Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, the first budget implementation bill. There are a number of measures in the bill that will affect my constituents, in some cases dramatically, so I am glad to have a chance to represent the views of the great people of Souris—Moose Mountain.
Most of my colleagues here today returned to Ottawa just a week ago after spending two weeks in their constituencies. I always appreciate and cherish the time I get to spend in my riding, speaking to my constituents and getting their feedback on how they think things are going in Ottawa. Unfortunately, my constituents were less than impressed with the Liberals' 2017 budget, which does nothing to help rural Canadians and could end up hurting them in the long run.
It is not breaking news that the Liberals are completely out of touch with the wants and needs of rural Canadians. Just two weeks ago, the Prime Minister was in a small corner of my riding, touring a farm and talking about the carbon tax. My constituents do not want a carbon tax, and they are sick and tired of hearing platitudes and buzzwords from the Liberals. We all know that the Prime Minister's visit to my riding was nothing but a photo op, and that becomes clear when we look at the content of Bill C-44. If the Liberals truly care about western Canada, and specifically those who reside outside of urban centres, they would actually take action and make it a priority to help those who need it.
As I have said before in the House, there are a lot of farms in my riding. They vary in size, and there is a wide variety of produce that is grown down in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan. Something the Liberals seem to forget is that farmers are small business owners. They employ locals. With the drop in oil and gas prices over the last couple of years, these jobs are badly needed. Farmers need to know that their government is supporting them, yet budget 2017 contained almost nothing for them.
What Bill C-44 does contain is a provision that would scrap the income tax exemption for insurers of farming and fishing property. This would likely result in higher insurance premiums for my constituents and would decrease interest in private insurance plans.
This is the last thing that farmers in my riding need. They have enough to manage as it is, given that farming can be a fickle and delicate business when it comes to dealing with weather, pests, and other unpredictable variables. Now their insurance premiums could increase, taking money away from areas where it could be better utilized within the business, not to mention the threat of a carbon tax.
Not only does the Liberal budget increase the costs for farmers, it also does nothing to support them. There were no details regarding the next agricultural policy framework, so Canadian farmers have been left in the dark. Our farmers feed Canada and the world, and they expect their government to support them, not just show up for a photo op in front of a combine or play with a GPS, thinking it is a video game.
While I could likely stand here and talk about the importance of farmers and agriculture all day, I would also like to touch on what the budget contains with respect to veterans.
As some may know, I hold the title of vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. It is a role I am proud to have, and over my time on this committee, I have learned a lot about the challenges our veterans face.
The very first study the committee undertook, right after the election of 2015, was on service delivery to veterans. During that study, the committee heard from a wide range of witnesses from all over the veterans community. Many of these witnesses were veterans themselves, and I appreciate their willingness to appear in front of a bunch of politicians to talk about difficult issues relating to their service to Canada.
One of the recurring themes we heard from veterans, medical professionals, bureaucrats, caregivers, and others was the difficulty in transitioning from military to civilian life upon discharge. When a soldier is discharged, and especially those who are medically released, they lose the identity they had for so many years. They were used to being part of a family and having that unfailing support available to them at all times, and suddenly, upon discharge, that family is gone.
This is not just the case for the veterans themselves, but also for their family members, who have established a community of support with other military spouses, children, etc. It is a life-altering change, and while the Liberals have made many promises to help our veterans and their families, the 2017 budget does nothing to help these people today.
Another issue that came up time and time again in the veterans affairs committee was that we commission and train our soldiers to go into battle, but we do not decommission them upon their leaving the Canadian Armed Forces. While Bill C-44 does take steps to create a new education and training benefit for veterans, this does not help them with the loss of identity and purpose that many experience once they return from deployment and are discharged.
Soldiers in the Canadian Forces do not need to make doctor or dentist appointments. That is provided for them. They do not need to fill out paperwork or forms or parse through a convoluted list of benefits that they may not be entitled to, as that is done by someone else on the base. All of this ends once a soldier is discharged and his or her care is moved from DND to Veterans Affairs. An education and training benefit is all well and good, but that is something that is of use further down the road, once a veteran has established himself or herself into civilian life.
Furthermore, there should be no time limit for veterans to figure out whether they wish to use the benefit. Often illnesses like PTSD do not fully manifest until years after veterans are released from the Canadian Forces, and the veterans should have the option to take as much time as they need to pursue education and training following their release from the military.
What our veterans need are solid, available, and effective transition services. This is something that was suggested by the defence ombudsman, yet Bill C-44 would do nothing to enact these recommendations.
For example, one recommendation was that the Canadian Armed Forces retain medically releasing members until such time as all benefits and services from the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Service Income Security Insurance Plan, or SISIP, have been confirmed and put in place. Another recommendation from the ombudsman was that the Canadian Armed Forces establish a concierge service for all medically releasing members that would provide a single point of contact to assist members and their families in all administrative matters regarding the member's transition. These are common sense measures that the Liberals chose not to implement.
Given the size of this omnibus bill, it is shameful that they could not do more to ensure that our veterans and their families have the services and benefits that they need and deserve.
The Conservative Party has always stood up for our veterans, and we on this side of the House believe that our veterans deserve programs and benefits designed to meet their ever-evolving needs, both in the immediate future and sustained over the long term. The Liberals need to do more and they need to do better.
Canadians, including those in rural Canada, are counting on their government to provide them with the support they need in order to thrive here in this wonderful country. Instead, they are getting nickelled and dimed at every possible turn.
The Liberals' spending is reckless and out of control. With a $25.8 billion deficit, the budget will not be balanced until 2055. I do not want my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren to be paying the price of the current government's callousness when it comes to managing public funds. The 2017 budget and Bill C-44 would not grow the economy or create jobs, but they would hike taxes on beer and wine, child care, and small business owners.
The Liberals need to wake up and realize that Canadians deserve better than this. Canadians need their government to recognize the priorities of ordinary hard-working Canadians and their families, and not just the elite. The Conservative Party will continue to stand up for these Canadians, be the voice of the taxpayer, and hold the Liberals to account for their reckless spending and their lack of touch with reality.