Madam Speaker, I wish to advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Perth—Wellington.
With the cameras rolling on the campaign trail, the Liberals promised they would provide revenue-neutral tax relief for the middle class by asking wealthy Canadians to pay more. We now know that this is not the case as taxpayers will have to dish out an additional $8.9 billion over the next six years, and hard-working middle-class Canadians will ultimately have to shoulder this massive burden.
The Liberals promised Canadians they would not run deficits of more than $10 billion a year, but now we see that they are borrowing almost $30 billion in 2016 and upwards of $120 billion over the next five years.
The Liberals promised to spend $10 billion per year on infrastructure, but if we add it up, infrastructure spending in this budget is far less than what they told Canadians in order to get elected.
The Liberals promised small business they would honour graduated tax relief previously passed in Parliament, but that promise has also been thrown out the window.
With no plan to return to balance, this budget simply increases the cost of government, does nothing to create jobs, and it is on track to make the employment insurance system the largest employer in Canada.
This is not what Canadians were told when they were being asked for their vote last October. Instead, Canadians were sold a bill of goods and, simply put, this budget was not as advertised. However, do not take my word for it. Many prominent Canadians in the know who are echoing these sentiments are also echoing their disappointment.
Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer whom many members across the aisle quoted in the House on almost a daily basis when they sat in office, said, “Budgets are fiscal plans. A fiscal plan without a strategy to get back to balance and without sustainability analysis is not responsible or prudent. We are passing higher debt onto future generations”, he concluded.
A Globe and Mail editorial noted:
The Liberal Party’s electoral pitch was that Ottawa would run deficits to pay for infrastructure. But that’s mostly not what’s happening in Budget 2016. The vast majority of the planned new spending is not investment. It’s not building roads or bridges or public transit. It’s ongoing program spending, locked-in and permanent.
Canadian Federation of Independent Business president, Dan Kelly, said in his platform in a written letter to CFIB members, “...in campaign stops across the country, the new government promised to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to nine per cent by 2019. That promise was broken today as it announced the rate will remain at 10.5% after 2016.” This decision will cost small firms over $900 million more per year as of 2019.
Sadly, respected journalist Andrew Coyne who, for the record, publicly endorsed the Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff in 2011, probably put it best when he wrote that this budget “is one from the 1970s, to address problems of 1980s”.
This budget would hurt small business, offers nothing for Barrie manufacturers, and has no mention of the continued clean-up of Lake Simcoe. It also fails to offer any support for our agricultural producers in Innisfil, despite the agri-food sector and families that work on those farms, accounting for more than $100 billion in economic activity and employing more than two million Canadians. After being promised a tax cut and making plans based on that pledge, small and medium-sized businesses across my riding will not see that relief from the government in the foreseeable future.
I watched CTV's Question Period two weeks ago following the budget, and the comments made by the Minister of Small Business and Tourism were quite interesting to say the least. The interviewer questioned the minister on how much savings the treasury would realize by deferring the tax relief for SMEs earning less than $500,000. She did not answer the question and, quite frankly, I do not think she knew the answer to the question. As the host pressed the minister on why the government was deferring the tax cuts that were promised to small business owners in her very own mandate letter, she said, “I wouldn't say that it is being deferred”.
The budget makes it very clear in a statement regarding the about-face by the Liberals. It is right there in black and white on page 220 for all to see. It reads, “Budget 2016 proposes that further reductions in the small business income tax rate be deferred”. It is clear the minister had not read the text but in hindsight this surprise in the Liberals' own budget should not shock anyone.
The Prime Minister himself makes no bones about his dim views on small business, the very sector that is universally held as the backbone of our economy, the one that employs roughly two-thirds of all working Canadians. His perception of small business was particularly revealing during his pre-election interview with Peter Mansbridge when he declared a large percentage of small businesses were just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes.
However, this is not the story that I hear from hard-working constituents operating small business and farms in my riding. They are not wealthy Canadians trying to avoid taxes. Cancelling the promised tax rate cut or not renewing the tax credit for EI premiums paid for hiring youth in the first year hurts their bottom line.
What am I to tell these people and so many other business owners across Barrie—Innisfil? Have they been forgotten? Are they being taken for granted? Or is it both?
On infrastructure, the Liberal infrastructure plan in the days and months leading up to the October 19 vote was also not as advertised in this budget. Most Canadians see infrastructure as building roads and bridges. They think of things that reduce gridlock and make it easier to get our products to market, and easier to get people where they need to go.
During the campaign, the Prime Minister announced with fanfare and fervour that his infrastructure plan would kick start the economy and create jobs for Canadians. The airwaves were bombarded with TV commercials, and countless photo ops were staged showing the Prime Minister with seemingly every backhoe, every dump truck and every heavy crane from St. John's to Victoria.
However, what was advertised and what is in this budget outline two very different things. I believe a recent editorial in The Globe and Mail captured this sleight of hand, this shell game, quite succinctly. It read:
What the budget calls “Phase I of Canada’s New Infrastructure Plan” involves $11.9-billion in new infrastructure investments – spread over five years. In a big-budget bucket, it’s a relatively small drop. The remaining infrastructure spending, which, based on previous Liberal promises, should involve another $48-billion over the next 10 years, is nowhere to be seen.
Infrastructure, to the Liberals, is divided into three main project pots: transit, green, and what they refer to as social infrastructure. For transit, the budget allocates $3.4 billion over three years but just $852 million for 2016-17. Their green infrastructure fund accounts for $5 billion over five years but only $650 million is to be spent this year. The Liberals also claim they will spend $3.4 billion on social infrastructure over the next five years. That is a far cry from $10 billion a year pledged to "kick start the economy" while the Liberals were stumping for votes.
Listening to the Minister of Finance in the House on March 22, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu, hearing a similar tone and common language from a budget speech delivered at Queen's Park five weeks earlier by Ontario's finance minister, Charles Sousa.
In spite of the finance ministers using over 9,000 combined words to unveil their respective budgets, the term auto industry was not mentioned in either speech. Mr. Sousa failed to make any reference to farming, and Canada's Minister of Finance only referenced farming once, but it was not in the context of growing crops or raising livestock. Instead he seemed to suggest that farmers transition their operations to become wind and solar power producers.
The term 'small business' was virtually non-existent in either remarks. The word “employers” did not make Canada's Minister of Finance's final speech cut. Mr. Sousa's lone reference to the word “employers” was a note that the Liberals were implementing ORPP in Ontario.
Neither speech recognized the oil industry, and manufacturing was, at best, a second thought.
Budget 2016 also abandons our military by deferring $3.7 billion in spending that was set to take place over the next five years. This past weekend, I was at the Vimy ceremony at Base Borden commemorating the 99th anniversary of that historic battle when Canadian soldiers, heroes of our great nation, fought together forming Canada into a nation from a colony.
There is concern from those who serve proudly today that we are returning to the shameful decade of darkness the military suffered under the Liberals during the 1990s.
In closing, I would like to quote former finance minister Jim Flaherty in his budget speech delivered to the House in 2014. He had a warning for Canadians, and I believe his words are very appropriate today. He said:
When governments run prolonged deficits, they are spending money that belongs to future generations. Deficit spending endangers social programs we benefit from and that our children will soon depend on.
Today's deficits are tomorrow's taxes, and the budget presented by the government points to a future wherein our kids and grandkids will spend their lives paying for the past.