The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to finish the speech I started yesterday on the federal government's 2014 budget.
I will start with a quick summary of what I talked about yesterday. I provided an overview of Canada's economic situation. The government painted a picture of it, but the real picture is not as pretty as the government would have us believe. The last four budgets have been about austerity and cuts, and this budget is no different. The government is not trying to hide that fact. What it is trying to hide is the fact that its cuts are bad for economic growth and job creation.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer pointed that out in his latest reports to the House. The Parliamentary Budget Officer also pointed out that economic growth, or Canada's current economic performance, is about 1.6% lower than it would have been without the cuts. That might not seem like a big difference, but 1.6% amounts to tens of billions of dollars that did not contribute to economic growth and that were lost in terms of potential economic prosperity.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not the only one to have pointed that out. In its latest report, published in January, the International Monetary Fund clearly indicated that the Canadian government's austerity measures, including those in the previous budget, resulted in economic growth that was 10% to 15% lower than it would have been without those measures.
We can tackle growth and job creation if we delay balancing the budget until 2016 or 2017. Canada is still in a strong position compared to our partners, even though our situation is not as rosy as the government says. Still, when it comes to balancing the budget, the debt-to-GDP ratio, we can wait. That is what the International Monetary Fund said.
The government still says that we are leading the G7 on economic growth, but that is no longer true. The growth outlook puts us third, and we are sliding slowly because of the Conservative government's inaction. The OECD says the same thing: we are now in the middle of the pack, and other countries that have come up with more ways to promote growth and job creation are edging past Canada.
While our economic growth is stagnating, the federal government is turning a blind eye. The goal of this budget, the not-so-secret objective, is to achieve a balanced budget in 2015. The Conservative government's open secret is that it wants to have good news to spread in 2015, just in time for the election.
That is not the best way to run a country or to demonstrate good governance. That is not what it means to work for the common good of Canadians, but it is what the Conservative government has decided to do.
I would like to mention one final point to remind hon. members of what I was saying yesterday. I was shocked to hear one particular statement from the Minister of Finance during his budget speech, and I will repeat it again. The Minister of Finance said:
||...our government remains committed to balancing the budget in 2015, but I must be clear. We did not do this on the backs of ordinary Canadians or Canadians in need...
How can the Minister of Finance say such a thing? I am well aware that, not only in my riding, but in my part of the country, massive cuts have been made to employment insurance. If the minister does not see that employment insurance provides assistance to people in need, then he is really out of touch. There have been significant cuts in other areas, too, including VIA Rail, Canada Post, Service Canada, veterans' services and food inspection, as well as in science and technology, which help Canada remain competitive in the world, both economically and in terms of technological advances. It is absolutely absurd for the minister to claim that the cuts made over the past four years have had no effect on ordinary Canadians or Canadians in need; on the contrary.
I just mentioned food inspection. There are a handful of measures in the budget that we actually agree with. Of course, as the government members rise to express their support for this budget, they will choose certain measures here and there, mentioning a given fantastic measure on a given page. They will probably choose measures that we agree with.
The main job creation and economic growth measures are not in the overall budget.
To come back to food inspection, we applaud one measure in particular, and that is adding inspectors to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. However, this measure speaks to the government's denial of certain situations.
It is good to add 200 inspectors and the equivalent of roughly $350 million or $360 million to improve food safety. The problem is that for two years, the government has been denying that its massive budget cuts have had any impact on food inspection. It is finally opening its eyes and including a measure in this budget to add 200 inspectors. What did they do for the 300 inspectors who have been laid off in the past two years? They did not say in their budget.
At the end of the day, we still have a lot of work to do to make this government realize that it has to have a direct hand in filling the gaps left by its previous budgets. It has to stop waiting two years to consider each major problem pointed out by the opposition.
I am also in favour of the measure to provide rural homes with high-speed broadband Internet access. I fully support that measure. Why did the government eliminate most of the Internet access programs that provided funding for using the Internet at rural libraries?
First, the government takes away an essential service from the rural regions for two or three years, and then it wakes up to the fact that the rural regions are suffering from this lack of access and decides to give them something. I look forward to seeing concrete results. Having 280,000 people connected to the Internet may seem like a lot, but countrywide it is not so much per riding.
We can get behind many measures that will be beneficial. The first budget implementation bill will probably be introduced in April. That is when we will be able to discuss it and see how the government would like to begin applying these measures.
Often the devil is in the details. If these measures are acceptable, we will support them in the Standing Committee on Finance. The government knows full well that the vote on budget implementation bills, like the vote on the budget itself, includes all the measures.
Although we can agree on some of the smaller measures that will be significant to the community, most of the major job creation and economic growth measures are just not in the budget.
I would like to close by talking about the government's approach to its different programs.
Take the job grant for example. Trying to connect the unemployed with jobs based on their skills is a noble objective. We agree. However, we are not talking about objectives; we are talking about how it is done. In terms of the job grant, which is a provincially run training program, the Minister of Finance said that it is the federal government's money and that it is going to spend that money as it pleases. Just imagine the resulting problems with implementing those key measures.
Once again, we agree that it is a good objective, but confronting the provinces in their own area of jurisdiction creates problems in implementing those measures. If those measures are needed now, the government members will agree with us that the provinces must be on board and consulted to ensure that the measures can be implemented as soon as possible.
Instead, what is the government doing? It is picking quarrels with the provinces. We saw all the provinces react right away. Let me say that they were also not happy with the Minister of Finance's comments after the budget was tabled. They did not understand.
This is not the only issue on which the Conservatives have failed to respect jurisdictions and to co-operate with the provinces. There is also the single securities commission. They have renamed it but it is still a move toward a centralized securities regulator. However, that too is an area of provincial jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court said so.
The federal government's role is to monitor the whole system, even though the provinces apply the rules. The provinces understand the importance of creating a synergy amongst themselves in order to ensure that we have a strong financial system that protects us, while creating as few obstacles as possible for investors.
The provinces work together. With a passport system, for example, an issue that creates a legal precedent can be recognized as case law in all provinces, and the accreditation of someone working in the field can be recognized across Canada, even if he or she works in one particular province. Co-operation among the provinces and the passport system have eliminated many obstacles.
Just imagine how quickly we could set up a system that would achieve the government's objectives, if it worked with the provinces that set up this system. Unfortunately, the government prefers its own system and is now looking for the provinces' co-operation. To date, only two provinces are working with the federal government while eight have declined.
How much time will we have to spend trying to convince some provinces that are not really willing to adopt this system, when we could have a system that would achieve the same objectives much more quickly if the government accepted the provinces' initiative?
That is not all. This budget would also eliminate the immigrant investor program. We can and should discuss the effectiveness of the program. However, in the end, the government made the decision without the provinces' agreement. Just yesterday, the Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, rejected the government's one-way initiative.
The government has no idea where it is currently headed or how a federation works. To achieve its objectives as quickly as possible, a federal government has to come to an agreement with the provincial governments and work with them. Instead, this government is being confrontational and as a result it will take much longer to develop the objectives and elements of good governance, even when that is possible.
In that sense, this budget clearly does not achieve the objective that a government should set for itself, that is, to focus government resources on economic growth and job creation.
They will talk it over and tell themselves that it can be done, but believe me, this budget will not meet any of its objectives. The only objective in this budget is the arbitrary objective to balance the budget in 2015, so that the Conservatives can hand out goodies and try to win over the Canadian public with their claims of good governance.
I guarantee you that the public will not be fooled and that at the next election in 2015 it will hear all about the lack of good governance.
Mr. Chungsen Leung (Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, first I wish to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
When I was a university student, one of the first words my professor in the economics department said was, “You cannot spend more than what you have taken in”. Economics is a very simple science. We have to balance what we take in with what we spend.
A couple of days ago, the finance minister indicated very clearly that we need to achieve a balanced budget and that it will be done through job creation, economic growth, and ensuring the long-term prosperity of Canada.
Let me also explain to members opposite, if they do not understand, microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics has to do with one's basic household budget. We cannot spend more than we earn. Businesses also cannot spend more than they earn, or else they go bankrupt.
I have served in public companies in the past. I have had to stand in front of my shareholders every year to explain the company's strategy to achieve a balanced budget and to put it in a profitable position year after year.
I think the minister has done an excellent job outlining to the nation, to corporate Canada, if we treat Canada as a corporation, in a macroeconomic sense, that we cannot spend more than we take in. I think that is the basic lesson we have to learn about the economy of this country.
In this balanced budget, there is another side that is not being explained at all by the members of the opposition. I do not think they quite understand the concept of assets and liabilities.
The country's assets are our human resources, our natural resources, and our ability to educate our youth so that they can carry on building this nation. Where we cannot internally generate these assets or wealth, we could have policies to bring in immigrants, entrepreneur immigrants, or we could set the most favourable, business-friendly conditions in Canada to attract those types of assets to Canada.
On the liability side, we have to spend in a measured way so that we do not overspend what we have. We can argue that, yes, we can sometimes, in a stimulus way, spend a little bit more, as we did in 2008-09, by borrowing from the future. However, at the end of the day, we have to balance the budget. That is absolutely key to the long-term survival of the economy of this country.
Let me drill down a bit to help my friends across the way understand what is needed to maintain these sustainable economic conditions.
We need to create a business-friendly environment. We need to have safe families. We need to have safe communities. We need to have healthy families. We need to educate our youth from day one until the point that they can contribute to our society. We need to have a stable government. We cannot be changing a government every year or every two years, as we have witnessed in Italy or in Thailand, where in the last 50 years, they have had 30 changes of government. That is not a stable economy for a business-friendly environment.
We need to attract direct foreign investment. Some tools the government has to attract direct foreign investment are low taxes and an investment-friendly environment so that foreign business will say that Canada is a great place to do business, and they will come here and invest.
Let me share something about Canada's tax system. Since the Conservatives have been in power, we have reduced taxes 160 times, from consumption taxes to corporate taxes and just about every kind of tax we can think of.
Our general federal corporate tax in Canada is 15%. This is probably one of the lowest of the G7 and, as a matter of fact, it is the lowest in the world. I used to do business in Hong Kong, where the corporate tax rate is 16.5%. We are even lower than Hong Kong.
Bloomberg and the IMF have agreed that Canada is now one of the best places to do business. We provide our labour, our families, with a very generous universal health system. We have one of the best education systems, which attracts hundreds of thousands of international students, also benefiting our economy.
As far as stimulus to our small and medium-size enterprises, which are the backbone of our economy, our tax rate for businesses under $500,000 is about 11%. I cannot think of a country with that generous a tax regime.
Something that we talk about a lot, and the member opposite alluded to, is the government spends $1 and it generates a 50% more multiplier effect. There are many ways to look at this multiplier effect. In a business sense, if we look at the accelerated capital cost allowance, Canada has a very generous accelerated capital cost allowance. This allows businesses to modernize and to upgrade their equipment so they can be competitive in the 21st century.
We have mineral exploration credits so we could have these minerals more effectively explored and then sell them as products around the world. We have scientific research and development credits that assist our corporations to engage in research and innovation and eventually to take that quantum leap from innovation to commercialization. All of these we have to do effectively with the multiplier effect of our generous tax credit.
Opposition members seem to imply that our government is not compassionate with our spending policy. That is totally wrong. Let me share some of the examples where we are totally compassionate on this side.
We have the arts credit to encourage our youth to participate in the arts and to develop their literary and musical side. We have a fitness credit to encourage Canadians to be fit. We have a mass transit credit to encourage Canadians to use mass transit to reduce pollution in our environment. We have a live-in caregiver credit to allow seniors to live a dignified life in their own homes so they are not ending up in hospitals, old age homes, or totally alone. We have disability credits of many sorts that assist people who are hard of hearing, sight-impaired, and with other disabilities. All of these are totally compassionate measures of our government to recognize the needs of our citizens.
In the budget we also introduced the search and rescue volunteer credit to recognize the good work volunteers do in our society. There is also the adoption expense credit. We recognize that in today's world, many families are unable to have children, so we propose to reduce their adoption costs. There is also the medical expense credit.
The opposition also mentioned the immigrant investment program that we propose to delete. The immigrant investment program as it has existed for 30 years has not worked. At $800,000 it brings in only jobs like convenience stores, dry cleaners, and small grocery stores. These do not work. We will implement a new investor immigrant venture capital fund that would bring money into Canada and we would treat it almost like the CBC's Dragon's Den.
All the economic elements are there for a balanced budget.
Mr. Jay Aspin (Nipissing—Timiskaming, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to give my full support to economic action plan 2014.
This year's budget will continue Canada's global fiscal leadership. We have been leading the G7 in job creation and debt-to-GDP for some time now. This budget will deliver job creation and debt reduction, which are our government's key priorities. Reducing the debt plays a key role in job creation as it reduces government expense burdens, allowing for more spending on programs and support, and for job creation.
The budget also sends a strong signal of stability to businesses and investors. These financial management policies have elevated Canada to be one of the best places in the world to conduct business. Canada is envied around the world.
Most importantly, our government has achieved this result responsibly, not on the backs of taxpayers or with irresponsible fire-sales of important government assets. There will be no reduction in health care, equalization, or other transfers. In fact, they have all risen. In particular, the Province of Ontario will receive $19.2 billion in support from Ottawa in 2014–15, a 56% increase since our government took power in 2006.
Whereas the opposition parties have continued to push for excess and irresponsible spending, our government has stayed the course, invested in job-creating infrastructure and initiatives, and consistently decreased the tax burden on Canadian families. On average, Canadian families pay $3,400 less in taxes every year as a result of our government's initiatives and commitment to making sure Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets.
This budget is focused on key initiatives to keep our economy growing. I would like to cite a few measures in particular that mean a lot to my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming.
First and foremost, the continued support for FedNor. FedNor, as members know, particularly in northern Ontario, plays a critical role in economic development. Since May 2011, I have been very successful in working with FedNor, and I am pleased that the funding has been secured in the budget.
Second, I argued along with my colleagues in northern Ontario for a fund targeted to small municipalities. I am hopeful that the announcement this afternoon will bear some fruit as part of the building Canada fund. These funds are important. These funds are for roads, bridges, and older water pipes.
Just over $300 million will be invested in broadband Internet access infrastructure in rural and northern Canada. This is an important measure. This is key for many residents in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming. With this infrastructure, 98% of Canadians will have broadband access. That is quite a feat.
Apprentices in red-seal programs will gain access to over $100 million in interest-free loans of up to $4,000. This is golden for my riding. Twenty-six thousand Canadian apprentices will benefit and help close the skills gap in Canada. Local businesses have complained about skills shortages, and this will help them meet the demand and create new jobs.
In the next few months, the federal government will complete and launch the Canada jobs grant. This program will indeed be an important measure in my community. Canadians and businesses will have access to training grants of up to $15,000, a key measure in the continued growth and development of our workforce.
Our federal government is committed to ensuring Canadians have access to job and skills training, and it will not allow politics to deny Canadians access to the training needed to gain employment.
The fifth measure that is indeed important for my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming is innovation, research, and youth employment.
During a presentation last night by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, it indicated that we are among the world's leaders in innovation. It encourages our government to step up and keep up that pace.
There will be the establishment of a Canada first research excellence fund; $1.5 billion over the next decade will go to universities and post-graduate programs that would generate long-term economic opportunities for Canada; and up to $40 million will go to 3,000 youth internships, which will target youth unemployment in Canada as well as in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming; and an additional $15 million for up to 1,000 internships in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Therefore, Canada is on the right track. However, we need to remain focused, stay on course, and fulfill our commitments to Canadians.
I am proud of this budget. I am proud to support it. The federal government is on the right track to balanced budgets, continued low taxes, and continued global financial leadership.
Mr. Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I need to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I am looking forward to that, after my speech is over.
The important thing to talk about in this budget is that it reminds me of one of my favourite television shows from the mid 1990s to the end of the 1990s, which was Seinfeld. Seinfeld was a show about nothing. It was a show about lots of blunder and lots of talk, but it was really about nothing, which is the same thing we have seen with this budget.
There was not a heck of a lot in the budget. It really comes down to choices and priorities. On this side of the House, we think the government's choices and priorities are wrong.
Are there a few good things in the budget? Of course there are. There are some things that we have been calling for, like rural and northern Broadbent—I mean, broadband. That was a Freudian slip.
The importance of broadband for northern and rural communities is something we have been stating all along, especially as we have seen the failure of the spectrum auction that the government has been putting out over the last year. We need broadband to grow our economy in the north, especially in northern cities and in rural communities.
Let us look at that and what the government did when it comes to the food inspectors. In the budget, we have 200 new food inspectors. That is fantastic. That is great. However, why is it that we get 200 new food inspectors when the government cut 300? We had to go through the biggest meat recall crisis in our country's history. We had the listeriosis meat recall. It just keeps showing that, when the government cuts and cuts and then makes the announcement that is putting 200 food inspectors in, it is just a falsehood.
When we talk about nothing, we are talking about a do-nothing budget. Areas of northern Ontario, such as the great city of Sudbury that I represent, as well as Thunder Bay and Rainy River and all of the great communities that I can think of there, are not mentioned in the budget. The two words do not come together.
My hon. colleague from Nipissing—Timiskaming talked earlier about FedNor, saying that the status quo is good enough. Actually, the status quo is not good enough. When we are keeping the Ring of Fire at bay because there is a lack of leadership, that is not good enough for northern Ontarians. We need the government to act on, to jump on, and to support economic growth in northern Ontario, but this budget does not do it.
There is also no mention of any infrastructure projects. It is as if the government completely forgot that northern Ontario existed.
Small businesses, again, are very important. We on this side of the House and maybe everyone in the House will agree that small businesses are the economic drivers and job creators in this country. However, the government eliminated the small business hiring credit. The Conservatives are turning their backs on job creation. The HCSB affects around 560,000 businesses across the country, and it generally captured companies with roughly 20 to 35 employees or fewer. The HCSB was estimated to cost around $225 million annually.
Even when the Conservatives decided to include small business related measures in the budget, it was only in vague terms. For example, once again, business owners are left waiting for real action to combat something that we, on this side of the House, have been fighting on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis: the highest credit card processing fees in the world.
What is in the budget? To address the high cost of fees merchants pay banks to process credit cards, the government will consult on how to best disclose the cost of different payment methods. I repeat, consult. There are no further details or timelines. While we do not have a problem with such disclosure, the NDP is calling for stronger measures to address uncompetitive practices in the market.
It is not just the NDP that is calling for this. There are groups out there saying action is needed now. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association asked why we need to talk about this again and why the Conservatives need to consult about an issue that the organization and many others have been talking about for years.
Every time we see the interchange rate or these swipe fees go up, it not only affects small business owners, but every single Canadian. For every single Canadian, the price of whatever product they are buying goes up because the credit card companies continue to increase these rates. When they increase these rates, small business owners have two choices. First, they can eat the cost and then, unfortunately, have to close their doors, which none of us want to see, and stop accepting credit cards. In this day and age, credit cards are almost a public utility. Second, they can increase the price of their products to offset the cost that is being paid.
We can have action now on this. We waited until July of 2013 to hear from the Competition Tribunal to act on many of these anti-competitive practices that have been implemented by the credit card companies and the banks. The Competition Tribunal then ruled that they cannot make the decision, that this is a political decision that needs to come back to Parliament. Since July, we have been waiting for action, and what we get from the government is more consultation.
That relates right back to this do-nothing budget. It is a matter of waiting until next year when the government says it will actually have a surplus, and then the government will act. However, if we look at the numbers, which even the Minister of Finance said, we could have been in a surplus this year. Now Canadian businesses and families have to wait another year before they will see any action on this and many other things that would save Canadians' pocketbooks, making life more affordable for them right now.
One of my other Conservative colleagues mentioned in his speech that we need to ensure that consumers have a balanced budget at home. Right now, Canadians have skyrocketing household debt. We could have taken action on many things that could have helped Canadian consumers right now, such as capping ATM fees. That is one. We had that debate here last week. That would keep more money in the pockets of Canadian consumers. While that would not address the household debt, it would still be a small piece in an overall puzzle to ensure that we are keeping money in the pockets of Canadians. That is one example.
What about ending the pay-to-pay billing program that we are seeing for many of the large institutions? I believe that is on page 175 of the budget, but it only seems to be going after the banks on this one. That is great, but what about all of the other ones? We need to have more details on that to ensure that we are not gouging low-income earners and seniors, who are mostly the ones affected by a pay-to-pay program. The pay-to-pay program is very simple: people who are getting paper bills are now being charged $2 by some of these organizations to receive them. Some would say it is only $2, but if we start adding it up, 10 or 15 bills per month multiplied by 12 months add up to a couple of hundred dollars. For seniors, that is rent or food on the table. There is a lot more we could do to address those types of issues.
There are many things we could have done with this budget. If the Conservatives had actually listened to some of our ideas and used them, we could have truly helped Canadians now.
One of the issues I am hearing about quite often in my riding relates to veterans. The veterans in my riding and the great citizens of Sudbury are actually appalled at what happened to veterans over the last few weeks. We are seeing offices close. This was an opportunity for us to act on making a difference in the lives of veterans. Keeping these offices open would have been paramount for so many of them.
The citizens that I am hearing from in my riding were appalled at the closure that happened and would have liked to see this budget act on that. Unfortunately, the choices and priorities of the government really did not consider veterans. If we look at small businesses, consumers, and veterans, the priorities and choices of the government are wrong, and by 2015, hopefully, the government will be like a Seinfeld episode, with a lot of reruns.
Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to speak to budget 2014. Having looked at the budget, unfortunately, I find it a cynical document with nothing in it to address the most urgent needs of Canadians.
I cannot find anything in the budget for child care. I cannot find anything for affordable housing, I cannot find anything for veterans, and I cannot find anything that would help make life more affordable for ordinary families in this country.
Instead, the Conservatives have tabled a political document, one that is much more concerned with setting the stage for an election budget in 2015 than it is in meeting the real needs of Canadians.
The Conservatives are unfortunately continuing down the austerity path, with large, though quiet, cuts in government expenditures. These would result in job losses in communities all across the country and reductions in critical government services.
It seems clear that the Conservatives have held back on announcing a balanced budget, both to justify further cuts in services and then to allow them to present an election year budget with whatever tax cuts or new expenditures the Conservatives would think might convince voters to forget their poor economic performance and re-elect them. No matter how much they try to hide that record, we know there are 300,000 more unemployed in Canada now than before the recession. Moreover, federal debt is at an all-time high, and Canada is running all-time high trade deficits. So much for the Conservatives being better managers of the economy.
Where are the incentives for job creation in the budget? New Democrats have proposed practical measures to help Canadians get back to work, like job creation tax credits for youth and small business. Instead, the budget perpetuates the chaos in job training programs and seems likely to prolong a dispute with the provinces over job training. In the meantime, what will we see? I am expecting more ads for non-existent programs.
We have also heard the Conservatives in the last couple of days repeatedly ridicule the leader of the third party for his statement that budgets can somehow balance themselves. While it is, I admit, a somewhat unusual statement, I think it is actually one that describes well the Conservative approach to employment, where they seem to believe that jobs will create themselves and that the government has no role in trying to help make sure Canadians have those family supporting jobs they are looking for.
At a time when we have seen several economists come forward to point out the obvious, that the historical record of austerity budgets is that they never lead to growth and prosperity, we can only wonder where we would actually be now in this country if the minority government situation in Canada had not forced the Conservatives to adopt a stimulus program in the early days of the recession. However, in this budget, we can see that the Conservatives have reverted to their ideological form and are now back to trying to cut their way to prosperity.
There are also some other ways in which the budget reverts to form for the Conservatives. This is also a budget with no mention of climate change. Instead, there is money to speed up project approvals at the National Energy Board, with some $28 million over two years. This, of course, is a confirmation of the intention of the Conservative government to continue down the wrong path of over-investment in the fossil fuel industries, which are, of course, major contributors to global warming. The budget fails to eliminate the ongoing subsidies to big oil and in fact expands them with the introduction of further tax breaks for offshore oil and gas exploration.
What would New Democrats like to see instead? We would like to see restoration of the eco-energy retrofit program. It would not only put us on a path toward more sustainable energy, but also help homeowners reduce their energy bills, making it easier to make ends meet at the end of the month.
Some of my colleagues on the other side might ask, is there nothing positive I can see in this budget? I will admit there are a few things here that may be positive. I say that with reservation, because I too often have seen references to things the government intends to do that have either failed to materialize or have been so deluded to have little real impact on the economy.
Still, I am glad to see a promise to do something about pay-to-pay billing. I am glad to see money to expand access to high-speed Internet in rural and remote areas, and I am glad to see interest-free loans for those in the red seal apprenticeship programs.
I am also glad to see the government re-investing in food safety, and I am glad to see this promise to re-hire 200 food inspectors. I have to remind the government that this is necessary, because it previously cut more than 300 inspectors in its ill-advised shift to an approach where companies inspect themselves. This is the same approach it tried to apply to rail safety, which has resulted in tragedies like those we saw in Lac-Mégantic in Quebec.
Although I am prepared to recognize a few good things, I have to say that these are far outweighed by some important cuts that will have a heavy impact on constituents in my riding. While this is generally a do-nothing budget, and I agree that is true, there are some things here that will have real impacts.
One of those things is the attack on the supplemental health benefits of retired public servants. I have more than 1,000 retired public servants living in my riding, who have written to me with concerns about the government's treatment of their future. The Conservatives are unfairly doubling the health care costs of a large group of seniors who already live on fixed incomes. They made their plans based on a good faith bargain that was struck with the government. That has been betrayed by the Conservative government, and they have no way to respond because they are already retired. This will cause very serious problems.
I heard a member on the other side, in debate, say that they can choose not to have extended health benefits. Of course, we know what that will lead to, which is probably financial disaster for seniors without extended health care benefits.
Another serious problem in my riding is the two-year freeze on spending in all government departments. We know that annual operating costs will inevitably increase. This freeze will result in across-the-board reductions in important government services and mounting job losses, whether through attrition or lay-offs. We have seen the Department of National Defence put off capital expenditures that it promised, which will lead to the delay of purchase and delivery of important equipment to the Canadian Forces.
Another thing we have seen in this budget is a renewed attack on charities and trade unions. It is clear that the Conservative government is bound and determined to use bureaucratic witch hunts to go after those it perceives to be its enemies.
As I am concerned that I have limited time to talk about this budget, I want to go back to what I think is missing from it. There are many things, easy things, that are not high cost, that the Conservative government could have done to help families make ends meet at the end of the month.
In this budget, we find no cap on ATM fees. In the debate on ATM fees, again and again I heard Conservatives stand up and say they did not understand what the problem was. Why did people not just go to their own bank?
I can tell members that there are parts of my riding where people do not have a bank. They are forced to depend on these cash machines that charge up to $6.00 or $7.00 for withdrawals.
There is nothing in this budget on excessive credit card fees. I am not just talking about consumers here, but both consumers and small business. These excessive credit card fees contribute to the skyrocketing profits of banks and reduced bottom lines for small businesses. When many families run out of money at the end of the month, they do not really have a choice other than to use the credit card to buy necessities, and they end up paying these high fees.
There is nothing in this budget that restores services to veterans. In my riding, which is a very large military riding, I sat down with veterans at the Legion, along with my NDP leader, just after Remembrance Day. We met with injured veterans and heard their very personal stories of how tough it is for them, and how tough it will be when they lose face-to-face services that they need to help them with serious operational health injuries, including mental health injuries.
Instead, in this budget we see that the government intends to press ahead with its closures and reductions of service for veterans. Its line, which I frankly find insulting to veterans, is to say that there are basically 600 phone lines, or offices that veterans can go to, which have no specialization in their needs and, in practice, are unable to help them.
There is nothing in this budget to address skyrocketing household debt, advance public safety, and there is no commitment to expand the renewable energy sector. The renewable energy sector is one that creates far more jobs in communities across the country per dollar of capital expenditure than does investing in big oil and gas. There is nothing for the millions of Canadians who are looking for those good family-supporting jobs, which so often disappear from our local economies.
What we have is a do-nothing budget. It is a political document designed to give room to the Conservatives to try to bribe Canadians with their own money to vote for them again in 2015. I could not be more disappointed in the Conservatives' record and this budget.
Mr. LaVar Payne (Medicine Hat, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
It is a great privilege for me to stand in this House today and speak to economic action plan 2014, which is appropriately titled “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”.
Our Conservative government has one of the best track records for economic growth and management of national debt in the developed world. We are the envy of many nations around the world who wonder how it is that Canada has done so well.
I think there are a variety of reasons for this, but first and foremost, the leadership and sound fiscal management that our Prime Minister has shown throughout his time in office has had a major impact. I continue to be very proud of the Prime Minister and his efforts. I know of no other leader who has shown such tenacity in making sure that our beloved Canada stays on the right track and eliminates the deficit as promised. In a related subject, I would like to thank our extremely hard-working Minister of Finance. With his economic action plan 2014, he has delivered his tenth budget. The minister continues to do excellent work for Canadians, and we are looking forward to his continuing guidance and leadership as well.
With these things said, this is yet another good plan for Canadians. This is a budget that Canadians can be proud of. This plan will get us back on track and in the black, as promised. Canada will be deficit-free at the federal level by next year, which is the icing on the cake.
This budget is great for the people of my home province of Alberta, as well as the people in my riding of Medicine Hat, which I am so very proud to represent in Ottawa. This budget is indeed good news for my constituents. There are a number of initiatives that will be beneficial to them, and I appreciate the opportunity to enumerate some of those in the time I have today.
I think one of the bigger pieces that applies is with respect to first nations education. I was pleased to attend the announcement last week, near Lethbridge, of the first nations control of first nations education bill, with the Prime Minister and my colleagues. This positive step forward is being highly praised. It is one of those cases where the consultation process worked very well to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.
This bill will mean that first nations students from kindergarten to grade 12 on reserve will have access to accountable and higher education. I am pleased that our government has decided to move forward with these important reforms.
With the economic action plan, we are pledging to reduce the regulatory burden. We will do this through the red tape reduction plan so that small and medium-sized businesses can save time and money. I know that a number of initiatives to reduce red tape have been implemented and have been a boon to small business owners in the Medicine Hat riding. These are things like the one-for-one rule, which means that for every new regulatory burden that is placed on small business, one must be removed.
Another important piece of the budget that will increase economic activity in my riding is a plan to reduce barriers within Canada. This will help local businesses that may be considering markets. One of the best markets is right here at home, and we need to do everything we can in our power as federal legislators to ensure we are not obstructing trade within our own country.
We have already made some progress on this file, with multi-party support. I make reference to the highly praised legislation that was introduced and worked on tirelessly by my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla. Thanks to his efforts, the federal restrictions on having wine delivered from other provinces have been removed, and now the ball is in the province's court to act. Our government will continue with these initiatives to foster internal trade between provinces.
With respect to support for farmers, we will continue to hold the best interests of farmers at heart as we craft public policy. I know that many of my farmers are more than satisfied with our government's record on delivering results for people in the agriculture sector. I know that many wheat producers are very pleased that our government got rid of the single-desk at the Canadian Wheat Board. They now have the same rights as wheat and barley farmers in all provinces east of Manitoba.
We will continue to support them with programs, such as the new pilot price insurance program for cattle and hog producers in western Canada. I know that many of my hog producers remember the crisis of the late nineties and early 2000 in their industry. Indeed, that was a dark hour. However, they are resilient folk and they stuck through the lean times. This pilot project will offer insurance against unexpected price declines within a production cycle.
We will also support farmers by extending the tax deferral for livestock to include bees, and all horses over 12 months, that are kept for breeding when sold due to drought or excess moisture.
With respect to the review process for pipeline projects, we will provide $28 million to the National Energy Board to ensure that project applications are reviewed in a comprehensive and timely manner. This is going to be important to my constituents, and indeed all Albertans. As we are aware, Alberta is the energy heartland of Canada. We need to ensure there is a fair process that is implemented within an appropriate amount of time.
We will be taking steps with economic action plan 2014 to strengthen our justice system. In Alberta, we would create two new positions on the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in order to ensure justice in our communities.
Economic action plan 2014 also supports the implementation of a long-awaited victims' bill of rights. Our government has always stood up for the rights of victims of crime when other parties have failed to do so. I am so very proud of our commitment to supporting victims with economic action plan 2014. We have also pledged $8.1 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to create a DNA-based missing persons index. Once created, it would help bring closure to the families of missing persons through DNA matching.
We are committed to investing over $150 million over the next five years to enhance the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's food safety programs to ensure that Canada's food supply is safe. I know that will speak to many of the meat packers that rely on that industry in my riding. It also reaffirms our government's commitment to ensure that Canada continues to have one of the highest-rated food safety systems in the world.
With this new funding, the CFIA expects to hire 200 new inspectors and other staff, develop programs that would minimize food safety risks, and enhance Canada's capacity to prevent unsafe food from entering Canada, which would offer better protection for consumers.
One program that has been popular in the Medicine Hat riding is the new horizons for seniors program, which allows more seniors to be active in their community. We would be allocating another $5 million through this economic action plan.
One of the major initiatives announced in this plan is new tax relief for search and rescue workers. We introducing the search and rescue volunteers tax credit in recognition of the important role played by those who put themselves at risk for the security and safety of our communities. I know there are some folks back in my riding who are very active in search and rescue efforts when needed. I think they would definitely take advantage of this tax credit. I hope they will.
We experienced some very heavy flooding last year in Alberta, as is well documented. With this economic action plan, our government would provide up to $200 million to establish a national disaster mitigation program to better protect Canadians and their communities from natural disasters.
For Alberta, total major transfers would be $5.2 billion in 2014-15, including $3.7 billion through the Canada health transfer, which would be an increase of 129% since 2005-06, under the previous Liberal administration. It would also include $1.5 billion through the Canada social transfer, which would be an increase of almost 148% since 2005-06.
Our budget has a major component that focuses on training. We would create the Canada apprenticeship loan, which would provide apprentices in red seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans.
We would also be investing $75 million targeted for older workers.
A topic of interest, especially as of late, has been our continued commitment to our Canadian veterans. I know there has been a certain amount of misinformation out there and I want to ensure that the record is set straight. Our government has invested billions of dollars on programs for our veterans since we came into office in 2006. In the 2012-13 year alone, we spent approximately $3.1 billion in direct support for our veterans and their families.
In economic action plan 2014, we would be implementing our priority hiring of veterans strategy. Essentially, in recognition of their service to Canada, our Conservative government is proposing to enhance employment opportunities in the federal public service for medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel by creating a statutory hiring priority in the Public Service Employment Act. This would mean there would be a statutory hiring priority for armed forces personnel who are medically released for service-related reasons.
There is a large Canadian Forces base in my riding, CFB Suffield. I am proud that our government is continuing to stand up for our veterans and for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Our government has put Canada on a sound financial footing and continues to ensure that we stay on top as we work to pull our great country out of the great recession. Our record thus far speaks for itself: over one million net new jobs created, many of those in the private sector; low debt-to-GDP ratio; and relatively low unemployment. We have lowered taxes by putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.
With this in mind, I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues.
Mr. Costas Menegakis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House today to highlight some of the many positive measures contained in economic action plan 2014.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the great people of Richmond Hill for giving me the privilege of representing them in the House and for their trust and confidence.
Canada's economic action plan is working. Over one million net new jobs, the vast majority being in the private sector and high-wage occupations, have been created since the trough of the recession. These include 15,000 jobs in Richmond Hill and 86,000 jobs in the York region in the manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, professional and business service sectors, and more. It is because of the focus of our government on what matters most to my constituents in Richmond Hill and to all Canadians, that being jobs and economic growth, that Canada boasts the strongest job creation record of all the G7 countries, and importantly, Canada's total government net debt burden remains the lowest by far of any G7 country and among the lowest of the advanced G20 countries.
That is why I am thrilled that economic action plan 2014 maintains its focus on strengthening our economy while keeping taxes low and returning to a balanced budget by 2015.
Balancing the books is essential to our long-term prosperity. Our long-standing belief that a sound fiscal position is essential for Canada's long-term economic growth is the driving force behind economic action plan 2014.
The actions in economic action plan 2014 will not only return us to budgetary balance by 2015 but will produce savings totalling $9.1 billion over the next six years. These savings are in addition to our previous actions taken since budget 2010. These actions over the last four years, including 160 different tax reductions and lowering federal tax to levels not seen in 50 years, benefit Canadians every single day.
At the same time, we are supporting the sustainability of the services and programs Canadians rely on and inspiring investor confidence. We are making record transfer payments to the provinces and territories. For example, transfers in Ontario are currently $19.2 billion per year from the federal government. This is an increase of 76% from what they were under the old Liberal government.
These actions have all contributed to making Canada a recognized leader on the world economic stage for prudent fiscal management. Canada has recently leapt from sixth to second in Bloomberg's list of the best places in the world to do business. This is an incredible accomplishment.
The height of the global economic crisis in fiscal year 2009-10 was not that long ago. That same year, at the urging of and with the support of the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, our government took a deficit of $55 billion. That spending was necessary to pull Canada out of the depths of the deep and sudden recession, and it worked. Owing to the prudent actions of our government prior to that global economic collapse, when we paid down $37 billion worth of debt that we had inherited from the Liberal government, we had the room to react quickly when it was required to do so.
The complete elimination of a $55 billion deficit in just five years is nothing short of amazing, and I thank the world's greatest Minister of Finance for that historic accomplishment. Balancing the budget and reducing debt will allow tax dollars to be spent on more important programs instead of interest costs. It will strengthen our ability to respond to longer-term challenges, such as an unexpected global economic shock or an aging population.
Indeed, economic action plan 2014 steps up to the plate in response to the reality of a looming older demographic. For example, $5 million has been allocated annually to the new horizons for seniors program. This is in addition to the current allocation. The new horizons program has been incredibly successful in Richmond Hill. It has provided funding for community-based projects that encourage seniors to share their skills and experience with others and it allows them to benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in the community.
By providing a way for seniors to mentor others, volunteer, and enjoy and benefit from social and educational opportunities, new horizons for seniors is improving the quality of life of our seniors in Canada from coast to coast to coast.
Our Conservative government recognizes the challenges many working Canadians face in balancing their work obligations with caring for an infirm or older adult at home. In response, we would launch a Canadian employers for caregivers plan that would identify promising workplace practices that support caregivers.
We also know that small businesses are crucial to Richmond Hill's economy, to Canadian communities across the country, and to Canada's long-term prosperity. We are firmly committed to delivering both lower taxes and less red tape.
I am pleased that economic action plan 2014 would provide further support for our small businesses and entrepreneurs so that they could create even more jobs in our communities. For example, the reductions in the small business tax rate to 11% and increases in the small business income limit to $500,000 would provide small businesses with approximately $2.2 billion in tax relief in 2014. That is money that could be invested in equipment and new jobs.
The need to cut business red tape was consistently one of the top recommendations I heard at my Richmond Hill pre-budget consultations. I will be pleased to tell them that cutting unnecessary red tape is exactly what this budget would commit to doing. In so doing, entrepreneurs would have more time to focus on what they do best: creating jobs and economic growth.
During our pre-budget consultations, small businesses told us that now is not the time to increase CPP or EI premiums. I am pleased that our budget would maintain the levels at 2013 levels.
The business sector in my riding is pleased with this support. I was happy to receive an email yesterday from the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce that said:
|| This budget presents the continuity of a plan for economic growth that builds on Canada's economic and fiscal advantages. The measures announced by the government will help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.
Also high on the list of recommendations from my residents was an investment in skills training, beyond that of just resumé or interview preparation, that would actually provide the on-the-job training necessary for new employees to succeed. I am happy to tell them that the new Canada job grant would be launched to better align training with labour market needs.
Employers have told us that they would support skills training in a way that is easy to access and that has minimal red tape. The Canada job grant would do just that by taking into account the flexibility employers need. Businesses with a plan to train unemployed Canadians would receive two-thirds of the cost, up to $10,000, in government contributions.
The federal government is working closely with provinces and territories toward the implementation of the Canada job grant and the renewal of labour market agreements. In jurisdictions where agreements are not secured, the Government of Canada would deliver the Canada job grant starting April 1, 2014, directly through Service Canada.
I would also like to highlight that a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities would also come into effect. Over the next four years, we would provide $222 million annually through those transfers, to be matched by the provinces and territories, to better meet the needs of people with disabilities.
There are many other ways economic action plan 2014 would benefit Canadians. It would take additional steps to support the charitable sector, improve the health of Canadians, support our arts and cultural communities, honour our veterans, and help Canadians in need. It would strengthen the regulatory environment and provide the basis for the implementation of an expression-of-interest economic immigration system to support Canada's labour markets.
As it has been mentioned elsewhere, our plan to return to balanced budgets is not an end unto itself but a means to increase Canada's economic potential, improve employment opportunities for all Canadians, and raise our standard of living.
On behalf of my constituents in Richmond Hill, I look forward to the speedy passage and implementation of economic action plan 2014. I call on all members of the House to support its passage.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be sharing my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead with regard to this debate on the budget.
In the first moments, I want to note that this budget comes with an interesting caveat. I heard the Conservatives complain many times that the Liberals were building in contingency funds and surpluses and money that would be used for political advantage later on.
There is a “$3-billion risk adjustment” included in this budget. At the same time, with regard to this budget, there is some hypocrisy relative to the past in this chamber. The Conservatives were very clear about saying that. It was the Jean Chrétien government in particular, with Paul Martin as finance minister, that liked to do this. It always had a contingency fund, and all of a sudden, magical money would show up at the last minute. Ironically, it often happened just prior to an election year.
It seems to me that this is going to be the path, if we believe the numbers we have in front of us.
Every budget has some good things. When members of Parliament come to this chamber for budget day, they have been working all year advocating and pushing for different items, whether it be in their constituencies, in Ottawa, at committee, in the chamber here, or in the hallways. All these issues deal with our one Canada. Unfortunately, it appears that over the last number of years, when the Conservatives have talked about money, programs, and services, they have talked about it as if it is their own money. It is not. It is Canadian taxpayers' money, and the Canadian taxpayers deserve accountability for it, which comes from every single one of the members who sit in this chamber.
This budget has some good things in it. I would say that money for the Windsor–Detroit border crossing is positive. I will go into some issues related to how it is being dispensed, but it is a positive step forward. There are some challenges with some of the practices, and the vulnerabilities are significant.
We also have some positive auto announcements in this budget. Thanks to the government, it is having to renew early, way ahead of time, a program the New Democrats said was deficient, because the industry is telling it that they need to be at the table. Unfortunately, we are in a reactive mode as opposed to a proactive mode. That is a change we would like to see.
With regard to my community, some interesting things took place after the last budget. We saw the erosion of significant services that are affecting our economy. We saw some significant closures of offices that affect Canadians from different walks of life: seniors, persons with disabilities, veterans, business owners, and business operators. All are being affected by a shortsighted attempt to attack our public service and an ideological drive for across-the-board cuts. That is not a business plan for managing a nation, departments, and economic and social activity in this country. It is an ideological drive just to reduce costs, and it does not always do that.
I would point out that one of the significant cuts we have had in the Windsor region was the loss of our mail sorting. Our mail sorting used to be done more efficiently in Windsor than anywhere else. It had an excellent record for many years, and we lost all of that. Instead of being done in Windsor, the mail is now stacked up on trucks, sent to London on Highway 401, which is crowded as it is and which affects the infrastructure, through all kinds of inclement weather. It is sorted and brought back to Windsor, where it is finally redistributed back to the businesses and homeowners. We have seen a significant change in the turnaround of mail. That is to the detriment of our businesses and citizens who use the service.
Now we see the attack on home delivery. Despite the post office having made a profit 17 out of the last 18 years, we are going to lose home delivery. Then we are actually going to have the cost of delayed mail service. There will be a cost to that.
Retail has things at the end of their aisles, loss leaders, which are a particular service or item that may not make money but leads to other economic activity. I would argue that our postal service is the same thing, even though it does make money almost all of the time. We saw the loss of that service and it affected us as well.
The Consulate General of Canada office is closed in Detroit. We have one of the highest diversity rates in immigration in my constituency and yet one cannot go into the Walker Road immigration office as a member of the public. People are not allowed there unless they are being sworn in. People cannot go in and check on their case anymore. The office does not open its doors. This is despite the fact that the immigration cases that we process directly affect our economy and our social vibrancy because those individuals are in a holding pattern until their cases are processed. When they are finally done, we are talking about employment opportunities, school for children, and family reunification. We are talking about the individual and the family being able to move on.
We have seen cuts to front-line services, like the CBSA. A government that is supposed to be tough on crime has taken away front-line officers who work in counter-intelligence to break cases and also stop guns, drugs, and smuggling into Canada. We have seen cuts in other areas.
Thank goodness, one of the positive things we have in the budget is the increase in food inspections. However, that came because hundreds were laid off before that, as deregulation was attempted in an industry that is very important for our export economy.
One of the most significant closures we have seen is our veterans office. Our veterans office in Windsor had activity of approximately 4,000 cases per year. We had 13 workers. It cost $1 million and was worth every cent. It is closed now. Our veterans are not happy with this. It was a place where they could go with dignity and privacy to have their case examined.
Why does the government want to cut these offices across Windsor, only saving a little on the surface, and force our veterans to alternative services that just do not meet the same needs?
At Service Canada there is no privacy. They do not know the veteran's case file and veterans are often rerouted somewhere else. It does not work. As for the promise that they can be visited at home, as a former social worker I can say that home visits are a very serious thing to consider. There is not only the safety of the individual, they have to be comfortable with someone coming to their home, but there are also other issues to ensure the integrity of the service provided for both parties and other complications. Our caseworkers are going to have to drive from London, Ontario, which means per diems, costs, longer waiting times, and all those things.
I spent a lot of time talking about those cuts, but I want to conclude with this. The border crossing and the auto funds in Windsor are critically important. However, we want to see them done with accountability, and we will be pressing the government on those accountability issues. We were there from the beginning and we will see it through to the end, but it is going to be transparent. It is going to be done the proper way, and we are going to make sure that taxpayers get what they deserve.
Mr. Jean Rousseau:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to apologize to my colleagues. I misspoke and I apologize. What I said was inappropriate. Thank you for the reminder.
However, what is going on right now is a national catastrophe. The Conservatives show no regard for the environment. They ignore climate change and have absolutely no use for science. Now, they are targeting people and workers all across Canada. That is unacceptable. Perhaps that is why I got carried away and misspoke.
GDP growth has been going down after each budget, year after year. Why? Because the government is not thinking about stimulating the economy. It has not developed the framework and the environment needed to stimulate and diversify Canada's economy. That is evident everywhere, especially in the rural regions. Rural regions are doing especially poorly, since the government has abandoned the pioneering sectors that helped build our country, such as forestry and agriculture. Furthermore, it is cutting employment insurance, a program that is meant to be there during tough times, when people are transitioning between jobs. Once again, from coast to coast, rural economies are in jeopardy because the government is not supporting workers during these transitional periods.
We currently have $618 billion of national debt. We had a $20 billion surplus and now, over the past few years, we have had a $60 billion deficit. Debt has increased by nearly $130 billion in recent years. That is unacceptable. This has all happened at the expense of public services. The government has cut essential services for veterans, employment insurance and social housing, which is essential in our urban communities. Not necessarily in rural areas, but certainly in urban areas. The government has also completely ignored public transit. I think members can understand why some ministers are considered as sinister. I apologize, but it is what it is. That is what people are telling me. They are disappointed. They seriously think that this is a violation of their rights and freedoms. Why? Because 39% of people voted for this government, which means that 61% of the people who voted in the 2011 election did not vote for this government. When the time comes to draft a budget and create programs to stimulate the economy, the government abandons people.
We have talked more than once about the need to address the high costs that retailers pay banks to process credit card transactions, as my colleague who spoke before me mentioned. The only thing the government can come up with is to hold consultations to determine the best way to disclose these costs.
What we want are much stricter, more draconian measures to fight these practices that are costing consumers because the costs are passed down to them after all. Again, if the government wants to stimulate the retail economy then it will have to address these costs one of these days.
I was talking about workers' rights earlier. Cutting the public service, the services that Canadians are entitled to, by attacking the pay and benefits that have been negotiated over the past few decades is an affront.
It is no wonder that occupational illnesses are on the rise, especially in the public service. The workplace is no longer healthy. It has become unbearable, including for some employment insurance officers who are under pressure because of quotas that are forcing them to attack people who are entitled to benefits. These measures are hindering tourism, agriculture, culture and sports in the regions. It is unbelievable.
On the topic of transport, infrastructure and communities, need I mention the Lac-Mégantic tragedy to explain how important rail safety is to the people in my region? Again yesterday, a group stood up to Transport Canada to denounce its ineptitude at dealing with the infractions committed by private companies. It is inaction.
In the past three years, there was a tremendous number of infractions in my region, and no one ever did anything about it. There was a three-foot stretch of track that had not been repaired in two years. A month before the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, there was a spill that caused environmental damage. A month later, tragedy struck.
It is irresponsible and unacceptable for an industrialized country that is a member of the G7 and the G20 to table such a budget, given that the railway sector supports economic development across Canada. The government literally could not care less about rail safety. People living next to railway tracks are scratching their heads and wondering when the next tragedy will strike.
Well, there was already one in New Brunswick a few months ago, and we knew that would happen. All the players reviewing the Lac-Mégantic tragedy were certain that another tragedy would occur in that part of the country. People were abandoned.
It is the government's responsibility to make sure that private and public railways are safe. However, there is still nothing in this budget to protect my constituents. It is unacceptable.
I will quickly mention the government's interference in health and education. The only thing the provinces have always asked for is the money owed to them. It is up to them to decide where and how to invest it. They have this right under the Constitution. The NDP reaffirmed this right in the Sherbrooke declaration. We are the only ones to guarantee that right.
The government has abandoned agriculture, food safety and the environment, just to name a few areas. There is no mention of climate change or environmental concerns.
To conclude, Canadians deserve much better than this government, which is completely out of touch with the realities and needs of the people. If Canadians want to support the development of a just society and a prosperous economy, they must vote for the NDP in 2015.
Mrs. Stella Ambler (Mississauga South, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct pleasure and honour today to speak to the budget. I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
I have been reading the budget and making a few notes, and there are a couple of highlights I would like to flag not just for members of the House, but also for my constituents back home in Mississauga South who will benefit from the budget.
I realize that not many viewers are watching because everyone is probably rivetted to the Canadian men's Olympic hockey game that is going on right now. This budget reflects the excitement that many Canadians are feeling about the Olympics and about the hockey game.
The captain of our team for budget 2014, the hon. Minister of Finance, has stickhandled the budget once again. This is his 10th budget and he has once again done a great job. With over one million new jobs created since the worst of the recession, I am very proud at how the Minister of Finance has dealt with this.
I appreciate that those who are not watching the hockey game are listening to me. I would like to tell the House about a couple of things that are important to me, my constituents, and all Canadians. I would like to continue on the theme of the environment, which we have been talking a bit about today. This issue is of great importance in the riding of Mississauga South.
I have had some experience with recreational fisheries in working with Credit Valley Conservation. It has done a wonderful job in restoring the wetlands in the Rattray Marsh area of Lake Ontario in south Mississauga, and I thank it for that.
I also want to thank the Minister of Finance for renewing the recreational fisheries community partnerships program. An additional $15 million will be provided over two years to extend this partnership program. My colleague across the way will also probably highlight this program but I wanted to mention it because people sometimes do not know that urban areas also benefit from these types of programs.
My riding, which is situated on beautiful Lake Ontario and has the Credit River running through it, has been able to benefit from this program and leverage double the funds as a result. We have been able to help restore the Rattray Marsh wetlands. As I said earlier, in concrete ways we are actually helping the environment, and that is a big deal to me.
In terms of the environment and families, I am quite proud that the budget recognizes the Earth Rangers Foundation. This organization is dedicated to educating children and families about biodiversity and empowers them to become directly involved in protecting animals and their habitats. It is an organization that operates across Canada. I have seen the work it does in the GTA. I am particularly pleased that economic action plan 2014 would provide $3 million over three years to support and expand the existing family oriented conservation and biodiversity programs of the Earth Rangers Foundation .
I would like to switch gears for a moment. I am not sure if the House is aware that I had the honour to chair a special parliamentary standing committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women. The committee studied violence against aboriginal women in Canada.
This is a huge problem—not just in the aboriginal community—one that all Canadians care deeply about and one that our government is working very hard to erase. That is why I was so proud when I saw that this government is making this a priority by establishing a DNA-based missing persons index or registry. Essentially, we would be using technology to help find these women. We need to use all the tools available to us to solve this very tragic problem. Budget 2014 would provide $8.1 million over five years to create this DNA-based missing persons index. Once this DNA data bank is established, it will be much easier for the RCMP to continue doing the work it needs to do to find missing women and to identify remains.
While that is very important, I would also like to point out that, related to that, there has been a renewal of $25 million to address violence against aboriginal women and girls in general. This same pocket of funding actually started in 2010 with $25 million, so we renewed it in this budget because the five years was almost up. In the last few years, with that funding, the government has made targeted improvements to law enforcement and the justice system, including the creation of a national centre for missing persons and unidentified remains.
The government has also made enhancements to the victims fund to ensure that aboriginal victims and families of missing and murdered aboriginal women have access to culturally appropriate services; and it has supported the development of community-based awareness initiatives, which are very important, as well as safety plans to promote the safety of aboriginal women and girls. These are issues that the committee has been discussing for the past year, almost, and I am delighted that the government has recognized we need to take action. We are putting our money where our mouth is on this issue. As I say, there will be another $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against women; this is an issue that all Canadians care about.
I was on the phone this morning with a representative of Community Living Mississauga. Her name is Debbie Moffatt. We were talking about the ready, willing, and able initiative, which is mentioned on page 62 of the budget. For people who are not aware, this organization helps people with intellectual disabilities—autism, for example—to gain employment, because people sometimes need a little extra help and a hand up. They are able to become contributing members of society with the help of the Canadian Association for Community Living. I am familiar with the Mississauga branch, which does very good work.
In fact, when we met in my office quite a few months ago, Debbie was telling me about Costco, which is one of the companies that has taken on the ready, willing, and able program. It is having great success in hiring folks through this program. I would like to quote, from the budget, one of the new Costco employees, as a result of this program, who said:
|| I'm very happy about getting this job, and I'm getting paid an equal wage—and a good one at that. I look forward to being part of a team and not being treated any differently—now I can tell my brother, my friends and my mom that I work at Costco!
These are the kinds of things that ready, willing, and able does for folks with intellectual disabilities.
I wanted to talk about supporting women entrepreneurs, but perhaps I can fit that into one of the answers.
Mr. Robert Sopuck (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to follow such an illustrious colleague as the member for Mississauga South. To pick up on her excellent comments, I would like to talk first on the issue of returning to a balanced budget.
Let us go back a few years. Prior to the recession, when the Conservative government took office, we paid down $37 billion of debt. That was a remarkable achievement. It allowed Canada to be very well prepared when the recession of 2008 hit. It allowed us to launch one of the largest infrastructure programs in Canadian history.
We deliberately went into a deficit of $55.6 billion at that point. However, we have a Prime Minister and a Minister of Finance who know what they are doing and who had a game plan to stimulate the Canadian economy at that time and then return to a balanced budget over time. That is exactly what has happened. It is exactly as predicted. The deficit this year will be in the range of $2.9 billion, and next year the surplus is expected to hit $6.4 billion.
I would like to give a little lesson to my NDP friends across the way on why eliminating the deficit is important. Why is a balanced budget important? It means that less taxpayer money is needed to pay interest on the debt. It helps keep interest rates low for Canadian families. Taxes are kept low. It signals stability to the rest of the world. It attracts investment to Canada, leading to a higher standard of living. It gives the government more flexibility to invest in and support job creation programs.
A balanced budget avoids the instability and draconian cuts seen in other parts of the world, such as Greece. As a grandparent myself, I see it avoids burdening our children and grandchildren with our debts. That is very important.
Our fiscal situation is the envy of the entire world. Canada's net debt is expected to remain the lowest by far of any G7 country. Japan's debt is incredible. Its net debt is 150% of its GDP, whereas Canada's is in the neighbourhood of about 35% to 40%. We have the lowest by far. That means Canada is in a very good position to weather any economic storms that might occur.
That is the big picture of what the budget would do for the entire country. Being a rural MP representing a large, remote, rural constituency, I tend to look at things through a rural lens. When I look at the measures for rural Canada in this budget, it is very clear to me that rural Canadians would be very well taken of by the government.
We have strong rural representation right across this caucus and right across the country. Approximately 65% of Canada's rural seats are held by Conservatives. Rural Canadians place their trust in us.
Let us talk about some of the measures. In western Canada, we now have livestock price insurance to mitigate risk for livestock producers. There is rural broadband expansion, with $305 million allocated. This has been wildly popular in my constituency, as I hear through phone calls and emails, and right across the country.
Let us talk about what the farm leadership is saying about our expansion of fast, reliable Internet across rural and remote areas of Canada. This is a quote from Mark Wales, an Elgin farmer and president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He says that is a huge boon for farmers and small-town entrepreneurs, who will finally be able to do business in a way other Canadians take for granted. It is something they have been calling for, for a long time: full Internet service, much improved.
That is a promise made and a promise kept; end of story.
The growing forward program is continuing along. It has been a very successful program for agriculture right across the country.
Living next to a national park, as I do, almost right next to a national park, I was delighted to see the $390 million allocated to improving and protecting national park infrastructure. I would like to say to the constituents who are listening that I have already made my request known for what I would like to see happen.
I want to talk about a program that the member for Mississauga South referred to, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. It has been increased. It started off as a $10 million program. It is now $15 million. It has been wildly successful. Last year, that program funded almost 100 fisheries conservation projects right across this country in partnership with dedicated angling conservation groups. That is true environmentalism. We do not just talk about the environment or about process; we actually get out there and do things on the ground to fix the problems that people see.
I would gladly debate that with anyone on the other side who talks about the environment. All they talk about is process, but we get things done. The Sydney tar ponds are being fixed up. Others include the Lake Simcoe watershed and Hamilton Harbour. It goes on and on. Problems are being dealt with. I defy any members opposite to name any environmental indicator in this country that has become worse on our watch. They are all getting better on our watch.
Let us talk about the interest-free loans for apprenticeships.
There is a labour shortage in my constituency. We have a booming oil industry, a burgeoning oil industry. We have a forestry industry. We need workers in the skilled trades. Our interest-free loan program for apprentices would fill that gap.
We have a major tourism industry in my constituency and across the country, and there is now $10 million allocated for recreational trails.
There is a $90 million investment for the forest industry. It is called the forest industry transformation program.
There is a national disaster mitigation program. We all know about the disastrous 2011 floods that Manitoba experienced, as well as the floods that occurred a couple of years ago in Alberta.
There is a Canada First Research Excellence Fund. As a person who represents an agricultural constituency, I take a keen interest in biotechnology and agricultural research. It is because of our government's funding of high-class research and of scientists that Canada's agriculture is and will continue to be world class.
Here is a nice little program that I think all members will agree with, our little program to remove red tape from the beer industry. There is a small microbrewery in my constituency that is starting to emerge. Members may have seen it on Dragon's Den a few weeks ago. The beer is called Farmery beer. There are two young lads who started this brand of beer. They were on Dragon's Den. They are neighbours and constituents of mine. I am so very proud of Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk and their Farmery beer.
That is a free commercial for those guys, and it is worth it. I am looking for great things to happen for them. I urge all members to try this beer if they have a chance. They should.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North.
I would say that I am pleased to speak to the budget, but I am disappointed at the uselessness of the Minister of Finance's document in dealing with the problems many Canadians face and at the absolute failure of this minister and the government to put Canada on a footing for economic growth.
This book, Creating Jobs and Opportunities, is basically a piece of fiction. Yes, there is a little tinkering and a little programming there, but it does nothing to deal with the big-picture items of creating economic growth, really creating jobs broadly, and unifying the country from coast to coast with a vision for economic development. In fact, in the budget the Conservatives are in many ways splitting the country asunder.
I will quote from an editorial article in today's Guardian. Everybody in this House would know that The Guardian covers the island like the dew.
The article states:
|| It’s not often that any finance minister will try and camouflage a balanced budget while preferring to take credit for a small deficit. A sheepish Minister of Finance did his best Tuesday to convince Canadians this was the case but really fooled no one. This budget is, for all intents and purposes, balanced.
|| The federal finance minister prefers to speak those sacred words next year, an election year.
It goes on from there.
That is the context of the budget: setting the stage for partisan purposes to try to regain election next year, and that is irresponsible on the part of a government. A government's responsibility is to govern for all Canadians, and the government has failed in that responsibility. A government's responsibility is to plan and implement policies that benefit all Canadians, and a government's responsibility is clearly to deal with some of the issues out there at the moment, issues that came with the Conservatives' previous budget and that some of their previous policy decisions created. Many Canadians are hurting as a result of those issues.
In my area in particular, and I have spoken about it several times in this House, one of the greatest areas that has caused hurt, split families, and hurt communities is the employment insurance changes. Yes, the government has the authority to make changes, but it should make them in a way that would contribute to the economy, not undermine it.
The employment insurance changes have affected seasonal industries and our seasonal workers very negatively. Because of the clawbacks, they have less income than they had the previous year. Businesses cannot get workers because the timeframe has been set such that people's is being clawed back. As a result, there is a very serious negative impact on three of our major industries in Prince Edward Island: agriculture, fisheries, and tourism. That is a result of the EI changes.
The budget especially failed my province of Prince Edward Island, but it is not only P.E.I. The unilateral decisions taken by the Minister of Finance failed the other provinces as well.
I picked up an article in Inside Policy, a magazine of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The article is by Stanley Hartt, who used to be a well-known deputy minister in Ottawa. The headline reads:
|| Budget making process requires provinces, feds to understand each others' goals and intentions
It goes on to talk about federal-provincial jurisdiction in this country and the need to work together to build a stronger Canada, that each sector has implications for the other and that they have to work together on the economy especially, building policies that would in fact strengthen the economy from coast to coast to coast. In that area, the current government has failed terribly. The Conservatives do not communicate with the provinces. They do not co-operate with the provinces. They unilaterally make decisions that download costs on the provinces, that change programs in the provinces and, in fact, can negatively affect those provinces' economies.
That is what happened with EI previously. However, in this one it was bad enough that the Government of Canada pushed the Canada job grant, actually spending $2.4 million in false advertising. The minister knew the provinces opposed it and yet he went ahead and put in place the Canada job grant, albeit somewhat changed after discussions with them.
However, for Prince Edward Island, this would replace a $2.1 million labour market agreement that was used for employment assistance for businesses and the unemployed. Folks who worked in that system were just transferred from HRSDC a few years ago, when it was a federal program, and downloaded to the provinces. The money was given to the provinces and they were to be in charge of labour market development. Now they find that the whole program will be changed unilaterally by the federal government against their wishes.
Additionally, in terms of Prince Edward Island, the government unilaterally eliminated the immigrant investor program. I spoke to people at the government level yesterday. There was not a word of discussion. That program is very important to the economy, very important for us to attract people into the province. It was just cancelled like that and a new program came into place. There was absolutely no consultation.
For many retired public servants, veterans, and RCMP in Prince Edward Island, the tax grab of increasing the cost of health benefits would be almost criminal. Retirees paid into those plans in good faith and felt that their retirement was secure, but retroactively changing the rules as the Conservatives plan to do is absolutely wrong. They are trying to balance the books on the backs of public servants, veterans, RCMP, and others who worked their lifetime securing their retirement, and now the Conservatives will increase their health premiums.
Moreover, while the Conservatives are claiming in this document, this so-called budget, that they just deferring their military procurement, it should be seen as nothing other than a cut. For Prince Edward Island, shipbuilding in Georgetown would certainly be affected, undermining our economy and possibly creating a loss of jobs. What will happen to shipbuilding in Halifax, which was a huge program, we do not know.
Furthermore, the government has failed to ensure that major industries like agriculture are on a competitive footing with other countries like the United States. President Obama signed the U.S. farm bill last week, with $1 trillion over 10 years for its industry, enshrining in legislation country-origin labelling that has already cost our beef industry about $5 billion. Yet, this Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will cut programs. So we are not even on a competitive footing any more. The bottom line is that the current government will even create divisions in agriculture as a result of the budget. The Conservatives aim to put in place a price-support insurance program, but only for western farmers, with nothing for the backbenchers here in Ontario or Atlantic Canada. Do they not know that we have a livestock industry right across this country? Our livestock producers deserve that price-insurance program as well.
In conclusion, the budget is an absolute failure in ensuring economic growth and meeting the needs of Canadians.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to express a few thoughts on what I believe is one of the most lacklustre budgets introduced in the House of Commons for many years.
I cannot help but reflect on what the leader of Liberal Party has talked much about over the last 12 months, the importance of the middle class. That is something that Liberals believe the government has been negligent on. We have seen, and continue to see, a growing gap in economic benefits for the hard-working middle class compared to the elite in Canada. The government needs to start focusing more attention on improving the conditions of our middle class. This is where the government has fallen short again.
I am concerned that the government seems to be more interested in the politics of budgets than the practicality of the benefits of having a solid budget, even in-between elections. It seems to be more focused on wanting to deliver the big punch, possibly in next year's budget, at a substantial cost to Canada's economy this year. Ultimately, the government talks about a balanced budget, but it is all talk because the government has not delivered a balanced budget. The government talks about it, but does not necessarily understand the best way to achieve a balanced budget.
Let me highlight something, because we have very limited time to share our concerns regarding the budget. I would like to look at the bigger picture. In this budget the government is highlighting its attempt to reach budgetary balance. We need to recognize that when the Conservative government took the reins of power, when Paul Martin was prime minister of Canada, he handed over a multi-billion dollar surplus. This Conservative-Reform government turned that multi-billion dollar surplus into a multi-billion dollar deficit. That was even before the recession.
Mr. Dave Van Kesteren: Nonsense. That is not true.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, that is the truth. They might not like it, but it is the truth.
That is the Conservatives' financial management.
What about the economy? Well, one of the biggest driving forces we have for jobs today is small business. We need to invest in small businesses. We need to encourage growth within those industries.
One of the ways we can tell whether Canada is doing well economically is to look at our trade with other countries. To do that, let us again go back to Paul Martin when he was prime minister. He handed the Conservative government a multi-billion dollar trade surplus. The Liberal Party has a long history of being progressive in achieving good trade agreements. One of the most successful ones was back in the 1960s with the automobile industry. We have a long record of recognizing the value and importance of international trade.
What did the Conservatives do, even though they talk about the trade agreements they are signing? The Conservatives took that healthy multi-billion dollar trade surplus and turned it into a trade deficit of billions of dollars. What does that mean? We are talking about tens of thousands of jobs that have been denied.
When one wants to balance the books one needs to take a different approach.
The approach the Conservative government is taking today is not the approach the Liberal Party of Canada would take. We believe in Canadians. We believe in small business. We recognize that the best way to balance the books is through the promotion of growth in the economy. If the economy grows, so does government revenue, and there is a reduction in dependency on government programs that cost money.
The key thing here is to encourage and develop good, solid, sound policies that encourage growth to take place. If we are successful, the economy will grow. That is the way the Liberal Party would manage the budget.
We believe in Canadians. We believe in the middle class. It is the middle class that can make things happen. Instead of putting more of a burden on the middle class, we believe we should lighten its load and support it.
I will give a specific example.
The region of the country I represent is in the Prairies. I am a very proud prairie boy. It has been very sad what we have witnessed among the wheat farmers over the last number of months. Imagine tonnes of wheat piled in steel bins. Sadly, many of those piles are now in fields, because the bins are full.
We produce the best wheat in the world, but the farmers are not able to get that wheat out to the Pacific coast, where we have dozens of ships sitting empty. It is a huge cost. It is tens of millions of dollars. It has even been suggested that it has gone into the hundreds of millions of dollars. I would suggest that it is possibly larger than that, if we look at the depreciated value of the wheat as a direct result of some of the incompetence of the Conservative government.
This should not be any surprise. We knew that the wheat had to be transported months ago. What has the government done? Nothing. I think a couple of months ago, there was a commitment of $1 million, which is absolutely nothing. The Government of Canada has failed the prairie farmers. I say shame on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Someone said that we had the best minister of agriculture in the world. What a joke. I think they should have a plebiscite on that issue in the Prairies. He might get 1% who might agree with that, but I can say that the vast majority of farmers in western Canada would never say something of that nature. If we want to narrow it down to the wheat and canola farmers, we would find it difficult to find anyone who would agree with that statement.
Our prairie farmers need support from the government, and they need that support today. What does the budget do? It gives absolutely nothing. What does the Minister of Finance have to say about it? Absolutely nothing. It is not even addressed in the budget.
I have a litany of things I want to talk about. One of the issues from coast to coast to coast in Canada is health care. The Conservative government has done nothing in regard to renewing the health care accord. This is something Paul Martin put in place. It was good for 10 years, and it expires this year. It is worth billions of dollars.
The government takes credit for the increases in health care, but it was not the Conservatives that did that. It was the Liberal Party of Canada that was responsible for the billions of dollars of increases in health care. The Conservative government is doing nothing to ensure that the health care accord is renewed. Every Canadian from coast to coast to coast believes in our health care, and they want the government to deliver on this issue.
My challenge to the government is to rethink its budget and present something that is more saleable to all Canadians.
Mr. Ryan Leef (Yukon, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, before I start, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Burlington. I know that I am looking forward to hearing his comments. He always does such a great job when he addresses the House. We will have to wait just a few minutes to hear from him. I am also pleased to be joined by my colleague from Richmond Hill.
I have said before that the compass of our government points north, with both purpose and intent, to guide our nation, and indeed the world, to a land that is diverse with history, heritage, resources, and culture. The contribution of Canada's true north plays a key role in our great country. Revenue resource sharing agreements put in place under our government have assured prosperity both for the territories across the north and the nation.
I will talk about page 140 of budget 2014, where it reinforces this idea. It says:
|| Canada's North is a fundamental part of our heritage, our future and our identity as a country. Building on the Government's vision for a new North, Economic Action Plan 2014 is taking action to ensure that the North realizes its full potential by exercising our Northern sovereignty, promoting economic prosperity and supporting the health of Northerners.
Let me just highlight a few things that would be specifically beneficial to my riding in the Yukon territory. There would be record transfers of support for social and health services for the Yukon under this budget. The Yukon would receive significant support through major transfer payments this year.
All major federal transfers to provinces and territories would grow from current record levels, totalling $65 billion in 2014-15. That is an increase of 56% since 2004-06, under the former Liberal government. For the Yukon, the total major transfer would total $898 million, including $851 million through the territorial formula financing program. That is an increase of $350 million since 2005-06, under the previous Liberal government.
We heard the member for Malpeque talking about his glory days. He clearly forgets what the Liberal government was doing with those transfer payments, which was slashing them. He talked about the balanced budgets it had back then. The Liberals balanced their budgets by slashing transfers to provinces and the territories, specifically hitting our territory square between the eyes.
Our Conservative government promised not to do that. We did not do it. In fact, we have hit historic record levels. We have done that, coincidentally, without raising taxes on Canadian families.
Approximately $33 million would come to our territory through the Canada health transfer. That is an increase of almost $11 million, or a 50% increase since the Liberals were at the helm. In addition, $13 million would come through the Canada social transfer. That is a 36% increase from what the Liberal government gave. As I said, the Liberals balanced their budgets by slashing transfers to the territories and provinces, but they stand in the House bragging about what they did to our provinces and territories way back. It probably was so long ago that not many people can remember it, but it is always worth a refresher as to why the Liberals are sitting in the far corner of the House today.
To keep pace with the needs of Canadians in rural and northern communities, the economic action plan also proposes $305 million over the next five years to extend and enhance broadband services to a target speed of five megabits per second to support an additional 280,000 Canadian households. That would represent almost universal access.
I can tell members that I consulted across our territory and met with the city chambers, the territorial chambers, industry, small and medium businesses, and families to talk about broadband access and services in my territory. From 2011 to this date, they were asking the government to make a move on it. We have delivered on a strong commitment to give them the broadband access they need. That is going to help our Canadian families, and it will certainly help our businesses grow in our territory. I am proud of our Conservative government for doing that.
Canada's north is blessed with an abundance of natural resources with the potential to fuel northern economic and social development and secure Canada's future prosperity. I have to tell the House that riches in the ground on their own do not guarantee economic success above ground. To realize its potential, the north requires efficient regulatory regimes, a skilled local workforce, low taxes, well-developed infrastructure, and extensive scientific and geological knowledge.
Further, it is important to ensure that northerners have control over development decisions. Successful northern development means jobs and prosperity for northerners themselves. Our government is investing in that infrastructure.
With regard to control over their developmental decisions, we in this House all know that we are moving closer and closer to the devolution agreement with the Northwest Territories, so it can dictate its own future and manage its land and resources with local skills, knowledge, and ability.
I am proud to be part of the committee that has been working on that devolution agreement. I look forward to moving that across the finish line for the great people of the Northwest Territories.
A federal contribution has been made in the past, up to $71 million, in the Yukon. The Yukon has benefited from the Mayo B hydroelectric facility, which brought electric power to our territory, clean green energy, and is meeting the needs of a major infrastructure concern for our territory.
The new building Canada plan that was announced in economic action plan 2013 includes $234 million in the first five years to municipalities and territories, through the renewed and indexed gas tax fund.
We have all heard great news about the permanency and indexing of the gas tax fund from all our municipalities, from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to the small communities in my home territory. They are exceptionally pleased with that. It is allowing communities to dictate their fate and future and identify their plans and priorities, not just for tomorrow but for a much longer term. This is a more flexible gas tax plan, which allows them to utilize those funds in a far different manner.
We have been responsive to their requests. We have been responsive to their needs. We have done that through consultation. Each one of us in this House, as members of Parliament, has an obligation to meet and consult with our constituents. That is part of the government consultation process. Every one of us sitting here needs to go into our communities, to talk with groups and organizations and individuals to find out what their priorities are.
Those priorities are reflected in this budget and in previous budgets. They do not just speak about long-term or one-year plans, but project us well into the future: 2016, 2017, and years beyond. I am glad we are part of a government that not only listens but incorporates things in the budget that are long term, thinking beyond the life of a mandate, thinking long term for Canadians' prosperity.
I am going to run out of time before I get through the stack of notes I have about this budget, but I am sure we are going to have some questions in the House, which I will be more than happy to answer. I certainly hope that some of them come from the Liberal members, so we can reflect on some of the things they have done that have led to where they are, and where we are, today.
However, let me talk a little about our territorial mine training program. The economic action plan announced capital support for additional trades and technical facilities in the Yukon, at the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining. That has been a widely successful program. It is growing.
This year, in this budget, we added a trades loan program for students going into red seal trade programs. That is going to give them an excellent opportunity to access student loans where they have not had that opportunity in the past. Why did we come up with that? It is because that is what we heard from industry, businesses, educational institutions, and chambers. We heard that when consulting with Canadians about what they would need to fill high-demand jobs, to put students and aboriginal and first nations people in our country in the best position to access the highly skilled job opportunities available today.
We responded by making sure that education is accessible, affordable, targeted and focused on those opportunities that exist today. I know my riding in the Yukon Territory is going to be very excited about this.
I could go on about a number of other things that were clearly directed at the Yukon, and I will touch on a couple of them that are important. One was our government's reinvestment in the strategic investments in northern economic development program, through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The Yukon tourism association asked us to renew that program because it is a great way to diversify markets. The minister of tourism for the territorial government specifically said there is an excellent return on investment through the program and that they would like to see it continue. He talked to me specifically about it. He talked directly with our federal counterpart ministers about that. Our government listened and has renewed that program.
I could go on and on, but I know my time is up. I am going to sit down and look forward to some questions from my colleagues in the House.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Yukon for sharing his time with me today. He has done an excellent job, not only today but year-round. I want to thank him for his commitment last summer. He ran around his whole territory on behalf of diabetes disease, which I have. I want to thank him for bringing attention to that disease and for the work he does in that area.
Economic action plan 2014 is a Conservative budget. Is anybody here surprised that it is a Conservative budget? It is conservative as we move toward a balanced approach to our finances in this country. We do not use magic. We do not think books balance themselves. We have a plan. Economic action plan 2014 builds upon the plan that we have had for the years we have been in office.
Before I get into the points in this budget that I think relate very well to Burlington, my home riding, we have heard, through the questions being asked today, about not foreseeing the downturn in the economy. We had the member for Malpeque, as the previous speaker mentioned, on this and that. The Liberal Party took $60 billion out of the EI fund and reallocated it for its own use. We have the Liberals saying we are running big deficits, and then in the same breath they are talking about adding more.
Where do they think the money comes from? We would have to raise taxes, which we know is what the NDP wants to do, and now it definitely sounds like the Liberals want to do it too. They cannot complain that we have deficits. We are getting those deficits down. We are working very hard to make that happen, and we are almost there. We have another year, and hopefully we will have accomplished that goal.
We did stimulus spending in an appropriate way so that we created jobs in this country. A million jobs have been created since the end of the recession. We have been working hard in those areas.
I am fully aware that the opposition has a role to criticize. It should be criticizing what is in the budget, if it finds things it can do better. However, to criticize us for our actions to get this country back to work, to keep us as the number one economy of all of our partners, is just not accurate. I think it does not do this House or the parties any good.
I will get back to what is in this budget that we have in front of us, in economic action plan 2014.
There are a few things that I would like to highlight. The reason I would like to highlight them is that often there is the impression that a backbencher member of Parliament might not have a tremendous amount of influence. Our finance minister has an open mind and an open door to suggestions about what should be in the budget. There are things in this budget that I have advocated for, either this year or in previous years. Sometimes things do not happen overnight. I know that is hard for people to believe. Sometimes we have to keep advocating for what we believe in.
I want to point out a couple of things in this budget that I have been working on as a member of Parliament on behalf of my constituents that have made it into this budget.
The first one is very personal. I have a daughter who has just graduated from university. I know a number of her colleagues and friends. They are all looking for work. Fortunately for my daughter, she was a co-op student. The co-op has made a big difference in her ability to find employment because she has some experience.
In this budget, the finance minister, in his wisdom and under our Prime Minister, said that this kind of learning, this kind of experience, is what we need for our young people to get ahead, to get a start, and we have put aside $40 million for 3,000 full-time internships in high-demand jobs. It is exactly what we need to get young people into the workforce and moving forward in their careers.
People may say this sounds silly. I have an open door policy in my office. Year after year, there are two groups of university students, two organizations, that come to see me every year with demands. I do not agree with every one of their demands. Trust me. And I am clear with those young folks that I do not agree with them.
However, one of the items I have agreed with, and I have actually put in a submission to the Minister of Finance, is to not include vehicles in the calculations of student loans. If a student's car were worth $3,000 or $5,000, it would go against the value he or she could borrow because it was an asset that we would account for. In this budget, we would eliminate that. There are 19,000 students in this country who drive to school. In my riding of Burlington, we do not have a university main campus. We have a satellite campus for McMaster University in my riding, for MBA students, but we do not have a main campus; so people often drive to McMaster or to Guelph or to college in Oakville or to Toronto. They live at home to save money, and they drive to school every day. This is a request that has come year after year from these organizations. They thought, and I agreed with them, that this is something we should look at. I submitted it to the Minister of Finance last year and this year, and it made the budget. I am very proud that we saw the light that we need to be helping our young people in my area to pay for their education.
There is another area we get criticized on, research and innovation, which is not accurate, but the opposition members like to criticize. In this budget, there would be $1.5 billion in funding for post-secondary education research. In addition to that, we would give $46 million to granting councils that grant to individual organizations that do research. Just so people know, they are the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. All three councils would get funding from this $46 million to carry out research. We have been criticized as being very narrow on what we want to see done in terms of research. We would give a chunk of this $46 million to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. I am very proud of the work we are doing in that area.
Here is another item that is close to my heart. Ford Canada has its manufacturing plant office in my neighbouring riding of Oakville, and lots of individuals work for Ford, but a lot more individuals work in companies that are suppliers to Ford in my riding. In support of innovation and an understanding that we need to move forward in this industry if we are going to stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation, we would put forward $500 million in the innovative automotive sector over two years. That is additional money that automotive companies in this country could use to innovate and do research on the new products they are going to bring to the marketplace.
That is not the only area. We are also looking at what has been working. This is not in my riding, but transformation has been needed in the forestry industry, and we would re-fund to a tune of $90 million the forest institute transformation fund, which allows forestry companies to look at where they are now and what the future will be in terms of the products and services that need to be provided, and it would give them some funding to help them get there.
Another area is seniors. Seniors make up almost half of my riding. I think a little over 50% of the residents are age 55 and over now. Someone age 55 is not a senior, but that is the statistic I have, and I am getting there. We have a program that helps seniors, and we have been able to deliver a large number of small projects in my riding through this program. One example is that we gave $5,000 to a small organization that helps Polish seniors in my riding to buy computer equipment, so they can have access to the Internet and gain an understanding of it. They were so excited that this money was delivered to them. Our seniors centre has a new kitchen, to be able to provide a breakfast program to shut-in seniors who are not able to get out. Without our providing that money through this seniors program, they would not be out every other Sunday morning. We would re-fund that as a $5 million per year program, which is excellent for my riding.
I will finish with this. I had a private member's bill eight years ago dealing with a DNA database for missing persons, a missing persons index. It did not make it because it needed royal assent and needed money spent on it, which is not allowed in a private member's bill. Today, in this budget, the DNA-base missing persons databank will come to fruition. I thank the minister and the Prime Minister for their foresight on that.