Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Mount Royal.
I rise today in the House to take part in the debate in response to this government’s very disappointing budget.
The media, the business and academic communities have all reached the same conclusion as we have on this side of the House. This is a lame duck budget and we give it a failing grade.
This budget is being called “a kind of half-hearted effort, incremental in nature, designed for political effect”.
These are not my words, these are the words of Christopher Dunn, an academic at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. He went on to say that there was some nominal social spending targeted at specific voters to “leave an impression of a government that hadn't forgot about average voters without actually doing that much for them”.
The official opposition leader put it very succinctly in his question to the government yesterday when he said:
Mr. Speaker, spending billions of dollars on stealth fighters, corporate tax cuts and mega prisons means the Canadian family has to be shortchanged.
There is nothing in the budget on affordable housing. There is nothing in it on child care. There is nothing to support our health system. These are the priorities of Canadian families.
Why is the Prime Minister out of touch and out of control?
How does the government fail to support Canadian seniors? On page 109 of the budget document, low income seniors are expected to get a guaranteed income supplement of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. Single recipients with an annual income, other than old age security and guaranteed income supplement, of $2,000 or less, and couples with an annual income of $4,000 or less will get the full amount of the benefit.
What is shocking about this is that the government is not making these increases permanent given that the benefit will be clawed back when the annual income level reaches $4,000 for singles and $7,360 for couples.
Residents in my riding of Laval—Les Îles pointed out to me that in real dollars, eligible seniors would receive exactly $1.20 per day. Obviously the Prime Minister has not gone grocery shopping for a long time. Otherwise, he would have noticed that milk costs $3.79 and sometimes up to $5.00. So, $1.20 will not even be enough to buy a quart of milk.
Let us imagine the Prime Minister or any of his cabinet members trying to live on that type of income with bread an average $3 a loaf; eggs, $2.69 a dozen; apples at $3.34 a kilogram; canned salmon at $3.15 for 213 grams. These were average prices in 2010.
What is the government's real commitment to supporting families and communities? The budget documents says:
The Government recognizes the contributions seniors have made and is committed to ensuring that they continue to have a good quality of life.
I am quoting the finance minister's own words.
Let me congratulate the finance minister and his team for co-opting my private member's bill, Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age), which was reported to Parliament last Monday, as one of their priorities within the budget.
The budget indicated that the government clearly supports my bill, since the Minister of Finance wrote on page 112 of that document that:
The government proposes to introduce amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to prohibit federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement. This would allow Canadians to choose how long they wish to remain active in the labour force. The government will review other acts to further this objective.
If the government truly believes what it says, why does it want to introduce a new bill when my private member's bill has already gone through committee?
Why the delaying tactics? I strongly urge the government to pass the legislation through Parliament and the Senate as quickly as possible, instead of waiting to create a new piece of legislation. Let me take the opportunity at this time to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and my colleagues on both sides of the House for their support in getting this bill as far as it has gone in the legislative process.
I want to remind the government that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, on which I am a member, undertook a major study on poverty in Canada. The report, which contained 59 recommendations, was tabled in the House on November 17, 2010. How did the minister respond? The government's response was to refuse every recommendation the committee proposed and it is a government that purports to value families.
The budget could have been a golden opportunity to state clearly that the government would immediately implement recommendation 3.1.1 of the standing committee's report and put in place a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada. Instead, we have a budget that ignores families and a budget that ignores children. Canadian parents are still waiting on the promised 250,000 child care spaces for their children, which have never materialized.
A Liberal government will return corporate tax rates to 2010 levels and tackle the deficit while strengthening Canadian families with investments in the following measures: a real family care plan, with a six-month family care EI benefit, and a new refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year.
The Conservative budget provides no EI benefits, but rather a paltry tax credit that does nothing for low-income caregivers and is worth only $300 a year.
We are also proposing improvements to public pensions, by strengthening the base Canada Pension Plan with gradual increases to benefits and creating an option for topping-up savings with a new supplemental CPP, instead of just a modest GIS benefit that works out to only $1.20 per eligible senior a day.
The Liberals are also proposing support for learning and training, so that all Canadians who get the grades can get the skills they need to get quality, full-time jobs, instead of the paltry $34 per student that the Conservative government is offering. We are proposing quality, affordable early learning and child care, to give our kids the head start they need by offering working families a real choice when they need to find child care spaces for their kids.
What does the Conservative budget propose? It is offering just $75 per year for art classes.
My colleagues and I fully intend to vote against this budget.