IN THE HOUSE ~ on 2010 Federal Budget
March 9th, 2010 - 4:00am
40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague for Sault Ste. Marie. He is one of the foremost advocates for our middle class and poor Canadians in this House of Commons. He is a very eloquent speaker. It is an honour to follow him, particularly in light of what this budget means.
There is no doubt this budget is very clearly an attack on middle class and poor Canadians. I will explain why in just a moment. Many of my other NDP colleagues have expressed the same concerns over the budget. The important thing is to start with what the context is in this country right now.
The government does not deny that unemployment is going to grow throughout the course of this year. We also have record levels of seniors living in poverty in this country despite the prosperity and the resources that we have in this country. We are seeing record levels of student debt.
Most importantly, because this is probably the fundamental difference between the NDP as compared to the old parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives that love to shovel money at the wealthiest of Canadians and love to bring forward these great ideological concepts like free trade, the most important division in this House is that the NDP is the only party that recognizes what has happened to the middle class over the last 20 years.
Under the former Liberal government, under the current Conservative government, what we have seen is the most sustained decline in incomes for Canadian families that we have ever seen in our history, right across income categories. Once we put aside the very rich who are wealthier than ever and now take most of the income pie, middle class, lower middle class and the poorest of Canadians have all seen a sustained decline in their family income. As a result of that the average Canadian family, not the wealthy, the ones it is obvious the Conservatives and Liberals love to sit down with, but the average Canadian family has actually seen their debtload double over the past 20 years.
That quiet crisis was present even before this very clear full-blown economic crisis that we have seen over the past year or two. That is the context in which this budget was developed. So we have to ask, what kind of measures is the government taking to actually help middle class Canadians?
What it is doing is actually cutting back on public services, which are services that provide supports to middle income Canadians. It is middle class Canadians that benefit the most from the services the federal government produces. It is the public services, those that help the middle class, that are actually under attack by the government.
What did the government choose to do? That is the question we have to ask ourselves. What it has chosen to do is go into one of the largest deficits in Canadian history, a $54 billion deficit that is largely due to massive corporate tax cuts.
In this corner of the House, we actually read through the budget as we do diligently. The NDP members in this House of Commons have been likened to army ants, we are the ones who are diligently doing the work and in the great Canadian tradition doing our homework.
I am going to ask the Conservative members opposite to actually take the plastic off their budget and take it out of their desks and actually look through the budget document. On page 281 we can see that the finance ministry itself is undermining the premise of what the Conservatives have done with this budget. On page 281 there is a very interesting graph that actually expresses what the NDP has been saying all along. This comes from the finance ministry. It is written into the budget. It talks about the dollar impact on the level of GDP of a permanent $1 increase in fiscal measures.
Mr. Speaker, I know it is no surprise to you and no surprise to the NDP caucus that when one invests in infrastructure there is a 100% return. If $1 is invested, that multiplier effect is 100%. There is no secret there. It is very clearly written in the budget documents.
Housing investment that the NDP has been pushing for some time, and it is actually contained within our amendment that we have brought forward, is 100% benefit as well. When the government makes that decision, there is a 100% benefit to Canadians as a whole.
We can look at other spending measures and it is an 80% benefit, still a very important benefit, the full range of other benefits that are provided by the federal government, by the public services that we are talking about. For measures for low income households and the unemployed, it is again an 80% return on investment. Still pretty good.
Then we get to the measures that the government loves to bring in.
For fiscal measures, personal income tax measures are not the best investment of federal government funds. We have said that all along. It is reflected here in the budget document itself. It is a 40% return.
The federal government loves to invest in personal income tax measures for the wealthiest and most privileged Canadians, and I will come back to that in a moment. For middle class Canadians, for lower income Canadians, it is a 40% return. Personal income tax measures are the worst possible use of funds.
Corporate income tax measures are mentioned on page 281 of the Conservative government's budget documents. Ninety per cent of that is simply blown away. It is like Conservative members going to the casino. They are wasting Canadian taxpayers' money by throwing it at the corporate sector, and that is written into the budget document itself.
One has to wonder if any of the Conservatives in the House have even bothered to read the budget documents, have even bothered to see that they are making the worse possible use of Canadian taxpayers' money, of fiscal policy, by blowing away 90% of it on corporate income tax measures. There is simply no return to the federal government. There is no return to Canadians by cutting back public services and by throwing all of that money at profitable corporations.
We must remember that it is borrowed money. The government has a $54 billion deficit largely due to corporate income tax measures, the money the government is shovelling at very profitable Canadian banks, the money it is shovelling at very profitable energy companies, and the money it is shovelling out the door without any due respect, without any due diligence and without any sense of responsibility, while at the same time cutting back on the services that help Canadians the most. According to the government's own documents that money is not being effectively used.
There are well-meaning Canadians who vote Conservative in Conservative ridings. Those Canadians, those who are listening in today, have to know that the Conservatives are knowingly making the worse possible use of Canadian taxpayers' money in fiscal policy. Well-meaning Conservatives right across this country would say that does not make sense.
When the budget documents themselves say this is the worst possible use of money, why would we use all of that resource that Canadians have in common and push it at a very profitable corporate sector when Canadians need help?
We have referenced some of the other needs, such as the fact that right now up to 800,000 Canadians are running to the end of EI.
Just to reference and close the debate around these huge income gifts the Conservatives' love to shovel out the door to the wealthiest and most privileged Canadians, it now turns out that the lowest marginal tax rate in the country is paid by the wealthiest of Canadians. Lower middle class Canadians are paying the taxes. According to figures from 1990 to 2005 the poorest of Canadians are now paying a higher marginal tax rate than the wealthiest of Canadians, and yes, this did start under the Liberals. That is absolutely irresponsible.
I would like to briefly reference for British Columbians why we are voting against this budget. There is not a single reference to salmon; not a single reference to the pine beetle; not a single reference to leaky condos. The only reference to softwood lumber is the softwood lumber sellout that in my riding of Burnaby--New Westminster cost us 2,000 direct jobs and the closure of three softwood mills.
What we have seen under the Conservative government is a completely irresponsible approach to fiscal policy, a completely irresponsible approach to balanced budgets, with a self-inflicted $54 billion deficit.
The Conservatives just had to be responsible, read their own budget documents, realize that was an appallingly irresponsible use of taxpayers' fiscal capacity, and they would have pulled back on the corporate income taxes, the further ones the government is implementing on the recommendation of the NDP. The government would actually be putting forward policies that would help people, such as investing in infrastructure, investing in housing, investing in social policy, all of which provide a multiple of additional benefits to Canadians as opposed to corporate taxes.
There is one reference in the budget that British Columbians find offensive and that is the reference to the HST. There are many pages on the HST but nothing on salmon, nothing on leaky condos and nothing on the pine beetle. That is why we are voting against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, what the member is identifying is exactly my point, that it is the worst possible use of moneys that the Conservatives could hope to make, and it is right here.
I understand. He is reading the table for the very first time, so he is now opening it up and he is saying, “My goodness, is that really true that there is a 100% return for infrastructure investment, a 100% return for housing investment, yet there is only less than a 10% return for corporate investment?”
Now he has read it. Now he has a responsibility to his constituents, now that he understands that it is the worst possible use, from the finance minister's own internal documents, to then justify why they are wasting Canadian resources by throwing them at very profitable Canadian companies.
Second, I referenced jobs a whole number of times in my 10 minutes, so I am not going to go over that ground again, the softwood sellout being the most egregious decision by the government for loss of jobs in British Columbia. I referenced 2,000 lost jobs because of the softwood sellout. That was appallingly irresponsible, but then he--
Mr. Speaker, we need to protect Canadian workers from the Conservative government, because it has sold out so much of what has been the backbone of our industrial and manufacturing economy in this country. It has simply sold out.
The Conservatives like to sit down with lobbyists. They like to hand out corporate tax cuts. They just love to be irresponsible with the public purse, but they have no job strategy and that is why unemployment has continued to rise, and even in the budget documents themselves, will continue to rise over the course of the next year. They simply have absolutely no solutions.
I appreciate the member referencing the parliamentary budget officer, because what he says, to back up what the ministry of finance folks are obviously telling the government as well, is that the structural deficit is due to the corporate tax cuts that the government is bringing in so recklessly and irresponsibly.
It has no jobs plan. It simply does not know how to generate employment. It has no industrial strategy. It is a failed government and this is a failed budget.