House of Commons Hansard #187 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transportation.


5:10 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the area of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and also as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, it gives me great pleasure to speak today about the budget implementation act, better known as Bill C-44. Passage of this bill implements the next chapter of the government's plan to strengthen and grow the middle class. A strong and growing middle class is the engine of our economy and our highest priority.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the House of Commons finance committee for its hard work on this bill. Its careful study of the legislation has helped to provide members in this place with a clear sense of its intent. In particular, I would like to thank it for its work in ensuring that the legislation helps our government achieve the goal of a truly independent and transparent parliamentary budget officer, also known as the PBO.

Our government is committed to openness and transparency. That is why we have taken steps to strengthen the PBO in ways to make it truly independent. Bill C-44 recasts the head of the PBO as an officer of Parliament, supported by a team that is separate from the Library of Parliament and with the authority to report directly to Parliament. It would expand the PBO's right of access to government information and give the office a new mandate to provide costing of platform proposals during elections so that voters make informed decisions based on an independent analysis.

The government believes that the work of the PBO is fundamental to Parliament's ability to debate and consider economic and fiscal considerations of the day. That is why we listened and took action when we heard that more could be done to further strengthen the PBO's mandate and independence.

The government took action by introducing 12 amendments to Bill C-44 at the House of Commons finance committee that further strengthen the PBO's mandate. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the members of the committee for their hard work and collaboration and for improving the said legislation. It was with their efforts that those amendments have found broad support.

In fact, The Globe and Mail reported that the government has placed Canada's PBO on a “strong legislative footing”. That is why I was stunned that the opposition members seemed to oppose the changes. In fact, they have moved to delete every clause of Bill C-44. Blocking openness and transparency is not the only consequence of this ridiculous proposal. The proposed deletions will also have an impact on the ability of Canadians to live, work, and get around in their communities.

Our government is working hard to make significant and unprecedented investments in infrastructure. We have more than doubled our commitments for infrastructure under our plan. We are meeting Canadians’ most urgent needs when it comes to infrastructure.

We knew that the infrastructure deficit had been caused, in part, by the lack of stable and predictable funding. Our partners across the country told us that they had major needs, not just for new projects, but also for repairs and modernizing.

Our infrastructure plan provides for investments in projects that will transform communities for the 21st century. We are aware of the risks and costs associated with underfunding of infrastructure, and those risks and costs are very significant. That is why the 2017 budget is the next step in the government of Canada’s plan to make wise investments that will promote the growth of our economy and strengthen the middle class.

That is why, under our plan, funds will be allocated in three different ways: the funds will be paid out following negotiations for signing bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories, under programs offered by the federal government that are based on merit, and through the new infrastructure bank of Canada.

The budget implementation bill includes provisions to establish the infrastructure bank of Canada, which I would like to talk about now. When our government was preparing the long-term infrastructure plan, we met with numerous people all across the country. We met with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, with representatives of the aboriginal nations, and with various stakeholders and partners, and we listened to their views.

When it came time to design the infrastructure bank of Canada, we took the same approach. We consulted everyone: the mayors of cities all across Canada, and also international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF.

We also met with representatives of investment groups such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Thanks to the invaluable comments we received from those people and those groups, we were able to prepare the bill that is under discussion today.

The federal government has proposed to create the infrastructure bank of Canada because it believes that this is an opportunity for us to attract investments in infrastructure from the private sector and to establish partnerships with the leading players among the institutional investors on the international stage, in order to carry out more large infrastructure projects all across the country.

Subject to Parliament’s approval, the bank will finance projects that would produce benefits for the public, but that might not have received funding otherwise because they are too expensive or because of competing priorities in a particular sector.

These are projects that could play a transformative role if they received support, but that have not been funded under traditional infrastructure programs.

The bank will invest up to $35 billion in new infrastructure focusing on growth all across Canada. The kinds of projects that are envisioned and that could receive support from the bank include public transit in big cities, energy corridors, and many more.

An amount of $15 billion for the bank would come from a long-term infrastructure plan. Additional funds of $20 billion would be made available to the bank for making investments that would result in the bank holding assets in the form of equity or debts.

If the bank is approved by Parliament, its mandate would be to invest in infrastructure projects that would generate revenue and that would be in the public interest. The bank would seek to attract private sector investment by institutional investors for those projects, which would help cover the cost of transformative infrastructure projects across the country.

The bank would also be a centre of expertise that would work with other levels of government to gather and share data aimed at guiding future investments. Once operational, the bank could provide added value through its work, to help governments make evidence-based decisions regarding infrastructure investments.

The bank would be a new means of helping our financial partners finally meet their urgent infrastructure needs. If they want to use it, this new tool would help our partners, the provinces, territories, and municipalities, to create the infrastructure Canada needs.

I would like to reiterate that the bank is another tool that we could offer to our partners. We would not impose this tool on our partners.

By using the bank for large-scale projects, we would have more public funds to create more public infrastructure. Private capital would be used to carry out new projects that might not have been carried out otherwise, and federal funds will continue to support the achievement of municipal, provincial, and territorial priorities.

Our government believes it is important that decisions be made at the local level and it wants to support municipalities in achieving their priority objectives on infrastructure. Community representatives are the experts, and they are in the best position to know what is best for their community.

The Canada infrastructure bank was designed to leverage public funds to carry out more infrastructure projects for Canadian communities.

The investments we make today will create benefits for years to come, clean and sustainable economic growth, stronger and more inclusive communities, and more good jobs for Canada’s middle class.

I call on all members of the House to support Bill C-44 and join us in helping build a brighter future for Canadians.

5:20 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was similar to the messaging we have heard from most government MPs on the subject of the Canadian infrastructure bank. The real question is this: what is the need for this bank? We have five of the most respected financial institutions in the world, six or seven that finance infrastructure projects already in Canada and around the world. We have pension funds from the CPPIB to teachers to OMERS across the country that are already engaged in this as well. PPP Canada was already doing groundbreaking work on public-private partnerships. What is the need for this bank?

The last budget also includes the invest Canada office. The government will hire another CEO and staff up yet another government office to do what three departments of the federal government are already doing. It reminds me of the McGuinty-Wynne government in Ontario that would create more and more bureaucracy. We need less government.

Why can the Canadian banks' pension funds, working within the existing PPP Canada public-private partnership structure, not provide this same element of private investment in infrastructure? There is absolutely no need for this bank.

5:25 p.m.


Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government was elected on a promise to make historic investments in infrastructure. We recognize that over the past decade there has really been under-investment when it comes to infrastructure and our country is very much in need. We have heard this from coast to coast to coast. We made commitments to Canadians that we would invest over $180 billion over the next 12 years to ensure those investments were made.

With respect to the infrastructure bank, we want to use all leverages out there to ensure the private sector can get involved. We recognize that the public sector cannot do it alone. We need to get business and more individuals involved to create more infrastructure for our communities.

5:25 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the finance minister commented a number of times about the importance of clean technology for the economy. On page 111 of the budget, we see the investment in Canada's innovation economy, clean technology, digital industries, and agrifood. However, if we look at the numbers, most of this funding will be after the present government's mandate expires. For example, for promoting the demonstration of clean technologies, the budget shows $400 million. That sounds great until we see that only $95 million of that is before the expiry of the Liberal government's mandate. Also, for advancing agriculture, science, and innovation, the budget shows $60 million, yet only $13 million of that will be by 2019.

How important is this investment in clean technology when the numbers clearly show that it is not actually going to be realized until after the next election cycle? I want to remind the member that there will be an election in 2019, and our party has committed to balancing the budget.

5:25 p.m.


Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government has made significant investments. We have identified six sectors that are big items in which we will invest a lot of money.

When we look at the area of agrifood, coming from the Maritimes, I know the agriculture sector is huge. Our government recognizes that the agriculture sector is responsible for about two million jobs in the country. We also recognize that the agrifood sector is responsible for about 7% of the GDP. If we are already doing well in this area, why not invest even more? That is exactly what we will do.

We recognize that the need for food in this world is going to be augmenting tremendously. Again, we are going to be investing where it is needed. We recognize there is tremendous growth in those areas.

June 5th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to contribute to the debate on Bill C-44, which would implement certain provisions in budget 2017.

We have heard members canvass some of the specific investments that we would make through the budget. What I would hope to do over the course of my remarks is offer a more personal twist, given my experience as someone who represents small towns and rural communities in Atlantic Canada.

I will hit on a few themes over the course of my remarks, but I would like to explain very briefly why I ran for politics and how this budget will help remedy some of the problems I saw.

I grew up in a family with six kids. Both of my parents were teachers. If the kids in my family had been asked 10 years ago what we wanted to do, we all would have said that we wanted to stay in Pictou County and make our lives and our careers there. Ten years later, when I was thinking about running for office, not one child in my family was living and working in the area we called home while growing up. There is a problem with that scenario, and it is not unique to Pictou County, Nova Scotia. It spreads throughout Atlantic Canada. This is a focus for me, and will be for the entire time I hold this job.

I see measures in budget 2017 that will help create a robust economy in Pictou Canada, the rest of Atlantic Canada, and the country as a whole. This is something our Prime Minister gets as well.

Recently, during a visit to the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, he indicated that gone were the days when the only option was to move out west to find work. If we provided the skills and education to young people, they could grow up and raise a family on the east coast in the hometowns where they had always lived. This is inspiring to me. I know the last prime minister referred to Atlantic Canadians as living in a culture in defeatism. This difference in attitude makes a difference. However, these are not empty words; they are followed with unique actions.

I do not have time to highlight all the things I would like to, but I will point to a couple of programs that have led to projects in my riding.

We have invested in infrastructure, including post-secondary education infrastructure. Nova Scotia is unique in its number of universities. It has 10 universities and many more Nova Scotia community college campuses. Just next to my hometown is the Nova Scotia Community College campus. We are contributing to a new trades innovation centre. The principal of that campus, David Freckelton, has worked his tail off to turn this project into a reality. However, it was only made possible with the investments of this government in our communities' infrastructure. This will create jobs in the short term, but, more importantly, in the long term this will ensure that the friends I went to East Pictou Rural High School with and my neighbours in New Glasgow still will be able to fill those positions that open up in machine shops throughout rural Nova Scotia. We will be educating the skilled trades people for the next generation.

In addition, programs at St. Francis Xavier University have recently been announced through infrastructure funding to create a new centre for innovation and health. Given the health care challenges in Nova Scotia, knowing we have more seniors per capita than any other province in Canada, this centre will pay dividends for generations.

We have also seen a contribution to the Institute of Government, which will help inspire people from different walks of life to take part in political leadership. I note specifically that program has included a leadership program for women as well, which is a tremendous contribution to our community.

It is not just infrastructure investments and post-secondary education. We are investing in the kind of infrastructure that makes a difference in the communities I represent. Small craft harbours provide an excellent example. I have basketball teammates from home who are fishing out of communities like Lismore. If we are investing in the wharves along the Northumberland Strait and the eastern shore, we are not just creating jobs in the next few years but we are securing a safe place to harvest what has become our nation's second-most valuable export. At the same time, we are pursuing export strategies to help bump up the price of our marquis seafood product in Nova Scotia, lobster, to ensure we are sustaining rural economies for years to come.

We are also partnering with municipalities to a degree that we have not seen before. Over the past few days, I have had representatives from my riding of Central Nova here for the FCM conference. They have been lauding the 2017 budget as a game changer. This has allowed projects like new water and waste water systems in a community like Plymouth. Friends of mine who grew up just down the road and have worked for great construction companies in my community say that this is the time of year that they are normally laid off. However, because there is a project going ahead, they are not only able to find work and contribute to the economy, but also build a project that is going to help the community grow. These are smart investments and I throw my full support behind them.

There are also key transportation pieces of infrastructure that need investment, and this is where the budget is going to come through as well. We have one of the deadliest stretches of highway running right through my community. There have been 15 deaths since 2009 alone. Knowing that we have a partner in the provincial government that is willing to pursue a twinning project to help improve safety is a wonderful thing, but it is also going to create a phenomenal number of jobs in my community over the next seven years.

Local business people have been coming to my office since the beginning of my term as a member of Parliament advocating for the P.E.I.-Nova Scotia ferry connection to be funded, but also to set up a framework for long-term funding. This is something that was announced recently with a focus on transportation infrastructure that will allow producers, like Scotsburn Lumber, to make a long-term plan to get its products to market. It will allow trucking companies to perhaps get three trips instead of two to the island in a day. It will contribute to the local economy for years to come.

There is another issue I would like to hit on in the limited time that remains, and that is the fact that the budget has applied a gender lens to a degree I have never seen in Canadian politics.

It has been one of the great professional honours of my career to date to serve as a member of the status of women committee. Over the course of our nation's history, women have been suppressed and excluded from full participation in Canadian society and the Canadian economy. That is not the result of chance. That is the result of decisions that have been made over the course of a generation. However, the budget has considered specifically how the policies identified and, hopefully, adopted through this legislation will make a difference, not just in the lives of Canadians en masse but also specifically how they will impact women differently.

Some of the programs we are seeing rolled out are investments to the tune of $100 million to develop a gender-based violence strategy. I have to thank the champions in my community who have been working on issues like this. I was so pleased to serve on a panel when we announced funding for the bystander intervention project, launched in partnership with different communities in Antigonish, including the campus community of St. FX; Lucille Harper, who has been an absolute champion for women's rights in the community over the course of her lifetime; and other tremendous panellists who served and told the stories of their experience living in the nearby first nations community, or generally, in the community, and how a lack of bystander awareness and intervention has contributed to social problems like gender-based violence.

We have also seen funding allocated for gender and diversity training for judges in the budget. I would like to thank the former interim leader of the official opposition for her work. We were able to collaborate on the status of women committee to ensure that judges have the training materials they need, which would be provided through this budget, to make sure they understand the unique considerations that might come before a court, for example, in a sexual assault case. We do not need another statement like the boneheaded ones we have seen in the cases of Justice Camp, and more recently, Judge Lenehan in Nova Scotia. Quite frankly, those attitudes are outdated, and if we can do something in the House to prevent the injustices we have seen in sexual assault cases in our communities, that is the least we owe women living in Canada today.

In the remaining minutes I have, I will shift my focus to a few social programs that are funded under budget 2017, which I fully support.

We have seen tremendous investments in health care. As I mentioned, with the large proportion of seniors we have in Nova Scotia, one of the long-term solutions to our demographic woes needs to be enhanced in-home care. While there are some improvements being made, the system does not work as effectively as it should. Budget 2017 would implement the accord between the Province of Nova Scotia and the federal government, which would see not only the largest transfer from the federal government to my home province for health care, but in addition, funds have been earmarked for in-home care to the tune of $157 million, and $130 million for mental health.

This means that people who need quality care in their homes will have CCAs, who put up with incredibly difficult working conditions and schedules, to provide quality care at a better price in their homes, where our seniors would rather be. We do not need to be financing people to the tune of $1,000 a day for long-term hospital stays if that person can receive appropriate care in his or her home.

My grandfather, who is a veteran, has had tremendous benefits and has been able to stay in his home because he has had in-home care, supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. We should apply what we have learned with our veterans to the rest of our community and ensure that all Canadians have quality access to in-home care, so that our seniors can retire with dignity and remain in their homes as long as they are able to.

I could go on for days about the virtues of budget 2017 and the priorities of our government, but as I am running out of time, I would like to say thank you for the opportunity, Madam Speaker, and I will be supporting this piece of legislation.

5:35 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia for his eloquent delivery just now. He spoke about the importance of the various initiatives that are put in place through the budget, in addition to the 2016 budget, that speak to economic growth and economic opportunity.

I wonder if the member could elaborate on the view of the government for economic growth in Atlantic Canada through the rolling out of an Atlantic growth strategy that focuses on a skilled workforce, increased immigration, innovation, infrastructure, clean growth, climate change, and on trade and investment. What opportunities for real economic growth in the region in which we both are proud to live does he see through the government's focus on the Atlantic growth strategy?

5:40 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned, there has been a shift in attitude since we have come into government that recognizes the potential in Atlantic Canada.

This has been put into action through the Atlantic growth strategy that was formed after the feedback from 32 Atlantic Liberal MPs and which was able to partner with the regional ministers and of course the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who then reached a deal with the four Atlantic Canadian provinces to come up with a strategy that focuses on key areas that are going to drive growth.

With our demographic challenges, immigration is a major issue. What we have seen is a pilot project announced that will see at least 6,000 new families coming to Atlantic Canada to fill the labour needs of our labour market where a Canadian cannot be found to do those jobs.

We see a focus on innovation that is going to spur small- and medium-sized business growth. We see a focus on clean growth, and I note ACOA has set aside $20 million specifically for environmentally green projects. I could go on, but I want to give time to other members who want to ask questions as well.

5:40 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for providing time for me to ask him about his last exchange with the member for Fredericton.

I find it the height of hubris for Liberals to be talking about innovation and the innovation budget when they acknowledge the minister in charge of ACOA is not from Atlantic Canada. The 32 members of Parliament he mentioned being consulted were being consulted by a member of Parliament from Mississauga who occasionally visits that region.

I know the member is proud of St. FX and some of the amazing academic institutions and entrepreneurs we have coming out those institutions in Atlantic Canada, but I would like to see, in a budget that the Liberals called the “#innovationbudget”, a real commitment to Atlantic Canada. I would like to see a stand-alone minister for that important agency, working on employment and opportunities for the future.

I hope that the member and his 31 friends demand that in the coming shuffle this summer.

5:40 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's question and I congratulate him on his participation in a hard-fought leadership race for the official opposition.

I would like to say that perhaps this is my optimism or naïveté as a young member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, but I sincerely believe that the days of parochialism are gone from Atlantic Canadian politics. When I can stand up and say, “We are going to judge our ministers and our members based on results, not by where they come from”, I will be proud. The results have been delivered.

With the Atlantic growth strategy, it is the first time I have seen a regional focus to policy and investments that are creating jobs in my community, that are going to improve the strength of those communities, and that will make Atlantic Canadians more successful.

5:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

We have time for a short question.

The hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît.

5:40 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, it is shameful that time allocation is being imposed on something as important as a budget bill. I wonder how the member can pretend that the parliamentary budget officer will continue to be transparent when the bill forces him to submit his plan in advance to the Speakers of both Houses. What if one of the Speakers rejects the plan?

What will happen if the parliamentary budget officer wants to undertake a study that is not part of the plan? Will he still be able to conduct that kind of study?

5:40 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, on the issue of time allocation, I find this a difficult issue to take seriously at times because of what I have watched go on in this chamber over the course of the last few months. Again, perhaps this is out of a bit of naïveté, but I did not expect to come here and have to take half my day voting on which member stood up first. Canadians expect us to make investments and to move forward with an agenda that will actually turn into results in their communities.

As to the question of the parliamentary budget officer, I believe this is an important officer. I look forward to the day where we can, through the Speaker, break this up and have the officer give independent feedback on each piece.

5:40 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga to speak about the Liberal government's second budget. Perhaps I should call it the Liberal government's wishful election budget, as the majority of the spending outlined falls after the next election.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news for my hon. colleagues across the way, but there is an election in 2019 and our Conservative plan includes balanced budgets, fiscal responsibility, and an end to the reckless spending of the Liberal government.

Following the release of budget 2017, I held a round table discussion with several business owners and representatives from my constituency. I would like to share some of their comments and concerns.

With respect to red tape, taxes, and fees, all of the attendees expressed that they were disappointed the current government did not follow through with its promised small business tax cut. This is a promise the Liberals made during the 2015 election, throughout Canada and in Waterloo region, but they have had two budgets since, and there is still no tax cut.

The participants also shared concerns that it is becoming much more difficult and expensive to do business in Canada because of red tape, increased taxes, and fees. One participant told me that their revenues have more than doubled but there is less profit and a lot of it has to do with government payroll taxes and it's only going to get worse as CPP taxes are on the rise. Another participant told a story about how he now employs two full-time employees who deal specifically with government red tape. He spoke about the difficulty and cost of using the scientific research and experimental tax incentive credits and the difficulties companies face when dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Small- and medium-sized businesses should be focused on running their businesses and being successful, not navigating government red tape. This was a common thread throughout most of our round table discussion. There was a concern expressed by all the members about the intervention of government in business operations.

A number of participants were disappointed—and that word is far too mild—that Bombardier was given a bailout. They feel that these dollars could have been spent far better elsewhere. Another member of the round table voiced his concern with the ballooning debt being carried by the federal government and talked about how much money could be used for infrastructure if it were not being spent on interest payments on the debt. Every member of the round table shared concerns about Canada's growing deficit spending and wanted to see a return to fiscal responsibility.

It is round tables like these that keep me engaged with the issues that affect my constituents the most. I would encourage the hon. members across the way to sit down and really take time to listen to their constituents, especially those who help to create jobs and opportunity, our small- and medium-sized business owners.

In addition to the issues that were raised in the round table, I will discuss a number of problems with this current budget: infrastructure spending, eliminating the public transit tax credit, and the laughable scheduling of inadequate funding for agriculture, clean tech, and home care.

Kitchener—Conestoga, being part of the Waterloo region, is both urban and rural. We are a community of people who utilize public transit. We are also a community of people who work both in the region and travel into Toronto along the 401. As well, we have many commuters travelling into the Waterloo region from the GTA, especially a large number who are employed in the high-tech sector.

By allocating public transit funding based on ridership, the Liberal government is disadvantaging Canada's growing communities in favour of already-developed large urban centres. That is what is happening in Kitchener—Conestoga in the region of Waterloo. Too often, communities like ours are left to fend for themselves. Of course, a bridge in Wellesley township will never have the traffic volume crossing that an intercity bridge does, but that does not mean it is not important to the growth and health of our local economy.

Municipalities need good and safe infrastructure, but they also need programs that are easy to access, without miles of red tape. They need programs that provide predictable funding and do not leave small and rural communities behind.

That brings me to the public transit tax credit. I raised this issue in earlier debates on the Liberals' budget and I heard the arguments from the other side of the aisle. My hon. colleagues point out that it is not used often and has not increased ridership. In that case, what the government clearly needs to do is highlight the availability of the tax credit, and possibly even increase the tax credit so that more Canadians will consider it as a viable option.

Cancelling the tax credit is exactly the wrong thing to do, especially when we are investing billions of dollars in that infrastructure. It needs to be more fully utilized.

My riding is an example. As a result of cancelling the public tax credit, an adult would lose about $150 per year, or the equivalent of about two months' worth of bus passes. Talk about encouraging people to take transit: we want people to take public transit, but we are going to add a $150 fee for the privilege.

Getting 12 months of public transit for the cost of 10 is a great incentive. We need to do a better job at communicating this to our constituents and possibly increase the credit, but certainly not eliminate it.

As I noted earlier, the budget should be called the next election budget, as the majority of its spending comes after 2019. The government's spending on clean technology, digital industries, and agrifood is an example. The government announced $400 million, but less than half of that will be spent before the next election. To be more specific, only $95 million will be spent by the fiscal year 2018-19. That is $95 million of the $400 million.

What about the government's plan to invest in agriculture innovation? Again, this budget announces $60 million to invest in science, innovation, and agriculture, but less than 25% of that budgeted amount will be spent by the next election. It is only $13 billion, yet the government bragged that it is investing $60 billion.

I have been up multiple times during question period to ask the government about its plan for Canada's aging population and I have not yet received an adequate response. Maybe one of my hon. colleagues from the Liberal Party can give me an answer today. For the first time in Canada's history, there are more seniors than young people. Something needs to be done to address this situation, but the Liberals seem to be kicking this responsibility down the road again until after the next election. Of the $5 billion they announced, less than half will be spent by the time the next election comes around.

We heard that the Liberals were going to invest $3 billion in home care and palliative care, yet here we are 20 months later, and only $5 billion has been announced over a long period of time, less than 25% of it before the next election. What does the Liberal Party plan to gain from backdating of their spending to beyond the mandate that Canadians have given them? It all sounds good, but there is no real action.

Last, I would be remiss if I did not mention and include some facts about the national debt and just how much interest we pay each year. Despite the Prime Minister's promise to return to budget balance, the Minister of Finance admitted on budget day that he has no intention whatsoever of returning our books to balance. The Prime Minister broke his election campaign promise to run a $10 billion deficit. In fact, for the year ahead it is $29 billion, three times what was promised.

The government in four years will add a whopping $100 billion to Canada's federal debt. The interest charges on our national debt just for this year will be $24.3 billion, and that number increases every year for the foreseeable future under the Liberal government. By 2021, our interest costs alone will be $33.3 billion each and every year, and it will continue to grow after that.

Let us think about what that $33.3 billion could do. It could have meant increases to health care transfers, investments in palliative care and hospices and home care, more money invested in infrastructure, or simply a reduction in our tax burden.

I will not be supporting the budget, as it lacks a clear vision to return Canada back to financial stability, and just as it backloads funding to after the next election, it backloads our national debt to future generations. This is not a responsible action for the House to take.

5:50 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, early in his speech my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga talked about the public transit tax credit, which is an interesting topic because the idea of the credit was to increase ridership, yet the net result was that it did not increase ridership and it did not help those who needed it most because it was not a refundable tax credit. Between that and the comments on deficits and backloading, the Conservatives have not balanced a budget in over a century in real terms. I am wondering if the member has some clarity of thought on this that makes any sense.

5:50 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, what does not make any sense is to invest all of this money, billions and billions of dollars, in public transit infrastructure, light rail transit, subways, buses, and so on, yet we are not encouraging increased ridership. Why would we want subways or LRT buses half full? Why would we not try to increase ridership? If the current tax credit system is not working, we should not simply cancel it but possibly consider advertising more widely that it is available, and more importantly, even increase it slightly to encourage more people to utilize public transit.

5:55 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on the budget implementation bill.

As we have mentioned many times, it is a mammoth bill. The Liberals swore that they would never proceed in such a way. They also said that they would not bring in time allocation at every turn. They are on track to beating the previous government's sad record. It is truly pitiful.

I want to talk to my colleague about something I am sure we will agree on: the infrastructure privatization bank.

Does my hon. colleague not agree that time allocation should not have been brought in and that we should have taken the time to properly study this infrastructure privatization bank? Our smaller and rural communities will not have access to this funding, which they desperately need for infrastructure investments. This bank will actually be harmful to Canadians, because they will take on all the risk while large private corporations rake in the profits.

Does the member not agree that this infrastructure privatization scheme does not pass the smell test and that it is a very bad idea?

5:55 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, the point is well taken that the Liberal government promised there would be no omnibus bills, yet in this bill there are a number of issues that are not related directly to the budget, including the independence of the parliamentary budget officer and the infrastructure bank. I agree with my colleague that the infrastructure bank will be of very little assistance to those in rural communities.

The other point my colleague raised is the issue of time allocation. Earlier today, the Liberal finance minister boasted that 54 members of Parliament have had opportunities to speak to the issues in the budget, but 54 members of Parliament is not even 20%. It is more like 16% or 18% of members of Parliament who have had the opportunity to address Parliament on budgetary matters.

I mentioned in my comments that one of the benefits of taking time to listen to constituents at round tables and so on is to get input from them, but there is no point getting input from them if we do not have the opportunity to provide that input to the government in the chamber.

It is unconscionable that on a matter of this importance, the Liberal government has again chosen time allocation to shut down debate and has not allowed each member of Parliament who wishes to speak to get up and represent the voices of their constituents in the chamber. That should happen on every bill, especially one of this importance.

5:55 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Fredericton, I have the pleasure to rise today to speak in support of this budget bill, Bill C-44, which, if passed, would see important measures come to fruition, important measures that would help the government meet commitments it has made to Canadians and further strengthen the middle class and those working hard to join it.

These measures build upon important investments made in last year's budget, budget 2016, and this year, measures include increased supports for health care for an aging population, greater supports for veterans and their families, and a focus on job creation and economic growth through support for innovators right across the country.

These measures will have a tangible and positive impact on the lives of Canadians, New Brunswickers, and above all, my constituents in the riding of Fredericton, which includes the cities and towns of Fredericton, New Maryland, Oromocto, and the Grand Lake region.

In budget 2017, we are committed to investing in the health and well-being of Canadians. My home province of New Brunswick has one of the fastest-aging populations in Canada. This demographic reality is not unique to our province, but it represents an opportunity and a potential for New Brunswickers to lead in healthy aging and health care innovation as we seek out the solutions to these challenges.

New Brunswick has already proven itself as a leader in scaling up health care solutions. For instance, just last week here on the Hill, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, in partnership with the New Brunswick Association for Nursing Homes, spoke about the launching of the New Brunswick Appropriate Use of Antipsychotics Collaborative as a way to improve dementia care in our province. CFHI's original pan-Canadian collaboration, upon which the collaborative was built, saw a reduction in the use of antipsychotic medication by 46% of the residents at Fredericton's York Care Centre.

This is just one example of how innovative approaches are leading to better health care outcomes for patients and better peace of mind for their families. It is a reflection of the potential that New Brunswick offers to serve as a living lab in the demonstration and implementation of innovative health care solutions.

In addition, the demographics of New Brunswick are an excellent reflection of Canada's diversity, and this allows for greater innovation in health care.

We are French, we are English, we are indigenous peoples, and we are immigrants. We live in urban and rural communities that are well connected and in close proximity to one another.

When it comes to health care and health care supports, our government has stepped up. First we reached a deal with the Province of New Brunswick and then with the other provinces to see an investment of $11 billion over the next 10 years in health transfers, including in New Brunswick an additional $229.4 million for better home care and mental health supports. That is $125.1 million dedicated to better home care delivery in our province, including critical home care infrastructure requirements, and $104.3 million to be allocated in support of mental health initiatives.

These investments will allow seniors and people aging in our communities to live longer, healthier lives in their homes, reducing the financial and administrative burdens on our already overstretched health care system.

Furthermore, wait times for access to mental health services will be greatly reduced, allowing those experiencing mental health challenges better access to the care and treatment they need and deserve.

Our government is making the necessary investments to support the well-being of Canadians, and New Brunswick is well positioned to be a leader in the area of health care.

Veterans and families deserve our unwavering gratitude and support for their sacrifice and service to our country. Those who serve in uniform do so with bravery, honour, and dignity, protecting the values that we cherish most and doing so with their lives.

In budget 2016, our government invested $5.6 billion over six years to deliver greater financial support to veterans with injuries or illnesses incurred during military service.

In budget 2017, we continue to fulfill our commitments to veterans by focusing on the financial security for ill and injured veterans, investing in education and career development in order to help veterans transition into post-military life, and by supporting families.

To provide more financial security for veterans, their families, and caregivers, budget 2017 commits $187.3 million over six years to create the caregiver recognition benefit, which provides $1,000 each month to the caregiver of an ill or injured veteran and better recognizes his or her vital role. We are also increasing the support we provide, and recognizing caregivers directly, by replacing the family caregiver relief benefit with this caregiver recognition benefit. This new tax-free benefit, again of $1,000 a month, will be paid directly to the veteran's caregiver, providing him or her with better financial support.

In order to better support servicewomen and servicemen in their transition to civilian life, budget 2017 will invest $133.9 million over six years to create the new veterans education and training benefit. This will provide up to $80,000 to veterans in support of their pursuit of post-secondary education. This new benefit will provide veterans with the funding for college, university, or technical education of their choice. Veterans with six years of service may be eligible for up to $40,000, and veterans with at least 12 years of service may be eligible for up to $80,000, to cover tuition, course materials, and some incidental and living expenses.

To recognize the vital role played by families of veterans living with physical or mental health issues as a result of their service, budget 2017 proposes to invest $147 million over six years starting in 2016-17, and $15 million per year, ongoing, to expand access to the military family resource centres for families of veterans medically released from April 2018 onward. This would increase the availability of the military family resource centres for medically released veterans from seven locations under the current pilot to 32 locations across Canada.

Since taking office, our government has had an unparalleled commitment to innovation and the development of a skilled workforce. This commitment is no more apparent in my region of the country than through the Atlantic growth strategy, a whole-of-government strategy led by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, along with the four ministers from the provinces in Atlantic Canada, and our four premiers. Further, this strategy has the buy-in and active engagement of all 32 members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada represented here in this House.

It is an honour to serve as part of a government that understands, as proven by its actions, the importance of Atlantic Canada and its place in our Canadian identity and our economy.

Our government is focused on growing the economy through innovation, and more specifically, it is promoting Atlantic Canada's capabilities through its economic growth strategy.

Over the past several months, I had the privilege of chairing an innovation subcommittee of our Atlantic growth strategy, which tabled a report on May 15, culminating in five core recommendations, as a product of a pan-Canadian consultation tour engaging stakeholders from across the region.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to the process through their participation, as well as all the members who took part in the tour of Atlantic Canada.

Another area of priority for our government is amplifying the voice of young Canadians. Youth are leading progressive initiatives for change in our communities, and as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I know we are well placed with young people in our communities to look ahead to the next 150 years. This includes the rolling out of youth councils across the country, on which I had the pleasure of working with 18 young people in Fredericton.

Our government is ambitious in our economic growth agenda, and I look forward to continuing to support Canadians right across the country as well as those in my home riding.

6:05 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Fredericton is probably not surprised that I am up speaking. I am very much a fan of his community, and am particularly very thankful for the work done by the men and women and the families of CFB Gagetown. I am also very good friends with the hardest-working MLA in New Brunswick, Brian Macdonald, whom he knows well.

I am going to address the member's question, because the Liberals' work on veterans, which he talked about, is two things. Sadly, it is the dressing up with new names the programs we had started, all the programs at military family resource centres. They have renamed the family caregiver relief benefit to the caregiver recognition benefit. The renaming and moving around of chairs is one thing, but the disaster at Veterans Affairs that I would like the member to address is that most of that allocated $5 billion was not well spent.

The way they looked at all injuries was to include thousands of people who had more minor injuries and who have already transitioned well after the military. That money, those resources, should have been focused at the medium to severely injured veterans who need care for their lives.

However, by spreading a lot of money around, it is having less impact. Liberals promised to return to the lifetime pension, and now they are backing away. Is the member going to commit to fulfilling that promise for the veterans who live in and around CFB Gagetown?

6:10 p.m.


Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I share the member's unwavering support for the women and men who serve at CFB Gagetown, the home of Canada's army. Not only that, it is the largest economic contributor in the region.

I was proud to see our Minister of National Defence at CFB Gagetown last June announcing $32 million of critical infrastructure upgrades that not only support the training of our women and men in uniform, but finally invest in infrastructure that puts Atlantic Canadians to work. We had not seen that for 10 years under the culture of defeat government, under the former leader, Stephen Harper.

In addition, I know the member was brought in as the minister of veterans affairs to save a sinking ship at the end of the last mandate. However, we will take no lessons from the way the former government tried to balance the budget on the backs of veterans and other vulnerable populations across our country. We are reinvesting in the health and supports for veterans and their families, and in their education and transition back to civilian life. We are developing greater supports for their mental well-being.

In this recent budget, we also committed to the reinstatement of lifelong supports for veterans.

6:10 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, a commitment is one thing, but the Minister of Finance has laid before this House two budgets. There was the budget last year, and most recently budget 2017.

A lot of veterans live in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, particularly a lot who served in the navy. A lot of veterans were very pleased to see the Liberal promise of restoring those lifetime pensions.

Two years into the government's mandate, why do we still have a commitment to lifetime pensions? Why has the Minister of Finance, through two budgets, not implemented that very clear Liberal promise that was made in 2015?

6:10 p.m.


Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, the member would know that the department was in a disastrous situation when the government came in, and this minister has committed to consulting with veterans right across the country.

As the MP for a region that sees a lot of veterans building lives for themselves after they leave the military, I too have had plenty of consultations with veterans. Veterans understand the complexity of getting their long-term financial supports right. This is not an easy solution. Veterans come in from all different backgrounds, with different experiences and needs. We want to make sure, as a government, that we get our support for veterans right, so that we do not have to correct mistakes as we have found ourselves correcting from the previous government.

6:10 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I only wish I had something to be happy about this afternoon, but Bill C-44 is a major disappointment.

We all remember that the Liberals were elected on a promise of modest deficits. That was something everyone in the House could agree on, because both Conservatives and New Democrats had pledged to manage taxpayers' money responsibly. The first disappointment came last year with a budget that went well beyond the so-called modest $10-billion deficit that the Liberals promised all the way to a $23-billion deficit.

We hoped the Liberals would come to their senses this time around. I should point out that they were elected by a minority of Canadians and that one day, it will be time to pay the Liberals' piper.

Unfortunately, the forecast deficit in the budget is $28.5 billion for this year. That is in addition to the previous deficit, so the total deficit for the past two years is over $50 billion. As they say, when it rains it pours, and indeed, the Liberals are determined to remain in this downward spiral of reckless spending, so much so that the parliamentary budget officer says it will be decades before we can even start to talk about balancing the budget again.

I am asking this government and this Minister of Finance why they are being so irresponsible toward future generations.

On this World Environment Day, we are reminded of the fact that sustainable development is a social, economic, and environmental responsibility. Obviously, the Liberals have done nothing on the environment to date, except choose natural resource development projects based on questionable, political criteria.

It is not very clear where the Liberals are going on the social front, and if I may say so, their budget plan is basically a descent into hell with recurring deficits that will place a tremendous burden on future generations. As my grandmother so aptly put it, “He who pays his debts grows rich.”

The problem we have right now is that the government is racking up shameful amounts of debt and, unfortunately, it is spending money on frivolous things. Now, it has introduced an omnibus bill, a Chinese buffet of sorts that has a little bit of everything but that does not balance the budget, far from it. That is another thing that the Liberals promised not to do.

That is the big problem with this budget and that is why I, like my colleagues who also spoke today, am opposed to it. That is why it represents a betrayal by the Prime Minister and the Liberals. It represents more of the government's broken promises to Canadians.

When the Liberals were elected, they promised to run only a small deficit and to balance the budget by 2019. However, that is not what is happening. As I mentioned, the government has already racked up over $50 billion in debt and is heading toward chronic deficits. Why chronic deficits? First, because the government is in a spending frenzy.

On the weekend, I spoke with a contractor in my riding who is doing work in downtown Lévis, near the ferry terminal. He said he was working on a major construction project and that he had asked the mayor where the money was coming from. The mayor said that it was from the gas tax. Therefore, it is not new money from the Liberals; the money that is being invested is coming from measures that our former Conservative government implemented.

Unfortunately, what we now see is that the Liberals talk a good game, but they are not so good when it is time for action. Not a lot of big projects are moving forward. It is quite the contrary: promises are sprinkled here and there, but the money is not flowing. Contractors and municipalities are waiting for that money for infrastructure projects.

Now, not only has the government decided to wake up and make sure that the money flows to the municipalities, but it also intends to take some of that money to put it in a new infrastructure bank scheme that seems to be completely arbitrary.

In Quebec, people are very worried that the Liberal government could infringe upon provincial and municipal jurisdictions. People are also worried about cronyism, because Liberals will be Liberals. We heard about patronage appointments this afternoon during question period. So that scheme will certainly be good for the Liberals' friends, but not so much for the municipalities and the communities that need water systems and other infrastructure.

That is one of the measures in the budget plan. A gigantic $30-billion organization will be created and middle-class taxpayers will bear all the risk, while the Liberals' wealthy friends will pocket the profits. That is what this infrastructure bank is all about. The problem is that costs are socialized while profits are privatized, and all taxpayers get is the short end of the stick.

This is the kind of Liberal approach that requires close scrutiny. However, the Liberals are steamrolling the House and insist on passing this budget bill that completely betrays the Liberal government's commitments to Canadians.

My colleagues also talked about the parliamentary budget officer, who will be more or less scrutinized, when he should be accountable to the entire House. The government appears to want to meddle in how the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer operates. Naturally we are opposed to this, since it has to do with the sacred principle that links the legislative and executive powers. This kind of interference undermines the ability of the legislative branch to keep a close eye on this Liberal spending orgy.

I talked about the infrastructure bank, but that is not all of it. The Liberals still want to create a new scheme. This time I am talking about Investment Canada, which aims to attract foreign investors to this country. However, the Liberals seem to be completely neglecting the resources we already have at our disposal. We have consular and embassy services, and the whole economic branch of Global Affairs Canada. The government is making a complete mockery of the commitments made over the past few years by creating another body that will only generate more red tape without necessarily producing any results.

These are some of the measures contained in this bill, which are all being added to the deficit; as we have seen over the past few days, there is a lot of frivolous spending. These are in stark contrast to the budgetary measures we had gotten used to under Minister Flaherty and Minister Joe Oliver. Look at the 180 cuts we made in previous budgets.

Sadly, yet again this Liberal budget includes hidden tax hikes. It is a shame that the government is attacking the average family that it claims to want to protect, including parents whose children take figure skating lessons or piano lessons. The Liberals are taking away the tools we had given to families and taking more money away from them. The same goes for businesses and people who take public transit or use Uber. In fact they are taxing beer and wine and imposing additional charges on SMEs. It is an utter fiasco.

The theme of the budget is innovation. Well, the Liberals have certainly been innovative in their art of misleading the next generation with their syrupy words.

6:20 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, we have been talking a bit about debt and deficits, and I want to point out that between 1996-97 and 2005-06, the Liberal government paid down $81.4 billion against the national debt, a lot of the debt that had been created under the Brian Mulroney government. The Stephen Harper government inherited a debt of $481 billion in 2006. The Liberal government had a $13 billion surplus and the Conservatives immediately put us into deficit and added another $153 billion to the debt.

In a short period of time, our government has forecast investing $29 billion in Canada. That is the forecast, but we are going to be coming in at around $21 billion or $22 billion this year. We have created 3.7% in growth, versus 1.9% forecast, and have created 250,000 jobs.

Is it right to cut costs or to invest in Canada?