Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate. I want to offer a much more light-hearted critique following the heavy substance we had, provided by the many members of the Conservative caucus especially.
I always start with a Yiddish proverb. I have one of course. The heaviest thing in the world is an empty pocket, and it very much applies to this budget. It will empty the pockets of most Canadians. The nickel and diming in the budget, whether it is higher taxes on Uber and ride-sharing services like Lyft, or higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and transit passes, Canadians will see their pockets far emptier than they have ever been before and their families will feel it far heavier than they ever have.
There has been a lot of criticism in the media. Journalists, columnists, and stakeholder groups have, in a sustained way, criticized the budget for its lack of vision and ideas. There is actually a lack of new ideas. There is nothing new in the budget from the fall economic statement. We simply have a return to more 1970s public budgeting methods, which is extremely high deficits, structural deficits, a lot of new debt, and a lot of program spending with very questionable results on the back end. In fact, in the budget the term “innovation” appears 212 times, “small business” appears six times. The one thing missed in the budget is that the government could have spent money on the purchase of a new thesaurus.
In French, that would be a “Larousse” and a “Bescherelle”.
The 2016 census was released on Tuesday by Statistics Canada. On the population and demographics numbers, its states that we have more seniors than children in Canada now. It says that the working age population, 15 to 64, has declined to 66.5%; over 65 is now 16.9% of the population; and under the age 15 is 16.6%. We have more seniors today than we have ever had before and now it is inverted. We are now a country of grandparents, not children. That was a favourite saying of former premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach. He used to say that we were quickly coming to the point where we would have more grandparents than young children, and that is a fundamental change to the country and to the way the government should be delivering on programs.
All we see in the budget is simply runaway spending. Some spending is going to seniors, but there is no attempt even to try to constrain some of the spending, redirect it, and make it easier for seniors to access those services. I have a lot of seniors in my riding who are having a very difficult time accessing GIS, OAS, and Service Canada. It is not that they are not eligible for it, but it is the service delivery component that they find very difficult to access. Not all of them are up on the latest app. Not all of them are using the latest Apple device. They are simply having difficulty accessing basic services.
On program spending, by 2021 and 2022, seniors' benefits will account for $63.7 billion. That is much more than double what we will be spending on children's benefit programs by then. This trend will continue, and this budget has too few superclusters of ideas to address the problem of the aging demographics.
The nickel and diming budget, as I like to call it in my riding, includes, as I said, hikes on alcohol, cigarettes, public transit passes, ride-hailing services, and a lot more. It keeps going, especially on businesses. A lot of promises were made by the Liberals during the election, but they have not kept them, like the reduction to the small business tax, which has a material impact on how people plan their business. An analysis done by the CBC found this budget contained only $1.3 billion of any new spending. In a $300 billion operation, which is the Government of Canada, why do we need this budget when it is just a rehash of the fall economic statement? It is generally a rehash with a lot more buzzwords being used, trying to promote the government in a vain attempt to find those extra votes.
In Calgary, the Minister of Finance delivered a speech after the budget. I talked to the media afterward. It was a stock speech. It could have been delivered in any city, in any county, anywhere in Canada. It would have been exactly the same, and it fell flat with the Calgary business community. There was very little interest. It was a quiet crowd and the people had very little to say afterward. I asked the minister the very simple question then about when the budget would balance itself. Obviously, I did not get an answer, because there is no answer. There is no answer in the budget either. The only answer we find is in Department of Finance documents that were put out, which state that we will have to wait until after 2050 to ever see a balanced budget again. The return to a balanced budget is fictional.
When I commented on budget 2016 last year, I thought the government should perhaps put that budget up for the Scotiabank Giller Prize as a work of fiction. Budget 2017 is a redux, a rehash, a lot more fiction, but there is a lot more science fiction in this one than there ever was before.
The Liberals are budgeting from the heart out, as a previous member said. It is vanilla flavoured, as Macleans has called it.
Particularly worrying for me are changes to the tax laws that govern the exploration of new wells. Companies will see their tax deductions reduced between 2019 and 2022. In Calgary, Edmonton, and regions in Alberta, this is going to extract $145 million out of companies when they are hurting the most right now and trying to keep employees on the payroll. The Liberals are giving Alberta $30 million of its own tax money to basically go toward orphan well cleanup and taking away $145 million that would have gone toward the exploration of new wells.
The government's logic is that it will spend $30 million to clean up orphan wells and then discourage the exploration of new wells by taking $145 million from businesses. That is the logic at a time when Alberta is really hurting? It is no wonder the members for Calgary Heritage and Calgary Midnapore were elected with over 75% support in their ridings. With that type of logic, of course we will see those types of numbers. There are 82,000 inactive oil and gas wells, a lot of which could be reclaimed, but not for $30 million. It is no surprise this budget has fallen flat with Canadians, not just pundits, columnists, or politicians.
In a poll referenced by The Globe and Mail by Bill Curry, with the headline “'Canadians were not impressed' by federal budget: survey”, only 5% of Canadians said they had a positive view of this budget. That is interesting. As I mentioned before, the earliest we will see a balanced budget will probably be in 2055 or 2056. These are Department of Finance numbers, not my numbers in any way. This is why there is so little confidence in the government and so little support for this budget. It is a rehash. It is fiction. I do not believe a lot of this money will ever get spent. The Liberals make announcements over years that far exceed the mandate of the government, expecting people to be wowed by numbers in the billions. There is a lot of money in the budget supposedly for science. This year it is science fiction, like I said.
I want to mention the Nebula Award. It is May 4, so “May the 4th be with you”. I want to mention two science fiction prizes and I want to compare the budget to them. I really think the government has a chance. There are two government documents that could be submitted for a prize. They are the budget speech and the budget itself. The Nebula Award is for a short story of less than 7,500 words. That is the budget speech. There is the option of a novelette, a novella, or a novel. The government could submit chapter five that the minister just mentioned for a novella.
The eligibility requirements, though, might prove difficult. However, perhaps it could negotiate with President Trump and have it included in NAFTA so Canadians could also apply for the Nebula Award. It says, “All works first published in English, in the United States, during the calendar year”, which is looking pretty good right now, “in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, or a related fiction genre are eligible for the Nebula Awards in their respective categories.” There is good news. If it is published online, like this document is, it is eligible as well.
I will also mention the 2017 Hugo Awards that will be presented at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland, on August 11. There is still time to apply for the best novel, best novella, best novelette. One of the works that is up for the award would be competitive. It is called Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. The best novella is The Dream-Quest. This entire budget is a dream quest for a balanced budget to help the middle class perhaps or to take more kids out of poverty, none of which will be achieved.
This is 1970s public budgeting. It failed then and it will fail today. It will fail in 10 years and it will fail the next generation. The next generation will be kids like my kids, who are looking at more debt, programs that do not work, and an entire government that is stuck in the 1960s and 1970s.
Without taking too much time, I will mention one more work because it applies to what the minister was talking about, the best related work, The Geek Feminist Revolution, written by Kameron Hurley and published by Tor Books, a far better read than chapter 5.