Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue into what is now the fifth hour of debate in this important budget discussion. One of my colleagues from across the way asked how much longer I intended to speak. I will just answer this way. The budget is 500 pages. Canadians are tweeting and posting on Facebook,. They are sending in emails, and faxing their comments. The NDP will speak as long it takes to get the message across that the budget hurts ordinary working families, that the budget hurts Canadians families and that Canadian families deserve better.
During question period, we had all kinds of Canadians who seem to be excited. The more they find out what is in the budget, the more Canadians seem to be galvanized to respond.
It is interesting to note that the feedback we are getting from Canadians from coast to coast to coast is, above all, from Conservative ridings, ridings that have elected a Conservative MP in the past and ridings that are represented by Conservative MPs. I find that very interesting, the opportunity the NDP is giving those Canadians to make their voices heard in Parliament. I am very pleased that Canadians in those Conservative-held ridings are exercising their democratic right to have their views brought forward before the House of Commons.
I will begin by reading some of the tweets that have come forward in the last few minutes, since question period was just a little over an hour ago. I have a tweet from a gentleman saying, “Demographic graph shows the cutoff for OAS cuts falls just after the baby boom late 1950s birthrate bump. Cynical if this by design”.
We heard on CBC's The Current this morning that, “Myth of ratio workers to support retirees was debunked. Should look at actual hours worked today and tomorrow. The U.S. took much longer to address an OAS-like issue. The Conservative Party is too reactive. Knew about the demographics since the 1960s and have put together a knee-jerk poor plan”.
When Suzanne Legault testified at committee she said, “They should not be subject to cuts already dealing with stretched resources. Canadians have a right to know”.
I have another tweet from lifelike telling the NDP, “We appreciate your efforts on behalf of Canadians for sharing the feedback in the House of Commons”.
We certainly appreciate the tweets and the Facebook postings that are coming on.
Another persons writes, “Since when do we accommodate poverty as opposed to try to prevent it?”
Another comment reads, “The finance minister is the last person who should be criticizing Ontario provincial finances. How very unhelpful to national unity. Ontario is 38% of Canadian GDP”.
Another person tweets, “My feedback regarding budget is the short time period Canadians have been given to adjust to the new age for OAS and many will suffer”.
Another comment from Ottawa reads, ”The government should stop demonizing anyone who raises the issue of taxation. Revenue generation through income tax is a valid measure”.
Another tweet said that they like my glasses. I thank them for that.
From Ottawa again, it reads, “Governments should be working to decrease the growing gap between richest and poorest Canadians. Tax grid should be more progressive”.
That is a very important point. As we know, under the government, Canada is now experiencing record levels of income and equality, with a small proportion of Canadians now earning most of the income pie.
Another comment reads, “The CBC is such an integral part of the Canadian fabric from sea to sea to sea that anything done to weaken it would harm us all”.
Another comment from Ottawa reads, “How can the public service function effectively with constant turnover in uncertainty? What institutional memory will be left after the losses?”
Another comment reads, “Cuts should not be made to officers of Parliament. Why is the Prime Minister's Office's noise machine not setting an example in cutting its wasteful budget?”
What those comments refer to is the fact that the budget of the Prime Minister's Office has gone up more substantially than any other component of the budget over the last few years. It has been massive increase.
Obviously, Canadians are reacting to that as they have in the past with the fighter jets and the prisons agenda. Canadians are saying that building new prisons and buying costly fighter jets and the F-35 fiasco should not be priorities. The priorities should be making sure that services work for people.
Another constituent commented, “To me the budget is going to take me out of a comfortable retirement. Because of the environmental changes and the gutting in environment, of course my health will suffer”. Another constituent commented, “I am reminded of the hypocrisy of former Reform Party MPs opting back in after criticizing the pension plan”.
The comments go on and on. I do not want to devote all of my time to reading tweets but they are coming in one after the other. They are coming in faster than I can read them out.
Canadians seem very galvanized. They have been following the budget debate. They heard what the Conservatives promised last May 2. The Conservatives promised not to attack health care or retirement security. They promised to maintain services. They also promised to be fiscally prudent and responsible and then we see what the results have been in this budget.
In December in Victoria the finance ministers imposed what over time will be a significant cut in health care transfers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has evaluated those cuts at over $30 billion, at a time when Canadians need health care. The government is not taking any of the responsible approaches on health care that we have talked about in the House and as our former leader Jack Layton and our new leader, the member for Outremont, have mentioned. None of those things have been brought to bear.
We have talked about expanding home care, which would reduce the cost of acute care beds. Often seniors who are unable to stay in their home without the provision for home care end up in acute care beds at a cost of many thousands of dollars more than it would be if we simply provided home care in the first place.
We have also talked about the bulk purchasing of medication. That has worked in other countries in bringing down the cost of drugs. Because of the long-term patent protection that is given for pharmaceutical drugs, Canadians are paying far more than they should be paying for pharmaceutical drugs.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: And don't forget CETA.
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has mentioned, the concern around CETA is that the situation will be even worse.
These are fundamental problems that absolutely need to be addressed. These are problems that cannot be addressed unless there is a government that is concerned and cares about health care.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: When are we going to get that government?
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, we are going to get that government on October 20, 2015.
The Canadians who are writing to us, tweeting and posting on Facebook are reacting to the broken promise around health care. They are also reacting to the broken promise around retirement security.
We have had a chance thus far to raise a number of times the importance of the OAS and the overall pension plan in Canada and how Canadians feel strongly about that. Over the course of the last few hours and as we enter what will soon be the sixth hour of debate, I have raised the concerns of Canadians from coast to coast to coast around retirement security.
Canadians are reacting to that the same way they are reacting to the broken promise around how the health care transfers have been gutted and reduced over time without the kinds of measures that we have been talking about, such as putting in a valid fiscal framework for health care transfers and health care costs. They have seen retirement security gutted. There are the cuts to a wide range of services that we saw in the budget on Thursday night, whether it be food safety, transportation safety, or environmental assessments. I will get into that in more detail later on. We are talking about wide and deep cuts which in many cases will eliminate completely some of the services Canadians enjoy. In some cases it will eliminate completely the source of information. This has been a recurring theme.
The First Nations Statistical Institute was gutted, killed by the government. The Nation Council of Welfare was killed by the government. StatsCan was seriously gutted. All of these organizations supply facts to the Canadian public and the Canadian government. In each case the government is saying that it does not want and cannot handle the facts. It wants to invent its own facts. It does not want Canada’s modern economy to function on a fact basis. It wants it to function in some kind of weird ideological fact-free zone. Canadians have seen those cuts as well and are reacting.
Canadians are seeing cuts in jobs, some 19,700 in the public sector and add to that the cuts in the private sector. There is a multiplier effect. I came here from the private sector. I know that cuts in the public sector lead to larger cuts in the private sector. That is a basic fact. There are members opposite who would like to function in a fact-free zone, but that is just the reality. We are talking about tens of thousands of jobs that will be hemorrhaged--there is no other way to put it--over the next few months. Under this budget, which we call the “fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget”, actually admits that the unemployment rate is going to climb.
It is hard to believe that a government would put on the front page of a document that it knows creates fewer jobs, that it knows creates less growth, that it knows creates less prosperity and say that it is going to pretend exactly the opposite. That is what the government did on Thursday.
What is wonderful about Canadians is that they see through all that. The government provided its arguments on Thursday night. Canadians were willing to listen to the finance minister's speech. They were willing to look at the budget, as we all were. Then they saw what was in it. That is why we are being deluged by comments from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They want their comments put forward in the House of Commons. A continued recurring theme of what they are saying is that Canadian families deserve better than this budget.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the NDP MPs continue to be so energetic and dynamic after over five hours of budget debate. When I see the energy they bring to representing their constituencies, I can say that it gives me energy.
They do a good job as members of Parliament. I have seen many groups, but the NDP class of 2011 is the best ever elected to the House of Commons. It is true. It is an extraordinary group.
I want to read some of the faxes and emails that are coming in now. We have some particularly relevant comments from constituents from NDP ridings and from the ridings of other parties. I am trying to bring forward the points of view that are expressed from Conservative-held ridings because we are getting more and more. As I mentioned earlier, the fax machine in the lobby must be smoking from all the faxes that are coming in. These are from Conservative-held ridings. When Canadians are living in ridings which at least for the moment are held by Conservatives, it is very important to bring those views forward.
The first is from Kelowna—Lake Country which is a Conservative-held riding in the interior of British Columbia. This individual said, “The finance minister is using half-truths to justify his changes to OAS. For example, with regard to demographics, it is true that there will be fewer workers per retiree in 2030. However, the ratio of workers to seniors alone does not determine the burden on workers, but is only one-half of the equation. The dependency ratio, or DR, is a measure of burden on the labour force defined by Statistics Canada as the population age 15 to 64 of supporting services for children and youth”. Those are individuals age 0 to 14 and seniors age 65 and over. She continued, “The dependency ratio will be 64% in 2031. It was 70% in 1961”. That dependency ratio in 1961 was higher than the dependency ratio will be in 2031. She said, “It did not break the bank then. It will not break the bank in 2031”.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the wonderful pages of the House of Commons. They are the ones giving me water and Kleenexes and anything else that I need. They deserve our appreciation. Normally we do not get the opportunity to thank the pages for their terrific work, but I think I can take a moment of my time to do that today. We are all aware of the important work the pages do and they do it so discreetly. They are giving me Kleenexes, water and everything else. They do a fantastic job.
The pages are a symbol of the younger generation that we need to be looking out for. We need to make sure programs are in place for younger Canadians. We need to make sure we are addressing issues of chronic unemployment with younger Canadians. We need to ensure that their quality of life is similar to what previous generations enjoyed. On behalf of the official opposition NDP caucus, 102 members strong, that is a commitment we make. It is a commitment we will keep on October 20, 2015 when we form the government of this country.
I will get back to what the constituent from Kelowna--Lake Country, currently a Conservative-held riding, said. She said, “The dependency ratio in Canada is the lowest in the G7. The minister claimed that France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. are all moving to increase their eligibility age for retirement. That is true. However, among the G7 countries, France, Germany, Japan and Italy are bringing their age of eligibility up to 65.” Not 67, but 65. “The U.S.A. made the decision in 1983, started implementation in 2003 and will complete the process by 2025”. That is 20 years later.
She then continues, “Among the 30 OECD countries, eight will have a retirement age under 65 and 15 will have a retirement age of 65.” This is very important, and I thank her for bringing this forward—“.
Let us review those numbers: there are eight under 65 and 15 at 65. Only seven, including Canada, will have an age above 65.
She says, “I believe there is a need to challenge the government on substantial grounds.” This individual is from Kelowna, British Columbia.
This is fascinating. The government's pretext around raising the retirement age is that all countries are doing it. We heard the Minister of Finance raise that idea in the budget speech as if this is something that everybody is doing. It is true that the retirement age was raised, but it was to 65, not above 65.
We are talking about virtually every single one of the OECD countries, Canada being one of a handful of exceptions. In almost every one of the OECD countries, the retirement age is 65 or under. We believe that is what the retirement age in Canada should be. Canadians deserve to have standards at least as good as those in the other countries in the OECD. That is what we had at 65; we do not have that at 67, and I thank the constituent for bringing that issue to our attention.
I would like to move on to another Conservative riding. This is from Vancouver Island. This letter says, “This budget is a reflection of the government's agenda towards the total elimination of CPP, the old age pension and the guaranteed income supplement. We pensioners need an honest answer from this government, because for sure our budgets are going to be affected again. We are asking for an answer from this government.”
This is a constituent in a Conservative-held riding who is raising concerns about the way the government has implemented it and how the government is attacking seniors.
We look at what the government promised prior to May 2. Prior to May 2, had the Prime Minister or the Conservative Party candidates said, “Elect us and we will make serious cuts in the longer term in health care transfers so that our health care system a decade from now will be worse off than it is now”, what would have been the result?
Had the Conservatives come forward and said, “We will actually gut retirement security, cut back on OAS and go the opposite of the way that most industrialized countries are going” and had they said they would force everybody to work until they are 67, regardless of their circumstances, and that people would either live in poverty, as they would have no source of income, or keep working, even if they were a manual labourer or a carpenter, what would have been the result?
It is a particularly mean-spirited attempt by the Conservatives to say to people who are manual labourers, as I was and as so many Canadians are, that it does not matter if their bodies give out; they have to keep working because the Conservatives say so. They want to buy their fancy F-35 fighter jets no matter what the cost, and they want to build those fancy prisons despite the fact that the crime rate has fallen. If they had come forward and said that prior to May 2, I wonder what the results would have been.
What if the Conservatives had come forward prior to May 2 and said that they were going to gut services, cut back on all those services that Canadian families depend on, gut food safety, transportation safety, slash environmental assessments, make sure there is no funding for social housing, and, as one Canadian wrote and as I mentioned earlier today, deal with the $125 billion infrastructure deficit by providing $150 million towards it? Is that not ridiculous? That is like saying I want to buy a new car, but I only have $30. I just cannot do it if I offer only a one-thousandth of what is needed, but that is what the Conservatives did in this budget. Rather than say we have a substantial infrastructure deficit with deteriorating infrastructure across the country and address that, they offer a few pennies, a token, to deal with a massive $125 billion deficit. What would have happened if they had come forward on May 2 making that pledge as well?
I ask those questions because we all know the results. If the government had come clean on its agenda prior to May 2, the NDP would have been over there governing this country and the Conservatives would be in opposition. Canadians would not have stood for that agenda. Canadian families deserve better.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Conservatives could not come clean before May 2 and therefore did not talk about this agenda at all. They covered it up because they knew they would not have been elected had they come clean with what they were intending to do: impose their ideology on the whole country, cut back on facts and making them as little available as possible, imposing instead, to my mind, a wrong-headed ideology.
An hon. member: We saw that in Davos.
Mr. Peter Julian: Yes, we certainly saw that in Davos.
I think that is why there has been such a substantial push-back from the Canadian public over the course of the last three days. That is why our fax machine is smoking; it is because it is working so hard. It is why emails are coming in fast and furious and the Blackberrys are hot. Tweets and Facebook postings are coming in fast and furious. A Parliament that is welcoming to new technology should, of course, be incorporating comments received by Twitter and Facebook. There are a bunch of comments coming in from a variety of sources, and I will move on to some them.
I want to read another email from Burlington, Ontario, a Conservative riding. This consituent writes, “I live in a riding held by Conservatives. Harper”—
The Speaker: Order—
Mr. Merv Tweed: He named the Prime Minister; Peter, shame.
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member for Brandon—Souris is absolutely right, and I apologize. I have been translating, but sometimes one needs to keep a step ahead so that one uses appropriate Parliamentary language when reading emails.
I will continue with the email: “The government's budget does not include reductions in the atrocious cost of the Senate. What's needed in the 2012 budget is a start on abolishing the Senate.”
Jack Layton, the former leader of the NDP, called for a freezing of appointments to the Senate so that through the years there would be a gradual diminishing of people in the Senate. However, the Prime Minister has ignored this and has filled every vacancy with Conservative supporters.
The email continues, “Abolish the Senate as it serves no useful purpose. It costs many dollars, but the benefit is zero. I live in a riding held by the Conservatives.”
Another tweet has just come in, and I thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for monitoring Twitter and Facebook so that we can get up-to-the-minute updates.
Here is another comment to the NDP: “Thank you. It's hard to admit, but I'm really afraid for my generation's future, and just hearing someone talk about it is comforting.” We thank that young Canadian for writing in.
Here's another, from the Ontario riding of Leeds—Grenville.
This individual, Mr. Irwin, says, “I was watching the debate in the House today in regard to the budget. I would just like to state that I'm very glad to see you listening to Canadians in regard to their concerns over this extraordinarily shallow budget from the Conservatives. I am unfortunately not in an NDP riding. I am in the riding of Leeds--Grenville, which is a Conservative riding in Ontario. I am a student in university with ever-increasing tuition and rising debt. I am not sure if I can afford to even complete my degree. Thank you for standing up for Canadians today. I appreciate it very much, and keep up the good work.”
We thank Mr. Irwin for writing in and letting us know his views as a young Canadian who will be impacted by the budget.
We get these responses from young Canadians time and time again. Young Canadians have a profound belief in the future of our country. They believe in the environment. They believe government plays an important part in ensuring that families are protected, in ensuring that the economy works well, in ensuring that there is access to post-secondary education, because that not only provides for a better future for those families but also provides a better future for all of us in this country.
I am particularly gratified with the number of young Canadians who are tweeting and posting on Facebook and sending in emails and their comments. They believe in Canada; they do not believe in the budget, but they believe in Canada and in the future of our country. They believe that together we can build that better Canada that we all aspire to. They believe that Canadian families deserve better than the budget that was given to them by the Conservative government.
I will move on to Kitchener, another Conservative-held riding. Here a lady has written to say, “I heard your response to the federal budget and want you to know I agree completely with your opposition to this plan to dismantle our social safety net.
“I am recently retired, having worked for a social agency most of my life. I am very upset about the proposal to destroy the universality of old age security. This plan totally ignores that a number of studies have made it clear that OAS is a very sustainable program. By delaying OAS until age 67, many of the most vulnerable seniors will also be deprived of the GIS supplement.
“It is ludicrous to assume that ordinary people can save sufficient money to fund their own retirement. With the massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector, many people are having difficulty with surviving, and savings are just a dream. Moreover, it seems patently unfair to expect that in the current precarious financial climate, ordinary people are put at the mercy of the stock market to attempt to grow any savings.
“The glaring lack in this budget is any attempt to reform the Canada pension plan in order to make it a sustainable solution for all the people for whom the private sector has failed to provide any pension security. Instead of attempting to drive divisions between those who have earned pensions and those who are deprived of pensions, a reasonable government would attempt to provide security for everyone.
“I am also very concerned about the plan to make deep cuts into the public service. I live in Kitchener, Ontario, and we have a federal women's prison in our area. In spite of the expected influx of more prisoners thanks to the omnibus bill, cuts to the staff will inevitably cause serious destruction of programs that now attempt to address some of the serious problems that led to the incarceration of the prisoners.
“I am also concerned that staff cuts in other federal programs will cause serious delays in such programs as the delivery of unemployment benefits.
“Another area that causes me concern is the cuts to regulations that protect me from contaminated food.
“The proposed streamlining of environmental reviews, coupled with the attack on environmental organizations who would challenge such plans as the Gateway pipeline seem to me to be another way to suppress dissent to this government.
“Speaking of suppression, I was upset but not surprised, that after raising some very serious indication of organized voter suppression tactics in more than 200 ridings in our last federal election, Elections Canada has had serious cuts to their budget. Thank you for voicing the concerns of ordinary people whom this government seems happy to treat with contemptuous disregard”.
We thank her for writing in.
This is absolutely the issue we are talking about. The OAS cuts also lead to commensurate GIS cuts. What we are talking about is an overall cutback to the whole foundation of retirement security. As so many people are writing in to say, this is simply unacceptable. It is a real concern to many Canadians. Fundamentally, what I think these Canadians are saying as well is that we are going to see far more seniors living in poverty.
We had a previous letter indicating already that in most OECD countries, almost all of them or three-quarters of them in fact, the retirement age is actually 65 or under. Canada is one of those few countries that is so regressive with its own seniors, so lacking in respect for the contributions seniors have made to the country, that what the current government is actually doing in this budget is upping the retirement age from 65 to 67. That is a real shame because Canadian families deserve better than that. They really do.
I would like to move on now to another Conservative riding. It is no secret that what we are trying to do is to make the case against this budget step by step, brick by brick, by raising constituents' concerns in ridings that are represented by Conservative MPs. I do not think anything could be clearer than to have all of these letters, tweets and Facebook comments flooding in, all of which address Conservative members of Parliament. In all cases, they are saying, “My Conservative MP is not representing me if he or she votes for this budget”. I think that is a very important thing to underscore, that what we are doing through the course of this debate is establishing the case that, effectively, Canadians living in Conservative ridings are making their voices known.
If I were a Conservative MP, with a bad budget like this that will guarantee fewer jobs, less growth, less prosperity, I would think twice and say, “Hold on. My constituents are reacting. They are reacting to all of the various components of this agenda. Maybe I have to think twice”. Perhaps we will see, over the course of the debate, Conservative MPs standing and saying, “I'm going to represent my constituents. I'm going to vote against this budget because this budget is not good for families in my riding and not good for the country”.
Maybe we will see that. As we read out these letters coming from across the country from Conservative-held ridings, maybe we will see Conservative MPs standing and saying, “We're going to vote for what's good for the country. We're voting against this budget. We're going to vote for a budget that actually creates jobs”.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Peter Julian: One might say that is absurd and that a Conservative MP would never do that. However, when we think back, a few years ago no one would have said there would be 102 strong NDP MPs representing constituents right across this country from coast to coast to coast. It was not impossible because we believed that we could get things done and represent our constituents strongly.
When I started out, I was down in that far corner. There were only 19 of us back in 2004, but with Jack Layton we continued to progress. We moved across and then moved up. Now we are the official opposition and are poised to form government on October 20, 2015. People always said that would be impossible and I say nothing is impossible when one has fundamental Canadian values and when one strongly represents constituents.
I do not believe it is impossible that some Conservatives on the other side will wake up after having read the budget and say they will not vote for it because it is bad for Canada and bad for Canadian families. Instead, they will vote for retirement security, for the type of retirement age that almost all OECD countries have, and they will vote for the types of things that the NDP brings forward, including sustainable, long-term funding for health care and services. They will vote against this budget and for something better. I do not believe that is impossible. I am hopeful that through the course of this debate, as we read letter after letter from constituents in Conservative-held ridings, that we will see the Conservatives waking up. We will see it one day. We will see members on the other side smile. The penny will drop, even if they are doing away with it, which we certainly support doing, but the penny will drop and they will say this is a penny-wise and pound foolish budget and they are not going to vote for it. We will see that and that is my hope in the coming days.
I will move on to another resident of a Conservative-held riding in London West. This constituent is writing to the NDP MP next door, the member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe, who is an extraordinary seniors and pension critic.
She says, “I know I am not a resident of your riding, but my Conservative MP never seems to respond with anything but platitudes. I know you are doing the best you can for our community, so I wanted to tell you what this budget means for me.
“I am a 50-year-old, unemployed single female. Finding a job is tough and this budget has nothing in it to help me and soon there won't even be anyone left to answer the phone. I am running out of blood pressure medication because I have no benefits, which wouldn't matter if I had a pharmacare program, but I saw nothing for me in the budget on that. I do, however, fall into the age category of the first few years' worth of senior citizens who will lose two years of OAS payments. I have been told my whole working life that while there was no pool of money, I was paying for the people who are retiring now and that younger people would be paying for me, and so on, this while my savings have been eaten up trying to find stable employment.
“For me, this budget is a recipe for poverty, but the Chief Electoral Officer was the only officer of Parliament to face immediate funding cuts. It was a corrupt decision, cynical beyond belief.
“I did notice that while the Conservatives claimed to be in favour of smaller government, the cabinet is huge, at 38, and there were no announced cuts to that burgeoning group nor to the Prime Minister's Office. I have seen money and tax breaks flung at corporations who then leave the country with them, leaving broken communities in their wake. I see valuable resources being depleted and value added offshore and these policies are anathema to job creation. This budget ignores these issues. A hold on yet another tax cut does nothing to reverse the effect of a financial crisis that was created by the tax cuts that went before.
“First nations people are being treated horribly, and women are being ignored and yet, apparently, there is no end of money available to purchase jets, with no public process or even proper bidding procedures being followed. I guess I shouldn't be shocked by the government that couldn't even see its way clear to bringing a flag down to half mast when our soldiers died would not take care of the ones that returned home”.
That was from a woman in London West in Ontario, whom we thank for writing such heartfelt comments about the future of this country. We are going to make sure this country is run the way we would like it to be. We are not going to forget her, that is for sure.
I would like to move on to a letter from a constituent in another Conservative-held riding, Ottawa—Orléans. Here is another person writing in a very heartfelt way.
He states that, “I, too, have a Conservative MP, and just got a pamphlet about tax saving tips on the same day his government announced they will be laying off thousands of public servants. Many will be this MP's constituents.
“The problem with the excuse of people living longer as a reason to attack future OAS recipients is that the more well off a person is, the longer they can expect to live, and the poorer a person is, the shorter they will live. These are facts that are supported by Statistics Canada. All the Conservatives have done is ensure low-wage workers are available to take unglamorous jobs a few years longer. Some will never retire anyway, but now that number is guaranteed to increase.
“This budget is a disgrace. It has money for venture capitalists and further erodes good-paying jobs in our communities. If the Prime Minister wants to play Dragons' Den games, I encourage him to resign from his current job and show us what a brilliant, trained economist he is with his own money.
“Keep on speaking the truth in Parliament, we are watching and cheering”.
The comments from these Canadians, showing their courage and their vision of how this country ought to be and their profound belief that this country can be better, that those Canadian values can continue despite how meanspirited this budget is, encourage all of us in the official opposition NDP caucus to keep doing our work, to keep standing up for Canadians and to keep fighting for that day when we can have a progressive government in power in this country. That is what keeps us going and drives us forward.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Peter Julian: I cannot believe the energy of my colleagues. They are an amazing group of people.
I am going to move on now to another constituent in another Conservative-held riding, London North Centre. Again, this person does not feel well-represented by their local MP and has written to an NDP MP to pass on the information, and says:
“I watched the federal budget today and I am very worried. I find the cuts particularly worrisome as they can result in damage that cannot be undone. Changes to the OAS and CPP could perhaps be addressed by future governments. The degradation of the environment and the slow dismantling of our culture and democratic safeguards are not so easily fixed.
“Except for the fossil fuel industry, I see no programs in support of job creation. Meanwhile, those who do benefit represent only one segment of the Canadian population while ignoring the rest. This segment, not surprisingly, lives where the Conservatives have their greatest political strength.
“Instead of job creation, I see job losses, both in the public sector and in the private sector where the new loosening of restrictions on cross-border shopping will have a tremendous impact. Coincidentally, the areas most affected will probably be Ontario and Quebec where the Conservatives do not have their best showing.
“There seems to be no focus or plan to this budget. There is no real nation-wide job creation incentive with only a possible debt reduction component. It ignores the concerns of Canadians about the debt, unemployment and widening income gap. Some budget cuts seem to be based more on ideology than economics, and they prove to be more expensive in the end”.
That is from a constituent in the Conservative-held riding of London North Centre.
This tweet is directed to the member of Parliament for Sarnia—Lambton from a constituent saying “Don't vote for this budget”.
We are starting to get constituents tweeting directly to Conservative members of Parliament. We certainly encourage that. People have been hearing the debate over the last day or two. They are saying they do not want their Conservative MPs to vote for this budget because of its attacks on retirement security, what it does to health care transfers, the gutting of services in so many different areas, the gutting of environmental protections and the tens of thousands of lost jobs.
Given the energy that Canadians have, and the time and effort that they are putting in to make sure their reactions are heard on the floor of the House of Commons, we certainly encourage folks to write to their Conservative member of Parliament, to tweet, post on Facebook, send emails or give them a call.
I know many seniors have been contacting their Conservative MPs in the last few weeks, since the Prime Minister went to Davos, Switzerland and announced in front of the world's billionaires that he was going to gut retirement security.
We think that these tweets are very important steps. Preferably, they should copy their local NDP MP in their region. That helps us to know what they are sending on to their Conservative MP.
Very clearly, there is a good, healthy reaction from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We certainly encourage them to speak out. That is how we make Canada stronger, by Canadians who speak out and make their concerns known.
We on this side of the House believe firmly in a democratic framework. We believe firmly that there is a place for all Canadians to express their points of view, and that is on the floor of the House of Commons. That is why these members of Parliament are here today. After hours, they are still full of vim and vigour, spit and polish, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I am not sure how many other metaphors I can use. However, they are just great and energetic. They believe that Canadian families deserve much better than this budget.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: I would like to move on to another Conservative-held riding. That is the riding of Perth—Wellington.
If you do not mind, Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to continue. Thank you for being very gracious. I certainly appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak.
This is from a young person. We have all been very excited by the young people who are letting their opinions be known. He says, “First of all, I want to say that I'm surprised and encouraged by your allowing Canadians direct participation in our government”. He is speaking of the NDP. “It's important that the opinions of Canadians are heard publicly. As a young person in the Perth—Wellington riding, I do not believe my MP would be willing to voice my opinion”. That is too bad, but hopefully maybe next time they'll have an NDP MP in his riding.
Specifically on the budget, he says, “More than the specific elements of the budget, I am concerned that the government continues to proceed, all the while refusing to analyze the potential impacts or benefits of their policies. They ignore expert opinions and scientists, and seem to forgo investigations of costs”.
An hon. member: They don’t just ignore them, they shut them down.
Mr. Peter Julian: Yes. He continues, “They seem to refuse to release the real information into public hands and instead play with the numbers to suggest their policies are the correct ones. As an example, the OAS changes. I have heard the numbers from the Conservatives many times. OAS costs were $38 billion in 2010, but will be $108 billion in 2030.”
This young person picks up on what no Conservative has picked up on in the House. He states, “The problem with this is that it is comparing apples to oranges, 2010 dollars versus 2030 dollars.” Mr. Speaker, this has been a bone of contention for some time. I really thank the writer for raising this because this is extremely important. We have been raising in the House for months, since the election of May 2, this idea that somehow we can compare current dollars to constant dollars. We have to make sure that we are comparing the constant dollar value of something.
If I have time later on this afternoon, if I am permitted to keep on speaking, I will address this issue of constant dollars and how it actually plays out in some of the trade agreements we have signed. We have heard the government say that it has signed all of these trade agreements to actually further exports. We have done a little research. It turns out that, in so many cases, in constant dollars our exports to those markets actually fall after we sign the trade agreements.
However, because the government does not seem to want to understand the distinction between constant dollars, those which have the same value over time, that are inflation adjusted, and current dollars which are completely different and which in 2012 are worth something completely different than in 1912, there is a fundamental difference. Everyone seems to understand that but the government. It consistently uses current dollars to try to justify some of its policies when very clearly what we are experiencing in the case of some of these trade agreements is a fall in exports, not a rise.
The writer understood this. He says, “The problem with this is that it is comparing apples to oranges, 2010 dollars versus 2030 dollars. When you correct the figures, the real comparison should be $38 billion in 2010 and $69 billion in 2030, not nearly the same.”
He goes on to state, “I also took extreme offence at the finance minister badmouthing our province yet again on the world stage.” He is talking about the comments about Ontario. “As a representative of Canada and its provinces, it carries particular weight to investors when our own representative speaks badly of us. He should apologize.”
He further states, “Once again, he is misrepresenting the facts during his statements. He has ignored the Drummond Report, which lays much of the blame for Ontario’s fiscal situation on the federal government and suggests that Ontario is mismanaging its spending. Ontario actually spends less per capita than any other province. Canadians are intelligent. We should be allowed to have the facts of the situation and be able to judge policies based on these facts. By not doing so, our intelligence is being insulted. If their policies are as good as they are promoted to be, then those judgments should be possible.”
I thank the writer for sending in his comments.
An hon. member: We should applaud him.
Mr. Peter Julian: Absolutely. We should applaud him because that is terrific.
An hon. member: It is democracy in action.
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, thank you for clarifying that. I am very happy to be back, and I appreciated the points of order just the same. It was great to have that moment because, as I am saying, even as we speak, more and more comments are flooding in. I believe the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour will be passing me his BlackBerry in just a moment.
Here is another question from a young Canadian, “If the Conservatives are so concerned about the budget and deficit, why did they create the deficit in the first place?” I think that is a very interesting question.
I have comment from a gentleman in southern Ontario who says, “Thanks to the NDP for being my voice in Parliament re: the budget. My member of Parliament, a Conservative, doesn't seem to care, unfortunately.” I am hopeful that will change through the course of this budget debate.
I do not know about other members but I am feeling more energetic than ever with the support of my NDP colleagues in the House of Commons.
I will continue to read into the record the comments from Canadian families from coast to coast to coast. This comment comes from someone in northern Ontario, “The current budget is a disaster and will deepen the recession that Canada is barely able to get out of. As we're becoming aware, Canadians are becoming aware, we did not elect this government.”
That is a very key point. That individual is raising a concern about the issue of robocalls in the last federal election campaign. Of course, it has been part of the discussions we in this House have been having over the course of the last few weeks. Canadians have become more aware of how the election campaign was interfered with, which I think is fair to say since Elections Canada is investigating. Obviously, the comment from that Canadian that the budget is a disaster because it will deepen the recession is a valid point.
Coming into the budget itself, we had already lost 50,000 full-time jobs since September. Even though the Conservatives like to throw out these very imaginative and creative numbers, we on this side of the House prefer to stick to facts, which is why we support the work of the First Nations Statistical Institute, the National Council of Welfare and Statistics Canada. The first two have been completely destroyed. Their heads have been cut off by the budget. The third is barely hanging on, with severe ongoing cuts.
However, we believe in sticking to the facts and the facts are that, since prior to the last recession back in May 2008, the Conservatives have barely managed to create 200,000 jobs at a time when the labour force grew by 500,000. We were well behind almost 300,000 jobs, certainly 250,000 jobs short of what needed to be created just to keep our heads above water.
Then came September through to February, which were catastrophic months for 50,000 Canadian families that lost their breadwinners. People went to work and were told that there was no more work. They no longer had incomes. They had that sickening thought, as they walked through the door to talk to their family, that the family would need to cut back and that they would have difficulty keeping a roof over their heads. They will need to cut back on medication for their parents perhaps, or maybe shoes for the kids, or maybe that summer camp they dreamed of for years for their youngest. That happened 50,000 times over the course of the fall and then we hit this budget.
The Canadian who just wrote to us understands completely that we will lose another 50,000 or more jobs, not just the jobs that were killed by this fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget, but by the multiplier effect in the private sector. We are talking about 50,000 more Canadian families that will lose a breadwinner.
This is the most important point I would like to emphasize. As I am reading these letters into the record and bringing forward these comments from Canadians, we are understanding the wisdom and profound knowledge of the Canadian people. Canadians understand the economy. They understand that when we slice, hack and go at it like ideological Vikings breaking open the shop rather than proceeding in a responsible way, there are consequences, and that is what has happened here.
After the failure of the government to address, in any meaningful way, the recession, being almost 300,000 jobs short, after the failure we saw this fall with the factory closures across this country, dozens of factories and plants closed with tens of thousands of jobs lost, for the government at this time to hack, slash and kill 20,000 public sector jobs and 30,000 or 40,000 more private sector jobs, though we probably will not find out the real figures until tomorrow, is profoundly irresponsible.
On this side of the House, the NDP MPs believe in the solid knowledge, understanding and wisdom of the Canadian people. Canadians understand what the government is doing and they do not like it. Canadians understand the negative impacts of this budget and they do not like it. They understand the increasing inequality and they do not like it. They want the kind of country where people are not left behind and everyone matters, where democratic institutions function, where Elections Canada is not hurt as a result of taking action because of potential illegal activities in the last election campaign but that it is actually given the resources to do its work to uncover the truth, and where statistical organizations actually produce real studies because they have the financing to do so and, in that way, we can track what the real qualify of life is for first nations people in our country, and what is really happening with those who are at the bottom level of income, the poorest of the poor in our country.
That is what Canadians believe in and that is what we are seeing in case after case as I read these letters. Canadians understand the difference between current dollars and constant dollars. They understand that this country is not going in the direction they want it to go in. They understand that they were given promises that have been promptly broken by the government. They also understand that there is hope on the horizon because, on October 20, 2015, there will be a new sunrise in this country with the election of the first NDP government in Canadian history.
I am just warming up and starting to get my stride. I do not know how late we are going tonight, but I am perfectly willing to keep reading Canadians' comments into the record.
I will now go to northern Quebec now. An individual wrote to the finance minister and said the following, “Dear Mr. Finance Minister:
“Cutting public services and jobs is not the only way to reduce the deficit. In fact, austerity budgets could increase unemployment and push Canada into another recession, which, in turn, could reduce government revenues and make it more difficult to achieve a balanced budget. Your government often points to Greece as a reason to reduce government deficits and debt but Greece also provides a warning about what happens to an economy when deep austerity measures are adopted. Consider alternatives to cutbacks that could harm the Canadian economy to say nothing of the many public service workers and many Canadians who depend on their services”.
I would like to thank this individual for writing in on that basis. She is absolutely right.
An interesting and important point that we can make in this debate is that the countries that are in difficulty, Greece and Ireland, are actually the countries that have the lowest corporate tax rates. The idea that driving corporate tax rates down as far as they can go is somehow good for the economy, Greece and Ireland are two examples to the contrary. They have the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe and we can see where it led them.
I will move on to Atlantic Canada. We have some fantastic Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: Who are they, Peter?
Mr. Peter Julian: I am being asked to say who they are but all Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament are fantastic. However, there are six who are particularly distinguishing in the work they have done in Parliament: the members of Parliament for St. John's East, St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Halifax, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Sackville—Eastern Shore and Acadie—Bathurst. Those six MPs are the strongest of the strong among Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament.
Coincidentally, coming in just in the last few minutes are some comments from Atlantic Canadians, which I think mixes very well with the strong representation they have in Atlantic Canada. I have comments from Halifax, which read, ”Corporate tax cuts, more prisons and 65 F-35 fighters bombers are no response to the needs of average Canadians. How about eliminating subsidies to big oil giants? How about closing the loopholes on corporations that hide profits offshore and give Revenue Canada the e tools human resources they need to properly investigate the billions of tax dollars corporations cleverly hide from the purview of Revenue Canada. Canadians need adequate responses to child care, health care and education as well as pensions, and a meaningful investment in green energy sources”.
That is wisdom from Atlantic Canada. We thank the person for writing in. Obviously the concern is around the prison agenda at a time when the crime rate is falling and the massive boondoggle, the F-35 fiasco. Members will recall when the government promised it would not cost more than $9 billion to replace the CF-18s. Now we are at somewhere between $30 billion and $40 billion and counting. The government just does not seem to have at any point any willingness to put the brakes on and say that it needs to start over on it.
The Conservatives are telling future seniors that they will need to pay for the government's boondoggle, its fiasco, rather than stopping the purchase, which is what a prudent NDP government would do. We would stop it. It will cost $30 billion or $40 billion. We would put the brakes on and start over. The government should tender the contract and ensure there is careful cost accounting so we are not spending $40 billion for something that was committed to at $9 billion.
Since we have not formed a federal government yet, members might ask how we can talk about financial accounting at the federal level. The Department of Finance publishes annual returns, which are called the fiscal period returns. It calculates how good governments of all stripes are at budget forecasting, how they balance their budgets and how they pay down debt. It has been doing that for 20 years. It is hardly a hotbed of social democrats, which I think members will agree with me on that, but for 20 years, year after year, it has compared NDP governments, Conservative governments and Liberal governments. Of course, Liberal governments have not been so good on the budgetary management side, so they tend to be off with the Parti Québécois and the Socreds.
The second-place award for the last 20 years for fiscal management goes to the Conservative Party.
For 20 years, without fail, year after year, NDP governments have been the best at forecasting balanced budgets, balancing the budgets and paying down debt.
If I were the one saying so, I could imagine some skepticism from the Conservatives across the aisle, but the fact is their own federal Ministry of Finance is saying that. I think that tells them if they want to up their game, they should act more like New Democrats. That is what they need to do.
Let us move on to some more comments. I am going to talk about an eight-year-old girl in the Halifax region. I believe her name is Madeline.
We have been talking a lot about the wisdom of Canadians. We have been talking about the wisdom of young Canadians who have been writing in. They understand we cannot compare apples and oranges, constant dollars and current dollars. We have been talking about the wisdom of senior Canadians and those who are nearly seniors who understand that the OAS is sustainable in its present form, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer says, as the government's own actuarial tables say. That wisdom we are getting is from a wide variety of Canadians.
Here is wisdom from an eight-year-girl in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an eight-year-old Canadian who understands what budgets are all about. She said, “Why doesn't the Prime Minister know if he doesn't use the budget to look after the environment, we will end up just like the people in WALL-E?” WALL-E is a film about the environment. It is a great film. This eight-year-old girl in Halifax, Nova Scotia understands that we have to take care of the environment or we will end up with severe environmental degradation and catastrophe.
We say to Madeline that she can trust us to make sure that, as of October 20, 2015, we are going to take care of the environment. She can trust us in pushing back on these meanspirited cuts to the environment ministry and the removal of environmental assessments. Madeline is absolutely right. We have to look after the environment. We pledge to do so.
I sure hope that the Prime Minister's Office incorporates Madeline's comments in the next briefing note that comes out. We see that eight-year-olds understand the importance of the environment. If the government does not seem to understand the importance of environmental assessments and protecting the environment, perhaps the Prime Minister should visit a class of eight-year-olds and find out from them how important the environment is to them and how important the future of the country is to them.
I am going to move from Halifax, Nova Scotia to another favourite part of our land, the great city of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which has two fantastic members of Parliament.
Mr. Murphy, who is from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, said, “The increase in the duty free allowance only serves to show Canadians the government's arrogance. I wish somebody could explain how the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister intend to grow our economy with this regressive move to encourage people to go across the border to buy goods”.
I have some more comments from Atlantic Canadians. A lot of Atlantic Canadians have been writing in and tweeting. My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour may have another tweet to tell me about.
I mentioned Nova Scotia. We heard Madeline's comments and a number of others. We have mentioned Newfoundland and Labrador. I also have a comment from someone from Prince Edward Island and a comment from someone from New Brunswick.
Ms. Hunt, who is from Prince Edward Island, said, “I am a re-elected town councillor in Prince Edward Island. This budget is an extremely harsh budget, favouring big business but attacking the poor, the disadvantaged and seniors. The OAS attacks target poor seniors and youth. Please speak up for Canadians, including Katimavik youth”, and I will certainly be doing that in a moment. She said, “I feel like we are now becoming the 51st state of the U.S.A.”
Another young person, Ms. Henry, is from Fredericton, New Brunswick, which is another Conservative-held riding. We have been endeavouring to raise concerns that are coming from Conservative-held ridings from coast to coast to coast.
Mr. Scott Andrews: We are smiling over here.
Mr. Peter Julian: I thank the member across the way for his compliments.
Ms. Henry said, “Thanks for standing up in the House and opposing the disastrous Conservative budget. As a full-time student working three jobs to pay for my education, I am disappointed that the budget offers no help for students. Increasing tuition fees mean that post-secondary education is becoming less and less accessible to young people in Canada. I see my friends dropping out of university because they cannot afford to continue. We have a student debt crisis, and instead of ensuring that all young people have a fair chance, the Conservatives seem intent on creating a system where only the rich can get an education, and that is shameful. As a young person, I am outraged that the Conservatives are trying to justify their cuts to old age security by claiming to be helping young people. We are the ones who cannot find jobs now because of their mismanagement of the economy. It is my generation that will have to retire later and live in poverty in our retirement. Many seniors who have worked their whole lives are already being forced to live in poverty in retirement. Cutting OAS and throwing more seniors into poverty is bad for seniors and it is bad for youth”.
These are the voices of Canadians from across the country. There is another tweet coming in. I certainly encourage Canadians to continue tweeting or posting on Facebook.
This is a request from a constituent in Brandon—Souris, which is a Conservative-held riding in Manitoba. That individual has asked the member for Brandon—Souris to cross the floor and vote against the budget and join the NDP. We think that is very good advice.
An hon. member: Do not stop now.
Mr. Peter Julian: We will not be stopping. That is for sure.
These are some of the comments that have been raised. There are tons more coming in. Before I turn to other things, I want to mention some of the concerns that have been raised around one program in particular. There is a truckload of comments coming in on a variety of issues. I have addressed the OAS concerns, the cuts to services, environmental assessments. Comments are coming in from all over. Canadians are speaking out. They are very concerned. Some comments are coming in regarding one program in particular, since we have been talking about youth.
This is about the Katimavik program.
Many Canadians have said they do not agree with the government about old age pensions or about the budget cuts, especially with regard to services. Of course, a number of Canadians have also mentioned the Katimavik program. I would like to spend a few moments, since I have a good deal of time to talk today, discussing the budget cuts that affect Katimavik, because many Canadians are worried. I will begin in Quebec.
First, I have an email from Sherbrooke that says, “I have not yet had time to read the Conservative budget, but I saw that they have made cuts to the Katimavik social program. It is a very useful program for youth development in our Canadian communities.” This young Canadian objects to the cuts.
Now we go to Rimouski, where a woman writes, “I worked for Katimavik as a coordinator in Rimouski, Trois-Pistoles and Mont-Joli. I saw how much this program helped young Canadians grow and develop and how much it gave to the host communities. I was the coordinator the first year of the program in the Lower St. Lawrence region, and I am proud of what the young people did in our city, by volunteering with a number of non-profit organizations.”
They are saying we must support organizations that can do a lot with scarce resources. On the subject of Katimavik, once more, there has been great response from the people of Canada.
Next we come to Ville d'Anjou. I would like to thank the hon. member for Anjou and Rivière des Prairies for his presence and his work in the House.
The woman wrote the following to her member of Parliament: “I live in Ville d'Anjou. First, I must admit that I know very little about politics because I am only 22. I am writing about the abolition of the Katimavik program, which was made official in today's budget. [She wrote last Thursday.] I am both sad and upset that this program has been abolished. I had the opportunity to take part in it in 2009-10. At the time, I was dithering. I had to choose between various college programs, but I had no idea of what I wanted to do. Therefore, I decided to participate in the Katimavik program. It gave me an understanding of the world and of what the citizenship means. I developed a new confidence and I learned to opt for the simple life. I also had the opportunity to see how much Canadian communities have to offer and, of course, I was able to learn English, a language in which I was deficient despite taking courses in high school and in CEGEP. After coming back home at the end of the program, I completed my education in social sciences, since Katimavik had helped me find my way. I also continued to do volunteer work in my neighbourhood, particularly with young people. In fact, this experience confirmed my choice of career. It is with nostalgia that I think back to Katimavik, program that I feel should be compulsory. During the election campaign, when my friends would show little interest in politics at the provincial or national level, I made a point of explaining its importance, because it was taught to me at Katimavik.”
That is another very important point. Young people are writing from all regions of the country. They are saying that the Katimavik program is important. They are also saying that, since this program is so useful to Canadians, the government should not have abolished it in the budget.
We fully agree with these young people. We believe that Canadian families deserve better than cuts to the Katimavik program, which is a program designed for young people. They deserve better.
Here is another young voice from Quebec, in the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue: “I am a resident of Val-d'Or and I am writing to express my concern over the abolition of the Canadian volunteer program Katimavik. As you know, the minister tabled his budget on March 23, 2012, and we learned in it that the program would no longer be subsidized. However, I firmly believe that they [the government] did not do their homework. How can the Conservative government deprive young adults aged 16 to 21 of their right to explore their culture and nation, particularly since the program is so useful to communities that have a great need for it? The young people who enrol in the program will not silence the party, on the contrary. They all work for not-for-profit corporations that provide a direct service to the most underprivileged, whether it be soup kitchens, centres for people with disabilities, or schools in disadvantaged areas. These young people have a direct impact on the community and on the people they meet. I myself participated in the program [it is still Mr. Gauthier from Val-d'Or talking] in 2008-09, and I swear on the Bible that this experience changed my life. I learned to live in a group, to share and to not worry about my small problems. I learned that there are people who have much greater needs than I do. Do you not think that this experience has a more positive impact on young people who, at 16, learn the real values in life? Instead of realizing the importance of this program for the years to come, the government prefers to keep young people in their communities and prevent them from discovering the essence of Canada and meeting its great and welcoming population. [This is really a message of hope.] I realize that one email is not going to change the world. However, if I managed to pique your curiosity about the Katimavik program, I will have done my share. Thirty thousand young people have already been part of the adventure and a few thousand are currently helping hundreds of communities coast to coast. Unfortunately, the group that was supposed to leave in July to lend a helping hand has been cancelled. Think of the thousands of young people who were waiting to leave and who, because of the Prime Minister, will not be of any help to our communities. If you have a few minutes, I invite you to visit the website. You should take a look at it. I do not think that a subsidy of a few hundred thousand dollars to train our youth should have been cut.”
That was another message about Katimavik. I am skipping some because there are many more. Still, I will try to read a few, because I think I have enough time.
This is from a British Columbian. He says, “It has recently come to my attention that the federal government will cut funding to essential youth development programs. One of these is Katimavik. If you are not aware, Katimavik is a national youth volunteer program focused on fostering personal development in young Canadians through voluntary community work, training and group interaction. It is a cultural exchange between communities in Canada and youth from the rest of Canada. I am an alumni of the Katimavik program. I was stationed in Steinbach, Manitoba and Chisasibi in Northern Quebec. I have seen amazing growth and development as a result of my involvement in these communities in Canada. This program establishes strong links between small communities and the rest of Canada. It also offers community partners a great economic return. According to the social and economic impact study of the Katimavik program 2006, Katimavik has a positive economic return for the community partners. Each $1 expenditure by Katimavik generates an average return of $2.20.”
He says, “If not for this program, I would not have grown to be an engaged citizen, nor come to understand this great country. Before this program, I never really understood my role in Canada. I immigrated to Canada when I was six years old. I never really felt I was Canadian, or even really understood what that meant. However, after the program, and interacting with these people outside Vancouver, I understood that Canada is a wonderfully culturally diverse place, and respecting and sharing that diversity is what it meant to be Canadian to me. I believe cutting this program would be a devastating blow to the future of Canada. This program has developed me, and each year 1,100 other youth, to be engaged in local communities and lives. It has also developed my professional and social skills. At this point in time in the economy it is difficult for youth to acquire work without previous experience. This causes a vicious circle of inexperienced youth not being hired and youth not being able to gain experience to be hired. According to Statistics Canada, the youth unemployment rate has been skyrocketing. If it were not for Katimavik, I would not have decided to study at Simon Fraser University. I can make a career out of interacting with our global, national and local communities. Before the program I was just a confused and aimless student. But now, I have direction.”
This is just another example of young Canadians writing in and saying to the government that it should not be cutting Katimavik and other programs in the budget. Canadian families and Canadian youth deserve better than what it has put forward in the budget.
We have comments from Kenora, another Conservative riding. The writer says, “We have had the privilege of having Katimavik volunteers in our community for the past three years. We have worked with over 60 youth from across the country. We are an Ojibway anglophone community with many not-for-profit organizations that have been able to enhance their staffing at no cost. Youth volunteers have assisted the Out of the Cold shelter, the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, the Salvation Army Thrift Store, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kwayaciiwin Education Resources, Cedar Bay Recreation Centre and Wawatay Native Communications Society, to name but a few. The youth have had a tremendous opportunity to learn about the culture of the settler nations of Canada, French and English, as they live and learn as a team for the term of six months. In Sioux Lookout, they have also been introduced to aboriginal culture and have learned from first nations people the history, struggles and hope for the future. The program gives youth the opportunity to learn about our great country and that there is an additional benefit to the communities that host these young people. I understand that the budget is about $15 million a year. In the grand scheme of things, that does not seem to be out of line for the benefit created. Please fight to keep this valuable program operating.”
In all these cases, we see a government that is prepared to spend, with the maintenance contracts, somewhere around $40 billion for the F-35s, for 65 fighter jets. We can do the calculation. We are talking about well over $0.5 billion for each of the fighter jets. The Conservatives are saying that because of that they have to cut pensions, services and health care. They have to cut out whole programs and statistical agencies that provide facts, to which the government seems very adverse.
We are saying that is not the way it ought to be, that does not reflect fundamental Canadian values. Canadians want to work with each other and help each other. That is one thing that Katimavik does. I have another comment from a Conservative riding in New Brunswick. It states, “As someone who has had many friends and family members participate in Katimavik throughout the years, I am concerned about this government's recent decision to de-fund this invaluable program. With youth unemployment at record levels under this government, the federal government must do everything it can to address this growing crisis. The opportunity that Katimavik provides to young people across Canada is just one of the many ways the federal government could work to address this issue. I urge Conservatives to reverse their position.”
Tweets are coming to Conservative members of Parliament. Folks are now posting on Facebook sites and sending in emails. They are saying to Conservative members of Parliament, “You've got to change the way you're going. This budget is not good for Canada”.
Mr. Peter Julian:
Mr. Speaker, the member has long experience in the House of Commons. He knows there are some Liberal members of Parliament who would like the NDP to stop so that the Conservatives can take the floor. It astounds me, because the reality is the Liberals get a few minutes of debate but the Conservatives get most of the debating time.
I have not had a single email, a single Twitter, a single posting on Facebook asking that the Conservatives take over debate in the House of Commons, as they have done by using taxpayers' money to send ministers across the country to say inaccurate things about the budget. Canadians are telling me to stand in the House and speak for them. They are telling me to make sure Canadians know what is in the budget and why they deserve better.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for ruling on the matter. It is much appreciated. I would ask, Mr. Speaker, if you could give me a five-minute signal and a one-minute signal when we come up to 6:30 p.m. That would be much appreciated, because I want to make some concluding remarks. I said earlier that I wanted to speak for a while, but I have been energized by some of the comments coming from the House of Commons and the many Canadians who are asking for their voices to be heard on the floor of the House of Commons. I am perfectly happy to keep on speaking.
I will now move on to a young woman named Alexandra, who lives on the West Island in Montreal.
She says, in a bit of a humourous way, “Thanks to the Prime Minister for cutting the program that taught me the most life skills, taught me more than any school ever did, gave me the opportunities I have now, and let me live some of the most incredible experiences. Yes, [Prime Minister], you are really looking out for Canada's youth and future generations.”
It is an outstanding comment, and she is obviously concerned about what the Prime Minister is doing to that program.
This is from a gentleman in Vancouver South, another Conservative riding. We are endeavouring to have the views of Canadians living in Conservative ridings brought to the floor of the House of Commons.
This person says, “I know first-hand how good the program Katimavik has been for the youth of this country over the past many years. In addition to a major loss for the country, one of the offices for the program is located in the city of New Westminster, which would mean a loss of jobs in that community. New Westminster has hosted a number of Katimavik projects over the years that have benefited our community.
“I'm not sure also if he asked the President of Treasury Board if the Minister of Canadian Heritage will stand up for Katimavik. I'm not sure also if he has asked the President of Treasury Board to fundraise for the summits that took place in his riding a few years back. Who can forget the fake lake they created?”
We cannot forget the fake lake. We cannot forget the fake citizenship ceremony with fake new citizens. We cannot forget the fake job figures that are brought forward to the House of Commons every day. We just cannot forget all that fakery. I imagine, as a result of the budget, there is going to be more of that, because the government is going to cut all of the statistical agencies that provide the facts on which the government should be proceeding in public policy. The government is simply not doing it.
The next one is from the wonderful riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: Who's the MP there?
Mr. Peter Julian: The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is a terrific individual and good friend of mine. I cannot mention his name, though.
This individual from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour says, “I would like to voice my dismay at the news that funding for Katimavik will be cut.
“The Katimavik program provides this nation's youth with the opportunities and experiences to make better choices to improve their lives and to support their future physical and mental health in positive ways that they may not have access to otherwise. Katimavik is instrumental in building the character and competence of our youth to become the kind of Canadian citizens we need for our future.”
This is another voice of wise Canadians.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: What a great statement.
Mr. Dennis Bevington: What a speech.
An hon. member: It just captured it, didn't it?
Mr. Peter Julian: It did. It was brilliant.
I am now going back to Kenora—Rainy River, another Conservative-held riding. These Canadians are writing or tweeting us, posting on Facebook or writing in emails. They are faxing and phoning NDP MPs and saying, “Please stand up for us in the House of Commons. Please represent us, because our MPs won't do that. This budget is not good”.
This is another letter from Kenora—Rainy River.
It says, “I want to register my strong protest about the Conservative government's elimination in the recent budget of a very positive program for young people in Canada. Katimavik volunteers have visiting Sioux Lookout for the past three years under a program where they learn cultural diversity and civic engagement. In fact, Sioux Lookout has a history with Katimavik dating back to the late 1970s.
“I have had the privilege of supervising the work placements of many of these young people at the Salvation Army thrift store. We are all volunteers at the Sally Ann. We are all working to better our community and our cross-cultural relations. We support recycling, reducing and reusing, and the Katimavik youth have been active in helping us pursue our mandate. We have appreciated the enthusiasm and excitement these youth have shown for Sioux Lookout. We have also learned about their commitment to a better country, their interesting community, aboriginal issues, and their idealistic goal of striving to save the planet.
“These are kids 17 to 21 years of age who earn $2 a day for six months of tireless volunteering, often seven days a week in communities like ours. They are frequently trying to make up their minds about what to do with their lives, and the Katimavik experience helps shape those decisions.
“This is a significant program for youth. It broadens their knowledge of Canada and of our French-English-first nations heritage. It prepares them to join the workforce by giving them valuable work, life and leadership skills while fostering community development.
“The Conservatives have been whittling away at Katimavik for years. When my son experienced Katimavik in 2007, it was a nine-month program, with three months spent in three different communities, and it always included a French experience. Katimavikers then earned $3 a day. For those kids who completed the program, there was a $1,000 survivor's bonus. They were proud kids who received that cheque.
“Now it is a six-month program—two times three months—and the kids have to pay to apply and pay to join. Long gone is the final thank-you cheque.
“Surely this program cannot be a big-ticket item for the government, yet it's a priceless experience for both the participants and the communities lucky enough to enjoy their presence. Last year more than half a million hours of community work were performed by Katimavik youth, but that is down from three-quarters of a million hours the year before because the government keeps slashing the number of participating communities. I am distressed to see the direction we are heading under a Conservative majority, where successful and inexpensive programs for youth are eradicated mid-term.
“Katimavik was just entering the third year of a funding agreement whose term ends in March 2013. The government will undoubtedly incur costs to cancel housing rental agreements, vehicle leases, staff contracts, etc.
“It's hard not to think this is a vindictive move by the Conservatives, who view Katimavik as some other initiative, no matter that it has benefited 30,000 young people since its inception, and assisted numerous communities like Sioux Lookout across Canada.
“This is a valuable program for youth. It makes no sense to eliminate it. What kind of message are we giving our young people when we cut important opportunities for them like this while we increase our spending on prisons by the millions?”
That was a comment from Ms. Mombourquette from Sioux Lookout. I thank Ms. Mombourquette for writing in about Katimavik.
I will continue on.
A constituent from south Vancouver writes, “I'm devastated to learn that as part the 2012 federal budget, our Conservative government has cancelled Katimavik. This is a program that invests in Canadian youth and changes lives for the better. Since 1977 this program has allowed more than 30,000 young Canadians to get involved in more than 2,000 communities across the country.
I am one of those 30,000. My daughter was supposed to be one as well; she was to leave in July for six months. Such a tragic waste of such a valuable program.”
This is from the British Columbia Southern Interior: “It is a hidden economic cost to cut Katimavik. I worked for Katimavik for several years. Now I volunteer with the local Katimavik program. The Katimavik project provides over 5,000 hours of volunteer support to local charities. It strengthens the capacities of these non-profits to serve the community. As local organizations jointly collaborate their support with the Katimavik program, they discover new ways of working together and of jointly serving their community.
“I've seen first-hand how this program fosters resilience and builds the leadership skills of thousands of young people, enabling them to prosper into adulthood. They go home recognizing their personal responsibility in building sustainable communities and valuing active participation in the community. Many participants carry on their community leadership throughout their lifetime.
“It's not uncommon to hear participants say, 'It has changed my life.' ”
I heard that four times this evening when current Katimavik volunteers in the Katimavik Guelph project heard that the 41st Parliament is planning to deny this kind of leadership experience to Canadian youth and community organizations in our communities and across Canada in the future.
“For the past 35 years, 30,000 Canadian youth have made a difference in communities across Canada. It is not uncommon to hear participants say, 'It has changed my life.' They leave the program with increased confidence, ready to go into the workforce or go back to school, passionate about pursuing a new-found goal.
“For those whose lives have been filled with challenges beyond their control, it gives them a chance to realize and harness their strengths. For those who've had more resources growing up, it broadens their understanding of the privileges they've had and the challenges many families have on a daily basis. At a time when civic engagement and voter turnout are at an all-time low, when youth unemployment rates are double the national average, this is clearly the worst time to cut Katimavik.
“Katimavik's ability to promote and instill long-term social responsibility and civic involvement and to provide job skills for our young people is needed more than ever before. I hope for the sake of tomorrow's youth that you can emulate the leadership skills of these young people and take the necessary action to reverse the government's decision.”
That is another Canadian voice.
This is from Edmonton, Alberta, yet another Conservative-held riding. We are giving those Canadians a voice on the floor of the House of Commons.
This lady writes, “I'm writing in response to the funding cuts to Katimavik just announced in the federal budget. I can't believe the government would be so short-sighted and narrow-minded as to wipe out a program that clearly offers nothing but good for Canadian youth.
“A country's longevity lies in the strength of its younger generations. Volunteering and exchanges build resilient, compassionate, intelligent adults who have a better understanding of their world and the people in it. It is ludicrous to assume that Canada does not benefit from youth who can see beyond their own bubble.
“Cutting funding to Katimavik shows a clear disdain for a program that promotes values fundamental to a healthy society. I am ashamed to be governed by a Parliament that fails to see the necessity of volunteers and young people. I would appreciate it if you could make it clear to those in Ottawa that this move is not sitting well with students here in Edmonton, Alberta”.
From the heart of a Conservative riding, here is another Canadian who is speaking out and saying she does not accept the cuts in the Conservative budget.
I'll move on to Toronto. To the member of Parliament for Davenport, an exceptional member of Parliament, a constituent of his states that, “I am writing you as a concerned constituent in your riding regarding the recent decision to remove government funding for the youth program Katimavik in March 2013. In short, I feel this is a poor divestment from Canadian youth and I would like to see the decision challenged”.
He goes on to talk about his experience with Katimavik as a volunteer project leader and resource person and says, “These experiences have given me a clear understanding of the values of the program that has shaped up to 1,000 youth per year since the early 1980s. Here are a few concise points on the values and importance of the Katimavik program.
“The program enforces Canadian values such as diversity appreciation, civic engagement and healthy living. The program unifies Canadians from various provinces who share their experiences, reducing the notion of regionalism in our country. The program benefits 7 to 14 social service organizations in about a hundred communities across Canada with full-time volunteers throughout the year. The program builds the skill sets and confidence of Canadian youth to work in social sectors.
“I personally continue to work in the youth engagement and human rights field. I am only one of the many examples.
“According to my unofficial calculations, the program costs $2 million a year and generates more than $12 million in volunteer work revenue.
“The program allows for stronger connections in Canada by exposing young Canadians to three different regions of Canada outside their home community. The program contributes to creating safer spaces for female and lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender and queer Canadian youth by promoting egalitarian values in group living and connecting with social services of various communities focused on women's and LGBTTQ rights.
“I will happily discuss with you my thoughts in more detail if you would like to hear about the program as a whole”.
There again, from Davenport, Toronto, are concerns about Katimavik.
I will go to someone from LaSalle—Émard, who writes: “Please include me among those who find the government's decision in the budget to end funding to Katimavik as lacking in insight and judgment. From all accounts, Katimavik offers young Canadians an opportunity to see other parts of Canada while engaging in worthwhile community service. I understand many participants want to work in the non-profit sector, thereby improving the lives of less fortunate Canadians. At a time when youth unemployment is very high and many young people are looking for direction and meaning in their future, this move seems especially incomprehensible. I urge you to lend your voice to those asking the government to reconsider the decision”.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue, of course. He who hesitates is lost.
I have one more to read. Even as we speak on the floor of this House of Commons, Canadians are flooding our email inboxes and fax machines and are making phone calls, so it is hard to keep abreast of the numerous Canadians across this country who are asking us to speak out on their behalf.
I was thinking I would move on to another issue, but I just have a fresh pile of emails and tweets and postings from Facebook, and I will have to come back to them.
However, the last one I am going to read from this older pile is from someone in the B.C. southern interior. This person says the following: “I participated in Katimavik in 1979. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I fondly remember the good times and the bad, learning from each other as we connected with fellow Canadians from all provinces. This program helped me immeasurably develop and mature and transition from high school into the greater beyond. It opened doors, working side by side with people from the small communities with whom we lived and gained experience from.
“The loss of this program is a blow to all Canadians. This kind of endeavour keeps Canadians engaged and helps them to become productive citizens. There should be more programs such as Katimavik, not less. It's a sad day indeed for all Canadians.
“I had hoped to send my children on this learning adventure, to share with them the majesty of our great country, even for low-income families. How short-sighted is this decision to cancel Katimavik? Consider my kids, who may now hang around on street corners, perhaps getting involved with seedier individuals, as there are few opportunities for them to experience something other than a low-income family existence. I wonder how much this costs Canadians in the long run, how many of our kids will end up on drugs or involved in crime as there are only low-paying jobs awaiting them, if they are lucky, or who have no concept of what Canada is like.
“Isn't it ironic that this government is willing to spend billions more on building prisons and funding crime instead of enriching the lives of our kids? Shameful, myopic and stupid. That's really what this kind of decision exemplifies”.
We thank very much the writer of this letter from British Columbia for raising that point.
The letters talk about connecting with fellow Canadians in all provinces. That is what we do in the NDP caucus. We have Canadians from every part of this country, from every part of this land, working together.
However, the government does not share this same perception of Canada as a united country. We see in this budget what will be a dismal and dark and divisive decade if we go through to 2015. We have seen how the government tries to divide one generation against another. We have seen how the government divides one region from another region, one community from another community. This is how the Prime Minister functions, by dividing Canadians. Katimavik brings Canadians together. Perhaps that is why the government is trying to axe it, because it provides a unity that the government does not want to encourage. The government wants to encourage division and to pit one Canadian against another.
On this half of the House, in the official opposition, we say that what Canadians want is unity. Canadians want to work together. We want an end to this kind of divisive politics. That is why we are going to be fighting to save the kinds of programs that bring Canadians together, because Canadian families deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I said earlier today that the Conservative MPs would start to see the light, that they would start to smile and we would see the light bulbs going on.
As we have been criticizing this budget, I am seeing now that there has been some movement. Maybe it is because of the tweets that they are getting from constituents. Maybe it is because of the emails and the phone calls they are getting from seniors and future seniors.
I do not know, but I am certainly feeling the love from the other side. That can only mean they are starting to understand why Canadians are reacting so negatively to the budget. I get the sense that the Conservatives are starting to understand why these cuts hurt Canadians.
Certainly it is a good thing that in the course of debate and through these many emails, tweets, the postings on Facebook and the very heartfelt letters from Canadians right across this country, we are touching or reaching Conservative members of Parliament. That makes it all worthwhile to be collecting these comments from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are going to continue to work, because if we can have Conservative MPs stand up for their constituents and this country and vote against this budget, that would be a very good thing. We certainly hope that happens.
I have a bunch of new emails and comments that have arrived even while I have been speaking. The wonder of modern technology is that now people can have their word brought forward on the floor of the House of Commons. So many people are doing that, and so many are younger Canadians. This is what has been most inspiring about the last couple of days of this debate. It is young Canadians who are speaking out; it is young Canadians who are tweeting and urging their Conservative members of Parliament to vote against the budget.
It is young Canadians who are expressing their hopes and dreams not only about their own futures and those of their classmates, friends and families, but more importantly also the future of their communities, their provinces, their regions and the country. That is what we are finding so inspiring about this, the words of inspiration coming from young Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I am going to continue. We have a message from a constituent in another Conservative riding, Lennox and Addington, who writes the following: “I live in a Conservative riding, Lennox and Addington. I am disgusted by the latest budget. I do not believe that my member of Parliament has any intent or any ability to represent me and fight for what I want to see in the federal budget.
“There are many areas of concern, including the cuts to the old age security, as well as cuts to the public service, Elections Canada, and the emphasis on jails and fighter jets. I have a 15-year-old son, and I am very concerned about his ability to make a decent living in the future. There seems to be no focus on jobs unless they have to do with exploiting the oil sands in Alberta.
“Please continue to fight on our behalf and let the Conservatives know that most Canadians can see through their flimsy speaking points and their attempt to distract us with the elimination of the penny”.
Those were very apt comments from another Canadian in another Conservative-held riding, who is concerned about the cuts to the OAS, the public service, Elections Canada and, the most important recurring theme, the emphasis on jails and fighter jets. We have heard about the latter when we have talked about cuts to services, and cuts to youth programs and cuts to pensions.
Canadians can add things up. They are saying this about the astronomical cost of the F-35 fiasco, which started at $9 billion and has now escalated to somewhere around $40 billion. No one on that side can tell us what it is going to cost, although we have certainly been asking. They cannot for the simple reason—
Mr. Robert Chisholm: Without an engine.
Mr. Peter Julian: Well, that would be with the engine, eventually. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is right to point out that the F-35s are delivered without engines.
However, all costs included, nobody on the government side of the House has been able to stand and say that it will be $42 billion or $50 billion or whatever it will be. They cannot for the simple reasons that the government never tendered the contract and that the costs are changing daily. It has been a boondoggle and poorly managed. Every day there are new additional costs. Even if somebody stood up today and said that it will cost $50 billion for the F-35s, tomorrow it could be $51 billion. We do not know.
However, Canadians are making that connection between the government's willingness to spend tens of billions of dollars on the fighter jets; the government's willingness to spend, according to one fiscal analysis that was done on the prison system, $19 billion; and that it is willing to splurge in the most irresponsible, fiscally imprudent way possible, tens of billions of dollars on its pet projects but yet is unwilling to fund retirement security, health care, services Canadian families depend on, food and transportation safety, protection of our environment and programs for youth that this country has at a time when we have high levels of youth unemployment .
An hon. member: Canadian families deserve better.
Mr. Peter Julian: Canadian families certainly do deserve better. I would have thought, after seven hours of debate, that my colleagues would have been tired but they are as energetic in the House of Commons as they are defending their constituents. What an amazing team.
As we go into the eighth hour of debate, Canadians are providing the debate. It is Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are faxing, emailing, tweeting and posting on Facebook. It is Canadians who are saying that this debate needs to be engaged. It is Canadians saying that they have heard about the budget and now they want to have their word on this budget. What makes this debate fascinating is that it is generated by the Canadian people. It is generated by younger and older Canadians, by Canadians who are raising their families and have finished raising their families, and by Canadians who are single and in large families. The pinnacle of democratic debate on the floor of the House of Commons is when ordinary Canadian families can have their voices expressed here in the House of Commons as they are doing today.
I will move on to a woman from North York in the Toronto area. She says, “Thank you for mentioning the blue collar workers such as carpenters, construction workers, painters, et cetera, in the budget debate. My husband is a letter carrier for Canada Post and his knees are damaged and his body almost broken. He will be lucky if he can make it until he is 60, never mind 67. He will be able to retire at 65 but I worry about the generation behind him who will not be able to. Keep fighting for all of us Canadians”.
I would like to thank all the letter carriers and all those who work for Canada Post who get our mail delivered everyday for their devotion.
That is exactly the point we are making with OAS. This is not some kind of academic exercise where we simply raise the age from 65 to 67 and everybody falls into place. This is an attack on manual professions. This is an attack on letter carriers, carpenters, people who work in restaurants and service industries, people who have given their lives with their legs, their backs, their arms and their necks. It is different for an individual who is lawyer or is working in a white collar profession. It is not as punishing on the body. I am not suggesting that white collar workers do not work as hard. I am suggesting that it is a different kind of work.
However, for blue collar workers, those are the kinds of workers who will be most impacted by this callous raising of the retirement age because they simply will not be able to put two more years into their profession, which means that they will end up in dire poverty.
As I mentioned previously, we are talking about a quadrupling of the poverty rate among Canadian seniors in the next few years. We talked about a dismal, dark, divisive decade under these Conservatives. It would become even worse if they were ever returned to power in 2015, because all of these divisive, dour changes that they are making to push our quality of life down, except for the wealthiest of Canadians, will have a greater and greater impact.
To tell Canadians who work in the manual professions that somehow it does not matter, that they should have their bodies give two more years, is showing enormous disrespect for the manual professions in this country. Those Canadians have already given and they are entitled to have a respectful retirement at the age of 65. We are standing up in the House because we are saying that those manual workers in Canada deserve better than what they are getting from the government.
I have another tweet that reads, “I find myself extremely frustrated that this Conservative government has so little regard for the poorest of Canadians”.
I have a woman who comments, “I am very concerned about several items that have emerged in the budget. Changes to environmental assessment process: Any changes on the environment assessment process should be based on the desire to ensure the utmost protection of the environment to sustain the Canadian population. Protection of our environment is protection of people and jobs across the country. This should be the focus on any changes to assessment processes, not on time, but prior to making this assessment or in the interest of speeding up project deliveries. The risks are far greater than any measurable advantage of quicker industrial development”.
Her second concern is about the changes to the CRA and charitable organizations. She says, “Any government in Canada should welcome and encourage public engagement in political processes and in political dialogue. In political pursuits that are non-partisan in nature there should be no question or concern. An engaged, informed and active citizenry means a government that is responsive to the needs of all its members. I am very concerned that these efforts will have a chill effect on the ability for organizations to engage citizens on matters that are political but not partisan”.
She goes on to say, “Thank you for asking for and reading in the House our concerns”. We thank her for sending that in.
Next we have a young Canadian who writes in from Guelph, Ontario. He says, “I am from Guelph, although I am currently on an internship in Costa Rica. I have been here since mid-January and have watched the political turmoil from abroad with great interest. I am not in the habit of writing MPs. However, I hope you will relay these sentiments in the House in some fashion.
“The new budget has made me sick. I do not recognize Canada as my home any more. As a participant in the Canada world youth program, I understand the importance of programs like Katimavik for the youth of Canada. I think that cutting its funding is disgraceful and will leave the youth of this country further behind, coupled with rising tuition fees, limited job prospects and fewer government grants, it is amazing kids don't just give up.
“On cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to the National Film Board and to Telefilm, I am a photographer and it is almost next to impossible to survive in Canada in the arts. In fact, I am in Costa Rica right now because there are more options in Central America than in Canada. However, it is compounded by the fact that those organizations have produced content that is edgy, controversial and not always pro-government. The cuts symbolize nothing less than a partisan attack on government-funded companies and the message is clear: disagree with us and you lose your funding.
“The 19,000 public sector employees who lost their jobs while there is redundancy in the public service. I think massive layoffs like this was a poorly thought out idea, especially considering how friendly this budget is for private sector employers. Canada has a long tradition of public service and for good reason. This spits in the face of that tradition.
“I am a 23-year old with a political science degree who is finding work in Canada to be a difficult thing to come by. I think policy-makers need to understand that this budget does not reflect the will of the people and opposition members must make that clear”.
I will move right on to another Conservative-held riding. It is quite gratifying to all of us that most of these letters that have come in more recently are from Conservative-held ridings. We are hearing the constituents of the Conservatives themselves standing up and saying that the government needs to read the budget and to understand the impacts. However, most important, these constituents are telling their Conservative members of Parliament that they should be voting against the budget because Canadian families deserve better than what the Conservatives have put forward.
This woman writes, “I live in a Conservative riding in Ottawa, Ontario, that’s Ottawa West—Nepean. I am 29 years old. I have a two-year-old daughter. My father is retired, having worked over 35 years for the city. My mother is self-employed and in ill health. I’m the first generation in my family to have attained a university education for which I finally paid for in full in 2010. I pay taxes. I vote. I have a mortgage. I shop locally and support our economy.
“I believe in the vibrancy I see in our communities and in the public institutions that make this country safe and great, but I am greatly disturbed at the direction this government is taking our country. The budget is yet another tool that will erode the great things our predecessors have accomplished.
“The government has not proven that OAS is unsustainable in its current form. They have not listened to the respected economists who have said that while there will be an additional draw on OAS it will be temporary. They have not listened to the 70% or 80% of Canadians who have said in numerous polls that they are opposed to this change. This is a manufactured crisis by a government that treats its own constituents with contempt and other members of Parliament with disrespect.
“Today’s younger workers say that those under age 54 will pay doubly for OAS”.
Mr. Peter Julian:
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who does such fine work here in the House. He is one of the new members who are bringing great energy to the House, even when he rises on points of order. I would like to commend him.
I want to continue with the comments from this constituent who is from yet another Conservative-held riding. I would like to thank particularly the Canadians who currently live in Conservative-held ridings for their tweets, Facebook postings, emails, faxes and phone calls. They really help us understand what Canadians in Conservative-held ridings are thinking. They are very concerned about this budget, understandably. They are concerned that they were promised other things prior to May 2. It is certainly sinking in for constituents in Conservative-held ridings that they were promised that health care funding would continue, retirement security would continue, and services would continue, that things would not be messed up. Now they are seeing that the government is messing up on all of the commitments it made. Understandably, constituents in Conservative-held ridings are raising those things.
The next one is from Ottawa West--Nepean, the riding of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This constituent states, “This is a manufactured crisis by a government that treats its own constituents with contempt and other members of Parliament with disrespect. Today's younger workers say those under age 54 will pay doubly for OAS. We all fund this program with our tax dollars, but today's youth will be held off from benefiting from OAS for two additional years when they begin to access OAS by approximately 2030. The Conservative government has protected the interests of its key voter base today, while ensuring another government, federal or provincial, will be left to deal with the fallout for future generations. Compounding this problem is the fact that the boomer impact on OAS will wane in the early 2030s. This change to OAS makes absolutely no sense.”
Mr. Speaker, I asked the previous chair occupant to give me an indication at five minutes and one minute before the 6:30 p.m. adjournment. I would not want to overstep that time, unless there was unanimous consent to do that, in which case, with all the emails, tweets and postings on Facebook we are getting, it looks as though I could go all night. Just with comments from Conservative-held ridings I could probably go all night. They are flooding in. People are concerned about OAS and cutbacks in services. They are concerned about losing their jobs. We are being flooded with comments. If we did go all night, I would have a chance to read a lot more of the comments.
The constituent from Ottawa West—Nepean went on to say, “This change to OAS makes absolutely no sense. No plans are noted for those who, for whatever reason, cannot work past age 65, some even past age 60. This purposeful neglect is outrageous. I am sure you can perceive the intergenerational tension this will bring even in this email. Studies and surveys have noted that today's youth do not have much knowledge of what a good workplace pension means. Canadians across the board struggle to provide for family basics, like food, child care and school supplies, meet financial obligations like student loans and mortgages and save for retirement. Instead of manufacturing crises of sustainability and misrepresenting the financial facts of OAS, the government should focus on taking real action to help Canadians secure their retirement income. No investment is to be made in the environment. Subsidies for the most damaging industries will continue. In another portion of the budget, the government intends to address the contentious issue of federal public servants' compensation and pensions. One MP in particular was interviewed on an Ottawa radio station within minutes of the budget speech wrapping up. He said that the 4,800 jobs that would be lost in Ottawa in some form or another was nothing.”
We will find out tomorrow to what extent the national capital region is gutted by this budget because we will have a more accurate assessment of exactly how many tens of thousands of jobs have been lost here. A member of Parliament said that it is nothing, that these employees are nothing.
The individual from Ottawa West—Nepean said, “This is contempt at its worst. I am very worried about what future direction this contempt and disregard will take. The government's actions in this contempt cannot continue. I feel a responsibility to contribute in whatever way I can to ensure this does not continue so that the Canada I know and love and choose to live in and support remains for my daughter. Thank you for representing Canadians in the House today.”
Here is another tweet that is hot off the press. I am not sure I can say that about tweets, but I will in this case. Mr. Slepchik said that in solidarity with the NDP, he is staying at work until I am done speaking. He said, “Stand up for public servants, pensions and Katimavik with budget 2012”.
This next comment is from someone in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, which I know my colleague from Dartmouth—Coal Harbour feels very strongly about. This person said, “Today's budget breaks numerous Conservative promises. During the 2011 election, that party promised to leave the pensions of Canadian seniors in tact. Today's budget does a number of things, but what it does not do is preserve pensions. This budget kills 19,200 jobs directly, which will have a cascading effect on the Canadian economy of killing a further tens of thousands of jobs by lost spending in the local marketplace by the 19,200 federal employees whose jobs were killed in the budget. The budget maintains unnecessary tax cuts for big corporations, and while the tax cuts go into their pockets, middle-class Canadians like me get a massive tax cut of $2.09 a month, and a loaf of bread costs $2.29.”
This individual from Dartmouth is absolutely right. As study after study has shown, what has happened with corporate tax cuts is cash hoarding. Some $583 billion is being hoarded by Canada's companies, which is why with these tax cuts there are such severe job losses as we have experienced over the last few months. This is another individual pronouncing against the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am trying to rush a bit, because I know as I am speaking there are more and more emails in our inboxes. More faxes are coming in. More tweets are coming in. There are more postings on Facebook. The comments just keep coming in. I am trying to rush a bit to get as much in as I can in the course of the next few minutes, unless of course we get unanimous consent to continue, but I have a sense the whip will not be willing to do that.
This comment is from someone from Vancouver Island North, another Conservative-held riding. The constituent said, “My concern is the number of public service jobs that will be cut in the budget. Not only will this affect individual families, this will cause economic stagnation”.
An individual from the Toronto region said, “I am stunned by the imposed 10% reduction in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's budget. I appreciate the service so acutely and can only imagine what it would be for those who do not live in an urban and resource bountiful region. I listen to it; I read it online; I watch it on TV. The CBC is my primary source of information and one that I count on for a sensible and honest relaying of news. I believe that the government is trying to cut the CBC down at the knees, as well as honest journalistic criticism. Secondly, I am appalled by the short-sighted dismantling of the round table on the environment and the economy. Certainly there are environmentalists who are capable of assessing the global and national state of the environment. We are sadly tied to an economic engine that must be fuelled and this round table would have served to do just that in the sustainable way that we desperately need.”
The person from Toronto continues, “I am shocked and fighting a profound sadness at feeling so powerless in the face of this Conservative government who seemingly trounce everything that I am proud of about this country. I have a baby girl and it's hard not to take the budget much more personally. We are no longer the international bastions of environmentalist action, free speech or plain politics, things I have been proud of since I was a young teen, things that I normally would have been looking forward to sharing with my daughter, not mention the question of whether or not she will have clean water to drink and maple trees to tap in northern Ontario.
“Please don't read this letter as simply one citizen's pining for joyful memories of childhood; this is about the state of global health and survival. It's simple truth and we all have to play our part. Thank you for reading my email and, hopefully, hearing a plea for change as we fight together against this country's demise”.
Another email from Toronto states, “In the grand scheme of things, I think there are a lot of reasons why these are significant cuts. I am talking about the staggering cuts to the operating budget of the CBC”. The writer goes on to say that “Austerity budgets do little but hurt those who are already so vulnerable”.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken for a while today and I intend fully to continue speaking on this issue tomorrow, if my voice permits, because we are raising fundamental issues.
The budget is a real betrayal of commitments that were made by the Prime Minister and the government in the last election campaign. This is not what Canadians voted for.
What we are seeing from the emails that we are getting and the tweets and the Facebook postings from Canadians from coast to coast to coast is a real concern about the direction of this country. Canadians are saying that the budget is wrong in denying the commitments that were solemnly made in the last election campaign when the Prime Minister looked Canadians in the eyes and said, “I will not gut health care. I will not gut retirement security. I will maintain services.” He was making a solemn commitment. That commitment has been broken. Canadians feel that. Many of the letters and tweets and Facebook postings and emails that we have read today demonstrate to what extent Canadians feel betrayed by the budget.
We will continue to do what New Democrats have always done in this House of Commons: We will continue to speak up for Canadian families. We will speak up because that has been our role since the very first days the first two labour MPs back in the 1920s sat down in that corner and forced a minority government to bring in old age pensions. It was considered a radical idea at the time, but those two voices, those two labour MPs, led to the first step in what was a fundamental transformation.
Tomorrow, I will tell members about what the CCF MPs did when they were seven in the House, and then 12, and then 15. I am hoping members will anticipate that conversation tomorrow.
Today, with 102 voices in Parliament, we are standing up to say no to the budget because Canadian families deserve better than what the budget would do for them.