Mr. Speaker, as I just told his colleague from Davenport, this is not responsible spending by the head of Library and Archives Canada, and I will be speaking to him very soon.
Order, please. I will once again ask all hon. members to hold off on their applause until the member has finished asking the question.
The hon. member for Davenport.
Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I have a lot to say in very little time. I am really pleased to rise right after my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who is doing an excellent job representing his constituents. I am really impressed with the way he is continually checking in with his constituents. It was great to hear their feedback today in the House.
When I had a look at the budget, I looked first with an eye to Halifax and Atlantic Canada. I wanted to see what the government's vision was for our region. To put it quite simply, the Conservative budget fails Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives have proven once again that economic development is not a priority for them in Atlantic Canada.
What kind of economic development would I like to see? In Halifax, we have a thriving arts community, from music to theatre, to film and television, to the visual and digital arts. It is an incredible hub of talent and productivity that forms a thriving creative community in the Maritimes and a thriving creative economy. However, that economy is shut out of the budget.
In budget 2013, the Conservatives refused to change the course away from the deep cuts to the arts and culture sector that they are so proud of, thereby threatening Canadian jobs and really hurting an important economic driver. On top of last year's cuts, they are slashing $42 million more from CBC, if we can even imagine that to be possible, $24 million from Canadian Heritage and $3 million from Telefilm Canada. This is a blatant attack on culture.
All told, arts and culture programs will lose almost $80 million this year alone. That brings the total cuts over the past two years to over $130 million, with additional reductions to come next year. Investment in the arts and culture sector has a significant potential to bolster the Canadian economy. While other sectors have been in decline, the cultural sector has grown rapidly in the past years. There are twice as many people working in the culture sector as in forestry and more than two times as many people as working in banks.
Our cultural sector adds approximately $84 billion to the Canadian economy every year. That is incredibly impressive. As my colleague from Davenport pointed out, the Conservatives love their rhetoric on the economy, but reckless moves like this prove that they just do not get that the cultural sector is an economic driver.
It really is an economic driver in Halifax. We have incredible festivals, like SuperNova, East Coast Music Awards, Fringe, JazzFest, In the Dead of Winter, Nocturne, Queer Acts, ViewFinders and the Atlantic Film Festival. These are all festivals that showcase our theatre, music and visual arts and our artists. They also create a tourist destination. They bring people in, primarily from across Canada and the eastern seaboard of the U.S., and they help drive our downtown economy, supporting the hotel and restaurant industries as well. However, our growing cultural sector is not a part of Conservative Canada.
Looking at the money for infrastructure as well, the Conservatives say their plan commits $70 billion over the next 10 years, but they did not adjust for inflation. What is happening is that the amount of infrastructure funding is going down. It will be $4.7 billion lower than it was last year, and that will continue. That hurts all communities across Canada, but it has a disproportionate impact on us in Atlantic Canada as small provinces. It means we are not going to be able to address our infrastructure gap, or that we will, but these costs will be downloaded onto the provinces.
The Prime Minister did promise that he would not cut transfers to the provinces, but he is downloading the costs onto the provinces, which is essentially cutting transfers if they are not actually going to raise the transfers to meet the download cost.
The budget pushes ahead with reckless cuts to health care to the tune of $36 billion, cuts to pensions, raising the age for OAS from 65 to 67, and with EI, making workers take a 30% pay cut, despite overwhelming opposition from Canadians. These are all areas where our provinces are going to have to make up the shortfall.
I am quite proud of the Nova Scotia NDP government and its work on health care. The New Democrats have been finding efficiencies while at the same time reducing wait times. For example, their collaborative care centres have been a huge success and are being exported to other provinces, like Saskatchewan. However, it seems that Nova Scotia is being punished for our innovation in health care, because we are going to be hit extremely hard by the change in the funding formula when it comes to health care.
Speaking of EI, there is nothing in this budget to reverse the EI changes that have been hitting our region so hard, and there is nothing there for seasonal workers. The government insists that seasonal workers need to find stable employment outside of seasonal industries, but how, when this budget does not even mention ACOA? How are we supposed to foster the development of these emerging industries, or these mythical, fictional industries toward which the Conservatives keep saying we need to shift our workforce? There is no mention of ACOA and not one more dollar to support emerging businesses and innovation in Atlantic Canada.
However, the Conservative government continues to subsidize the already profitable oil and gas industry. If members can imagine, millions of dollars would go to companies like Shell, Syncrude and Enbridge. These are companies that have pretty healthy bottom lines. However, there is not one more dollar to support our companies at home in Halifax or across Atlantic Canada.
In my first-ever budget speech in the House after my election in 2008, I talked about the amazing impacts of building affordable housing in our communities. To put it quite simply, the solution to homelessness is to build affordable housing. However, investing in affordable housing does not just house people and address homelessness; it also creates jobs in the construction industry. If we make sure that the housing we build is energy efficient, we can reduce our carbon footprint at the same time. This is win-win-win, especially in times when our economy is suffering.
As members know, that speech was a few years ago. Clearly the Conservatives were not listening, because not only are they not introducing a housing strategy, but homelessness funding is being reduced by $15 million a year starting in 2014. Can members imagine that is actually being reduced?
Organizations in Halifax like Metro Non-Profit Housing, Adsum for Women, St. Leonard's Society and Habitat for Humanity are doing incredible work in our community, but now there is even less support for them from the federal government. As it is, they are working with practically non-existent budgets.
The Out of the Cold shelter in Halifax is a perfect example of what is wrong with housing in Canada. It is serving an important role in our community as a seasonal last-resort shelter. The thing is, it is run entirely on donations and by volunteers. I am really proud of the work Out of the Cold is doing for people living in poverty in Halifax, but I am ashamed that it needs to exist. Those volunteers do their work with a critical eye. They know that they need to be there to address the gap, but they do their work knowing that the solution is to build housing. However, that solution will be even less likely to be realized after this budget from the Conservative government.
I did a number of media interviews about this budget on Thursday and Friday, especially in the Maritimes. I was doing an interview with a radio show and the host said to me: “Well, we're actually looking for the story here. What is the story of the budget? It doesn't seem like there's much of a story because the budget isn't actually doing very much”.
The Prime Minister promised to focus on jobs, but instead he is pushing ahead with job-killing austerity cuts and is introducing no new measures to create jobs. He is basically playing a shell game with skills training money. I think that is the story.
Should we not expect more from our government, such as a job creation plan, an economic development plan, a plan for a transition to the green energy economy? Should we not expect our government to have a vision to plan for the future and ensure a green and prosperous country for all, not just the well connected?
That is what I had hoped for, but with the Conservatives at the helm, I guess I should get used to disappointment.
Order, please. The hon. member for Davenport has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this timely and appropriate motion from the member for Trinity—Spadina. I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
First, I need to take umbrage with the comments from the member opposite just prior to mine, in that he suggested that somehow the NDP was voting against the gas tax. That could not be further from the truth.
Jack Layton was the champion of the gas tax, was the one who thought of the idea in the first place, and was the member of Parliament who brought it to fruition. Without Jack Layton, we would not have a gas tax for the other side to now crow about. Part of what goes on over there is that things get done by members on this side and then get adopted by members on that side as things that they thought of when they did not.
The other issue is in relation to the $2 billion the member pointed out as being the government's ongoing contribution to the infrastructure deficit in this country. It will take 80 years for that money to actually deal with the infrastructure deficit that this country now faces. If anyone thinks that the bridges, roadways, water systems and sewer systems are going to last 80 years, they have another think coming. It is not possible. That is way too little money, and it is not the cities of this country that are going to suffer, but the people who live in those cities.
The other part of the speech from the member opposite talked about how we voted against things. It is very interesting that none of the issues that they put forward as things they have done were ever separated out, were ever something that we could have voted for, because they were always buried with things we could not stand, such as the reductions in environmental protections in Bill C-38 and the removal of the Navigable Waters Protection Act from many of the waters in Canada in Bill C-45. Those are the kinds of things that we are forced to vote against.
If Conservatives throw a few crumbs in with that and then later say we voted against it, it is very erroneous thinking. It is not fair for the government to suggest that the NDP is not in favour of infrastructure when in fact we are pushing infrastructure everywhere we can.
The biggest infrastructure deficit facing this country will be the infrastructure deficit caused by our commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and our commitment to deal finally with the problem of global warming and climate change. That infrastructure deficit is something we all should pay attention to.
The situation now is that the previous government signed on to Kyoto and then did not really do anything about it, while the current government abandoned Kyoto and still has not really done anything about it. There have been some vague promises from the Prime Minister that we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in this country by 2020 by 17%. Right now, by my best guess, we are actually going to increase our level of greenhouse gases by 2020 if we do not start doing things about it.
The other thing he promised was that we would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2050; 65% is a lot. It means that two-thirds of the activity in this country that is currently using fossil fuels must stop using fossil fuels.
There are basically five things that go on in this country. We heat and cool our buildings. We have industry, which requires energy. We have agriculture, which requires energy. We have goods transportation and we have personal transportation. Each of those five is roughly 20% of the use of energy in this country. Are we going to stop doing three of those five things? Are we going to stop moving people? Are we going to stop moving goods? Are we going to stop having industry? Are we going to stop having agriculture? Are we going to stop heating and cooling our houses? No, we are not going to stop doing all those things.
However, if we are to attain the goal of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases, we have to stop using fossil fuels for all of those things. How do we do that? We do it with electricity. That is currently the only way. The only way we can actually have enough electricity to do those kinds of things is to start building the generating capacity of clean electric power now, through infrastructure programs that will allow it to be delivered across this country.
In my riding right now there is a giant infrastructure program going on to build new rail lines. Rail is good. It moves people more efficiently than cars and goods more efficiently than trucks. The trouble is that the Conservative government has not signed on to making that rail system electric. It would be a first huge step for the government to show its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases by electrifying our transportation networks across this country—by first building the transportation systems, but by building them electric.
The member for Davenport has suggested that we have $6 billion worth of gridlock in the city of Toronto every year. That means we are losing $6 billion, and these guys are throwing $2 billion at the problem.
We need to build public transit infrastructure and we need to build it quickly if we are to meet that 2050 target of a 65% reduction in greenhouse gases that the Prime Minister has set for himself. We need to have electric transportation across the country to deliver our goods and people safely, quickly and without using fossil fuels. It is the only way we are ever going to achieve that target.
We are not going to achieve that target by regulation. If we think about it, how would we regulate an industry like agriculture into not using fossil fuels? That is not going to happen. How are we going to regulate the movement of goods and people without providing a system whereby the movement of goods and people can done without using greenhouse gases? This is not something that a P3 is going to solve. It would take actual leadership from the government across Canada to take the bull by the horns to actually deliver on the promised reduction in greenhouse gases.
The way to do that is through the generation of clean electricity from the use of turbines, photocells and other forms of clean electric generation, such as tidal generation in the north and the east. That electricity could be provided across Canada for heating and cooling homes and for transporting people and goods in such a way that we could stop using fossil fuels for those activities.
We cannot meet that 2050 target any other way. If we do not start now with a real commitment to infrastructure in this country, a real commitment to transportation infrastructure, a real commitment to public transit and a real commitment to the kind of money that is necessary to do this, we are never going to meet the 2050 targets.
The Conservatives used to have a green infrastructure fund. However, what did they do in the last budget, which we voted against? They slashed the green infrastructure fund. The Conservative government used to have a home renovation credit, a renovation payment plan, so that individuals could make their homes use less greenhouse gas energy. What did the Conservatives do? They gutted it. They actually cut it off before all the money that was budgeted was spent. There was money in that budget to try to reduce greenhouse gases through infrastructure spending, but it was not spent. That was infrastructure money from the minister, but that money was never spent.
The government talks a big talk but does not actually deliver, and that is what is needed. It is what this motion is all about. It is to say to the government that we need to have a strategy to do this. It is not just because the cities need it, not just because the country needs it, not just because we say so, but because it is an absolute priority in order to create the kind of Canada that will allow our children and grandchildren to be able to breathe and to live in the kind of comfort that we now live in.
However, that is not going to happen without a significant new input in financial resources from the government. The $2 billion a year just to cover repairs of existing infrastructure is never going to do the kind of work that is necessary to build the infrastructure that this country needs to move forward into this century.
The electoral district of Davenport (Ontario) has a population of 104,615 with 66,189 registered voters and 176 polling divisions.
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