Mr. Speaker, the reviews are in, and the critics have spoken. Full of bafflegab and devoid of substance, budget 2017 is a bust, which comes as no surprise. This is a buzzword budget from a buzzfeed Prime Minister that is all sizzle and no substance. Unfortunately, no list of the Prime Minister's 17 best selfies will get Canadians to take the government seriously.
If the government was serious about national security, it would not be cutting the defence budget. If the government was serious about lifting up our economy, it would not be weighing it down with carbon taxes. If the government was serious about passing legislation, it would not need to change the rules of Parliament.
The Liberals are not serious, not competent, and obviously not up to the job. Sadly, Canadians have no recourse until the next election. Our only chance to correct the disastrous course the Liberals have taken is to convince them in words they understand, so let us buzzfeed this budget.
Let us start with an easy one. Here are five ways Liberal budgets are helping the rich or hurting the poor.
First, wealthy developers can now claim the eco-gift tax-credit loophole for up to 10 years.
Second, while developers get their credits doubled, hard-working Canadians lose their transit pass credits.
Third, excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco hit the poor hardest, and the regressive Liberal government has raised them.
Fourth, the government's upper-class tax cut shifted the tax burden to the poor. If we cut taxes on the top 50% more than we raise them on the top 1%, the burden of taxes falls on the Canadians the government thinks are not middle class enough to deserve a tax cut.
Fifth, as we learned last week from the example of Bombardier's executives, the people who benefit from the government's corporate welfare are well-connected Liberal insiders.
Speaking of corporate welfare, I asked constituents to tell me what three things in the budget are most likely to lead to another sponsorship scandal. The result was a tie for second place between the eco-gift tax credit and the Liberal infrastructure bank. Many found doubling the eco-gift tax credit suspicious, and others had concerns about the blending of public and private interests in the infrastructure bank.
However, the number one item in the budget my constituents think is most likely to lead to the next Liberal sponsorship scandal is the super-cluster fund. The budget promises to spend nearly $1 billion on super-clusters, but it does not say how the money will be spent. That is because no government can spend a cluster into existence. That is why the government failed to establish the cluster program in last year's budget. Clearly the government was not stopped by its failure. Instead, it has doubled down with a super-cluster fund. There is no metric to measure success, which I am sure the Auditor General will have some questions about. It is no wonder so many people think these Liberal cluster funders will leave us with another sponsorship scandal.
According to the usual fake news are promises of more innovation, more infrastructure, and more tax fairness. As noted in newspaper headlines, these are empty buzzwords, like the number of times the Prime Minister invokes the words “middle class” and spinners repeat the words, on the theory that repetition somehow makes them come true.
Higher and higher spending debt will move Canada backwards and land the spending bill on our children.
Here is what the government has promised for 2019, the election year, when Canadians can finally pass judgment on its policies. The economy will grow more slowly and will be smaller by some $47 billion. Massive cuts to Canada's defence budget will have this country relying on the U.S.A. to defend our borders like never before. Unemployment will be higher, losing almost 60,000 anticipated jobs. The Canadian dollar will be down almost four cents, lowering every Canadian's net worth. Tax revenues will be lower and program spending will be higher, reflecting a weaker fiscal position. Finally, there will be $102 billion in new debt from huge annual deficits, leaving a mess to be paid for by our children and grandchildren. This budget is truly outrageous.
Canadians who were shocked by the actual size of the federal deficit last year are numb from these latest figures in the budget. The excuse for piling up huge deficits in last year's budget was that manufacturers needed to kick-start an already growing economy. Thanks to the prudent financial measures practised by the previous Conservative government, the economy was growing, and real full-time employment was being enjoyed by Canadians. Canada had a balanced budget.
The finance minister brought in his huge deficit budget anyway, with a fake promise of the need to massively tax and borrow to spend on infrastructure. In fact, infrastructure spending was held out as the excuse by the government for the huge rise in the deficit. Today the parliamentary budget officer is asking where the infrastructure spending is.
The municipalities in my riding are asking the same question. On page 89 of budget 2016, municipalities were promised $837 million, which was left over from the Conservative infrastructure program. Those were funds that were available and would have seen shovels in the ground almost immediately. The construction season in 2016 was missed, and it looks like the 2017 construction season will be missed also.
More importantly, the budget promised to distribute the borrowed funds through the gas-tax method of distribution. This is an important distinction in my riding, because federal gas-tax funds are distributed in a fair, transparent manner by a third party on a per capita base. By distributing funds on a per capita basis, all municipalities can count on receiving some funding. Municipalities do not have to rely on the application-based Wheel of Fortune method of receiving funding favoured by the Toronto Liberal Party.
In my riding, the county of Renfrew has felt it necessary to spend tax dollars to hire a lobbyist in Ottawa to get an infrastructure project funded. We know, to paraphrase the media, that it is raining lobbyists in Ottawa. People have to pay to play in Gerald Butts' Ottawa. These are taxpayer dollars that would be better used on an actual project, rather than being spent on government lobbyists.
If infrastructure dollars are not being spent on infrastructure, where is the money going? It has been suggested that an elaborate shell game is going on, with certain Liberal-friendly provinces redirecting infrastructure funds into general funds as slush accounts to help them get re-elected.
That same shell game applies to other announcements in budget 2017. The decision to reallocate, which is Liberal-speak for cut, $8.5 billion in the defence budget marks the beginning of a double decade of darkness for Canada's women and men in the Armed Forces. The only way to cut short decades of darkness for Canada's military would be a change of government in 2019.
Canada's veterans are being spun that there might be something for them in this budget. However, proof is in the actual results. All veterans have seen so far is money from their budget being spent on empty offices in government ridings and more bureaucrats to sit in those offices.
The question veterans need to ask is whether they are seeing any material, financial improvement in recognition of their sacrifices. Veterans, such as Warrant Officer Roger Perreault, have told me that it is not the lack of programs; it is the arcane process of qualifying for the programs, where multiple appeals are common. Gerald Butts needs to instruct the Prime Minister to implement a policy of getting the decision right the first time when it comes to the health and well-being of our veterans. If the government is looking for a way to streamline the process for soldiers who are transitioning out of the military, it should focus on making the decision before the soldier is released from the military, without the need for costly appeals that tie up departmental resources in the courts. It is a false economy to plan on denying veterans benefits with the expectation that the veterans will eventually give up on receiving what they are entitled to.
Soldiers who were expecting the clawback of their danger pay to not only stop but be reversed are deeply disappointed, with no mention of this bafflegab in the budget. The pay clawback shows what the current government really thinks about our women and men in uniform.
Owners of family-owned campgrounds expecting some tax fairness in this budget were shocked by the decision to double the budget for hiring tax collectors to put them out of business. Not every Canadian can afford to own a villa in the south of France, like the finance minister, or has a wealthy buddy who just happens to own an island in the Caribbean, like the Prime Minister, or gets a trip to a private-island getaway subsidized by Canadian taxpayers, at $127,000 for the latest trip, that we know of. This is from a Prime Minister who wants to force changes to the rules of Parliament so that he only has to show up one day a week. If he wants to reduce his salary to pay for one day a week, then maybe Canadians will consider his outrageous request.
The government is out of touch with middle-class working Canadians. Their dream to own a home has been shattered.