IN THE HOUSE ~ Speech on the Federal Budget

41st Parliament, 1st Session

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to the budget that has been presented in the House.

I would like to start by thanking the voters of Burnaby—New Westminster, who honoured me by re-electing me for the fourth time to the House of Commons in the election held on May 2. I would also like to thank my family: my partner Limei, my son Stefan, my parents Ruth and Terry Julian, my sister Randi and her family, my brother Patrick and his family. They were all, and continue to be, extremely supportive of the work that I do in the House and my long absences from home in British Columbia.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my staff in Ottawa, Henri Sader, Mounia Lahbabi, and in my Burnaby office, Sandra Bell, Katrina Chen and Marja Kauppi, all of whom provide excellent services to the constituents of Burnaby—New Westminster. It is because of their work that I am able to do the work in this vastly enlarged NDP caucus that will be playing such a key role in the years to come.

I would like to address the budget and follow up on the comments of my colleague from Windsor West about how the Conservative government has approached what is basically a retread budget.

I do not think it is a secret to any of the Canadians who live across this country who are on the main streets out in the real world in this country that for them, Tory times have been very tough times. If we look at the last five years and look at the erosion of employment in many of our key sectors, we can see just how difficult it has become for Canadians under the mandate of the Conservative government.

No one votes Conservative because they expect a better health care system. Conservatives have not been renowned for building an effective public health care system, for providing access to public education, for providing the kinds of services that Canadians need. Nobody votes Conservative for those reasons, but we would expect the one thing Conservatives would be able to get right would be the economy.

However, we see here that what the budget does is simply enhance the previous measures the Conservatives have taken that have led to what is very clearly an economic decline for ordinary Canadian families, for the middle-class and poor Canadians.

As the member for Toronto—Danforth, our leader, said earlier today, it does not mean that there is not anything good in the budget. Corporate CEOs and corporate lobbyists will find this budget very much to their liking, but the reality is on Main Street in this country there is very little that ordinary Canadians will have to be joyful about.

We have seen, and other NDP speakers have raised this issue, $60 billion doled out in massive corporate tax cuts. These are not targeted tax cuts. These are not tax cuts that are linked to job creation. These are not tax cuts that are actually linked to building viable community economies. This is just money that is shovelled out the back of a truck. After five years of seeing these progressive policies of massive corporate tax cuts, we have to wonder just where Canada has ended up.

The Minister of Finance likes to point to the slight increase in the overall job creation, but the reality is over the last five years, given the growth in labour force, which is 1.5% a year, that the Conservatives have the responsibility of creating 300,000 additional jobs every year. How have they fared? StatsCan gives us the results. The results are that there is a million jobs deficit. Over the last five years since the Conservatives have been in power and where they needed to create about 300,000 new jobs or new people coming into the labour force every year, they needed to create 1.5 million. They have actually created about half a million jobs overall and these jobs have largely been part-time or temporary in nature, certainly not the permanent, family-sustaining jobs that Canadians are calling for from coast to coast to coast.

If we dig even deeper and look at the statistics around where these jobs have been created, they tend to be in the low end, in the temporary, part-time and in the service sector, but what has actually happened with the type of manufacturing and value-added jobs that are the basis, the foundation of the community economy across the country? When we put those figures out, they show a narrative of why it is becoming increasingly difficult for Canadian families.

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In manufacturing we have seen, on the Conservative watch, something that started under the Liberals, which is why they are in the penalty box. However, it is has continued under the Conservatives. We have lost 250,000 manufacturing jobs since they came to power.

We have lost jobs in the agricultural sector. As you know, Madam Speaker, being from British Columbia, we have lost tens of thousands of jobs in the softwood lumber sector. That has not been in just British Columbia: it has been right across the prairies, it has been in northern Ontario, it has been in Quebec. It is due to a foolish strategy that was put into place by the Conservative government.

Overall, in manufacturing we have seen a significant decrease in good family-sustaining jobs that have been available in our economy. What we have seen is a growth of part-time, temporary, low-wage jobs in this country. That is the Conservative legacy. The reality is that just to maintain the labour force, they are a million jobs short from when they came to power.

The Conservatives will point to the unemployment rate and say that the unemployment rate is not that bad. We have heard some Conservatives say that, but the reality is that the only reason the unemployment rate has not gone through the roof is that there are progressively an ever-increasing number of Canadians who have simply opted out. They are not in the labour force. They are not counted as part of the labour force participation rate. That is a singular growth we have seen under the Conservative government: the number of Canadians who simply cannot find work.

Coming from a riding that has been economically challenged by Conservative policies, I can tell members that we have seen the fallout from the softwood lumber sellout that led to the closure of three mills and the direct loss of 2,000 jobs in my riding and my area.

We also see how the other economic policies of the Conservative government have impacted Burnaby—New Westminster. There has not been any overall comprehensive strategy to bring new Canadians, who often come with a wide variety of skills and abilities. There has been no real movement on credential recognition, aside from some ribbon-cutting. As a result, in a lot of cases we are seeing that labour force participation has meant that new Canadians are simply realizing they are not going to be able to provide their skills, their abilities, their experience and their education to Canada.

When we look at the Conservative legacy after five years, what we see is a loss of good jobs, continued sellout and stimulation of exports of raw materials. The Conservatives are renowned for exporting raw bitumen, raw logs and raw minerals, and the manufacturing sector has suffered. Value-added manufacturing has suffered.

What is the net result?

We know the debt load of the average Canadian family has climbed over the past decade. It has doubled, which means that Canadian families are facing the erosion of real income. It is not the corporate lobbyists or corporate CEOs, but the middle class, the ordinary Canadian families. It is the middle class and poor Canadians who are contributing and are the bedrock and foundation of our country. The erosion of that income has led to record levels of debt.

What does this budget do to address their issues, aside from $60 billion in corporate tax cuts? Not much.

For the average senior and hundreds of thousands of seniors living in poverty, we have seen that if they are a couple, they get $1.15 more from the Conservative government. It is shameful. It is disgraceful, especially when the HST imposed on B.C. charges $2 a day for those same seniors.

For students facing record debt levels, particularly in British Columbia, there is nothing in this budget that addresses their problems.

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[Translation]

The reality is that 4.5 million Canadians voted for the NDP because they wanted to do away with those old policies that only lobbyists benefit from. That is why there are so many of us here now. The 103 NDP members are listening to Canadians, and we will pressure this government to change its policies, which are not good for ordinary families, for middle-class Canadian families or for the poorest Canadians. That is our mission and what we will continue to focus on in the years to come.

Question
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on taking on the position of Deputy Speaker. I know you will keep us all in line and ensure proper decorum in the House of Commons.

I congratulate the member on being in the House again.

I was very interested in his comments about seniors. We have had a massive series of corporate tax cuts. About $60 billion has been shovelled off the back of a truck by the Conservative government, but many Conservative members seem to have indicated that they are proud of what would be a $600 increase for an entire year for seniors living alone and $840 for seniors living as a couple. Could the member to confirm that for Canadians?

If we did a calculation, it is about $1.15 a day more for seniors living as a couple. We know the HST that the Conservatives have imposed on British Columbia basically adds about $2 a day on to the costs of those seniors. Could the member confirm to me that what the Conservatives are offering in the budget is $1.15 a day for seniors living as a couple at a cost with the HST—

Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, I will return the compliment to the hon. member.

Statistics Canada gets the real figures out. The reality is that we can understand in budget documents what the Conservatives will do. I can perfectly understand that this cuts a little slice of what is most favourable to them. However, we have to look not at that single tree, but at the overall forest.

The reality is that after five years of Conservative government, we have seen an erosion in real family income. We have seen more people leaving the labour force and not participating, because those good jobs are simply not available. There has been a catastrophic decline in manufacturing jobs, value-added jobs and family-sustaining jobs.

The Conservatives can take credit for massive and bloated corporate tax cuts that they have strewn around everywhere. They can certainly take credit for that. It is a record. It is even worse than the former Liberal government was in that respect. However, they cannot take credit for real economic initiatives that have led to the kind of prosperity we want to see for every Canadian. For seniors, $1.15 a day is simply disgraceful.

Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House again representing the constituents of Vancouver Quadra. I want to thank the very educated, engaged citizenry of my riding for re-electing me and for their continued support.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster mentioned a wealth of adjectives and types of jobs and industries and labour force issues, all of which are important.

What I did not hear was the word “green”. I heard nothing about the kind of innovation that is so badly needed, innovation that would lead to a greener economy and to jobs in green industries. I did not hear anything about the absence of stimulus funding to alternative energy and other green measures and their importance for our future.

Does it not matter, or was it just an omission by error?

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Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the raising of this issue by the member for Vancouver Quadra. She is absolutely right. In 10 minutes I addressed more of the macroeconomic issues we are facing as a country.

The member is absolutely right to point out that the Conservative government is not undertaking any sort of environmental or green initiatives. Our environment critic, the member for Halifax, will be raising those issues in the coming days, as will our entire caucus.

Many members of our caucus are environmental activists and are very concerned about the impacts of climate change. The member is right to point out that it is not in the budget.

Many Canadians have given up on the Conservatives' ability to even understand the importance of the environmental challenges we face.

There is no doubt that this budget does not in any way reflect that environmental imperative. That too is a shame.