Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying something that seems obvious to me. This budget, which is supposed to represent Canada’s economic action plan for 2014, does not give me any hope that the people in the Montcalm riding will be making any progress. In fact, it seems to me rather that it is condemning my region to inertia and postponing its economic health until next year. The Conservatives did not even bother to hide their vote-seeking intentions.
Unfortunately, under the Conservatives we have become used to these kinds of schemes that are detrimental to the working men and women who are propping up our economy and families that are more in debt than ever and that ignore regions that do not hold much political influence. They are fostering political cynicism and backroom wrangling, at the expense of the democratic debate on which Canada’s traditions are based. Canadians deserve better—it is as simple as that. The Conservatives' attitude is irresponsible, and the government is clearly showing that its re-election is by far the number one priority on its agenda. Recently, we heard a throne speech that was based on the government’s alleged desire to better protect consumers and serve their interests.
In light of the ever more stringent requirements of the business and corporate sectors, Canadians expect to be properly represented in Ottawa. The least we can say is that the government is still a long way from meeting the minimum needs of Canadian consumers. To protect consumers, more than hot air is needed.
First of all, there must be an environmental protection agency that has the power to act. Second, there must be a monitoring agency for food products that has both the power and the staff to guarantee Canadians that what they are eating is fit for human consumption. Third, there must be researchers and scientists who write reports on the impact of industrial development and the best way of ensuring that the future will be as profitable as current and past endeavours have been. The machinery of government must serve each and every Canadian objectively and without ideological fanaticism.
Are the Conservatives afraid of the machinery of government? Do they not understand how things are supposed to work?
With this budget, the Conservatives have an opportunity to correct a number of problems, problems that they themselves caused. If they are so concerned about being re-elected, they should make a sincere effort to implement effective measures that will make the voters happy.
Do I have to repeat this? The NDP has put forward numerous appropriate solutions to the daily struggles Canadian families face. The NDP has repeatedly offered to work with the government to alleviate the economic burden on Canadians.
There have been approximately 300,000 jobs lost in Canada since before the recession, and this budget gives us very little hope that the trend can be reversed. The Conservative government has missed a golden opportunity to alleviate some of the burden on Canadian families, and its action plan does not address the situation of the most vulnerable Canadians. In fact, the budget does not contain any new investment to create high-quality jobs and lets the increase in the number of precarious jobs help Canada’s employment statistics look better than they really are. In light of the record youth unemployment rate, the government has missed an opportunity to correct the situation and give young Canadians a brighter future. As shameful as this might be, the budget does not contain a single measure to help the vast majority of young Canadians.
The NDP will not leave anyone out. We prefer to spread hope rather than the Conservative ideology, which keeps on digging an ever deeper hole for the prospect of a better future for thousands of people who are turned off by cheap partisan politics.
The Conservatives are suggesting to Canadians that they hang in there. They seem to be less and less able to understand the issues people face. When they claim that they do, they rarely put their money where their mouth is. We were happy that the government seemed open to the measures put forward by the NDP, such as banning exorbitant fees for bank transactions and lowering the disproportionate interest rates charged by some credit companies, that is, saving Canadians money by limiting unreasonable practices.
It is not just the tax system that has an impact on Canadians’ assets. Sound management is always welcome. However, the government has to do more and do better. The government is promising to act, but it is very difficult for us to trust the government after so many broken promises. As usual, we will keep a very close eye on it. We will force it to be accountable, if it does not keep its word again.
Let us face it, this year’s budget is nothing but window dressing. It is more style than substance for individuals.
I am still wondering how they can possibly think they will be able to tackle the 25% difference in prices between products sold here and those sold in the United States. It is a nice thought, but they do not say how they are going to pull off this coup. It seems to be just smoke and mirrors.
The government has brought down a typically Conservative budget, a budget that is to its own advantage and that, despite its repeated failures in this regard, again focuses on reducing the deficit and the debt, even though it is one of the lowest in the developed world.
In fueling this obsession, the Conservatives have forgotten that the main goal is to allow taxpayers to keep as much money as they can. In addition, they do not seem to understand that it is money from ordinary Canadians that has made Canada one of the richest countries in the world. It is not the banks or natural resource development or huge financial corporations that contribute the most to our communal pot, but rather individuals, people like us.
It would have been a good time to loosen the reins a bit; it would have been a good idea to shelve their ideology and use some common sense. The simple, effective and inexpensive measures proposed by the NDP would have been well received, but apparently this government thinks electoral imperatives are more important than sound governance.
Balance as a concept implies that a number of elements must be balanced. Even though they say this budget is balanced, I am puzzled to see that it has shelved a number of policies that could have helped offset a number of the inequities that are irritants for Canadians.
Allow me to say that the residents of Mascouche will not be very happy with this budget. The people of Saint-Lin—Laurentides, Saint-Jacques, Sainte-Julienne, Saint-Calixte, Saint-Roch, Saint-Esprit, Saint-Alexis, Saint-Liguori and Sainte-Marie-Salomé, all these residents in the great riding of Montcalm will be left in limbo. They were expecting something better, but this budget has disappointment written all over it. The government is letting down people who had confidence in it, and they will not soon forget the sacrifices that the government has forced them to make.
I will use my remaining two minutes to talk about my file on disability issues.
The pile of complaints in my office from agencies working with the disabled is growing. These agencies do not have the same funding capabilities as other organizations for able-bodied professionals, that is, universities and health centres, primarily because their clients are some of the poorest and the most marginalized people in Canadian society.
Nevertheless, because of their structure and the funds they receive, these agencies attach great importance to providing services to the disabled and to making fundamental changes.
The changes made by the federal government to the funding formulas for national organizations working with the disabled have put real pressure on these agencies. This will have a direct impact on services and assistance for the disabled. Less support will be given to their network, and jobs held by the disabled will be lost, support services will be eliminated and there will less help for the disabled and for those who are the most vulnerable and underserved people in the disabled community.
I think I still have a little bit of time. I will just say a word about our veterans. After getting rid of some regional points of service for veterans throughout the country, the government is persisting in offering them online services. This is not what the veterans need. They need to speak to a real person. There is no new money for the veterans and there is no commitment to reopen Veterans Affairs regional offices.