House of Commons Hansard #308 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis is rising on a point of order.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, during statements by members, I informed the House that an organization that supports terrorist groups is receiving funding from the federal government through the Canada summer jobs program in a Liberal riding. I have proof from a government website that that organization is indeed receiving federal funding. I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table this official document.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent is rising on a point of order.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, during question period, I referred to Kinder Morgan's financial statements. For the benefit of all Canadians, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table this report.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table this document?

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 3:09 p.m., pursuant to order made on Monday, June 4 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #724

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion defeated.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour for me to speak to Bill C-74, the budget implementation act, which is important for us and will implement measures that we believe will have a positive impact on Canadians.

This bill continues our government's efforts to reduce inequality and stimulate growth, in particular through the Canada workers benefit, which was revised in budget 2018. This benefit will give more money to those who need it most, that is, low-income workers. We will ultimately increase the benefit by 175%. We are investing $1.75 billion in the Canada workers benefit.

This measure is consistent with the Canada child benefit, which was introduced in budget 2016. As many MPs know, nine out of 10 Canadian families have benefited and received an additional tax-free $2,300. This deserves to be known. We are indexing this benefit two years earlier than planned to keep pace with higher family expenses and needs, and to help as many families as possible. We know the impact of such a measure and I can tell you about it.

All I have to do is visit the food banks in my riding, talk to volunteers at the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, or stand outside of grocery stores, as I often do on weekends to meet my constituents. They often tell me about how this measure has had a positive impact on their lives.

Here is how this benefit came to be. We looked at how the former government administrated family assistance. We implemented a more progressive system that provides assistance based on families' incomes. We stopped sending Canada child benefit cheques to families with over $150,000 in annual income, so that we can give more to those who need it most.

The Canada workers benefit follows the same logic. We believe that Canada's prosperity must be inclusive and help as many people as possible.

This is one thing I think is important in the budget implementation bill, but it is not the only thing. There is also the price on carbon pollution, a commitment we made during the election campaign. Climate change is having a serious impact on all Canadians and on future generations. Climate change also has an impact on our economy.

Take, for example, the claims submitted to insurance companies for damage caused by natural disasters. A few years ago, such claims totalled a few million dollars. Now, that number has increased to over $1 billion per year, and we expect it to continue to rise. For us, climate change is very real, and we have to deal with it.

By putting a price on carbon pollution, as proposed in the budget implementation bill, we are giving Canada a real opportunity to meet its climate change targets and be a responsible global citizen. The carbon tax will also allow us to mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change as much as possible. Those are two very important aspects of the budget implementation bill.

We also ultimately lowered the small business tax rate to 9%. We know how crucial Canada's SMEs are. They help drive our economy and create a large number of jobs in Canada. It goes without saying that we need to support our job creators and SMEs, which day after day, week after week, contribute to Canada's prosperity. We are taking that important step by lowering taxes for SMEs.

I would like to come back to something that I mentioned earlier, and that is the importance of having measures to reduce inequality. We also need to review certain measures that benefit the wealthiest members of society in order to have better targeted measures, such as the Canada workers benefit, and help those who need it most.

This could mean up to $170 a year for an unattached low-income worker. That is more money every paycheque. For a couple, the amount is even higher, of course.

Providing access to this benefit and increasing it is one thing, but we also want to make it automatic. In budget 2018, we announced that we will be implementing automatic enrolment so that every eligible worker receives the benefit without needing to file a claim. This issue is important to us, and I believe it is a positive aspect of Bill C-74, the budget implementation bill we are studying today.

Our government's goal is really to ensure that our growth benefits as many Canadians as possible and that our prosperity is inclusive. We have observed that the countries that have experienced significant economic growth in the decades since the Second World War are often those where inequality is lower and gaps have not been allowed to widen. In particular, I am thinking of Scandinavian countries, which have fascinating models. We have seen that reducing inequality boosts economic performance.

This is where initiatives like the middle-class tax cut for the $45,000 to $90,000 income bracket come in. This is where the Canada child benefit comes in, by giving more money to those who need it the most. We know that this money stays in the Canadian economy and is reinvested very locally, and we know that this has an impact on growth. I can confirm that under the leadership of the Minister of Finance, we fight for every decimal point of growth. That is why I strongly support initiatives to index the Canada child benefit sooner than expected, to make the Canada workers benefit automatic, and to enhance it.

This is where I see broader initiatives putting more money in people's pockets. While these initiatives are perhaps less direct, they are still very useful to people and are helping reduce inequalities. One example that comes to mind is the national housing strategy, where we are investing $40 billion over 10 years, I believe. This really confirms the federal government's commitments regarding community and social housing. Since the 1990s, the federal government has been backing away from its responsibilities with regard to community housing, and this is true of both Conservative and Liberal governments. One only needs to talk to organizations working on the ground to get a sense of how thrilled they are that the federal government is finally re-engaging and investing in community housing and social housing though our ambitious plan. The goal of our plan is to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%, renovate 300,000 housing units and build another 100,000 for those in need. That is one example.

Another area is public transit. We want high-quality, reliable, and efficient public transit systems at the lowest possible cost, systems that are so efficient that some some families can do without a car, or at least reduce their reliance on cars. These savings add up at the end of the day, but good public transit also improves quality of life and is good for the environment. These are all very positive initiatives.

Housing is an issue that is close to my heart. When I was young, I lived in a subsidized housing unit. I know how much of a burden it took off my mother's shoulders. I will never forget the day we got the call from the municipal housing bureau telling us that our application had been accepted. We were on a waiting list, and I know that it was a major change for my mother because she did not have to be afraid to get evicted at the end of the month anymore.

I am heartened to see the housing initiatives taken by our government. I am sure that they will have a similar effect on hundreds of thousands of Canadian families. In a way, it makes me glad that I am paying taxes, because I know that they are put to good use to increase social mobility, strengthen the social safety net and make sure people have access to basic necessities. Housing is a right. The most vulnerable in our society must have that right too, and the federal government needs to be active on that front.

Our government's focus is reflected in the measures we announced in budget 2018, but also since budget 2016. We are striving for a society that is more fair, more compassionate and more efficient, but we also want to create wealth. Indeed, to redistribute wealth, we have to create it first.

We also need to innovate and create a business-friendly climate, which will help fill federal coffers and create jobs. I would remind the House that 600,000 jobs have been created over the past two years. We recorded the strongest GDP growth in the G7 by far during that same period. That is what we need for inclusive prosperity. If we want to invest in useful and generous social programs, we need that prosperity. That is a crucial factor in the creation of a just society. It is important to have both, and we think the two go hand in hand.

When I examined budget 2018, what stood out for me and, I suspect, for many of my constituents, was the historic investments we made in science, especially basic science. Funding bodies across the country were pleased and applauded our initiative. For a decade, their budgets were frozen or slashed. Scientists were even muzzled. Canada fell behind. Anyone who stands still while the world moves forward falls behind.

Canada fell behind in terms of investment in basic research, which is crucial to future innovation, that is, in 5, 10, or 15 years. This is about more than just drugs in the future; it also has to do with innovation and businesses that could emerge as a result of ideas developed in university laboratories.

The Quebec City region is home to many, many businesses that emerged from basic research conducted at Laval University. It is always done by the brilliant researchers I am lucky to represent in my riding who eventually manage to commercialize this research and turn it into businesses that benefit our economy and the other businesses in our region. This helps them innovate and offer technological benefits in health, pharmaceuticals, and technology. This has an impact on people's day-to-day lives and also creates jobs.

There is a reason why the Quebec City region is doing so well. If we consider the research being done and how that is translating into jobs, businesses, and innovation, it is no surprise that the unemployment rate in Quebec City is 3.8%. That is practically full employment and, in practical terms, it is.

This creates another challenge that our region is currently facing, namely, recruiting and attracting a labour force. I hear about this everywhere I go in the riding when I meet with entrepreneurs.

The budget 2018 investments in basic research are historic because they are higher than any previous federal investments in research. We must provide for long-term prosperity. We do not want to stifle innovation in Canada; we want to promote and encourage it, and this is why we are making these investments.

We want to make sure that Canada stays at the forefront of technological advances and science. It goes without saying that investing in science is a long-term investment in our economy and our collective prosperity.

Similarly, putting a price on carbon pollution is a long-term investment in a healthier environment. We will be creating a liveable country and planet, where we have drinking water and as little pollution as possible, and therefore without all the health problems this pollution would cause, like respiratory problems.

The price on carbon pollution clearly shows that we want to develop the economy, which is very important, but at the same time we want to protect the environment, which is just as important. This leaves us with the third option, which is a fair, balanced, and responsible approach. You sometimes hear people say that it must be one or the other. We chose to adopt a more balanced approach.

I want to add that, if you look at the jurisdictions that have put a price on carbon pollution, this measure encourages innovation and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that the most innovative companies will produce. This is also the objective.

Let us not forget that certain jurisdictions have already put a price on carbon pollution. British Columbia, for example, did so a number of years ago and its economic record is one of the most impressive in Canada. It is the same thing with Quebec and Ontario, two provinces with remarkable economic performances who have put a price on carbon. We think that both can definitely go hand in hand. It leads to a more innovative, responsible and green economy. That is how the transition has to occur.

We know that the transition will not happen overnight, but we know that it can happen gradually. It will need incentives to succeed. For example, putting a price on carbon pollution is an incentive for innovation. Investments in public transit are incentives for people to change the way they commute because they have better options. I am also thinking of tax breaks and support for green energy. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in green and renewable energy. A broad range of measures that ensure both our economic prosperity and the protection of our environment and allow for a gradual and thoughtful transition have been implemented. That is where people expect the Liberal government to be responsible.

I know that my colleague from Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs likes the idea that environmental protection and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. That is our approach. In Bill C-74, pricing carbon pollution fosters innovation and better choices, makes our economy more innovative and responsible, and protects the environment. I think that that idea is what is driving my colleague from Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs and most members on this side of the House.

We believe that economic development and prosperity are important, but that protecting our environment is equally important. We believe that both go hand in hand and that the resulting prosperity should be inclusive.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the last election campaign, the parliamentary secretary's party promised a balanced budget by the next fiscal year. I wonder if he could tell us today whether the Liberals will keep the promise they made during the election campaign and, if not, in what year they will balance the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that we made a very clear promise during the campaign that we would not go down the same road as the Conservatives, in other words austerity measures and cuts at all costs to achieve a balanced budget. We said that it was time to invest and that is still the case.

The Canadian economy that we inherited from the previous government had a low growth rate and a low job creation rate. During the 2015 campaign, I remember very well the debate in the public arena was on the state of Canada's economy and whether the country was in recession or on the brink of one. I am not talking about 2008, I am talking about 2015.

Faced with that situation, when interest rates were low and we knew that there were desperate needs in infrastructure from coast to coast, we said that the thing to do was, yes, to run deficits, but also invest in our infrastructure, our communities, and science in order to stimulate and grow our economy. That decision garnered global praise.

Remember that our deficit-to-GDP ratio as well as our debt-to-GDP ratio, therefore the size of our economy, has been on a downward track and that is what we must ensure for the long term.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we might hope for some good faith from our colleague from Louis-Hébert.

Is there any reason why the government would include something like pharmacare in budget 2018 but then leave it out of this bill?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question. We know that medication is too expensive in Canada and that many Canadians cannot afford it.

I would remind my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert that budget 2018 announced the creation of an advisory council led by Dr. Hoskins, who devoted his entire political career to advocating for better access to medication. This council will study the issue and determine the best option for Canada. It is already hard at work, and we will have more on that down the line. For now, our goal is to make sure we get this right.

I know that affordable access to medication is as important to my colleague as it is to me and to most Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Québec debout

Gabriel Ste-Marie Québec debout Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, fighting against the spruce budworm, a pest causing major problems for our forestry industry, is a good thing. The problem is that the funding announced in the last budget and in the budget implementation bill, if I am not mistaken, is exclusively for the Maritimes, even though the area affected by this pest in Quebec is bigger than the entire province of New Brunswick.

Why is all the help going to the Maritimes? Could this be a gift for the Irvings?

Where is Quebec in all this and in the budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I really enjoy working with him.

The spruce budworm is indeed a very serious problem. We know that insects do not respect human boundaries. However, we are always looking at ways to help the regions that may be affected by this problem both in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. All levels of government, including the provinces, need to work together to address this problem.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary touched on a really good point about two-thirds of the way through his speech, when he talked about where Canada was in 2015, technically entering into a recession, and what transpired in order to get us to where we are today.

As a matter of fact, the decision the government made, in terms of putting money into infrastructure and investing in researchers and our educational institutions, had a serious impact on the way people gained confidence in what the Canadian economy was about and how it could continue to build and move forward.

Could the parliamentary secretary put forward his comments on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the campaign, our leader, the Prime Minister, clearly indicated that this would be our approach.

When people trust in the future and their chances of success, they are prepared to invest. That is indeed the case today since interest rates are low and needs are great. That is how the Liberals' approach in 2015 differed from those of the NDP and the Conservative Party, who were both obsessed with a zero deficit.

According to Christine Lagarde from the IMF, austerity does not work, as history has shown. When the economy is sluggish, governments have a role to play and can play it by making investments that facilitate the transport of people and goods and investments that are good for the environment.

Take for example, the renewal of waste water infrastructure. It may not be the most pleasant thing to talk about, but we are sometimes losing 40% of our treated drinking water because of outdated pipes and systems, some of which are 100 years old. We need to make investments in that area.

That is why the federal government gave a helping hand to mayors of small, medium-sized, and large municipalities in Quebec and Canada, where investments were long overdue.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, spoke about our obsession with a zero deficit. It is an obsession shared by many Canadians.

I could instead talk about the Liberals' betrayal concerning small deficits. They were elected on a promise to run small deficits of $10 billion, $10 billion, and $6 billion, and then balancing the budget in 2019. Today, we know very well that we will not have a balanced budget before 2045. They made false promises.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary another question. In the last budget, there was absolutely nothing for agriculture. However, the previous government promised $4.3 billion in compensation to dairy, egg, and poultry producers because of the trans-Pacific partnership and the agreement with the EU on cheese imports. There is absolutely nothing about this in the last budget.

Why?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us go back to the deficit, because I have to go on the record about that.

My colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable will know that the previous government's obsession was such that it sold its GM shares at a loss of $3.5 billion, while Ontario did not incur such a loss when it sold its shares. The Conservatives were so obsessed with balancing the budget, specifically in 2015, for very cynical election purposes, that it sold its GM shares at a loss of $3.5 billion to taxpayers. That would be like telling my spouse that we no longer had a mortgage, but that I had sold the car.

With regard to my colleague's question about agriculture, I know that investments have been made and that the Minister of Agriculture wants to ensure that farmers across the country have what they need to be innovative and productive.

One thing is certain on this side of the House, and it is not so clear on the other side. I talk to a lot of farmers. There are not very many in my riding, but some come to see me because they want to talk to a government representative. They tell me that supply management is non-negotiable for them, that it is important, and that it might even be responsible—