Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are very disappointed by the meagreness of the Liberal budget.
I can just imagine the Minister of Finance meeting with the Liberal caucus to say something like, “Last year, we took some small measures to make us look progressive and to give us some lines we can use and some talking points for interviews, measures that will have a small impact here and there, but do not worry. This year, we will not be doing anything. We are going to take a break with this year's budget. Nothing much will happen. We will wait until it is better for us to take action. We will wait until 2019.”
When we look at this year's budget and at how and when the measures and investments proposed by the Liberal government will happen, we see that nothing much is planned for 2017 and 2018. When we look at the column for 2017, we see nothing but zeros. Zero for this and zero for that. In the column for 2018, a few numbers start to appear. Small efforts will be made here and there.
I am not sure why, but when we look at the 2019 column, we suddenly see a whole host of things. That is when there will be investments. However, do not hold your breath for the next two years because there will be nothing. The Liberals are all about optics. They issue a press release to bamboozle us with impressive numbers that are in fact meaningless right now because they are such a way off in the future.
It is easy to promise things that will not come to fruition for 8, 10, or 12 years. I can make promises for 2023 as well if you like. The reality is that five or six budgets will be adopted by then. So much can change by then. Things might go in all sorts of directions.
The reality is that people are suffering and need help right now. The reality is that 4.5 million people in Canada are living below the poverty line as we speak. Of those 4.5 million people, 990,000 are children. The Liberal government is telling them to wait because that money will come if they are re-elected in 2019. That is unacceptable to us as progressives and social democrats. The government cannot be asleep at the switch like this for two years while families, the middle class, and workers struggle to make ends meet.
The Minister of Finance cannot tell the Liberal caucus that they will just sit back and only invest when it is advantageous for them. That shows contempt for the people who get up every morning at six o'clock to take their children to school and then go to work by car or bus to try to pay their bills, while their buying power diminishes, their wages stagnate, and personal debt rates reach unprecedented levels.
Not so long ago, we learned that the household debt-to-income ratio had reached 167%. That is unprecedented. People are being paid less, whereas food, rent, and houses are becoming more expensive. Furthermore, increases in productivity never really benefit employees, only the owners, whose profits keep growing.
What happens then? People go into debt. They run up their credit card, their second credit card, and their line of credit.
What is the government offering these people and these families in its budget? Nothing.
The message we want to send the Liberal government is that we cannot wait. We do not have the luxury of time. The government does, since the election is two and a half years away, but people in our communities do not. They have to pay their bills right now.
That is why the NDP believes that yesterday's budget is a missed opportunity. It completely misses the mark. It does not meet the urgent needs of the people. It meets the needs of the Liberal Party and its friends, who will have the advantage, and who will continue to benefit from unfair and unjust measures. In fact, the budget is good for the rich, the millionaires, the privileged, and those who run major corporations; they get to keep their tax breaks, which the Liberals promised to abolish or address. The reality is that they are keeping them.
It is the big budget of nothingness. It is a big budget of nothing, or “wait and see, it's coming”. When is it coming? Maybe it will come for the next federal election. However, for the next two years we will have peanuts, or almost nothing, from the Liberals. It is quite easy to put big numbers in a press release, to say they are spreading billions of dollars in innovation, housing, public transit, and all of that, but what is in the budget for 2017? It is a column of zeros, and in 2018, it is the same thing.
Then, suddenly, when we look closely at the budget for 2019, wow, it is wonderful. There are hundreds of millions of dollars for investing in our communities, just in time for the next federal election. I can imagine the finance minister talking to the Liberal caucus, saying not to expect too much from this budget because they are taking a break. They are taking a break because the election is just two and a half years away. They will keep the money for that time.
It is a little ludicrous for the Liberals to show shiny objects to the population, saying they will invest billions of dollars, when actually it is supposed to come only in 2022, 2023, or 2024. There will be five or six other budgets before that. It is quite ridiculous to make people think they will get help and real investment in their communities right now, when actually nothing will happen. It is wait and see.
People cannot wait. People do not have the luxury of waiting two years for the interests of the Liberal Party. There are 4.5 million people in our country who are living in poverty. Some 990,000 children are living in poverty. The majority of children in first nation communities are living in poverty. They do not have the luxury of waiting. They need our support, and the Liberal government is failing its responsibility and the promises it made to Canadians to invest in infrastructure, housing, innovation, and public transit. However, all the measures and the rules that benefit the millionaires and the CEOs are still there. They will still put in their pockets huge gifts that are paid for by the hard-working Canadians and taxpayers of our country.
This budget missed the target. That is why the NDP will oppose it. As I said earlier, when we look at it, it is clearly a budget in favour of the members of the Rideau Club and those who are working hard to join it, but not for average and ordinary Canadians.
Let me give some examples of that. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal said three times to the federal government that it has to invest $155 million to close the gap for children in first nation communities. The federal government is challenging that in court. Shame.
At the same time, it has voted in favour of a motion in the House of Commons to give that money for children in first nation communities, but what do we see in the budget? We see nothing, zero. We should have expected at least $155 million, but there is nothing. It is a broken promise from the Liberal government.
However, what we still have is the tax loophole for stock options for the CEOs of this country. It is still there, and it is costing us $800 million per year to give that to the richest of our society. That fiscal measure, the 87% benefit goes to 1% of the population, and if we look at two-thirds of that fiscal measure, we see that more or less $600 million benefits 75 people in this country. That is two-thirds of that fiscal measure that the Liberals have promised to abolish, but it is still there.
To govern is to make choices. The Liberals could have made the choice to help children of first nations. They have chosen to keep the measure to help CEOs and the one per cent of the richest of our society. This is not the kind of choice that a progressive or social democrat would make.
Here are some very straightforward examples of the shameful, appalling choices the Liberals made in their budget, choices that fly in the face of their election promises.
Number one, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal told the Liberal government to invest $155 million in the well-being of first nations children. That is significant. Most of the first nations children in our communities live in poverty, and the tribunal says that $155 million is the minimum needed, yet the government is challenging that in court. There is nothing in the budget for first nations children. What about the $155 million? It is not there. Instead, the government kept the tax break for stock options for corporate CEOs. That is still there, even though the Liberals promised to close that particular tax loophole.
In recent weeks, the NDP has been asking the Liberals to keep that promise. Why? Because it is costing our society $800 million. Who benefits? Eighty-seven per cent of the money invested, or rather, given away, with this tax break goes to 1% of the population, the richest 1%.
If we take a closer look at this loophole, we see that two-thirds of the cost of this measure benefits 75 people, this while four million people live in poverty and children on reserves need help. The Liberals are not helping them; instead, they are choosing to maintain a measure that benefits their millionaire friends and the ultra-rich elites.
To govern is to make choices. The Liberals had the choice of helping first nations children or keeping measures that benefit the ultra-rich.
Well, the Liberals once again wanted to hang on to the measures that benefit the rich. The mask is off, and we are discovering the Liberal Party's true colours.
I have another simple example: what could be better to help people get around our communities than public transportation? It helps our economy, it helps families, and it is good for the environment because it reduces greenhouse gases. Is there anything in this year's budget for public transit? No, nothing. Zero. Nada.
Incidentally, the Prime Minister had promised Montreal $775 million to extend the blue line in that city's subway system. The budget does not even mention the Montreal subway system, let alone its blue line. There is nothing. The only measure related to public transit—hold on to your hats—has to do with a tax credit that gave people who take the bus an extra $150 or $200 at the end of the year. This reduced people's taxes a bit and encouraged them to use public transit. What bright idea did the Liberals have? They decided to eliminate that. It no longer exists, even though it really helped families and middle-class Canadians.
Other tax measures remain, however. For example, 100% of workers' wages are taxable. The tax rate is 25%, 30%, or 35%. They do not have a choice. They get their pay every two weeks and they receive their pay stub, which shows that they paid taxes. However, only 50%, not 100%, of the capital gains that investors derive from selling shares are taxable. The Liberals could have changed this, addressed this injustice, and brought more money into the government coffers in order to really invest and help people. What did the Liberals do? They kept this tax break for the wealthiest Canadians, which costs about $1 billion every year, but they had the bright idea of abolishing a tax credit for people who take the bus in the morning and who could have benefited from a transit credit at the end of the year. I do not know who, on the Liberal side, thinks that this is how we can fight inequality and bring about tax fairness.
The other scandalous thing is that there is absolutely nothing in the Liberal budget to help those looking for work to get employment insurance benefits. People who work pay for that insurance, but six out of ten of those who are unlucky enough to lose their job and have to start looking for another, do not qualify for EI benefits. Does the Liberal budget include anything to improve access to EI? It does not. Did the government change the number of hours to qualify for employment insurance? It did not. Did it extend the benefit period by five weeks in regions prone to seasonal employment in order to cover the spring gap left by the economic climate? It did not.
What we do find in this budget are extremely low tax rates for corporations, that will continue to pay only 15%. Their tax rates have dropped by half over the past 15 years, which is costing us $12 billion a year. That is a lot of money. The other thing that is still in the budget is the subsidies for the oil and gas companies.
What is in the budget for affordable housing? There is a $10-million allocation for next year. One per cent of what was promised is being invested next year. I think $10 million might get us three buildings: one in Vancouver, one in Toronto, and one in Montreal. In other words, peanuts.
I move, seconded by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe:
That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the word “as it” and substituting the following:
“(a) maintains the stock option loopholes for wealthy CEOs and refuses to ask large corporations to pay their fair share; and
(b) fails to allocate any of the funding needed to end racial discrimination in the provision of Indigenous child welfare services.”.