House of Commons Hansard #227 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


The House resumed from March 21 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House deeply disappointed by yet another Conservative budget that disregards the real priorities of Canadians and instead pushes ahead stubbornly with an austerity agenda that will have real consequences for Canadian families.

In budget 2012, the Conservatives chose corporate giveaways and attacked the programs and services that Canadians rely on. While the Conservatives have promised to focus on jobs, budget 2013 instead focuses on job-killing austerity cuts. The Conservatives have not listened to Canadians. They are plowing ahead with cuts to pensions, health care and EI, while ignoring the serious threats facing our economy.

I am deeply disappointed today by yet another Conservative budget that disregards the real priorities of Canadians. Instead, it stubbornly continues with an austerity agenda that will have real consequences for Canadian families.

The Conservatives' 2012 budget provided corporate giveaways while attacking the programs and services that Canadians rely on. The Conservatives promised to focus on jobs, yet budget 2013 focuses on job-killing austerity cuts.

The Conservatives have not listened to Canadians. They are pushing ahead with cuts to pensions, health care and employment insurance, while ignoring the serious threats facing our economy.

This budget has been plagued by Conservative mismanagement. Just six years ago the Minister of Finance handed over skills training responsibility to the provinces. Now he is shutting those programs down and returning that money to the federal government. Following the 2008 economic crisis, the Minister of Finance begrudgingly ramped up infrastructure investment. Now he is cutting billions from infrastructure investments. Overall, these cuts will cost tens of thousands of jobs in cities and communities across the country.

The Conservatives claim to be strong fiscal managers, but the facts point to the contrary. The Minister of Finance missed his economic growth target for 2012 by 35%. He has presided over a $67 billion trade deficit. Private sector economists are now telling us that this year will be even worse.

The Minister of Finance has changed his budget projections so often it is difficult to take them seriously. As this budget is being tabled, Ottawa is running about $2 billion behind where the Minister of Finance wanted to be. Yet the minister's timetable for deficit reduction has little to do with external realities. Instead, a growing number of prominent bank economists, including Craig Alexander and Don Drummond, agree that the government has fixated on eliminating the deficit ahead of the next election.

Following a recent meeting with the Minister of Finance, BMO's chief economist Doug Porter told reporters it would probably be unwise for the federal government to step on the brake even further than it already has. There is also growing consensus, from the IMF to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, that austerity is not the right way to go. In fact, it is making the problem worse.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, former U.S. treasury secretary Dr. Lawrence Summers agreed that austerity is not an effective solution for today's circumstances. Of his speech at Davos, economic reporter Chrystia Freeland wrote:

His most important point is that economic policy is more like medical treatment than religion. It isn’t a dogma that should be cleaved to under every circumstance....

It is comfortable to take a religious view of economics: Once you’ve chosen your creed, you never have to think again. But when it comes to deficits--and maybe a lot else besides--that may not be how the world works.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives are determined to move forward with their austerity agenda, even as the negative side effects of their policies are being felt here in Canada.

Yesterday, Carol Goar of the Toronto Star wrote this of the austerity agenda of the Minister of Finance. She wrote:

Since he began chopping programs and expenditures, the economy has drooped, the job market has sagged, consumers have pulled back and the corporate sector has hunkered down, sitting on its earnings.

The same formula has delivered worse results in Europe.

In fact, an IMF report released in January estimated that in the European case, every dollar in government spending cuts would cost $1.50 in lost output. The bottom line? We cannot cut our way to prosperity. It just does not work.

The Conservatives like to crow about their abilities as fiscal managers, but it is increasingly clear that they are more interested in ideological dogma than they are in getting our economy back on track. Let us be clear. The Conservative government caused our current deficit, not overspending. In 2008, the Prime Minister proclaimed to Canadians there would be no recession here. The Conservatives refused to take action until their government was nearly defeated in the House of Commons. More and more economists agree that our ability to react to the 2008 financial crisis was severely undercut by the government's reckless insistence on deep corporate tax cuts.

Appealing to their Conservative base helped get the government into this mess, but it will not help get us out. The fact is that in a stalling economy we cannot cut our way to growth. Instead, the best way to balance the budget is to invest in job creation and kickstart economic growth.

The NDP supports investment in skills training and believes that education and training are important factors in creating high-quality, high-paying jobs.

However, right now, for every job available, there are six Canadians looking for work. This week, Statistics Canada confirmed that this number has remained relatively steady since last year, and the Conservatives' plan will not properly address the problem. The Conservatives are simply juggling money and trying to take credit for it.

The biggest economic challenge we are facing today is a weak Conservative economy. Canada fared better than many other countries throughout the last recession, but Canadians and their economy are falling behind.

Unemployment remains high—more than 7% nationally. Some provinces have unemployment rates in the double digits, and more than 1.3 million Canadians are still without work.

In addition, a number of segments of the population, such as youth, aboriginals and new Canadians, are still facing unemployment rates that are far higher than the average.

Household debt continues to reach unprecedented levels. It currently sits at 167% of disposable income.

At a time when families are barely making ends meets, hundreds of thousands of Canadians hold part-time and precarious jobs, when they would prefer permanent, full-time positions.

We just received a United Way Toronto and McMaster University study. This report reveals that 50% of the workers in Hamilton and Toronto are working in precarious jobs. That is no way to sustain an economy.

In the last week, we were disappointed to hear that Canada fell out of the top 10 of the human development index, a ranking we had dominated throughout most of the 1990s. In fact, Canada fell six spots over the last year alone. Conservatives are content to say that other countries have just improved faster than we have. The reality is that Canada's growth on the index has been substantially lower than many of its peers, especially those near the top of the list. Unlike most of the top 10, our growing income inequality has dragged down Canada's ranking on the UN list. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada has given Canada a “C” grade, and ranked us 12 out of 17 peer countries on the issue of income inequality.

It is clear that the government's choices are holding back our social improvements. Yet Conservatives would have us believe, “There's nothing left to see here. Move along”.

They have spent untold tax dollars on advertisements for their budgets, even buying expensive ad time during the Super Bowl and the Oscars. However, budget 2013 shows us once again that this is just a shell game. There is no Oscar for them.

On infrastructure, training and support for manufacturing, the Conservatives are mostly just shifting around money and trying to make it look like they are taking real action. They claim to be dedicated to closing tax loopholes, but their cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency are a serious hindrance to achieving that goal. This budget policy brought to Canadians is more like a Don Draper budget, all spin and no substance. We are not Mad Men here.

Canadians want to do better and they deserve a government that is committed to doing better too. We need a government that is willing to aim higher, not one that is content to simply say that all is well. We know the Conservatives get their policy ideas from just a select few, even though the finance committee undertakes pre-budget consultations every year. I will tell members what we heard from Canadians about their priorities for 2013.

The Assembly of First Nations told us that:

—investments in First Nation education systems become even more crucial to ensuring that First Nation citizens can take advantage of existing and projected opportunities. Canada requires a well-trained workforce, especially in the booming resource extraction industry, and First Nation entrants into the labour market will be crucial in filling current and future labour market requirements in all sectors, skilled trades and professions.

However, budget 2013 not only fails to address the specific challenges faced by aboriginal people, it actually introduces a regressive new workfare program for first nation communities. Conservatives are touting their goal of having an education act in place by 2014 and claim to be committed to consultation with first nations, but the Assembly of First Nations has opted out of this process already due to the Conservatives' stubborn piecemeal approach.

Instead of building a new, more respectful relationship with first nations, the measures in budget 2013 reveal an insulting, in fact, even a paternalistic approach. Despite supporting the NDP motion on Shannen's Dream for equitable funding for first nation students, the Conservatives are failing to provide any additional funding to close the 30% funding gap for students in first nation communities. Shannen's Dream remains just that, a dream. We need action from the Conservative government.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities emphasized the link between productivity and infrastructure investment. It told us:

—during the period when productivity in the United States outpaced Canada’s, infrastructure investment in Canada declined by 3.5 percent while in the United States it grew by 24 percent. The discrepancy between Canada’s infrastructure investments and that of other global competitors, especially China and the European Union, are even greater.

In fact, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates Canada's infrastructure deficit at $123 billion. That was in 2007 and it is even greater today.

The Canadian Construction Association agreed. Its representative told the committee that “there can be no economic growth without state-of-the-art and well-maintained critical public infrastructure”. The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies also confirmed that “A national, long-term infrastructure investment strategy can eliminate the economic costs of infrastructure underinvestment and promote a sustained economic recovery in Canada”.

Yet, in budget 2013, and I know they have announced a lot of big numbers, there will be a decline in infrastructure spending. Of the numbers they have announced, most will kick in in 2020 or even beyond.

The Conservatives can play with the numbers all they want, but the fact remains that the federal government's investment in infrastructure over the next few years will still be less than $5 billion. Money will only be available to cash-strapped provinces if they can afford to match the federal government's contribution. The New Democrats obviously want taxpayers to have value for their money.

We are open to finding creative ways to do this.

We are open to the idea of finding creative ways to get the private sector to participate. The private sector can sometimes offer the best value but, in other cases, it may be more costly to use private sector intermediaries. We should not force communities to choose one option over another.

We have seen the underwhelming take-up of the P3 fund. I think only about 30% of it has been taken up. Municipalities do not want to be forced into costly P3 solutions. That is not the way to treat municipalities. Meanwhile, the necessary plan for long-term, predictable, sustainable infrastructure funding, long requested by municipalities across the country, is still missing from the equation.

The Canadian Labour Congress told us:

Business investments are not where they should be. The across-the-board corporate tax cut didn't deliver the promised investments in real assets....Thus, these cuts failed to boost economic growth and productivity and didn't help create more and better jobs in Canada.

Once again, with budget 2013, the Conservatives have failed to introduce new measures to create jobs. In fact, there are still 300,000 more unemployed people than before the recession. While the budget extends the existing small business job creation tax credit, which we support, it fails to provide any new tax incentives to encourage youth job creation. We are just not doing the job we need to be doing on behalf of our young people. It is not only a personal tragedy for young people that they cannot get a start in the workplace, it is also a drag on our economy. If young people do not get a good start early in their lives, not just in any job but in a decent job, that negativity, lack of income and underperformance tends to extend for a number of years. That is a loss to our economy and to our society, and it is a tragedy in the individual lives of young people across Canada.

Rather than offering a real program for skills training and job creating for aboriginal youth, the budget forces first nations communities to impose a workfare program on youth living on reserve.

Campaign 2000 told the committee:

This period of slow economic growth and high personal debt requires the federal government to prevent and reduce poverty for the health and well-being of all Canadians.

Nothing is being done in budget 2013 to address the record levels of household debt. Instead, the Conservative government has remained focused on an austerity agenda that has made major cuts to the services families rely on. Budget 2013 pushes ahead with $36 billion in reckless cuts to provincial health care transfers. That is still looming on the horizon.

Even in the wake of multiple food safety scares this year, the budget does nothing to reverse the $56.1 million in dangerous cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, putting the security of our food supply at risk. Budget 2013 also continues with changes to EI that will force workers to take a 30% pay cut, despite overwhelming opposition from Canadians. That is simply unacceptable. We do not need a low-wage strategy; we need a good jobs strategy here in Canada.

Meanwhile, the budget reverses the Conservative's 2007 decision to hand over responsibility for skills training to the provinces, but it provides no new money for education and training. That is great public administration: download the programs to the provinces, and then without consultation, upload the programs to the federal government. It is clear to us that the Conservatives have not been listening to Canadians.

However, New Democrats have been listening every step of the way. That is why we are focused on the real things Canadians want, on changes for Canadians—real people in Canada—on the solutions they are looking for and on the real priorities in the lives of Canadians. That is what we are going to deliver when we get the chance.

We need solutions like investing in small businesses to create jobs for young people. We have a tremendous opportunity with the creativity, education, enthusiasm and ingenuity of our young people that, frankly, we are squandering. However, New Democrats are going to do better.

Youth unemployment, which is at a whopping 13.5%, is two and a half times the national rate. There are still 240,000 more young people unemployed than there were before the recession, but all the budget does for youth job creation is re-announce funding for 5,000 internships.

TD Economics has said that the spike in youth unemployment from the recent recession will cost our economy $10.7 billion in the next three years alone. This tragedy for individuals is also a tragedy for our overall economy and our overall society. Clearly, putting people to work is the best way to reduce our deficit.

There is no need to reinvent or privatize public services. There is no need to trample on economic or labour rights. Instead, New Democrats know that supporting small and medium-sized businesses, supporting the manufacturing sector and creating good, value-added, high-quality, high-paying jobs is the real solution to our deficit and to strengthening our economy.

New Democrats are focused on solutions like long-term predictable transit investment that our cities need to shorten commute times. We have to get past this gridlock. It is polluting, stressful and a tremendous drag on our overall economy. We hear that right across the country. Canadians face some of the world's longest daily commutes. Traffic gridlock is costing our economy $10 billion each and every year. In fact, the Toronto Region Board of Trade has said that our infrastructure deficit is a leading drag on our region's economy.

After years of federal downloading, our cities cannot afford to develop modern transit systems, the systems we need and deserve. They cannot do it all on their own. Too much has been downloaded to them without the fiscal tools to be able to pay the bills for that. In fact, Canadian municipalities are now responsible for 53% of infrastructure in the country, but they receive just 8¢ of every tax dollar collected. Meanwhile, Canada remains the only G8 country without a national transit strategy. How does that make any sense in a modern economy?

We need a plan to improve business productivity and keep our communities moving.

The New Democrats are focusing on solutions such as reliable federal investments to renew infrastructure for the next generation. Canada's infrastructure was built after the second world war. It needs to be renewed. Whether Canadians travel by car, motorcycle or bicycle, they have had enough of potholes and congested or closed roads. It is ridiculous for people to be apprehensive about getting behind the wheel for fear that the overpasses might collapse.

For years now, the federal government has been downloading its responsibilities. Our communities cannot afford to renovate all the crumbling infrastructure. The 2013 budget only aggravates the problem by making billions of dollars in cuts to infrastructure investment and by forcing local communities to use costly private sector intermediaries.

New Democrats are focused on real solutions that support Canadian families through strengthening retirement security and health care, such as ensuring decent, long-term health care benefits for all Canadian veterans, including modern-day veterans. The women and men who serve this country deserve our deepest respect, from the moment they sign up through the rest of their lives. Too many Canadian veterans are struggling even to access the health care they need. Those who served after the Korean War are finding themselves unable to access long-term care services offered by Veterans Affairs. Now the Conservatives are moving to cut some $210 million from veterans' health care. How does that make sense?

Canadians deserve better from the budget, and they deserve better from the government. Conservatives have mismanaged file after file. They are poor managers and poor public administrators. Canada's stagnant economic growth has had serious consequences for families. Even as the Parliamentary Budget Officer is in court trying to get information about the cost of the last round of Conservative cuts, this budget provides few details on how the numbers will all shake out. I guess we will have to wait and see what they bring in for a budget implementation act.

Now the finance minister has gone to Asia, rather than staying to answer questions about his budget. In contrast, New Democrats are here, and we are standing up for Canadian families. New Democrats are here and are focused on the real priorities of Canadians. We have practical, sustainable plans to build a fairer, greener, more prosperous Canada for all. Remember that according to finance department numbers, when we look at all federal, provincial and territorial budgets, it is New Democrats who balance the books more often than any other party, so that is more good news for Canadians. That is a record we are proud of. It is a record Canadians deserve, and it is one they are going to get in 2015.

In 2011, a study by the International Monetary Fund found:

[W]hen growth is looked at over the long term, the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist. In fact equality appears to be an important ingredient in promoting and sustaining growth.

We could not agree more. Canadians are counting on us for leadership and to bring forward ideas and proposals that will put the public interest first.

We will not accept a budget that pushes aside the concerns of first nations groups and pushes stubbornly ahead without true consultation. We will not accept a budget that fails to move Canada forward in the 21st century economy and that leaves a huge environmental debt for future generations. We will not accept a budget that continues to put all our eggs in the resource basket instead of investing in the balanced economy that has driven growth and prosperity since the second world war. We will not accept a budget that attempts to balance the books by downloading the costs to struggling provinces and municipalities, and we will not accept a budget that not only ignores the concerns of Canadians but that will actually make it harder for families to make ends meet.

New Democrats will continue to work every day in the interests of all Canadians. That is why we will not support Conservative budget 2013. That is also why I would like to introduce the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House not approve the budgetary policy of the government as it:

a) cuts billions of dollars in infrastructure funding that will cost tens of thousands of jobs in communities across the country;

b) continues with devastating cuts to health care, pensions and Employment Insurance;

c) provides no new funding for skills training, dictating a federal takeover of responsibility for skills training programs;

d) pushes forward with cuts to vital environmental programs such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy;

e) fails to address record levels of household debt;

f) provides no new tax credit for youth job creation;

g) does nothing to encourage private business to invest the nearly $600 billion in so-called “dead money” currently on their books;

h) fails to close the 30% funding gap for students in First Nations communities;

i) forces First Nations communities to impose workfare programs for youth living on reserves;

j) takes over $2.3 billion out of the pockets of small businesses through changes to the dividend tax credit, without offsetting measures to mitigate this significant tax increase;

k) cuts support for innovation by eliminating support for labour sponsored venture capital funds;

l) hobbles the competitiveness of credit unions and thus reduces competition for big banks; and

m) looks to empty the pockets of Canadians by applying GST/HST to hospital parking.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The amendment is in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification).

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan


Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I was very disappointed to hear that the critic for finance from the official opposition is encouraging her colleagues to vote against things that she has actually asked for, particularly training.

These were areas that were very important to western Canada, training and matching skills to the workers. I would suggest that the member look at that area in particular because she did emphasize skills and training and how important good jobs were for Canadians.

That particular area means that the jobs will be filled by skilled workers. There is going to be an interest, whether or not they are the private sector. The federal government is helping put together the private sector and students.

I am wondering why she would criticize that, or the community infrastructure improvement fund, or the building Canada fund, something municipalities have asked for. Has the member noticed that the mayors across Canada have received this budget very well? I am not sure if the member understands that this is what the mayors and the FCM have asked for across Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is right in saying that there has been a call for more skills training. What I have focused on is that with this budget the government would just be moving existing money around. In order to get any of this money spent in the future, the government members would have to sit down with the provinces and bargain agreements to use the money already out there that provinces are already using for skills training. The provinces are not being consulted on this. In some ways, it may do the opposite of what the member is calling for because there would have to be a lengthy negotiation with the provinces on skills training. It would have been more productive if the government had done these negotiations in advance and was actually putting in some additional money, bringing new money to the table to achieve skills training.

On infrastructure, I know that municipalities have been calling for greater investment. That is the problem. This budget would actually see the amount of money go down as time goes on.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for her speech. It was thoughtful and the tone was very productive.

I will pick up on a theme that she raised and that the minister across the floor also raised a moment ago. The Prime Minister was apparently quoted in pre-budget communication strategy leaks to the media saying that he was “mad as hell” on the question of training and vacant jobs. If he was mad as hell before this budget, he must be positively furious this morning.

There would be no new money for skills training. The Conservatives would actually freeze funding at 2007 levels, which is actually a 10% cut if we adjust for inflation. How can that be, when youth unemployment is up 5% since 2007 and when over one-third of Canadians between the ages of 25 and 30 are still living at home with their parents? It would be fine to simply make that claim without juxtaposing it against other expenditures.

Here is the big whopper that Canadians are getting very frustrated about. We know the current government has spent over $600 million on advertising since its arrival, and on present trends by the next election it will be $1 billion of taxpayer dollars on TV, Internet and radio ads, and $29 million for billboards across Canada. For most Canadians, that is simply obscene.

How is it possible that the government can reconcile providing no new money for jobs training and skills training while spending $600 million on advertising?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very informative and interesting question. It speaks to the point I was making during my speech, that this budget would have more to do with Don Draper of Mad Men than with real job creation and building the Canadian economy. I do not know how only funding the advertising industry is going to get this economy back on track, but young people today are tragically being left behind. Not only are they facing the highest tuition fees ever and the highest levels of student debt, but when they get their education and are out in the workforce, if they get any kind of employment, it is very precarious. It is not enough to sustain them and they are having trouble even paying off their student debts.

These training programs are pretty thin gruel. It would be existing money that supposedly the federal government would upload from the provinces, after downloading it a few years ago. How would this all work? The Conservatives would have to sit down with the provinces and consult with them and negotiate agreements. The current government's history has been a “my way or the highway” approach, so the Conservatives are not great at negotiation.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Parkdale—High Park on her speech, as well as her in-depth, methodical analysis of this budget, which does not meet Canadians' expectations. Based on the consultations we have held over the past year as the official opposition, clearly, this is not the direction we want to take.

The austerity introduced in 2012 will continue for many years. It will kill jobs and prevent economic growth, and this will result in a loss of revenue for the Canadian government, which will be forced to make further budget cuts that will reduce services to Canadians.

I would like to ask my colleague a question about one specific measure: the phasing-out of the labour-sponsored funds tax credit. As we know, labour funds received an additional 15% tax credit. The government decided to eliminate that, under the pretext that labour funds and the usual RRSPs issued by financial institutions had to be on a level playing field.

There is a big difference between labour funds and other kinds of private RRSPs. Labour funds invest that money in businesses that are struggling, in businesses that are just starting up and in businesses that will create jobs. Losing this tax credit will lead to a lack of competition. In addition, it will create not only an uneven playing field for these funds, but also a loss of competitiveness.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on that particular measure.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It is a very pertinent question because this government claims to be talking about jobs, job creation and creating prosperity when, in reality, it is cutting jobs and hindering prosperity.

With the labour-sponsored funds tax credit, we have seen and continue to see direct investment in job creation, and the number of jobs created can be tallied.

Eliminating this tax credit means eliminating this job creation tool, which will not be replaced by real job creation measures. This is really mind-boggling, coming from this government. I would say that it is more ideological than pragmatic.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is in regard to the issue of citizenship. The government has made a commitment to give $40 million toward the speeding up of processing times. We need a goal established by the government to have citizenship applications processed in a timely fashion, within that 12 months. That is the most important thing. At the very tail end of the budget, it implies there is going to be a citizenship fee increase. Could the member provide comment in terms of tax increases versus user fee increases?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has increased costs to Canadians, but often by stealth. Conservatives like to say they are not increasing taxes, but EI premiums go up, fees go up. Through privatization measures, things tend to cost more for Canadians. For newcomers who are often scrambling to get every penny they can when they come to Canada, seeing an increase in the fee to come here and become citizens is yet another barrier to new Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to budget 2013.

I have to say that, based on the Conservatives' fanfare as they released part of the budget in the days leading up to yesterday, I was expecting great things from budget 2013.

After all, we were led to believe that this budget would help address Canada's skills gap: 260,000 jobs without people; 1.3 million people without jobs. We were told that the skills gap was the most pressing issue of our time and that new investments would form the cornerstone of this budget.

Reports said that the Prime Minister was mad as hell about Canada's training programs and that he would not take it anymore. However, when we finally had a chance to see the budget, it did not even come close to this hype.

Not only is there no new money for training, the government is actually freezing its training budget at 2007 levels. What has happened since 2007? The economy went into a recession, from which the Canadian labour market has yet to recover, and inflation over the last six years has driven prices up by 10%, so a dollar today simply does not go as far as it did in 2007.

What we have now is an even greater need for training programs to get Canadians back to work, but the government is actually providing fewer resources than before. In the lead up to the budget, the Conservatives identified the correct problem, but in the budget they failed to provide an adequate solution.

If the Prime Minister was mad as hell before the budget, he must be absolutely furious today, because the measures in budget 2013 will not improve training in Canada. With less money for training than before, a 10% cut, when we factor in inflation, simply will not get the job done. It simply will not be enough to satisfy someone who is actually concerned about Canada's skills gap.

I imagine that if the Prime Minister had been serious about this, he would have accepted the premiers' invitation to sit down with them in Halifax.

Perhaps what is really irking the Prime Minister is the fact that he has not been able to take credit for Canada's training programs. Maybe that is why he did not sit down with the premiers in Halifax to talk about the economy. Imagine, the premiers asked the Prime Minister to sit down with them last autumn to discuss the economy at their premiers' meeting in Halifax, and the Prime Minister said no, that he did not have to do that.

Budget 2013 actually helps the Prime Minister's real objective, and that is to stamp the economic action plan logo on every training program in Canada. However, the Conservatives should not be preoccupied simply with ensuring that the federal government gets all of the credit. They should be focusing on helping Canadians get jobs. On that point, budget 2013 fails.

The budget attaches new strings to the training funds that require matching provincial money. Cash-strapped provinces simply may not be able to afford it. British Columbia has said that it was alarmed at the change. Alberta is not sure even if it can afford to participate in the program.

The Quebec Minister of Finance, Nicolas Marceau, said, “—this is a direct attack on Quebec. It is economic sabotage.”

Clearly, these proposed changes in budget 2013 require a greater level of co-operation between the federal government and the provinces, but the Conservatives have got off to a very bad start.

When it comes to training, what the Conservatives have delivered is not an economic action plan. It is an economic inaction plan. In terms of Infrastructure, this is another area where budget 2013 does not live up to the hype.

There is a national consensus that we must do more to invest in our communities. Some say that there is $160 billion infrastructure deficit. We have known for years that the government's infrastructure plan from budget 2007 would expire in 2014, and we were led to believe that budget 2013 would deliver significant new money to help Canadian cities and communities invest in infrastructure.

Not only does budget 2013 fail to deliver the goods, the Conservatives are actually cutting new infrastructure funding in order to balance the budget by 2015. Starting in 2014, the Conservatives will cut new funding for provincial and municipal infrastructure by almost $2 billion a year, compared to what was actually already in budget 2007.

New money under the building Canada fund drops from $1.7 billion in 2013 to a paltry $210 million for each year until the budget is supposedly balanced. On top of that, the Conservatives are playing a shell game with infrastructure. They are taking infrastructure money from budget 2007 that they have failed to yet get out the door and are spreading it over the next five years and trying to call it new money. It is another example of the Conservatives economic inaction plan.

We were told that the budget would focus on manufacturing. This is an area where the Conservatives have a dismal record. In fact, Canada's manufacturing sector has hemorrhaged jobs, an astounding 350,000 net jobs lost since the Conservatives took office in 2006. Clearly, the status quo is not working.

What does budget 2013 do? The cornerstone of the budget's plan for this sector is another two year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This is the third time the government has extended this program for exactly two years.

The private sector has been asking for a five year extension so it can plan ahead for long-term capital investments and make strategic investments based on the long term, not on the availability of government funds. Instead the Conservatives are only prepared to offer more of the same.

Whether it is training, infrastructure or manufacturing, budget 2013 just does not live up to the Conservative hype.

In terms of the deficit, this is a budget that back loads its investments at the end of this decade and then projects a surplus in 2015 that is no bigger than a rounding error. The Conservatives are basing their budget surplus on rosy revenue projections and cuts to new funding for infrastructure. This is more false advertising. Again, the Conservatives economic inaction plan is full of it.

The Conservatives' plan promises jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. What does it actually deliver? On the jobs front, the percentage of Canadians with paid work is still lower than it was in 2008. Canada's labour market still has not recovered from the recession.

It is even harder for young Canadians to find work. The employment rate today for young people is more than five points worse than prior to the recession. More Canadians in their late twenties are stuck living at home than before. In the late 1990s, one in five Canadians in their late twenties was still living at home with parents. Today, it is one in three. Young Canadians simply cannot afford to move out. Their incomes have dropped since 2008. They are being squeezed between being underemployed or unemployed and having to pay crippling levels of student debt.

Lost in yesterday's budget coverage was the release of a TD Bank report on student loans. According to this report, student debt in Canada now stands at almost a trillion dollars. It is the second highest source of debt in Canada next to home mortgages. The 90-plus day delinquency rate on student loans is at an all time high. The Government of Canada has been writing off hundreds of millions in Canada student loans over the last few years.

Too many young Canadians are losing hope. We run the risk of creating a lost generation of youth who are burdened with high debt and have no useful work experience.

Young Canadians, their parents and their grandparents are looking to the government for a concrete strategy to create new opportunities for young Canadians. Instead of delivering a real plan to help our youth, budget 2013 focuses its so-called job opportunities for youth plan on more government advertising. Under this so-called youth jobs plan, the Conservatives are taking $19 million from existing programs and reallocating that money to advertising, as though the solution to the country's job crisis for young Canadians is more economic action plan ads on TV.

Budget 2013 also places Canadian jobs at risk by continuing to hike job-killing EI premiums. In fact, the average Canadian worker will pay an extra $50 in EI premiums next year and his or her employer will face even higher increases.

With measures like these, no wonder budget 2013 assumes that Canada's unemployment rate in 2014 and 2015 will in fact go even higher than previously predicted.

The Conservatives also talk about growth and long-term prosperity. Well, the budget assumes that Canada's economy will actually slow down. In fact, the government had to reduce its growth projections for this year by more than a full percentage point.

It seems the only growth taking place in the Canadian economy right now is the growth in household debt. This does not bode well for the long-term prosperity of middle-class Canadians. Canadian families now owe a record $1.67 for every $1.00 of annual income. This level of personal debt is higher than American families were carrying prior to the crash.

Meanwhile, median household incomes have flatlined over the last four years. Canadian families may have bigger mortgages today, but they are in no better position to pay them. In fact, a growing number of Canadians are now struggling to pay their mortgages, even at low rates. They are petrified as to what will happen when rates go up. Making matters worse, housing prices are starting to soften.

For many Canadians, their home is not simply a place where they live, it is also part of their retirement plan. The experts say that Canadian home prices are now over-valued, and the Minister of Finance is partly to blame. It was the finance minister, with his risky mortgage scheme in budget 2006, that brought U.S.-style 40-year mortgages with no down payments to Canada. That scheme made 40-year mortgages the norm in Canada, it drove up housing prices and it helped to create a housing bubble.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will stop the hon. member there. He will still have about eight minutes left to conclude his remarks after question period. Right now, it is time for statements by members.

The BudgetStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, in yesterday's budget, the Minister of Finance should have changed course, but instead he once again unilaterally chose to pursue an Ottawa-centric agenda, one tinged with arrogance and disdain for Quebec and the regions.

Quebeckers wanted the government to change its mind about employment insurance reforms and the Canada pension plan and cancel cuts to economic development for the regions of Quebec, science, and programs and services offered by departments like Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Sadly, the government chose to stubbornly stay the course.

Moreover, the government is once again interfering in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, including labour. The federal government is tackling the deficit at Quebec's expense and resurrecting the fiscal imbalance.

There is no dialogue happening. As the saying goes, Ottawa wants what is good for you, and it will get your goods as well.

Infrastructure in Richmond HillStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the 45,000 families in my riding who call Richmond Hill their home. Residents of this diverse community enjoy a quality of life enhanced by a plethora of services and activities. Individuals from all fields of endeavour, youth and seniors, have benefited from the support provided by our government's economic action plan.

In keeping with Richmond Hill's tradition of producing champions, I was proud to recently stand with Mayor Dave Barrow and Richmond Hill resident and Canadian junior figure skating champion Anthony Kan to announce our government's contribution of $722,833 towards the much needed renovation of Elvis Stojko Arena. I was delighted to see that many of Richmond Hill's pre-budget recommendations were considered in economic action plan 2013.

I am honoured to be part of a team that is both listening and delivering results to my constituents, and indeed for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

World Water DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, 70% of our planet is covered by water and 70% of the human body is also made up of water. Today is World Water Day, and communities around the world are celebrating the importance of fresh water. Water is increasingly seen as blue gold, and today is an important reminder of the need to advocate for sustainable use of fresh water.

While Canada has 20% of the world's fresh water, only 7% of it is usable by humans. Many communities in Canada, including too many first nations, lack adequate water services. The protection of fresh water and the economies that depend on it are under attack by the Conservative government, which removed protection from 99% of Canada's lakes and rivers, closed the ELA, gutted fisheries protection from the Fisheries Act and scrapped thousands of environmental assessments from massive pipeline projects. Just yesterday, we learned that the government will slash another $100 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

I call on the government to immediately change course and for once stand with Canadians to protect our fresh water.

Retirement CongratulationsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank George Myatte, a Londoner who is being honoured today on the occasion of his retirement from the Canadian Forces. George has given so much more than just dedicated service; he is a true Canadian hero. He would not say so, but just look at his service to Canada. His career highlights include service in the Gulf war and the Bosnian war, as well as Kuwait and Yugoslavia. He has received countless honours and awards for his service. If ever anyone could be said to be a patriot, it is George Myatte.

In addition, he has been a driving force on behalf of London's military family resource centre and the Memory Project. These are testaments to his strong belief in giving back. Today, Londoners will gather to honour and thank George for his exemplary service. He has truly made London proud.

I look forward to seeing what the future holds for my friend. I know that he will take on his next endeavour with commitment, dignity and passion. George means many things to London and to Canada. To me, he is a dear friend of the highest order.

I thank him, I salute him and I honour him. On behalf of the House and our country, I would like to thank George for making a difference. Pro patria.

Georgina PalmerStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I stand to pay tribute to Georgina Palmer of Rocanville, Saskatchewan, who recently passed away in her 99th year. Georgina showed in so many ways the character of rural people who lived through the difficult years of the dirty thirties. Her home was open to all, night and day, and I was fortunate as a young 23-year-old farm activist to stay and learn from her the rural life of Saskatchewan prairie farmers.

An active member of the National Farmers Union and the Prosperity Women's Institute, she worked hard for her community. She loved to relate the stories of growing up in the Bear Creek area, which adjoins the Qu'Appelle Valley. Not at all ready to slow down after retiring from the farm, she worked her garden and did beadwork, quilting, crocheting and more. All of her work was for the benefit of others. She even started a thrift shop in her basement later in life, from which she made large donations to the community.

A beautiful life that came to an end, she died as she lived: as everyone's friend.

Stratford FestivalStatements By Members

March 22nd, 2013 / 11:05 a.m.


Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this spring the Stratford Festival will roar to life once again, bringing back the finest theatrical company in North America.

For 2013, the festival has outdone itself yet again, with a daring and impressive playbill sure to thrill experienced theatregoers and newcomers alike.

The list of not-to-miss productions this year includes Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof, The Three Musketeers, Othello, Tommy, Waiting for Godot and The Merchant of Venice.

Apart from world-class theatrical productions, the festival will hold a score of musical and cultural events.

I congratulate the Stratford Festival on its continued success and thank the festival for its countless contributions to the city of Stratford, the surrounding area and Canada. Over the decades the festival has added to the vibrancy and cultural wealth of the region, and I wish it all the best for 2013.

Brunswick MineStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to rise today to mark the end of an era in Acadie—Bathurst.

At the end of the month, the Brunswick Mine, located near Bathurst, will close its doors for good after 49 years in business. Eight hundred people will lose their jobs.

Brunswick Mine is an underground lead-zinc-copper mine. It began production in 1964. The Brunswick mine orebody was one of the largest underground zinc mines in the world well into the late nineties, and it produced more than 120 million tonnes of ore over the years.

In its heyday, the Brunswick Mine employed over 1,700 people. The closure of the mine will seriously affect northern New Brunswick's economy.

As a former Brunswick Mine miner, I feel for the workers, their families and the whole community.

I wish all of the employees who will be retiring a happy retirement, and I hope that the rest will find jobs they like.

I would like to thank Brunswick Mine for providing jobs for so many years in northeastern New Brunswick.

Tax Incentives for Charitable DonationsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2013 delivers real support for Canada's charities.

Responding to the finance committee's study on charitable giving that was triggered by my private member's motion, budget 2013 introduces the first-time donor's super credit, which will boost the charitable tax credit by 25% on donations of up to $1,000 in any one taxation year.

This innovative new measure will expand the donor base by encouraging those who are not giving to start giving. It will especially encourage young Canadians to become donors and build important relationships with charitable organizations.

Charities fulfill an important role in our communities, and I am pleased that our government is committed to collaborating with the charitable sector to support its work toward building a better society.

TuberculosisStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day. Last week I travelled with Results Canada to Malawi to view the impact of TB on people in the developing world and to view the incredible progress being made to combat this deadly disease.

TB kills over one million people every year and is spreading at alarming rates across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. TB is also a leading killer of people living with HIV, yet TB is preventable and curable with treatments costing as little as $20. I witnessed how Canadian investments in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria are tackling TB and HIV co-infection and making incredible headway treating these two diseases.

Canadian leadership by TB REACH has made it the number one procurer and distributor of the GeneXpert machine, a revolutionary DNA-based TB diagnostic tool.

As the member for Don Valley East, I can say that many of my constituents care about this issue, and I am proud that this Conservative government is recognized as a world leader in global TB control.

Schools on ReservesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I recently received letters and had the pleasure of meeting students from Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. These students are concerned about the state of education and schools on reserves in Canada.

These high school students are upset that first nations students attending schools on reserves receive a lower standard of education than students in the rest of Canada. These students recognize how important education is to their own future successes and want to make sure that the same opportunities are available for all young people in Canada.

We must ensure that equal per-student funding is available so that students are treated equitably no matter where they live in this great land.

I want to thank the students of Tamanawis for sharing their thoughts with me, but most of all I want to congratulate their parents, their teachers and the young people in Newton--North Delta for the love, hope and optimism they provide in an often dismal world.

Last Post FundStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the veterans and legions across my riding to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for increasing the funding envelope of the Last Post Fund.

The last post fund is the fund we use to show respect to our veteran soldiers, the ones who fought at Juno in Normandy, the ones who fought in the jungles of Burma, the ones who liberated millions of Europeans in World War II, a generation of soldiers who are coming to the ends of their lives.

Our government has answered their request to respect them by increasing the Last Post Fund from $3,600 to $7,300 to help and support their families with the funeral.

We need to show these veterans respect, both in life and in death. Our government has answered that call.

I call upon the opposition to stand and vote in favour of this budget. If it votes against budget 2013, it will be voting against every veteran across our country.

Silk IndustryStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Réjean Genest NDP Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about a highly innovative company located in the industrial hotbed of Granby. It is developing a textile fibre from milkweed, an indigenous plant.

This company is called Encore 3, and its name refers to the company values of “environment”, “co-operation”, “research” and “employment”. Its research has uncovered the extraordinary potential of milkweed. This ultra-light vegetable silk has proven to be a warmer insulator than goose feathers and polar fleece. Another one of its interesting characteristics is that it can absorb up to 40 times its weight in oil, which would be helpful in the case of oil spills in the ocean, for example.

Encore 3 just founded a growers' co-op to farm 1,000 hectares and develop a milkweed supply. The first harvest is expected in 2014.

Long live Quebec's silk industry.