Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be the last person to stand on this particular budget 2012, which is our plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Before I start into some technical parts of the budget, I have to make an observation about what has happened over the last few days. I have to note that the NDP official opposition only had one member who could even speak to this budget for three days. I have to appreciate his stamina, but reading tweets and emails for hour after hour leads me to believe that the NDP really did not have all that much to say against the budget.
We often hear concerns about time allocation because the opposition has so many people who need to speak to the issues. But again, I did find it very strange to watch that approach to this budget.
I have to look at the response by the Liberals. They had many opportunities to suggest an amendment that would be important to Canadians. What did they do? They chose to focus on the Prime Minister's retiring allowance. Soon after they actually made that amendment, they had to apologize when they realized their own party was responsible for the implementation of the policy.
In actual fact I think it is very telling that the debate over the last few days has really just been about tweets and minor amendments. It must mean we have this budget right.
What we need to do is understand how we plan to return to a balanced budget without raising taxes. It is important to start, first all, with reflecting on some of the extraordinary challenges we have faced in the last few years.
Between 2006 and 2008, we paid down $38 billion in national debt and reduced the tax burden to the lowest level in 50 years.
I did have to look at budget 2009, because I think it is an absolute critical piece to understanding where we are. This was when we were entering an extraordinary recession, called the great recession. Across the world, people were very concerned.
Our Minister of Finance, in budget 2009, said the following: “We are in the midst of an extraordinary global economic slowdown.... We will spend what is necessary to stimulate our economy to protect our future prosperity through Canada's economic action plan.... We will be spending for the purpose of stimulating the economy and to make many long-term investments that we would have had to make at any rate”.
He said we would not fall into permanent deficit, but lay out a plan to move out of deficit and back to surplus within five years.
Again, this was as we were heading into the recession. He had extraordinary insight in terms of what we needed to do to deal with it and move forward. He said that our stimulus spending was temporary and confined
I am so proud of the government. If we look at our current plan and look at the stimulus and how it really was confined to those two years, we did what we needed to do and we moved forward. The next thing he said was that we anticipated the budget balance would improve sharply, starting in 2011-12.
What have we seen? Dramatic improvements.
He said, “Once the economy recovers, we will ensure deficits incurred over the next five years are repaid and the debt burden is firmly on the downward track.... To accomplish this, we will set rigid spending targets, keeping program spending on average below the rate of nominal GDP growth.... We will do what is right and necessary for the good of our country, without placing the burden on our children and grandchildren”.
That was 2009. Again, I think we can see there was a plan, and that plan is working.
People look at this document we have in front of us, and some people wonder how it came about. It is important to recognize that this is not something that is crafted in offices. This is crafted through consultation across the country.
As members of the finance committee, we travelled from coast to coast to coast. We listened to Canadians. We put forward suggestions. Most members of Parliament met with their constituents. They had round tables, crafted and put in proposals. There are a couple in here that I would reflect upon that come from riding in Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
When I was first elected, Manny Jules, who was from the first nations land management, met with me and talked about economic prosperity. He talked about the ability for first nations property rights.
We announced that the government intends to move forward with legislation that would allow interested first nations to consider private property ownership within the current reserve boundaries.
It was interesting. The finance committee met with Mr. Jules and it met with four chiefs in Kamloops. We talked about how we could help them create economic prosperity.
Mr. Jules said very clearly that this is not something that is for everyone. It needs to be voluntary. However, again this was something that came from constituents. It came from chiefs in my riding. We believe we can create a future for our communities with something like this, so we saw that into the budget. It could be part of some transformation for the Indian bands, the first nations communities that choose this as an option.
Another simple story I like to look at involves the red tape reduction commission. In Kamloops, again, we heard from a business owner who said, “It was Christmas. I hired a temporary worker for a couple of weeks. I missed doing a report to Revenue Canada. The penalty that I was hit with was extraordinary. It was inappropriate”. They were really concerned about what they deemed a very unfair penalty assessed by CRA.
I note that in this budget we have a new policy to ensure these penalties are charged in a manner that is both fair and reasonable. When a business is unable to comply in a timely manner with a reporting obligation related to certain information returns, such as T4s, reduced penalties will be applied when the number of late returns is small.
So, that is one example of something significantly altering for a lot of people and a small example of an irritant, but these are examples of Canadians' input being reflected in the budget.
In summary, I am very proud to be part of a government that actually set out a path to see us through the global recession in 2009. We came out of the recession in better shape than most countries. We now have a path forward, in terms of doing exactly what we said we would do; that is to get back to a balanced budget and to create growth, jobs and long-term prosperity.