House of Commons Hansard #191 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was journalists.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the government's implementation bill at third reading. I will try to explain what we think is deficient in the government's budget proposal. There are a number of things, but I will start with some of the topics that are near and dear to my heart. I would like to try to explain what is inadequate about the government's budget implementation legislation and also try to give a sense of how the government might have proceeded in a way that was appropriate.

If we consider housing, for instance--

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order, please. I am terribly sorry, but clearly there has been some kind of mix-up. I did not understand that there was time remaining in questions and comments following the speech by the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou. I ask the member for Elmwood—Transcona to forgive my mistake.

We are on questions and comments.

I see the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni is anxious to have a question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech, and I particularly want to thank him for mentioning the importance of coastal waterways here in Canada and the regions in this country that feel left out, despite the government's promise that it would recognize and represent all areas of our country.

When the Liberals announced their ocean protection plan rollout, we eagerly anticipated seeing the details. Recently they announced $75 million for a coastal restoration fund that would support habitat restoration and address threats to marine species. We welcomed these announcements, but when they identified 11 priority areas for coastal restoration, they forgot one area on the west coast of British Columbia, the west coast of Vancouver Island, despite a low return of sockeye that were expected in our region. It is a critical stage. DFO has announced that we will get about 170 million returning sockeye instead of the average of 750 million. This is identified as critical. We also have a marine debris problem that is hitting our coastal beaches.

The Liberals said they would make every part of this country count. The people in my community do not know why they do not count in this government's agenda. What can the people of the west coast of Vancouver Island do to raise their voices so they can be heard?

This is a place where the Prime Minister goes on holiday and walks the beach but forgets to go into those communities to find out how it is impacting them when they are not able to fish because it is closed. We do not invest in restoration, we do not invest in protecting our habitat, and we do not invest in cleaning up marine debris. It is impacting our communities, and the government is forgetting us.

Maybe the member could talk about what it feels like in his community when the government forgets it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I am from Quebec City, and all our major projects are left out. The member that responded said that all over the province of Quebec, mayors are crying, because they are asking for projects. They will be crying for a long time, because the infrastructure bank will not be able to pay for small projects in municipalities.

Concerning the protection of the coasts, we cannot protect the coasts without ships. We in the Conservative government put contracts in place with Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver to build 10 new ships for the Coast Guard and for research projects. Those ships have major delays. We have not heard from the government concerning that.

I would say that the most terrible thing about this budget is that it does not speak to all Canadians. It speaks to a particular group of interests. It speaks to one single class, the middle class. The Liberals call it a feminist budget. That is unbelievable. Why is it not a Canadian budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to what my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou had to say. We Conservatives are very careful about managing public funds; we are always referring to the heads of families. Good heads of families live within their means. Without getting into personal details, the member for Beauport—Limoilou is a dad for the second time.

As a father, would he manage his personal budget the way the Prime Minister is managing the government’s budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, the answer to my colleague is “certainly not”. To pick up where my colleague left off, tomorrow I will be moving into my first home. For the first time in my life, I took out a mortgage. My banker looked at how I conduct my finances and said, “my goodness, you really are a Conservative!”

After being a military student, I became a member of Parliament in 2015. I have not spent lavishly and I put money aside to buy a house. I was able to make a down payment. It is true that we are paid very well, and I have nothing to complain about, but I managed to do it because I was disciplined and reasonable. As well, I have arranged it so that two years from now, if ever I am not a member of Parliament, I will still be able to live reasonably. I made arrangements in order to make it through.

Any responsible government should secure its finances and not put itself at risk if the economy were to get worse.

I will conclude by saying that they have ended security—

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Cathy McLeod

The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your temporary role.

I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for his speech.

At the end of his speech he said that his party is a good manager of taxpayer dollars.

I find this is not entirely accurate. During the 10 years that the Conservatives were in office, we had $150-billion deficits. We also have deficits, this is true. We will get back to that a little later.

What did we get for all that?

Nothing. Under the Conservatives, economic growth ranged from 1% to 1.5%. With the Liberals, economic growth was stronger in 18 months than it was during the 10 years the Conservatives were in power.

If we look at the deficits from a historical standpoint, for over a century, the Conservatives have never been able to get out of deficit, although they inherited surpluses from the Liberals twice, namely in 1912 and in 2006.

The Conservatives have never been able to balance the budget without selling off government assets.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not agree.

First, there is the historical context. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, we ran controlled, reasonable, and responsible deficits in response to the biggest economic crisis since the depression of the 1930s.

Interestingly, we had fantastic results because in 2011, 2012, and 2013 we posted the best outcomes in the OECD: over 1.2 million jobs created, the best GDP, and the best economic growth of OECD countries.

As well, in November 2015, we left a $3-billion surplus, which was confirmed by Department of Finance officials.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that this debate is under time allocation. I would really like to speak to it. I was wondering how much time is left in this debate.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Cathy McLeod

I do not believe that is a point of order. However, the debate will be adjourning on this at 1:15.

We have time for a very short question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, when the member across the way talks about deficit, I am sure he knows the reality of the situation. When Stephen Harper became prime minister, there was a multi-billion dollar surplus, which he turned into a multi-billion dollar deficit. He never really had a surplus.

Why should this government take any advice from a Conservative Party that has been an absolute total disaster? In fact, it added over $160 billion of total debt to our nation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not want him to take advice from the party, but from the Canadian people.

We are the voice of the taxpayers, and they are saying that enough is enough. If the Liberals are increasing the deficit, they should do it for a good reason and let Canadians know when it is going to end. That is not the case right now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to highlight some of the NDP's objections to Bill C-44 at third reading.

As we analyzed the bill, it became clear that we do not oppose the actions of government because it is made up of Liberals, but we oppose the Liberals because of their actions. The legislation is rife with things that would not take the country in the right direction and it fails to live up to the very commitments made not by us in the last election campaign but by the Liberals themselves.

I want to highlight some of those problems and also suggest other ways that the government might have proceeded that would have helped to attain the goals it says it wants to attain.

Let me start with housing. No money was allocated in the budget proper for a national housing strategy this year, and that is unfortunate. There is some money promised for down the road, but this is unfortunate because for all the words that come from a government, statements on positions and everything else, it is really where a government spends its money that we learn its priorities and we see what it is serious about. It was not a promising sign to see no money right away.

We in the NDP support the idea of the development of a national housing strategy but it would have been nice to see in the budget implementation bill some legislation that would create ongoing statutory funding for housing. That is because reliable, stable funding, year over year, is the basis for a well-functioning and reliable national housing strategy that could put a meaningful dent in the dearth of affordable housing and social housing that we currently have in Canada.

Putting money in the budget would have been one way the government could have signalled its seriousness about a national housing plan. Instead it is left to the ad hoc decision-making of government year over year.

The NDP has proposed in the past, through private member's bills, legislation for a meaningful and permanent national housing strategy, including provisions for how to consult and develop that plan so that decisions would not just be made at the cabinet table. Everyday Canadians would have the opportunity on an ongoing basis to feed information from their own lived experiences and those of their friends, neighbours, and family, into that ongoing strategy that would have reliable, multi-year funding going forward.

I raise that as an example of how the government in the legislation could have signalled and solidified its commitment to a national housing strategy. It was disappointing not to see that. Instead, we have the word of the Liberals that the money will come.

We have their word on a lot of issues. It is hard to believe that the Liberals will be able to achieve all of their goals given the current state of the country's finances and the choices that they have made in terms of not seriously going after, for instance, large tax offenders and in terms of not raising the corporate tax rate. I will have more to say on that later.

The other thing in the bill that is an important priority for me and for the NDP is the health care funding. What was promised in the election campaign by the Liberals and by the Prime Minister was promised on the basis of a criticism of the previous government and Stephen Harper's plan for health care funding that would cut the regular increases by the federal government for health spending from 6% to 3%. That was roundly criticized by Liberals in the last campaign and there was a clear promise in their platform and by the Prime Minister that not only would he not adopt the Stephen Harper funding model but that he would change the way the funding model was decided. The Prime Minister said he would convene a meeting of premiers to talk about a new national health accord.

After the election the premiers took the Prime Minister at his word and asked to have that meeting. On a number of occasions they held joint press conferences calling on the Prime Minister to convene a national meeting of premiers to discuss a new national health accord, but they never had that meeting. The legislation is the outcome of that broken promise by the Prime Minister to convene that meeting and to meaningfully include premiers in deciding the structure and the framework of health funding in Canada going forward.

Instead, the Liberals adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy where they went to each province separately and made side deals, the gist of which in all cases was to get provinces to sign on to the very same Harper model of funding health care that they had opposed during the election. That is what is represented in the bill.

On the additional money the Liberals promised during the election for home care and mental health, instead of flowing to the provinces out of the commitment made by the Prime Minister and Liberals in the last campaign, it became a condition of their signing on to the Stephen Harper model. This money was used instead as a threat and as a coercive tool to get provinces to sign on to a funding model that they had roundly criticized and that the federal Liberals had roundly criticized.

Therefore, it was a serious switch of priority and strategy by the federal government, and I think a serious broken promise on one of the most important issues of public policy in Canada. That is what the bill represents in its current form. I think that is shameful, and I cannot but draw attention to the fact that now, frankly, we do not really have a national health accord, because 10 side deals, and we are not even at 10 yet but nine out of 10, do not a health accord make.

This was the opportunity. After the Harper government reneged on the idea or passed up the opportunity to create a new national health accord after the health accord of 2004 expired in 2014, there was a moment to bring the provinces together to negotiate a new health accord in the way that former prime minister Paul Martin did in 2004. There was a moment to be able to do that again, and it certainly seemed like the federal Liberals were posturing to fill that role, which would have been good. They ought to have done that, but they passed it up and adopted the Harper ultimatum, although they gave themselves a bigger stick with the promises of home care and mental health money.

Now it is an open question as to when we are going to get that opportunity again. It is on the current Prime Minister's shoulders that we may lose the opportunity to have a meaningful national health accord for a generation. I think that is seriously shameful and something that I hope Liberals across the way who ran on the idea of having a new national health accord appreciate that they are complicit in, having Canadians miss out for a generation on a meaningful national health accord, because that is not what the funding arrangement in the legislation before us represents.

This includes not having a national pharmacare plan, for instance. It would be wonderful if in this budget implementation act we saw the legal provisions necessary to institute a national pharmacare plan. A national pharmacare plan would allow us to provide more equitable drug coverage to Canadians across the country so that it would not matter where one lived in Canada, one would get good access to the prescription medication one needed. It would allow Canadians to do this at a lower out-of-pocket price for the portion they would be responsible for. It would also allow governments to provide better service at a cheaper rate, and there have been all sorts of estimates. If we triangulate the lowball estimates and the higher estimates, it is quite reasonable to think that we could be saving Canadian taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $7 billion annually if we had a national pharmacare plan.

This was something the Liberals promised in 1993, if members can believe it, and here we are today. However, as we did prior to 1993, consistently after 1993, and are doing today, the NDP will continue to advocate for a national pharmacare plan until we have one.

I think it is shameful to think that after all those years, 25 years after Jean Chrétien got elected with a compelling majority and a clear promise to have a national pharmacare plan, we still have to be here talking about it. We are not talking about the details of it, whether it is working well, or how it could save Canadians more money if we modified the plan this way or that. We are still talking about establishing one at all, which I think is a great shame.

We had promises from the Liberals as well to restore lifetime pensions for veterans, but that is not anywhere in the act. When we talk about commitments made and how those get followed through on where it really counts, which is where the money gets spent, we see another promise coming up empty.

We still hear repeated promises from the Minister of Veterans Affairs and that we should just wait, that it is coming. However, the government has continued with the court case it promised to stop against Equitas and Canadian veterans. It is saying that there is no sacred covenant between Canada and its veterans. It has money to spend on that, money that would be better spent on veterans who, through their service, have earned our respect and deserve to live with dignity. The government should be doing that with the money.

It is the same when it comes to first nations. The government is continuing to spend money it promised it would not, fighting first nations in court. It could be flowing the money, money that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and many other bodies have said is owing to first nations people as an important piece of the reconciliation process. It would help get first nations people in Canada back on their feet and address the endemic problems in their communities, so they could become full participants in all the wealth, resources, and quality of life that Canada has to offer. They have been excluded from that for far too long. Nothing in the legislation addresses that.

On my point about veterans, they have said clearly that lifetime pensions have to be restored. The Liberals clearly said that as well. The New Democrats have been advocating for that. One would assume there would be wide support. There certainly would be support on the NDP benches for restoring lifetime pensions, yet it is nowhere in the legislation.

The Liberals talk big about spending priorities, but the recent release of the defence review is a very good indication of what it means to be a Liberal spending priority. It means money announced for 2026, 2027, 2028. By the time our grandkids are adults, they will start spending money on this serious priority.

It is frustrating to see large numbers being thrown about, including on infrastructure, knowing that many years and a number of elections will have to occur before the time arrives to spend that money.

This means we are not having a serious debate in Parliament about our priorities. Instead, we are playing a game of make belief with Monopoly money. The Liberals can announce all sorts of money for 2035, but they will never have to deliver it. The circumstances will have changed so many times and in so many ways, in ways we cannot predict. When the time comes to spend that money, it will have been re-budgeted, reallocated, and changed many times over. It is convenient for the government to talk now about what it wants to do in 2027, 2030, 2040, or 2050. I think 2055 is when the government says it might balance the books.

This is not a real debate. It does a disservice to this place and Canadians for a government to pretend that by announcing money 10 years into the future, it is doing a real thing. This is really indicative of its priorities. People in this place deserve better and the people we represent deserve better. Therefore, I make no apologies for focusing on the next few years and what the government announced in spending, because the rest has yet to come.

On my point about housing, if the Liberals were serious about long-term funding, they would have included it in the legislation. It is the case sometimes that five-year or 10-year plans are required to address something, which is certainly true when addressing the shortage of affordable and social housing. However, the bill does not include a national housing strategy and funds for that strategy. Statutory funds for that strategy is the way to do it.

At the very least, it appears to be a sign of insincerity when governments talk about the need for a long-term plan, but do not want any accompanying legislation that would mandate the money and lay out the consultation process for that kind of long-term spending. Long-term spending like that ought not be done willy-nilly. If a 10-year plan is required, there should also be a corresponding structure, which is appropriate to lay out in legislation, and provide a legislative guarantee of those funds. We do not see that in the bill.

However, what we see is a guarantee for a structure going forward, not just for 10 years but indefinitely. Canadian taxpayer money is going to be used to pad the pockets of corporate Canada. That is shameful. When we talk about legislating priorities in the budget implementation bill and putting one's money where one's mouth is, the Liberals are doing that.

The Liberals are talking about a $35 billion fund that will be used to privatize infrastructure and make it easy for large corporations, not even large Canadian corporations, but large international corporations, to own Canadian infrastructure and dictate to Canadians what they will pay to use a highway or cross a bridge, so they can make money on that. Then, when it is not making money anymore, if the plan is ill-conceived and it does not generate the 7% to 9% return they thought it would make, they will walk away from the project, and Canadian taxpayers will pay the bill.

We see the Liberal priorities the bill. Unfortunately, they are not the priorities the Liberals espoused during the election campaign.

The government talks about openness and transparency. We have very good reason to doubt the sincerity of that. Yesterday we heard that the Liberals' record on access to information requests, which is a very reasonable measure of openness and transparency, was worse than the Harper government's was in its last year.

The embarrassing appointment process, now the non-appointment process, for Madeleine Meilleur to the position of Commissioner of Official Languages was far from open and transparent. The Prime Minister still will not admit that it was a mistake to think that such an overtly partisan person could be seen as independent enough to occupy the position of an independent officer of Parliament. There is nothing open or transparent about that.

Canadians have every right to worry, with a proposal like the infrastructure bank, that they cannot expect the kind of openness and transparency one would need in order to evaluate whether it was getting value for money.

It may well be true that more things get built as a result of the infrastructure bank, but they are not getting built for free. No one is building it out of charity for Canadians. The Saudi investment authority is not going to come to Canada because of the infrastructure bank and say that it got a letter from the bank, it heard we needed a major bridge, it would build it for us, do it cheaply and it would be a nice quality bridge, and not ask for payment. Canadians are going to pay. If we are building more infrastructure, we are paying more. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

To hear the Liberals on one hand espouse and call on some of their members' experience in business and finance and say they are smart managers, then on the other hand pretend that somehow Canadians ultimately will not pay for every bit of infrastructure that is paid under the bank, and in fact pay more, is farcical. Those investors will demand a higher return than the banks the government could borrow from, which was its promise in the election. It has been an ongoing insult, frankly.

When we talk about getting money to build more infrastructure by borrowing at 2%, the Liberals like to say the NDP was going to balance the budget, so we would not have built any of that stuff.

First, the stuff on the infrastructure bank is stuff for which they are borrowing money and they are borrowing it at a higher rate from other investors. The idea that this is not a deficit that Canadians are incurring is factually wrong. The Liberals can play with the books, put it on the books of the infrastructure bank, or private investors, or whatever, but at the end of the day it is the Canadian taxpayer who will pay for that. The Liberals are not fooling anyone on this side of the House.

The other thing is this. The Liberals are not pursuing revenue streams, or ways of saving money. When I talk about a national pharmacare program, that is a way to save substantial amounts of money. If they were borrowing at 2% to build infrastructure instead of 7% or 9%, they could build a lot of bridges and roads for $7 billion a year.

The Liberals voted for an NDP motion telling the government to take meaningful action on closing tax havens and loopholes. A black and white commitment of the Liberals was that they would close the CEO stock option loophole. They passed that up. That is almost $1 billion a year, and substantially more when we start addressing the issue of tax havens and tax cheats. Some have estimated that to be as high as in the order of $50 billion to $60 billion annually. That is a lot of money. Therefore, the idea that somehow there is no money to be found to advance these important priorities is false. It is a question of political will and a government willing to follow through on its commitments.

When we take all of that into consideration, it is clear that, not only when we talk about the infrastructure bank, for instance, this is not the way to go for Canada. This is not the way to build infrastructure. It is not value for money for Canadians. There are better ways of doing it. I have tried to highlight some of those. Not only is this not the right direction, but it does not even get us in the direction the Liberals promised they would go in the last election. On all counts, Canadians should stand opposed to the bill. I know we will.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

June 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member gave a very interesting speech and touched on a lot of key points.

The member called this an omnibus bill and then he went on to talk about all the extra things we should add to our budget. I appreciate the fact that the member underlined all the good things we were doing, for example, infrastructure investment, which is extremely important. He talked about national health care, the national housing strategy, and other interesting things. The member did not mention the CPP, which would have been interesting.

Sitting in opposition and talking about all the good things those members would do is one thing. However, I would like to know where he and his party would have made cuts the that would have been required to accomplish maybe half of what we will accomplish in this budget.

Throughout the election campaign the leader of the opposition said there would be no deficits. With all the good things we are doing, without a deficit, it would only be half of the good things. Could the member expand on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did try to explicitly answer that question in my speech, because it was an obvious one to anticipate.

My answer, essentially, is that Liberal cowardice in the face of corporate Canada and their international corporate friends means that for the Liberals, for some reason, despite election promises, pursuing revenue from the corporate sector, either by raising the corporate tax rate or closing tax loopholes, is not an option.

That is an option for us. We are willing to stand up to corporate Canada and the international corporate elite and let them know they need to pay their fair share. We do not have the same dilemma that the Liberals have, because we are not ideologically blocked from pursuing reasonable revenue options.

On the point about the CPP, I am glad the member mentioned it. In turns out 20 minutes is not very long, and there were some other points I wanted to address.

The Liberal CPP reforms are not in the budget implementation bill, which is why it was not a priority for me to mention it today.

However, in the bill are changes to the EI rules that would allow parents more choice with respect to their parental leave. The problem with the changes, and the reason why it relates to the CPP, is that it just illustrates that when Liberals try to do the right thing, either because they want to look progressive or maybe because they really mean it, they cannot quite get it right. With respect to CPP, they did not carry on with the dropout provisions for women and people living with disabilities. On parental leave, people will make less money over the 18 months than they would if they took the leave over 12 months.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, the previous government had record spending on health care, 6% a year. The health accord was one agreement.

The Liberal government is all about separate and divide. It could not get a health accord agreement, so it divided each and every area, starting first with Nova Scotia and a single agreement. Then it was New Brunswick, Newfoundland, finally getting through the provinces and territories.

However, I do not think the member's province of Manitoba signed on to the health accord. Could he comment on that? That is the only jurisdiction, I believe, that has not been divided or separated by the Liberal government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is true. Manitoba has not signed on yet. Initially I supported the Manitoba government's efforts to try to bring other provinces together in order to get a better agreement, frankly, just a real agreement. Part of the problem with the divide and conquer strategy is that it causes us to lose the opportunity for a meaningful national health accord over the course of a generation.

Recent events in Manitoba have shown that perhaps the premier of Manitoba's intentions were not so pure, and that he was looking for a scapegoat to be able to blame cuts that he was intending to make to our health system anyway, like the closure of the Concordia ER in my riding, and deny going ahead with a personal care home expansion that had been on the books, was shovel ready, and the permit had been issued last July. That is in spite of a promise by the Manitoba Conservatives to build more personal care home beds.

There is more to the story. The Manitoba government is ruthlessly attacking our health care system, and I think it is holding out on this agreement to try to spread the blame. There is a lot of blame to go around. Canadians and Manitobans deserve a national health accord, and the Liberal government should have done that. However, it does not explain all the cuts that are happening in Manitoba right now either.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Mr. Speaker, irrespective of the member's perspective, this is an excellent budget for the province of Manitoba, which we both represent. Total transfers are at $3.7 billion, an increase of $150 million over 2016, which is the largest total transfer since 2006.

Because budget 2017 is a continuation of 2016, as we speak, there is $58 million currently being spent in Manitoba on 24 water projects for 24 first nations, including $20 million for freedom road. That is an increase of $10 million over our initial commitment. My question to the hon. member is a yes or no. Do you think that this $58 million for freedom road is a good thing for the province of Manitoba?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. I remind the hon. member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital to direct his questions to the Chair. When we say “you” around here, it refers to the Speaker. I do not think he wants me to answer because I would not be able to anyway.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would say in response to the member that the NDP, both federally and provincially, committed at the outset to have freedom road built, and that is a good thing.

The member mentioned water, for which I would note there is nothing in this budget.

Also, there have been recent announcements that the Coast Guard facilities in Gimli and Kenora are on the closure list. If we still have time for a question and answer, I wonder if any of the Liberals from Manitoba would like to get up and let us know when they were first consulted about that, for how long they knew, and what steps they took to make sure those Coast Guard facilities do not close.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for speaking to Bill C-44. Unfortunately he is the only NDP member who will have the opportunity to speak to the Liberals’ budget implementation bill.

They had promised not to misuse omnibus bills, but then they gave us a 300-page bill that amends 30 pieces of legislation and limited debate on it twice. This makes it an antidemocratic bill in its form and in the way it is debated. It is despicable.

The member showed us in his speech that the health negotiations, pension plans, and improvements to the employment insurance program are broken Liberal promises.

The Liberals also focussed on young people to get elected, but what are they doing for them? By 2030, just over 10 years from now, 40% of jobs are going to be automated. What do the Liberals have to say about precarious employment? They are telling young people to get used to it.

They promised to give a tax credit to small businesses that were going to hire young people, but is that in the budget? Not at all. Are jobs with benefits being created for young people? No. There is no old age pension for young people either. It is all just hot air.

This budget does not provide any compensation to farmers. On top of featuring none of many things that were promised and dangled in front of us, the budget only contains measures for the rich and does nothing for the middle class.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about Bill C-44, which reminds us of all the things we will not get and shows that the Liberals break their promises.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and raising the fact that this is an omnibus bill. It does include a lot. There is a lot that we would like to see in the budget, but that does not mean that we want all of it to be in one bill. By way of example, we would prefer it if the national housing strategy legislation were not introduced as part of an omnibus bill.

I thank my colleague for allowing me the opportunity to address this point.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.

As the member of Parliament for Markham—Thornhill, I am honoured to stand in this House today to speak in support of the budget bill, Bill C-44, which, if passed, would see important measures for helping the government meet the commitments it has made to Canadians.

First I would like to talk about some of those commitments we have already delivered on, commitments that are making a real difference in the lives of families across the country, like lowering taxes on middle-class Canadians by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1%.

We also introduced the Canada child benefit, which is essential for helping families with the high cost of raising children.

I am enormously proud that our government is represented by a gender-balanced cabinet.

Budget 2017 is the next step in our long-term plan. Over the last couple of months, I have talked to and met with thousands of families in Markham—Thornhill, and I have heard their concerns and aspirations for our community. They talked to me about how hard it is to commute for hours a day and how they want to see a transit plan that meets the needs of families. They told me about the balance and the expense of caring for their young children while at the same time caring for their elderly parents, and making sure that our seniors have what they need to lead a good quality of life.

I also heard about my constituents' ambitions, the ones that have propelled Markham ahead to making it one of the most diverse, dynamic, and fastest-growing communities in Canada. The riding of Markham—Thornhill is a leader in innovation, with GM's new autonomous and connected car centre, or IBM's Innovation Space – Markham Convergence Centre that is helping businesses take their new technologies to global markets. There are also Canadian companies, like ICON Digital Production's state-of-the-art visual production facility, and Pond Technologies' commercialization of its research to fight climate change. These multinational Canadian headquarters and SMEs stand to serve as an example of the potential and ambition in Markham—Thornhill.

Now, at a time when changes in the economy, both here at home and around the world, present incredible opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it, with its strong focus on innovation, skills, and partnerships, budget 2017 takes the next steps to supporting Canadians as they acquire the knowledge and skills to build a more prosperous future for Canada. One of those steps is making big bets on sectors of the economy in which Canada can be a world leader. This includes areas where Canada already has world-leading expertise, like artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence is an emerging and promising sector with huge potential to transform technologies.

The Government of Canada's advisory council on economic growth identified artificial intelligence as a platform technology that will impact almost all sectors of the economy. Thanks to the investments by the federal government and to the pioneering work done by outstanding Canadian researchers, Canada is a global leader in AI research and development. However, we are not alone. Other countries also recognize the strategic importance of AI technology and are investing in research and innovation in this area. As a result, Canadian talent and ideas are in demand around the world. In order to fully harness the benefits of AI, we need to ensure that activity remains here in Canada. That is why, through budget 2017, we have dedicated $125 million to launch a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy.

In addition to AI, our government is showing strong support for business-led innovation, with an investment of $950 million over five years in superclusters. In key sectors such as digital and clean tech, superclusters have enormous potential to accelerate economic growth. Our new strategic innovation fund would attract, support, and grow Canadian businesses in dynamic and emerging sectors through an investment of $1.26 billion over five years. In the face of national opportunity and growing global competition, this is a strategic, focused, and bold investment in the future of our economy.

Our government is also working hard to make significant unprecedented investments in infrastructure. We have more than doubled our infrastructure commitments to meet Canada's most urgent needs.

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. Those risks and costs are significant. That is why our budget is the next step in our plan to make wise investments that will promote the growth of our economy and strengthen the middle class.

We believe that decisions made at the local level are very important and we want to support municipalities so they can meet their infrastructure priorities.

Beyond investments in infrastructure, one of the issues raised most frequently by residents in my riding is public transit. We know that public transit is the lifeblood of a thriving city. Whether it is widening the GO train from Milliken to Union Station, or taking the Viva, or connecting to the TTC from Markham transit, fast, efficient, and reliable public transit is essential. That is why budget 2017 would provide an investment of $20.1 billion for public transit projects over the next 11 years. This is real change that would make a difference in the lives of the people in Markham—Thornhill and across our country.

I am also very proud to be a part of a government that believes in the necessity of effective and high-quality care for Canadian seniors. We recognize the need to address the issues of seniors, and have taken action to improve the quality of life for our seniors. Budget 2017 includes important investments in supports for an aging population to help our seniors and to give them the respect they deserve. I know how important this is for my riding and for the people in Markham—Thornhill. That is why we are improving access to home care by investing $6 billion over 10 years so that Canadians can stay in their homes well into their retirement.

We are also investing $2.3 billion over two years to provide more affordable housing options. This investment will improve housing conditions for seniors, especially senior women living alone. This builds on the work already done by our government to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to boost support for our most vulnerable seniors.

In addition, this budget would also help improve the lives of new Canadians. Many of our new immigrants are highly skilled and highly educated. They want to put their talents to use and to contribute to building our great country. However, many times highly skilled and educated immigrants face barriers that limit their employment opportunities once they arrive in Canada. Our government recognizes these barriers as a problem. With this budget, we are doing something about it.

This budget proposes to allocate $27.5 million over five years starting this year, and $5.5 million per year thereafter, to support our targeted employment strategy for newcomers. Our plan would improve pre-arrival supports for newcomers so that the process to recognize their foreign credentials can begin before they arrive in Canada. This ambitious program would break down the barriers that bright new immigrants face in fully contributing to our economy.

Finally, our government has shown that it recognizes the importance of young Canadians. With this in mind, I look forward to forming a youth council to bring together the diverse and talented youth in Markham—Thornhill. Our government understands that the path to a brighter future begins by giving all Canadians the tools they need to learn, retrain, discover, and embrace the future.

Budget 2017 supports the facets of our country that make us unique and strong. The investments in innovation, infrastructure, transit, and seniors provide the tools for our country to be successful in the future. This is a forward-looking budget, one that I think we could all get behind. I am proud to support it.