise the age from 65 to 67 and everybody falls into place. This is an attack on manual professions. This is an attack on letter carriers, carpenters, people who work in restaurants and service industries, people who have given their lives with their legs, their backs, their arms and their necks. It is different for an individual who is lawyer or is working in a white collar profession. It is not as punishing on the body. I am not suggesting that white collar workers do not work as hard. I am suggesting that it is a different kind of work.
However, for blue collar workers, those are the kinds of workers who will be most impacted by this callous raising of the retirement age because they simply will not be able to put two more years into their profession, which means that they will end up in dire poverty.
As I mentioned previously, we are talking about a quadrupling of the poverty rate among Canadian seniors in the next few years. We talked about a dismal, dark, divisive decade under these Conservatives. It would become even worse if they were ever returned to power in 2015, because all of these divisive, dour changes that they are making to push our quality of life down, except for the wealthiest of Canadians, will have a greater and greater impact.
To tell Canadians who work in the manual professions that somehow it does not matter, that they should have their bodies give two more years, is showing enormous disrespect for the manual professions in this country. Those Canadians have already given and they are entitled to have a respectful retirement at the age of 65. We are standing up in the House because we are saying that those manual workers in Canada deserve better than what they are getting from the government.
I have another tweet that reads, “I find myself extremely frustrated that this Conservative government has so little regard for the poorest of Canadians”.
I have a woman who comments, “I am very concerned about several items that have emerged in the budget. Changes to environmental assessment process: Any changes on the environment assessment process should be based on the desire to ensure the utmost protection of the environment to sustain the Canadian population. Protection of our environment is protection of people and jobs across the country. This should be the focus on any changes to assessment processes, not on time, but prior to making this assessment or in the interest of speeding up project deliveries. The risks are far greater than any measurable advantage of quicker industrial development”.
Her second concern is about the changes to the CRA and charitable organizations. She says, “Any government in Canada should welcome and encourage public engagement in political processes and in political dialogue. In political pursuits that are non-partisan in nature there should be no question or concern. An engaged, informed and active citizenry means a government that is responsive to the needs of all its members. I am very concerned that these efforts will have a chill effect on the ability for organizations to engage citizens on matters that are political but not partisan”.
She goes on to say, “Thank you for asking for and reading in the House our concerns”. We thank her for sending that in.
Next we have a young Canadian who writes in from Guelph, Ontario. He says, “I am from Guelph, although I am currently on an internship in Costa Rica. I have been here since mid-January and have watched the political turmoil from abroad with great interest. I am not in the habit of writing MPs. However, I hope you will relay these sentiments in the House in some fashion.
“The new budget has made me sick. I do not recognize Canada as my home any more. As a participant in the Canada world youth program, I understand the importance of programs like Katimavik for the youth of Canada. I think that cutting its funding is disgraceful and will leave the youth of this country further behind, coupled with rising tuition fees, limited job prospects and fewer government grants, it is amazing kids don't just give up.
“On cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to the National Film Board and to Telefilm, I am a photographer and it is almost next to impossible to survive in Canada in the arts. In fact, I am in Costa Rica right now because there are more options in Central America than in Canada. However, it is compounded by the fact that those organizations have produced content that is edgy, controversial and not always pro-government. The cuts symbolize nothing less than a partisan attack on government-funded companies and the message is clear: disagree with us and you lose your funding.
“The 19,000 public sector employees who lost their jobs while there is redundancy in the public service. I think massive layoffs like this was a poorly thought out idea, especially considering how friendly this budget is for private sector employers. Canada has a long tradition of public service and for good reason. This spits in the face of that tradition.
“I am a 23-year old with a political science degree who is finding work in Canada to be a difficult thing to come by. I think policy-makers need to understand that this budget does not reflect the will of the people and opposition members must make that clear”.
I will move right on to another Conservative-held riding. It is quite gratifying to all of us that most of these letters that have come in more recently are from Conservative-held ridings. We are hearing the constituents of the Conservatives themselves standing up and saying that the government needs to read the budget and to understand the impacts. However, most important, these constituents are telling their Conservative members of Parliament that they should be voting against the budget because Canadian families deserve better than what the Conservatives have put forward.
This woman writes, “I live in a Conservative riding in Ottawa, Ontario, that’s Ottawa West—Nepean. I am 29 years old. I have a two-year-old daughter. My father is retired, having worked over 35 years for the city. My mother is self-employed and in ill health. I’m the first generation in my family to have attained a university education for which I finally paid for in full in 2010. I pay taxes. I vote. I have a mortgage. I shop locally and support our economy.
“I believe in the vibrancy I see in our communities and in the public institutions that make this country safe and great, but I am greatly disturbed at the direction this government is taking our country. The budget is yet another tool that will erode the great things our predecessors have accomplished.
“The government has not proven that OAS is unsustainable in its current form. They have not listened to the respected economists who have said that while there will be an additional draw on OAS it will be temporary. They have not listened to the 70% or 80% of Canadians who have said in numerous polls that they are opposed to this change. This is a manufactured crisis by a government that treats its own constituents with contempt and other members of Parliament with disrespect.
“Today’s younger workers say that those under age 54 will pay doubly for OAS”.