Mr. Speaker, the federal budget does not meet the needs of Londoners. My constituents cannot afford this do-nothing budget. They are looking for action on accountability and affordability. They are looking for retirement security and the creation of good jobs.
Instead, the Conservatives seem ready to put partisanship first and delay help for families, who are still struggling, until next year, which is conveniently an election year. With thousands more Londoners unemployed today than before the recession, London families need help now. Quite simply, they should not be made to wait until it is politically convenient for the Conservatives.
This is the reason that the NDP has proposed practical, low-cost solutions that would help give families a fair break. These solutions include capping ATM fees, banning pay-to-pay billing, cracking down on payday lenders, reigning in credit card rates, job creation tax credits for youth and small business, bringing back the ecoENERGY home retrofit tax credit, and restoring funding for veterans. We need an increased investment in Service Canada and Veterans Affairs. Both of these services need an increase in the number of skilled staff persons, to address the growing needs of Canadians requiring the services that these offices provide.
Veterans have been clear about what they wanted from this budget. Instead, the Conservatives are pushing ahead with their cuts and closures. The Canadian military is still waiting on medical personnel who specialize in mental health. Promises were made in 2009 and 2012 for more mental health experts for military personnel on bases, promises that have not been met. Military personnel with critical mental health needs, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, are waiting for six months to see a mental health provider. This could become a matter of life and death.
What Londoners need to see in this budget are initiatives for manufacturing, food production and processing, and small business start-up help. I was sorry to see that there was very little help to get Londoners back to work. With 11,300 fewer manufacturing and food processing jobs in the area since 2006, we are in desperate need of concrete solutions.
We are glad that the Conservatives are promising to act on some new democratic proposals, like banning pay-to-pay billing, and reducing the costs of paying bills for consumers. However, they have made these promises before and Canadians are still waiting for them to follow through. Not long ago, the Conservatives promised to address the problem of high credit card rates. Nothing has happened; credit card interest rates are still unacceptably high.
Budgets are about making choices. Instead of attacking the challenges facing Canadian families, the Conservatives are attacking public servants, unions, charities, environmental groups, anyone with a criticism.
We should all give serious consideration to what a federal government is supposed to do. Government is supposed to be the entity that protects communities, builds the economy, supports important public services, and safeguards the vulnerable.
Unfortunately, the Conservative approach to seniors over the past few budgets has focused on tax breaks that only the wealthy can access. The government has seen fit to raise the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS to 67. It is an attack on the vulnerable.
The New Democrats would take a different approach. We have been calling for an increase to the GIS to ensure that seniors would not face retirement in poverty. We have committed to reversing the changes to OAS and GIS and re-establishing the age of 65 for eligibility. Vulnerable seniors cannot hold on until age 67.
The New Democrats have also long called for the government to work with the provinces to negotiate an increase to the CPP, ensuring that all working Canadians have retirement funds on which they can rely. The Conservative government has been clear in its refusal to increase the CPP, leaving many Canadians without retirement security. This budget does not include any indication that the Conservatives would reverse their position. It is indeed a do-nothing budget when it comes to the retirement security of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time with a colleague.
The new horizons for seniors program was trumpeted in this budget as receiving an increase in funding. However, part of its funding was set to end this year. The increase would be $5 million per year, the same amount that was set to expire. The so-called increase is not really an increase. It is nothing less than sleight of hand.
These valuable programs enrich the lives of seniors, build community, and contribute to the local economy. Seniors' organizations, such as the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada and the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation, have long called on the government to take action to ensure that seniors are made a priority by the federal government: to negotiate with the provinces to implement the much-needed increase to the CPP and to take action to end senior poverty. However, the Conservative government has failed time and time again on both counts. Canadians deserve better.
Canadians deserve a plan to address the backlogs at Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to ensure fair and timely service for everyone. In this budget, there would be no new money for Service Canada, despite the continued increases to its responsibility to deliver programs.
Canadians deserve more money for Veterans Affairs Canada and the reopening of the Veterans Affairs Canada offices. Our military desperately needs investment in mental health care for our soldiers and our veterans. I am disappointed to see that there would be no investment at all in mental health.
Canadians deserve a strategy for improving the manufacturing and food processing sectors. What we got are further tax reductions for big corporations involved in manufacturing and processing, with tax breaks totalling more than $60 billion from 2008 to 2014. There was an extension of this measure, for an additional $1.5 billion. For these profitable big businesses, these tax breaks do not include any guarantee of job creation or any other benefit to our communities. I would say it is a failure to build the economy.
What Canadians deserve is a real jobs strategy that would actually help people get back to work, not more TV commercials offering false hope. We need to hear about real progress with manufacturing, food production and processing, and small business start-up help.
Canadians also deserve a plan to keep our postal service. The current plan for Canada Post will stop doorstep delivery for millions of Canadians, while dramatically increasing postal rates. Ending doorstep delivery is a real threat to vulnerable Canadians with mobility issues, including seniors and people living with disabilities. Hiking the cost of stamps by 59% will hurt overburdened families and small businesses that rely on those mail services.
The Conservatives often say that they want the government to run like a business, but what business survives by making customers pay more to get less? New Democrats believe it is time to modernize Canada Post to better serve Canadians and strengthen the bottom line, but getting there requires innovation, not decimation.
Unfortunately, instead of keeping their promise to protect Canadian consumers, the Conservatives are too busy protecting themselves and their insider friends in the Senate and the PMO.
Canada Post connects Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is an important entity, and it is important to keep that connection and keep it affordable. We can do this. The government could have done it in the budget. Canadians deserve better than a do-nothing budget that tells them to manage with less from a government that does not understand its obligations to the people.
As I said, government exists to look after those who are vulnerable, to create a climate where jobs can be created, to protect communities, and to deliver services. This budget does absolutely none of that. We see layoff after layoff at Service Canada, among the people who provide the services. We have seen veterans offices closed. We have seen tax cuts to corporate entities that do not need them and make huge profits.
We see nothing of significance to the small and medium businesses that are part of our communities, that believe in our communities, and that actually create jobs. There is nothing for the youth. Our young people deserve the opportunity for access to the economy. Small and medium businesses could do that with a tax credit in the budget, but it is not there. That is a travesty.