This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #105 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 FinanceGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I certainly agree with the member. I would ask the member this simple question. The choice on Friday morning was to allow for the Conservatives to dominate debate, as they have in so many other cases, where they get most of the speaking spots and Conservative MP after Conservative MP stands in the House and regurgitates the same Prime Minister office talking points, every one of them, with the same message. We could have had three days of that or three days of hearing from Canadians, and that is who we have heard from, hundreds of Canadians.

From one end of the country to the other, all across Canada, they have spoken out against this budget. That is what we need to know. Everyone agrees that this is a bad budget, that it has a negative impact on Canadian families. Canadian families deserve better than that. They deserve much better than that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, over the last 13 hours, we listened to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, during which we began a conversation with Canadians about this budget, why it was so wrong and why we were opposed to it. Canadians want to hear what we are going to do as the opposition. I would like the member to speak more clearly about the fact that this is just the beginning of the kind of opposition there is going to be from this official opposition. There will be a structured, responsible conversation in the chamber and outside of it from coast to coast to coast.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to pay tribute to the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who has been at my side handing me tweets and Facebook postings throughout this entire day. He has been tireless. I do not think he has even taken any breaks.

Second, when my colleague talks about a structured, organized, energetic and strong opposition under the leadership of the member for Outremont, Canadians have not seen anything yet. We will fight hard for Canadian families on the floor of the House of Commons and right across the country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak, albeit briefly, to this motion.

I would like to request unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Kings—Hants.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to split his time with the member for Kings—Hants?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

April 3rd, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I have heard it said that this is a Liberal budget. I have heard it said by Andrew Coyne. I have heard it said by le chef du Bloc québécois, Daniel Paillé. I have heard it said by several Conservative members of Parliament. So, I want to devote the bulk of my very brief speech to the point that this is not a Liberal budget. There are several elements of the budget that a Liberal government would never have done.

On the question of old age security, a Liberal government would never have raised the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. When it comes to the transparency of budget cuts, a Liberal government would never have made cuts without transparency, as this Conservative government is doing. When it comes to the environment, a Liberal government would never have weakened the regulations and the environmental assessment process. And a Liberal government would never have cut Elections Canada’s budget just when Elections Canada needed those funds to conduct its investigations.

In more detail, the OAS going from 65 to 67 is utterly unnecessary because the thing is entirely stable and doable, according to the Chief Actuary. It is entirely unfair, it hits the most vulnerable seniors to the tune of some $30,000 over two years. It is generationally inequitable, it hits manual workers who are often unable to work beyond the age of 65. It places the burden on the provinces.

In terms of transparency, the budget contains weasel words, like they will “achieve efficiencies and savings through the consolidation and streamlining of administrative functions, program management”. These are words that mean nothing. When we were government, we did expenditure review and we produced detailed records of cuts in every single departmental program.

In terms of innovation, a Liberal government would never have cut the tax incentive to innovate. According to Andrew Dunn, a tax specialist at Deloitte Touche, “It's becoming more of a planned economy and less of a capitalist economy.” The Conservatives favour a planned economy where government picks winners by making transfers, rather than a capitalist economy based on tax incentives.

My time is short, so I will just close on the environment and Elections Canada. On the environment, we on the Liberal side would not oppose streamlining of environmental evaluation processes.

However, the problem is, one can tell that the Prime Minister clearly wants that pipeline to be built, come hell or high water, whatever the consequences for the environment and for aboriginal people. That is why we oppose it. He is not just streamlining environmental regulation, he is cutting it out so that he can get his favourite pipeline built. That is sufficient reason for us to oppose it.

Finally, on Elections Canada, clearly it is wrong to cut his budget by $7.5 million at a time when he needs the money to do this robocall investigation.

For all these reasons and for many more reasons, the Liberals will be voting against the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the Liberal member.

There was a Liberal government from 1993 to January 2006. Did the Liberal government not cut $400 million from the CBC? Did it not cut health spending to the point where the health care system became ill as a result, and still is today? Did the Liberal government take $57 billion away from working men and women? That was the theft of $57 billion from working men and women, a theft legalized by the Conservatives.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, the member should recall that in 1993, the Liberals had inherited a $42 billion deficit from the Conservatives. There was a budget crisis in the air. The IMF was going to come to Canada, and the Wall Street Journal said we were a third-world country. There was a crisis atmosphere. That is why the Liberals made significant cuts, as he says.

However, after balancing the budget in two years, we reinvested those funds in the economy, and in particular in the health accord and the agreement with the aboriginal people.

And if it had not been for the NDP bringing down the Liberal government in 2005, we would have enacted child care, we would have enacted Kelowna, and Canada would have been a much better place.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Just a little more time.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Did they not pick a bad time to get their fingers in the cookie jar?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Order.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, it sounds like bickering among good friend fellows.

I am curious. We know what happened in the 1990s. We know that $25 billion was cut from the provinces for health care and education by the Liberals. We know about the $125 billion infrastructure deficit that the Conservative government took over from the previous Liberal government. How does the member feel about the last 13 hours of debate by one member of the NDP? How does he feel about him trying to stifle debate, and in particular stifling debate of the Liberal Party?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I have never heard such a convoluted question.

However, he talks about infrastructure deficit. In the budget there is $150 million for infrastructure, enough to build about 150 miles of highway across the country. There is nothing on affordable housing, nothing significant on public transit, nothing to deal with the infrastructure problems of the country. Therefore, that is a highly delinquent budget in an area of a huge national infrastructure deficit.

As to his question about the NDP hogging the time, as my colleague from Winnipeg North pointed out, we did not approve of that at all.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Even their own members.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could just comment on the F-35 as a priority in spending, whether it is F-35 or jails?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, we do not need more jails. The crime rate has been coming down. We do need to replace the fighter jets. I used to be defence minister. As the Auditor General made clear today, the problems with the F-35 only began in 2006 when a government of a certain other party came to power. As was very clear from the Auditor General today, the Conservatives totally messed up on the F-35, there is no other way to put it. There is a huge amount of work to do to set things straight.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to focus my remarks on this budget on the issue of income inequality.

According to some recent polls, Canadians view income inequality as the most important issue facing the country. The gap between rich and poor, the increasing challenge for young people and low-income Canadians to make ends meet, is an issue of grave importance to a lot of Canadian families from coast to coast.

This budget does not discuss income inequality but, perversely, it does address it. I say perversely because it actually makes income inequality worse. The cutting of OAS makes the most vulnerable Canadians wait two extra years for their old age security. The Conservative excuse of sustainability is false. We have reports now from the Chief Actuary, from finance, from the OECD and from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that tell us that OAS is sustainable. The fact is that OAS, in 1993, was 2.7% of GDP. Today, in 2012, it is 2.4%. By 2030, it will be around 3.1%. But then later, by 2060, it will go down to about 2.3% of GDP. It is totally sustainable.

The Conservatives referenced that other countries have changed their pension systems. Well, they had to change their pension systems because their pension systems were not sustainable. In Canada, under the Chrétien and Martin governments, the changes made to CPP have enabled it to be sustainable for generations, in fact for the next 70 years.

The Conservatives are making a false argument. The OAS is sustainable in its current form. Even if sustainability were an issue, and we needed to address it, we would not address it by raising the age of OAS qualification. That would be a regressive step, punishing the most vulnerable, the poorest of the poor.

Let us look at who depends on OAS: 40% of Canadians who live on OAS make less than $20,000 per year; 53% of Canadians who live on OAS make less than $25,000 per year. Older, single women living in poverty depend disproportionately on OAS. Physical workers, those carpet layers, carpenters, pipe fitters and those working in a fish plant on their feet in a cold, damp environment all day, by the age of 65, their bodies are ready for a break.

It is important to realize that to qualify for GIS, people need to qualify for OAS. So the very poorest of the poor, Canada's most vulnerable, have to wait two more years, and that is about $30,000 for people who are living below the poverty line.

I would like to blame this on the law of unintended consequences, that somehow the Conservatives did not foresee this unintended consequence. The reality is that this is part of a Conservative agenda. When it comes to income inequality, this is not an unintended consequence. The Conservatives seem to be waging war on the poor.

In previous Conservative budgets, they introduced non-refundable tax credits, boutique credits for caregivers, volunteer firefighters, people with disabilities and a children's activity tax credit. Perversely, they did not make them refundable. As a result, low-income Canadians do not qualify. We have raised this over and over again.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, and organizations representing the disabled have raised this issue. Simply making these refundable as opposed to the current form of non-refundable would benefit low-income Canadians who need the help the most. However, the Conservatives refused to do this.

In terms of some of the changes they have made, the tax-free savings account and income-splitting that they are proposing at some point in the future when they achieve a mythical surplus, do not do anything for low-income Canadians. If people can afford to pay into retirement savings, the TFSA can help. If they cannot, then they do not get TFSA, I guess they get SFA.

The fact is that income disparity in Canada is a big issue. The gap between rich and poor, and income inequality is a major issue for Canadian families. It is important to realize that this recovery that the Conservatives speak of is an uneven recovery.

Unemployment in Canada is 1.4% higher than it was before the downturn. It has gone from 6% to 7.4%. Youth employment is at its worst in 10 years. If we break it down across the country, 60% of the jobs created in the last year were created in just two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, which depend on oil, gas and mining.

We realize that oil, gas and mining is good for the whole country but the reality is that other provinces are hemorrhaging jobs, such as in Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces. This could have been a great budget for the Conservatives to renew the ecoenergy retrofit program, creating jobs for young Canadians and the jobs of tomorrow in the green economy. The Conservatives cancelled that program three times but this time, I guess with the strong, stable national majority government, they do not need e to worry about these election type things at this point.

It is also important to realize that, in terms of income disparity, more than half of Canadian tax filers make less than $30,000 per year and two-thirds of Canadian tax filers make less than $40,000 per year. These are the people who are actually filing taxes. What about the number of Canadians who do not file taxes?

In this budget there were a number of attacks on Atlantic Canada. There were cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, ACOA, Marine Atlantic, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the elimination of the Atlantic investment tax credit.

I want to talk about my part of Nova Scotia in the Annapolis Valley. In Kings county, Hants county and Annapolis county, we have 10,000 fewer net full-time jobs compared to the fall of 2008. Seventeen hundred more people are unemployed and looking for work. The unemployment rate in my riding in the Annapolis Valley and in the riding of the member for West Nova has gone from 5% to 8.7% since 2008.

I also want to speak to the fiscal disparity between the provinces. This budget does nothing but increase it. It will impose billions of costs for new prisons onto provincial governments. It does nothing to preserve health care for the future and preserve the capacity as we see the gap between rich and poor provinces grow, as we see deficits pile onto the provinces that do not have a wealth of natural resources. This is a concern.

This is a “you're on your own budget”. If people are doing great in Canada right now, if they have a job, if they are in oil, gas and mining, that is fine. However, if they do not have a job, this budget leaves them behind.

We in the Liberal Party, believe we can do better. We need an economy and a recovery that benefits all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Therefore, I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding after the words “ideological reasons” the following:

j) force Canadians to make tremendous sacrifices by cutting their retirement income but fails to similarly increase the qualifying age from 65 to 67 for the Prime Minister's retiring allowance of two-thirds the sitting Prime Minister's salary; and

k) not make cuts to the budgets of ministerial offices or the Office of the Prime Minister.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I have looked through this budget to find any evidence of cuts to the kinds of perks that Canadians are looking for members of Parliament to take on. The Prime Minister is expanding this House of Commons by 30 seats, which will add millions in costs every year. The budget of the Prime Minister's Office is now, I believe, in excess of $10 million and yet the Conservatives are adding costs of $165 million to help pipelines, tankers and offshore drilling. They are adding $8 million so that the Canada Revenue Agency can go after charities.

Where is the fiscal responsibility in this budget? I know the hon. member for Kings—Hants is a bit of a fiscal hawk. I wonder what his thoughts are on the fiscal conservatism of this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I should have stated that the subamendment is in order.

The hon. member for Kings—Hants.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is utter hypocrisy that a government would preach restraint to Canadians and the public service when at the same time it is increasing by 30 members the House of Commons. In reality, there is no other parliament or congress in the world that, as population grows, increases its numbers; not the Bundestag, not the Congress in the U.S. and not Westminster. What they do is redistribute, which is quite reasonable. At a time of restraint, to add 30 new members of Parliament is madness. We are the only ones in the world who are doing that.

The leader of the Green Party also raised the issue of the inconsistency of the government spending over half a billion dollars on quasi-partisan government advertising and at the same time cutting CBC, which Canadians depend on, by 11%. At a time when we should be investing in public broadcasting and cutting partisan waste and advertising, the government is doing the opposite to promote its own agenda and not to promote Canadian culture.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I was wondering what the member thinks about some of the things in the budget. He talks about productivity and encourages the government to move forward with productivity. The budget provides an additional $50 million over two years to the youth employment strategy to assist more young people in gaining tangible skills and experience. It provides $6 million over three years to extend and expand the third quarter project to key centres across the country and it improves labour market opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. Further, it invests $74 million over two years to ensure that EI claimants benefit from accepting work.

Those are all things that are about productivity, about Canadians getting jobs, about Canadians having more opportunity and about small and medium businesses having more opportunities. Did the member not read that in the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, the member referred to one of the changes to EI, which is to reduce the clawback if recipients take some part-time work. That specific change makes some sense.

The changes in the budget to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, which the member for York West proposed to this House, would protect disability pensions when companies go bankrupt. That makes sense.

However, all those small programs to create jobs that the member described, their potential impact pales in comparison to the significant negative effect of raising payroll taxes by $600 million every year for the next three years. That is what this budget does. It is a bit of a shell game. The government puts $50 million or $10 million in this program and do something over here but then it increases payroll taxes, a direct tax on jobs, by $600 million per year at a time when unemployment is 1.4% higher than it was before the recession. That is the part that I have a quarrel with in this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I do know the shell game the Liberal member was talking about because when he was in the Liberal Party, which was some time after he was in the Conservative Party, the Liberals actually played a shell game. That was $25 billion in social transfers. My province of Alberta will never forget when the federal government said no to health care and no to education. We remember that shell game and I think most Canadians remember the Liberal shell game.

I had an opportunity to ask some questions earlier. I know the NDP member who spoke earlier got on tweeters and was starting to quote some people. I asked my own questions about that. I was wondering what people thought about what he was doing and I received some questions and comments on it. One comment was from Bruce from Toronto who said, “It hurts him more than you and me. He is waiting for a truck to arrive with a new shipment of policy and talking points”.

I would agree with him because I think that is exactly the situation. The NDP does not have any policy and therefore the only solution it has is to criticize our policy.

What is more clear than anything is when we recognize what our budget is. The budget in brief is available to all parliamentarians and I would encourage the members from the NDP and the Liberal Party to read it. If they cannot get the bigger book, which is also available to them, they might like to read this because it goes through, in very simple terms, what we are doing for Canadians. I think the title says it all, “Jobs Growth and Long-Term Prosperity”.

I did ask the NDP earlier whether he would stand up for pennies. He thought naturally, because I mentioned eliminating the penny, that is what I was asking. However, what I was asking him to do was to stand up for taxpayers because taxpayers are the ones who earn the pennies. They are the ones who earn the dollars and give us the right to be in this place by electing us.

I was doing some calculations earlier, because there are cutbacks in this place, as there are cutbacks right across the country. There are cutbacks on my pension. I have been in a wage freeze for a few years now, so I know that. However, he has taken 13 hours of this place in debate. Those 13 hours do calculate down to time and this place costs $440-some-odd million to run for a year, so he actually has taken about $6.5 million worth of taxpayer money to have his little shenanigans and to try to stifle debate by the Liberals.

I am not proud of that and I am not proud to be a member of Parliament who has the ability to do so. Although he has the right to speak, we also need to respect the penny and respect taxpayers and I do not see that respect coming from the other side.

I would like to talk about some of the great things in this budget--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member. It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the subamendment and the amendment now before the House.

The question is on the subamendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the subamendment?