Response to Budget 2009
Mes Chers Colleagues
I am honoured to speak in support of the Budget
This budget will be a test. A test of political maturity. Canadians have been watching with great interest and, quite literally, praying that we Parliamentarians get it right.
This budget is a test of our Conservative Government. It is also a test of the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc. Most importantly, it is a test of minority government itself.
What is the standard against which we are being tested? What do Canadians want? How will we know whether we have passed?
Two results are important to Canadians. First, and foremost, Canadians want us to work together. Second, we must respond competently to the worldwide economic slowdown. If we don't work together, we will be incapable of any response whatsoever.
We will not succeed if we insist on a mean-minded lack of trust. If we harbor grudges over past disagreements. If we refuse to even listen to each other. That is picking up your marbles and storming off home. Canadians will recognize that for what it is.
We also won't succeed if we play power games. If we all try to be "King of the Hill". If we insist that the budget must be exactly what we want.
My community of Kitchener has a pioneering tradition of conflict resolution. As a lawyer for almost thirty years, I learned that a good compromise is one where everyone feels disappointed. If any Party in this House thinks they will get everything they want in this Budget, they've failed the test.
Ironically, that's why minority government fails the test. Many good ideas that would serve our country well cannot be pursued because they will offend one Party or another. Despite the luck of one or two minority governments forty-five years ago, good ideas succeed more in spite of minority government than because of them.
I'll remind you of my favourite example - the abolition of the anti-democratic state funding of some but not all political parties. This excludes many people who would like a voice in our politics. But I know this democratic reform will not pass in this minority government so I'm glad the Prime Minister had the political maturity to take it off the table.
Has our government passed the test in this Budget? Resoundingly, yes! Has our government set aside some good ideas because they weren't acceptable to the Opposition? Of course! Has our government incorporated some ideas that some of us might have wished not to? Of course! The Government is not going into this by ignoring what our Parliamentary partners and others have had to say. We are not trying to be "King of the Hill." That's not what Canadians want.
This government has listened.
This budget is the product of greater consultation than any other in Canadian history. The Government consulted with 680 groups. There were 84 ministerial trips across Canada to gather input. Opposition Leaders and First Ministers were consulted. Over 70 formal roundtables were held to solicit ideas. We heard from business, labour, taxpayer groups, farmers, the auto sector and the list goes on. The Minister of Finance conducted an electronic consultation with 7,200 online submissions and over 5,400 emails and letters.
In my own riding I held two roundtables jointly with the Honourable Members from Kitchener-Conestoga and Kitchener-Waterloo. I also held one public meeting for the citizens of Kitchener Centre alone. A number of New Democratic Party members accepted my invitation to make presentations at our public meeting, and their ideas were forwarded by me to the Finance Minister. Some, like extended EI benefits, more retraining opportunities, and greater tax breaks for the working poor have been incorporated into this budget.
This budget contains many, many ideas, gathered through such consultation - from investments in social housing and roads and bridges infrastructure to modest tax cuts. It includes measures to provide needed financing to businesses and to individuals.
This budget is an Economic Action Plan to create opportunities for Canadians. Our plan will stimulate housing construction, and provide support business and communities. This budget will take action for aboriginals.
For the first time in Canadian history, Southern Ontario - hard hit by this recession - will get an economic development agency to provide seed money for new job creation.
This could be called Canada's first "Knowledge Budget". It dedicates almost $4 billion to enhance post-secondary education and Canadian research. This includes $50 million to Waterloo Region's world-class, cutting edge, Institute for Quantum Computing.
This builds on our Conservative government's far-sighted planning over the last three years. Reducing the GST provides stimulus that kept us out of recession for a year while all around us others were failing. Cutting business taxes kept us creating net new jobs. Paying down $37 billion of debt in just three years gives us room to maneuver now.
Think of what that means!! Even after this challenging year, with a $34 billion deficit, Canada will still have less debt than when our Conservative government took office.
Our economic action plan responds to global economic turmoil that worsened so quickly it was referred to as "gale forces" by the Deputy Chief Economist at BMO. Since October every private forecaster has amended their forecasts downward almost every week.
If any Party pretends they saw this much difficulty coming this quickly, they are kidding the public and Canadians will see right through them!
If any Party pretends these problems were created by our Conservative government, they are kidding the public and Canadians will see right through them!
If any Party pretends they could have produced solutions more quickly than this action plan, in these complex times, they are kidding the public and Canadians will see right through them!
Is this budget completely agreeable to everyone's principles? No! Is it absolutely the best budget that any government in a minority can produce? Resoundingly, Yes! Does this budget take action to protect Canadians? Resoundingly Yes! Our Conservative government has passed the test.
The Liberal Party has also passed the test. Putting aside humourous little jibes about "being on probation," the Liberal Party has responded favourably to Conservative efforts. I respect the Honourable Opposition Leader for admitting, and I quote, "These measures stand to offer actual hope for actual Canadians."
I further agree with the Honourable Opposition Leader in saying "The political system did work".
It would disappoint fans of the Honourable Opposition Leader's elegance to hear him try to claim credit for all the many good things in this budget. If we all focus on the economy and on protecting Canadians, we can agree that this is not a Conservative Budget. It is not a Liberal Budget! It is not a Coalition Budget! My friends, this is a Canadian budget!!!
In my address on the Throne Speech, and on the Fiscal Update, I invited all our Honourable Members to travel the path through this dark forest of economic peril together with common focus on the needs and well-being of all Canadians.
Through the skillful and generous leadership of our Right Honourable Prime Minister, and the good will of the Honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, a majority of us have now put a foot on that path together. I call on the remaining members of this House to join us in a noble consensus in these unprecedented times. It would make all Canadians even more proud of us.