Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member of Parliament for York South—Weston.
I begin my speech on the Conservative budget, my critique of the Conservative budget, by highlighting the fact that there are only five mentions of Newfoundland and Labrador in the entire 518-page document. As a representative of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, one of Newfoundland and Labrador's seven ridings, my priority is my riding and my province, and five mentions, one in a graph of crude oil prices, another in a statistic about pensions and the other three off-hand mentions is not near good enough.
My critique is both good and bad, but make no mistake, there is more bad. There always is with these Conservatives.
Not so much bad news as wrong Conservative priorities that are wrong for Canada. They are Conservative priorities that are changing the face of Canada. These are the Conservative priorities that put the wealthy first, the more affluent and influential first, and that is not who we are. It is not who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is not who we are as Canadians. It is not who are, but it is who the current Conservative government wants us to become. We cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.
First, I will go to a piece of good news for Newfoundland and Labrador, or what would appear on the surface to be good news.
In its budget, the Conservative government announced $5.7 million over five years to help secure new markets for Canadian seal products. That is good news. It is welcome news on the surface. Let me put that news in the context of where the sealing industry is today.
We have a $5.7 million pot to help secure new markets for seal products when, under the current Conservative government, we have seen the biggest collapse of world seal markets in our history. Under the current Conservative government, seal products have been banned in Russia, the European Union, Belarus, Taiwan and Kazakhstan. Therefore, that $5.7 million for seal marketing is just a little late coming.
That money is also a little late coming when we consider Carino, a Newfoundland and Labrador company that is the largest buyer of seal pelts in Canada. Carino is not buying any seal pelts this year. Instead, it is going to rely on its inventory.
That $5.7 million is also a little late coming when we consider that the Canadian Sealers Association shut the doors of its St. John's office recently to reorganize because it was broke.
Better late than never with the $5.7 million for the sealing industry, I suppose. However, it is clear that the current Conservative government has no right to bill itself as a champion of the seal hunt because the facts do not support it.
Moving on, the Conservative budget is also incredibly worrisome from Newfoundland and Labrador's perspective because of what it does not mention. Red flags waved all across Newfoundland and Labrador in February when the government released the main estimates. As members know, the main estimates lay out the expected spending of the federal government in the coming fiscal year. The red flags were raised because the subsidy for Marine Atlantic, the crown corporation that runs the ferry link between Newfoundland and mainland Canada, has had its budget slashed.
Marine Atlantic's budget for the this fiscal year, according to those main estimates, has been set at $19.3 million, which is a massive drop from the $127 million last year and $154 million the year before that.
I asked the minister in this House before the budget was announced whether Marine Atlantic would receive full funding. The minister's response was to wait for the budget, only there was not a word mentioned about Marine Atlantic in the budget. There was not a whisper.
A gulf ferry link is guaranteed in Newfoundland's Terms of Union with Canada. If Marine Atlantic's budget is indeed set at $19.3 million for this fiscal year, it will amount to the lowest amount of funding the corporation has received from the federal government going back at least 15 years.
If Marine Atlantic's budget is indeed slashed, ferry rates are sure to rise. Why is that incredibly bad news, besides the obvious? It is incredibly bad news because 60% of all freight going into or out of my province does so on a Marine Atlantic ferry. Slashing the federal subsidy will jack up the rates, and increasing the ferry rates will drive up the price of everything.
What is the score? Is the government preparing to punish Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? Is the government preparing to ignore the spirit of the terms of union?
The leader of the government once described Atlantic Canada as having a culture of defeat, but it is the present government that has a defeatist attitude toward Atlantic Canada. The government has turned its back on Atlantic Canada, but not before spitting in the eye of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is maybe payback for Danny Williams' “Anyone but Conservative” campaign. It is like we do not matter. We are only 32 seats in Atlantic Canada.
The Conservative government is not good for Atlantic Canada. The Conservative government is not good for the country.
Canadians who will most benefit from this budget are the wealthiest 15%. The wealthiest 15% are the ones who will qualify for income splitting. They are also the ones who will be able to put $10,000, cash, into a tax free savings account, which the Conservatives would almost double from $5,500 to $10,000 in their budget. What typical family will benefit from the Conservative budget?
The typical family, as outlined on page 6 of the budget document, is a family of four, a couple with two children. The man, according to the example, earns $84,000 a year, while the woman earns $36,000, for a total household income of $120,000 a year, which puts that typical Conservative family in the top 15% in terms of income. That is the Conservatives' example. It is not my example. There is nothing typical about that household income. That tells us who the Conservative target group is. It is the wealthy.
The difference between a typical family in this Conservative budget and a typical family in previous Conservative budgets is that the man of the family now makes a lot more. In all previous years, all previous Conservative examples, the woman was the biggest breadwinner. In the income-splitting year, this year, the man suddenly has the biggest income. It sounds like the old boys' club.
Let me quote my party's finance critic, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He said that this Conservative budget's family example is all about politics. It is not about fairly illustrating tax policy.
The Conservatives' imaginary “typical family” doesn't reflect the reality of Canadian families: they make almost twice as much as the real average Canadian family.
They benefit from boutique tax credits that most real families don't make enough to qualify for....
There is an expression worth repeating: boutique tax credit. I would go so far as to call this a boutique budget, only most Canadians, most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, cannot afford to shop at boutiques. If I can cut to the chase and summarize what Canadians, what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, should take away from this Conservative budget is that we cannot afford to vote Conservative in the next election.
As for the Conservatives' boast that this is a balanced budget written in black ink, I disagree. This budget is written in Conservative blue ink, whereby balancing the budget means raiding the EI fund and robbing the emergency contingency fund. Balancing a budget by creating such an imbalance in incomes and directed tax breaks is nothing to boast about. It is shameful.