Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by making an announcement. I want to say just how reassured I was—relieved even—to learn yesterday that our great Prime Minister likes pandas. I think it should be mentioned in the House. A love of pandas is a great thing, especially since they are endangered.
However, I would really have liked it if the Prime Minister had been as receptive to the young aboriginals who walked more than 1,600 kilometres to come here and say that their living conditions are horrendous, that their community is suffering and that they need the politicians in Ottawa to listen. Unfortunately, because of the pandas, the cries of these young aboriginals went unheard. I find that absolutely shameful.
This budget is nothing but smoke and mirrors; it is mere window dressing. It is Orwellian in its vocabulary. In George Orwell's 1984, everyone is happy when the government announces that chocolate rations are increasing to 50 grams per month. They immediately forget that their rations were 100 grams the month before and that the decrease is being passed off as an increase.
There are 300 pages of that in this budget—300 pages of phony announcements, incomplete numbers, recycled announcements and decreases in investments, which the Conservatives are trying to pass off as increases. They will be investing $53 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years. Bravo. How wonderful. However, if we really look at the facts and figures, it is clear that if they kept up the pace of this year's infrastructure investment, they would be spending $58 billion. They are trying to pass off a $5 billion reduction in infrastructure investment as an increase. That is what is happening in every single chapter of the budget.
I do not want to simply focus on incomplete numbers and the charade that is the latest Conservative budget. I want to emphasize the fact that it is an attack on Quebec. There are nasty surprises in this budget, and they will hurt Quebeckers, the middle class and families.
After butchering employment insurance, which has been discussed at length, the Conservatives are adding insult to injury: they are abandoning the job training agreement that was in place with the provinces. They are attacking Quebec's autonomy when it comes to control over how we train our youth and help them adapt to the labour market, and in a sense, although no one knows exactly how, they are privatizing the entire structure of job training. In fact, the Conservative government just made sure it could distribute thousands of cheques right across the country. We have already seen how this sort of thing turns out, under a government of a different political stripe.
Raising Mouvement Desjardins's taxes is another attack on Quebec. This is further discrimination against Quebec, against the pride of the Quebec economy and against Quebeckers' ability to save. These things will hurt people. The people of Quebec will receive less in dividends from the Caisses Desjardins because of the Conservative government.
One final aspect of the direct attack on Quebec's interests has to do with labour-sponsored investment funds. These funds have invested $10 billion in Quebec's economy over the years. This winning formula has paid off. Unfortunately, we have an ideological government that is attacking the formula of labour-sponsored investment funds, such as the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction CSN, to name a couple.
Why is this a direct attack on Quebec? Here is why: of the $350 million the government plans to collect, $312 million will come directly from Quebec. This Conservative government measure is completely short-sighted and unfair. It will undermine job creation and is an attack on workers' and Quebeckers' ability to save.
Since 1990, these funds have helped create, save or maintain half a million jobs in Quebec. This is a success story like no other. Businesses like Air Transat probably would not have been possible without the support of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.
These funds have special features, and the most important one is that they create and save jobs in Quebec. What do the Conservatives have against successful job creation measures? It is completely absurd. Even the Conseil du patronat du Québec said it was surprised by this decision because these investment funds benefit Quebec and especially the regions.
This is an attack on the Quebec model in many respects. We hope that the Conservative government will listen to reason and that we will be able to save the tax credit for labour-sponsored investment funds.
What is the role of these funds? Why are they particularly useful? They are different than other funds and complement them. These funds equalize supply, result in the economic diversification of the regions and are a significant source of capital for businesses that operate in sectors that are sometimes overlooked. The yields on these funds are not the highest, nor are they the lowest. Nevertheless, they are used throughout Quebec to create employment, help small and medium-sized businesses, and help businesses start up, modernize, buy new technology, and remain competitive and up to date. This has to be maintained.
The investor gets the benefit of a tax credit. That is what provides the return on the investment. That is why this tax credit exists, why the province created it and why the federal government has applied it for years. We must keep it. Otherwise, this investment will be less attractive and less profitable for workers.
What is rather absurd is that the government constantly boasts about the fact that it is not increasing taxes. However, taxes on such items as bicycles and fans have increased, as well as taxes on the Mouvement Desjardins
Abolishing the tax credit increases workers' taxes. Seven hundred thousand Quebeckers make regular contributions to these investment funds. The Fonds de solidarité FTQ has calculated that these people will pay $425 more in taxes on average. Most of these investors contribute by payroll deduction. For every $1,000 invested in these funds that create jobs in Quebec, the investor receives a $300 tax refund. This amount will be reduced to $150. For every $1,000 invested, the federal government will keep $150. That is $150 that will be taken out of workers' pockets.The least fortunate often are barely able to save a little money for their old age.
We often talk about the poverty of seniors. We had a good tool to encourage them to save, one that benefited them, Quebec, the regions and the companies and that allowed them to have a little nest egg for their retirement. However, now the Conservative government is trying to do away with that tool.
This is not very surprising coming from a party that announced in Davos, Switzerland, that the age of eligibility for old age security was going to increase from 65 to 67. That was the Conservatives' first attack on Canadian seniors and pension plans. We have just seen another phase of that attack with the elimination of the labour-sponsored funds tax credit. This is a very real cause for concern but, unfortunately, it is not surprising coming from the government.
I would like to quote Léopold Beaulieu, CEO of Fondaction, who said the following:
Such action by the federal government would deliver a serious blow to Quebec's economy in two ways. The only way that many people with low incomes can save for their retirement is to contribute to a labour-sponsored fund. [The only way.] These funds are a key source of funding for the development of many Quebec SMEs.
The government is killing two birds with one stone: it is attacking both the people and the SMEs of Quebec. The government is also attacking the Quebec model, which makes it possible to provide workers with economic training. Last year, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ alone made it possible to provide 295 courses and train 6,400 people. This fund helps people to better understand investments, share ownership and how their investments help to develop all the regions of Quebec.
Ideological decisions on labour-sponsored funds aside, this budget is seriously lacking in many other areas. It is never going help to stimulate the economy or create jobs. On the contrary, it is going to sink us deeper and deeper into debt and put us on the slippery slope to privatization. The Conservatives have not proposed any measures to fight poverty or provide social housing, and they are making even more cuts to measures that fight homelessness. They are attacking the poorest members of society.
That is why the NDP will be proud to vote against this budget that does not respect people.