This member of Parliament listens. I visited his riding and I saw the member in action. He truly is very talented and very good. On top of that, he is friendly.
Here is what a constituent from his riding said: “As a former colleague from CBC/Radio–Canada, let me tell you that the atmosphere at CBC/Radio–Canada is glum in the big tower? We are meeting with Mr. Lacroix next week; there are but a few new projects for the fall, and little hope for the future. The cutbacks are really hurting and I have dozens of colleagues who have to look for a new job this fall. Even I do not know where I will be. With three children, I need to work. The Conservatives say that they want to stimulate the economy with this budget. I fail to see how making cutbacks to culture, CBC/Radio–Canada, the National Film Board, and Telefilm is going to stimulate the economy, when it has been proven that every dollar invested in culture brings in far more than it costs. I fail to see the benefit in making cutbacks to Radio–Canada, aside from the fact that it is an organization that the current government finds threatening. CBC/Radio–Canada plays a key role in maintaining the fragile unity of this country and its numerous remote regions. CBC/Radio-Canada costs $34 per Canadian; it is smart, innovative, and brings people together. It ranks 16th out of 18 OECD countries in terms of funding for public television. Do not tell me that we are not getting out money’s worth.
Exactly. This person from the riding of Longueuil is entirely correct.
A citizen in Sarnia, Ontario, a Conservative riding, is concerned about what the government is doing. She says, “My adult son has a developmental disability. Freezing the amounts will prevent him from being as independent as possible, as inclusive a citizen in his community as he could be otherwise. Individuals who already live in poverty are purposefully being held here. This is social injustice. The government who put this budget into place will never change until they feel uncomfortable with their own decisions. Don't they feel uncomfortable keeping my son in poverty?”
As members know, a number of Canadians have raised concerns around Katimavik. We are getting flooded with comments on that as it is very important. A whole range of issues have been raised by Canadians. I do not want to necessarily conclude with Katimavik but I would like to read some comments. Even though I could never read all of the comments we are getting in from Conservative ridings, I will try to tackle some of them. I will stay as long as I can on the general criticism of this budget and more specific concerns that have been raised. Canadians deserve to have their voices count in the Parliament of the country, there is no doubt about that.
My voice is getting hoarse and I hope to keep on speaking. As a New Democrat, I will speak as long as my voice allows. That is what New Democrats do. We work as hard as we can for as long as we have.
I will follow-up with another comment from a woman in Stratford, Ontario, another Conservative riding. She says, “First off, on this penny wise and pound foolish budget, I am fine with the penny being axed”. So are we. In fact, it was an NDP idea. It is one of the few good things in the budget.
She goes on to say, “I'm against cutting the funding to the National Council on Welfare. I'm against stopping the automatic guaranteed income supplement enrolment. I'm against encouraging cross-border shopping. I'm against cuts to foreign aid. I'm against cuts to Elections Canada. I'm against the cuts to the CBC. I'm against the loss of Katimavik. I'm against the change in the OAS. I'm against the so-called streamlining of the environmental review process. I'm against the cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which will no longer be monitoring food labels among other things. I'm against these new requirements of charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources”.
This Canadian from Stratford, Ontario, another Conservative riding, is saying that aside from the cut of the penny, she is opposed to virtually everything that was brought forward in this very bad, mean-spirited budget. Who can blame her, given the impacts that we are aware of on the environment, on services, on future seniors, as well as the decisions taken to cut health care funding in the long term? When we look at the budget as a complete package, Canadians from coast to coast to coast are clearly putting their thumbs down.
I have another comment from another Conservative held riding. A woman from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country wrote, “I realize that there are great challenges to mitigate the effects of climate change but it appears that the Government of Canada does not seem to want to make any effort towards weaning the country off fossil fuels or to reduce our high per capita footprint. I am most disappointed with the negative elements towards environmentalism and environmentalists in the recent budget. Your government is trying to demonize dissent by making it difficult for charities that don't agree with you to continue to function, and you are also ignoring the rights of first nations and ordinary Canadians who are entitled to have a voice in the face of large industrial projects, and who have deep concerns about fast-tracking the environmental process. Remember that the B.C. government had rubber-stamped the Taseko Mines project, and it would have gone ahead if it had not been for a more stringent federal review, which, by the former environment minister's own analysis, was scathing in its content. It is shocking to me that the Conservative Party is proposing to weaken the Fisheries Act with changes to section 35(1). Please keep that section as it currently stands, with emphasis on environmental protection. We must protect our wild places for future prosperity, not for short-term gain”.
That was the voice of another Canadian from another Conservative held riding.
I will keep going. This is a comment from another Conservative held riding in the area of Regina. As members know, some of those ridings were won by only a few votes. As we can hear, Canadians in a whole range of Conservative ridings are expressing real concerns about the Conservatives' budget
A gentleman from Regina, Saskatchewan wrote, “As a grandfather, I am deeply concerned about the future sustainability of our country. Why are we not moving away from the insane high carbon systems we now have in place for energy, transportation, food production and so many other areas when we know that these are unsustainable? Where is the much-needed movement toward solar, wind and geothermal power? Where are the moves to stimulate Canadian made, green job making alternatives? The countless facets of our country's life will be in deep trouble in the coming years. This budget and the government's continuing direction is awful. Here in Saskatchewan, where the majority of our drinking water comes from glaciers high in the Alberta mountains, we will be facing a huge crisis in the coming years as glaciers disappear due to human influenced climate change. Instead of looking forward to these, the government is continuing to rely simply on bitumen and natural resource extraction. I do believe, I truly believe that an engaged and organized citizenry is a chief way in which we can move this current government aside”.
We share those concerns and we will be working to move the government aside on October 19, 2015.
A woman from another Conservative held riding in Edmonton is concerned about the OAS changes. She writes, “This is a bad, bad idea. This is not just a spending saving. It's a renunciation of the social policies Canadians have painstakingly established after the hard lessons of two world wars and the Great Depression. OAS and GIC were established because seniors living in dire poverty was a national shame. But after 20 years of significant reductions in the situation, the elderly poverty rate has been increasing since the mid-1990s. It's shameful. Here in Alberta, in 2006 more than 50% of seniors, whether single or a couple, lived on a total before tax income of less than $24,000 per person.
“The number of seniors living on the precarious edge of severe poverty is increasing, as everyday living costs increase and user fees for health care services, for pharmaceuticals, for vision and dental care, for food, utilities, transportation and rent are continually shifting the cost of survival, let alone quality of life, to vulnerable individuals and their families.
“Provincial and municipal governments are left to try to offset the consequences, with increasing pressure on provincial and municipal revenues. We wonder why property taxes are increasing. We have to subsidize seniors as well as support food banks and homeless shelters because of the federal government's irresponsibility.
“Reducing income security will have consequences in every area of the lives of seniors, their families and their communities. There will be no miracle to prevent this. It doesn't matter less to me that it will perhaps not affect me personally. It will affect my children and grandchildren, and that matters. It will increase the cost of other services, increase the profits of financial services. It's a bad, bad idea. Shame on this government.”
We say to her that we agree with her. Shame on the government. Canadian families and seniors deserve better than what the government is doing.
I must say I am very impressed with the remarkable energy of the NDP caucus. It is amazing, regardless of what class members were in. Most of the class here is 2011. There are those from the class of 2008 as well, and I am from the class of 2004. Regardless of the class, we have a very energetic, hard-working, disciplined, effective, high-class group of NDP MPs in the House of Commons, and I really appreciate their support.
They give me energy as well. I have to admit that I have been up speaking now for 13 or 14 hours and even though I am galvanized, of course, by the information I am bringing forward from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, I have to admit that I am looking forward to sitting down and having a beer tonight, a little later on.
The reality is that the issues are too compelling, when we talk about how this is impacting veterans and manual labourers. I talked earlier today about that poignant letter from Mr. McDonnell, who talked about floor installers and how difficult it is for them with this forced retirement age of 67. We talked about kids who have written in from across this country and what it means now that the government has taken away their futures. It has made it impossible for them to get post-secondary educations. Student debt loads are bigger than ever, but at the same time it is wrenching away the youth program that was in place.
When we hear about all of these issues on the NDP side of the House, we believe we have to push on and keep speaking out. We do not see any alternative to speaking out as loudly, clearly and strongly as we can on behalf of Canadians.
This one is from another Canadian in Ottawa, Ontario, and it states:
“In 1967 a report on first nations education said, 'Let someone hazard a guess as to what year or what century significant changes toward real equality will be noted in the achievements of children?' Forty-five years later, the federal budget says that first nations children need to keep waiting and that the Prime Minister has given no date as to when the inequality will end. The multiple federal government funding inequalities in children's services on reserves, in areas like education, child welfare, languages, recreation, water, housing and sewer on reserves pile up on the hopes and dreams of this generation of children. Canadians expect more of their government than excuses for giving children less because of their race. The time for equitable funding structures and ways that respond to the culture and needs of first nations children is now.”
We agree with Ms. Blackstock. We agree that the time for equitable funding for first nations children is now, not some time in the future, not cutting back services. It is now.
These are the voices of Canadians that have been raised.
Because I wanted to do this, for just a moment I will set aside the notes. I know they will be coming back to the topic of Katimavik shortly, and I will certainly do that also.
We talked earlier about the issues around the cutbacks to Aboriginal Affairs Canada and how that will impact what has been a massive deficit in the lives of aboriginal Canadians. We know about the visit of our former leader, the member of Parliament for Hull—Aylmer, to Attawapiskat and how deplorable the situation is up there. That is one of the key areas of the budget.
Before I go on to some of the emails we have received from those concerned about the cuts to the youth program, Katimavik, briefly for the record I want to raise the actuarial table as well as the issue from the Parliamentary Budget Officer with respect to the sustainability of OAS. Tomorrow we will hear from all the Conservatives the comments contained in the prepackaged PMO's kit. They are all going to be saying the same thing. However, for the last three days, Canadians have finally had their place front and centre in the House of Commons. The voices of hundreds of Canadians have finally been provided through Twitter, Facebook, email and the ordinary handwritten letter. I think it is important for Canadians to know what the real facts are as they hear the prepackaged comments from the PMO tomorrow.
We talked earlier about how this budget cuts away the facts. It cuts away the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute, and it guts Statistics Canada. Yet again, that is what the government is choosing to do. Therefore, we need to establish the facts prior to the prepackaged comments that will come tomorrow.
I want to submit the evidence. When I started this debate on Friday, I said this in a sense was putting the government on trial for poor economic management, because on Friday we talked about the appallingly poor economic management of the government. On Monday and Tuesday we talked about the budget cuts and what that represents.
To my sense, this is a kind of a trial into the government's behaviour. There is no doubt about that. We are submitting evidence and ultimately the public will judge. In a sense, the public will get their opportunity as a jury to function on the government on October 19, 2015. That is the date of the next election. That is when Canadians will be looking at all the evidence we have submitted, and the government will submit whatever facts it manages to cook up or come up with. At that point, we will see what the verdict of the Canadian people is.
Tomorrow, when the government members stand up and all say the same thing, it will be pretty well the same speech. However, it will be a speech that talks about how the OAS was not viable, how it is difficult and tough to force Canadians to work two more years, but they will all say they did not have a choice.
Therefore I am submitting as evidence the government's own actuarial table. What it says is that in 2012, this year, reading from the government's own document, the total of the OAS and GIS and allowances, as a percentage of GDP, was 2.43% of GDP for the ongoing sustainability of OAS in 2012.
Let us look ahead at the same actuarial table, if we fast forward to 2060. This year it is 2.43%. In 2060 it is 2.35%.
In other words, as a percentage of GDP, that is the impact of the OAS as it currently is constituted, not with this additional two years of work, not with the pain of people having $30,000 less for their retirement, not with the pain and the penalties that are applied particularly to hard-working Canadians. The government seems to be absolutely punishing manual workers, the floor installers, the carpenters, the many we have heard from over the last few days. The government is saying, “Oh, those manual workers. We're going to punish them. They can't work. Their bodies are broken after 30 or 35 years of working. Well, they'll just have to sleep on the streets because they're not going to get their OAS until 67”.
However, it is doing all of that predicated on the notion that somehow OAS is not sustainable. I will mention this figure one more time. This year, it is 2.43% of GDP. In 2060, it will be 2.35%. That is 0.08% less than it is this year.
This is the lie the government is putting forward. It is simply not true to say OAS is not sustainable in the long term. This is from the government's own actuarial tables.
Second, I submit for evidence that what we have here is the Parliamentary Budget Officer's discussion, his summary of the “Federal Fiscal Sustainability and Elderly Benefits”. It says the following is true: OAS is sustainable in the long term.
The summary of that document that is available through the Parliamentary Budget Office shows the federal sustainability, and elderly benefits are sustainable. It says that very clearly. It says elderly benefits are projected to decline gradually to below the former level of GDP by the end of the projection horizon as the baby boom cohorts expire and as growth in the average benefit continues to lag growth in real GDP by capita.
I submit those two reports, the government's own actuarial tables and the PBO's “Federal Fiscal Sustainability and Elderly Benefits” as well.
I am just going to try to go back. I have some concluding remarks, of course, that I am going to make, as I committed to this morning. I thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour who is reminding me, and my colleague across the way is absolutely right that he making sure I get everything in that I need to get in, and that, of course, is the budgetary amendment we will be offering. That gives me about 20 minutes.
I will move on to a number of comments made about Katimavik by younger Canadians. I thank the younger Canadians who have flooded our offices with comments about the cutbacks to the youth program. I would like to say there is absolutely no way we can even begin to read all the comments into the record about the youth program that has been so savagely cut by the government. I know that so many youth are concerned and have been raising this concern.
We will read a few more into the record, but I know there will be hundreds who may be disappointed today. However, we will continue to fight for Katimavik. There is no doubt about that. Those comments are going to be very useful.
Mr. Forsyth from Hamilton, Ontario said, “I am an environmental studies student at York University who is proud to call Hamilton my home. I am disgusted with the budget that has been recently released. I am deeply saddened to see that Katimavik's funding has been cut completely and the program will no longer be able to continue providing Canadian youth from all walks of life the opportunity of a lifetime. Katimavik gives youth the opportunity to travel the country, to provide volunteer work for NGOs and not-for-profits, to soul search and find direction in life, to learn new languages and about new cultures. More importantly, the program gives its participants the chance to engage as a citizen and grow as a person. I am afraid that this government doesn't see how much good a program like Katimavik can do for our country and for communities.”
I thank Mr. Forsyth for his comments.
Mr. Christie wrote, “I write to you about the benefits of Katimavik across our nation. The benefits keep non-profit and social services stable and keep youth engaged in communities across Canada, making changes in their lives as well as work experience. Katimavik has credits towards certain schools and programs upon completion as well, including the school I will be attending, the University of Capilano in the Lower Mainland of B.C. The service that Katimavik provides is very substantial for non-profits that can barely keep themselves afloat and the underprivileged in the north and elsewhere. Katimavik provides youth growth and changes the majority of our youth who partake in the program. With unemployment rates rising, Katimavik helps not only to give youth a job to volunteer at, but the experience of that volunteer placement to help serve them better in the job market after. The Conservative government is worried about costs and that it is too expensive even after Katimavik's 35 years of service to the country. I disagree. Please help save Katimavik.”
I thank Mr. Christie for his comments.
A constituent from Winnipeg, Manitoba said, “The government is focusing exclusively on the 30,000 alumni who have benefited from the program and use this number to justify the cut to an expensive program, but this is not just about the 30,000 alumni. This program touched the lives of thousands of field staff and office staff across the country, work supervisors, billeting families, local Katimavik committee members, community members and volunteers, the participants' family members and the hundreds of thousands of others who have crossed paths with the program. This is not an expensive program that benefits a small number of people. It is a valuable program that has touched the lives of millions. For every dollar invested in Katimavik, more than $2 is generated in economic return, and this figure doesn't take into account the fact that participants continue giving back to the community long after the program is over. We need to shift the focus away from this number and represent properly the millions of people who have been changed because of Katimavik.”
I thank her for her letter.
Mr. Hébert wrote, “Katimavik has taken my life in a whole new direction. Before Katimavik, I was a drug addicted bartender-waiter and stuck in a rut without wanting to return to school and the apathy in my life. Katimavik gave me a whole new outlook on the world, people and life. It has opened my eyes to countless things such as empathy, work ethic, community engagement, critical thinking and a passion to improve my/our country. I returned to be project leader with Katimavik as it was the most challenging thing I have ever done. It provided great experiences, growth and learning for myself and those around me. I still give back to communities that aren't mine because it's still my country. I owe my life to Katimavik for all that it has given me and allowed me to give to others.”
I thank Mr. Hébert very much for his honesty in bringing forward that eloquent defence of Katimavik.
Ms. Fudge from St. John's, Newfoundland, speaking of Katimavik said, “This program has a major impact on Canadian society which can be seen in the lives of young people developing into engaged and socially active adults and the numerous volunteer hours that help community-based organizations by bringing together English and French Canadians, and most importantly, in the definition of a Canadian identity. This program is uniquely Canadian and deserves a place in the development of our culture. Please voice your support to continue funding the Katimavik program.”
We are. All 102 NDP MPs are voicing their support for Katimavik's continuation.
I find it difficult to read all of the notes that are coming in. There are a lot of them, particularly from Conservative-held ridings. It is very clear that the young people of this country who are writing in defence of Katimavik are saying much more than just about the cuts that have happened in this meanspirited Conservative budget.
It is much more than about Katimavik. When the young people are writing in and they are talking about opportunity, talking about their nation, what they are doing is starting a dialogue with all of us. What they are saying is that they do not like the direction in which the country is headed. They are saying that what they want is the kind of government with the kind of direction that responds to fundamental Canadian values.
We have heard it today from so many Canadians, those values of fairness, solidarity, taking care of each other, and working together towards a common goal. All of these hundreds of Canadians who have been writing, tweeting, and posting on Facebook, and there are more coming in even as I speak. My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie are watching them roll in right now.
They are all sending a message to the government and to the entire House of Commons. What they are saying is that the budget represents a watershed. What this has done, the callousness with which the government has approached the whole idea of the budget, the impugnity the government seems to be taking to renege on all of its election commitments, and all of us saw when the Prime Minister stared Canada in the face and said, “I will not cut health care transfers. I will not cut retirement security. I will not cut services.” He made that commitment to all of us, to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Canadians see now that those promises are hollow. They see in this budget that is not what the government is going to do. The government is taking the country in a completely different direction from what it promised and what the Prime Minister promised.
What we are hearing today from so many Canadians from coast to coast to coast is that Canadians believe that all of us deserve better, that Canada deserves better. That is the message we are getting from so many people. It is a message that has had an impact certainly on all of us as we have been listening. We have been watching the emails roll in. We have seen the smoke come out of our fax machine as faxes come in from across the country. We have seen the comments on Twitter and the postings on Facebook. It has certainly had an impact on us. We hope it has had an impact on Conservative members of Parliament.
Before I start my concluding remarks, I want to reference something I said earlier today, about the gentleman from Surrey, British Columbia, Mr. McKay, a lifelong Conservative. All his life he has been voting for the Conservative Party. Mr. McKay said:
I will start by saying you are doing a great job, as I watched you today Monday April the 2nd 2012 on the parliamentary channel here in Surrey B.C.... I have been a long-standing voter for the Conservatives for quite a lot of years now....I am 60 years of age and I am on disability. I have never been so upset as I am now with this Government of Canada. When they play with people's lives as they are doing by cutting jobs, playing with the pension plan, it is heartbreaking to a lot of people, but when they start cutting funding for [our] youth in this Country [it] is totally sickening. If they would put more funds towards helping [our] youth of today we would not need so many jails to house them.
This lifelong Conservative who never voted NDP in his entire life said:
I hope you and your party members keep up the pressure and get this changed before there is severe damage done to our great country. Like I said before, I have been a voter for the Conservatives for years now. But people do and can change [their] way of thinking. I have been talking to a lot of people and friends my age and we are all thinking of changing the way we think about our government of the day. Even though I have never voted NDP, I just might start thinking of changing my mind. So thank you for your time. Please, you and the NDP keep up the good work you are all doing towards this issue.
Here is a lifelong Conservative who is changing his mind. After all the comments that have come in from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we are certainly hoping that there are Conservative MPs who will listen to their constituents and change their minds about what is such a bad budget, because Canadian families deserve better than what is in this budget.
I said yesterday in my concluding remarks that today I would talk about the role New Democrats have played in this House of Commons, the role we have played over the last few days and the role we continue to play under the leadership of our new leader, the member for Outremont.
I mentioned the first of four chapters, and that was the two first labour MPs down at the end of the House of Commons, J.S. Woodsworth and A.A. Heaps. Both of them were ridiculed for having brought forward this radical idea that we could have old age pensions, that seniors could actually live on a decent income. They saw their chance in the mid-1920s. Even though they were ridiculed, they pushed the minority government. As a result of that, today we have old age pensions in our country.
Later on those labour parties got together across the country and they formed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.