Mr. Speaker, I rise with pleasure to address an important piece of legislation that we have before us, which I believe distinguishes the difference between all political parties inside the chamber.
It is important for me to recognize right at the beginning that today we hear a lot about Canada's middle class, as well we should. However, I would suggest that since the leader of the Liberal Party became our leader a couple of years ago, when he first raised the level of debate on the issue of middle class, we have seen other political entities in the House adopt what we believe is a very important issue; that is, the middle class of Canada. Even though the leader of the Liberal Party might have been the first to raise the profile of the issue, today we see that all political parties are trying to come to grips with what they now believe is an important issue also.
The difference is that we truly do believe that the answer to many of Canada's issues and problems we have today is to strengthen Canada's middle class. If we recognize that the greatest asset in terms of potential economic growth for our country is to invest in our middle class, we give strength to our middle class. A healthy, strong middle class equates to opportunities in a strong Canadian economy.
This is the 10th budget given by the current government. What we have noticed is that this particular budget gives the most to Canadians who need it the least. It is time for a better plan, investing in jobs and growth for the middle class and those working very hard to become a part of it. We recognize that under the current government, middle-class Canadians have had to work longer and harder to make ends meet. We would argue that this is just not right.
We talk about a plan of fairness. Here today looking at the budget, we see it is all about priorities. I will give a sample of the type of fairness that the Liberal Party of Canada is talking about.
A Liberal government would make the tax system fairer, and cut the middle-class tax rate by 7%. That is a $3 billion tax cut for those who need it the most. The Liberal plan would also provide a bigger, fairer tax-free monthly cheque to help families with the high cost of raising their kids. Let me give a specific example. With the Liberal plan, a typical two-parent family with two kids, earning $90,000 per year, would get $490 tax free every month. With the Prime Minister's plan, that same family would receive $275 after taxes.
We get ministers and members from the government standing up and saying that the Liberals would take away that tax break, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that the Liberal Party's plan compared to the government's plan would see middle-class families with children receiving more dollars every month. That is the truth.
We would also ask Canada's wealthiest Canadians to pay a little more so that the middle class can pay less. The Liberal Party would in fact cancel the Prime Minister's income splitting and other tax breaks for the wealthy. We would introduce a new tax bracket for the top 1%, on incomes over $200,000.
Members will be no doubt be very much aware of the income splitting plan. This is a $2 billion plan that the Conservative government put into place, where hundreds of millions of dollars are going to be taken out of the middle class every year to support less than 15% of Canada's wealthiest people. It is a very costly plan, which is just not necessary. Even the former minister of finance, the late Jim Flaherty, agreed that it was a bad idea, that it was not fair. Yet, the Prime Minister has seen fit to bring forward an income splitting program at a substantial cost.
We believe that is wrong. It is much like within this very same budget we are seeing the government double the TFSA contribution limits. Who is more likely to benefit from that tax initiative? Again, it is going to be some of Canada's wealthiest people. If I reflect on the residents of Winnipeg North, which I represent, I do not have constituents making between $40,000 and $70,000 as a household income who have an extra $10,000 sitting around so they can invest into the TFSA maximum. That very rarely exists.
I would suggest that demonstrates just how unfair the government is in terms of its taxation policy. Whether it is the TFSA or the income split, there is a significant difference in the way the Liberals would govern compared to what we are seeing in this Conservative budget.
The Prime Minister offers tax breaks for the wealthy. Liberals, on the other hand, believe in a country that works for everyone. Our leader has been very clear. We must strengthen those at the heart of our economy, middle-class Canadians, who have not had a decent raise in 30 years.
Liberals will continue to present solutions to grow our economy. Growth is very important. We all benefit when the Government of Canada gets its priorities right within the budget. We have seen that in terms of certain industries in the last number of years. Imagine the manufacturing industry, in particular in a province like Ontario, which has been hit very hard. We are talking about tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs being lost in the province of Ontario alone, good quality jobs in the most part, because we have a national government that has ignored that file. The jobs are not being replaced to the degree that they have been lost.
Understandably, Canadians are concerned. That is why they are looking for leadership from Ottawa in this regard. When the Conservatives say they created 1.3 million jobs, the reality is that the government has fallen short. In the last couple of years, we are maybe talking about a couple of hundred jobs. However, what kinds of jobs are they? They are not of the same nature or value as the jobs we have lost. The government continues to spread information to try to give a false impression, as if it is actually doing a good job on the issue of job creation when nothing could be further from the truth.
We see that in terms of the whole trade debate. Minister after minister will stand to say how wonderful and glorified they are to have signed trade agreements. Yes, they have signed a few trade agreements. However, the EU agreement, which is 28 of the 38 countries that the Conservatives often refer to, has still not been signed off. That agreement is not finalized. Our Prime Minister was just overseas. I suspect that there was very little progress on that file.
The President of Ukraine in was in this chamber. He made an appeal to all parliamentarians and, through the House, all Canadians for a trade agreement between Ukraine and Canada. However, again, the government has even let us down on that front. It could have been doing more. If we look at what the EU has done with Ukraine on the trade file and compare it with what Canada has done, we will find that Canada has fallen short.
The Conservatives might talk a tough line. They might espouse how wonderful we are. However, reality does not reflect what they say from the benches. In fact, when we talk about trade, the bottom line is whether Canada has a trade surplus or a trade deficit.
Under the Liberal administrations, we were always on the positive side. We always had a trade surplus. Not under the Conservative government. I believe it is up to 51 months of trade deficits. In fact, when the Prime Minister replaced Paul Martin, we had a $1 billion dollar-plus trade surplus. The Prime Minister converted that trade surplus into a trade deficit, and we have had it virtually ever since
The Conservatives can talk about how great they are at trade deals, but the bottom line is they have been a total and absolute failure, at a substantial cost. One wonders why we have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Maybe we should start looking at the trade balance and the Conservatives' less than impressive performance on this file. When we do that, we start to understand that trade surplus versus trade deficit means thousands of jobs, thousands of opportunities that have been lost.
We can continue on with respect to the economics of this budget when we talk about trade surplus versus trade deficit and how poorly the government has actually done on the issue. Think of what the budget implementation bill would do. It would create what it calls a balanced budget type of legislation.
Imagine a government that has failed at getting a balanced budget now preaching as if it knows what it is like to have one. The only time it actually had a balanced budget was the one year that followed then prime minister Paul Martin. Paul Martin and the Liberals provided a multi-billion dollar surplus. When the Conservatives became government, they actually had a huge surplus. Within two years, they converted that huge surplus, and that was prior to the recession, into a multi-billion dollar deficit, They think they are financial managers. I think not.
We are now months away from an election, and the government says that it has balanced the budget. The government cannot fool Canadians. Take a look at the way in which it has achieved this so-called balanced budget. It sold, at wholesale prices, $2 billion worth of GM shares and then it went into a contingency fund, something some of the ministers said they would never do. They did this to generate a false balanced budget. It tapped into the contingency fund and sold GM sales for a few billion dollars to create a $1 billion surplus.
I do not believe this budget will in fact be balanced. I believe we will find out after the next election, when all the numbers start coming in, that this Conservative/Reform, pretend party, or government, failed at delivering a balanced budget in 2015-16 fiscal year.
It is amazing how the Conservatives can look at the Liberal Party and say that the Liberals do not know how to balance budgets. In fact, the only person in this chamber who has actually balanced a budget as the minister of finance is the member who sits in front of me, the member for Wascana, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party.
If we look at the period of governance between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, we will find that there are numerous balanced budgets. However, we know for a fact that it is the Conservatives who have been unable to balance a budget. They are the ones off in fairyland, pretending or trying to give a false impression that they are good at balancing the books, when reality says that it is the absolute opposite. If there is any party with any credibility whatsoever on this issue of balanced budgets, it is definitely not the Conservative Party. The record clearly shows that the Liberal Party can and does balance its books.
At the same time, the Liberal Party knows what is important to Canadians, and we ensure the financing is in fact there. I will give a couple of examples on that.
There is the issue of pensions. A few years back, the Prime Minister, while on the other side of the ocean, announced that the age of retirement would be increased from 65 to 67. The Liberal Party recognizes the cost of that for Canadians. It is a cost that we are not prepared to accept. Through that policy, the Conservative government will put thousands more seniors into poverty.
The explanation provided from the Conservatives in justifying increasing the age from 65 to 67 is absolutely bogus. They have tried to create a crisis situation. There is no value to their arguments as to why the government has made that decision. The independent Parliamentary Budget Officer in essence is saying that, as are outside stakeholders.
This is an issue I plan to use at the door for my constituents. The Liberal Party has been very clear that it will revert that and maintain the age 65. We will not allow the Conservative government to get away with increasing the age of retirement from 65 to 67.
When we look at CPP, it is very clear the Prime Minister has in the past indicated that he does not support CPP. He would just as soon see CPP disappear. Now the Prime Minister is refusing to meet with premiers to work at improving CPP. It has become very clear that the Prime Minister does not care about the social safety net of Canada's three pension programs. The facts and the words from him clearly demonstrate that.
The Prime Minister does not recognize what Canadians hold close to their hearts and truly believe in, such as our health care system. However, the Liberal Party does believe in CPP. We do believe in health care. We do believe in the importance of a social safety net, which is something with which we cannot trust the Conservatives.