- MPlibApr 30, 2013 11:20 am | Quebec, Papineau
Mr. Speaker, following the line of reasoning of the government, if low tariffs are a form of international development assistance, then the largest recipient of Canadian foreign aid is actually the United States of America. It makes no sense.
We Liberals know that stalled middle-class incomes are the defining issue facing Canadians today. Is the government satisfied with the low level of growth in median household income in Canada? If not, why did it make no reference to this crucial challenge in its latest budget?
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 2:05 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, listening to my hon. colleague, everything is sweetness and light and everything is exactly what all Canadians want.
However, there is always a price to pay for these things. Since the government came into power in 2006, by this summer it will have added close $160 billion to the debt. The debt is something that, unfortunately, we cannot hide. It is not going to go away. It is going to have to be paid back at some point.
What does my hon. colleague think a government should do with respect to addressing the debt that will be passed on to our children and our grandchildren and that now exceeds $600 billion?
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 1:45 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, I notice that my hon. colleague talked about the importance of infrastructure, and I agree with him. In fact, it was Paul Martin who started to take money from the excise tax on gasoline to devote to infrastructure, which was a good thing.
Why is it that we are going to have to wait a couple of more years? If infrastructure is so pressing, why is the amount of money put toward it so light for the next couple of years? This reminds me of when the Conservative government, in 2011, during the last election, promised that it was going to double the tax-free savings allowance from $5,000 to $10,000 once the budget was balanced, some time in the future. Conservatives did the same thing with income splitting in families for income tax purposes. Once again, that was going to be done after the budget was balanced.
If everything is so urgent, why is it that on infrastructure, the amount of money for the next two years is so little?
- MPlibMar 27, 2013 11:45 am | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, I will give the minister another chance to explain to people why the government will be spending $200 million under budget 2013-14, when it spent $1.7 billion last year.
The minister must recognize that having less money in this year's budget than in last year's is a problem. In our opinion, that is what is wrong with the government's plan.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 2:10 pm | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.
As far as the labour-sponsored funds are concerned, again, this series of proposals in the budget is a clear attack on the venture capital that exists in the province of Quebec. The labour-sponsored funds do important work, especially in the regions of Quebec. There is no alternative. The government is in the process of eliminating something without offering an alternative, which, I must say, shows a serious lack of sensitivity toward Quebec, toward Quebec's entrepreneurs and toward those who want to save money by contributing to labour-sponsored funds. I was a bit surprised that the government made this decision.
The same goes for professional training. That is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. The federal government has a role to play, but acting unilaterally is not the solution.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 2:05 pm | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, perhaps there will be another opportunity for the hon. member to express himself. In the self-congratulatory exchange he had with the member for Peterborough, he seemed to be saying that the reduction of tariffs would be a boon for the Canadian economy.
I pointed out in my speech that this is not a budget that would reduce tariffs. It is actually a budget that would dramatically increase tariffs.
At the same time, the hon. member has to understand that we are in the middle of free trade negotiations with the Europeans. We are in the middle of free trade discussions with all the countries of the Asia-Pacific. I think one has to look at these increases as temporary cash grabs by the finance department that run in total contradiction to the overall position and direction of Canadian public policy.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 2:05 pm | Quebec, Laval-des-Rapides
Mr. Speaker, unlike the member for Gatineau, I can say that there was a day when she was tempted to come back to the Liberals.
I will talk about the budget because that is more important, especially since it affects things that are important to Quebec. Unlike other budgets that were meant to unify the country, this budget, once again, divides the federation. I would like my colleague, the leader of the Liberal Party, to say a few words about skills training and the fact that this budget has a negative impact on small investors in Quebec who wanted to invest in the labour-sponsored funds, whether at the CSN or the FTQ. I would like to hear what he has to say about that.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 2:00 pm | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, we had first ministers' meetings.
I am glad to see the member for Peterborough up on his feet again in the House. He has been a retiring, shy flower the last few weeks, and I am very glad to see him up. If the member would like to be, metaphorically, a fly on the wall, I will tell him.
We met regularly with Brian Mulroney. We met regularly with Jean Chrétien. Did we always agree? Was there enthusiastic embrace of the fact that there were cuts? Of course not. Of course they were tough discussions, but we had the discussions. We had the discussions and the debates, and around that table everybody knew what was at stake.
Yes, collectively, we did make some very tough decisions. We collectively decided and determined that Canada was going to turn the corner in 1993-1994. None of us liked the consequences for each one of us, and some of us would have liked to have seen it done in a slightly different way. However, I have to say that when all things are considered, this country began to turn some very important corners as we were facing the crisis we were facing in the early 1990s, and I am very proud of the fact that the premiers did it together, with the Prime Minister of Canada.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 1:55 pm | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, one forgets after years of experience. It happens.
The point is that it is very clear that they know how to orchestrate and they know how to sell.
This weekend, the advertising started. I would defy any journalist or any analyst of those ads to tell me the information that is being conveyed. What are the facts that are being conveyed? These are not facts. This is not information. They are pure and simple travelogues, pictures of people putting things together, waterfalls falling down, ships going down a river, blah, blah, blah. It has got nothing to do with information or with facts. It is propaganda in its most classic form, and it is sell, sell, sell.
That is what the Conservatives have. They have a very tiny product to sell. It is not very good. If we actually look at it, it is less than what it appears to be. The infrastructure money is actually down, not up. Sure, they can announce it for 10 years. They say that it is a stable announcement for 10 years. They must think they are going to be in government for 10 years, but they are not. What kind of arrogance is this?
If they want to make the program sound bigger, why not make it a 20-year program or a 40-year program? Why would they be such pikers and say it is the biggest investment ever announced? Anyone can announce something and then go and take out ads for it, but what has this got to do with a real program?
It does not have much to do with a real program. There is less on infrastructure. When it comes to skills formation, the Conservatives are actually spending less. They are taking the money out of 2007 and extrapolating it into the years ahead. They say there is a crisis, and then they say that in two or three years, they will have the program in place. That is a real crisis. The crisis was so great that the Prime Minister could go and see the pandas, but he could not go and see the premiers.
We have a Prime Minister who is not too busy to go and see two pandas that are not even allowed out of quarantine, but he is too busy to see 12 premiers. He is a Prime Minister who is too preoccupied with the health of the economy to sit down and talk about it with the first ministers of the country, but he has time to visit and to welcome two pandas coming to the country.
Rather than pandering, it is time for real discussion. This is actually not a serious budget. It is not a budget that really addresses the state we are in. It is not a budget that tells the truth about how wrong the government has been about our current economic state. It is not a budget that talks about where we really are on inequality, on health care, on poverty, or on the condition of the people. It is a budget that is about selling something. It is about orchestrating something rather than doing something.
That is the reason the Liberal Party will be voting against the budget.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 1:40 pm | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the debate. I certainly was listening carefully to the comments of the previous speakers and I have some comments to make about what has been said.
Last week I said in a scrum that if the Minister of Finance was William Tell, I am very glad that I did not have an apple on my head.
I would like to document the gross inaccuracy of the predictions that have been made by the minister before the members opposite start congratulating themselves too much on their alleged record of economic management. Let us have a look at that record.
In 2006, in his first budget, the Minister of Finance predicted 3% growth. The actual growth was 2.8%. In 2007 he predicted 2.3%. He missed that target as well. In 2008 he predicted 1.7% growth and actual growth was 0.7%. In 2009 the minister had to admit that there was going to be a contraction in the economy of 0.8%. The actual contraction was 2.8%. In 2011 he predicted 2.9% growth and the actual growth was 2.5%. Last year he predicted 2.1% growth and the actual was roughly 1.8%.
If the annual real GDP growth experienced under every prime minister were averaged, only one prime minister in the living memory of some members, R.B. Bennett, had a worse economic growth record than that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's average annual growth during the time of his prime ministership has been 1.4% over his seven years.
When the Minister of Finance announced the economic action plan in budget 2009, he promised a temporary deficit that would be eliminated in 2013-14, which by the way, begins six days from now. Instead, we have an $18.7-billion deficit predicted for 2013-14. Based on his previous record, that is not going to be an easy target to reach.
I want to go back over the ground because members keep saying “Let's pretend we don't have a memory of any of these things”. The problem is we do have a memory and we do have a record.
In 2008 the minister predicted a surplus of $2.3 billion. That became a deficit of $5.8 billion, an $8.1-billion difference. In 2009 he predicted a deficit of $33.7 billion, which became a deficit of $55.6 billion, a $21.9-billion difference. In 2012 he predicted a deficit of $21.1 billion, which has become a deficit of $25.9 billion, a $4.8 billion-difference.
Perhaps the most famous inaccuracy of the Minister of Finance, and the bow and arrow is looking a bit shaky in his hands right now, was the 2008 fall economic update, which is perhaps his most infamous economic prediction. We all remember that because it was the one where he predicted no recession for Canada, a series of future budget balances that came in at a $0.1-billion surplus and the balance would be achieved from the future sale of government assets.
It is worth recalling that we reached our lowest point in terms of our debt at $458 billion six years ago. This budget predicts that by the end of this fiscal year it will be $627 billion, an increase of $169 billion.
This is the same Minister of Finance who, as he is delivering his budget speech, stands up and waxes full of pieties saying governments cannot spend their way out of a recession and then, looking meaningfully over at the opposition, says some people might disagree with this statement, but nevertheless the government is standing by its record of economic management and fiscal prudence. A $170-billion increase in the national debt and the government has the nerve to say that it is some kind of an example of fiscal prudence. It is preposterous.
It is also preposterous to say that it is a government that has somehow embraced restraint. Program spending has gone from $175 billion in 2005-06 to $253 billion today, which is a 45% increase. That is far greater than the rate of inflation and the rate of growth in the real economy.
Let us look at the fact that Canada is a federation. One cannot just take the federal programs and the federal approach in isolation. What I would like to see in this budget is not only a statement of the federal government's plans and hopes for the future, which is allegedly what we had in the budget statement. I, and I think most Canadians, would like to see how the federation is doing. How are Canadians doing? Where is the unemployment rate? Where is the job-creation rate? How indebted are Canadians? Have they fallen behind or are they moving ahead? How are the provinces doing? How are the municipalities doing?
Let us look at simple facts. Since 2007-08, the provincial debt, the debt of all the provinces, has gone from $321 billion to $534 billion, which is a $230-billion increase. This year, 2012-13, only Saskatchewan and the three territories that are largely supported by the federal government are now expected to run a surplus. Therefore, when we look at the actual condition of the federation, it is far more serious than the government is prepared to tell us. It is far more problematic than the government is prepared to admit.
However, we have a government that nevertheless is eager to pat itself on the back. I heard this in the statements of my colleagues for Leeds—Grenville and Okanagan—Coquihalla, who said that this was such a wonderful budget because for the first time in 40 years the government had identified the skills challenge as a problem facing Canada. What?
This is not the first time in 40 years that a problem with job training has been identified. There is obviously a problem. Everyone is well aware of this and recognizes the problem. However, acknowledging that there is a problem and proposing a solution are two completely different things.
Let us take a moment to talk about job training. Six years ago, the government signed a number of agreements with the provinces whereby it handed over complete authority for training to the provinces. The government gave them money and told them to do their best to solve the job training problem.
It seems that the Prime Minister became angry recently when he learned that there was a problem. He was the last to notice and to realize what was happening.
The Prime Minister went slightly overboard six years ago. Now he is getting back to work and is saying that he has a solution. He has announced that the government will allow young students and workers to receive $15,000. The government will take care of all the advertising for this wonderful program and will take back responsibility for training.
The Prime Minister said that his government would solve this problem that no one else had addressed before. What an exaggeration, what arrogance on the part of the federal government and the Conservative Party.
The provinces had actually started working on it. Not everyone wanted the government to create a $15,000 program because the Prime Minister would then announce that everyone—including the federal and provincial governments and the private sector—would have to contribute $5,000.
Today, the Prime Minister is saying that he is prepared to sit down and to negotiate with the provinces. It is not a good idea to announce a program before you have conducted negotiations. In fact, that is contrary to what should be done. Better yet, the government should say that it has things to discuss with the provinces and that it wants to do that.
They had an opportunity. Just six months ago, the premiers made an unprecedented decision to tell the Prime Minister that they would like to have a meeting to discuss the economy. They wanted to have a chance to discuss the issues that concern them and concern the government, because running a modern economy or running a federation is not the exclusive property of the Government of Canada. It is not the exclusive jurisdiction of the Conservative Party. It is a concern of every political party, a concern of every region, and a concern of every government.
The Prime Minister declined. The Prime Minister of Canada refused to attend. If we compare Canada to every other federation in the world, no other federation would be in a situation in which the leader of its federal government would refuse to sit down with the premiers who had specifically asked for a meeting to discuss the economy. It is unbelievable.
After the last 48 hours, I have a suggestion for the premiers: they should rent themselves panda costumes and get together and tell the Prime Minister there is going to be a fantastic photo opportunity. They will not even be behind glass. They will be out in public and willing to sit down. That is the only way I think we can get this Prime Minister to sit down and talk to the premiers.
Instead of having a meeting and a serious discussion, what does the Government of Canada do? On health care, the Minister of Finance walked into a luncheon meeting of the ministers of finance and said, “I am too busy to have lunch. By the way, I want to tell you what the transfers for health care are going to be for the next 10 years.”
The member for Peterborough is saying “Hear, hear”. Maybe that goes down well where he comes from, but having sat at a premiers' table and at a ministers of finance table, I can say it is ridiculous to have a federal government walk in and in five minutes describe what the program for transfers is going to be.
There has to be a discussion. The government cannot have a take it or leave it approach. The take it or leave it approach is even being rejected by the members of the Conservative Party opposite.
Even now, even at this late hour in the life of the government, we are beginning to see signs of life, signs of people wanting to speak up, signs of members of the blue army chorus saying they want to wear something different and come out today and have a voice of their own. However, even that is being stamped down by the leadership of the Conservative Party.
This budget does so much less than what it pretends to do. In the dialogue between the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla and the member for Peterborough, the member for Peterborough was saying, “Isn't it a wonderful thing? We have discovered that if you reduce tariffs, it is going to have a positive effect on the economy.”
The Conservatives raised tariff revenues for the federal government in this budget by $300 million, but the two items upon which they reduced them magically leaped out—magically.
John Ivison from the National Post magically picked the items out of all the possibilities of items that the government would either reduce or increase, and he said that the reporters from The Globe and Mail had the same magic information. How did that happen? How would they have suddenly landed on baby clothes and hockey equipment? Of all the items that are there, those are the items they picked.
I do not think so. I do not think it was a lucky guess. I know my friends in the New Democratic Party have written to the RCMP and are going to launch an investigation. I wish the investigators well in their search for this difficult piece of information.
The government has raised tariffs by $300 million. I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to the Minister of Finance talking to our Asian friends and saying, “We really want to lower tariffs and we really want to engage with you in the Pacific negotiations, but by the way, we are taking a $300-million cash grab before we sit down and have a serious discussion about tariffs.”
It is ridiculous. The range of things the government is doing, not to improve the budget but to simply sell the budget, is unbelievable to me.
I have to hand it to the government. It knows how to orchestrate leaks. It knows how to feed little pieces of gruel to the press the week before and say, "Here is a little item. You might want to nibble on this. You might want to nibble on that." Suddenly and magically, the press knew that skills training and infrastructure were going to be the focus of the budget. Every single speech given by a member opposite, dutifully prepared by the Prime Minister's Office, expressed it.
That is what we know. We know the Conservatives know how to orchestrate. We know that after they have orchestrated, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso would have said, they also know how to sell.
He is not even here to listen to what I have to say. This is what happens to an interim leader. He says to mention his riding, but when I go to the length and trouble of bringing him into the story, he walks out. I cannot understand it.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 12:50 pm | Quebec, Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member from the island of Montreal. I listened to her speech, and I have a fairly easy question for her.
We have read the budget. I think she has read it, too. The Conservative members talk about how they obtained this or that measure for their constituency or region.
As the member from east Montreal, I would like to know if there is anything in the budget for my region and for the city of Montreal. I did not see anything.
Is this something the Conservatives made up or is it because we do not know how to read? Are the journalists and all the members of the National Assembly of Quebec mistaken? Is it because we do not really know what is going on or is there really nothing for Quebec, the city of Montreal and east Montreal?
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 11:25 am | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, the control freak nature of the government is really extraordinary. Conservatives announce a program without negotiating it with anybody, then they start advertising the program without discussing it with anybody and they are actually spending less than they were spending in 2008-09.
I would like to ask the Prime Minister this. Is this why his members from Vegreville—Wainwright, Langley and from other ridings are now coming into the House and expressing concern that they are not allowed to speak their minds? He will not let the provinces speak their minds. Why will he not let his own members speak their minds?
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 10:30 am | Nova Scotia, Cape Breton—Canso
Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if the microphones are working because my question was on the job grant and I am getting something on parks.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 10:00 am | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's
Mr. Speaker, obviously I agree that the program should have continued.
It is the type of program that Canadians have looked to and respected, and they understand how important it is, particularly when we talk about the environment and how important it is to ensure that we do sustain our environment and that we take the measures that are right, and not find ourselves in a situation where there is nothing happening.
If it were up to the government, there would be no discussion of the environment. The facts and figures that are put forward are so convoluted that we cannot even see the forest for the trees.
We are finding ourselves in the situation, as members of an opposition, of trying to get a handle on what the government is doing with respect to the environment, and it is very hard to do because the government is not at all forthcoming when it comes to sustaining our environment.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 9:50 am | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is cutting another $108 million over five years from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This is in addition to the $161.1 million cut from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans again announced by the Conservative government in previous budgets. These cuts, coupled with the changes to the employment insurance program and the impact on seasonal workers, will make life a struggle for those who work so hard to make a living from the sea.
Over 80,000 Canadians make their living from fishing-related activities. We fail to realize that it is because of their efforts we have access to one of, if not the best, food sources in the world. Fish is a food of excellent nutritional value, providing high quality protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. If the fishing industry were accorded the respect it deserves, Canada would not have dropped from sixth place to eighth place in the world among seafood exporting countries. Instead of slipping to eighth place, the industry could continue to be a major player in supplying the world with this major food source. Instead, it is treated with disdain by a government that has no appreciation for the industry or those who work in it.
We are left to worry about the economic reality facing our seniors with this budget and the lack of action to improve their situation. Having given so much during their lifetime to help our country succeed, the government is prepared to ignore what should be their right now, if they so wish, to spend time with grandchildren, travelling, enjoying retirement, doing what many could not do when they were working.
The Conservative government has decided in its wisdom, or dare I say lack of, to move the eligibility age for OAS from 65 to 67, forcing seniors to work an extra two years before they can live that life to which many seniors look forward. What is it about Conservatives that makes them think somehow that the majority of our seniors have more than just very modest savings, if any, after years of being in the workforce and deserve to be eligible for old age security at a time in their lives when they can still enjoy the benefits that come from receiving their pension income, as modest as it is?
Ralph Morris, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners Association, is on record saying such changes as raising to 67 from 65 the age at which Canadians could qualify for OAS would push many seniors into poverty. He said, “I think that it is an attack on the seniors of this country again by a prime minister and a government”.
According to Susan Eng, head of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons:
CARP members will be disappointed that the federal budget contained little to address their priority concerns--retirement security, seniors’ poverty and equitable access to healthcare, affordable drugs and home care. The modest measures are still welcome. Any other improvements would have had some immediate impact but would mostly set the stage for the kind of future Canadians can expect in retirement.
We are left to worry about the increasing difficulty for young people graduating from post-secondary institutions, more educated than ever before, yet with worse prospects for employment, thanks to the continued lack of real action by the Conservative government.
Committing to a job grant program that will not come into effect for another five years is not real action. Requiring cash-strapped provinces to match federal contributions in order to avail of the program is not real action. Freezing funding for training at 2007 pre-recession levels is not real action.
Unfortunately the only real action from the government is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on self-promotion. If people are looking for a job in the advertising industry, they might just be lucky because, as a result of this budget, that is the only place where they might find work, and then the job they find will be paid by their own tax dollars, hundreds of millions of which the Conservative government is using to shamelessly run a pre-election campaign. Fortunately Canadians see through these tactics as they try to deal with just living from day-to-day.
In today's economic reality, Conservative words will not improve the lives of those in Random--Burin--St. George's and the rest of Canada. Only positive action will improve this economy and create jobs. Unfortunately this budget offers Canadians nothing but empty words.
As the member of Parliament for Random—Burin—St. George's since 2008, I know only too well the hardships faced by many of those I represent. Fortunately, Canadians are no longer fooled by the practice of dropping goodies in budgets to try to distract them from the real message and inadequate performance.
The difficulty is that the budget is so short on detail that it is left to those of us who have the opportunity to read the budget documents to try and read between the lines and find out exactly what the Conservative government intends to do. The contradictions in the messages are alarming.
For instance, in budget 2007, the government promised almost $5.2 billion in new infrastructure funding for municipalities in 2013-14. However, budget 2013 only offers $3.3 billion in new funding for each of 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Conservatives failed to deliver infrastructure funding announced in budget 2007 and are now trying to claim that same money as new funding over the next five years.
The Conservatives claim skills training is the most important issue facing the country. Yet they actually cut training, after inflation is factored in, by freezing funding at 2007 pre-recession levels. Talk about alarming contradictory messaging.
Predictably, Conservatives will decry how opposition members are not standing up for the constituents when they vote against the budget. It is unfortunate that the few positive measures laced in between extraordinarily destructive Conservative economic policy get caught up in the bigger picture.
The Conservatives will attempt to reduce my opposition to their overall economic inaction in their standard speaking points. However, allow me to address one of the changes that I not only support but welcome wholeheartedly.
Of particular interest to me, given my Motion No. 422 to enhance veterans' burial assistance in the last post fund, is the increase in assistance for qualifying veterans from $3,600 to $7,376. Along with the Royal Canadian Legion, I support this measure. That is why I wrote to the Minister of Finance before the budget was tabled to ask that the last post fund be enhanced. I was pleased to see part of my recommendation contained in the budget. In fact, if the Conservatives would agree to table this change in a separate stand-alone legislation, I am confident they would find unanimous consent to pass it.
When I wrote to the Minister of Finance to ask that the assistance provided be increased, I also expressed my concern for the 66% of those veterans' families who applied to the last post fund for financial assistance to help with the burial of their loved ones but were denied. These denials meant that more than 20,000 veterans whose families applied to the last post fund for financial assistance were denied a dignified burial during the Conservative government's time in office.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion, although the assistance increase is positive, it will have absolutely no effect on the number of deserving veterans in need who are denied assistance by the Conservative government. Following this change, modern-day veterans, in other words, veterans who served in the post-Korean War, are still excluded from applying for government funding.
Fortunately, the government will have another chance to reconsider and support my motion in support of our veterans when it comes up for debate next month. I sincerely hope, given the overwhelming support for my motion by veterans throughout this great country and the legion's principled letter writing campaign, the Conservatives will vote in favour of my motion and take the necessary steps to implement it.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 9:45 am | Quebec, Lac-Saint-Louis
At first glance, the P3 model is not a bad way to promote the construction of new infrastructure and the renewal of existing infrastructure, but I am not sure that it is the right model for all infrastructure. One of my constituents is currently examining the P3 model as it pertains to water facilities. He is not certain that this model applies very well to this sector. In my opinion, the P3 model should be applied selectively.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 9:45 am | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's
Mr. Speaker, in the midst of a still fragile economy and dealing with a recession, what we see is a continued Conservative fiscal incompetence, buoyed only by the Liberal legacy of strong banking regulations, I might add.
I am pleased to rise today to debate the budget. When I read this year's budget, or more accurately this year's Conservative branding exercise, I am reminded of Winston Churchill's famous words, “I never worry about action, but only about inaction”.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives' economic inaction plan 2013 leaves us all worrying about our futures. We are left to worry about the lack of action to help those engaged in the fishing industry, which is of paramount importance to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador where I live, especially to the fishers. As fish are a renewable resource, rather than work with those in the fishing industry and support what could be a sustainable industry, the Harper government is cutting another $108 million over five years from the—
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 9:40 am | Quebec, Lac-Saint-Louis
Mr. Speaker, when I worked on my speech this the weekend, I looked furiously for some numbers and some comparative tables that would allow us to get some kind of an historical perspective on what was being done and noticed the exact same thing.
There seems to be an effort of subterfuge, to basically hide the realities of this budget in an historical context. I find that quite ironic. While the government is hiding what it is doing, it is spending large sums of money promoting itself and its supposed good works on television. Even a small portion of that advertising money could have been used to keep the ELA going, which is known as the best freshwater laboratory in the world. It is a travesty that it is being shut down.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 9:30 am | Quebec, Lac-Saint-Louis
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague from the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak about budget 2013. This budget obviously leaves much to be desired, and that is why we will vote against it. However, there is one positive aspect. Despite the budget's general underlying idea of cutting spending, and therefore slowing economic growth, the government at least has not cancelled two very positive measures that were introduced by previous Liberal governments.
I am obviously talking, first of all, about the gas tax. Acknowledging that there were major municipal infrastructure needs at the time, the Liberals very wisely introduced this measure, which channels funds from the gas tax to the municipalities. That measure remains intact. The second measure dating back to previous Liberal governments is the GST exemption for the municipalities. In other words, the municipalities do not have to pay GST as a result of this earlier measure.
That is the positive aspect of this budget. However, it has a lot of negative aspects. I would like to talk a little about infrastructure. We see across Canada and North America that now is the time to renew our infrastructure. I am not the one saying it. We need only read the newspapers and listen to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We really need to renew and repair our infrastructure, and in other cases we must build new infrastructure if we want to guarantee ongoing economic growth.
What disappoint us in this budget are the cuts to the building Canada fund over the next two years. This makes us wonder whether these cuts are based on an economic argument or a political argument. In other words, is the purpose of these cuts simply to enable the government to achieve its target of a balanced budget just in time for the next election, or are they being made for economic reasons? I doubt they are being made for economic reasons since this measure will slow economic growth. I sincerely believe these infrastructure investment cuts are being made for purely political reasons, to benefit the Conservative Party and further its political objectives.
Driving on roads that are in poor condition costs drivers money. Every time we have to go to a service centre to have our wheels aligned or a flat tire changed because our car hit a pothole, that costs us money. I know the government likes to talk about private investment, but taxpayers could invest that money in an RRSP, for example. Then there would be more money in their RRSPs 10 or 20 years later, which would be good for their eventual retirement. When we do not invest in infrastructure, that costs people a lot of money.
I would like to cite an American example from a study conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. That study was based on figures from 2009. The American Society of Civil Engineers found that the United States had lost $78 billion as a result of traffic jams, which bring cars to a halt. That holds up traffic and wastes gasoline, since cars do not move forward. Those losses cost Americans $78 billion. Repairs to cars as a result of potholes and other causes totalled $67 billion in the United States in 2009. That is not peanuts.
In addition, more car accidents happen when infrastructure is in poor condition. That is a fact. Car accidents in the United States, many of which were due to a road system in poor condition, cost $230 billion in 2009. Not investing in infrastructure is an expensive proposition.
As we know, investing in infrastructure is costly. However, it is highly effective in creating jobs. In 2009, the University of Massachusetts Amherst concluded from research and analysis that every billion dollars spent on infrastructure creates 18,000 jobs. That is 30% more than if we took that billion dollars and gave it back in the form of tax cuts. Investing in infrastructure is very effective. It is an effective way of creating jobs, and people obviously save the time and money they would have had to spend on car repairs.
Infrastructure must also be in good condition if we want to promote future economic growth. Economic activity cannot grow without infrastructure. Good infrastructure means strong economic growth in the long run.
As Liberal water policy critic, I observed something a little while ago, and now it is all starting to make sense. I observed that proposed waste water regulations were diluted between Canada Gazette part I, a part of the regulation-making process, and Canada Gazette part II.
What that means is obviously the quality of our water will not be as high as it would have been, but it also means that it will not be necessary to spend as much on waste water plants as we would if the regulations were stricter.
I am wondering now if the government diluted waste water regulations intentionally in order to minimize how much money it would have to invest across Canada in plant upgrades and construction of new plants.
Now it is all starting to make sense when I look at the budget and the political objective of balancing the budget. I am not saying that balancing the budget is not a good idea for the economy, but does it have to be by the fall of 2015? I am not so sure.
- MPlibMar 26, 2013 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, given that there has been significant worsening in employment numbers since 2007 with the global financial crisis and given that youth employment numbers are in fact five points worse in Canada today than they were in 2007, why would this budget freeze federal training dollars at 2007 levels, pre-recession and, in fact, in real terms 10% less if we take into account inflation?
Also, given that we have already heard now from the Ontario and Alberta governments that because of the cost-sharing nature of this proposal for the new jobs training program, they may not be able to participate in a robust way in co-funding this program, does the hon. member, as a member of Parliament from Ontario, believe it would have made more sense for the federal government to sit down with the premiers and the finance ministers prior to the budget to hammer out a policy structure that the provinces could buy into and participate in, as opposed to developing it on the federal side and then imposing it on the provinces unilaterally?
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 3:10 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora talk about how her constituents were pleased with the tax reductions. There is always a price to pay for some things, and one of the things that has happened in the seven years of the Conservative government's rule has been that the national debt has increased by $124 billion so far. Of course, that has added quite a bit to our servicing charges.
I wonder what her constituents have told her about the fact that this year, for example, close to $30 billion will be paid by the government to the public debt charge that has occurred because we are now at $600 billion. How do they feel about that part of the big picture?
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 1:55 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, I would like to very briefly quote Fleming, who of course was the discoverer of penicillin. He said:
When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer, but I suppose that's exactly what I did.
I am very disturbed by the government's focus on moving away from basic and fundamental science, which of course has to be balanced with applied science. I would like to hear what the member has to say about that disturbing trend.
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 1:40 pm | Ontario, York West
Mr. Speaker, clearly we have a different ideology about what the role of government should be. Let us start with the choices that the Minister of Finance made. It was the same group of individuals who drove Ontario into a massive deficit as well. The exact same thing is happening here now and they will just continue. It is about the choices we make.
Canadians want us to invest money into advancing the future so we have people who can get those jobs and so we have young people who can finish apprenticeship programs and get jobs. Instead, what the government is doing is spending more money than has ever been spent. We have a huge deficit. All we need to do is go back into our history and see what was going on with the same Minister of Finance when the Conservatives were elected in Ontario and the kinds of problems we ended up with, including the deficit and the debt.
The Conservatives are doing the exact same thing for the whole country. I am appalled at their decisions. I am more appalled at the $1 billion they will have spent on economic ads when people are looking for jobs.
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 1:30 pm | Ontario, York West
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his comments. He has worked very hard on many of those issues and knows them well. He, myself and others in and out of the House are clearly disappointed in the so-called budget 2013. When I look at it I do not think it is worth the paper it is written on. It is too bad that the money that went into putting out all of the books the government has done, and all of the ads that we know will come, was not put back into helping Canadians. It would have gone a lot further than producing another advertising document, which is what this is all about.
Canadians coast to coast to coast are sending us emails, tweets and the rest of it about their concerns and their disappointment that there is very little in the budget, other than the recycling of a bunch of programs and initiatives.
Andrew Coyne writes critically of the government and the opposition, so he is no friend of anyone except Canadians. He said that the budget is bloated, cynical and incoherent, and that, “So much of what is wrong with this budget...simply amounts to extending previous programs, or implementing past initiatives”.
Even the Prime Minister's favourite friend, Doug Horner, the finance minister for Alberta, said, “We don’t have any new money for these types of programs”, which the Prime Minister put into the budget. Therefore, clearly there will not be new programs because the provinces do not have the money to match them.
I was also struck by the commentary from the National Citizens Coalition, a group the Prime Minister served as president. The current president, Mr. Peter Coleman, stated:
This budget plan seeks to grab headlines for relatively minor initiatives.... [I]t is discouraging that this government was not willing to commit to more far-reaching tariff reform.
There was also an article on the front page of the business section of The Globe and Mail about how the tariffs that were adjusted in this budget would have a significant impact on many other avenues of resources and things that come in that have a tariff on them, to the point where it would seriously hamper many of the retailers here in Canada.
Therefore, it seems that the government missed the mark again.
I want to be fair with respect to a few items, such as the reduction of the tariffs on baby clothes and hockey equipment. However, the government needs to take a much more thorough look. All it does is touch those little things that will get them a bit of positive publicity and those that really needed to be touched, looked at and examined so that Canada would be better off, it did not touch at all.
Canadian families now owe a record $1.67 in debt for every dollar of income. Budget 2013 would not help middle class families that are struggling. Having the minister effect changes to the interest rates would clearly affect a lot of Canadians out there who have huge mortgages and credit card debt. It was the 40-year mortgage commitment that the government made for a short period of time that certainly helped drive up the amount of debt that many Canadians are feeling.
One of the issues that we all talk about here is the employment issue in and among our youth. We are facing the worst youth job market in a generation. That means that for many of our young people getting out of school there will not be jobs out there. We have been talking about this for at least two years now. What does the government suggest? It is going to invest $19 million in an advertising campaign but it will not be creating any new jobs or new skills for youth.
We know how much the government likes to advertise its partisan ideas on the public dime, so I am sure we will be hearing a lot more with respect to that. By 2015, the government will have spent almost $1 billion to advance their economic inaction plan during events such as the Super Bowl. So much for the accountability and transparency that we supposedly were talking about. Everywhere we go we cannot go 50 feet without seeing another one of these economic action plan ads. Most of the people I have talked to know it is their own money that is being invested in more partisan propaganda instead of in people. The Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves every time they see those signs.
Youth employment is being ignored almost as much as the job market in general. Canadians want a real plan to grow the economy and create Canadian jobs. Instead, the Conservatives are repackaging existing programs, taking more money out of the economy and calling it another action plan.
In this budget, the Conservatives have prioritized spending cuts ahead of strengthening the economy and creating new jobs. We all know that the job market is still rebounding from the recession that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance promised would never happen. We were never going to have a deficit or get into a recession. Two months later, the recession was here and they had already blown the $13 billion surplus that they had as a result of the Liberal government.
Despite the assurances, young Canadians now have an employment rate that is five points worse than it was before the recession. We risk creating a lost generation of youth, unable to move out of their parents' homes, saddled with unimaginably high debt and with no meaningful job experience. Budget 2013 should have included a real plan to help young Canadians specifically, but it is not in the budget at all.
Now Conservative henchmen say that budget 2013 announced infrastructure, training and manufacturing programs to kickstart the economy, but what they will not admit is that these are not new programs. The Conservatives are using budget 2013 to rebrand programs that already existed. The Liberal government introduced the gas tax some years back, and I acknowledge the fact that it was indexed and I think that is a good thing. We are always being told who voted for what, but when the Liberal government introduced that in its budget, the Conservatives, not as many as there are now, voted against the gas tax.
Today I have to say I am pleased that they indexed it, except that instead of being $5.5 billion moving forward, it has been reduced to $3.3 billion. It makes it much more difficult for municipalities to move forward. Everywhere one goes, infrastructure pressures exist. The government acknowledged it is a huge thing, but we cannot expect the cities to deal with that. The provinces are under a huge amount of debt. We say we are going to do a variety of things in partnership with them, but they do not have the money either. Nobody wants to have to raise taxes, but it is what we do with the money that we have, where our priorities lie, that matters.
Budget 2013 is a hurry up and wait budget. That is what it is because the government says in five years it is going to create jobs, in five years there will be more money for infrastructure and in five years it will do a variety of things, but not today.
Speaking again of the skills training issue, I am sure the Prime Minister must have been disappointed because he talked so much about how the government was going to resolve these problems and come up with solutions. All he came up with was a whole lot of hot air.
Conservatives have invested a small amount, just over $1 million, to harmonize the recognition of skilled trade credentials across the country, yet they have done nothing to increase the graduation rates of apprenticeships, one of the most critical barriers to improving the supply of highly trained workers needed in Canada. Many young people end up dropping out of the apprenticeship program because they do not have enough money to keep going. Over 40% do not finish the program and investigations indicated that it is because they did not have the money to continue. Inadequate financing is a big issue, which is not addressed in the budget when we talk about the big skills shortage. We all acknowledge that we have one.
Why not put the money into helping people so they can get jobs, move out of their parents' homes, buy their own homes and start investing. They cannot do it if they do not have jobs. While the government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to buy Canadians' votes, it should be thinking about the many young people looking for jobs and looking to the government for some leadership rather than passing down all kinds of ideas and deals where the provinces or companies have to match the money. A lot of them do not have the money, so I do not think these jobs are going to materialize.
I am thankful for being allowed to speak about the nothing budget that I have in front of me. I just wish I could get the money out of this budget so I could put it toward helping Canadians get jobs.
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 1:10 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about lowering business taxes. Does he know whether corporations that have had their taxes lowered to 15% are actually spending that windfall of money they are receiving?
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 12:55 pm | Quebec, Westmount—Ville-Marie
Mr. Speaker, we know the Conservatives are increasing the payroll taxes on EI every year.
My question for the hon. member is the following. I remember way back in 2011, during the last election, the Conservatives promised that once they balanced the budget, which looks like maybe 2015 according to their prediction, they were going to double the TFSA, the tax-free savings allowance, from $5,000 to $10,000. They were also going to do some family income splitting with respect to the income tax. Those measures are obviously going to cost money and yet there are projections of surpluses starting in 2015.
Would the hon. member tell us how much it is going to cost to double the TFSA and how much it is going to cost to do the income splitting for families with respect to income tax? That will play into the surpluses the Conservatives promised back in 2011.
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 10:45 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax West
Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my hon. colleague's comments, particularly when he talked about the recession having started in 2009. If he were to check the history of this, he would find that it was the fall of 2008 when the recession actually started. This is of interest, since he can find articles from July 25, 2008 by Reuters and CBC talking about the fact that the country was in deficit. The Conservative government, which had inherited a huge surplus, put us in deficit by April 2008. That is well before the recession began. It is even way before his numbers, but it was certainly before the fall of 2008.
Secondly, the member talks about job creation numbers from July 2009. If he goes online, he can also find articles from the summer of 2009, even December 2009, when municipalities were complaining about how slow the federal government was to get money out for infrastructure under the stimulus plan. The budget was announced at the end of January 2009, but it was the budget for 2009-10, the budget for the year that started April 1. That money did not start rolling out until at least the fall or after that, so how can the member claim credit for job numbers in 2009?
What does the member think about the $2 billion increase in EI premiums on businesses and employers in the country?
- MPlibMar 25, 2013 10:10 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I agree with a lot of the remarks the member made. In fact, I see this particular budget as quite a work of fiction, which gives us nothing to deal with, really, in terms of numbers in the House of Commons. We cannot compare department to department or anything at all.
My NDP colleagues talked about economic development and prospects, and I quote from the document. It says:
Indeed, lower prices for Canadian crude oil, as well as for natural gas, relative to global benchmarks are reducing gross domestic product (GDP) by about $28 billion per year, translating into over $4 billion annually in potential federal government revenues.
I agree. We have probably become too dependent on energy and have not looked after the manufacturing sector enough. However, what worries me in this particular statement is that we really do not have an outlet for bitumen from the oil sands, and it is impacting our economy to the tune of $4 billion in revenues for the government and $28 billion per year in GDP. That is serious.
I wonder where the member stands on that, relative to attempting to get the Keystone pipeline opened up so that we can, in fact, move more product out.
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 10:05 am | Ontario, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot
Mr. Speaker, I hope I do not get the Conservatives too fired up this time.
The hon. member, speaking for the government, wants our support. I direct her attention to a table on page 287, which is the increase in the national debt during the government's administration. In this table alone, we go from $582 billion up to the better end of $634 billion before it is apparently going to magically start to decline. If we went back to when the Conservatives became government, it has gone from about $450 billion up to close to $634 billion. It has gone from less than 30% of GDP to now in the order of 34% of GDP. The take on the revenues out of the economy has gone up to 14.5%.
How in heaven's name can she reasonably expect opposition parties to support a government that is paying for its mismanagement by simply running away with debt?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:50 am | Ontario, York West
What is the matter with him?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:50 am | Ontario, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot
Mr. Speaker, they hate to deal with facts in this place, as opposed to the fantasies on the other side. The simple fact that the hon. member does not want to accept is that for every budget, with the exception of the first budget that he inherited from the Liberal Party, the Conservatives have had deficits. It is endless deficits, and we have this fantasy plan to get out of deficit.
The definition of “insanity” is to keep on doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. On page 287 we have a projection, which we are supposed to take on faith, that somehow or other we are on the plan to get out of deficit and return to surplus.
My question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance responsible for the biggest accumulation of deficit in Canadian history. Why does she think the Conservatives can get out of this mess?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:45 am | Ontario, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the parliamentary secretary to the minister of endless deficits.
Not once since 2006 has the current government gotten it right—
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:35 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, that is a very difficult question to answer.
The reality is that the member is quite right. This is the least transparent and least accountable government in Canadian history. It has done everything it can to try to stifle and stymie the efforts of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
In fact the government was found in contempt of Parliament by the previous Speaker, Speaker Milliken. It was actually the first government in the history of the parliamentary system within the British Commonwealth to have been found in contempt of Parliament because of its refusal to give the costs to Parliament.
This is not just something that should bother opposition members. It should bother government members who have the same fiduciary responsibility to know the costs of what they are voting on. It is offensive to Parliament. It is offensive to citizens. It is also offensive to taxpayers, who deserve to know how their money is being managed.
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:30 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right that the changes to EI are aggressive and could actually hurt some of the most vulnerable in Canada, particularly those living in rural Canada. It is a continued and sustained attack on rural Canadians.
He is also correct that every January when the government hikes up payroll taxes by $600 million, effectively these are job-killing payroll taxes. It is very difficult to try to create more jobs in that kind of environment, particularly for young Canadians.
In terms of changes to EI and some of the attacks on the most vulnerable Canadians, I would also remind the hon. member that the government decided that raising the OAS from 65 to 67 was just fine, even when 40% of the people getting OAS are making less than $20,000 a year and 53% of people getting OAS are making less than $25,000.
This is a meanspirited attack on some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens.
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:30 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about some of the messages being received with respect to this. Our leader said that this is not about the economy but rather about politics and propaganda. That is the message that sums this particular budget up at its best. It is basically utter nonsense. The building Canada plan really does not kick in until practically the next decade. The skills development is a long time down the road when we need it now.
My colleague talked about the employment insurance tax on workers and businesses going up three times over the next three years in this budget. That is against the background of the government having cancelled the five-week pilot project. The five-week pilot project in my province alone will take about $7 million out of the pockets of people that they would have used for food, groceries, electricity and all the other things they have to do.
What is with the government in terms of its attack on seasonal industries while still taxing workers and businesses more under this budget? Could the member answer that?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, I hear from Canadians all the time, including my constituents. I hear from parents who are worried about the future of their children and grandparents who are worried about their grandchildren.
The fact is that youth employment numbers are five points worse than they were five years ago in 2007. That is why it is unacceptable that in this budget the government has frozen federal funding at 2007 levels. In real terms, that represents a 10% cut because of inflation. Beyond that, we have a significantly worsened employment situation today than we did in 2007, after a financial crisis.
This is the question the hon. member should be answering to what could be a lost generation of youth in Canada. Why is the government doing less today to invest in skills and training than it was doing in 2007, prior to a global financial crisis? Why is partisan government advertising of over $600 million more important to the government than investing to protect and create opportunities for young Canadians?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 9:15 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, it was in budget 2006 that the Minister of Finance actually brought in 40-year no-down-payment mortgages to Canada, and that had a significant effect. By the first half of 2008, over 50% of new mortgages issued in Canada were 40 year mortgages. His decision to introduce U.S. style loose money mortgages to Canada actually changed the culture of borrowing and lending in Canada.
Now we have record debt levels and a softening housing market, and Canadians are looking to the government for leadership. Budget 2013 will not help middle-class families who are struggling. Instead, the Minister of Finance's recent demand that banks increase mortgage prices will only make it harder for middle-class families to make ends meet.
I will give an example. Increasing the mortgage rate from 2.89% to 3.09%, which is exactly what the Minister of Finance asked Manulife to do, would actually cost someone with a $400,000 mortgage an extra $12,000 over the next five years. That is an extra $12,000 that a Canadian family would have to set aside and it would add an extra $12,000 to the profits of banks or financial institutions, simply because the Minister of Finance decided to meddle in mortgage prices, trying to undo the damage he did with his loose mortgage policies in his first budget.
Unlike the Conservatives, a Liberal government would never have jeopardized the economy and Canada's housing market with a risky mortgage scheme. Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Party and Liberal governments have a strong record of economic and fiscal competence. It was a Liberal government that turned a $43 billion deficit that it inherited from the previous government into nine consecutive budget surpluses and paid down more than $80 billion off the national debt.
Today, a Liberal government would prioritize measures that would kickstart the economy and help create jobs. Thanks to the hard work of the 1990s, the Government of Canada's finances are strong enough to allow some flexibility. We could support economic growth now and still balance the budget in the medium term. We could afford to freeze EI premiums in order to protect Canadian jobs.
We could afford to remove the 2% funding gap on post-secondary education for aboriginal Canadians. In fact, we cannot afford not to. Aboriginal Canadians represent not only the youngest and fastest growing population in Canada, they are also the most economically and socially disadvantaged. In fact, only a third of young aboriginals are graduating from high school, and that is why it is horrendous that the government has not devoted one penny in this budget to K-to-12 education for aboriginal youth.
A Liberal government would also end the Conservatives' wasteful and ineffective advertising campaign. The government's spending has exceeded half a billion dollars of Canadians' money on Conservative ads. We see economic action plan ads every night on TV, even during the most expensive airtime, such as NHL playoffs, Super Bowl and the Oscars. A Liberal government would introduce new rules to ensure that government advertising is non-partisan and provides real value for taxpayers' money.
There are some measures in budget 2013 that we have been calling for, and as such are willing to support. Last year, I tried to amend the budget bill to increase the maximum threshold for the hiring credit for small businesses from $10,000 to $15,000. We warned the government that continuing to freeze the threshold at $10,000 was punishing small businesses near that threshold and creating a perverse situation that encouraged them not to go over it and hire more people.
The Conservatives were too stubborn to support our amendment last year, but I am glad to see that it is in their proposal exactly as we proposed it a year ago. Freezing EI rates for all businesses would have been even better, but fixing the hiring credit for small business is better than nothing.
We have also been asking the government to listen to the manufacturing sector and extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for at least five years. The Conservatives have partially listened and extended the program for two years, which is better than nothing.
Last November, on the eve of Black Friday, my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso stood in this House and asked the Minister of Finance to reduce tariffs on hockey equipment. He asked the government to get rid of this $200 million job-killing hockey tax, and we are pleased that the Minister of Finance has listened to the Liberal member for Cape Breton—Canso.
Despite these individual measures we cannot support the overall direction, or perhaps lack of direction, in budget 2013. Instead of delivering measures to kickstart the economy, the Conservatives are making short-term spending cuts their priority.
Instead of introducing a real plan to create jobs, budget 2013 would increase job-killing EI taxes, freeze money for training at 2007 levels and cut new funding for infrastructure.
Instead of cutting Conservative waste, the budget would devote even more money to advertising the government's economic action plan, with this year's television ad campaign beginning mere hours after the finance minister delivered his budget speech.
With this in mind, I move, seconded by the member for Winnipeg North, that the motion be further amended by adding the following:
That the amendment be amended by adding after the words “hospital parking” the following:
n) imposes three more job killing employment insurance tax hikes by 2016 taking an additional $4 billion out of the pockets of Canadians;
o) does not provide a dedicated waste water infrastructure fund to help municipalities meet the new federal waste water regulations;
p) fails to bring the provinces together to create a supplemental voluntary Canada Pension Plan;
q) downloads new costs onto the provinces and territories to pay for job training;
r) provides no new funding for critical water and waste water needs in First Nations communities;
s) fails to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health needs of Canadians;
t) fails to expand the scope of the Last Post Fund to include post-Korean War Veterans;
u) fails to restore funding to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for search and rescue;
v) fails to find the funding to keep open the Experimental Lakes Areas, the world renowned freshwater research facility;
w) fails to restore funding to the Interim Federal Health Program for refugee health care;
x) does not renew the critical Extended Employment Insurance Benefits Pilot Project; and
y) commits even more funding to wasteful partisan advertising.
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 8:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, not only is there no new money for skills training, this budget actually freezes funding at 2007 levels, which was before the downturn. Today the need for training is even greater than it was then. Not just that, freezing the funding at 2007 levels means there has actually been a 10% decrease in terms of real dollars.
The Conservatives were right to call Canada's skills gap a crisis, but why are they being so wrong by putting in no resources to actually address it? Why is spending money on Conservative government advertising more important than investing in today's youth?
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 7:45 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants
Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to budget 2013.
I have to say that, based on the Conservatives' fanfare as they released part of the budget in the days leading up to yesterday, I was expecting great things from budget 2013.
After all, we were led to believe that this budget would help address Canada's skills gap: 260,000 jobs without people; 1.3 million people without jobs. We were told that the skills gap was the most pressing issue of our time and that new investments would form the cornerstone of this budget.
Reports said that the Prime Minister was mad as hell about Canada's training programs and that he would not take it anymore. However, when we finally had a chance to see the budget, it did not even come close to this hype.
Not only is there no new money for training, the government is actually freezing its training budget at 2007 levels. What has happened since 2007? The economy went into a recession, from which the Canadian labour market has yet to recover, and inflation over the last six years has driven prices up by 10%, so a dollar today simply does not go as far as it did in 2007.
What we have now is an even greater need for training programs to get Canadians back to work, but the government is actually providing fewer resources than before. In the lead up to the budget, the Conservatives identified the correct problem, but in the budget they failed to provide an adequate solution.
If the Prime Minister was mad as hell before the budget, he must be absolutely furious today, because the measures in budget 2013 will not improve training in Canada. With less money for training than before, a 10% cut, when we factor in inflation, simply will not get the job done. It simply will not be enough to satisfy someone who is actually concerned about Canada's skills gap.
I imagine that if the Prime Minister had been serious about this, he would have accepted the premiers' invitation to sit down with them in Halifax.
Perhaps what is really irking the Prime Minister is the fact that he has not been able to take credit for Canada's training programs. Maybe that is why he did not sit down with the premiers in Halifax to talk about the economy. Imagine, the premiers asked the Prime Minister to sit down with them last autumn to discuss the economy at their premiers' meeting in Halifax, and the Prime Minister said no, that he did not have to do that.
Budget 2013 actually helps the Prime Minister's real objective, and that is to stamp the economic action plan logo on every training program in Canada. However, the Conservatives should not be preoccupied simply with ensuring that the federal government gets all of the credit. They should be focusing on helping Canadians get jobs. On that point, budget 2013 fails.
The budget attaches new strings to the training funds that require matching provincial money. Cash-strapped provinces simply may not be able to afford it. British Columbia has said that it was alarmed at the change. Alberta is not sure even if it can afford to participate in the program.
The Quebec Minister of Finance, Nicolas Marceau, said, “—this is a direct attack on Quebec. It is economic sabotage.”
Clearly, these proposed changes in budget 2013 require a greater level of co-operation between the federal government and the provinces, but the Conservatives have got off to a very bad start.
When it comes to training, what the Conservatives have delivered is not an economic action plan. It is an economic inaction plan. In terms of Infrastructure, this is another area where budget 2013 does not live up to the hype.
There is a national consensus that we must do more to invest in our communities. Some say that there is $160 billion infrastructure deficit. We have known for years that the government's infrastructure plan from budget 2007 would expire in 2014, and we were led to believe that budget 2013 would deliver significant new money to help Canadian cities and communities invest in infrastructure.
Not only does budget 2013 fail to deliver the goods, the Conservatives are actually cutting new infrastructure funding in order to balance the budget by 2015. Starting in 2014, the Conservatives will cut new funding for provincial and municipal infrastructure by almost $2 billion a year, compared to what was actually already in budget 2007.
New money under the building Canada fund drops from $1.7 billion in 2013 to a paltry $210 million for each year until the budget is supposedly balanced. On top of that, the Conservatives are playing a shell game with infrastructure. They are taking infrastructure money from budget 2007 that they have failed to yet get out the door and are spreading it over the next five years and trying to call it new money. It is another example of the Conservatives economic inaction plan.
We were told that the budget would focus on manufacturing. This is an area where the Conservatives have a dismal record. In fact, Canada's manufacturing sector has hemorrhaged jobs, an astounding 350,000 net jobs lost since the Conservatives took office in 2006. Clearly, the status quo is not working.
What does budget 2013 do? The cornerstone of the budget's plan for this sector is another two year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This is the third time the government has extended this program for exactly two years.
The private sector has been asking for a five year extension so it can plan ahead for long-term capital investments and make strategic investments based on the long term, not on the availability of government funds. Instead the Conservatives are only prepared to offer more of the same.
Whether it is training, infrastructure or manufacturing, budget 2013 just does not live up to the Conservative hype.
In terms of the deficit, this is a budget that back loads its investments at the end of this decade and then projects a surplus in 2015 that is no bigger than a rounding error. The Conservatives are basing their budget surplus on rosy revenue projections and cuts to new funding for infrastructure. This is more false advertising. Again, the Conservatives economic inaction plan is full of it.
The Conservatives' plan promises jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. What does it actually deliver? On the jobs front, the percentage of Canadians with paid work is still lower than it was in 2008. Canada's labour market still has not recovered from the recession.
It is even harder for young Canadians to find work. The employment rate today for young people is more than five points worse than prior to the recession. More Canadians in their late twenties are stuck living at home than before. In the late 1990s, one in five Canadians in their late twenties was still living at home with parents. Today, it is one in three. Young Canadians simply cannot afford to move out. Their incomes have dropped since 2008. They are being squeezed between being underemployed or unemployed and having to pay crippling levels of student debt.
Lost in yesterday's budget coverage was the release of a TD Bank report on student loans. According to this report, student debt in Canada now stands at almost a trillion dollars. It is the second highest source of debt in Canada next to home mortgages. The 90-plus day delinquency rate on student loans is at an all time high. The Government of Canada has been writing off hundreds of millions in Canada student loans over the last few years.
Too many young Canadians are losing hope. We run the risk of creating a lost generation of youth who are burdened with high debt and have no useful work experience.
Young Canadians, their parents and their grandparents are looking to the government for a concrete strategy to create new opportunities for young Canadians. Instead of delivering a real plan to help our youth, budget 2013 focuses its so-called job opportunities for youth plan on more government advertising. Under this so-called youth jobs plan, the Conservatives are taking $19 million from existing programs and reallocating that money to advertising, as though the solution to the country's job crisis for young Canadians is more economic action plan ads on TV.
Budget 2013 also places Canadian jobs at risk by continuing to hike job-killing EI premiums. In fact, the average Canadian worker will pay an extra $50 in EI premiums next year and his or her employer will face even higher increases.
With measures like these, no wonder budget 2013 assumes that Canada's unemployment rate in 2014 and 2015 will in fact go even higher than previously predicted.
The Conservatives also talk about growth and long-term prosperity. Well, the budget assumes that Canada's economy will actually slow down. In fact, the government had to reduce its growth projections for this year by more than a full percentage point.
It seems the only growth taking place in the Canadian economy right now is the growth in household debt. This does not bode well for the long-term prosperity of middle-class Canadians. Canadian families now owe a record $1.67 for every $1.00 of annual income. This level of personal debt is higher than American families were carrying prior to the crash.
Meanwhile, median household incomes have flatlined over the last four years. Canadian families may have bigger mortgages today, but they are in no better position to pay them. In fact, a growing number of Canadians are now struggling to pay their mortgages, even at low rates. They are petrified as to what will happen when rates go up. Making matters worse, housing prices are starting to soften.
For many Canadians, their home is not simply a place where they live, it is also part of their retirement plan. The experts say that Canadian home prices are now over-valued, and the Minister of Finance is partly to blame. It was the finance minister, with his risky mortgage scheme in budget 2006, that brought U.S.-style 40-year mortgages with no down payments to Canada. That scheme made 40-year mortgages the norm in Canada, it drove up housing prices and it helped to create a housing bubble.
- MPlibMar 22, 2013 7:40 am | Ontario, Ottawa South
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for her speech. It was thoughtful and the tone was very productive.
I will pick up on a theme that she raised and that the minister across the floor also raised a moment ago. The Prime Minister was apparently quoted in pre-budget communication strategy leaks to the media saying that he was “mad as hell” on the question of training and vacant jobs. If he was mad as hell before this budget, he must be positively furious this morning.
There would be no new money for skills training. The Conservatives would actually freeze funding at 2007 levels, which is actually a 10% cut if we adjust for inflation. How can that be, when youth unemployment is up 5% since 2007 and when over one-third of Canadians between the ages of 25 and 30 are still living at home with their parents? It would be fine to simply make that claim without juxtaposing it against other expenditures.
Here is the big whopper that Canadians are getting very frustrated about. We know the current government has spent over $600 million on advertising since its arrival, and on present trends by the next election it will be $1 billion of taxpayer dollars on TV, Internet and radio ads, and $29 million for billboards across Canada. For most Canadians, that is simply obscene.
How is it possible that the government can reconcile providing no new money for jobs training and skills training while spending $600 million on advertising?
- MPlibMar 21, 2013 1:45 pm | Quebec, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister himself said it is a priority to link the unemployed with jobs in order to better connect the two.
Why did he freeze the budget for job training at its 2007 level, which is effectively a 10% cut when inflation is taken into account?
Why did he create a plan that will be fully implemented only in 2017? This plan requires new money from the provinces and the private sector but not the federal government? Why did he do this when this is such a priority?
- MPlibMar 21, 2013 1:40 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax West
Mr. Speaker, this is the government that put Canada in deficit before the recession began, as this minister obviously knows, in April and May 2008. He can check the record.
Now youth unemployment in Canada is 5% higher. We have 200,000 more Canadians looking for work than at the beginning of the recession. The Conservative's so-called job creation plan has zero new money. We will have to wait years for it to start. Money will only be available to cash-strapped provinces if they can afford to match it. Otherwise they will be out of luck.
The question is this: why is the minister saying to young Canadians, especially to those in provinces like mine, Nova Scotia, that they will have to wait?
- MPlibMar 20, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, York West
Mr. Speaker, despite more than 30 years of declining crime rates, taxpayers are now spending over $20 billion a year to pay for Conservative crime policies that even U.S. Republicans are calling outdated and ineffective.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are funding their wasteful agenda by slashing vital programs like the old age pension and cutting services for seniors and the mentally ill.
Why is it that Conservatives continue to find endless pots of money for their prisons, but cannot find money to help seniors and other Canadians who need help?
- MPlibMar 05, 2013 11:40 am | Quebec, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Mr. Speaker, in its next budget, the government plans on cancelling the $2.5 billion transfer to the provinces for professional training and managing this program itself.
Given the government's chronic incompetence, there is reason to be concerned. On December 17, the Minister of Finance met with his provincial counterparts to discuss federal transfers.
Did he discuss the transfer for professional training with them, or will the Conservatives act unilaterally, in secret and with contempt, as they usually do?
- MPlibJun 13, 2012 11:50 am | Ontario, York West
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is rubbing his hands as he advances his “fend for yourself” destruction plan. However, for seasonal workers, seniors and working families, the PM's smile is far more menacing than comforting. His plan would rip moneys from the hands of seniors and would attack the EI benefits of seasonal workers, while funnelling money into jets and expensive orange juice for high-rolling ministers.
Why is it that the economic distraction plan 2012 can only be successful if the poor and vulnerable are thrown under the Conservative campaign bus?
- MPlibJun 12, 2012 11:25 am | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister speaks complacently to his record.
Let us look at the record. The government has increased its net debt by $117 billion, unemployment since 2006 is up from 6.4% to 7.3% and 300,000 manufacturing jobs down the table. Bill C-38 is an unprecedented assault on Parliament, a dumping on the provinces, a dumping on people and without precedent in the history of our Parliament in terms of its abuse and the way he has acceded power to himself.
That is some record. The Prime Minister has no right to boast to other countries about the Canadian record.
- MPlibJun 12, 2012 11:20 am | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has stated over the years, and certainly back in 1994 as a member of the Reform Party, that omnibus legislation was in itself bad. He stated very clearly that this kind of legislation could not be carried out without abusing Parliament. He stated very clearly that this kind of an effort could not be made without causing a serious attack on the privileges and rights of members of Parliament.
Has the Prime Minister simply been corrupted by power?
- MPlibJun 07, 2012 11:20 am | Ontario, Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might draw the attention of the government to Bill C-38, which is in fact the 750-clause piece of legislation that deals with the environment and in one clause changes the entire Environmental Assessment Act; it deals with old age pensions, raising the age of access to old age pensions to 67; it cuts EI dramatically, with details that are still forthcoming and we still do not know what they all are; and it deals with environment and fisheries.
I would like to ask the government: Does it not see the fairness and the logic of dividing up this bill, of giving this House the opportunity to deal with it, of giving the provinces and the premiers—
- MPlibJun 06, 2012 12:00 pm | Ontario, Etobicoke North
Mr. Speaker, for weeks, Canadians have been speaking out against Bill C-38. Recently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a motion requesting that the government remove sections of Bill C-38 which gut environmental protection, including changes to the Fisheries Act. Municipalities want these changes sent to the relevant standing committee for thorough review and debate.
Is the government really so ignorant that it cannot find any way to protect farmers without gutting the Fisheries Act?
- MPlibMay 29, 2012 11:55 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
Mr. Speaker, for some reason, the government is reluctant to fix a glaring problem with registered disability savings plans. To qualify for such a plan, people have to be seriously disabled right now, but those suffering a debilitating disease like MS, for example, which will result in serious disability at some future point but not right now, cannot get a registered disability savings plan. In other words, they cannot save now while they are still able to do so.
For the third time, why will the government not fix this obvious problem?
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