Mr. François-Philippe Champagne (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise this morning at third reading of the budget implementation act, no. 2.
This is an act that is going to be transformational for our nation. I am pleased to be speaking this morning to all of my colleagues to ensure their support of this important act, which would put budget 2016 in place.
I am very pleased to rise in the House this morning to talk about the investments the Government of Canada is making to ensure vigorous growth, over the long term, of course, for the benefit of Canada and Canadians.
The Government of Canada's primary goal is not only to ensure economic growth, but to ensure that families, workers, and the most vulnerable in our society benefit from it. We cannot claim to be making progress unless everyone is prospering from what we are creating together in Canada.
There is no doubt that this is a global challenge, one to which Canada must rise with distinction. Unfortunately, hard work is not always synonymous with progress. That is the problem Canadians have asked us to address and that is what we are trying to do with measures like the ones in the budget implementation bill we are looking at today.
Let me elaborate on some of the Government of Canada's first steps. Canada has been one of the first countries in the world to put into practice the idea that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we indeed have a country that works for everyone. With budget 2016, growing the middle class, and with the recent fall economic statement, the Government of Canada has taken important steps toward restoring the confidence of Canadian families in order to drive our economy forward.
We took a big first step by introducing a middle-class tax cut and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% to help pay for it.
Thanks to our Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadians families are getting more benefits for their children. On average, they will get almost $2,300 more for the 2016-2017 benefit year. It is helping hundreds of thousands of children get out of poverty. For some families, it could mean more money to spend on skates this winter, or gifts for Christmas. For others, it could mean paying down debt, or saving a little more. That is real progress.
We have also improved retirement security for workers today and for future generations, including signing a historic agreement with the provinces to strengthen the Canada pension plan. We have kept the promises we made to seniors by strengthening the retirement income system. We restored the age of eligibility for the old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65. We also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for single seniors.
We made it easier for young people from low and middle-income families to go to university or college by boosting Canada student grants, and recent grads now get a break on paying back their Canada student loans until they are earning at least $25,000 per year.
We have also immediately begun investing in our future. The investment we made in the infrastructure needs of our cities and communities creates jobs today, while building Canada's economy for the future. We intend to build on this momentum.
This second budget implementation bill would implement outstanding measures from the government's first budget entitled “Growing the Middle Class”.
The government is very proud of its first budget. This budget makes historic investments that put Canadian families first and represent a vital step in the growth of the middle class.
This is the first step in the long-term plan that will restore hope and revitalize the economy, which will benefit all Canadians.
As already mentioned, this budget, this plan, has been well received by Canadians and is receiving international recognition. The Financial Times called Canada “a glimmer of light”. The Wall Street Journal called Canada the poster child for the IMF's global growth strategy. The managing director of the International Monetary fund, Christine Lagarde, praised the merits of our approach. During the fall meetings of the IMF, Ms. Lagarde stated that all countries could follow Canada's example and mobilize all possible levers to truly tip the scales in the right direction and foster more growth, the type of growth that will benefit all Canadians.
Our budget has been given the thumbs-up because our efforts focus on the right things, which will ensure the growth of Canada's economy.
I will now move to the help we have provided to seniors. This budget implementation act supports our seniors by helping them to retire in more comfort and with dignity, and we are very proud of that. This is what we wish for all of our seniors. This will continue to be a significant priority in our aging society. Canada's retirement income system has been successful in reducing the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors. However, some seniors continue to be at a heightened risk of living with low income. In particular, single seniors are nearly three times more likely to live with low income than seniors generally. Budget 2016 helps seniors retire comfortably and with dignity by making significant new investments that will support them in their retirement years. This is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
In budget 2016, we have repealed the provision in the Old Age Security Act that had increased the age of eligibility for the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67, and for the allowance benefits from 60 to 62 over the 2023-29 period. By reducing the age of eligibility, we have made sure that fewer seniors will retire in poverty. Returning the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 years old will put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of Canadians as they age and look to retire.
Budget 2016 also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for the most vulnerable single seniors, starting in July 2016. This will help those seniors who rely almost exclusively on the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits and who may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
As members can see, we are taking care of seniors, and the most vulnerable seniors in our society in particular. This enhancement more than doubles the current maximum guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit and represents a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest income single seniors. I know that all members of the House recognize this is helping seniors in their own communities. I am sure that every member of the House has met single seniors who will benefit from this measure, and I hope they will support it, because I know that working for single seniors and for seniors generally is one of the top priorities of every member of the House.
This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada. Some 900,000 single seniors will be better off.
In this second budget implementation bill, we are delivering on the promise we made in budget 2016 to support senior couples who face higher costs of living and are at an increased risk of poverty because they must live apart. The second budget implementation bill amends the Old Age Security Act to make the program more flexible.
When couples who are receiving the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, each will receive benefits based on their individual income. By extending this treatment to couples receiving the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance, the government is improving fairness for seniors and helping them live with dignity in retirement.
The Government of Canada has also reached a historic agreement with the provincial governments to enhance the Canada pension plan. This plays a key part in our provision of support for the middle class. The Department of Finance has examined whether families nearing retirement are adequately prepared. We have found that about one in four Canadian families approaching retirement, some 1.1 million families, are at risk of not saving enough to maintain their current standard of living when they retire. The risk is highest for middle-income families. Families without workplace pensions are at an even greater risk of under-saving for retirement. In fact, one-third of these families are at risk.
We are aware of the need to help Canadians save more and that is why we are acting. Saving more will mean they will be more confident about their future and their ability to secure a dignified retirement.
There is a particular concern regarding younger Canadians, who tend to have higher debts than previous generations and who, in most cases, will live longer than previous generations. They face the challenge of securing adequate retirement savings at a time when fewer can expect to work in jobs that include a workplace pension plan. That is why the measures in this law are going to help our younger generation. We talked about seniors and now we are talking about youth. I know that members of the House are very concerned about making sure that our youth can retire in dignity as well.
Let me move now to the protection of consumers in the Bank Act.
Canadians deserve financial consumer protection that keeps pace with their needs. In line with this, the second budget implementation bill would amend the Bank Act in order to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework. That is a very good thing. It is great news for Canadian consumers. The financial sector plays an important role in supporting Canada's economic growth.
Each day, the nation's financial institutions meet the financial needs of consumers and large and small businesses and make payments and financial transactions possible. They form the infrastructure of our market system. We want to make sure that the financial sector is able to adapt to new trends, including emerging financial innovation and technologies that will challenge existing business models, evolving consumer preferences and customer relationships, changing demographics, and globalization.
Budget 2016 proposes to modernize the financial consumer protection framework by clarifying and enhancing consumer protection in the Bank Act, and we will work with stakeholders to support the implementation of a national framework. The bill proposes to do exactly that. It proposes to consolidate and streamline existing consumer provisions in one new chapter of the Bank Act, introduce amendments to the Bank Act to enhance consumer protection in the areas of access to basic banking services, business practices, disclosure, complaints handling, as well as corporate governance and accountability. That is what consumers want. They want the protection that will be afforded by these new provisions.
The federal government is exercising leadership by taking targeted steps to strengthen financial consumer protection. That is what Canadians have told us. That is what we are doing. These reforms will reaffirm the federal government's intent to have a system of exclusive rules for consumer protection to ensure an efficient national banking system from coast to coast to coast. Wherever consumers are and will be during their careers across Canada, they will always find this government on their side to protect their consumer rights.
Let me move to the Canada child benefit.
One of the foundations of our plan to strengthen the middle class is also a foundation of our first budget. In budget 2016, we brought forward the new Canada child benefit. This benefit will help parents better support what is most precious to them, their children. The Canada child benefit is simpler and more generous than the child benefit plan that it is replacing. It is also completely tax-free.
Furthermore, it is better targeted to help those who most need it. As I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, the Canada child benefit will help bring hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in 2017, compared with 2014. Since the benefit was implemented in July, nine families out of ten are receiving more money than they did under the previous child benefit system. I know that all the parliamentarians here in the House know at least one family in their riding that is going to benefit from the new system. Indeed I think they know hundreds, if not thousands of families, who are going to benefit from it in their ridings. By voting for this bill at third reading, they will be voting to help families in their ridings all across the country.
Whether this extra money is used to buy school supplies, to help pay grocery bills, or to buy warm winter coats, the benefit will help parents all over the country to cover the high costs of raising their children.
Allow me to explain how this benefit will be helping Canadian families. The parents of children under 18 will be receiving up to $6,400 annually for each child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 per child between the ages of six and 17. In supporting this budget implementation act, my esteemed colleagues will be helping to ensure that the Canada child benefit is indexed to inflation starting in 2020, so that families can count on this additional assistance for many years more.
I hope that all parliamentarians in the House will vote in favour of this bill because it is precisely the families in their ridings, the people who sent them to Ottawa, who are going to benefit from it. Whether it is our seniors, our youth or our families, the people who sent them to Ottawa are the people who will be helped thanks to this bill.
In conclusion, budget 2016 represents a giant step forward in our plan to put people first and to deliver the help they need now, while investing for the years and decades to come. I know members want to invest in the future and put people first, because those are the same people who sent them to Ottawa.
With these investments, inspired by a sense of fairness, we would ensure that Canada's best days lie ahead. Fairness is about everything we stand for. As government and as all parliamentarians, I am sure, we want to do what is fair for all Canadians: Canadian families, seniors, and youth in each of our ridings. Our plan is about creating the necessary conditions to ensure that hope and hard work will not be wasted but rewarded. I am sure every member believes that is true. People working hard in our country should be rewarded. Growth should be inclusive. This is about inclusive growth.
The measures we present in this bill are about inclusive growth, and I do not believe any member in the House would disagree with inclusive growth in our country, investing in families, in seniors, and in youth, and making sure that when people retire, they can retire with dignity. Those are beliefs and values that I am sure are shared by all members in the House. Our children and grandchildren will remember this historic moment. When they vote, they will remember what was done for them, whether it was investments for their future or inclusive growth in our country. The Government of Canada is focused on the larger picture of ensuring prosperity for Canadians well beyond its 150th birthday.
I will finish by saying that I encourage all members in the House to support this bill, not just because it is the smart thing but because it is the right thing to do for the people who sent them to Ottawa. Their voices are those of families, youth, and seniors who sent them to Ottawa to work for them.
Mr. Dan Albas (Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise to participate in a debate in this chamber. Normally, it is rare for me to speak to a bill numerous times. However, there is so much in Bill C-29 that is of serious concern, it begs for debate.
To be clear, I understand that omnibus budget implementation acts, as bill C-29 most certainly is, will always carry criticism. As a member of the former government in the last Parliament, I can attest to that, as could any member who was a member of Parliament and is elected with us today.
However, I have noticed that there is one profound difference between much of the criticism of the last Conservative government and the criticism directed at the current Liberal government. What is that difference? By and large, when criticism was levied at the former Conservative government, more often than not it was based on hypotheticals. Headlines would typically read, “X, Y, Z could happen”, or “Event Y, X, Z might happen”.
Typically, this criticism was from some sort of expert of which there is no shortage in the Ottawa bubble. Even with my own “free the grapes” bill to legalize direct-to-consumer interprovincial wine shipments, which the former Conservative government expanded to apply to craft beer and artisan spirits in subsequent omnibus budget implementation acts, experts warned it could cost provincial liquor monopolies millions of dollars. Yet, we know in those provinces that do allow direct-to-consumer shipping, like my very home province of British Columbia, this of course did not happen. In fact, in British Columbia, we see consumption and sales of B.C. wine, year over year, perform better and better. Again, the experts were wrong.
However, with our friends, the Liberals, the criticism is not what might happen or what could happen, it is what will happen.
Let me give an example. As part of Bill C-29, the Liberals propose to seriously change the multiplication rates on the small business deduction rules.
We all know the Prime Minister does not like small business. The Liberals have reneged on promised cuts to small business. The Prime Minister is on the record for past stating that he believes small business is simply a way for wealthy people to avoid paying higher tax, which is ironic, coming from a trust fund millionaire. Why have a trust fund? Obviously for tax advantages, but I digress.
Why should we care that the Liberals are making these tax changes for two small business tax rates? Here is a simple example. Many Canadians are not aware of this or may not be aware of this. However, a significant number of physicians and surgeons operate in partnership with each other as small businesses. We all know physicians and surgeons work together within our medical community. Therefore, it is not a surprise that this extends into business and taxation areas as well.
Without delving too far into the technical tax ramifications of Bill C-29, from my time on the finance committee, the end result is that these changes will massively impact many Canadian physicians and surgeons.
Those who know me know I do not normally use a word like “massively”. What does “massively” mean, in the context of this discussion? In some cases, the amount of corporate tax paid could increase not by 2%, not by 5%, not 10% or 15%, but it could actually double. This is not what could or possibly might happen. This is what will happen.
The Canadian Medical Association hired a well-respected independent accounting firm to assess and quantify these numbers. They are not hypothetical. These changes will seriously impact a significant amount of physicians and surgeons all across our great country.
Let us not forget the Liberals are also raising taxes on those earning $200,000 per year. Many physicians and surgeons will be hit there, as well.
In short, we could easily call this the “Liberal war on doctors”.
Probably every member in this place knows of ongoing struggles in communities, not just in Canada but across North America, with respect to a shortage of doctors. Considering the massive amount of taxpayer subsidies in Canadian post-secondary institutions, Canada can ill afford to act as a training ground for new doctors to take those much-needed skills elsewhere.
Let us look at the more likely scenario. As much as this federal Liberal government enjoys taking money away from Canada's doctors and physicians, Ottawa, for the most part, does not pay or employ them. It is up to provinces to employ doctors and physicians. In other words, to keep doctors and not lose them to more competitive jurisdictions, most notably the United States, the provinces will likely be forced to make up the hit to the pocket books of doctors' net take-home pay created by the Liberals. It is yet another form of downloading from the Liberal government, and most people have not heard about it.
It gets more offensive. At the same time the Liberals are looking to severely reduce the net take-home pay of doctors, they are conducting a whisper campaign. They may start taxing employer provided medical benefits, all to pay for the Liberals' reckless spending in Ottawa. This is an insult to Canada's doctors. It is unlikely there is a member in this place that has not heard from physicians and surgeons warning the Liberal government of the dire and serious long-term consequences if the Liberals continue to impose these punitive tax changes.
In my riding of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, I can state with certainty that I will stand for our doctors in speaking out in opposing these changes. Keep in mind, in many regions we are increasingly relying on foreign trained doctors to make up for our lack of capacity. I mention this because a foreign doctor taking the time to immigrate to Canada could just as easily look at other countries as alternatives. These are all very serious concerns. I hope the government is taking this fully into account. It is another reason why I oppose Bill C-29.
While on the same subject of long-term problems that the budget implementation act is creating, let us not forget there is no longer any path to return to balanced budgets. This is yet another broken promise from the Liberal government. Every member in this room, regardless of what side of the House he or she sits on, knows that one day down the road this will create a serious problem. Contrary to what the Prime Minister and the government have past stated, budgets do not balance themselves.
We already see the Liberal government raising taxes in many areas and hinting it is looking at adding more, all because their fiscal plan is failing. I appreciate the government would rather not be in the fiscal situation it is in. It was handed a surplus by a former government, a $2.9 billion at the year-end of 2015, as confirmed by the parliamentary budget office. That is a fact. Now it is massively in deficit, adding huge debt, all while the Prime Minister just sits around. Our finance minister has become an investing in the middle-class Liberal talking point machine. How did we get here, and so soon?
I know members on the government side are also concerned. People enter public office to help build a stronger Canada, not to break promises and create massive debt while creating hardship both now and down the road. Those are things we should realize.
I also want to give some credit where credit is due. I commend the fact the Liberal government did support the Trans Mountain pipeline recently, a decision for a populist Prime Minister, who is very image conscious, knowing it would be very unpopular with many of those who voted Liberal. I commend the government for making a difficult decision that hopefully can help to reverse the current trajectory this budget is putting us into.
However, I also have to point out that much of the anger of many first nation communities against this pipeline stems from the fact that they believe the Prime Minister promised them a veto, which will be seen as another Liberal broken promise, one that I imagine will carry some consequence for members in British Columbia.
We still have the challenge of the much-needed softwood lumber deal. The Prime Minister jetsetted off to Washington with a massive entourage of Liberal elites on the tab of taxpayers. He told Canadians that they would get good value from the trip on deals like softwood lumber. Now we know that has not happened. It is no different than jetsetting off to Davos. Once again, big promises from the Prime Minister, but he came home empty handed.
Now we have what we are told is an infrastructure bank coming. Billions that could be spent building Canadian infrastructure is instead being diverted, ultimately to act as seed money where it will line the pockets of wealthy corporate interests, with a $100 million-minimum project price tag. How many members in this place have a municipality in their riding that can afford projects of the magnitude they are discussing? Guess what? They will all get to pay for the high interest rate of return, for those few who can.
People can understand why wealthy foreign nationals are lining up to pay $1,500 for each pay to play access to our Prime Minister. That $1,500 is clearly for them a great investment. However, it is a terrible return for Canadians who will be left paying the bill. On top of that, they will be paying for a national Liberal carbon tax, all at a time when our largest trading partner and competitor is going to be lowering taxes to be more competitive and raising taxes on those companies moving outside of its borders. Meanwhile, the Liberal government is helping them to do exactly that by raising taxes here to make being an employer more costly and less affordable.
Let us not forget that the Liberal government has also made changes to the mortgage rules, which will see the dream of owning a home for many Canadian families gone. We are repeatedly told that all of this is being done to help the middle class.
In my riding, many real middle-class families are already telling me that they do not want this help from the Liberal government, because they cannot afford it. Who could blame them, more so if one is also about to be taxed on health care benefits? This would be particularly punitive and unfair in British Columbia, because British Columbia also charges monthly medical service premiums, MSP, which is over and above what is paid in income tax. Hopefully, the Liberal MPs from B.C. have raised that point with the finance minister.
While I am on my feet, the final subject I will broach is the good news I have to share with this place. Recently we learned that the Comeau decision will be referred to the Supreme Court by the province of New Brunswick. This has huge potential ramifications for Canadian internal trade. While the Liberals opposed this case being heard by the Supreme Court, I remain hopeful that our Supreme Court will take the case on and give it careful scrutiny. As much as I like the new pro-trade tone I have been hearing from the trade minister, the Liberals continued silence on internal trade just is not good enough, but hopefully that will change.
Before I close, I would like to pass on that this was not a speech I greatly enjoyed giving. However, these concerns are very real and I feel must be put on the record. I know there are good people on the government side of the House and we know the Prime Minister spends more time in airports and in the air than he does in his office. Whoever comes up with some of these policy ideas is part of the problem not part of the solution. In my view, a good internal shakeup is required, and we need a clear path in a different direction.
Over the past decade, we watched the Canadian middle class surpass the United States in prosperity, all while taxes were being lowered, jobs increased, and the budget was ultimately balanced. Today, the budget implementation bill sets us in the wrong direction, the opposite direction, with massive debt, deficits, no net new jobs, and higher taxes coming in many areas.
Every member in this place hopes that this situation changes. However, in my view, Bill C-29 is simply not the answer and I simply cannot support it.
I thank all members for hearing a member's concerns. I do hope we can find ways in the future where we can see jobs, where we can see added investment, where we can see further facilitated trade, where we can see the things that people sent us here to do, the public interest to be maintained, and for the Liberal government to look at the way that it is fundraising and ask if that is in the name of the public trust, because we should always be mindful that democracy, that the rule of law, has to have real meaning. If the leaders of a country cannot project those values, if they cannot project those items that are core to holding those things, then how can we expect anyone else to follow that example?
Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House for the third reading of Bill C-29.
It will come as a surprise to no one that I will be devoting part of my speech to infrastructure. First, however, I would like to look back in general on the work accomplished by the Liberal government that has been in power for a year now.
Over one year, we note in the end that a myriad promises have not been kept. Infrastructure is one example. The election platform of the Liberal party promised to create an infrastructure bank. However, the Liberals were careful not to indicate what this bank would be like.
My colleagues in the House tell me that their mayors and their municipal officials had the impression that, ultimately, the infrastructure bank was money invested by the federal government to ensure that the municipalities could get low-interest loans to finance their infrastructure programs. That impression derived in part from the discussions they had with their Liberal candidates at the time.
Today we find ourselves facing a monster that is a long way from the glowing picture painted for the mayors. In the end, the bank could hit $200 billion in capitalization, and be about 80% financed by the private sector. Eventually it will have to earn a return for the private sector so that it can make good on the investments. According to some observers, such as Michael Sabia of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the rate of return could be around 7% to 9%.
This is not at all what Canadians had been told. On the contrary, during the campaign, members will recall that the Liberals said that a small deficit of $10 billion would be needed so it could be invested in infrastructure projects. We now realize that this is not what is happening at all. The deficit is far higher than predicted, since it is over $30 billion this year, and a tiny portion of that is invested in infrastructure.
During the debate at report stage, I asked a Liberal member some questions. I wanted to know how he justified the fact that the government wanted to invest, and was boasting about investing, an additional $80 billion over 10 years when, at the end of the day, two-thirds of the new envelopes promised will not be available until two elections from now. He said it was perfectly normal, because we need to take the time to prepare good projects. That is true. However, the current $30-billion deficit clearly shows that that money will not be invested in infrastructure.
This is an important commitment. The situation promised to Canadians is not at all what the Liberal government is delivering, but that should come as no surprise. The Liberals made big promises to Canadians on a number of different issues, but those promises are not being kept.
For instance, the Liberals made a solemn promise, with hands over hearts, that they would consult first nations on development projects and that those consultations would be meaningful and genuine. However, the approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project, the Site C project, and the Muskrat Falls project, which involves flooding the area, clearly illustrate that this promise is not worth the paper it is written on.
The government swore up and down that the Trans Mountain and energy east projects would not be approved until the environmental assessment process and the public consultation process were complete. However, we recently learned that the government approved the Trans Mountain project using the Conservatives' process. The Liberals sugarcoated things by saying there would be an extra consultation process, but ultimately, the process they used to approve Trans Mountain was the one the Conservatives implemented in 2012. The same thing will happen with energy east because the government has shown no interest in changing the National Energy Board other than getting industry insiders involved in a process to re-examine what the board should be.
The Liberals also promised to end legal action against veterans and first nations.
My colleagues from Timmins—James Bay and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou ask questions about that in the House all the time. They ask questions about the fact that the government is pursuing legal action that was originally launched by the Conservatives. I really do not see the Liberals keeping most of their highest-profile promises.
I would like to say a few words about Bill C-29, and then I will come back to infrastructure. One of the fundamental elements of Bill C-29 that we oppose is changes to the Bank Act that will supposedly better protect consumers. It is really just Liberal positioning. Most of the legal experts we have seen and most of the journalists on this file agree that, on the contrary, consumers will lose big if the federal government encroaches on this because it is under Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. I am looking squarely at the Liberal members from Quebec.
It is quite ironic. I asked the parliamentary secretary about this. The the government is saying that it is responding to Marcotte ruling. In that case, a consumer, Mr. Marcotte, filed suit against the Bank of Montreal. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The dispute was over the excessive foreign currency conversion fees charged by the banks. The banks claimed they were subject to the Bank Act and not the Consumer Protection Act. The Quebec Superior Court and then the Supreme Court ruled against them.
The government decided to respond to that and change the legislation. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr. Marcotte and forced the banks to pay more than $30 million in this class action suit. There is a principle referred to as the doctrine of federal paramountcy, which establishes that where there is a conflict between two valid laws, the federal law will prevail; if there is no conflict, the doctrine of federal paramountcy does not apply. That is what the Supreme Court ruled on when it sided with Mr. Marcotte, because the Consumer Protection Act was not in conflict with the Bank Act in the case in question.
What was the federal government's response? It plans to voluntarily create a conflict. It is going to voluntarily create an ombudsman position, and that office will be the only place that people who feel they have been cheated by the system will be able to go for help. They will no longer be able to go to the Office de la protection du consommateur du Québec or to file class action suits. Therein lies the irony. If the amendments that the Liberals want to make to this law had already been in effect, there would have been an ombudsman, it would not have been possible to go to the Office de la protection du consommateur, and the Marcotte decision would never have been rendered. There would not have even been a lawsuit because that would not have been possible. The amendments proposed by the government will prevent the type of class action lawsuit that led to the amendment proposed in this bill.
That makes no sense, and many journalists and legal experts have recognized that. One of the people we heard from was a representative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. He said that this was an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, and that the federal government should expect this matter to end up before the Supreme Court because it infringes on this area of jurisdiction. The government could also end up in court if it is not careful about the single securities regulator it wants to establish, despite opposition from Quebec and Alberta in particular.
I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to the editorial that Brigitte Breton wrote in Le Soleil, which is entitled “Prime Minister protecting banks”. Of course, I changed the title so as not to name the Prime Minister. Ms. Breton summarized the situation as follows.
|| In Marcotte—a class action suit between the banking community and customers who objected to being billed for conversion charges on foreign currency credit card transactions given that they had never been notified that such fees would apply—the Supreme Court ruled that the provincial consumer protection laws applied even though banks fall under federal jurisdiction.
That was what the Supreme Court had to say. The federal government's response is to pass legislation in the hope of getting around the courts, Quebec, and the provinces by saying that it will now appropriate that right.
I would like Quebec members to realize that the information they have been provided by their own party is not consistent with the legal opinions or the media analysis of people who are quite knowledgeable about this matter.
Now that I have stated my main objection to Bill C-29, I would like to go back to the issue of infrastructure. I spoke about the infrastructure bank and the fact that the Liberals led Canadians to believe that they intended to run a deficit in order to invest in infrastructure. I have shown that that was not the case. There are other problematic elements in the Liberals' approach that really should be brought to the public's attention.
First of all, I would really like government members to start reflecting on the following situation: the federal government asked the investment firm Credit Suisse to provide advice on the privatization of airports. Credit Suisse, which is in the business of buying infrastructure, is going to give the federal government advice on whether it should privatize airports in which Credit Suisse itself would have an interest in investing. Does that not seem like a conflict of interest?
Let us move on to something else. The federal government asked Morgan Stanley, another investment firm, to advise it on privatizing 18 port authorities. This same firm was caught up in the 2008 financial crisis. Now the federal government says that all is forgiven and forgotten. There is a link for sure. Imagine a firm caught up in a financial crisis. Oh my God, there have been so many books and films about the roots of the financial crisis. We know how these firms sometimes think.
What should we expect to see at the end of the Morgan Stanley report on whether to privatize our 18 port authorities? Does anyone seriously believe that Morgan Stanley will say it is not in the federal government's interest to do it and that the firm could not in good conscience take advantage of the government like that? Of course the firm will say that privatization is in the public interest. Actually, Morgan Stanley was once a Port of Montreal shareholder, and it still has an interest in buying and in recommending privatization to the federal government.
Does that not seem like a conflict of interest to the government? I am asking in all sincerity. I do not see how the Liberals could have sat here in the last Parliament and let the Conservatives get away with this if they had decided to take that route. It is unconscionable.
The Liberals are acting fundamentally differently now that they are in power, compared to how they acted when they were in opposition. If they were still in opposition, they would be screaming that the Conservatives had no mandate to privatize airports and ports. However, that is what the Liberals are doing, even though they said nothing during the election campaign about the possibility of privatizing these pieces of infrastructure that are key to Canada's economic development.
Anyone who thinks that privatizing this kind of infrastructure is not a problem needs to think again. We have 18 port authorities. If they are to be privatized, of course the private sector will only want the juiciest pieces. That goes without saying. There is no guarantee that all 18 port authorities would find takers. The government will be stuck with the least profitable, and the most profitable will be handed over to the private sector. However, there is nothing to say that they will still be profitable in 20 years' time. That will depend on the government's decisions.
The Port of Churchill, which is vital to Canada's Arctic sovereignty, was privatized 20 years ago. Things were going well for a while. However, various decisions made by the federal government over the years led to the port being closed by the buyer. It was all smoke and mirrors for the people of Churchill. They were told that by privatizing their port, it would be revitalized by private interests.
The same thing may happen to ports, airports, and even infrastructure. What the government said during the election campaign seems to have been completely forgotten. It made fine promises, just as it did on electoral reform.
The Liberals promised to run deficits in order to invest in our infrastructure. Yes, we know that we currently have a major infrastructure deficit. We know that we have to reinvest. That was one of our election promises. However, we would have invested directly in infrastructure. That is what the Liberals said during the election campaign.
Never did they suggest asking the private sector, investment banks and pension funds to invest upwards of $170 billion on the promise of returns in the form of tolls and user fees. This was never mentioned during the election campaign. The only thing the Liberals said about tolls was that there would be none on the Champlain Bridge. There are going to be tolls everywhere because these pension funds and investment banks are obviously not going to want to invest unless they get a hefty return on their investment.
The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec said that it did not expect to get a rate of return of 9%. Does the House really think that it will invest in projects that are going to give it a 2% to 4% rate of return only, when the total rate of return on its investments was 9% for the past year? It has the fiduciary responsibility to get the best return possible. It is not going to give up a potential return of 8% to 9% to go after a return of 2% to 4% because it is in the public interest.
I am not talking about private investment funds such as BlackRock. Dominic Barton, head of the advisory council on economic growth, appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance where I asked him a question about private investors. I said that BlackRock must be interested in major infrastructure. He said no, because this investment fund was not big enough for that. However, it is bigger than the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
Right now, the government is trying to be reassuring. It is saying that there is nothing to worry about, that this is going to happen, that everything is under control, and that there will be no loss of control over our infrastructure. The government is saying that the private sector and investment funds will get involved in the infrastructure bank because it will be more worthwhile than the 1% or 2% in returns they get elsewhere but that we will not lose control over our infrastructure.
Eighty per cent of the infrastructure bank's capital will come from the private sector. Does the House think that the private sector is going to let the government make all of the decisions regarding that capital? That makes no sense. The House needs to think twice, and maybe even three or four times, before going ahead with this. Would it make sense for the private sector to invest billions of dollars in capital in an infrastructure bank and then leave all the decisions up to the federal government? No.
What we are seeing more and more in the main financial publications is that this infrastructure bank will have to be free and independent from all federal government ties. The government will put the equivalent of $40 billion in the investment bank, $15 billion of which will be taken from other funds, in the hopes of attracting between $160 billion and $170 billion.
After that, the government will no longer have a say because the bank will be independent and will not have any link whatsoever with the federal government. It will be the bank making the big decisions. It will be making the decisions since it will be 80% capitalized by the private sector. Does the House really think that the private sector will not find this opportunity irresistible? Of course it will.
It is a matter of priorities. If the private sector is seeking a high return, where will it get one? It will get one from projects that yield a good rate of return, such as from tolls and user fees mostly.
In a small community such as mine, which is largely rural, we have a project that could be worth over $100 million. Obviously, the banks and investors would not be interested in projects under $100 million. We have a project, highway 20. Does the House think that these investors will be interested in investing in highway 20 to Rimouski instead of investing in what could become a toll highway around Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver? The answer is obvious.
Bill C-29, just like the budget and its so-called accomplishments, is mostly smoke and mirrors. During the election campaign, Canadians were tricked by the promises being sold to them, which ultimately, with few exceptions, do not at all reflect what Canadians believed from the Liberals during the election campaign. This is a big part of the reason why we will be opposing Bill C-29 at third reading.
Mr. Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-29. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Fredericton. Today I want to talk about how the budget implementation bill will affect an ordinary family in my riding.
One of the things we all saw during the election was how Canadians as a whole, men, women, and children, were affected by actions taken by the government. We listened to what our constituents had to say.
I thought it would be interesting to take an average family of five and put it into this budget. As I do not want to use an actual family in my riding, I will use a fictional family. Let us call them the Simpsons.
The Simpsons are five people. There is a father named Homer. He works in a nuclear power plant and is the sole income earner of the family. His wife's name is Marge. She is a stay-at-home mom, and they have three children, Bart, Lisa, and a little baby named Maggie.
Homer earns approximately $85,000 a year in the nuclear power plant. That is the sole income for the Simpson family. Homer will now see an added 1.5% on all of his income between $44,500 and $85,000, approximately $1,500, for Homer and Marge to spend on their family. Whether it is for Lisa's saxophone lessons or for such indulgences as hair dye for Marge, the Simpsons will have extra money in their pockets because of the budget this year.
As for the family allowances, now on a tax-free basis, for little Maggie, they could see up to $6,400. They will not, because they are in a higher income tax bracket, but they will see more money. For children under six, it is $6,400, and for kids between six and 18, it is $5,400 for those who are at the lowest income levels. Their neighbours, who are at lower income levels, are actually seeing their children coming out of poverty. Over 300,000 Canadian children are coming out of poverty because of these tax-free Canada child benefits.
The Simpsons will have added money as well from the Canada child benefits, because at their income level, like 90% of Canadian families they will see more money in their pockets for all three of their children.
Let us talk about communication. Marge has two sisters, Patty and Selma. They live in a rural Canadian community where the Internet is difficult to access. This budget puts $500 million toward enhancing broadband Internet access for those rural communities so that Marge will one day be able to Skype with her sisters and watch them light up as she talks to them.
Homer's dad lives in the community. Abe Simpson, who we will call Grandpa Simpson, lives alone, a single, poor man who is a veteran.
First, he has enhanced veterans benefits now. As well, veterans offices closer to him are re-opening to ensure that his role in protecting his country is recognized.
Second, he is on a guaranteed income supplement. The guaranteed income supplement has been up by close to $1,000 a year to allow him to live better and in more security.
Let us say that Abe has a partner, and she is in the hospital or in a long-term care facility. One of the things I am happiest about in this budget relates to the fact that now they are recognized as living on their own, for the purpose of the guaranteed income supplement, and not as living together, which would reduce the total benefit they are receiving.
These things are helpful. They help Canadian families and they are making a true difference.
Lisa, alone among the children of Homer and Marge, is an incredibly bright girl and wants to go to college. According to what was laid out in the budget, she will have more ability to get student loans and more ability to afford to go to a good college anywhere in Canada. Not only that, but she will only need to start repaying these student loans when she starts to earn $25,000 a year, so she will have a great chance to further her education and then become a very successful person in society, no matter what she chooses to do.
Then there is also more money for vocational training. Let us say Bart does not want to go to college, but he wants to become a plumber or a mechanic. There is more money to help him achieve his goals, including internships, in this budget. On the whole, taking this typical Canadian family, this budget would make things so much better for them.
Let us talk about infrastructure. Homer takes the bus to work. There was a lot of money, which has now been agreed on with the provinces and the federal government, in this budget to go to infrastructure to help public transit, to make our buses greener and cleaner, more environmentally friendly. As a former mayor, I went into federal politics in the hope that there would be budgets like this that enhanced and increased infrastructure spending. This budget achieves that, and would allow Homer's ride to work to be cleaner, safer, and better.
I am just going to talk about the roads that they drive on. In my riding there is the Cavendish Boulevard extension, linking two parts of Cavendish Boulevard together, from the riding of Saint-Laurent to the riding of Mount Royal. This is the most important missing piece of the Montreal Island road network and is something for which we desperately need infrastructure monies. It is one of those projects that could come to fruition because of this type of budget that gives more money for cities to be able to enhance roads, water mains, and all kinds of hard infrastructure, as well as social infrastructure, like public housing.
It could be the case that Marge has another aunt who lives in public housing, in one of those places where the funds were cut by the previous government when it stopped renewing agreements. The Liberal government renewed those agreements to give monies back, so that Marge's aunt would have more money in her pocket to pay her rent. That is important.
One thing I wanted to talk about is the following.
Our colleagues in the New Democratic Party talked about the Bank Act and the Marcotte decision. In Marcotte, the provisions of Quebec's Consumer Protection Act were upheld because, although the federal legislation has precedence when it comes to banks, also known as the paramountcy doctrine, the federal government had failed to legislate in certain areas. It was in those areas that Quebec's Consumer Protection Act applied.
If we do not legislate these matters, the Consumer Protection Act will continue to apply. We know that, at present, we refer to the regulations. We do not know exactly what this legislation will look like. We may legislate certain areas and we may not legislate at all. In those areas, the Consumer Protection Act will continue to apply. In the areas in which federal legislation exists, it is true that the Consumer Protection Act might no longer apply. However, we want to have a national approach.
I want to say that, as a Quebec MP, I am happy that consumers across Canada would be more protected because of this act. There would be the introduction of a cooling-off period during which a consumer could cancel an agreement for products or services provided by a bank. There would be an unfair practice regime to add to the tied selling restriction, and a prohibition against taking advantage of persons who are unable to protect their own interests.
There would be an amendment regime, where banks could not just amend their contracts without notifying and giving the details to consumers. There would be an easier way to set up bank accounts with more types of identification. I am very happy that our government is introducing accountability within the banking framework in Canada and trying to protect consumers from across Canada against the abuses from the banking sector.
In closing, I support Bill C-29. I am sure my hon. colleague from Fredericton, who will follow me with an incredible speech, also supports Bill C-29. I encourage all members of this House to support Bill C-29.
Mr. Matt DeCourcey (Fredericton, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, let me thank my hon. colleague for his return to childhood humour and fun in his speech just now.
I am proud to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-29. The act would fulfill commitments made in budget 2016 and build on other actions taken by the government that would strengthen Canada's middle class, ensure seniors achieve a secure and dignified retirement, and provide necessary supports for our women and men in uniform, among other important measures.
Budget 2016 would have a significant and tangible benefit for Canadians and for people in Fredericton, New Maryland, Oromocto, and the Grand Lake region, the riding I am honoured to represent.
Our government's first order of business was cutting taxes for nine million Canadians, part of our commitment to strengthen the middle class and help those families working hard to join it. This targeted tax cut provided roughly $3.4 billion in annual financial relief to middle-class individuals and families. More money left in the hands of middle-class Canadians means more money being spent and invested in our local economy.
This measure is one of the many changes our government has made to give Canadians what they want and deserve: a fair tax system that gives everyone a chance to succeed and prosper.
The government is committed to putting forward a budget that prioritizes supporting families and ensuring their well-being. That is what we did, and we did it quite decisively by creating the Canada child benefit. This innovative child benefit was designed to help families that need it most so they can cover the high cost of raising children nowadays.
In New Brunswick, the Canada child benefit has had a transformational effect on thousands of families. More than 112,000 children in New Brunswick alone are benefiting from this new instrument, which consequently will add more than $622 million to the regional economy in its first two years.
As the first tax-free Canada child benefit cheques were sent to families in July, I read a story in Fredericton's The Daily Gleaner about a young mother and father of two children who said the benefit had changed everything for them. The mother told the newspaper that every month it was a struggle to keep on top of their bills, keep a roof over their children's heads, and keep food in their bellies, but thanks to the Canada child benefit, the family was getting its bills in order, could comfortably cover the cost of essentials, and could afford opportunities to make memories with their children, such as a trip to the Moncton zoo with the children's grandparents, something that would not have been possible without the new Canada child benefit.
The mother also said that the Canada child benefit would give her the flexibility and possibility to pursue post-secondary studies so she could further improve her family situation. A benefit for families that can do all this is certainly something I know my colleagues can all get behind, as well as Canadians.
In New Brunswick, there is an aging population that is more pronounced than elsewhere in the country. For this reason, I was pleased to see measures in budget 2016 that would provide support and help to seniors and those about to enter retirement.
By bringing the age of eligibility for old age security back down to 65, we gave thousands of dollars back to Canadians entering their senior years. The lowest-income seniors will get up to $17,000. Our government provided additional assistance to more than 900,000 of the most vulnerable seniors when it enhanced the guaranteed income supplement by up to $947 per year for seniors living alone.
While shifting demographics present us with many challenges, they also provide us with new and exciting opportunities. I am proud that the Fredericton region has positioned itself as a national leader in addressing our health care challenges in innovative ways and that this vision has been met with enthusiasm from our government.
In September, I was pleased to announce $36 million in combined funding for the University of New Brunswick to build a centre for healthy living on its Fredericton campus. This project was made possible because of our government's strategic infrastructure fund. This new centre will allow researchers at UNB's faculty of kinesiology to work collaboratively on solving big issues in health. This research and the applications that will come from this centre promise to improve the lives of all Canadians, from my home town of Freddy Beach.
There are already several solution-based projects and commercial development at UNB's faculty of kinesiology, including oxygen-based therapy for healing and wearable robotics that assist people with mobility issues. This is just the start of a vision to establish our province as a living lab and national leader in preventive health care.
As the representative in the House of the riding that is home to Canada's second largest military training base, 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, I am proud of our women and men in uniform, our veterans, and their families. Soldiers who train at Base Gagetown serve our country and promote peace and stability at home and abroad, and the base itself is an important economic engine for the Fredericton region and the province as a whole.
In fact, Base Gagetown represents roughly 70% of the population of Oromocto and surrounding communities, employs 5,500 military members and 1,100 civilian personnel, and contributes more than $600 million annually to New Brunswick's economy. As it is such an integral part of the region, I was pleased to join the Minister of National Defence this summer to announce $38 million in funding to improve critical infrastructure and build new training facilities at Base Gagetown. This investment will ensure suitable infrastructure within the base's vast training grounds and will increase the quality of training for our women and men in uniform.
It is just as important to help the active members of the Canadian Armed Forces as it is to ensure that veterans are getting the support and services they deserve after all the efforts and sacrifice they made for our country.
Over the past year, the government's determination to provide better service to veterans and their families has been clear. We are committed to reopening the nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices that were closed by the previous government. This will help us ensure that our veterans have access in their home communities to the services, care, and compassion they deserve.
I know that this is just a few of the many measures that the Government of Canada must take to improve the services and benefits provided to our veterans.
The government is committed to improving the lives of all Canadians, including families, seniors, and veterans. Bill C-29 demonstrates the government's deep commitment to moving the economy forward without leaving anyone behind. Budget 2016 works to improve the lives of families and to combat poverty through the Canada child benefit. With a simpler, tax-free, and more generous Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadian families will receive higher monthly benefits and hundreds of thousands of children will be lifted out of poverty.
The government is working for seniors across Canada and is determined to improve their quality of life.
Budget 2016 will work to give back to our veterans who have given so much in service to our country. We will restore critical access to services for veterans and ensure the long-term financial security of disabled veterans and their families.
The government is devoted to improving the lives of all Canadians and Bill C-29 works to do just that.
Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, from the onset I will say that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Calgary, the member for Calgary Signal Hill.
As I have done before, I want to start with the Yiddish proverb, “To assume is to be deceived”. I believe that the Liberal government and the members of the Liberal caucus have deceived themselves into believing they can spend their way to a brighter future. The Liberals assumed during the election that they could run a little deficit of $10 billion. In truth, they are now running a $30 billion deficit just this year. They also assumed that budgets balance themselves, and now we know, thanks to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, they are borrowing $3 million per hour.
The Liberals also assumed they could stimulate the economy endlessly by a splurge in spending that would somehow create jobs. We know from Statistics Canada that that is simply untrue. No new net full-time jobs have been created. I heard a member praising the government's efforts to create part-time jobs, but in truth, young people and people who are working want full-time jobs because full-time jobs provide dental and health benefits and the fulsome income they can raise a family with.
The $100-plus billion of new debt the current government will accumulate in four years represents deferred taxes in the future. The next generation will pay for all of this new debt being accrued. Also, there is no plan to return to a surplus in the federal budget.
I often hear from Liberal members that the previous Conservative government spent a lot of money too. They seem to forget the events that led up to that. One is the great recession. I also remember that when the Liberals were in opposition, it was their members who called for more infrastructure spending, but then said it was simply never enough. They could always find another project to spend on and wanted more infrastructure spending. However, today they say that is not the case and that the infrastructure spending they want is the good stuff and what we want is not. Therefore, we now see the current government looking at new areas to tax. It will be taxing future generations by deferring debt into the future. They are borrowing today to pay for things they want immediately and making future generations pay for them.
What the Liberals will also do is tax dental and health benefits. Yesterday, they refused to say they would not do that. Therefore, the only thing left to assume is that they will be taxing the health and dental benefits of Canadians.
According to the numbers crunched by Doug Porter, the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, we know that their so-called stimulus and infrastructure spending has in fact acted “as a small drag on the overall economy over the past four quarters”.
As I mentioned, the Liberals assumed that the jobless rate would fix itself. In my home province of Alberta, we know that is not the case. Since November 2015, Alberta's unemployment rate is up by a third, which is equal to 52,000 lost jobs alone. Calgary's unemployment rate is officially now at over 10.3%. These are official Statistics Canada numbers, but they exclude the underemployed, the people who have been furloughed, who have a job but are simply not being paid because their employer does not have the means to do it, as well as people who are no longer looking for work.
With respect to young people and graduates, Statistics Canada published a study on December 5 that states:
||...young people have seen their job quality decline over the last four decades, even as the unemployment rate has remained virtually unchanged.... a result driven mainly by the rise of part-time work rather than increases in unemployment rates or decreases in labour force participation.
In a previous life, I worked in human resources. I was the registrar for the Human Resources Institute of Alberta. I registered members. At the time, I had a certified human resources professional designation, so I met many members who were responsible for hiring. They did things like compensation, pension planning, and organizational effectiveness. For the most part, they were always concerned about maximizing the return of every single employee by maximizing their career prospects within the organization they were in. The last thing they wanted to see was people squander their potential in a position that was not the right fit for them.
What is affecting young people as well are the new real estate rules, which will leave a lot of first-time homebuyers out in the cold. I will mention an article that was put out by CBC News on December 3. I will not mention the person's name, but she felt “deceived by the government”. This is a young person who was looking to join the property ladder. The best savings tool anyone can have is to invest in property. Over the last 50 years, those who have done so have gained tremendously from it. It forces people to save and put money aside to pay off their principal.
The article goes on to say, “You're planning ahead and then all of a sudden the government comes and takes it away from you.”
That is pretty typical of the Liberal government. The Liberals think that every single problem society has can be solved with more government. Then when more government is responsible for more problems and things do not quite work out, they will set up a secretariat; then they will do more consultations and they will set up more government and hire more civil servants to try to meet the problems that were initially caused by the government.
In that same report, the reporter mentions Re/Max L'Espace Griffintown. Talking about the purchase of property that will help people save for the future, he said that 90% of the clients who put their projects on hold or dropped out of the market are millennials. These are young people who are finding they can no longer save or invest in a real estate property. Now, this is pushing people to higher-risk lenders. I will just mention that, “Unchecked expansion in this opaque corner of the real estate credit market means a buildup Canadians carrying uninsured short-term subprime mortgages, putting them at a greater risk of distressed home sales and personal bankruptcies in the event that interest rates go up.” We know that eventually interest rates will have to go up and Canadians will be paying more every single month to then service that debt. If they have an uninsured subprime mortgage, or an uninsured mortgage, period, that amount would actually go up faster.
I would be remiss if I did not mention this other assumption that has deceived the Liberals, which is on their income tax cut. We know from the good work in the Senate that this income tax cut is anything but a cut for the middle class. What we see is that those people earning a $48,000 salary actually would enjoy a cut of $81.44. For those earning $60,000, it would be $261.44. For those earning $89,000, it is $696.44. Actually, the people receiving the greatest benefit from this tax cut would be those people who do not need it, people like those who sit in this chamber, as it so happens, because they earn a much higher income than the average Canadian. In fact, the highest 20% in the income quartiles, of unattached individuals, earn $55,499. The other 80% of Canadians earn less than that. For families of two or more, it is $125,000 or less, which means that 80% of Canadians are earning less than that amount. In fact, we know this so-called middle-income tax cut is anything but for the middle class. It would not actually benefit a great many of them.
There is this tax cut that the Liberals keep talking about as being so good and so generous. What about the carbon tax they are going to be imposing on Canadians? I know that there is a business owner in my riding who has told me that alone in 2017 that business will be paying $588,000 more in taxes just in carbon tax. In 2018, that business would pay $883,000. That business employs almost 500 people and the only way it can pay this increase is by increasing the price of its product. It is involved in exporting products through the Port of Vancouver. This is not something the business owner can simply do, and pass it on to consumers, to purchasers.
My final point is on the so-called infrastructure deficit. My question is this. When is it enough? The members for Scarborough Centre, Spadina—Fort York, Mississauga East—Cooksville, and Louis-Hébert all mentioned this infrastructure deficit. Infrastructure spending that the government has done according to its own records on its own infrastructure website include the following: digital advertising signs in St. John's, arena floor replacements in Fortune, a T1 pre-boarding announcement system, bicycle parking at 40 TTC stations, missing sidewalks in Toronto in 2017-2018, a Bike Share Toronto expansion at 50 TTC stations, real-time alternative transportation information screens, aboriginal consultation, Rideau Canal crossing at Fifth to Clegg. Is this the infrastructure deficit we are talking about? I am told it is much-needed infrastructure to stimulate Canada's economy. What about the Grand Allée naturalized wet pond; restoration, rehabilitation of multiple transit shelters; Wi-Fi installation for the bus fleet; electric bus pilot project in Halifax; and lagoon rehabilitation? The list goes on to include sidewalk renewal at miscellaneous locations; I guess they could not find them all in Ottawa, that needed to be upgraded. Again, there is more aboriginal consultation in Ottawa.
My question is always this. When is it enough? What types of projects is the government funding with this money that is so-called to stimulate the economy? I really do believe that the Liberals have deceived themselves into believing this. They have accepted the assumptions from the Prime Minister's Office from the Prime Minister's staff, and they have deceived themselves into believing that this budget is good for Canadians when, in truth, it is not. It would pass on massive amounts of debt to future generations. I will be voting against it, and I urge all members to do the same.
Mr. Ron Liepert (Calgary Signal Hill, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this House today. I feel privileged because I will be one of the members who will have the opportunity to speak on third reading on this bill. We know that most of the members will not be able to speak on it because, as we are well aware, the government has brought in time allocation, more commonly known as closure, the guillotine measure, and so I am privileged to have the opportunity to say a few words today.
I also would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, for a terrific speech this morning. I think he touched on a lot of the issues that I would probably normally touch on. They are also the kinds of issues that I know my constituents certainly can relate to.
And of course, as always, the member for Calgary Shepard is an eloquent speaker. I just wish I could have done as well when I was his youthful age.
When I was thinking about my remarks today, I got thinking back to when I was a young person, growing up in Saskatchewan. That would have been in the sixties. We had a Liberal premier in Saskatchewan named Ross Thatcher. Of course, everyone knows that Saskatchewan is sort of endless skies and, in some way, endless roads. There was a saying back in the sixties, when the Liberals were in office in Saskatchewan, under Ross Thatcher, “If it moves, tax it; if it doesn't move, pave it”. It kind of reminds of this particular budget. In fact, in Saskatchewan, when they did pave it, they were known as “Thatcher's patchers”.
What I think I would like to hear in 2016, again, is “If it moves, tax it; if it doesn't move, we'll call it infrastructure”.
I just wanted to put that on the record.
What I would like to do, though, is talk a bit about where we are. I guess it's six months, now, after the government introduced this particular budget. There were some statistics that were released in the last few days. I know the Liberals were twisting their arms, trying to pat themselves on their backs with the November job numbers: 10,700 new jobs.
There used to be a guy on the radio called Paul Harvey. He had a program that was called The Rest of the Story. I think that is pretty applicable, as well, to this particular situation because of those 10,700 new jobs, 18,000 are part-time. I know even the Liberals' math does not quite equate when we divide 18,000 into 10,700, but what it really amounts to is the fact that we lost 8,700 full-time jobs in the last month.
That now brings the number of full-time jobs that have been lost in this country, in the last year since the government took office, to over 30,000 full-time jobs.
A lot of those jobs are in the member for Calgary Shepard's riding, my riding, and other Alberta MPs' ridings. Calgary has just, I think, hit an all-time high in the unemployment rate at 10.3% for the month of November and as my colleague, the member for Calgary Shepard, made the point, that is only what Statistics Canada is able to measure. We all know that there are a number of others that simply do not fall into those statistics.
Also, the government members were trying, last week, to pat themselves on their backs for a slight increase in GDP in the third quarter.
The Minister of Finance, in answer to a planted question from one of his backbenchers, stood in this House and said that one of the reasons the GDP increased in the third quarter is because of the rebuilding in Fort McMurray after the fires. That minister should stand in this House and apologize. Not only was that the wrong answer, in terms of how we are creating GDP, but he had the facts wrong.
The reason the GDP increased in the third quarter was because oil production from the oil sands resumed. I know the anti-oil government cannot quite accept that fact, but the third-quarter GDP numbers were specifically attributable to the fact of the resumption of oil out of the oil sands. The Liberals have no reason to take credit for anything.
It is one thing to say that the government should be doing something, but it is another thing to say what could it be doing that it is not doing. We all know about some of the things the government did not do, like keep its election promise to reduce the small business tax rate. That is evident. That would have significantly helped a number of small businesses in Alberta. Again, we have to remind the government that small business in our country creates jobs and not government. I know government does not believe that, but that is a fact.
Another thing we have mentioned is that if the government had allocated some of those dollars in budget 2016 to a program to clean up abandoned oil wells in Alberta, that would have been good for the environment and it would have put thousands of laid-off oil field workers back to work immediately. We are all pleased that the government has finally made a decision on Trans Mountain, but the reality of it is that construction, at the earliest, will not start for another year, and that is provided we do not have protestors and environmentalists holding up that project.
Those are a couple of examples of what the government could have done.
It is typical for the parliamentary secretary to government House leader to rant on about the budget deficits under a Conservative government. I would like to remind the government that one of the first things the Conservatives did when they took over as a government was to reduce the GST from 7% to 6% and then 5%. The Liberal government does not quite remember that. It should take a lesson from when the Conservatives took over government some 11 years ago. Their intent was reduce taxes on the taxpayer, not increase taxes as we see from the Liberal government.
I will just conclude with a couple of comments, and will try to encapsulate what I have said today. Statistically, real earnings in our country from a year ago are down 1%. The Liberals can talk all they want about bringing folks out of poverty and working on behalf of the middle class, but in reality real earnings are down 1%. Again, 30,000 full-time jobs have been lost since the government was elected a year ago.
I will repeat, again, that the Calgary unemployment rate is at 10.3%. What did the Liberals do? They said that they were going to give Alberta a one-time equalization payment of $250 million. That is in contrast to Alberta contributing some $20 billion to equalization for the past 10 years. It is nothing more than the proverbial spit in the bucket.
I will conclude with that. I look forward to any questions that may come as a result of those comments, and will try to elaborate in response to questions.
Mr. T.J. Harvey (Tobique—Mactaquac, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to rise and speak on behalf of my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac today in favour of Bill C-29.
I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Gatineau.
One year ago, the people of Tobique—Mactaquac entrusted me with the responsibility of being their member of Parliament. As a new MP, the last year has been full of learning, challenges, and new relationships. Overall, it been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me as I have worked on behalf of my constituents, and with them, on the opportunities and concerns related to their everyday lives.
The investments we as a government are making to strengthen the middle class and to help those working hard to join it have been unprecedented. Our economy will grow not only in the short term but over the long term as well as a direct result of this. Canada is one of the first countries in the world to put into practice the idea that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone.
We listened to Canadians when they told us that they are working harder than ever but not getting ahead. That is why we have put in place a plan to help them, not only in the present but also into the future.
There are measures like cutting taxes for close to nine million Canadians who need it most, but also increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1%. We have also introduced the Canada child benefit, which puts more money into the pockets of nine out of 10 families with children to help them with their present need and to ensure they have the tools to succeed in the future. This investment alone will raise over 300,000 children out of poverty.
As a government, we signed an agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan so that those entering the workforce now and future generations of workers could be assured of a stable and dignified retirement. There are also measures like increasing monthly payments of the most vulnerable seniors, especially single seniors, and restoring the eligibility for old age security to 65 years of age.
In my riding, I have conducted numerous “Let's talk” events, consultations on topics such as Canada's summer jobs, infrastructure, climate change, electoral reform, economic development, youth job creation, employment insurance, pre-budget 2016, pre-budget 2017, and general town hall meetings quarterly on any open topic about which my constituents wish to speak with me. Our Senior's Healthy Living & Aging Well Expo was attended by over 200 seniors. This illustrates that seniors are a priority in my riding and continue to be so.
Our government is also working hard to help young Canadians succeed. This summer I saw for myself how budget 2016 was helping young people get valuable experience through the Canada summer jobs program.
In my riding alone, funding was increased for Canada summer jobs by $221,000. We have doubled the number of jobs funded in 2016 by giving businesses and organizations that applied for funding the opportunity to put more young people to work, to earn incomes and gain valuable experience that they will carry with them as they transition into the workforce in the coming years.
Youth in my riding have come together and their voices are being heard. The Tobique—Mactaquac Youth Council has met and understands that the government respects and values its input. Our budget committed to increasing grants for students, from low and middle-income families, as well as part-time students. We have done all of this while simultaneously making strong investments in infrastructure that will help small and medium-sized businesses grow and take advantage of the current and upcoming opportunities as we transition into a cleaner, greener economy.
Since November of 2015, an unprecedented number of businesses and not-for-profit organizations in my riding have received business development funding through ACOA, an organization that plays an integral role in the economic development of rural Canada in the Atlantic provinces. Over 25% of municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in Tobique—Mactaquac have been approved for Canadian infrastructure program funding, CIP 150, for projects such as upgrades to local parks, renovations, and enhancements to community facilities. This type of infrastructure funding is of great importance not only to my riding but to ridings all across this country.
David Dodge has said that over the past 10 years, Canada has been in an infrastructure deficit. Not enough has been committed to infrastructure renewal and now more than ever, the provinces need a federal partner they can work collaboratively with to address these challenges, whether it is crumbling roads, bridges or ports, and rail access.
My riding, Tobique—Mactaquac, is a vast rural riding that relies heavily on agriculture and agrifood, the riding's main industries, as well as manufacturing and natural resources.
Having grown up on a large family-owned farm myself producing seed potatoes, oilseeds, small grains, and having worked within primary agriculture, construction, transportation, and food processing prior to being elected last year, I have an acute understanding of the many challenges faced by small and medium-sized businesses.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of small-business owners, as well as large-business owners, about the opportunities and challenges in growing their businesses in an ever-changing and increasingly demanding market.
I also had the opportunity this fall to host a rural economic development round table with key business stakeholders from my riding. I heard their thoughts on budget 2016 and how they feel they can leverage hard work with the initiatives put forth by our government to seize opportunities to grow their businesses. They collectively praised our government's efforts to invest in infrastructure, citing it as traditionally being a major impediment to growing a company in a rural environment. Business owners spoke of the potential positive impact the Atlantic growth strategy will have in the years to come by allowing us to tailor programming investments not only in infrastructure but also in innovation, green technology, skills training, market development, and immigration to the four Atlantic provinces. I completely agree with them.
As one of the 32 elected Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada, I am proud of the approach our government has taken through budget 2016 and the Atlantic growth strategy to address the need for increased immigration through the Atlantic immigration pilot. It will allow us to grow our population and will allow business growth, with the certainty that we, as a government, will be partnering with them to help them flourish.
In my riding, we have successfully welcomed Syrian newcomers and families in Woodstock, Perth-Andover, Nackawic, and Florenceville-Bristol, with the help of many hands serving on community boards, to ensure that newcomers feel comfortable and supported. Giving newcomers the opportunity to access the necessary supports, training, and tools to become employed and full integrated into the community is a priority for the employers and volunteers in my riding.
Harrison McCain once said that “if you are in business or starting a business, you should do it with the plan to grow”. Working hand in hand with the government is essential to allowing this to happen. Successful government programs that allow the private sector to grow are recommended. I believe that this quote very much reflects our government's approach to rural economic development. It is an approach the government can and should play an active role in to help businesses, both big and small, in both rural and urban environments, access the tools they need to prosper for years to come. That is why we have made specific commitments to help grow Canada's rural and northern economies with a $2-billion dedicated investment to help them succeed. We understand the vital role rural economies play in the overall health of a nation.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to speak about the work we have done and will continue to do through our first budget, budget 2016, to begin to address the inequalities for first nations. We have made historic investments in first nations through budget 2016, and we have renewed the dialogue with first nations. I am particularly proud of the great work of the Tobique First Nation and the Woodstock First Nation in the past year as they together moved forward in investing in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs that will directly contribute to a better quality of life for indigenous peoples within Tobique—Mactaquac.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I fully support our government's commitment to develop our resources sustainably, ensuring that economic prosperity and environmental protection go hand in hand, which will help indigenous people, ensure that local communities benefit economically and socially, and make resource development a nation-building exercise.
While Canada has the resources to lead the global transition to a lower-carbon future, we will only do so by ensuring that our environmental house is in order, by continuing to engage meaningfully with indigenous peoples, and by earning the confidence of Canadians.
Our government is determined to lead the way. We demonstrated that again last week with the decisions we announced on several major pipeline projects. In each instance, the decisions we took were based on solid science, meaningful consultations, and the best interests of Canadians.
As the Prime Minister has said, the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. Bill C-29 speaks to this reality and Canada's potential to create the prosperity we seek while protecting the environment we cherish.
We as Canadians agree that veterans should be recognized for their service to Canada and that it is the Government of Canada's official duty to recognize, with respect and dignity, the achievements of Canada's veterans and the fallen. The Prime Minister of Canada gave the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence the mandate to re-open nine previously closed Veterans Affairs service offices and to hire new service delivery staff to better support veterans and their families where they live. I am proud that our budget 2016 reaffirmed the government's intent to give back to veterans and to deliver on its promise to restore critical access to services.
I would like to end my speech today by asking Canadians from coast to coast to coast to join me and my family in thanking the hundreds of Canadian men and women in uniform for their efforts and sacrifices, particularly as they spend the holiday season away from their families and family traditions. I wish to thank them for their continued service to our country.
In conclusion, I am grateful for having the opportunity to represent my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac. I am looking forward to the new energy and hope our Prime Minister brings to Canada and to the world. On behalf of my wife Tanya, our daughters Emma, Madilyn, and Sarah, and our son Jack, I wish the entire chamber, my family, and friends the best holiday season.
Mr. Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac, whose family I have known for many years, for sharing his time with me.
As 2016 draws to a close, I would like to thank the constituents of the most beautiful riding in Canada, Gatineau, for giving me the honour of representing them in the House of Commons. I am pleased to take part in this great shift our new government has undertaken. I was struck by what President Obama said recently. He said that the government is like an ocean liner, and not a little motorboat that can turn on a dime.
If the vessel is on course, it will arrive at its destination, although it may take some patience. That is why I am pleased to rise in support of the most recent bill that will bring about the change initiated by the Minister of Finance's budget. This is the first step in bringing about the change that will result in a fairer Canada, a more equitable society, dynamic economic growth, and a modern economy.
We have been in power a little over a year now, and we are starting to see results, both across the country and in our communities and our ridings. My hon. colleague for Tobique—Mactaquac painted an excellent picture of what those results look like in his riding. My other Outaouais and national capital Liberal caucus colleagues did the same. We are seeing results in our regions and across the country.
However, there is still a lot of work to do. We promised the public service that we would restore respect and stability, which has been largely accomplished. We often talk with the President of the Treasury Board, and he has our full confidence when it comes to the respectful negotiations currently underway with the public service unions. Public servants have told me that respect and stability are back. All this makes for a healthy local economy.
Parents in my riding can claim the Canada child benefit. This benefit helps the poorest in our society and will lift 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty. It is getting results in Gatineau and across the country.
In Gatineau alone, 10,600 payments are sent out each month, benefiting 18,480 children, and on average, a Gatineau family receiving the new Canada child benefit, free of provincial and federal taxes, will get $520. Under this bill, starting in 2020 these amounts will be indexed to inflation, which will protect them from cost of living increases.
What revolutionary social policy! Not since health insurance and the major social transformations were brought in during the 1960s by Mr. Pearson and the elder Trudeau have we seen such a social transformation as we have today with the Canada child benefit. The money will be going directly to parents and families in our communities.
Because of the investments our government has been making through the Canada 150 community infrastructure program, Gatineau will be hosting Mosaïcultures, which is destined to be the number one tourist attraction in the national capital region in 2017. There has also been an announcement regarding La Vérendrye Boulevard. The City of Gatineau will not be complete until La Vérendrye Boulevard extends all the way to Lorrain Boulevard. Efforts are being made, and I hope that 2017 will bring us good news about extending the Rapibus line to Lorrain Boulevard. Then, we will start considering extending it to the Gatineau airport.
I was very pleased to welcome the Minister of Veterans Affairs. With regard to my first commitment, my commitment to Gatineau, we have a cenotaph that, quite frankly, could use some TLC. Our veterans, members of the Legion, and our serving members cannot be happy about seeing the cenotaph in such disrepair. After discussing the situation with the mayor and the Minister of Veterans Affairs, we were able to announce a significant amount of funding to repair the cenotaph before next Remembrance Day. I am very proud of that, and more importantly, so will the people of Gatineau.
My colleague from Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation went to Thurso and Masson-Angers last week, and he had every reason to be proud. Thanks to his hard work and the support of his colleagues in the Outaouais, he was able to announce an incredible investment from the Minister of Natural Resources to modernize the forestry industry in the Outaouais.
Our region was built on the forestry industry. The pioneers who founded our cities and towns came here to work in the forests and build huge industries, exporting industries that have innovated. The investments that my colleague from Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation announced last week signal the next phase, a new era for the Outaouais forestry industry. I am sure there are more investments to come.
Like many Canadian cities, ours had a social housing shortage. My colleague from Quebec City, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, listened to people and created a plan that enabled us to announce new housing developments and, most importantly, break ground for new social housing construction projects. We invested in community organizations that fight homelessness.
The fact that our government is doing things differently means greater social equity that will help create social infrastructure and strengthen the social fabric of our cities and towns and our ridings. This will pay off later. This will ensure that our children will benefit, learn, be full citizens, contribute economically, and feel valued. That is why this shift, this change in government, is good for the people of Gatineau and good for Canadians.
We want Gatineau and Quebec to think big. We want Gatineau, as the fourth largest city in Quebec, to step up. We want to start working on meeting these serious needs. With Ottawa, we are the fourth largest city in Canada. We want to be more integrated, to coordinate our transit with Ottawa's transit. We want to be partners in economic development. My colleagues from the National Capital Region and I will continue working together thanks to the decisions made today in the House, specifically to approve the investments planned in our first budget and in all future budgets.
Mr. Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the brand new member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, who was elected about a month and a half ago and arrived here with a flourish. He has already spoken in question period and in the period for statements by members. In a few minutes, he will be giving his maiden speech. It will be very interesting. I invite all Canadians, particularly those from Medicine Hat, to listen carefully to what he has to say.
We are gathered here for what is likely the final stage of consideration of Bill C-29, which, to some extent, implements the government's budget. It is a very bad budget, which will, unfortunately, once again lead Canada into an unacceptable inflationary spiral of colossal, runaway deficits. We still do not know when the Liberals plan to return to a balanced budget, even though we, the Conservatives, left the house in order when we left office a year and a half ago.
In 2008-09, the entire world was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in the 1920s. The industrialized countries of the world had to make tough choices and deal with major problems. Which country bounced back more quickly than any other and had the strongest economy after the crisis? It was Stephen Harper's Canada.
Our government achieved the best debt-to-GDP ratio and the best job creation record in the G7. Our government established a prosperous economy. We had the best record in the G7, and it was thanks to Stephen Harper's government.
Canadians' tax burden was also the lowest in 50 years. Today, it is not even close. Furthermore, 192,000 jobs, most of them full-time jobs, were created through the sound management of the Conservative government. I did say “created through the sound management” because the government does not create jobs. It is the private sector that really drives the economy, especially when no obstacles to creating jobs are thrown in its way, as this government is doing. I will come back to that later.
When the Liberals regrettably came to power 14 months ago, the house was in order. However what did they do? Unfortunately, they partied hard, and our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will pay later for this government's poor management.
We have to recognize one thing. The Liberals had the gall to get elected by saying that they would run deficits. That took some guts. However, they talked about a small deficit of $10 billion over three years. After that they would miraculously balance the budget. That was the Liberal platform.
However, what is the reality today? We are no longer talking about very small deficits, but instead colossal deficits of $30 billion. That is the reality of this government. This year there will be a $30-billion deficit, and it will be the same thing for several years, since the government is unable to tell us when we will be returning to a balanced budget. It is not because we have not been asking, because I have put the question to the Minister, not once, twice, five times, ten times, but 13 times. I have asked the Minister and his parliamentary secretary 13 times when will Canada return to balanced budgets. The government has never been able to tell us when Canada will be getting back to zero deficits.
This is completely unacceptable management. No administrative technician would keep his job if his boss asked him when the company would be returning to balanced budgets and he responded by talking about the debt-to-GDP ratio requested by customers. His boss would ask him for an exact date, and if he was unable to give one, you could count the seconds until he was no longer working for that company, because that would be completely unacceptable.
However, the government never answers questions about when the budget will be back in balance. This is appalling to all Canadians.
Fortunately, it is becoming abundantly clear to more and more Canadians that this does not make sense. Just a month ago, the Liberals delivered an economic update. The new thing we learned is that there is no recovery plan and no consideration being given to the current economic situation. On the contrary, the party is continuing and spending is out of control. Another new thing we learned is that there is $32 billion in additional spending.
That is another $32 billion for something that is not working. Why is it not working? Because since this government has been in power, no net full-time job has been created by the private sector, by Canada. Zero. That is the current government’s record on job creation. Again, it is not the government that creates jobs, it is the private sector, but it needs help.
Speaking of small business, let us talk about the reality. For us Conservatives, small businesses are the backbone of the economy. These are the people who create wealth. Those are the businesses that create employment. These are the people who create wealth for the economy and what is good for Canadians, not the government. But the least the government can do is to help businesses and not impose more taxes.
What has the government done for the last full year? It was very creative. Month after month, the Liberals created a new tax. They created the Liberal carbon tax that will be imposed on all businesses, especially small businesses that will have to pay a high price for the Liberals' carbon tax. They have also imposed more pressure through the Canada pension plan. It will cost $1,000 more for each person who works at an entrepreneur's business. For the people who work there, it will cost them $1,000 more every year and they will not see the results of that for the next 40 years.
It is all wrong. The government can help small businesses that create jobs, wealth, and create a strong economic Canada. That is what we need to do.
This government makes such a big deal about making income tax changes and about being like Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Stop it. The way I see it, their Robin Hood policy is to shoot arrows like a bad archer and then get hit in the face.
Here are the facts: 65% of Canadians will not receive this so-called help for families. This means that 65% of Canadians do not get a tax cut. The ones who benefit the most from these tax changes are those making between $144,000 and $200,000 a year. Yes, someone making $199,999.99 per year has won the Liberal government jackpot. Is this anywhere close to the middle class and ordinary workers? No.
Once again, in the interest of honesty and integrity, I want to give Canadians the facts. I have a conflict of interest, as do all the members of the House of Commons, including the parliamentary secretaries. In fact, we benefit the most from these tax changes. I could be selfish and think only of myself and be happy and say how wonderful it is that the government is helping me a lot, because since I make $175,000 a year, I am the one benefiting the most.
I prefer, however, to put such selfish considerations aside. My thoughts are with the taxpayers first and foremost, 65% of which are not affected by these changes. The Liberals continue to crow about their great principles. My friend and colleague the hon. member for Québec, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, says that the government is thinking of Canadian families, the least fortunate, all of those people. We are not against any of that.
The only difference is that we were reaching our goals without creating a $30-billion deficit as they are doing. Better still, these people have forgotten one little detail, once again. When they did their calculations, they forgot to index. They forgot that, over time, the cost of living goes up just a trifle. Well, maybe more than that: after five years, that trifle begins to swell. That is the Liberal reality: once again, pure amateurism.
The Liberals cannot say when we will return to a balanced budget, and when they draw up the family allowance budget, they forget to index after five years. That is totally unacceptable.
We hope that this debate will cause some Liberals to open their eyes before it is through. Unfortunately, there is a risk this budget will pass. It is not a good budget because it commits us to out-of-control spending by a government that has already lost control of public spending.
Mr. Glen Motz (Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-29. First let me say that I am truly humbled to be here as the voice my constituents and to hold the government to account.
At a time when Albertans, and specifically the people of my riding of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, need it the most, the government has failed them. The Liberal economic action plan has failed Canadians. The only solution the Liberals seem to have for our current economic downturn is to spend more. Borrowed money has to be paid back, and it will be paid back by working Canadian families for generations to come.
Constituents across my riding are concerned about the downturn in our economy and its impact in terms of devastating job losses, out-of-control Liberal spending, the staggering $35 billion deficit, increased taxes, the looming national carbon tax, and the Liberal opposition to the northern gateway pipeline, which would have provided thousands of well-paying jobs for Canadians.
The Liberal legacy of just the last 12 months has sucked the hope and optimism of many in my riding. The good news is that this legacy does not have to be our future. The Conservatives advocated a different path, and our record has spoken for itself, with balanced budgets, 1.3 million net new jobs, the lowest taxes in 50 years, the approval of four new pipelines that move over a million barrels of oil a day, a commitment to our allies, and ongoing support for families.
On October 24, the constituents of my riding sent a strong message to the Liberal government that they were not in favour of rising taxes or wasting money on misplaced priorities. They want someone to stand up for the things that we Albertans, and quite frankly, most Canadians, believe in.
Just over a year ago, the Liberals promised they could spend their way to prosperity, that if hard-working Canadians trusted them to borrow a modest sum, they would create jobs and put more money into the pockets of Canadian families. Canadians are still waiting, and by most measures they are worse off now than they were the year before the Liberals took office.
The economy is stagnant. Despite a big spending budget, the Bank of Canada, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have all downgraded their forecasts for Canada this year and next. Moreover, the Statistics Canada “Economic Insights” report for fall 2016 states:
|| Labour market conditions in Alberta deteriorated markedly since oil prices began to decline in mid-2014....
|| The province’s unemployment rate rose above the 8% mark during the summer of 2016, averaging 8.5% from July to September....This marks the first time that the unemployment rate in the province has risen above 8% since mid-1995.
This is the sad reality for Albertans. Where are the jobs that have been promised by the Liberal government?
What is more, with a national unemployment rate of 7%, Canada is worse off now than when the Liberals entered office. Recent reports indicate that a further 30,500 full-time jobs have been lost in the last year alone. Good jobs are in short supply, and the vast majority of new jobs created under the Liberals have been part time.
The situation in my riding of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner is no different than the outlook for Alberta. According to labour force survey estimates, the unemployment rate is at a five-year high of 6.9% in 2016. The “2016 Medicine Hat's Vital Signs” report by the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta states that the average number of EI recipients in the municipality of Medicine Hat alone rose from 890 in June of 2015 to 1,340 in June of 2016. That is a 51% year over year increase.
What do all of these jobless statistics mean for our community? The reality is that many of those who used to donate to the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank now find it necessary to use its services for their very survival and that of their family. Residents are struggling to make ends meet, evidenced by the increase in the number of Medicine Hat and District Food Bank clients over the last three years.
In 2014, the food bank served a total of 5,336 clients, 1,898 being children. In 2015, that number grew to a total of 12,371, with 4,614 being children.
On December 2, last Friday, the food bank has already served 16,137 clients, 6,165 of them children, and that is within a population of 63,000. This represents nearly 475,000 pounds of food so far in 2016.
These are not just vague statistics. They are the faces of families and what is really going on across this country, especially in Alberta. The devastating reality of our economic climate is that some individuals have gone so far as to take their own life. Sadly, they saw suicide as the only way to resolve their specific situation. This feeling of being destitute is what many are experiencing back home.
Jobs should be priority number one in all of Canada, especially Alberta. Too many families are struggling, and instead the Liberal government is repealing employment insurance measures our previous Conservative government introduced to help unemployed Canadians get back to work. We have always focused on the priorities of Canadians by helping families to make ends meet through reductions in income tax, and the creation and protection of jobs.
As I said earlier, the Conservative record speaks for itself. During the worst economic downturn since the great recession, Canada had the best job creation and economic growth record among G7 nations. We reduced taxes to the lowest point in 50 years, with the typical family of four saving almost $7,000 a year. After running a targeted stimulus program that created and maintained approximately 200,000 jobs, we kept our promise to balance the budget and left the Liberals with a $2.9 billion surplus in 2015-16.
Not only have the Liberals mismanaged the surplus that was left to them, they rolled back small business tax cuts, tax-free savings account increases, as well as the arts and sports tax credit for kids. They are proposing a new CPP premium as well as a massive new carbon tax on everyone. These CPP premiums will affect employees and employers at a time when they are struggling to keep employees employed.
The carbon tax and the Liberals' opposition to pipelines are also kicking people while they are down. Any form of carbon tax will diminish Canada's continental competitiveness. It will be a threat to even more job losses and create an unbearable burden to thousands of families already struggling to stay out of poverty. As of yet, I have not seen any evidence that suggests that a carbon tax will have any measurable positive impact on Canada's extremely small global carbon footprint. This is a tax grab, plain and simple.
Imposing a punishing new tax while holding back approval on job-creating pipeline projects, such as the recent rejection of northern gateway, shows how misplaced the current government's priorities are when it comes to jobs and economic growth. In rejecting northern gateway, it is unacceptable for the Liberal Prime Minister to be killing jobs. All options should have been left on the table. It was truly a tough day for unemployed Canadians who just want to get back to work to support their families. Instead of more jobs and growing wealth, Canadians are left with higher taxes, out-of-control government spending, and broken promises.
In closing, our previous Conservative government believed in creating a competitive environment for business, keeping taxes low, limiting red tape, and getting out of the way so that job creators can do what they do best. The Liberals believe that the best way to create a job is through increased spending, government programs, and regulation. That method has shown time and again that it does not work.
For the sake of those in my riding, all Albertans, and the well-being of Canadians, I will continue to speak up against higher taxes and challenge the Liberal government on its blatant disregard for Albertans, for misplaced priorities, and its continued wastefulness on bureaucracy and bloat.
Mr. Kyle Peterson (Newmarket—Aurora, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to congratulate the new member, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, for his intervention in the House today. It is always great to welcome new members, whatever side of the aisle they are from. It is good to see that he is a very quick study on the Conservative talking points. I praise him for that.
It is a pleasure today to rise to support Bill C-29. This legislation, once passed, would implement budget 2016.
I would like to take this opportunity to briefly highlight some of the important aspects of budget 2016.
Canadians are willing to work hard to build a better future for themselves, for their children, and for their grandchildren. They want a government to work with them to make that goal a reality. Budget 2016 would do just that.
The budget would focus on the economy, on creating jobs, on strengthening the middle class, and on helping those working so hard to join the middle class.
I think all of us in the House can agree. Every Canadian deserves a real and a fair chance at success.
Let us take a step back in history, if we may. For generations, Canadians worked hard under the belief that hard work would be rewarded. Canadians believed that by working hard they would get ahead. Canadians believed that their children and grandchildren would have, if not a better opportunity, at least the same opportunity that they had.
That was the Canadian dream. That was the promise of what it meant to be lucky and fortunate, and blessed enough to be born or to live in Canada.
Back in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, our society was marked by optimism, by decades of economic growth, by scientific discovery, and by nation-building projects that made Canada so much more than the sum of its parts.
However, over the past 30 years, median wages have barely risen. Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to rise. Increases in food prices, increases in child care costs, increases in tuition, all are making it harder and harder for the Canadian family and Canadians to feel like they are getting ahead. Canadians were working harder and harder, yet feeling like it was not worth it. They were concerned about the ability to pay for their children's education, concerned about the ability to care for elderly parents. Frankly, they were concerned about their own retirement. Canadians were asking themselves, sadly, “Is the Canadian dream dead?”
Budget 2016 is an answer to these real and legitimate concerns of too many Canadians. It is an answer for shifting global economic forces. Most important, it is a long-term plan for growth; in particular, it is a plan for inclusive growth.
Canada is well-positioned because we have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of all G7 countries. Couple this with the fact that interest rates are very low. Now is the time to make strategic investments in things like better roads, better transit, broadband Internet, better infrastructure, affordable housing, and clean technology. These investments will grow the economy today, for tomorrow, and well into the future.
It also builds communities. It is an investment in communities and it is a key investment in Canadians. The only way for Canada to move forward is to ensure that our growth is inclusive.
Our growth should leave no one behind. Fairness is a key attribute of what it means to be Canadian. We now see globally what happens when large segments of populations feel left out or left behind and that no one is speaking for them. We cannot go down the road where growth only works for a few. It is bad economic policy and, quite frankly, dangerous social policy. Canadians are better than that, and we must always remain vigilant toward that end.
Of course, Canada's economy is intertwined with the global economy, but Canada must use its fiscal policy to deliver stronger economic growth. In the words of the IMF at the meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in February of this year:
||...a comprehensive approach is needed to reduce over-reliance on monetary policy. In particular, near-term fiscal policy should be more supportive where appropriate and provided there is fiscal space, especially through investment that boosts both the demand and the supply potential of the economy.
I could not agree more.
I neglected to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Joliette.
We know that wages are not growing at the rate to which Canadians have been accustomed. We know more and more Canadians are feeling that, no matter how hard they work, they will not get ahead. On top of that, global growth continues to slow and market volatility is rising. Emerging market economies are slowing. All of these factors make it incumbent on us to invest now in infrastructure, innovation, communities, our country, and most importantly, Canadians. There can be no doubt that investment is needed, and it is needed now.
I would like to highlight a few of the key investments that are an important part of budget 2016. First, on December 7, 2015, one year ago tomorrow, one of the first acts of this government was to introduce a tax cut for Canada's middle class, which benefited nearly nine billion Canadians. Colleagues have talked about the benefits of the Canada child benefit, we have heard about the important investment in the CPP expansion, we moved the retirement age to 65, and we increased the GIS. These are some of the key features of budget 2016.
What I am very enthused about is that the budget shows a great commitment to youth. Historically, parents have told their children that if they want to succeed, they should stay in school, go to university or college, or become an apprentice. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more out of reach for too many young people. It is harder to save for education and to pay back loans. The reforms to the Canada student loan program would make post-secondary education more affordable and attainable.
Budget 2016 would help youth in Canada, which I think everyone can agree is an important component of our society. All students who qualify deserve the right to go to university or college or to train in the skill of their choice. The inability to pay for that should not be an obstacle or a closed door to the great young Canadians of today, so they can continue to contribute to Canada well into the future. I think everybody in the House agrees with that.
Under this plan, nearly 250,000 low-income students would benefit and nearly 100,000 middle-income students would benefit. It would be an investment of $1.5 billion over five years. What is more, budget 2016 would also make student debt more manageable. Students would not have to pay back student loans until they earn more than $25,000 a year. This, I suggest, is welcome relief.
Youth also need valuable work experience. We know the age-old dilemma that they cannot get jobs without the experience, but they cannot get the experience because they cannot get jobs. This government would commit another $165 million to the Canada student jobs program, which is fantastic. It would give youth an opportunity to get the experience and the job skills they need to continue to be contributing members of society.
Lastly, I want to briefly highlight this government's investment in innovation. This budget would establish Canada as a centre of global innovation. We must empower our creative and entrepreneurial citizens, and this budget would do exactly that by working in partnership and coordination with the private sector, the provinces and territories, municipalities, universities and colleges, and the not-for-profit sector. This plan would see innovative companies move from start-up to commercialization to global success.
Canada is at its best when every Canadian has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, and long-term economic growth that is fair and inclusive will do just that.
It is imperative that the House support Bill C-29 and create a strong, inclusive economy for today, tomorrow, and well into the future.