Response to Budget 2010
I will be sharing my time with the member for Selkirk-Interlake.
I rise today to support the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance.
Last year in supporting Canada's economic action plan, I said that this budget would be a test of political maturity. Canadians were watching with great interest and quite literally praying that we parliamentarians got it right.
A year later I can say unequivocally, "Yes Canada, we got it right". We are cautiously optimistic that the economy is recovering, but we must remain vigilant.
The House will hear from many speakers about the good things in this budget, and indeed I will mention some which are important to my riding of Kitchener Centre.
However, I will begin by mentioning some things that are not in this budget. Why would I do that? Why would I want people to think about what is not in this budget?
Members of the opposition criticized our government for taking an extra five weeks to consult with Canadians. They did not think we should bother with that much consultation. Now they ask why we bothered to consult only to end up with a stay-the-course budget.
The answer is that our consultations told us what Canadians do not want in this budget.
For example, Canadians told us that they do not want the overtaxation of past Liberal governments. When Liberals complain that the government squandered the surplus, they are really just saying that we should not have reduced the GST. The Liberal leader is thinking about hiking the GST back up to Liberal Party levels.
In fact, by reducing the GST and reducing tax levels generally, as early as 2007 our government injected consumer spending stimulus into the economy. That helped stave off the global recession in Canada for almost a full year after it was felt elsewhere.
We could take up the Liberal Party's complaints and raise taxes in this budget, but Canadians spoke loudly against that option. That is not in this budget.
We could take up the NDP's suggestion to reverse corporate tax relief. Consulting with Canadians, however, confirmed once again that Canadians know that job growth depends upon competitive Canadian employers, so people will not see any job-killing NDP-style corporate taxation in this budget.
Consulting with Canadians also told us that they do not want permanent deficits. Canadians know that government deficits are a kind of reverse Robin Hood. Even now approximately $31 billion every year is taxed from low and middle income and other Canadians, and paid as interest into the pockets of those wealthy enough to lend money to the government.
People will not find any long-term extra spending in this budget. People will not find an extension of the March 31, 2011 expiry date for stimulus spending. Instead of major spending programs, such as the Liberal Party's mythical daycare plan promised in every election since 1993 but never delivered, people will find restraint in 2011 and beyond.
However, people will not find any reversal of our commitments. We are keeping our word. We are increasing foreign aid to historic levels. We are maintaining funding to arts and culture at levels never before seen in Canada. Our record high provincial transfers for health and education will not be reduced. We will slay the deficit with gradual restraint, not by abandoning our commitments. I am very proud to be part of a government that delivers what we promise.
There is a unique feature which is in this budget. What is unique about Conservative budgets is that they are multi-year plans. They demonstrate foresight. They take account of changing circumstances.
Prorogation provided an opportunity to take Canada's economic pulse, to confirm that indeed our economy is recovering but not yet recovered. That is why this budget stays the course with stimulus spending this year. That is also why our government is planning ahead for restraint in later years. Canadians across our great land already understand the wisdom of this course. As the Governor General said that rainy-day spending must not become an all-weather practice.
I bet Canadians are wishing that just once the opposition parties would find the self-assurance to say, "The government is right. We need to stay the course this year and then exercise some restraint. It is so obvious Canadians want us to support this budget, so that is what we will do".
Would that not be a great gesture of national unity in difficult economic times? We cannot be all things to all people, but this budget rings all the right notes.
Here is what the Waterloo Region Record had to say: "...federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty walked a fine, intelligent line Thursday to deliver a budget that serves Canada's most urgent needs." I would add that most Canadians agree and would like the opposition to support this budget and get on with things such as the additional $19 billion in new stimulus spending to create and maintain jobs. This is especially good news for Kitchener Centre, which I proudly represent. Our manufacturers have been hard hit. In addition to the stimulus funding, budget 2010 goes even further to assist manufacturers.
An example is the government's commitment to eliminate all remaining tariffs on manufacturing machinery. Most of these tariffs were eliminated immediately. The remainder will be phased out by January 1, 2015. These tariff reductions will save businesses an additional $300 million annually. This is a significant cost savings for our manufacturers. It will encourage investment in needed machinery. It will encourage innovation. This is very important to Kitchener Centre.
In my prebudget submission on behalf of Kitchener Centre, I urged the minister to do two particularly important things for my riding. He has addressed both of these concerns. What were they?
First, relief for low or no income Canadians is an important issue to Kitchener Centre, which contains our urban core. Those who study such needs agree that social housing is essential to the solution. It is very important to Kitchener Centre that $2 billion of infrastructure stimulus spending invested in social housing in 2009-10 will be followed by an additional $2.1 billion in 2010-11. This brings the two year total of social housing, including housing for disabled and for seniors, to a total boost of $4.1 billion.
This budget would also assist low or no income Canadians with a one year, $30 million increase in skills linked funding to assist more young Canadians while the labour market recovers. Another $20 million is added to pathways to education in support of disadvantaged youth. Yet another $30 million over two years will support aboriginal education.
My second request on behalf of Kitchener Centre, where unemployment remains high, was for continued support for unemployed workers. Once again, this budget delivers. More than $4 billion would be provided in 2010-11. This includes $1.6 billion for additional benefits, $1 billion in enhanced training opportunities, and $1.6 billion in EI premium relief. Five extra weeks of EI benefits, greater access to EI for long-tenured workers, and an extension of the duration and scope of the work sharing program will all continue into 2010-11.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre, I wanted our government to assist those hardest hit by the global downturn. This budget delivers exactly that.
As a member of the environment committee, I was also pleased with the measures for green jobs. These include $100 million over the next four years for clean energy technologies in the forestry sector. We are also expanding eligibility for accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in clean energy generation assets. This builds on the $1 billion over five years committed in budget 2009 for the development of promising clean energy technologies.
Last year I said: The Speech from the Throne lays out a path through a dark forest of economic perils. I call on all of our Honourable Members to seize the opportunity to confidently put on the cloak of open-mindedness, transparency and mutual trust. Let's travel that path together with common focus on the needs and well-being of all Canadians.
I repeat this request today, but add that there is every reason to believe that we will soon need our sunglasses as we emerge from that dark forest.