Budget 2016 Response
April 14th, 2016 - 6:22pm
I am honoured to share with the House my riding's concerns and hopes in response to the federal budget. The people of Port Moody, Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra are excited to be free from over a decade of Conservative rule. For too long our country has turned its back on science, seniors, youth, the environment and climate change, and working families.
On October 19, Canadians voted for change and it is my job to ensure they get it, to cut through the spin, the selfies, and to get to the truth. We need to ensure that the hope created by the Conservatives' defeat does not sour into cynicism caused by broken promises and missed opportunities.
On budget day, the hope of Canadians was on display. Canadians wanted to see the Liberals' campaign promises become reality. However, I am sorry to report that the Liberal budget spends much, but accomplishes little.
Where it counts, this budget comes up short for Canadians today who are increasingly unable to afford the cost of housing, child care, and prescription medications. It does nothing to confront the threats Canadians face tomorrow, such as funding for home care for our aging population, restoring the $36 billion cut to health care, and investing in an economy that is environmentally sound and socially responsible.
For a budget targeted at the middle class, the main beneficiaries of it are anyone but. This Liberal budget adds to the abundance of those who already have and it forgets to provide for those who have not. It allows wealthy CEOs to continue to avoid paying their fair share of taxes on stock option income, a broken Liberal promise that will cost taxpayers $1.6 billion over the next two years.
At a time when Canadians across the country need jobs, the Liberals broke their promise to reduce the tax rate for small businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses are the largest job creators in the country and the small tax cut would help the local economy recover and allow communities to thrive.
This cash grab from small businesses comes from the Liberals much lauded revenue neutral middle class tax cut, a tax cut that redistributes wealth from the super rich to the almost as rich, adding $1.5 billion to our ballooning budget deficit.
Canadians cannot afford Liberal mistakes and bad math. They need real investments that will create jobs and expand the public service. Unfortunately, Canadians have already waited 10 long years for change, but they will have to keep waiting.
While we wait for real small business investments and job creation measures, Canadians need access to the employment insurance they deserve. Budget 2016 expands employment insurance benefits for some, but ignores those hardest hit by the collapse in commodity prices. Out-of-work Canadians cannot understand the government's inaction as they struggle to pay the bills.
I urge the government to rethink its decision and ensure that benefits get to those who need them most. In my home province of British Columbia, people are waiting for the Liberals to make good on their promise to defend their coastline and protect their mariners.
During the election campaign, the Liberals repeatedly promised to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station to its former full complement and to keep marine communication traffic service centres in British Columbia open. Even Liberal MPs believed that promise. On December 8, the member for Vancouver Centre spoke in the House and said:
Our Liberal government made a commitment during the election to reopen Kitsilano Coast Guard base and the marine communications on B.C.'s coast. I was pleased to see that commitment in the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard's mandate letter from the Prime Minister. The voices of the people of Vancouver were heard.
I am not sure they were heard by the Prime Minister because since the election the centre in Tofino has been closed, the Comox station will be closed on May 10, and the Kitsilano station remains unopened.
This is happening while a parliamentary committee is completing a review on the closure decision of the Comox MCTS. However, there is still time to stop the closure in Comox. I urge the Liberals to keep their promise to B.C. and keep that station open.
Affordable housing is of particular concern to those living in metro Vancouver as housing prices continue to rise at a rate far outpacing any rise in household income. Family budgets are being pushed to the limit and young people are facing the possibility of never being able to afford to buy a home in our region. Businesses are increasingly finding it hard to hire new workers because many people simply cannot afford to live in the metro Vancouver area.
Canadians were promised $520 million over four years in tax incentives for construction of new affordable rental housing, $5 million per year for improvements to the RRSP home buyer's plan, and renewed co-op housing agreements that support rent geared to income units.
I am sorry to report that none of these investments are in budget 2016.
I recently met with Edith McHattie of Salal Housing Co-op because she wants me to know how worried she is about funding to keep her co-op going. Liberal inaction will do nothing to help young families like hers, some who are moving farther and farther from their work, increasing air pollution, and decreasing their quality of life.
To deal with this problem, create jobs, and combat climate change, the government should be investing in public transit. Unfortunately, here too the Liberals are falling behind. In budget 2016, Canadians are shortchanged $802 million for public transit, $1.5 billion for green infrastructure, and $1 billion for social infrastructure over two years. That is a two-year total shortfall of more than $3 billion on infrastructure compared to Liberal campaign commitments.
This budget has a missed opportunity to invest in our future, but it is not too late to take action.
The government could act now to provide for our aging population by following through on its promise to fund home care for seniors. It could fast track infrastructure spending to ensure that Port Moody gets a new upgraded sports field and Coquitlam gets funding for the YMCA community centre.
I met with the mayors and councils of Port Moody, Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra about their infrastructure needs and priorities. They told me infrastructure dollars are desperately needed in Anmore for a new village hall and Belcarra is concerned Canada's oil spill response capacity is inadequate to protect its beautiful shoreline and keep it clean. I also met with the Kwikwetlem First Nation and I know it is hopeful for funds to build a new community centre.
The government could act now to reverse the Conservatives' $36 billion cut to health care and protect our country's most cherished public program. It could invest in clean technology to combat climate change, rather than rubber-stamping LNG projects on salmon spawning grounds.
It could live up to its promises to first nations children, with investments in first nation education, mental health supports, child welfare, health care, and Jordan's Principle.
After pledging that his government would be different from promise-breaking Liberal governments of the past, the government has delivered a budget that breaks promise after promise, especially to Canadians who can least afford it.
We need a Canada where no one is left out and no one is left behind.
Canada's New Democrats will work to ensure action is taken not only to address the problems of today but provide for the opportunities of tomorrow.