Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the member for Lethbridge.
I am honoured and pleased to rise today, albeit virtually, on behalf of the good people of Simcoe—Grey to share their concerns about this budget. I have to say that after waiting two years, there were great expectations for what it would perhaps contain, but I am sad to report that the budget has not been received very positively here in my riding. It is unbelievable how lukewarm the response to this budget has been so far. Of every person I have talked to, every person who has called my office and every person who has emailed me, not one has given glowing reviews so far.
Some are relieved that some of the COVID support programs are being continued, but residents of Simcoe—Grey would have preferred to see a plan to reopen our country. However, this would mean that the government has a plan for rapid testing and increased vaccine procurement. We know that, unfortunately, this is not the case, so we have to make do with the existing programs that support lockdowns and not having a plan to reopen our country.
In addition to being underwhelming, this budget contains some real problems.
Let us start with a very important issue for many here in Simcoe—Grey: support for our seniors, a group that has faced huge challenges during this pandemic. A 10% increase in OAS is something, at least. It is about $62 a month. A $500 one-time payment is certainly better than nothing. It is more than the current Liberal government provided seniors all this past year, but it is certainly less than what the House of Commons called for on March 8, when it passed the member for Shefford's motion calling on the government to increase OAS for every senior by $100 per month.
When the Minister of Seniors voted against that motion, I honestly had hopes that the government was planning a bigger increase. Like the seniors in Simcoe—Grey, I was disappointed to learn this was not in the government's plan, but I was astonished to learn that the government's mediocre plan does not even include all seniors.
Everyone knows by now that the Liberal government is making the wedging of provinces against each other a priority. In fact, the Prime Minister spent much of the last campaign, un-prime ministerially, slagging Ontario and Alberta to desperately gain votes. Who would have thought he would stoop so low as to wedge seniors against one another? The Liberals have created two tiers of seniors in this country: seniors who get the additional 10% OAS support and the $500, and those who do not. In effect, we have created two classes, junior seniors and senior seniors.
Marlee Workman from Wasaga Beach felt so betrayed by the current government, she told me she thinks the Prime Minister's plan for seniors is to hope that the vaccine failures ensure that no seniors will hit the age of 75. Imagine feeling that betrayed by one's own government. It is rare to hear seniors hope to get older, but that seems to be their only hope to get help from the current Liberal government.
My constituent Lloyd Lancaster told me about his friend who called him the other day, all excited to tell him that the government was finally doing something for seniors. Lloyd said, “Read the fine print.” After reading it, he certainly was not very excited.
Another constituent, Annette MacDonald, told me she voted twice for this Prime Minister, but then shared with me a copy of a letter she wrote to him after reading the budget: “To add insult to injury, your new Budget contains nothing for me. Somehow seniors aged 65-74 are not considered seniors anymore! This is the final insult!”
It is just so puzzling to make this distinction. Why create two tiers of seniors? I wonder whether the Minister of Seniors even speaks up at the cabinet table, because the Liberals seem to have money for everyone and every group—in fact, the Liberals even announced $1.4 billion in new funding for developing countries—but they cannot spare a penny for those aged 65 to 74 here in Canada. The budget even explicitly states on page 114, “We owe our elders a great debt.” I must have missed the asterisk that says it is only applicable to those 75 and over. The legacy of this minister will be of one who created Canada's two-tier system for seniors, and that should not be anyone's legacy.
What about farmers, the ones who feed us? Farmers in Simcoe—Grey were looking forward to this budget for a long time, but they are disappointed too. There is no exemption on the punitive carbon tax, which so many of them were calling for. Many local farmers have called my office frustrated with the Liberal carbon tax. I had a farmer tell me that the rebate is an absolute joke and it does not even come close to covering the additional cost.
Because the Liberals want to charge farmers more to produce our food, the average farmer is left with two choices. First, they can eat the thousands of dollars in additional costs, which means less money for their families, less money going to RESPs for their kids, or having to work a few extra years before retirement, and that is not fair.
The other option is to pass these costs along to Canadians. This is the option that most farmers will be forced to choose.
We know the Prime Minister will not care about a few extra bucks here and there, but do members know who will end up feeling the pinch? It will be the average working families living in the suburbs and our small towns. They cannot leave their condo to stroll to the market, nor can they take a subway to work. Their carbon rebate does not cover what they pay already, and when the increased cost of food is factored in, they will be further alienated from the government.
We need to ensure that our Canadian farmers will continue to be prosperous and ensure that their children, and the next generations, will be able to follow in their footsteps and continue to make sure that we have food security here in Canada. This budget does not do that.
What about small businesses? Small businesses across my riding have been struggling for over a year now. While many were able to get assistance, it took months of pressure from this side of the House and from Canadians from coast to coast to coast to force the government to make programs easier to access and available to most. Even now, there are many small business owners who still cannot get assistance.
The government's failure to procure vaccines means that these lockdowns need to continue across Canada. Our businesses are forced to stay closed while those around the world begin to reopen.
My constituent Laura-Lee Gambee of Mountain Men's Barbershop in Collingwood had saved her money, signed her lease in February 2020 and opened in August. She has had to temporarily close a number of times since then, and if members can believe it, she is not eligible for any supports. I have raised this problem, which she and others like her are facing, regularly in the House of Commons. My colleagues have all done the same.
I, along with Laura-Lee and others, had hoped that the government would correct this glaring flaw in this budget, but the government has failed her and others like her. “I feel abandoned by my own government”, she told me. “What do we have to do to get help?” It is not fair that new businesses are not eligible for any supports, and quite frankly, the government should not be picking which businesses will succeed or fail based on the date they opened.
While COVID has put a hit on businesses across Simcoe—Grey, it is not like this was a pro-small business government before this pandemic hit. We all know this government thinks that small business owners are tax cheats.
We know we need to reduce taxes for small businesses. Businesses that will be lucky enough to reopen when Canada finally gets back to normal will have missed over a year of regular sales. A targeted reduction on taxes for small businesses would have been a boost to the bottom line and an expression of confidence that things will be getting back to normal soon, but the government gave small business owners neither. They gave them no tax reductions, and they have given them no confidence that businesses will be back to normal any time soon.
Mike and Terri Jerry own two small clothing stores in my riding. Mike told me that while they have been able to squeak by with limited openings and the Liberal government assistance, getting their sales back to normal will take time. He was hoping for targeted tax relief. He told me that every 1% or 2% makes a huge difference, and that it all adds up. It sure would have been welcomed after the year that they have had.
What worries most of my constituents is what will happen to the tax levels if the Liberals win a majority government. There are no increases in taxation in this budget per se, as the Liberals would not put a tax increase in a budget that they want to campaign on, but despite what members have heard, we all know that budgets do not balance themselves. While the Liberals made promises that taxes are not going up, can we really believe that?
Carbon taxes were not going up either. Do members remember that? It is terrifying to think what the government would do if it had a majority government. With every, man, woman and child in this country now owing $33,000 in federal debt, how long will it be before the Liberal tax collector comes calling?
The Prime Minister likes to say that he took on debt for Canada so that families did not have to, but servicing the debt surely will not be coming out of his trust fund. It will be coming out of our pockets, our kids' pockets and their kids' pockets. That is how bad our debt is now.
No one begrudges the spending made to fight COVID and to provide supports, but the Liberals foolishly ran billions of dollars in deficits before COVID, so when COVID came, we were ill prepared as a country. Now we are worse off with absolutely no plan at all to return to balanced budgets or to get the economy back on track. Supporting Canadians is essential, but if the government had its act together, we would be getting back to work, not in our latest and, so far, worst lockdown.
This is nothing more than an election budget that caters to the Liberals' targeted electoral groups and leaves the rest of us behind. I, like so many other Canadians, am disappointed—