Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to once again participate in this debate on the budget implementation bill on behalf of the people I represent in Parkdale—High Park, in Toronto.
The people in Parkdale—High Park, like most Torontonians and probably most Canadians, are pretty fair-minded people. They are thoughtful, they pay attention to what is going on, and they are pretty community-minded. They get involved in their neighbourhood. They are good volunteers. They really want government to help them and their communities.
First of all, on their behalf I have to say that so many people have written to me that they are offended that the government insists on bringing in these omnibus budget bills that are basically an amalgam of several pieces of legislation. This particular bill is 150 pages long, with 270 clauses, and dozens of acts thrown in together, many of which have nothing to do with the budget.
My constituents are offended by the process with which the government brings in its legislation. They always ask what the Conservatives are trying to hide, in refusing to have open, thorough debate and open discussion of their legislation.
Joining me in this debate today, I would like to inform the Speaker that I will be splitting my time with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
This omnibus bill is a way to obscure what is in fact the real legislative agenda of the government. The other thing people in my community have said is that they find the notion that this is a balanced budget is a bit of a sleight of hand. Technically, I suppose we could call it that. However, the way to a so-called razor-thin balanced budget has been through devastating cuts to the public service in Canada. So many things that Canadians rely on, whether it is food safety, transportation safety, or the support for veterans have been cut; they are the services that government needs to be providing for Canadians.
That is not fair. It is not a true balance. It really is undercutting what Canadians are paying for. I think Canadians know they are getting a very raw deal with the government and its phony balanced budget. They also know that getting to this balanced budget came by way of raiding the employment insurance fund. Less than 40% of unemployed Canadians even have access to the employment insurance benefits that they need when they are unemployed, benefits they have paid into. They and their employers paid premiums into this fund, and then when they lose their job and need the fund, for the vast majority of them, it is not there. In the city of Toronto, I think only about 20% of people who lose their job are able to access employment insurance.
The government, like the Liberals before them, has dug in with both hands, scooped up a lot of money and used it to cover off its deficits.
The other thing the government has done is that it has had a bit of a fire sale, selling off GM shares at a loss, which basically gave up any opportunity to have a window on General Motors, especially when there is a lot of concern and uncertainty about continued investment by General Motors in Canada. It seemed to be a particularly bad time for Canada to sell those shares.
The government also got its supposed balance by raiding the rainy day fund, the contingency fund for Canada.
The government should not hang its hat on what a great economic manager it is, because it has in fact made choices that really have not been in the best interest of the majority of Canadians. It could have used this budget to create child care spaces. It promised to create 100,000 child care spaces. The Prime Minister himself promised that.
Guess how many child care spaces the government has created? The Conservatives have created exactly the same number as the Liberals before them, and that number is zero, none, nada. They have failed to create even one child care space for Canadians. That is shameful and I think a terrible legacy for this and the previous government in this country.
On infrastructure, our cities and communities across this country are crying out for effective infrastructure investment. I come from Toronto where we are effectively stuck in gridlock. The Toronto Board of Trade estimates that we lose, as an economy, $6 billion every single year because of lack of infrastructure investment. This is cumulative. Not only has the current government failed to invest in infrastructure, but it is building on the previous failures of Liberal governments before it.
Sadly, we are now in this situation where we have gridlocked roads, crumbling bridges, bursting water mains, and electricity that goes out whenever there is a bad storm. This is no way to run the biggest city, the engine of our economy here in Canada. It is no way to run Toronto or any other community. I say it is a disgrace and failure on the part of the current federal government.
We also see a real housing crisis in this country, which is one of the biggest causes of poverty in Canada. People cannot afford a decent roof over their heads. I see it in my community of Parkdale where people are paying far too much for poor-quality rental accommodation. We have recently seen big multinational companies like Akelius come in and do superficial, cosmetic renovations and jack up the rent, and people are forced out of their homes.
I want to pay tribute to people in Parkdale who have gone to the Landlord and Tenant Board, challenged those decisions, and won some victories for affordable housing in our community. However, we need to have the federal government at our backs supporting the community, supporting Canadians who work hard and are looking for a decent, affordable place to live. We need the government's support, and we need a national housing strategy. Sadly, this was cancelled in Canada under the previous Liberal government, but the current Conservative government had a chance to do something about housing and it has failed.
Another major issue in my community is the Union Pearson Express: the express line that goes from the largest railway station, Union Station, to our largest airport, Pearson. There will be trains running every seven and a half minutes past many houses, schools, and daycares in our neighbourhood. Sadly, the Ontario provincial Liberal government has created a diesel train to do this. No other city in the world is putting diesel trains running that often through major urban areas. It was not done in Vancouver, and other cities around the world are investing in electric trains. However, our community is subjected to dirty diesel.
We have finally, through incredible community pressure, persuaded the provincial government that, yes, electric is better, but it has not budgeted any money to actually make the change to electric. This is an infrastructure investment that the federal government could have made and should have made. The people of Toronto want to see clean transportation, clean electric, and it should have been built once, built right, but there is a chance to have this corrected.
There are two other areas that the government could have acted on but did not, and one is reducing the cost of remittances. The government did talk about studying remittances, but I have a proposal into the House to limit the cost to 5% for remittances for new Canadians to send money back to their home country, which would have been a real cost saving. Second, the government also could have dramatically improved the lot of interns. The government has made some steps in the current budget, but the Conservatives inexplicably failed to protect interns from sexual harassment and exploitative hours of work.
I could go on for some time talking about what is not in the budget. Sadly, what the Conservatives have chosen to spend the money on are the people who are the wealthiest, at the very top income level, and have used the taxes of the rest of Canadians to do that.
This is a failed budget, and that is why we will be voting against it. However, Canadians will have a chance to make a different choice this October, and then we will bring in a budget that is good for all Canadians.