Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak in this House representing my constituency of Parkdale—High Park. I am very happy to talk about the priorities of my community, because budgets are about priorities. They are about making decisions and choices.
Canadians were hoping that this budget would reflect their priorities. They wanted to see measures that would help their kids get further ahead. They wanted to see measures that would create good-quality, family-supporting jobs.
Sadly, what we see in this budget, after a decade in power, is how woefully out of touch the government is with the priorities of Canadians. Middle-class families are working longer and harder and are falling further behind, and the current government does not reach out to help them and their families do better.
After so many years of Conservative government, we have seen seven years of deficit budgets and all of the cuts the Conservatives have made to veterans' services, to Coast Guard facilities, to meat and railway inspectors, to the EI process, and to many other services, which puts Canadians' quality of life and safety at risk.
The Conservatives reduced health transfers to the provinces. They did it unilaterally, without consultation, and that will begin in 2017 and will cut health care funding by $36 billion over a decade. It is shameful. Health care is our most important social program, and the Conservatives are turning their backs on it. They will also force Canadians to work two years longer, to age 67, before they can collect OAS in retirement.
While this budget has plenty of giveaways for Canadians at the top end of the income scale, who are already doing very well, sadly, average Canadians will find very little relief.
While some of the tax cuts and tax benefits for the wealthy are so immediate they would actually be retroactive, when it comes to infrastructure to relieve the gridlock in our major cities and the lack of public transportation investment, sadly, we would have to wait another two years for a very small amount of money, and then it would be tied up in so much red tape it would be difficult to access it. Frankly, it would be too little too late. It is a very sad commentary on the current government.
The financial and ecological costs of the Conservatives' failures in this budget will be paid for years and decades to come. That is a very sad commentary on a government that is supposed to be looking out for the best interests of Canadians. Canadians work very hard every day. They expect their government to have a bit broader vision, to look to the future to ensure that their interests are protected.
Canadians today are working harder than ever and are having trouble making ends meet. Far too many are working two or three part-time jobs trying to cobble together a decent income. Far too many Canadians are in jobs that are part-time, temporary, and lower-paid, and they are not getting the kinds of benefits and the retirement income security of generations earlier.
There are over 200,000 young Canadians who are graduating with record levels of debt and are desperate to find work. In my community, I have talked to families with young children who are paying $2,000 and $3,000 each month for child care. It is a disgrace. That is if they are lucky enough to find child care spaces. There are seniors whose retirement income does not keep up with the cost of living.
In the short time allowed to me, I want to address the priorities of Canadians in our community, in Parkdale—High Park, those who have been left out of the current government's agenda, left out, once again, of a budget that is supposed to benefit the country as a whole.
Let me talk about rail safety. Few issues have generated as much concern in my community as the government's slow pace of modernizing our country's rail safety regime. Two years after the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, and dozens of announcements by the minister, the very same volatile crude oil is rolling through downtown Toronto in the very same type of tank cars that exploded at Lac-Mégantic in Quebec.
The budget contains nothing to ensure a safer rail system, and the cuts to rail safety programs at Transport Canada remain in place. The government has not even reversed those cuts. It is absolutely outrageous after that horrific accident at Lac-Mégantic.
The other rail in my community is the new Union-Pearson Express link, which will be operating beginning next month powered by outdated diesel engines, with no confirmed date for electrification. The budget could have made a big difference for transit and the environment by investing in this significant infrastructure project and by helping with electrification, but the money is not there. There is nothing in the budget for rail safety. That is shocking, and it frankly is a disgrace.
Speaking of public transit, the most obvious half-measure in the budget is the proposed public transit fund. First, the funding is delayed two years, and the $250 million, as I said, is too little too late. To access it, municipalities have to navigate the red tape of risky P3s through PPP Canada.
As we recall, the Auditor General of Ontario revealed in December of last year that the Liberal provincial government had wasted nearly $8 billion on the extra costs associated with public-private partnerships. That does not have to be the case, I suppose, with every P3, but that has certainly been our experience in Ontario.
With this overwhelming evidence, the Conservatives insist on taking a page from the Ontario Liberal notebook that will put our urgently needed transit funding at risk. Municipalities like Toronto, where gridlock costs the city of Toronto $6 billion a year, need stable, long-term, direct funding for transit and infrastructure projects. They need predictable funding to allow municipalities to plan ahead for population growth and density changes and to move to greener transit vehicles and improved services for their residents.
On that point, I want to talk about climate change, because somehow the government forgot about climate change in the budget. Unbelievably, the words “climate change” do not appear in this budget. A budget is supposed to be a blueprint for the future about the direction of our country, and sadly, there is nothing to address climate change.
The budget has nothing for roads or bridges, and nothing for upgrading infrastructure to adapt to climate change. In fact, the words “climate change”, as I said, do not appear in the budget. For a Prime Minister who called climate change “the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today”, and that is a direct quote, this omission in the government's fiscal blueprint is truly stunning and horribly disappointing.
I also want to talk about jobs. The proportion of Canadians with jobs in Canada today is at the lowest point in a decade. There are some measures the NDP proposed that make a lot of sense, things like reducing the small business tax, and we are glad to see that the government has agreed with us and has put this measure in the budget. Although it does not happen as quickly as we would have liked, we are glad to see that the Conservatives are supporting our approach to creating jobs. However, they really missed the boat when it comes to capping credit card fees, and they missed the boat in showing leadership in making Canada an advanced manufacturing power.
The Conservatives have stood by while we have lost over 400,000 jobs over their term in office. Between 2011 and 2014, Canada received 0.2% of all global dollars for the auto industry, so the government has been missing in action, and we can see the results in the hollowing out of the middle class in Canada.
There is nothing for long-term stable funding for the CBC, NFB, Telefilm Canada, and the Canada media fund to demonstrate the government's commitment to strengthening Canada's place in the world as a creative and innovative country.
There is nothing in the budget for housing to take the pressure off Canadians. We have seen federal funding agreements for housing expire.
I could go on about the priorities in my community. Rather than spending money on a major tax credit that nine out of ten families will not get through income splitting the government could have invested in the priorities of Canadians.
The NDP has a practical plan to make life better for the middle class. That is why I will vote for the NDP amendment to the budget and for a positive and hopeful alternative that will help build a fairer, stronger Canada.