House of Commons Hansard #268 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan


Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin debate on the budget presented to the House yesterday.

We, the Conservative opposition, listened with one question in mind yesterday: what has this Liberal government really accomplished? I think it is important to stay focused on facts and figures when evaluating this government's economic performance.

As we know, the members of the current government like to talk a lot, but now more than half their mandate is behind them, so it is no longer sufficient to talk about what was promised in the 2015 election. Now it is time to talk about what they have actually accomplished. It is time to measure the rhetoric against the achievements.

When Conservatives heard this budget yesterday, we had one thought going through our minds: never before has a politician spent so much and achieved so little.

The government will have lots of talking points. We saw yesterday that it trotted out its argument that the Canadian government experienced growth thanks to the extra spending it put into the economy. That is patently false. Any economic improvement that has occurred in Canada is not happening because of the Liberal government; it is happening despite the Liberal government.

It was also a wasted opportunity. Yesterday could have been a moment for the government to start delivering on its promises to Canadians, but for the Prime Minister, yesterday's budget was mostly useful for deflecting criticism for his ethical failures and the outrage over his plan to raise taxes on local businesses.

Let us spare a moment for our hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners for what they have had to go through for the past seven months under the Liberal government. Members will remember, in the summer, the much-vaunted plan of the Liberal government, of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Members will remember the rhetoric they used, insulting all those hard-working people who create jobs and opportunities in our society. They called them tax cheats. They said that the new measures were aimed at making sure that those who were using fancy accounting schemes would pay their fair share.

The amount of anxiety the government has caused, not just for the 1.8 million small business owners in this country but for the millions more who work for those businesses, was a completely irresponsible act.

I got my start in a small business. I did not inherit a family fortune. I had to work my way through university. My parents were very generous. They let me stay at home for free, and every month, they bought me my bus pass. I would go off to work at a restaurant, where I waited tables to pay my tuition.

That is the type of hard work and experience that the vast majority of Canadians have to go through to get their start in life. Most of us do not get it handed to us for nothing.

I learned in that experience. Many times when I would walk out the back door of that restaurant, I would pass by that owner. I would hear him on the phone sometimes negotiating with a supplier, trying to get an extra couple of weeks of credit, trying to get a discount on the supplies for the weeks ahead, because it is not always a good week, and it is not always a good month. Every time he was stressed about his business, I was stressed about my job. That is why Conservatives are so passionate about defending the interests of small businesses across this country.

The Liberals have completely flip-flopped on this. Three or four times throughout the past few weeks they have completely changed direction on this whole issue. They have walked back much of what they were intent on doing. Let us remember that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance would do these press conferences. When the finance minister was allowed to speak, he would say things like, “There is no way we are backing off this.” Despite the backlash, despite the outrage, they were going to proceed with these tax hikes.

What we see in yesterday's budget is that the Liberals have completely flip-flopped once again. Why then, Conservatives ask, did they have to put all those hard-working people through all that anxiety in the first place?

The Prime Minister claims that the Canadian economy's strong performance is a result of his spending. One thing is certain: he is spending a lot of money. He promised during the election campaign to increase spending, but things have not happened exactly as planned. He said he would borrow no more than $10 billion a year and that he would balance the budget by 2019. He said he would spend that money on infrastructure, which contributes to long-term growth. I put my faith in numbers, and I judge by results, not intentions. After three years, we have the numbers to determine whether he has done what he promised.

The deficit announced in Tuesday's budget is $18 billion. That is three times higher than what was promised. That is the first broken promise.

Since growth was higher than expected in 2017, tax revenues were higher. Canadians need to understand that these deficits are the result of a decision made by the Liberal government, not economic conditions.

According to the government's own numbers, the budget will not be balanced again until 2045. That is 27 more years of borrowing, adding over $450 billion to our national debt. My son Thomas is about to turn 13. He will be 40 before the budget will be balanced. The vast majority of his working life will see his tax dollars going to pay off debt racked up by the Liberal government to be spent today. None of us would do that to our own kids and our own households. None of us would rack up spending and leave them with the bill.

That is a common value shared by all Canadians, whether our families have been here for multiple generations or whether we are from a family that has arrived in Canada more recently to take advantage of all the opportunities that our country has to offer. One thing that we can all share in common is the principle that those of us today work hard so that the next generation has better opportunities.

How many of us know the story of someone who has lived above a restaurant or lived behind a store? These people scrimp and save and put money away for education. They go without for themselves so that their kids will have opportunities that they did not have, maybe it is extra tutoring, maybe it is extracurricular activities. There is a look of pride on their faces when that child graduates from post-secondary education, knowing that all that sacrifice paid off, that their kids will have a better quality of life than they themselves had. That is the tradition that the Liberal government is breaking with these massive deficits for the next 27 years.

That is why Conservatives get so passionate about balanced budgets. We do not believe in balanced budgets just because we like to see black ink on the ledger. We do not advocate for a reduction of deficits just to get a good bond rating from an international credit organization. We do it because we know there is a real human cost to these deficits. We know that future generations of Canadians will have to work harder because the present Prime Minister cannot get his spending under control. That is why we fight so passionately for this issue.

In their first three years in power, the Prime Minister and his Liberals have increased government spending by 20%. That is very troubling, but the thing that should worry us even more is that that money is not being spent how the Prime Minister promised. Three-quarters was used to support program spending. There is nothing new, nothing that constitutes an investment in our future prosperity, and nothing that corresponds to the lofty promises the Prime Minister made to Canadians. Only 2% of the additional spending was used to pay for real projects. He actually reduced infrastructure spending.

These are all facts that we must remember when we hear the Liberals try to take credit for Canada's recent economic performance or when they talk about giving Canadians a break.

The Liberal government knows how to break promises with the best of them but when it comes to delivering, when it comes time to make the tough choices, to choose some priorities, the Liberals just cannot deliver. They fail to provide actual results for Canadians.

All of this borrowing and overspending leaves us vulnerable to any sudden downturn or economic instability. The recent gyrations in global markets should remind us all that Canada is not an oasis. We can be affected by international crises, swings in commodity prices, and trade agreements. All of these are problems beyond our control. That is why the government has a responsibility to be ready, particularly in a country like Canada, which has significant vulnerabilities in consumer debt and housing.

The facts very clearly show that periods of growth do not last forever. There are highs and lows. Any government that claims to be a responsible manager of taxpayer money must never forget this fact. Any government that does not understand that periods of growth do not last forever is lying not only to Canadians, but also to itself.

As the government tries to take credit for last year's growth, most forecasters are already pointing out dangerous signals on the horizon. Interest rates are likely to rise, which will not only have an effect on household finances but will make the cost of all this Liberal borrowing that much more expensive for future generations of Canadians. If a downturn were to occur, tax revenues would fall and these government expenses would continue to soar.

In OECD countries, the deficit usually worsens by about 2% of GDP in just a mild recession, or up to 3% to 5% in a severe downturn like we saw in 2009. If we are already running larger deficits today and then have to add to it, the cupboard will be empty before the government is able to respond. This is appallingly irresponsible.

Let us recall the justification for these deficits. During the election, the Prime Minister said that he would spend extra money on infrastructure and that would be the cause of the deficits. However, yesterday's budget shows that infrastructure spending, the very thing the Liberals claimed would stimulate the economy and add to growth, was cut by over $2 billion.

The fact is that all of this borrowed money will have to be repaid in the form of tax hikes. This is why the average family is paying over $800 more in taxes every year.

This increase comes from the elimination of the children's sports and arts tax credits, a decrease in the TFSA contribution limit, an end to income splitting, the carbon tax, and an increase in payroll taxes.

This is in stark contrast to the promises made by this Liberal government.

It even wanted to tax the EI and dental plans, employee discounts, and treatments for diabetics. The government only backtracked because of pressure from the Conservative opposition.

This is why we cannot trust the government when its members talk about helping families or reducing taxes. We just do not believe them. We believe that every time they have tried to impose a new tax or take away a credit, they have pulled back, and it has happened many times. We recall that the Liberals tried to tax employee discounts. They were going to tax medical and dental plans. They even tried to take away tax credits for people with diabetes. Every single time, Conservatives raised our voices, amplified the hard work of Canadians across the country who were going to be affected by these tax hikes, and we were able to get them to back down. In fact, if we look back to the fall, it becomes clear that the most popular Liberal announcement was when the Liberals were announcing that they were abandoning one of their previous announcements.

Canadians need to remember this. Imagine what they would do if they thought they could away with it. Imagine what they would do, emboldened, if they were given a second term. Their hidden agenda on tax hikes and making it harder for small businesses to grow and expand is truly scary, and Conservatives will always point that out to Canadians leading up to the next election.

Members will recall that the Liberals promised to cut taxes for small businesses during the last election, but they refused. In fact, in their first two budgets, they abandoned this place altogether. It was only the Conservative Party that forced them, kicking and screaming, reluctantly, to keep their campaign promise to lower taxes for small businesses. The government is always asking more from Canadians.

Ordinary families are having to forgo their benefits and pay more tax so that the Liberal government has more money to spend on its pet projects, and so that the well-connected can get ahead of those who are simply trying to make ends meet.

With the Liberals, it is always government before people. This is backwards. Conservatives will put people before government.

We have all been fortunate in Canada to enjoy so much opportunity, but it did not come from nowhere. It was the product of the hard work of generations that came before us. We should be thinking of the generations that will follow. What will their opportunities be? Will they have the same ones? Conservatives know that government has to provide an environment that helps create those opportunities, which does not happen when government always takes more with one hand than it gives with the other.

We must ensure that our actions today provide options for our children and grandchildren. This means balancing the budget, so that they are not stuck paying off our debt.

This means keeping taxes low, so that families have money to save and invest in their children's futures. There is more to society than government. This is crucial. There is a better option. The government should take advantage of our economic strength to compensate Canadian families for their hard work and success, instead of asking them to pay even more.

The government needs to get its borrowing and spending under control so that we do not pass our debts on to the next generation of Canadians. This budget was an opportunity to finally deliver something for Canadians and it was one the Liberal government chose not to take. Liberals inherited, as a government, a great fortune. They inherited a balanced budget. They inherited the lowest tax burden on Canadians since the Second World War. They have inherited a situation where commodity prices have doubled since they took power.

There is no excuse for these deficits. The Liberals are blowing their inheritance. Much of what they are doing does not benefit Canadians. Some $500 million will be taken from hard-working Canadians and spent in an Asian infrastructure bank to build projects in other countries. Nobody living in a Canadian city wants to see their tax dollars go to build projects around the world. They want those dollars to be spent making their lives better.

This is the Prime Minister who has no problem seeing deficits go from $6 billion, as promised, to $18 billion and then has the audacity to look a Canadian hero in the eye and tell our veterans that they were asking for more than the government could give. That is shameful.

What will not be a surprise is that Conservatives will be voting against the budget, unless we can convince the Liberals to amend the motion. That is why I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

the House rejects the government's budget statement because it fails middle class Canadians, women and business operators by raising taxes on over 90% of Canadian middle-class families; announcing new tax hikes on local businesses; borrowing an additional $18 billion; jeopardizing our future generations by choosing not to balance the budget by 2019; spending so much to achieve so little.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the hon. Leader of the Opposition's story about living at home during university. It is a blessing to come from a good family, to be able to look after your children, care for your family, and to have that privilege. However, not all families have that opportunity.

There are many families in Canada who simply cannot seem to get ahead. For instance, indigenous children under the age of 14 make up 7.7% of all children in Canada, but they represent more than half of all children in foster care. This means that indigenous children have a much higher chance of being separated from their families, communities, and cultures, and this needs to change.

In Winnipeg alone, a newborn is seized every day. A newborn is taken from her parents every day and without even proof sometimes of whether it is a good or a bad parent. There are only allegations of abuse, for instance, in about 13% of the cases when children are seized in Manitoba, meaning that 87% of the children who are taken are just simply too poor.

The government in this budget has committed $1.4 billion of new funding, for six years starting in 2017, to conform with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

If the hon. Leader of the Opposition had to balance the budget, how would he balance that budget? Where would you cut? Where would you take out? Would it be on the backs of indigenous people? Would it be on the backs of veterans? How do you make those decisions, because we have given an awful lot of funding to many of these groups that depend on this.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to remind hon. members to direct their questions through the Chair and not directly. It makes it a lot easier in the long run.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate his interventions as well. I believe, in most cases, they come from a very sincere perspective and a genuine desire to represent his constituents. However, he was not here in the last Parliament, and maybe he was not aware that it was his party that opposed granting the same human rights to women on reserve from which every other woman in our country benefits. Maybe he forgets those rights we extended when it came to matrimonial property on reserve, which the Liberal Party fought so hard against.

When we talk about the poverty facing first nations, both on and off reserve, maybe he is not aware of the dozens and dozens of first nations communities that want to partner in our natural resource sector, that support pipelines, like northern gateway, that would bring prosperity to people all over the country, both indigenous and non-indigenous alike.

When it comes to where we would stop spending money, we have a lot of examples we could look at, some big, and some small. Some big would be the Asian infrastructure bank, which is $500 million spent to build projects outside of Canada, or the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, which will use tax dollars of the very people who go work in his riding every day, using public transit, walking home in the cold, paying some of their taxes to guarantee profits for bankers and billionaire investors. The Conservatives would not do that.

Some things we would cut would be very small in terms of the scale of government, like an ice-skating rink for $10 million that we cannot play hockey on, and just a few metres away from the world's longest skating rink in the world; or like a $10 million payout to Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist who fought against this country; or $100,000 for a person to manage a ministerial Twitter account.

If the hon. member really wants to see the wasteful spending the Conservatives would cut, I suggest he vote for us in the next election.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Leader of the Opposition has obviously indicated his passion for balancing the budget. I would like to know if he shares our passion for the need to address the growing inequality in our country.

I wonder if he feels it is acceptable today that two Canadian billionaire businessmen own as much wealth as 11 million Canadians; or if he is okay with four million people living with food insecurity, including one and a half million children. How does he feel about the use of tax havens? How does he feel about Starbucks being able to use transfer pricing to keep its profits in the Cayman Islands or elsewhere and pay little or no taxes, yet the company across the country, that small business, has to pay its fair share.

Is the Conservative Party in favour of that regime or will he join us and try to address this growing inequality in our country?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, yes, we are very passionate about returning to balanced budgets.

During the height of the recession, when countries reacted to the global downturn, there was a lot written about Keynesian economics, and that is counter cyclical. During times of downturns governments spend more money to fill in the gap. The problem is that I have never actually met a true Keynesian. Then when the economy comes out of recession, the Liberals' response is to keep spending money. When there is a recession, the Liberals and the NDP always ask for more spending. However, when we are out of recession and see growth, the Liberals and NDP say we should still have deficits and more spending. When is it ever okay to stop borrowing money from future generations of Canadians?

When it comes to income inequality, nothing has done more to lift people out of poverty, to create better opportunities, and to improve the quality of life, than free people making free decisions in a free market. The free market has provided so much prosperity for everyone in the country. It is what empowers low-income Canadians to improve their lots in life.

The answer from the left is always to achieve equality by dragging people down. The Conservative response is to increase opportunities by lifting people up. That will always be a fundamental difference between our two parties.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that over the last two years there has been a real difference in our competitiveness, a real slide in Canada's competitiveness on the global market. We have seen it especially in the natural resource sector, where increasing regulations, taxes, and a different regime have made Canada's natural resource sector, especially, and manufacturing sector, less competitive as our number one customer becomes our number one competitor.

I saw nothing in the budget that addressed the competitiveness gap between Canada and especially the U.S., and nothing about NAFTA.

Could he talk about what was not in this budget specifically around our competitiveness as a country?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is the best question I have heard so far on this issue. However, I wish someone on the Liberal side was asking that question while the budget was being prepared.

I talked about the anxiety felt among people who worked in small business and how they felt their jobs were threatened by the Liberal tax hikes. The same anxiety exists over NAFTA. When we travel all across the country, especially in parts of southwestern Ontario or our natural resource sector, people talk about what happens if NAFTA goes off the rails. Nothing in this budget provides any kind of comfort to indicate the government has a plan. That is shameful, and is certainly adding to the anxiety felt by millions of Canadians.

When we look at our natural resource sector, I would not be so smug if I were a Liberal today. All we see are the billions of dollars of capital that has left Canada over the past few years, the billions of dollars in cancelled projects in the natural resource sector, and the billions of dollars leaving to go to other economies.

It is not about the dollars and cents; it is about the jobs that go along with it, it is about the people who are affected by that. Our allies are also our competitors. They are taking steps to make their economies more attractive to bring those jobs to their countries. Australia has repealed its carbon tax. The socialist government in France has abandoned its plan to impose a carbon tax. The Canadian Liberal government is plotting ahead no matter what the consequences.

The Prime Minister actually bragged at a ski resort full of billionaires that he would take absolutely no steps to keep our country competitive, especially as it relates to the United States. That is a very dangerous signal. It may have got a round of applause from his billionaire friends, but it is not getting any applause from Canadians who are worried about their job.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government tabled its 2018 budget yesterday, and we are sad to say that this year's exercise appears to be another missed opportunity to build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.

Budget 2018 is another missed opportunity to build an economy that lifts everyone up.

The government is perpetuating two realities in Canada: one for the ultra rich, the powerful, the friends of government; the other for everyone else. A budget is not an opportunity to show that we have identified problems; it is an opportunity to address problems, to propose concrete solutions that will change things for the better, and to use our taxes for the common good, that is for the good of ordinary Canadians who are at work, at home, or on the streets. That is the role of government. Unfortunately, this government has again chosen to favour the privileged and to let everyone else wait.

A budget is an annual exercise to ensure that Canada's economy works for people first, not just the wealthy and the well-connected. The inequality gap between Canada's wealthiest and the rest of Canadians has never been greater in our country. This is unacceptable.

When the Prime Minister told Sears' retirees to get used to EI and CPP after their pensions were stolen, he told all Canadians that they should get used to inequality. However, we will not get used to it, not while so many people do not have what they need.

Today, two Canadian billionaire businessmen own as much wealth as 11 million Canadians altogether. At the same time, more than four million people live with food insecurity, including 1.15 million children here in Canada.

Too many people believe the economy is not working for them. What they see instead is an uneven playing field where only the few at the top benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Mr. Speaker, with all that has been said and written, in this place and elsewhere, about tax havens and the billions of dollars being channelled everywhere but into our pockets, we would have wanted the Government of Canada to lead the charge. We want Canada to champion the fight against tax inequality, but that is not what we see in this budget. This is a missed opportunity.

Let us talk a little about tax havens. For several months, we have been going after the government on the issue of tax havens. The only thing the government has said about this issue is that it has spent $1 billion in the hopes of potentially recovering $25 billion. In actual fact, is has only spent $40 million to date, not $1 billion. It will by no means reach the $25-billion target. The government is trying to make us believe that it is tackling income inequality, but it is protecting tax havens.

When the Minister of National Revenue and the Prime Minister give us the statistics on how many investigations have been launched and how many millions of dollars have been recovered, we have to consider that the victims of the government's scheme are not the KPMGs or the wealthy of this world, but everyday taxpayers. People from Quebec involved in the fight against tax havens tried to meet with the government to share their concerns. They learned that the Canada Revenue Agency is using a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to enforce the law or not. The law is in place and should be enforced equally for everyone. The Liberals tell us they have taxpayers' interests at heart and that they are dealing with tax havens. These examples are far from reassuring.

Worse yet, despite the fact that the Liberals say that they want to combat tax havens, they keep signing treaties with tax havens. Tax treaties open the door to allowing Canadian investors to send their money offshore and then bring it back without paying taxes. That is what the government is facilitating. The Liberal government is talking out of both sides of its mouth. We really have to pay attention to what the Liberals are doing and not to what they are saying.

The Liberals refuse to deal with the matter of inequality when it comes to the way taxes are imposed, the way businesses are asked to impose sales tax. Canadian companies are required to charge sales tax on products and services. However, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Google are not required to do these same. Why is the Government of Canada insisting on giving American companies a competitive advantage of 12% to 15% right off the bat? It makes no sense. The government should ensure that Canada's tax laws apply to everyone.

Speaking of equality, we also need to look at regional inequalities. For example, the current government, like the previous government, has not done anything to resolve high-speed Internet and especially cellphone service issues in the regions. Investments have been made to increase access to high-speed Internet, but they are too slow in coming. There is nothing in this budget except vague promises regarding satellite capacity. Still today, too many regions do not have access to cellphone service. The government is taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the G7 conference that will be held in Charlevoix to provide that region with the appropriate infrastructure, but there is nothing in the budget for other regions. That is a rather cynical approach.

The funding announced for water and waste water infrastructure in first nations communities is almost $2 billion short of the government's conservative estimate of what is required to end all drinking water advisories and to have adequate infrastructure in those communities.

We are glad to see funding for indigenous-specific housing strategies, but the specific details have not been announced, even after years of delay. The housing needs are urgent, and indigenous peoples cannot afford to wait.

We are glad to see funding for first nations child and family services, but with the government's refusal to disclose the funding gap, there is no way to tell if this funding is sufficient.

Indigenous housing needs are specific, and crisis shelters in the north are needed. Funding often goes only to on-reserve shelters, which addresses only part of the demand of indigenous women experiencing violence.

There is nothing in the budget that removes the funding cap for the post-secondary student support program for indigenous students, and that constitutes a barrier to education opportunities for indigenous peoples.

There is also nothing in the budget on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, whether it be to ensure that it is fully resourced or to respond to some of the recommendations that were issued thus far in the interim report.

Let me read a quote:

We will work with our provincial partners to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drugs within the public health care system. The federal government has a role to play in bringing together its provincial and territorial partners and a range of other interests to develop a national plan and timetable for introducing prescription drugs into our medicare system.

Was that in the budget? No, it was not. It was in the Liberal platform of 1997. Eleven years later, Canadians are cutting up pills. They are behind on bills. They are dipping into their savings and credit cards to afford the medication they need.

When it comes to the health of Canadians, the Liberal government has let people down year after year. What was the finance minister's response yesterday? It was four more years of pharmacare studies. These studies will be led by someone who is on the record as saying that pharmacare has been studied to death.

The government has already spent two years studying how to implement pharmacare, thanks to the bill introduced by my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway. The consultation has been done. The government knows how much it would save Canadians. All that is lacking is the courage to implement it.

Less than 24 hours after this budget was tabled, the finance minister was already backtracking on the promise to introduce universal pharmacare. He is already musing about a public-private mix, which was strongly advised against by expert witnesses at the health committee. Are Canadians supposed to believe that the Prime Minister is serious about implementing pharmacare, when the budget allocates no money to funding it and his finance minister is already talking about imposing limits on the coverage?

A diagnosis should not be a death sentence. Canadians cannot afford any more delays when it comes to making prescription drugs more affordable. The time to study pharmacare is over. The time to implement universal pharmacare for all Canadians is now.

The Liberals announced a legislative framework to ensure pay equity, but they did not allocate any money to implement it. Why then did they spend so much time presenting that legislation?

Let us not forget that the Liberals were already talking about pay equity in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, they promised legislation. Women have already waited too long. The government needs to immediately implement a strategy to encourage all of the provinces and territories to also adopt measures to ensure that businesses under their jurisdiction achieve pay equity. We still welcome its pay equity measures, as long as the government keeps its word this time.

This is a timid budget that is big on symbolism but short on substance and specifics.

In 2017, the opioid crisis claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people in Canada. The President of the United States has declared a national public health emergency to provide communities with the tools they need to address this major crisis. What is the Prime Minister waiting for?

On this side of the border, the $231 million over five years is welcome, but it is almost $100 million less than the $320 million over three years announced by the provincial government of British Columbia. This is an urgent crisis of unprecedented scale. It is crucial to provide front-line workers with the funding they need to do their jobs.

On the climate change file, the federal government is moving backwards. The weak measures it has put forward do not reflect the urgency of the situation. Furthermore, 90% of the promised funding will not be invested until after the next election, which is a recurring theme in this budget. If the government really wants to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it needs to step up its efforts now.

After promising in 2015 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, the Liberals did not even address the issue in this budget. Getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies would save the government $1.3 billion a year. If the government continues to increase the production of greenhouse gases and approve projects like Kinder Morgan, for example, it will never meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

Nine months ago, on May 26, 2017, the Minister of Transport put out a news release saying that he would announce a national strategy on electric vehicles by 2018. I must inform the government and the Minister of Transport that it is 2018. Not only are we still waiting for the strategy, but yesterday's budget said nothing about moving forward and contained no subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles. The federal budget is yet another missed opportunity to take real action against climate change.

We do welcome the new investments to support rental construction that were announced. However, let us be clear. This does not refer to social housing. According to figures from the last census, nearly 796,000 Canadian renter households spend more than half their income on housing. Their median income is $14,900—yes, you heard me, $14,900. The housing crisis needs to be resolved now, not after the election. These people are languishing on waiting lists, but from the looks of this budget, the Liberals are in no hurry to invest in a solution.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated that this budget “missed a key opportunity to generate frontline outcomes by expediting repairs to Canada's social housing supply to kick-start the National Housing Strategy.”

Canadians, pushed to the edge of their finances by skyrocketing housing costs, cannot afford for the Liberals to play politics with this funding.

How many times have we talked about the urgent need for the government to protect print media, a pillar of our democracy? In response to the possibility of a number of our print media outlets shuttering because of current financial difficulties, the Minister of Canadian Heritage led us to believe that she would take vigorous and decisive action on this file.

Newspapers' advertising revenue, much of which coming from the government, has plummeted, with that money now flowing to online media, yet the minister is putting up $50 million over five years, which is $10 million per year, to support local journalism in underserved communities. Over the past two years, some 15,000 journalism jobs have disappeared, but the best she can do is a band-aid solution.

Employment insurance benefits will be drying up for many seasonal workers in the coming weeks. For years now, they have been trying to figure out how to get around the spring gap. Once again, the Liberals are refusing to solve the problem even though there is a simple and obvious solution. Since 1971, people who get sick have been able to claim 15 weeks of employment insurance benefits at 55% of their usual income. The Liberals promised to increase the number of weeks for which sick people can collect employment insurance benefits, but there is nothing about that in this budget. Everyone knows that, for most Canadians, 15 weeks of disability benefits is not enough.

There is nothing in the 2018 budget to prevent a company like Sears from putting its shareholders and preferred creditors ahead of its workers' benefits and pension plans. The Prime Minister seems to think that our flawed employment insurance system is good enough to protect workers and retirees from pension theft, but those of us on this side of the House know it is not enough, and here I should mention my colleague from Hamilton Mountain's work on that front.

Budget 2018 lacks courage. The government is still scared to stand up to its friends, the richest 1%, who profit from an unfair tax system. Were it to tackle the tax breaks used by Canada's wealthiest, the government could redistribute the money to those who need it the most. At a time of emergencies and crises, the government is rolling out delay tactics: delays on housing, delays on pharmacare, and delays on infrastructure spending. All this is despite adding $7 billion to the promised deficit.

Canadians must be wondering what they are getting for their money. Families that cannot afford their homes cannot afford delays. Canadians who cannot afford their medication cannot afford delays on pharmacare. Our communities, which depend on publicly owned infrastructure, cannot wait on federal funding to start construction.

This government is obsessed with studies. At some point, we need to leave the studies behind and find the courage to do what we have to do in order to give Canadians what they need to get ahead. This budget does not do that.

Now is not the time to be timid. Now is the time to take bold and courageous action to reduce inequality. We can do that by closing the tax loopholes exploited by the ultra-rich and using that money for public services that everyone can benefit from, like affordable, universal child care and universal pharmacare now, or by applying GST to web giants like Netflix, because the current arrangement creates an unfair playing field for Canadian businesses trying to compete with foreign companies.

Ultimately, we do not sit in the House of Commons for ourselves. We sit in the House of Commons for the people who are not here. We are working for them.

We are working for people who are not in the House of Commons, to make sure they can live a better life, dream bigger, and build a better future for themselves, for their children, and for their grandchildren. This budget puts those dreams on hold for too many.

That is why I would like to move a subamendment. I move:

That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the words “because it” and substituting the following:

(a) does not adequately address tax havens and tax loopholes that benefit the rich;

(b) does not provide any funding for the immediate establishment of a universal pharmacare system;

(c) does not immediately address the nationwide housing crisis; and

(d) does not provide the necessary funding to eliminate long-term boil water advisories and upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure in Indigenous communities by 2020.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, The Environment; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Veterans; the hon. member for Hochelaga, Housing.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the member on his comportment in the House. He was rational and polite, and I really appreciate that.

I was surprised at a couple of the items he put forward with respect to the amendments. One was about the long-term boil water advisories. It is a strength of the budget that 52 have been reduced already and the rest of them will be by 2021. Another part of the amendment is on tax loopholes. We have put in over $1 billion already, which is far more than the NDP promised in its platform. Why these two items?

The member also suggested that there have been delays with respect to infrastructure. I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but in my riding we have already approved 60 projects for over $400 million. We are virtually at full employment because of that and because of some previous budget items.

I think my colleague will appreciate my question. Would he agree that the workers tax credit should have been increased, and that it was good to increase it? In my riding alone, that adds 300 more people to the list, and roughly 1,200 Yukoners will get an increase because of that. That is one thousandth of the population. That is a massive change for people living in poverty. One of the reasons I got into Parliament was to help people living in poverty.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has also shown lots of respect in the debates in this House, so I would like to acknowledge that.

Actually, I heard a few questions, not just one. First, in terms of the boil water advisories, it is a recurring problem, and the investments needed right now are actually a lot less than what would be required to solve the problems. He mentioned the advisories that have been lifted because of investments, but others have been created because of the lack of investment. The crisis is still ongoing, and it is clear that the monies promised to solve the problem will not be enough.

In terms of the loopholes and the $1 billion invested, I mentioned in my speech that even though the government likes to talk about that $1 billion being invested, so far we are talking about only $40 million. Let me remind my colleague that most of that money is going to target the small taxpayers, not the KPMGs of this world. I am told that KPMG will benefit from amnesty for the scheme it has set up in the Isle of Man, and I find it shameful. That is true, and it is shameful. For the same type of scheme, U.S. KPMG officials received a criminal sentence. Here they have not even been prosecuted, but that $1 billion will be spent on ensuring that the small taxpayer will be pursued to the full extent of the law. Really, it is a two-tier justice system for taxpayers in this country.

I acknowledge that my colleague is seeing some good in this budget. Yes, there will be good investments, but believe me, most of it is going to be invested after the next election. I have the feeling that for things like pharmacare and infrastructure the Liberals will campaign by saying that to get those things people will have to vote for them. In talking about infrastructure, if my colleague looks at the budget, he will see that the money promised for infrastructure has been reduced for next year, and there are many more needs, as was highlighted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques on his excellent and very eloquent speech. He was talking about tax havens.

I know that everyone in Canada knows that the money that ends up in tax havens represents lost tax revenues, lost investments that we should be making for the common good.

My colleague talked about what we see in the budget. The government is planning to recover $70 million. As the hon. member aptly pointed out, the government is primarily going after SMEs and closing some tax loopholes.

Could my colleague explain the difference between this small amount of money that the government is going to recover in the coming years and the amount of money that should be coming back to be used and invested for the common good of all Canadians?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby for his excellent work. He continues to hold the government's feet to the fire on this important issue.

The government says that it is taking action on tax havens. It says that it hopes to recover $70 million. We should have a better idea of the specific amounts when the parliamentary budget officer conducts his study on the tax gap. However, it should be possible to recover at least $8 billion and possibly as much as $12 billion if the work is done properly. We must ensure that taxes owed to Canada are paid and that this money does not flow to tax havens.

At a minimum, this is $8 billion to $12 billion that could be invested in our public services and that would enable us to implement a universal pharmacare system and improve our universal health care plan.

We are currently losing this money because the government is not doing its due diligence on tax fairness. We are talking about tax havens, but I also pointed out that the government has refused to ensure that Canadian and U.S. businesses are on the same footing. The government is giving U.S. businesses a 15% competitive advantage over Canadian businesses. Is this government working in the interests of U.S. or Canadian businesses? To the best of my knowledge, Canadian businesses are the ones paying taxes. U.S. companies that compete against them on Canadian soil should also pay taxes.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

I have a great deal of respect and esteem for my colleague, the leader of the second opposition in the House of Commons, particularly for the courage and resolve the NDP showed two and a half years ago when it told Canadian taxpayers, in a realistic and responsible manner, that budgets need to be balanced.

Many will recall the sad day when the Liberals promised the opposite. When I say “the sad day”, to clarify, I do believe in democracy and I respect the will of the people, but the reality is that those folks over there were elected on a promise to run a small $6-billion deficit, for example, in 2018 and magically return to a balanced budget in 2019. The reality is that the deficit is three times higher, and worse still, we have no idea when we will return to a balanced budget.

My question for the NDP parliamentary leader is this: what does he think of the deficit? More importantly, what does he think of those people who are now doing the opposite of what they promised they would do during the election?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his question. I appreciate our conversations, although we unfortunately do not get to talk as often anymore.

As for his question, if the government must run a deficit, the deficit must at least serve a purpose. If the government is running a deficit in order to invest in something that will ultimately provide a return on investment, that could be positive. This is what the Liberals promised during the election campaign. They said that they would run deficits in order to invest in infrastructure.

Over time, the premise has changed. The government is investing less and less in infrastructure, even as it is running higher deficits than it had planned. The government is trying to skirt its promise by creating the infrastructure bank, which will hold funds, like the Caisse de dépôt et de placement du Québec, but will also hold investments from Saudi Arabia, Australia, China, and Qatar. At the end of the day, these investors will be deciding what to invest in, since they will hold about 80% of the capital. If we need to build a bridge or a highway, this fund, and not the communities in need, will decide what is a priority.

This is a big problem, because this is not what the Liberals had promised during the election campaign. Canadians did not vote to gradually lose control over our infrastructure.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park.

It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to budget 2018. I think we can say that it was a great day for Canadians yesterday when the budget was released. In particular, the budget is doing things to further advance gender equality throughout our entire economic workforce in the country. In my remarks today, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight three things in the budget.

One of the remarkable things about this budget is that it had a number of smaller items within it that perhaps did not get quite the amount of limelight that some of the bigger items did. I am going to take the time to talk about two of those smaller items, and perhaps one of the larger items, if I have time.

The first one I want to talk about is the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack fund. The Government of Canada has chosen to invest $5 million in this fund through this budget.

A lot of people perhaps do not recognize Gord Downie in particular and the other members of The Tragically Hip as the immense community builders that they are. I am from Kingston, and The Tragically Hip is from Kingston as well. I had the unique opportunity to see behind the scenes how much the five gentlemen in this band contributed to their community. Quite often they did it out of the limelight and without making a spectacle of showing how they helped out different segments of our communities. They did it because they knew the genuine benefit that would be received at the other end.

Toward the end of his life when he knew that his time was limited, Gord Downie took his fame to help build up others, particularly indigenous communities, throughout our country. This fund helps to highlight and educate people and youth as to what our residential school systems were all about, and what they did, so that we can learn lessons from that to make sure that our history is told with accuracy, and to make sure as we move into the future that we know exactly what it took and what people went through to get to where we are. To see that money has been contributed directly from this budget into that fund is extremely rewarding, and in my opinion it is supporting a cause that I know that Gord Downie would be very happy about.

One of the more national issues I want to talk about is with respect to the changes in the EI benefits, and what this budget is doing to help women in the workforce. My private member's bill that I introduced in this House back in 2016 was about changing our employment insurance system so that women could have more flexibility in their maternity and parental leave. We saw some changes to that in the last budget where there was an extension so that women could start taking their maternity benefits earlier. Originally it was at eight weeks and then it changed to 12 weeks prior to their due date.

Now we are seeing a much larger step in allowing women to get back into the workforce sooner. For couples where both partners choose to split the parental benefits, this budget allows them to split that time and increase it by five weeks. That means there is an advantage for couples who want to split that time. The hope here is that women can get back into the workforce. We know that quite often women are at a disadvantage because of the fact that they sometimes have to choose between whether they want to start a family or participate in the workforce.

We spend a lot of time in this House talking about gender equality in this chamber in particular. It is absolutely imperative to get more women in this House, and to have more women business leaders, lawyers, and doctors.

As one of the organizers for the women's engineering association told me in 2016, there are only 338 seats in this room. We have to do more for women throughout the entire labour market. The reality is that there are a lot of women who want to go into the trades, engineering, mining, and those other fields. If they have to make a decision between having children and pursuing their dream job, they might not choose to do that. I am extremely delighted to see that this has been introduced and is part of the budget because this is another serious step building on what we saw in the 2017 budget.

I will take the remaining amount of time today to talk about one of the small issues in the budget that is resonating extremely well within my community, and that perhaps does not get the limelight but is extremely important for this country. It is buried on page 210 in the budget and it reads, “Reopening the Penitentiary Farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions”, where $4.3 million will go into reopening prison farms in Collins Bay and Joyceville, which are in and around my community in Kingston.

The reality of the situation is that, in 2010, the previous government chose to close prison farms. It did this without any kind of data, business case, or study. It unilaterally closed prison farms. There was immediate protest. Farmers, guards, and inmates were asking the former federal government to look into this to make sure that it was making the right decision based on evidence and data. The former government refused to do that.

As a result, we ended up seeing these farms close and huge protests. People continue to protest to this day in front of the Collins Bay penitentiary in my riding. Every Monday night for the past 330 Mondays, since the closing in 2010, people have stood in front of the Collins Bay penitentiary protesting the closure of prison farms. We know that prison farms can contribute to the productive rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society.

I would like to read something that was said by a former inmate of the Collins Bay penitentiary. He said, “I've committed crimes since I was six years old. I have been in and out of jail for 40 years and then I got on the farm. I've never worked on a farm in my life. Nobody thought I would last because of who I was and because of my record. Before I knew it, they had me milking cows and they had all of a sudden started me really liking it. There was nothing about a cow I didn't want to know. The barn taught me how to talk to supervisors and ask for help. My experience with prison farms have kept me out of jail, kept my mind off the street.”

When we start looking at our prisons as a form of rehabilitation and reintegration into society, and not locking them up and throwing away the key as we saw with the previous government, when we start taking this approach, we will be successful in our corrections program. I was extremely delighted to see that this money was put back into the budget, as were many people in my area and across the country.

As a matter of fact, when the minister came to do a town hall in my riding on this about a year and a half ago, 300 people, regular citizens turned up to talk about why these farms were so important. There were a lot of people along the way who went into making this a reality. I know that a lot of those people such as my predecessor, Ted Hsu, the member of Parliament prior to me, were a driving force on this. I want to thank him for keeping this alive in opposition. I know that the NDP members supported this as well and they should be credited for that.

We are seeing the return of a very important program and I hope that, by bringing this program of the prison farms back to Collins Bay and Joyceville, we will see and be able to properly measure the results so that we can start to distribute the program throughout the country.

I will wrap up with this. This is a good budget for Canada. This is on the right path of being progressive. I have had the opportunity to mention three parts in the budget, but I am happy to take any questions at this time.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are indeed some good news items in the budget, and I enjoyed hearing, from the member's regional perspective, what the highlights were for him.

On gender equality and removing barriers to women in the workplace, I had really hoped we would see some new funding for new child care spaces. When I look at what the asks were from the NGO community, the recommendation from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which gathers together all the best NGO advice on the budget, was to commit, in 2018-19, $1 billion in new money to be transferred to the provinces, territories, and indigenous communities to begin building that comprehensive child care system, with new spaces, and that it should grow by $1 billion per year until it reaches the established international benchmark of 1% of GDP.

The Canadian Labour Congress made the same ask. Every witness we have had at the status of women committee has said the number one thing we can do to remove barriers to women's economic justice and women entering the workforce is to make new child care spaces. The Canada child benefit does not help women if there are not those new spaces to spend the money on.

Knowing my colleague's commitment to gender equality and women in the workplace, does he share my deep concern that the budget did not put its money where its mouth was as far as gender equality and child care is concerned?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my wife called me this morning and told me she just wrote the day care cheque for March, and she told me what it was worth. I definitely share in the concern that there is a lot more we could do. We can always do more.

What the budget is doing is starting to make progress on one area. Am I looking forward to working with my colleague across the way in the future on what more we could do? Absolutely, I am. However, we also have to be realistic about where we are in the demand. Let us not forget, with all due respect to my colleague, her party promised a whole lot of stuff and to balance the budget too. We have to be respectful of the fact that we tick off as much as we can as we go, and we have to continue to work on the other things.

I am looking forward to working with her on that as we move into future budgets, so that we can continue to make that entrance for women into the workforce, and continuing in the workforce, even easier.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Kingston and the Islands has been a passionate advocate for the prison farms in his riding. From the very first moment we got here he has been in my ear trying to gain support with his caucus colleagues for this important measure. Of course, what we see in the federal budget I would hope has impact beyond one riding.

We know that recidivism can be a real problem, and the reintegration of prisoners into society upon their release is not where it should be in Canada. Could my colleague please comment on the importance of the lessons learned in Kingston and how that could potentially be expanded to ensure the people who are incarcerated today, across the country, are better able to contribute to society going forward?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, only one of the prisons is actually in my riding. The other one is in the riding of my Conservative colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. The important part of this is understanding that by putting inmates into these prison farm programs they learn those core skills, the skills of independence, of teamwork, of being responsible, of having a commitment, and of being able to fulfill obligations and duties. As I read in the quote from the inmate, those are the skills that are so important and that so many inmates are looking for and need.

This is something we should continue to grow. When the results of this program come out, I know they will show that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak about our vision put forward by our Minister of Finance for budget 2018, equality and growth. I want to first acknowledge that we are gathered here on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people. I want to take this opportunity as well to tell our colleague from Scarborough Centre and her husband Salman Zahid and her boys that we are praying for her recovery and that we are confident that she will be back here very soon.

I want to thank the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and our cabinet for their diligent and hard work in getting this budget out earlier this year than in previous years. There is so much in the budget I am unable to cover many of the aspects I want to cover, but I will focus on a number of key areas.

About six years ago, I had the chance to sit down with the member for Papineau at that time, who was running for leader of the Liberal Party, and we had a very important conversation about the concept of rights. We talked about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and what that means. As part of the conversation, the aspiring leader at that time said that if the 20th century was about defining rights, the 21st century is about giving life to those rights.

As members know, this is the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we have the 36th year of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We did a fairly good job in defining what those rights were and in fact I would even argue that we are in the process of defining them even further in these last few years, but we have seldom given life to those rights. By giving life, I mean giving substantive fiscal support in order to fulfill those rights. That is exactly what I believe our government has been doing since taking office in 2015, and that is probably the best way I can sum up where we are going.

The two programs that we have seen already, initially in budget 2015 and in our fall economic statement, relate to the Canada child benefit and the Canada workers benefit. They both have profound implications for my riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park. I will give a glimpse of the benefit that the Canada child benefit has for my riding. Last July alone, we had $5.754 million given to our families in Scarborough—Rouge Park. It is in fact $78 million in total last year, which is an astounding number. This benefits families directly in their ability to support their children, to be able to send them to hockey and soccer, to buy food, to buy clothes, and so on. For working people, our policies helped 300,000 Canadian children get out of poverty and that is a very impressive number. The Canada workers benefit has been a very important game-changer. It allows low-income earners while they work to be able to get out of poverty. This budget supports getting 70,000 people out of poverty. Those two benefits are important foundational measures that our government has done.

Let me address three major components of this budget.

First, with respect to women, in 2018 our government recognizes the importance of addressing the issues of gender equality and that it is not only a right but it makes absolute economic sense. We have heard the saying that a country cannot expect to reach its full potential with just half of its population, and that is more true now than ever.

Over the past 40 years, we have increased the participation of women, but they have accounted for only one-third of the economic growth within our country. Canada's women are among the world's most educated. They on average, however, only earn 87¢ on the dollar. This is why we are putting gender at the heart of decision-making in budget 2018. We are working to support women and girls and close the wage gap, policies that will boost economic growth for all Canadians. In budget 2018, we have chosen to lead by example, increasing transparency through pay equity legislation that will ensure all women in federally regulated sectors receive equal pay for work of equal value.

The new “use it or lose it” parental benefits, which provide an additional five weeks of EI parental benefits for primarily men, will again be a very important aspect of our budget.

These benefits will encourage the second parent to share more of the work of raising children and provide greater flexibility for women to return to work sooner, if they so choose.

We have also taken an ambitious step to make Status of Women Canada an official department, with additional funding of $169 million. This move will support our plan to introduce GBA+ legislation to make gender budgeting a permanent part of the federal budget-making process.

The women's entrepreneurship strategy will be coordinated nationally through an approach that will allow women to move up in the marketplace. The expansive program will include $33 million in funding for southern Ontario to support women entrepreneurs through the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario.

This is just the beginning.

I want to address an issue that the House has dealt with a number of times and I have spoken on over the past two and a half years, and that is with respect to indigenous issues.

Recently, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou introduced UNDRIP, legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law. It was augmented by a historic change in attitude and framing of the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada by the recent announcement of our Prime Minister to move toward a recognition of a rights-based approach.

Our support this year for indigenous issues is in addition to the $11.8 billion that were part of the previous two budgets. In particular, this year we are setting aside $337 million for establishing a new fiscal relationship that will strengthen first nations institutions and community capacity to develop a self-government approach.

The department of indigenous affairs will get an additional $4 billion to address issues such as boil water advisories, first nations child welfare systems, and so on. This is a very important part of our move toward reconciliation, which is long overdue.

Foreign aid is a very important aspect of Canada's footprint in the world. We are known as one of the most humanitarian countries in the world. This past January, I had the opportunity to visit two important areas, where our aid has gone to support a number of initiatives. First I was in Sri Lanka and then Bangladesh to visit the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar.

Sri Lanka has just ended a 26-year war, has 90,000 Tamil women headed households, and there is a lack of opportunities for women to be in public spaces and offices. Our feminist approach toward foreign aid will assist in ensuring we are able to address some of those systemic barriers for women to take part in public offices.

Similarly, the situation in the Rohingya refugee camps is devastating. Women are the most affected by it. There were $37.5 million that came there from our government last year.

I hope the $2 billion historic investment we are making over the next five years toward foreign aid will support additional funding that will go toward women, not only in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, but to other areas where we can have transformational change in societies.

Budget 2018 is about equality and growth, and this is exactly what we are doing. We are reinforcing what the Prime Minister had said, which is to give life to the rights that we have acknowledged exist in our country through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and elsewhere.

Over the next several years, our budget will ensure we build a more just and equitable society in Canada and around the world.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure for me to listen to my colleague's speech, and I give my respects to him and his constituents.

The member and all the other Liberal members were elected on a platform, which is why we are in politics. We propose our services to people. We propose some ideas, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but at the end of the day, we are elected on a platform.

If I remember, the Liberal platform talked about small deficits. It also talked about a zero deficit in 2019. Could the member give us the exact date when a zero deficit will be achieved by the government?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, we can look at deficits in a number of ways. I look at this as a social deficit that we have had in our country for a number of years. In fact, if we look at the OECD statistics, Canada ranks sixth with respect to social indicators. If we superimpose that with our indigenous population, that rank goes to a staggering and embarrassing 63rd on the list. We are trying to address in part that social deficit with this budget and previous budgets.

With respect to the fiscal deficit my friend talks about, we are walking toward the downward trajectory with respect to the debt to GDP ratio. We are on a very responsible track that balances social needs with economic reality. We have one of the most robust economies in the G7 right now. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years. We have created 600,000 jobs since taking office.

We are on the right track toward addressing social and economic deficits.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always enjoyable to listen to my friend. He is a great colleague on the standing committee for aboriginal affairs as well.

Speaking about social deficits in our country, the member is fully aware of the importance of housing in indigenous communities. He was part of the study we did on suicide among young indigenous people. We heard from almost every testimony about housing and the importance of responding to that crisis in aboriginal communities.

The budget provides for $600 million over three years, which is $200 million per year for the next three years for on-reserve housing. If we break that down to the some 630 indigenous communities, it amounts to about $320,000 per community per year. The member knows the cost of construction in the north. That is about one house per community for the next three years. Does he think that is sufficient with respect to housing for indigenous communities?