Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and offer my thoughts on Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill.
Once again, I have a number of reservations about this budget. Sadly, we on this side of the House cannot support it. Once again, the Conservatives have slipped several measures into this budget in order to justify their lament that the opposition does not support certain measures.
For example, we would like to support the measures to assist veterans, but the Conservatives have slipped them into a mammoth budget implementation bill.
At 150 pages, it is shorter than some, like BillC-38, which had hundreds of pages. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they denounced mammoth bills, even if they had only a few dozen pages. Today we are looking at a 150-page bill.
This is stopping us from holding a full debate on the provisions of the bill. This was the case with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, and now it is the case with Bill C-59. The opposition members, like the government members, who should be keeping an eye on their own government, are simply not able to do so with the means available to them.
I would like to point out that the Conservatives have imposed time allocation for the 96th time, limiting the time available to debate a bill as important as the budget. This makes no sense. The NDP would have liked to support certain measures in the bill, because they are ideas put forward originally by the NDP that the government decided to borrow. For this, I congratulate the government.
For instance, the tax rate on small and medium-sized businesses will go from 11% to 9%. The change will be made over five years, because the Conservatives have decided to spread the measure over a number of years, but it will be quite helpful to SMEs, which are the ones creating jobs in Canada. This measure deserves our support, but unfortunately, the Conservatives have combined measures that we can support with ones that we simply cannot support.
Moreover, the budget contains no measures regarding the Transport Canada wharfs. The Conservatives were very happy to spend time in eastern Canada recently, to underline their $33 million investment in the Transport Canada port divestiture program.
Unfortunately, this is the same $33 million that was announced last year, and $9 million of it has already been spent. There is only $24 million left to be shared among the 50 wharfs that the government is proposing to transfer. Two of the Transport Canada wharfs are in my riding, and just these two would exceed the amount of money that remains for the 50 wharfs across Canada that the government would like to transfer.
When the government says it is helping people, what does that mean in concrete terms? We cannot accept their offer, because it is just too little.
Recently, I heard a Conservative MP saying that the Conservatives had introduced one of the largest infrastructure programs in Canada’s history. However, this money will be spent in the future. They have announced amounts of money that the budget does not cover at all, and they are trying to make us believe that with a budget of $54 billion over 10 years they are going to spend the largest amount of money in Canada’s history on infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the facts tell quite a different story. Last year, the government spent only $250 million of the $54 billion. Its assistance to municipalities and organizations to implement infrastructure programs was extremely discreet.
It is disgraceful that the government is congratulating itself about money it has never spent and that it is trying to make people believe that it is carrying out this program, even though it is a phantom program, since we are unable to find this money.
Furthermore, this budget does not help the regions, and in fact the opposite is true.
The Conservatives say that they have balanced the budget, but once again, they have done so using both the contingency fund and the employment insurance fund.
This year, the government is planning to filch $1.7 billion from the employment insurance fund to balance its budget. It likes to brag about its $1.8 billion surplus, but it is pretty clear where that money came from. The government is even planning to help itself to $17 billion from the employment insurance fund over five years. It is quickly catching up to the Liberals' record. They too bragged about balancing a budget, and they too did so at workers' expense. Since the Chrétien government's reform, the government has taken $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. The Liberals swiped $50 billion, the Conservatives $7 billion. Now they are planning to snatch another $17 billion from the fund.
They say they are going to balance the budget, but they are doing so at the expense of the poorest, the neediest. Seasonal workers and workers who lose their jobs will pay the price. Roughly four out of 10 workers are not even entitled to employment insurance benefits even though they all contribute to the fund. Those people will never see a penny. The government is busy taking money from the insurance fund and, instead of giving it to the people who contribute, funnelling it into programs that will benefit Canada's wealthiest people.
With regard to the Conservatives' proposed income splitting, the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly said that only 15% of Canadians will benefit, and most of them are among the wealthiest people in this country.
The wealthiest people do not need more help. There are some Canadians who are unemployed and others who are facing job losses. Today, 1,700 employees of Bombardier, a pillar of Canadian industry, are unemployed. They are facing an employment insurance fund that has been pillaged repeatedly by the government. There is no more room to manoeuvre.
When the government says that it has balanced the budget, it means that we are at the point where the government has squeezed programs so much that there is no more room to manoeuvre. Someone who has lost a job or works part time will find it very difficult to make ends meet.
Today's budget is simply not going to help the poor, and that includes measures like income splitting and tax-free savings accounts, or TFSAs. The tax-free savings account limit is being raised to $10,000. In my riding, I can tell you that the number of people who can take advantage of that and put $10,000 into a tax-free savings account is very small. What is more, that money will then not be spent in the riding; it will sit in a savings account.
We need programs that put money in people's pockets and encourage people to have a greater impact on their local economy. Those are the kinds of programs that will help grow the economy. We need to help small and medium-sized businesses, because they create jobs, and that is what will help create wealth. What matters to the NDP is putting money into the pockets of people who really need it, rather than giving more to rich.
I am very disappointed in this budget, which once again gives priority to people who will perhaps vote for the Conservatives in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, the people who are being ignored by this government and who will not get the help they need from this budget are precisely those who are currently unemployed or otherwise struggling. The budget contains very little for those individuals.
However, the budget does include something that I think is good for retirees regarding registered retirement income funds. Now people will have the choice to put off withdrawing from their RRIFs a little longer. This will help people who are retired. However, let us not forget that those who do not have the means to put enough money in an RRSP will have to wait until they are 67 before they can get old age security. They will pay dearly for not having enough money in an RRSP. This was done without warning and without consultation. The government simply imposed this.
These people did not have enough time to adjust their budget and now have a major deficit for their retirement years. This budget will do nothing to help them.
We absolutely need to have a budget that will help the less fortunate. The government has a role to play as an advocate for the people who are most in need. The government should help those in need, but unfortunately the budget before us does not do that.