Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when I started my speech, I started by saying that it was actually very telling that the first Conservative speech after the Minister of Finance was by the Minister of State for Agriculture, who is also the minister responsible for small and medium-sized businesses and the member for Beauce, the same one who advocates economic policies that could actually be called crank economic policies, such as zero inflation and a return to the gold standard. Those are obviously policies that make no sense in modern economics and yet that same member, who advocated those policies, gave the first speech, saying that the budget would be good for the economy.
This is not an economic budget; it is a political budget. I started talking about that yesterday, and I want to have a chance to talk about some other aspects in the few minutes that I have left.
Yesterday I talked about the fact that the budget was balanced in an extremely artificial manner, first by dipping into the contingency fund, and then by selling—at a loss—the government's shares in GM as well as dipping into the EI fund surplus, which is projected to be $1.8 billion next year. What a coincidence—the projected budget surplus is $1.4 billion. However, in 2013, then finance minister Jim Flaherty specified that a Conservative government would never use a surplus in the EI fund to create a surplus in the consolidated revenue fund. He pointed out that that is what the Liberals did, and said the Conservatives would never do that. This, then, contradicts the policy of the Conservatives' former finance minister, and yet they clearly do not feel any shame about taking that approach.
What is more, the EI surplus has been moved over to the consolidated revenue fund. This was done at the expense of its accessibility and to the detriment of seasonal workers, even though some regions, like eastern Quebec and the Maritimes, still rely heavily on such workers. We are reducing access to EI and creating a surplus in the EI fund, just so the Conservative government can use it however it wants.
I also talked about income splitting. The Conservatives talk about ending a discriminatory treatment. There is no discriminatory treatment. A couple in which one person earns $100,000 while the other, quite often a woman, stays at home, is not living the same reality as a couple where one person earns $50,0000 or even $30,000 and the other person is forced to go to work so that they can make ends meet. There is no comparison between a couple where one person earns $100,000 and the other person stays home, and a couple with two, three, or four children where one person earns $50,000 and the other is forced to work. That couple also has to pay for child care in order to be able to join the workforce and provide for the family.
Not only do the Conservatives' analogies not hold water, but yesterday in the media we learned that the then clerk of the Privy Council advised the Prime Minister at the time not to announce the measure before it was presented to Parliament. The Prime Minister and his cabinet ignored that advice, completely disregarding parliamentary institutions and members of the House. Those are not my words. A former legislative clerk of the House was quoted as saying that in the media.
I spoke about many of these things yesterday. I want to finish my speech by talking about other aspects of the budget, in particular the increase in the contribution limit for TFSAs from $5,500 to $10,000. Once again, I heard my colleague from Beauce say that there are 10 million people who have TFSAs and that increasing the limit will benefit these 10 million people. That is absurd. Yes, there may be 10 million people who have opened a TFSA. That shows how the TFSA may be a useful tool. However, only 15% of the people who contribute to a TFSA put in the maximum amount of $5,500. Most Canadian families do not have $60,000 at the end of six years to put in a TFSA. However, the $10,000 ceiling will ensure that this tool is no longer used solely as a savings vehicle, but will become a tax shelter for the rich. There are certainly exceptions, like people who save a lot and who may be able to save 15%, 20% or 25% of their income, especially, as my colleague mentioned, after the sale of a house. Those are exceptions. Honestly, the current ceiling of $5,500 is adequate. Once again, increasing it to $10,000 is simply going to benefit those people who are fortunate or wealthy.
These measures will cause a lot of problems for the Canadian treasury, while the measures we want to put in place across the country, such as the $15 child care program, will directly benefit these people, in particular the middle class. For example, two spouses who each earn $30,000 or $40,000 will not be able to take advantage of income splitting.
They will be able to take advantage of the universal child care benefit, and we are obviously not opposed to this improvement. However, we must put things in context. This is not a gift from the Conservative government to families. Improvements to the universal child care benefit were largely funded by the elimination of the child tax credit. Canadians filed their tax returns, and parents of young children were probably surprised to learn that this line no longer existed. Billions of dollars were given back to families through this child tax credit, which the government used to make this improvement. I do not want to hear the Conservatives tell us that this is a gift for families. It came, in large part, from the elimination of another tax credit.
I would like to take the last few minutes of my speech to talk about job creation because the budget does in fact contain measures that promote job creation. However, it is interesting that the measures that the government adopted are NDP measures. I know that the members on the other side of the House will not like hearing what I am about to say.
On February 6, 2015, the NDP moved an opposition motion in the House. I am going to read it again because it is very educational. It says:
That the House call on the government to take immediate action to build a balanced economy, support the middle class and encourage manufacturing and small business job creation by: (a) extending the accelerated capital cost allowance by two years; (b) reducing the small business income tax rate from 11% to 10% immediately, and then to 9% when finances permit; and (c) introducing an Innovation Tax Credit to support investment in machinery, equipment and property to further innovation and increase productivity.
The Conservatives voted against the NDP's motion that opposition day, but now these measures are included in the budget. They told us that we did not understand the economy; yet, now these measures are in the budget.
Once again, this budget is about politics, not economics. It is a pre-election budget that does not in any way take into account the reality of Canadian families, a reality that the NDP recognizes by proposing such measures as raising the minimum wage to $15 for employees of companies under federal jurisdiction and negotiating a pan-Canadian child care program that would cost families a maximum of $15 a day and would give Quebec the right to opt out with compensation, since it already has its own system. The Conservatives changed the retirement age to 67, but we want to reinstate the retirement age of 65.
The Conservatives' policies were harmful to the economy and Canadian families. When the New Democrats take office in 2015, we will change that and really work for Canadian families, the middle class and workers.