Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to stand in the House and speak to Bill C-15. The bill would implement a number of the measures that the government had previously announced in the budget that was tabled here in Parliament on March 22.
Today I would like to outline the various reasons why I am opposed to this legislation and also to the fiscal plan of the government more generally.
The main reasons why I am opposed to the budget include the following: a larger than promised deficit, not just larger but huge; removal of the universal child care benefit and other beneficial tax credits; gutting of the Canadian military; lack of support for small businesses; and the list goes on. What really irks me and most Canadians is that the Liberals brag about a middle-class tax break when we all know that in reality it is really a middle-class tax fraud.
I want to carry on with the topic of deficits. This was perhaps the most disheartening part of the budget. many Canadians were disappointed that the Prime Minister broke his main election promise to Canadians to keep deficits at $10 billion or less. Budget 2016 misses this target by a country mile. The budget projects deficits of $29.4 billion in fiscal 2016-17; $29 billion in 2017-18; $22.8 billion in 2018-19; and further deficits past 2020. This is not what was promised to Canadians and is not a fiscally responsible plan. The Liberal government has the arrogance and audacity to plan for deficits far beyond even its elected mandate.
What is most concerning is there is not a clear plan or pathway to balance the books. When the global economic crisis hit in 2008, the former Conservative government and my good friend the late hon. Jim Flaherty recognized the need to run deficits to stimulate the economy and create jobs for Canadians. However, it was always made clear to all that there was a plan to return to balance. Budget 2016 provides no such plan and the economy is far better off today than it was in 2008.
The government seems content with running deficits simply for the sake of having a deficit. The most recent “Fiscal Monitor” was very telling of this. It showed us that from April 2015 to February 2016 the government was running a $7.5-billion surplus. However, the government posted what has been called a blockbuster deficit of $9.4 billion in the last month of the fiscal year and therefore we were left with a $2-billion deficit for 2015. This is shameful, simply does not make any common sense, and certainly does not make any economic sense.
I have heard from a number of families in my riding who are concerned with the benefits that the budget would take away from hard-working families. Most notably, budget 2016 would remove the following tax credits: the children's fitness tax credit, the children's art tax credit, and tax credits for post-secondary education and textbooks. These measures were widely supported by families in my riding and across the country who enrolled their children in minor hockey, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse, and by those who enrolled their children in dance classes, piano lessons, and other arts and culture activities. Furthermore, the tax credits that supported those in post-secondary education were vital for helping families afford to send their children to school beyond high school. All gone. The floor swept clean of good programs just because they were initiated by the previous government.
While in government the Conservative Party reduced taxes to their lowest point in 50 years, which resulted in a typical family of four saving almost $7,000. We brought in concrete measures that allowed families to keep more of their hard-earned money. Furthermore, these were fair measures that benefited all families, in particular, low- and middle-class families. Did I happen to mention that middle-class tax fraud?
In keeping with the topic of keeping taxes low, I was also disappointed to see two measures in budget 2016 that are bad news for small businesses in Canada. These are keeping the small business tax rate at 10.5% instead of lowering it to the scheduled 9%, and ending the hiring credit for small businesses. These were small potatoes for the government, but big items for small businesses. Small businesses, in my riding and in most ridings across the country, are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy and are especially important in rural communities. They are responsible for 82% of jobs in Canada. In my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, the local economy depends on a healthy community of small businesses. I strongly support measures to ensure that small businesses keep more of the money they earn so they in turn can hire more staff and grow their business. That is how the economy works. Unfortunately, the budget removes two key measures that have supported and would have continued to support small businesses in Canada.
Furthermore, the budget is a slap in the face to the Canadian Armed Forces. We all remember too well the 1990s and what has been called the “decade of darkness” for our military under the Liberal government at the time. It appears as though while sunny ways are supposedly shining everywhere else, our military is once again being left in the dark. Budget 2016 removes $3.7 billion out the budget of the Department of National Defence, which was earmarked for vitally important procurement projects. What this means is that under this government the military will not be able to upgrade important military equipment. It is my fear that we are in for another Liberal attack on our military. In fact, the military is under attack, and it is not by ISIS. It is by the government.
Finally, I want to comment on Canada's recreational fishery and the importance that the industry has to the economy as a whole. Like my riding, I know, Mr. Speaker, your riding depends a lot on it. I have fished up there, and anyone who does recreational fishing, no matter where it is, they leave money behind, which supports small business.
My riding is surrounded by the Great Lakes on three sides, and the recreational fishing industry is a vital source of economic activity for a number of communities. For example, every year, the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular draws anglers from across the country and out of the country to the area, which is fantastic for local businesses.
It should be noted that every year, recreational fishing in Canada adds approximately $8 billion in economic activity. Supporting this industry has always been a top priority for me, and I want to spend a few moments presenting an issue that I feel was overlooked in the creation of budget 2016.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission plays a vital role in protecting our Great Lakes and the recreational fishery. The commission was established in 1955 by the Canada-U.S. Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries. The commission has a mandate to conduct research on the Great Lakes fishery and to protect the fishery from invasive species such as Asian carp and sea lamprey. However, while the United States has increased annual funding to the commission, budget 2016 contains no new funding. In fact, a number of the Great Lakes state governors have written to the Canadian ambassador, outlining their disappointment. I am with them on that. I am also disappointed that the budget did not address this problem.
In closing, Canadians expect more from their government than what they are getting with the budget. Canadians did not vote for spiralling deficits with no plan to return to balance. They did not vote for an assault on our military, and they did not vote for irresponsible economic policy. Lastly, they did not vote for a middle-class tax fraud.