House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


Speaker's StatementPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will soon consider private members’ business for the first time since the opening of this Parliament. I would therefore like to make a brief statement regarding the management of private members' business. I want to remind all hon. members about the procedures governing private members’ business and the responsibilities of the Chair in the management of this process.

As members know, certain constitutional procedural realities constrain the Speaker and members insofar as legislation is concerned. One such procedural principle concerns whether or not a private member’s bill requires a royal recommendation. The Speaker has underscored this principle in a number of statements over the course of preceding Parliaments.

As noted on page 831 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General. This prerogative, referred to as the “financial initiative of the Crown”, is the basis essential to the system of responsible government and is signified by way of the “royal recommendation”.

The requirement for a royal recommendation is grounded in constitutional principles found in the Constitution Act, 1867. The language of section 54 of that act is echoed in Standing Order 79(1), which reads:

This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

Any bill which authorizes the spending of public funds for a new and distinct purpose or effects an appropriation of public funds must be accompanied by a message from the Governor General recommending the expenditure to the House. This message, known formally as the royal recommendation, can only be transmitted to the House by a minister of the crown.

A private member’s bill that requires a royal recommendation may, however, be introduced and considered right up until and including third reading on the assumption that a royal recommendation may be provided by a minister. If none is produced by the conclusion of the third reading stage, the Speaker is required to decline to put the question on third reading.

Following the establishment, or subsequently the replenishment, during a Parliament of the order of precedence, the Chair has developed a practice of reviewing items so that the House can be alerted to bills which at first glance appear to infringe upon the financial prerogative of the crown. The aim of this practice is to allow members the opportunity to intervene in a timely manner to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the establishment of the order of precedence on February 26, 2016, I wish to draw the attention of the House to two bills which give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions that they contemplate. These are Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities), standing in the name of the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood; and Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act (maternity benefits), standing in the name of the member for Kingston and the Islands.

I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the requirement of a royal recommendation for any of these bills, or with regard to any other bill now on the order of precedence, to do so at the earliest opportunity.

I thank honorable members for their attention.

It being 11:10 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

moved that Bill C-239, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable gifts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Canadians about my private member's bill, a bill that I believe is fair, would benefit all Canadians, and that will foster a culture of generosity from coast to coast.

Parliamentarians get very few opportunities during their time as elected officials to present legislation. I consider myself privileged to have my name drawn as one of the first MPs to introduce a private member's bill in this, the 42nd Parliament. It took a great deal of consideration to arrive at Bill C-239, the fairness and charitable gifts act, and I consider it important to take a few moments to explain how I arrived at this idea.

When I learned that my name had been drawn first to present a bill, I quickly decided to gather information from my constituents. I asked for feedback and consulted with individuals and organizations in my riding. The input I received was overwhelmingly clear that people wanted a law that would protect the rights of the unborn, so I did a little research. Here in Canada, there are no laws in place that protect the rights of the unborn child. There are no guidelines governing when and why a termination of pregnancy can be procured.

In 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada, in a divided decision, struck down Canada's existing law banning abortion, it also indicated that Parliament had the right to establish protection for the unborn child. In recent Supreme Court decisions overturning laws on prostitution and euthanasia, for example, the court directed Parliament to draft new legislation to protect the rights of individuals, while at the same time providing protection for vulnerable Canadians.

Our current and past governments have risen to that challenge, and have and are drafting legislation to meet these objectives. Unfortunately, past governments have not modernized human rights protections for individuals at early stages of life. We are among a handful of nations in the world that lack these protections. I believe this to be a serious failing on the part of previous governments. Many Canadians think there are at least some regulations governing this issue, but that is not the case.

Here in Canada, there tends to be a knee-jerk reaction to the word “abortion”. I am sure that some members here, and some at home, felt some reaction or emotion as they heard me speak the word. It has been polarizing issue in this country, and the word has various associations for every individual.

This became apparent to me when I was originally crafting a private member's bill that would have at least aligned our laws with those of our allies and other developed countries. However, after a great deal of discussion and consultation, it became apparent that I would not be able to garner sufficient support from the hon. members in the House, despite the strong commitment that many of my colleagues show toward protecting the vulnerable. I recognize that a private member's bill updating these protections would not become law at this time.

If Canada is going to continue to be a nation that is blessed, I believe it must draft and pass legislation that protects the rights of women, which was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court, but it must also provide for protection of the unborn child. We need to start a national conversation, and I believe that Canadians are capable of discussing this issue with open hearts and informed minds to ultimately come up with the right solution. To have no law is not a solution.

However, there are things that we can all agree on. Therefore, I changed direction and sought out an issue that would make a difference and could be supported by all parties in the House and all stripes of political affiliation. I decided to draft Bill C-239, the fairness and charitable gifts act. This is a bill that would correct the considerable gap between federal tax credits given for donations to political parties and individuals as opposed to federal tax credits given for donations to charities.

Feeding politicians should never be more important than feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating the poor, or restoring the broken-hearted. This is not right. It is not fair. I do not believe that the current tax treatment of charitable donations reflects our Canadian values. The work that charities do is indispensable. There are many people who benefit from the services they provide. Charities change lives. Organizations that depend on charity of community to function have a unique feature, which is that they are directly accountable to their donors. People who donate their time and money to support a charity directly are more engaged with the effectiveness of that charity. This has generally resulted in both efficient and accountable charities.

I ask members of the House if any of them have been through the heartache of watching a family member or a close family friend slowly lose the battle to illness, a time when they relied on the charity and kindness of others to help them through that difficult and painful time. Are there any members who have witnessed the incredible blessing of seeing a friend or loved one beat a terrible illness due to advancements in medical research? Are there any members who have benefited, or have family members who have benefited, from a university scholarship?

Are there any members of this House with children who have attended a summer camp where they developed new skills and built lasting relationships? Are there any members whose children are involved in the arts community, through music, theatre, dance, and other pursuits? Are there any members who have experienced the joy of giving their time and money to help a charity that they deeply believe in and have seen the changes in people's lives and circumstances?

We can all agree that we have been touched in many ways by the great work that charities have provided to our communities. Make no mistake: Government provides much-needed help to Canadians who are struggling. However, let us be honest. Government cannot do it all; we in this House cannot do it all. There are many gaps in our system, and charities fill those gaps.

Every single day and night across Canada, charities provide food for the hungry, beds for the homeless, help to the hurting, support for the aging, and hope to the sick. Charities advance science and medical research. Charities promote education and care for our environment. Charities, especially faith-based charities, have been very instrumental in the resettlement of refugee families. Charities are invaluable.

However, despite the incredible impact that charities have had on our lives and our country, the fact remains that Canadian charities are faced with an aging and ever-declining donor base. In fact, the number of Canadians donating to charities has been on a long-term decline right across the country. The percentage of tax filers claiming charitable donations has fallen from a high of almost 30% to just over 20% over the past 20 years.

I fear that should this trend continue, Canadian charities that provide important services will be forced to close their doors. When Canadians were surveyed by Statistics Canada, it was discovered that the number one reason that people do not give more is that they simply could not afford to. This was the reason given by 71% of Canadians surveyed.

Given the trends in charitable giving, I believe the bill to be especially important now. With only a little over 20% of Canadians donating, this bill could re-inspire Canadians and continue to foster that culture of generosity, a characteristic that I believe is Canadian and central to our country and its people. The bill would make it more affordable for Canadians to donate to charitable causes.

How do we accomplish this? How do we encourage Canadians to get into the practice of making regular charitable donations?

As we are aware, an imbalance exists in how different types of donations are treated in Canada. Federal tax credits for political contributions—and make no mistake, colleagues, that is us here in this chamber—far exceed federal tax credits that are available to donations made to charities. I hope we all agree that this is just not right.

I am proposing to correct this inequity with my private member's bill, the fairness in charitable gifts act, Bill C-239. With this bill, donors to registered charities would receive the same generous federal tax credits that donors to political parties currently receive.

The bill would provide the largest incentive to the largest segments of the population, those who currently donate under $400 per year and those who currently do not donate at all. If we accomplish this, our favourite charities, and indeed charities all across Canada, will benefit greatly, as more dollars will be freed up for donations. This would make it easier for small donors to become large donors and for people who do not currently donate to start.

Here is how it works. Under the fairness in charitable gifts act, Canadians donating to registered Canadian charities would receive the following: a 75% federal tax credit on the first $400 of total annual donations; a 50% federal tax credit on the next $350 of total annual donations; and the 33.3% tax credit on total annual donations over $750. These federal tax credits would now be in line with the federal political tax donation credits, receiving the same percentage benefit at the same thresholds. Now, that is fairness.

Allow me to give one real-world example of how charities really do make a difference. Cliff and Jen Friesen live near the small town of New Bothwell, Manitoba, in my riding of Provencher. They are a close, hard-working family of five, but, sadly, they used to be six. They, like so many other Canadian families, have been touched by tragedy. Their young son Cash passed away three years ago from a brain tumour at the age of only two and a half. Of course the family was devastated, but they have resolved to ensure that Cash's death from cancer was not in vain.

The family has experienced tremendous support from various charitable organizations, both while they were going through Cash's illness and after he passed away.

The Canadian Cancer Society helped Cash receive chemotherapy at home in a safe and familiar environment. As well, it provided the family with all the information they needed for the difficult road that lay ahead of them.

The Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba provided state-of-the-art equipment and medical research. The foundation also provided toys for Cash and the other children to play with to help ease their fears while going through treatment.

The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support group made it possible for the family to go on special outings with Cash. They organized movie days, trips to the local amusement park, and a trip to family camp where Cash and his family could meet other families who were going through the same struggles. In fact, they are still providing support to this day.

Maranatha and the Word of Life Mission Church in Niverville made it possible for Cash's parents to spend the large amounts of time that were needed to tend to Cash in the hospital. The members of these churches stocked the family's refrigerator and freezers with food and supplies to help ease the burden. The church members made sure that Cash's siblings had lunches prepared for school, and of course they provided emotional and spiritual support.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation made it possible for the family to take Cash to Disney World just three weeks prior to his passing. The trip together as a family is a very special memory that they will cherish forever.

Finally, Southland Church in Steinbach provided Cash's family with a venue for the funeral at no cost and assisted with a great deal of help in the funeral planning. It also provided full pastoral care, including emotional and spiritual support and grief-share counselling.

By raising the federal donation tax credit simply to the level that we as politicians enjoy being able to offer to our donors, we can accomplish this: charities all across Canada would benefit greatly as more dollars would be freed up for donations.

I have highlighted only one aspect of charity in the previous story. Charity is much bigger than that. There are many types of charities, and charity touches every aspect of our Canadian life and culture. The changes that would take effect under the fairness and charitable gifts act would provide a very powerful incentive that would encourage more Canadians to give to the charities of their choice.

If trends in charitable giving continue and the doors of charities begin to close, more government programs will be needed to fill that gap. This means that people will pay more in taxes and have less control over how their money is spent. Not only that, people will suffer as they lose the indispensable support that charities provide to people who need it the most.

Charities exist to help, to educate, to advocate, and to provide valuable research and development. They are an integral part of Canada as know it.

To summarize, the fairness and charitable gifts act would level the playing field between donations to political parties and donations to registered charitable organizations; it would encourage charitable giving by offering a more generous federal tax credit; it would increase the number of Canadians giving to charities; it would strengthen and empower charities; it would make it easier for small donors to become large donors and for people who do not currently donate to start; and it would reduce the burden on government social services, thus freeing up public resources for other important priorities.

We need to put an end to a system that is both unfair and unjust. Feeding politicians should never be more important than feeding the hungry. This is a bill for all Canadians and, I believe, a bill that could be supported by all parties in this House. I ask parliamentarians across the country and across party lines to support Bill C-239, the fairness and charitable gifts act.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation Québec


Stéphane Lauzon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech.

I think that we all agree that community organizations play a vital role in our ridings. However, I have a few questions regarding the new proposal.

I undertook a process to determine how many community organizations there are in my riding. We created a database, carefully organized all the information, and looked at how these organizations work because there are a lot of needs. After reviewing the missions and values of these organizations, I quickly realized that there is a lot of duplication. There are three organizations in my riding with similar functions.

Does this bill take into consideration the fact that a number of organizations have the same mission and values? One way to save money or to give more money to an organization that can provide assistance in a riding would be to consolidate the organizations that have the same mission and values before creating even more organizations.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the work that charities do right across Canada is very important. I think all Canadians do put their money into a single organization that they expect to do a certain amount of charitable work, and that is the Government of Canada. When we do that, certain agencies and programs are set up to deal with a lot of the issues I have talked about, such as medical issues, education, and social services support, but there are gaps in that system. As a result, charities have opportunities to become effective, to meet the needs of their communities, and to provide essential services in the gaps we have in our government services.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the initiative that he has taken today. I would also like to congratulate him on being chosen to be the first to introduce a private member's bill.

I would like to ask a question about the bill. Could my colleague explain why he chose not to make a real comparison with political contributions? He made comparisons between political and charitable contributions several times in his speech. However, the major difference, which he failed to mention, is that there is a cap on political contributions. There is a maximum amount that people are allowed to give to a political party each year, so there is actually a cap on the tax credit for political contributions.

When it comes to charitable donations, people can claim up to 75% of their net income. The member failed to mention this several times. As a result, taxpayers with higher incomes could get a lot of money back if they receive a 33.3% tax credit on donations over $750.

I was wondering why the member failed to mention in his speech and in his comments that the comparison the bill makes between these two things is not quite accurate. There is a cap on both political and charitable contributions, but the cap on charitable contributions is very high.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for that question and the opportunity to further clarify what this bill would do and how it is somewhat different from political donations to a party or individual.

When a Canadian makes a political donation, there is a cap placed on that donation, and I think it is for good reason. We cap political donations so that special interests do not get promoted more than they should and so that individuals in Canada do not have more influence over a party or an individual than they should.

There is also a cap on charitable donations. That cap is 75% of net income, which is something that this bill does not adjust. It leaves that cap at that particular threshold.

There are some other differences between political donations and charitable donations. Probably the most significant difference is that a political donation will still be a refundable tax credit and a charitable donation is non-refundable. That means that when people make a political donation, they get that 75% tax credit whether or not they are paying taxes, but when they make a charitable donation, they would only receive that tax credit in the event that they were paying taxes.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Provencher on his initiative.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-239. Although I recognize its spirit and good intentions, I cannot support the bill given the serious economic impact it would have.

The fact is, the bill would increase the costs associated with tax credits for charitable donations by about $1 billion a year, which would diminish the government's ability to pay for important public programs that Canadians rely on.

As the Minister of Finance indicated when he tabled budget 2016, the government believes that Canada is at its best when all citizens have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Canada enjoys an abundance of wonders and resources. Its greatest wealth, however, resides in the generosity of Canadians, who are well known for their compassion, tolerance, and kindness. Our nation's social fabric is strengthened by the many citizens who donate their time and hard-earned money to a variety of very worthy causes.

In fact, as part of National Volunteer Week, tonight I will have the privilege of honouring a number of volunteers in my riding, Gatineau.

Canadians value and embrace inclusion, honesty, and hard work, and they express themselves through their generosity of spirit. For example, Canadians have opened their hearts and communities to welcome Syrian refugees. Every day Canadians spend countless hours feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and committing a million other acts of kindness that build communities. To the best of their ability, Canadians share the blessings they have been given. The impressive size of the charitable sector in Canada is the result of Canadians' compassion.

Canada's charitable sector accounts for an incredible 8.1% of our GDP, making it larger than our retail, automotive, and manufacturing sectors. We have more than 86,000 registered charities, 81,000 not-for-profit corporations, and more than 750,000 community agencies. These institutions play a vital role in every neighbourhood all across Canada.

The government believes we must support this important sector. That is why we support tax incentives for charitable donations. Canadian tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world. The federal government already provides $3 billion in tax assistance annually to the charitable sector.

When we add provincial tax relief to the equation, Canadians can expect to get 46¢, on average, for every dollar donated above $200. A tax credit is also available for up to 75% of an individual's or couple's net income and can be carried forward for five years.

Of course tax credits are important, but they are not the only or the main reason a person chooses to make a donation. In fact, many individuals would probably donate even without any tax credits.

According to Statistics Canada's 2015 general social survey, only 26% of donors said they made a donation mainly to get an income tax credit. More than 91% of donors reported that their donations were motivated by compassion towards people in need, and 86% said they were motivated by a personal belief in a cause.

As a government, we want Canadians to have the means to take action. Effective economic policies and a prosperous economy require strong social policies that create opportunities and build communities where diversity and equality can grow. Charity begins at home.

The impressive size of the charitable sector in Canada is the result of Canadians' compassion. To believe otherwise is doing a disservice to millions of hours spent in the service of others.

Federal tax assistance for charitable donations is approximately $3 billion per year. This places Canada's system of tax support among the most generous in the world. As others have already mentioned, Statistics Canada's information shows that what drives charitable giving is personal belief.

Our government's efforts, as contained in budget 2016 and in budgets to come, do not seek to change that balance. Rather, what the government proposes is to strengthen the middle class by giving more help to those who need it and less to those who do not.

The mandate letter to the Minister of National Revenue contains, as a top priority, addressing some of the critical areas facing charities in Canada today. The Minister of National Revenue is expected to “Allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, working with the Minister of Finance”.

In fact, the Minister of National Revenue has recently announced that the Canada Revenue Agency will be winding down its audits of the political activities of charities and will instead consult with charities to clarify the rules. This is in recognition of the critical role that charities play in society and their contribution to public policy and public debate on behalf of all Canadians. These consultations will help charities continue their important work in a regulatory environment that respects and encourages their contribution.

However, we believe that society as a whole, through its Parliament, must also take action. That is exactly why budget 2016 provides immediate assistance to the people who need it most and lays the foundation for sustainable economic growth. Even more importantly, this budget focuses entirely on the people and the issues most important to them, such as strengthening the middle class, creating jobs, and growing the economy.

Even before the budget was tabled, almost nine million Canadians were already benefiting from the middle-class tax cut that went into effect on January 1. The government introduced the Canada child benefit in the budget. Compared to the current system of federal child benefits, the Canada child benefit will ensure that nine out of 10 families will receive more money than they receive under the current system beginning in July 2016. This measure will help lift hundreds of thousands of Canadian children out of poverty.

The Canada child benefit represents the most important innovation in social policy in a generation. Together with the middle-class tax cut, the Canada child benefit will ensure that middle-class families have more disposable income that they can use to support their families, their work, their communities, and many other worthy causes where the not-for-profit sector is so effective.

Charity begins at home, but we can do more. Investing in measures that will improve the living conditions of Canadians will ensure that our country once again becomes a world leader. Canada will make a valuable and tangible contribution to its own prosperity and will embody the best Canadian values: generosity, compassion, and openness.

Budget 2016 contains measures that fulfill the promises made to Canadians and lay the groundwork for a better Canada today and for future generations.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today, not only because I want to congratulate my colleague from Provencher on his bill, but also because he spoke about the benefits and positives of his bill, as well as the more negative aspects of the bill. This is worthy of being discussed in the House. It is good that we have already had a conversation about this bill and that we can debate it, because everyone here agrees that charities do important and extraordinary work across Canada. Every day, in each one of our ridings, we can see the good work that these charities accomplish for their communities.

I thank my colleague for his initiative, since Bill C-239 is an important measure. It is important to examine this bill carefully before voting, since it can affect many things, including costs, for example. This bill could result in some costs to the public treasury, a topic that has come up today. We are talking about a major change to charitable donations and the associated tax credits.

My colleague compared these donations to donations to political parties. I have a hard time using that comparison, since there is a maximum annual amount one can donate to a political party and claim a tax credit. We need to take a close look at this cost. The tax credit for donations to political parties is 75% for the first $400, 50% for donations between $400 and $750, and 33.33% for donations above $750. This comparison can be made, but it is important to note that charitable donations are capped at 75% of net income.

Donations of $750 or more will represent a tax credit of 33.33%, up from the current 29%. It is therefore important to take into account that higher-value donations made in Canada, that is, those worth more than $750, will result in a tax credit worth 4.3% more. This tax credit will go into the pockets of the wealthiest people. I think we can all agree that those who donate more than $750 a year tend to be wealthy, since they have the means to do so. As parliamentarians, it is important for us to examine this situation, specifically the fact that part of these tax credits will go into the pockets of the wealthiest Canadians. It is fair to say that donations of $400 or less represent the vast majority of donations made in this country, and they generate a tax credit of 75%. I think it is also fair to say that most donations made by Canadians are under $400.

It is therefore important to look at the cost of this measure. That shows the importance of the decision we have to make when voting on this bill. Whenever bills are introduced, it is important to always consider the costs involved. A Library of Parliament study estimated that this kind of change to the tax credits would cost between $1.3 billion and $3 billion.

In this debate, it is also important to try to determine whether there really is a link between enhanced tax credits and an increase in donations. To date, no direct causal link has been established or quantified in terms of the value of tax credits and the quantity or value of donations that might be made if tax credits are enhanced. It remains to be seen whether this measure will have the desired effect. The outcome my colleague from Provencher is hoping for is clearly an increase in charitable donations. Of course, we encourage our fellow Canadians to give more and to support the charities in our ridings.

However, it is not yet clear to me that enhancing the tax credit would produce the desired effect. That is probably for the parliamentary committee to figure out with the help of subject matter experts. They will be able to examine situations in other jurisdictions where changes to tax credits may have had a significant impact.

In this study and in our debate, we must also look at other ways to help charities in Canada. Sure, tax credits count for something, but there are many other ways to help Canadian charities.

Part of the bill's preamble gives us pause, unfortunately. It reflects the sponsor's attitude, in a way. I would like to read from the preamble:

Whereas Canadian charities, both secular and faith-based, deliver critical social support for our communities and are well-equipped to remove some of the burden [I would emphasize “remove some of the burden”] placed on government social services;

I found that part of the preamble interesting. It reveals the sponsor's mindset, which I believe is wrong. It is not okay to say that the government should off-load government services and expect charities to pick up the slack. The government's main mandate is to provide high-quality, accessible, affordable services to all Canadians. In today's debate, we need to focus our attention on this notion of transferring the burden of government services to charities. We do not necessarily want a government that off-loads its responsibilities, strives to provide fewer and fewer services, and tries to wash its hands of certain things in our society.

Again, I wanted to talk about the fact that there is currently a limit to charitable donations of 75% of net income and that limit represents non-refundable tax credits. However, people who have the means could use this as a form of tax avoidance. We have seen that happen. In this debate, it is important to point out that people can use tax credits for charitable donations. There is no denying that the money goes to a charitable organization, but nor can we deny that some Canadian taxpayers might be tempted to use this enhanced tax credit for donations greater than $750 to their advantage. The tax credit for donations greater than $750 increases by 4.3%, and some people might try to use this credit to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

I must say that the NDP has always defended tax fairness in Canada, where everyone pays his or her fair share and we can have a tax environment with a semblance of fairness. That is important. Given the revelations that we are seeing a growing number of taxpayers try to dodge their tax obligations, it is important for us to also have a debate on tax fairness in Canada. In fact, the government announced that it wanted to review tax expenditures. It is also important to have this debate on all tax credits available in Canada, which are a burden on the treasury. It is important to have a thorough review of our fiscal framework to ensure that it is fair and that people with the most means pay their share so that important government services can be delivered to the entire population.

This does not have to stop charitable organizations from doing good in their community. Let us not confuse the two.

I want to commend my colleague on his initiative. I look forward to discussing it at length.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Provencher, for bringing forward this bill to encourage Canadians to contribute more to our charities by ensuring fairness in how these contributions are treated as tax credits. More than fairness, this initiative would make a strong statement on how these contributions are respected and valued. There is so much good done by charities in every community across Canada that we as a civil society should be doing more, not less, to promote this.

The people of my constituency of Flamborough—Glanbrook and in fact all of the greater Hamilton area are well known for their generosity. They are above-average contributors to a wide range of local, national, and international charities and causes that make life better for their fellow human beings. I would refer to a comment published in a local newspaper editorial in December 2009 from the director of community relations at Mission Services in downtown Hamilton. He said, “Hamilton is the most generous community I've ever lived in. People have really responded despite the difficult economic climate”.

I see this first hand at hundreds of local charity breakfasts, walks, fundraising dinners and auctions that I attend on a regular basis in the greater Hamilton area. If people want to see how community-based organizations stretch a dollar to make a real difference in people's lives, they just need to tag along to one of these events or join me in serving dinners at the downtown Hamilton mission at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I know many hon. members from all sides and parties in the House can attest to similar experiences in their own communities on a regular basis.

This is why the model proposed by the hon. member for Provencher in Bill C-239 makes so much sense. It would lift up the contributions to charities doing outstanding work on a local, national, and international basis to an equal footing with donations to federal political parties. It is a simple notion that the hon. member has articulated well already: Why should feeding politicians be more important than feeding the hungry, or helping youth who are struggling with addiction, or providing the desperately needed funds for research that would find a cure for cancer? Cancer is something that pretty well every member of this House, somewhere among their families and friends, has been touched by. The answer is quite simply, it should not.

Built on the principle that donations to registered charities in Canada should get equal treatment to political contributions, what Bill C-239, the fairness in charitable gifts act, would do effectively would be to incentivize donations under $750 per year. Frankly, that is the majority of Canadians and it has the potential to have the greatest impact. To reiterate in a nutshell, and I know these numbers are familiar to members of the House, donations under $400 would receive a 75% tax credit compared to the current 15% on the first $200 donated, expanding to 29% on the next $200. Contributions between $400 and $750 would see a 50% tax credit versus the present-day 29%. Meanwhile, the portion of total contributions over $750 would see a modest incentive of 33.3% compared to 29%.

Members of this House and all Canadians can readily see why this would encourage greater participation of Canadians donating to registered charities at higher dollar amounts than they currently do. When we consider that the median level of donations to registered charities claimed on tax returns is currently $280, there is lots of room to grow, and lots of new donors to bring into the family of charities as well.

Why is this so important? One of the reasons is demographics. At a time when there is increasing pressure to provide social services of all kinds in our communities, there is a decreasing participation by Canadians as donors to charities. Fewer tax filers are making contributions. The average age of a donor is also rising. Just as our population ages and the need for many services increases, charities are struggling to meet annual fundraising targets. As my colleague has pointed out, we have seen a staggering drop since 1990 in the number of Canadians who contribute. Add it all up and the long-term trend is less than positive. With greater need, fewer resources, and an aging population, we need to stem this tide, and Bill C-239 is a practical solution to do just that.

This is particularly true when we consider the range of services, support, and medical research that the charitable sector does, and that this reduces the burden on government today and tomorrow. If we can reverse the charitable donations trend, we can help pre-empt a funding crisis in the future.

Is this good public policy? We can bet it is. Is it good economics? Absolutely, and here is why. It helps offset social spending by governments at all levels, freeing up resources for other priorities. It is also very effective because often the local organizations are the closest to the problem, understand the circumstances they are in, and therefore are best suited to help. They know best how to marshal the support of all local volunteers and show compassion in our communities.

We should also consider and review in the debate on Bill C-239 that the reinvestment in the economy of the tax refunds of Canadians has a considerable impact. We know this and it is well documented, especially when local charities stretch those dollars for maximum impact in delivering programs and real world solutions as mentioned earlier. That is why instead of asking whether we can afford to do this, we should really be asking ourselves whether we can afford not to do this.

In closing, I would like to come full circle and mention a few examples from my hometown.

I would like to talk about Liberty for Youth and Living Rock that are there day in and day out to take those youth who many people would write off saying they are not any use to society, to rebuild their lives and help them to be contributing citizens.

Threshold School of Building is another one that helps to educate youth who have not made better choices in their life so they can start at ground level on construction jobs and begin to build a career for themselves.

There is The Bridge and St. Leonard's Society that do a great job taking those who have been convicted of crimes and re-assimilating them, teaching them life skills, helping them to rehabilitate, get out and be contributing citizens in our society.

There is the Bob Kemp Hospice and Good Shepherd Emmanuel House where my own younger brother passed away this past summer during the election.

These places are funded by charitable donations, and they are there at a time of life when people are desperate for love and compassion. They are there to help every day of the week. They rely on those people who are generous to give.

The Salvation Army helps people with addictions. I was just in there the other day in downtown Hamilton. They have a trustee program for people who are recovering from addictions and do not know how to handle their finances. They can pay their rent, and make sure they have money at the end of the month, even though they are on social services. It is extraordinary, but the funding has just been cut. It needs more charitable donations in order to cover that. The hostel program helps those who have been struggling with addiction to get back on their feet. There are 12 separate rooms in the Salvation Army that are helping individuals get back out and reconnect with their families, and be contributing citizens in our society.

Flamborough Women's Resource Centre, Drummond House, and Interval House are helping women who have come across a family tragedy and are dealing with violence.

This past December, my wife Almut and I had the pleasure of serving breakfast on behalf of the Farmers’ Dell Co-operative Preschool fundraiser. This registered charity serves families in Binbrook and Upper Stoney Creek.

Binbrook Scouting Group is also very active, holding massive annual spring cleanup days every year. The group picks up mountains of garbage. It benefits from charitable donations as well.

There is one more that I think deserves special mention. Every year for the past 13 years I volunteered for the annual Ancaster Community Food Drive. Some years my wife and I have helped run routes and have collected food donations from doorsteps. Other times we have stayed inside and have worked six or seven hours just sorting food. I am always joined by Hamilton firefighters and members of the Hamilton Police Service.

The food drive is run with precision by an outstanding group of volunteers, not the least of whom is the energetic retired Ancaster High School guidance counsellor and teacher, Jan Lukas, who welcomes everyone with her bright smile.

The Ancaster food drive is a huge local success story. In its 23 years of operations, it is now approaching 1.5 million pounds of food donated and processed. This food goes to a number of organizations throughout the greater city of Hamilton and helps thousands of families.

I was heartened to learn that the food drive has grown so much over the years that they have now committed to a larger facility to be able to sort all the food that is collected during the food drive. It is simply amazing. While much of the food is donated without getting a tax receipt, financial contributions to the organization that underpin the food drive is what makes it possible.

I could go on and on, but I have limited time for debate. These are great examples of what happens when we allow people to have more opportunities to give, and we give them more incentive to do that. Bill C-239 does exactly that. I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill, to make sure we are giving help to charities, to make sure that we reach all those people who are less fortunate, and build our communities to be stronger ones.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss Bill C-239, which proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to increase the tax deduction for individuals with regard to charitable gifts to registered charities.

First, the government recognizes that charities are vital to the well-being of our society. They touch the lives of all Canadians, inspire us through the arts, enlighten us through education, heal us through institutions and medical research, support us through hard times, and make our nation the caring and inclusive society that has earned Canada a world-wide reputation for compassion and a social conscious.

I am proud to say that Canada has one of the largest charitable and non-profit sectors in the world. Estimates suggest that Canada has more than 170,000 charities and non-profit organizations, making it the second largest in the world.

Approximately two million people are employed by these organizations, representing 11% of the economically-active population. The sector represents $106 billion, or 8.1%, of Canada's GDP, making it larger than our automotive, retail, or manufacturing industries.

Remarkably, more than half of the charities in Canada are run entirely by volunteers. Through their work, these individual volunteers are living proof that the dedication of one's time to improve the quality of life of people who need a helping hand is a cornerstone of a healthy civic life and a vital exercise in leadership. Volunteers are remarkable people who make a real difference in people's lives without seeking monetary reward.

At the same time, the government recognizes and supports the vital role that thousands and thousands of Canadians play in providing their generous financial support to the sector in recognition of its important work. To support Canadians in this charitable giving, the government provides tax incentives for charitable donations, which have been described as being among the most generous in the world.

For example, registered charities are exempt from tax on their income and may issue official receipts for donations received. Donors may use those receipts to reduce their taxes by claiming the charitable donations tax credit for individuals or the charitable donations tax deduction for corporations. Also, for most taxpayers who give more than $200, the charitable donations tax cut eliminates any tax payable on most donations and reduces other taxes payable.

Taken together, federal tax assistance for charitable donations exceeded $3 billion in the last fiscal year. Certainly, these incentives have an important role to play in supporting a strong and effective charitable sector in Canada.

Charities are also highly diverse in their revenue sources. Some depend primarily on donations from the public, some raise considerable income from fees, while others operate relatively from the support of businesses. Still others depend highly on funds from the federal and provincial governments. However, as we have seen, the most remarkable support for charities in Canada is from Canadians themselves.

According to a 2015 Statistics Canada General Social Survey, 82% of Canadians made donations to a charity or non-profit organization. Furthermore, only 26% of donors chose the income tax credit as a primary reason for making a charitable donation, while 91% chose compassion toward people in need, and 88% chose personal belief in a cause.

Canadians know that charities play a vital role in our communities and provide valuable services to Canadians. However, like Canadians—

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We are still in private members' business. The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle still has the floor. We are finishing up private members' business and then we will go to the next rubric on the orders of the day. I ask members to keep their conversations low until we finish up with this and then we will carry on.

The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business



David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, like Canadians, this government also understands that governments must play a vital role in our communities and provide valuable services to Canadians. We share the same values and are united by the principles of fairness and inclusiveness which have made Canada a model for the world. Budget 2016 is a clear statement of our ability to transform these values into a better world.

Budget 2016 delivers on the government's agenda to empower all Canadians to build better lives for themselves and to enable them to contribute to and share in the prosperity of our country. It sets the foundation for an inclusive and fair Canada.

Budget 2016 will give Canadian families more money to help with the high cost of raising their children by replacing the current complicated child benefit system with a new Canada child benefit. The introduction of the Canada child benefit represents the most significant social policy innovation in a generation.

Budget 2016 also makes investments in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs that will help to secure a better quality of life for Canada's indigenous peoples and build a stronger, more unified, and more prosperous Canada.

It invests in modernizing and updating public transit, improving water and waste water systems, expanding affordable housing, and protecting infrastructure systems from the effects of climate change. It makes significant new investments to support seniors in their retirement years with increased benefits to ensure that Canadian seniors have a dignified, comfortable and secure retirement.

It will increase funding for innovation, collaboration in partnerships to protect the integrity of our health care system. It makes essential new investments in legal aid and reinstates funding for the court challenges program in order to improve access to the justice system. It puts people first and delivers the help that Canadians need now, not a decade from now.

At the same time, it invests for the years and decades to come for our children and grandchildren, so they may inherit a more prosperous and hopeful Canada.

As we move forward with these part investments, we will be guided by a sense of fairness to ensure that Canada's best days lie ahead. We will do our part to help ensure that Canada's charitable sector remains a strong force in securing this brighter future.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before giving the floor to the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, I should mention that there are about three minutes remaining in the time provided for private members' business.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business



Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to talk about this bill, even though I do not have much time. First, I would like to thank the member for Provencher for his candour, since he admitted in his speech that the primary purpose of the bill was to provide fiscal resources to anti-choice groups.

The proposed measure would affect all charitable organizations that could benefit from such a tax credit, depending on their needs. As a result, although the member was being honest, it seems a little inappropriate to me to put a spin on this tax credit so that it benefits certain groups in particular. That being said, the bill targets all charitable organizations. We always analyze the issue because there may be serious repercussions.

Next, I would like to set the record straight regarding some false information in the preamble of this bill. The bill compares tax credits for charitable donations to those for political contributions, when there is no comparison to be made between the amounts of these contributions.

Right now in Canada, tax expenditures related to charitable donations exceed $2.3 billion, while tax expenditures associated with political contributions are approximately $30 million. Transferring that $30 million to charitable organizations will be nothing more than a drop in the bucket, if that is the intention here.

I know that I will likely have the opportunity to talk about this issue again in the second hour of debate, but I would like to point out that increasing tax incentives to try to increase charitable donations has a limited effect. Of course some people make charitable donations in order to receive a tax credit, but that is only one of many reasons why people give to charity. There are other factors to consider.

For example, in my riding, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, donations to Centraide Bas-Saint-Laurent have declined significantly over the past five years. This is not a case of people being less generous, but the result of massive cuts to the public service and also to such organizations as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, which had employees who were major donors, but now has fewer of them. This economic situation was created mainly by the previous government, and this caused the decrease in donations.

I hope I will have time to debate this further during the second hour.

Fairness in Charitable Gifts ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques will have seven minutes when the House resumes debate on the motion.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Sturgeon River—Parkland Alberta


Rona Ambrose ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to respond to the government's first budget. I would like to begin by sharing a quotation that a colleague recently sent to me. It goes like this, “...the debt and the deficit burden pose much more than an economic challenge. This is a moral issue too. What right do we have to steal opportunity away from our children...”.

These words are as true today as they were 22 years ago. It might surprise my colleagues across the aisle to know who spoke those words. Speaking in this House, the former member for LaSalle—Émard struck upon a fundamental truth: borrowed money is not free; it is a debt that will have to be repaid by future generations. These words were spoken by the Right Hon. Paul Martin, a former Liberal prime minister and former finance minister.

While the party that he once led may now question the wisdom of his words, Her Majesty's loyal opposition does not. He knew the importance of having a fiscal anchor, a fiscal discipline, and a clear plan. Only with those do we have the ability to safeguard all of the programs that we need to care for the most vulnerable in our society. How can we have a compassionate government without a strong economy?

As Conservatives, we think that if we are to borrow on the backs of our children and grandchildren, we better have a very good reason to do so. Canadians deserve a plan and they deserve a clear path to prosperity. They deserve to know why the government needs so much more of their hard-earned dollars. Frankly, they expect the government to know what it is doing. Unfortunately, the government's budget fails on all of these counts.

I will be very clear on these three points.

First, the government is borrowing and spending a lot more money than it promised. Second, it is already raising taxes to pay back what it is borrowing and spending, and it will have no choice but to raise them again. Third, even after spending and taxing, the government has no strategy to create jobs or grow our economy.

Let me elaborate on those points.

First, the government is borrowing and spending a lot more money than it promised for no clear economic justification other than a political one.

Second, it is already raising taxes to pay it back, and it will have no choice but to raise them again in the future. Canadians are already overtaxed.

Third, even after spending and taxing, the government has no strategy to create jobs or grow our economy. Expert after expert have said that there is no evidence that any of the spending will create jobs.

On this side of the House, we are all worried about the uncontrollable borrowing. By refusing to live within its means today, the government is endangering growth and prosperity tomorrow and endangering the important programs on which Canadians rely. This is not just a hypothesis. If we remember the last time the Liberals were in power, we saw a 30% reduction to health care transfers. In fact, it is an irrefutable evidence-based fact, one that Canadians of a certain age know all too well.

If we remember the 1970s, the promise of the day was for a modest deficit, which back then was about $12 billion in today's dollars. That ballooned to more than a $70 billion deficit in just a decade. Interest rates then skyrocketed, investment vanished, and jobs disappeared.

By 1984, 20% of the federal budget was being eaten up just by interest payments. That is nearly three times as much as the government spent on defence, and five times more than it spent on health care.

If we fast forward to today, we are now seeing this happen in Ontario, where reckless borrowing has led to massive debt and deficits, and interest payments are now consuming money that should be spent on health and education.

A generation of opportunity was lost, and it was a long, painful journey back. With this budget, I fear the Liberals are taking Canada down the same perilous path.

We have seen it before, but it is back. It is that old, tired 1970s fiscal policy, ideas that do not stimulate any growth or create any jobs.

We were joking the other day that we all love retro, because it is back. We love the retro fashions of the 1970s, even some of the furniture. In fact, I even bought myself a new vinyl record player on eBay. However, one thing I do not like is 1970s fiscal policy.

Canadians are now asking why they should trust the government with more of their hard-earned money. How can they trust the government when the story is constantly changing? After promising modest deficits of no more than $10 billion, it has handed Canadians a bill for three times that amount. It promised to balance the books within four years, and it broke that promise too. Then it said our debt as a share of our economy would fall. That is broken promise number three. In fact, right now, it is not even telling Canadians how much it is spending, when it is spending it, and what exactly it is spending it on. It is almost as if we have to remind the government that the money actually does not belong to it.

I hope Canadians had a chance to hear about the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report last week, which confirms all of these points. In fact, one of the staff in the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is an independent office of Parliament, said in the 15 years he has been reviewing budgets, he cannot remember one that has been so deficient in the information that was provided to the public. In other words, the government is not being transparent with Canadians' tax dollars. Therefore, how can Canadians trust it? How can Canadians, who work so hard for their money, trust the government with their paycheques if it will not, at the most basic level, be transparent?

Canadians are also worried that there is just spending, but no actual plan. The problem is that, when a government borrows and spends without a plan, that little bit that it talked about turns into a lot very quickly. It already has. Therefore, Canadians are now asking when it will stop and how much will be enough.

The eminent Canadian economist, Jack Mintz, wrote on budget day that “Canada’s debt bomb has just gotten a lot bigger”. Why is that? It is because Canadians know borrowed money is not free. We have to pay for the privilege. Also, the more we borrow the more it costs and the less we have when a real crisis comes around the corner, and of course the less we have to pay for the things Canadians need, like health care, retirement income, and pensions.

All this borrowing leads us on this side of the House to another point. How are they going to pay it back? The Conservative opposition knows very well, and so do taxpayers, that today's deficits inevitably become tomorrow's taxes. Canadians know that the Liberals are taking more of their money now just to take more of their money later.

In fact, the government could not even wait until tomorrow. Taxes are already going up. Personal income taxes are up by $1.3 billion this year and will go up nearly twice that much next year to $2.4 billion. The Liberals are so proud of their tax on the so-called one per cent. Why would they be proud of raising anyone's taxes in Canada?

The bottom line is that the budget was not designed to help the middle class, as the Prime Minister had promised during the election campaign. It is instead a betrayal of the middle class. For example, the Liberal government is rolling back tax-free savings accounts, the single most important personal financial vehicle since RRSPs. Millions of Canadians use them. Almost 70% of Canadians who use them are low- and middle-income Canadians, but the Liberals are scaling them back. Why would the government want to do anything to discourage Canadians from investing in their retirement, doing the responsible thing?

On the other side, it is shuffling around child benefits, which have a proven record of success, and leaving thousands of families out in the cold. The universal child care benefit, which the Liberals are eliminating, was universal and it lifted hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty. However, they cancelled it. Tax credits for arts classes and for fitness classes are gone. Families relied on them. These credits gave them a break.

Having said that, probably the biggest betrayal in this budget was to small business owners. Small business owners were promised time and time again during the election campaign by the Prime Minister that small business tax rates would be going down, but the Liberals have abandoned that promise to lower taxes on small businesses and, at the same time, cancelled the small business hiring tax break. In addition to that, payroll taxes are on their way up.

The Liberal government is even increasing taxes for students, children's sports activities, and charitable organizations. That is just the beginning, a preview of what is to come. It is a simple and irrefutable fact that if the Liberals are not willing to control their spending, they will eventually have to raise taxes.

Let us talk about the impact of this budget on young people who are, right now, facing employment challenges. Why would the government add to their debt burden by raising the taxes on textbooks and education? Young people get it. They do not need a 1970s fiscal policy of interventionist big government. Conservatives want everyone to encourage a new economy that flourishes with less government intervention, not more government intervention, and young Canadians understand that. They know that good ideas, solutions, new technologies, and new platforms come from entrepreneurs, from people who are willing to take risks with their new ideas. The government has suppressed that. This is just the beginning. This is just a preview of more to come. It is a simple, irrefutable fact that, if the Liberals are not willing to control their spending, they will eventually have to raise taxes more.

What can Canadians expect for all of this borrowed money and tax hikes? The short answer is that Canadians are not getting what they thought they had paid for. For all of its spending, this budget does little to address the real economic challenges Canada does face, including unemployment in manufacturing and in the natural resource sector. Our economy may be growing, but it is growing unevenly. The oil and gas industry alone has lost 100,000 jobs. Families in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador are struggling. In fact, they are desperate. What Canada needs now is a job plan, but this budget is not it. The Liberals still, after all of these years, have not figured it out.

It is not governments that create jobs; it is the private sector that creates jobs. This idea that growing the size of government is the answer is just wrong. We need the government to grow the size of the private sector, and this budget does nothing to encourage the private sector to invest in the economy and create well-paying, high-quality jobs. The job of the government is to create the environment for the private sector to flourish, and then, frankly, it should step aside and let people succeed.

Yet, the government makes barely any mention of helping the natural resource sector, the industry where our economic problems lie and where solutions are needed today. It is offering no support for the manufacturing sector, which according to the latest job numbers, is where we are seeing very low growth, even with the low dollar. Instead, higher taxes, higher energy and input costs, with the threat of a carbon tax, and uncertainty in the approval process for energy infrastructure are driving investments away from Canada and out of these sectors.

If Canadian farmers are looking for a sign that the government respects the agricultural and agrifood business, they will not find it. There is not one word in the budget. The only new support for agriculture is not going to farmers; it is going to Ottawa bureaucrats. As for the Liberals' promised infrastructure plan—and I do not know if members know this—there is actually no new money for highways, roads, or ports. These are the kinds of trade-enhancing investments that Canada needs today to move our goods to market, and these are the ones that Conservatives funded when we were in government. It was a good idea then, and it is a good idea now.

Most troubling of all is the fact that the Liberals are cutting programs that are important to our national security. They are slashing funding to Canada's military, in a return to the Liberal decade of darkness, and delaying much-needed equipment for the men and women of Canada's military in favour of spending on special-interest projects. As new stories of terror attacks come in from around the world, the Liberal government announced that less than 1% of its $30 billion spending spree would go to public safety.

Make no mistake, the Liberal government is on the brink of causing real, long-term damage to our economy. Our Conservative members are not the only ones saying so. The Liberal government's budget landed with a thud on March 22.

The reaction ranged from disappointment to outright confusion, as Canadians struggled to understand what $30 billion of their tax money had just bought them, from the Ottawa Citizen, which said “Canada under [the new Prime Minister] is going to look a lot like Ontario under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne”, to The Canadian Press, which said that the losers in this budget include small businesses, national defence, and Canadians who want a lower tax burden.

Dan Kelly, the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who represents hundreds of thousands of small business owners, said that budget 2016 is “brutal for small businesses”; and John Ivison, one of our favourite columnists at the National Post said—and I am quoting this because it was so good—“this budget is a broken pipeline of federal tax dollars, gushing money to numerous pet Liberal causes”. I could not have said it better myself.

However, I did. Let me quote myself. I might as well take the liberty of quoting myself. The Leader of the Opposition said, “This Budget is a nightmare...for taxpayers...”.

Therefore, what should a responsible government be doing? The fact is that we live in a highly competitive economy. If Canada is not an attractive place to work and invest, opportunities will go elsewhere. In fact, they already are.

What should we be doing? We should be aggressively pursuing free trade. We should be streamlining regulations. We should be cutting taxes, not raising them. We should be approving job-creating projects in a responsible way. That is how we create jobs. This budget does none of that.

By borrowing $10 billion without a credible repayment plan, raising taxes on families, and throwing out barriers to job creation, this government has failed on its most important job: keeping Canada's economy strong. Canadians want true leadership to support the Canadian economy. This budget offers nothing but platitudes and promises.

Worse still, the Prime Minister and his team continue to throw up roadblocks to job-creating pipeline projects and the thousands of new jobs that come with them. In British Columbia, they are sending mixed messages on LNG. During his recent trip to Washington, the Prime Minister did not even bother to bring his natural resources minister along, despite the enormous stake that our energy and forestry industries have in a bilateral relationship.

We on this side of the House know that Canada should be making the private sector a partner, not a target. This will not cost the federal treasury a dollar but would create thousands of jobs. We should be supporting proper infrastructure spending that has a lasting impact, with transparent selection criteria. We should be pursuing free trade deals like the historic trans-Pacific partnership that will lead to $5 billion to $10 billion in long-term GDP growth. We should have an actual commitment to balancing the budget within the next four years. It can be done, because it has been done.

We on this side of the House know that it is possible to be fiscally responsible and create a strong business climate, and it is possible to do that while at the same time being compassionate, since the government has a responsibility to help the most vulnerable in society.

How do we know that? We know that because that is what our Conservative government did for the last decade. We steered Canada through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We did it while lowering taxes to their lowest level in 50 years; creating 1.2 million net new jobs, 90% of which were in the private sector; balancing the budget as promised and leaving a surplus; successfully negotiating free trade agreements with 51 countries, including the European Union and the trans-Pacific partnership; and approving pipelines to the United States and the northern gateway pipeline to get oil to tidal water. We did it while pulling hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty with the universal child care benefit and, thanks to the late and greatly missed Jim Flaherty, doing more for the disabled than any other government in Canadian history.

We also did all of that while at the same time raising health care spending by 70%, raising direct benefits to Canadians to their highest levels in history, and raising transfers to the provinces and territories to their highest levels in history. We also concluded a historic multi-million dollar settlement for thalidomide survivors, and we concluded more first nation specific land claims than any other government in history.

We did it because we had a plan, a clear plan, and provided real economic leadership. Without real economic leadership, there is no means to pay for all of these important social programs that so many Canadians rely on when they need our compassion.

Therefore, as Her Majesty's loyal opposition, we will push the government. We will be loud, and we will encourage the government to do the same as we did, which is to have plan, to be fiscally responsible, to live within its means, to unleash the private sector. If not, we will not have a strong economy, and without a strong economy, we cannot have a compassionate government.

On that note, I would like to conclude, and I also move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House not approve the budgetary policy of the government as it:

A. includes a deficit of at least $29.4 billion;

B. contains wasteful spending;

C. has no plan to balance the books;

D. will fail to boost economic growth or create jobs; and

E. betrays the middle class by raising taxes on families, individuals and small businesses.”

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The amendment is admissible.

Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first if I may, I wish everyone a very happy Vaisakhi, a very special celebration across Canada today as we celebrate Khalsa here on Parliament Hill.

It is an interesting speech that we just heard from the leader of the official opposition. If the Conservatives were as visionary as they like to think, they would recognize that the budget that the Prime Minister and this government have put forward is an amazing budget. It deals with investing in Canada's infrastructure. It invests in our children. It invests in our middle class. This is a budget that the Conservatives should be voting for.

It is a bit tough listening to a Conservative who is trying to provide advice on deficits. I need to remind the former government and the Conservative Party that no lesson can be taught from that party on dealing with Canada's deficits. They inherited a multi-billion dollar budget 10 years ago, and they converted it into a multi-billion dollar deficit. They have never had a balanced budget.

Why does the leader of the official opposition believe they can give advice on budgetary measures when the Conservative government was a total failure at delivering a balanced budget for Canadians?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I feel quite confident in saying it because the numbers and the facts are clear. We left the current government with a balanced budget and with a surplus. That is what we promised Canadians, and we delivered on it. The current government promised Canadians the same thing, and within 30 days it backtracked on its promise.

The big difference is that in 2008, when we took on a deficit, we were in a global recession. We are not in a global recession right now. In fact, the latest job growth numbers in some sectors are not bad. However, in parts of our economy we are struggling. Ironically, in the parts of our economy where we are struggling, like manufacturing and the oil and gas sector, it is in fact regressive Liberal fiscal policy from the seventies that is harming those sectors.

I appreciate the member's comments, but I would say to check the facts. We left the government with a surplus and a balanced budget as we promised Canadians. As always, we did what we said we would do.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for her speech. Much of it I do not agree with, especially the assertion that government does not create jobs, that only the private sector does. I think we can all agree that the private sector plays a central role in job creation. This information would come as a surprise to all the teachers of the country, our civil service, of course, social workers, and all of the social help that this country is receiving. They would be surprised to know that they are not actually employed and receiving help from government.

Speaking of job creation, there is something on which we can agree, and it is the central role of small and medium-sized businesses in creating jobs. The NDP recognized that back in 2008 and proposed a reduction of the tax rate on small and medium-sized businesses from 11% to 9%. The Conservatives, to their credit, implemented that in the last budget. Now we have the Liberals who promised the same thing in the last campaign, and they decided to break their promise and keep that rate at 10.5%.

I would like to ask the Leader of the Opposition what the impact of this broken promise by the Liberals will be on small and medium-sized businesses.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that I am heartened to hear that the member does not agree with much that I say, because after the New Democrats' convention in Edmonton and their adoption of the Leap Manifesto, I want to distance our party from them as far as we can.

I will agree with the member on one point, and that is our disagreement with and concern that the Liberals broke their promise to small business owners. I quoted in my speech the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Dan Kelly. It was interesting that he said that in the 40 years of this organization, this was the first year it had not been able to meet with the government to talk about the budget. It represents hundreds of thousands of small businesses.

Not only did the Liberals break their promise on the small business tax rate, but they cancelled the hiring tax credit for small businesses, and payroll taxes are going up. As many experts said on budget day, the biggest losers in this budget, sadly, were small business owners.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Denis Lebel Conservative Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are bragging about how the former Liberal government supposedly left behind a surplus. At the time, they had taken nearly $60 billion from the employment insurance fund and put it into government operations.

Furthermore, they had made massive cuts to provincial health and education transfers to balance their budget.

Would the leader of the official opposition talk about whether these kinds of practices were used when she was in government? Did we cut provincial transfers to balance our budget, or did we take other measures?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. The truth is that we took on a deficit at a time of global recession, and we said we would do it to stimulate the economy. However, the interesting thing was the measures we took to stimulate the economy.

While experts are saying they cannot see evidence in this budget of programs that will create jobs or stimulate the economy, we, at a cost of several billion dollars, introduced the home renovation tax credit. That stimulated the economy, as people spent money in their communities and invested in their own homes. It was an expensive initiative, but it was time limited. It did its job, and it put a lot of money into the economy.

We coupled that with tax breaks for small businesses and for Canadians, things like introducing the hiring tax credit for small businesses. All of these things generated economic stimulus, and, of course, that resulted in more revenue for the government. It allowed us then to see growth. We had the highest growth record in the G7. That then allowed us to increase our transfers to the provinces for health care by 70%, increasing our transfers to Ontario by 89%.

We lowered taxes, and we were still able to be compassionate in our programming. We raised the funding for the kinds of things that Canadians need most. It is possible, and we will urge the government to take the same path.