April 23, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address this Conservative government’s 11th and hopefully final budget.

After a decade of Conservative government, middle class families are working harder than ever yet falling further behind.

Canadians spent the winter waiting for a plan focused on their priorities – giving their kids the best possible start in life and creating good jobs to support their family. Yet, instead of presenting a real plan to invest in middle-class families feeling squeezed the Conservatives have presented a perversely distorted Robin Hood budget, taking from the poor to give to the richest Canadians.  

Budget 2015 stubbornly moves ahead with a plan to spend billions on measures like income splitting for the wealthiest few, doubling Tax Free Savings Account contribution limits, and tax loopholes for CEOs – measures that overwhelmingly help those who need it least. At the same time, this budget fails to provide a helping hand for parents looking for child care; fails to reduce the retirement age back to 65 for Canadian seniors; and fails to reinstate the minimum wage for federal workers.

The Conservatives unfair income splitting scheme will take billions from the middle class and give it to the rich - 85% of Canadians will get nothing at all. The Parliamentary Budget Office highlighted this disparity, noting that only the wealthiest Canadian families will benefit from the Conservatives’ income splitting gift. Even Conservatives are critical of the scheme, with Conservative insider Michael Taube publicly equating income splitting to “state-run socialism for the wealthy”.

The doubling of TFSA contribution limits will just create more tax loopholes for the wealthiest while ordinary Canadians working hard to pay the bills won’t be able to take advantage. In fact, most low-to-middle income Canadians can't afford to double contributions to their TFSA, with fewer than 16% of working Canadians maximizing contributions under the current limit, according to a recent Broadbent Institute report.

Conservatives know the expansion of the TFSA is unsustainable and that their “plan” is a huge burden on future generations, with indications doubling the limit could cost $15 billion a year within a few decades. The finance minister admitted as much when he stated that we should “leave that to the Prime Minister’s granddaughter to solve that problem.”

Really? Mr. Speaker….

New Democrats oppose placing this financial burden on the backs of future generations for the sake of the wealthiest Canadians. It is morally unconscionable that the Finance Minister expects his grandchildren’s children to clean up the fiscal mess his government is intentionally leaving.

Speaking of leaving a mess to future generations, this budget shockingly makes no mention of the environment or climate change, offers little support for First Nations or coastal communities, and their transit commitments do not start soon enough or go far enough to meet the growing challenges facing Canada’s urban centres. 

Budget 2015 also demonstrated once again that the Conservatives take BC for granted. For instance, New Democrats have repeatedly urged the Conservative government to reverse cuts to marine safety, reverse the Conservatives’ closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and cuts to Marine Communication and Traffic Services  - but this budget has failed to do that. The Budget also fails to address BC’s need for significant investments in housing and infrastructure, providing no additional funding for new affordable housing or roads and bridges.

Canada’s New Democrats have presented a significantly different vision that will ensure a prosperous long-term future for our country, proposing practical steps that will help fix the damage done by this Prime Minister and create good jobs and opportunities for families – new supports for small businesses and manufacturing, a $15 federal minimum wage, and public, affordable and accessible child care.

There are currently 900,000 children in Canada whose parents lack access to quality affordable childcare spaces. In many parts of the country, parents face monthly childcare bills in the thousands of dollars. Canada’s New Democrats have presented a plan to create or maintain one million affordable childcare spaces across Canada to ensure parents don’t pay more than $15 a day for a childcare space. Our plan would build on the successful childcare model from Quebec where research from economist Pierre Fortin shows that affordable childcare helped 70,000 mothers join the workforce and boosted the economy by $1.75 for every dollar invested by the government.

Now that’s a plan that makes sense for families and the economy.

Canada’s New Democrats are also committed to making life more affordable for Canadians by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Under this Prime Minister, Canadian families are working harder than ever but falling further behind. The Liberal government before them eliminated the minimum wage for federally regulated workers in 1996, and the Conservatives have done nothing to boost wages since.

The introduction of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage would help fight growing income inequality and provide leadership to increase standards for workers in all sectors of the economy and regions of Canada. All Canadians who work hard and play by the rules should be able to make a decent living. Restoring the federal minimum wage will help make life more affordable for many workers and help to build a fairer, healthier, and more sustainable society.

New Democrats also understand the importance of increasing productivity by making smart investments in our roads, bridges, and public transit to help families get around faster and Canadian businesses get their products to their customers. Yet this budget does nothing for local roads and bridges, contains no new spending for new affordable housing, and nothing for tourism, sports, recreation or cultural infrastructure.

While this budget does contain new money for public transit projects, it is a pittance of what is required to meet the growing challenges faced by municipalities in the Lower Mainland like Coquitlam. Most worrisome, investment is contingent on municipalities borrowing money from private lenders, requiring them to use “alternative financing and funding mechanisms involving the private sector”. This raises very real concerns about whether the stringent rules will once again keep infrastructure investments from getting out the door in communities that remain opposed to public-private partnerships. 

On a positive note, after a relentless NDP campaign, the government decided to use the copy and paste functions and inserted our proposal to lower the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% who create good local jobs, into the budget. Whether it’s the local coffee shop, hair salon or bakery, small businesses continue to be the engine of our local economy and the backbone of thriving, prosperous, and sustainable communities. It`s these small business owners who create jobs, employ our neighbors, and support our charities. That’s why the NDP has prioritized supporting small business as part of our practical plan for jobs and the economy.

Why then is the government making incremental reductions that won’t be fully realized until 2019 rather than providing immediate help for Canada’s hard working small business owners who create 80 per cent of all new jobs in this country? Instead of offering immediate tax relief to the richest 15% of Canadians through their income splitting scheme, would it not make more sense to provide this immediate tax relief to companies who are already creating good jobs and investing in our communities now?

In conclusion, Canada’s economy is only strong when we have a thriving middle class. This budget does nothing to address Canada’s struggling middle class, instead it focuses on handouts to the wealthiest 15% of Canadians.

The Leader of the Official Opposition is a principled leader with the experience and the plan to help grow the middle class, create good jobs, protect our environment and fix the damage caused by this Prime Minister and his Conservative government.

In October Canadians will have a historic opportunity to support the NDP’s practical plan for Canada when they reject the Conservative approach and elect the first-ever federal New Democrat government. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.