Omnibus 2014, Speaking Out Against Budget Implementation Act
April 7th, 2014 - 3:32pm
Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, you may have noticed that during every question period for the last eight years Conservative members have risen in the House to rail against the NDP for not supporting their budgets. Well, I would like to let the members opposite know that there will be no change in their speaking notes today. In fact, in question period today it was the same old tired lines from the government.
I will not be supporting Bill C-31. Here are the reasons why. I hope my colleagues across the way listen, because they should be ashamed as they listen to these reasons. Given the government's record on time allocation, of course, the bill contains amendments to more than 60 acts without the time to study those changes. It continues in Bill C-31. Once again, we see the despicable Conservative tradition of forcing legislation through without adequate parliamentary debate or public consultation.
New Democrats believe that healthy debate and consultation lead to better legislation for Canadians, yet we have another omnibus bill designed to ram through hundreds of changes with little study and little oversight. In fact, the Conservatives moved time allocation on the bill after just 25 minutes of debate. Canadians deserve better.
In addition, the bill fails to make life more affordable for Canadian families, who are still recovering from the effects of the recession. We have 300,000 more unemployed Canadians than before the recession, on this government's watch. The effects of this are painfully evident in ridings across the country, including my riding of London—Fanshawe. There is absolutely nothing in the budget, or Bill C-31, that would assist in getting the hard-working constituents of London—Fanshawe back to work, or to help replace the 400,000 Canadian manufacturing jobs lost on this Prime Minister's watch.
There is nothing in the budget or the bill that addresses the reasonable and affordable proposals of the NDP to strengthen the Canada pension plan. There is nothing to provide relief on heating bills, nothing for the millions of Canadians without access to a family doctor, and nothing to address the fact that we still have seniors in our country living in poverty. There are 250,000 of them.
New Democrats are focused on helping our most vulnerable seniors with an affordable increase to the guaranteed income supplement. While the government has made incremental measures in the past, they amount to much less than half of what is needed to pull every Canadian senior out of poverty. It is an amount that is far less than the billions in tax breaks the government has given to banks and big polluters.
Let us look at the history of this government. It is a government that has hiked payroll taxes, while working families struggled with the worst recession in decades. At the same time it was dishing out $21 billion in tax giveaways to Canada's richest companies. It stood by as good jobs with good wages and pensions, like those at Electro-Motive Diesel in London, disappeared as a result of foreign corporate takeovers.
New Democrats would like to see a government that provides explicit and transparent criteria for the testing of net benefit to Canada in the Investment Canada Act, which place emphasis on assessing the impact of foreign investments on communities, jobs, pensions, families, and new capital investments.
New Democrats propose working with the provinces to build a long-term skills training strategy to fill the skilled job shortages and to bring provinces, employers, labour, and educational organizations together to improve existing labour market development agreements. While we are at it, New Democrats would like to see the government sit down with the provinces on issues vital to Canadians, like the Canada pension plan and the Canada health accord, so we can arrive at the creative, affordable, and sustainable solutions we know are possible.
New Democrats would like to see a government that provides the services Canadians rely on. Reverse the devastating decision to cut provincial health care transfers by $36 billion; that would be a good start. The government has put universal health care on death watch. Reverse changes to El that include damaging new rules that would require Canadian workers to accept as much as a 70% pay reduction or risk losing benefits. Set fair and effective contribution rates for employment insurance, and protect the money in the fund.
Unfortunately, the government is not interested in serving Canadians. It has fallen down on the issues that matter most to us. It has refused to repay seniors their missing pension earnings, despite admitting that CPP and OAS pensioners were shortchanged by $1 billion due to an accounting error.
What happened to the promise of a comprehensive patient wait times guarantee? It disappeared after a handful of pilot projects that left most patients out in the cold.
The government cancelled agreements with provinces to fund affordable child care spaces. It was child care that would have given some relief to working families. The Conservatives misled Canadians with the $100 universal child care benefit by subjecting it to unfair clawbacks and taxes, so that families who needed assistance with child care the most got the least.
This is the government that squandered $20 billion on giveaways for oil companies, big banks, cellphone giants, and other corporations, without any requirements that they stop ripping off Canadians—
Mrs. Carol Hughes:
They think it is funny. It is shameful.
Ms. Irene Mathyssen:
Mr. Speaker, I am really sorry that they find this so amusing. My constituents are not amused.
The Conservatives expanded drug company monopoly rights. They moved to allow direct-to-consumer advertising, which would add $6.3 billion to our drug bills, even though Canadian consumers already pay some of the world's highest prices.
While the government has pandered to the large corporations, it has failed to renew the small business job creation tax credit, first proposed by the NDP in 2011, for the hiring of people by small businesses. New Democrats know that small and medium businesses fuel communities and help those communities to thrive. We believe that continuing to build on the existing job creation tax credit for small and medium businesses would benefit Canadians.
While Bill C-31 would provide for the compensation for deductions from veterans' pay between May 29, 2012, and September 30, 2012, it is silent on the amounts deducted between 2006 and 2012. We have already seen two ministers promise action and then fail to deliver on this issue.
With Veterans Affairs Canada, the Conservatives cut $225 million out of the budget. There is no concern for modern-day veterans. There is no concern for the young men and women who went on peacekeeping missions. There is none.
At the veterans affairs committee, we heard testimony from organizations that provide vital services to our Canadian veterans and their families. Those organizations, like the last post fund, had their budgets cut in 1995 to reduce government deficits. Those cuts have never been redressed, let alone seen an indexation for inflation, the kind we have seen over 20 years.
I should point out that this is not only the Conservative government's failure. It started with the Liberals, the same Liberals who voted in the past to support Conservative omnibus budget bills.
Those bills in the past included weakening environmental assessment in Canada. Bill C-31 would do nothing to correct that. We have a responsibility to leave clean water and breathable air to future generations in Canada, and we need to start now. We have heard that dire warning over and over.
I have received overwhelming support from the constituents of London—Fanshawe and the surrounding area to return the Thames River to inclusion in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Canadians understand the value of environmental protection to the quality of life and a healthy economy. Why do the Conservatives not get that?
I see nothing in the budget, nor Bill C-31, to address Canada's staggering infrastructure deficit. New Democrats proposed a reversal of the $5.8 billion that the Conservatives cut from local infrastructure. We should be working with the provinces. We should be working with Canadians. We should be working to preserve rail travel and ensure that cargo transport on trains is sustainable, affordable, and safe. There is nothing in this budget that speaks to any of those needs.
In conclusion, I would like to end with my opening observation. Let the Conservatives rail that New Democrats did not support this budget or previous budgets. How could we possibly do that when these budgets harm Canadian families, veterans, and seniors?
We need something much better. Canadians deserve something much better.
Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the member touched on many subjects. One of them that is near and dear to my heart, as everyone heard after question period, is the Algoma Central Railway passenger service. While other countries are moving forward at a very quick pace to make sure there is passenger service and to address climate change and infrastructure issues, the Conservative government lags behind.
I want to ask the member if she thinks that the government is actually fiscally responsible and whether it should be handling the taxes and the economy.
Let us look at the history. It wasted $50 million building things like gazebos in the riding of the President of the Treasury Board, $2 billion to host a G8 meeting that could have been held somewhere else at lower cost, $14 million on advertising in one day, and millions to buy expensive advertising during a hockey game for a job program that did not exist. As well, let us not forget the $2 million fake lake.
Maybe my colleague would like to talk about whether this is a government that should be leading Canada.
Ms. Irene Mathyssen:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for pointing out some of the misspending. I think $14 million on ads and $50 million for fake lakes and gazebos is a little much.
I would like to also mention the $72.5 billion that the government has given away to profitable corporations in tax breaks while veterans and seniors suffer and there is no child care. It has no money for the people of this country, but it has all kinds of money for profitable corporations.
It says it is going to create jobs. Tell that to the 300,000 Canadians who are still waiting. Tell that to the people of London—Fanshawe, who have lost many good jobs in the last few years.
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to hear the member speak as an Ontario member of Parliament. I recall when the member was a minister in the Ontario NDP government that almost bankrupted the province of Ontario, that saw a million people on welfare, that saw millions of people lose their jobs and promise after promise broken.
This is a member who just criticized the fact that we are giving Canadians $100 extra every month. She criticized that. She criticizes the fact that we have increased funding for our veterans by $5 billion. She criticizes and votes against the good work done by the Minister of International Trade, who signs new free trade deals that tremendously benefit her region of the country. An incredible investment is being made. The deal that the minister signed recently will help manufacturers in her own riding, and she will stand to vote against that as well.
On every measure that counts when it comes to job creation, protecting the environment, protecting manufacturers, or enhancing the economy, the member votes against it. Her party has a record of destroying economies.
Ms. Irene Mathyssen:
Mr. Speaker, I am really glad that the member has mentioned some of these things, because I think he needs a history lesson.
Yes, I was in that government in Ontario between 1990 and 1995. Do members know what happened to that government? In 1989, the welfare rate was $1.89 billion. That was for people who were in desperate situations. The federal government decided that was not enough, so it changed the unemployment insurance rules, and the very next year that welfare rate was up to $6 billion.
Then the same bunch of people cut transfers for health care, training, and education. We wonder why students have horrendous debts in this country; it is because of the cuts to the very programs that were intended to maintain those people and help to make sure they had access to the economy.
He talks about free trade agreements. Free trade agreements are fine if they are fair trade agreements. What about the people who are injured by those agreements? What about the environment? What about the loss of labour rights? What about the loss of jobs because the government could not put in clauses to make sure that jobs here in Canada are protected?
Do not give me any rhetoric. I was there.