April 4, 2017

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Gord Johns

NDP

Mr. Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I must thank my friend from Avalon, who I went with to the east coast with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We visited his community and we met with cod fishermen and fishermen in Miramichi to talk about the decline of the Atlantic cod and the Atlantic salmon. We found out that we had a lot in common on the west coast and the east coast. There was a lack of investment in restoration, in enhancement, and in salmon habitat protection.

We know that it is a clear map to the return of our stocks in our fishery if we make critical investments. When I say critical, I am talking about the urgency of the situation. We had record low returns in the Somass River of sockeye recently, and we have seen a record decline in our fish on the west coast. We need our fish for the cultural and economic health of our communities.

We know, as coastal people, the importance of our fish. Why has the government not invested any new money in enhancement or restoration, given the critical situation we are facing and the decline of our fish?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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LIB

Ken McDonald

Liberal

Mr. Ken McDonald

Madam Speaker, I would tell the hon. member that we all enjoyed that visit to my home community when we met with the fishermen. As I said in my speech, we are investing in the fisheries. For my home province and the Atlantic provinces, we just announced a $325-million fund. This fund will be available for processors, for fisheries, and for education. It will encompass it all, and the money will flow to all the provinces. We want to see the fishery of tomorrow be the real fishery of the future, and that is what the money will be used for. It will concentrate not only on what is taken out of the water but on what is in the water and stays there to make sure our stocks are healthy for the future.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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CPC

Dianne Lynn Watts

Conservative

Ms. Dianne L. Watts (South Surrey—White Rock, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I was happy hear that the budget offers immediate help, but if we look at child care and at the housing strategy, there is no money this year. For homelessness, there is zero this year and zero next year. For cultural and recreational infrastructure, there is zero this year and zero next year. For disability accessibility, there is zero this year and zero next year. For creating Canada's clean growth economy, there is zero this year and zero next year. For skills training, there is nothing this year, and in some sectors, nothing next year. For skills innovation and middle-class jobs, there is nothing this year.

Could the member please explain what he means by offering immediate help?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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LIB

Ken McDonald

Liberal

Mr. Ken McDonald

Madam Speaker, again, I will go back to how I responded earlier to one of the questions. The same party condemns us for spending, and then when we bring in a budget, they ask why we are not spending it all this year. We were elected on a four-year platform, and we will continue to work on that and prepare for the future, whether it be for the middle class, education, or innovation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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LIB

Bobby Morrissey

Liberal

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

I welcome the opportunity this morning to speak in support of budget 2017 and all the work our government is doing to continue to build a strong economy in the country from coast to coast to coast.

Before I get into my comments on the budget, I want to first congratulate all the volunteers and organizers who helped ensure that O'Leary, Prince Edward Island, was named Kraft Hockeyville 2017.

O'Leary is a small community in my riding. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of its volunteer committee, made up of members Della Sweet, Jo-Anne Wallace, Tammy Rix, Bill MacKendrick, and Dean Getson, for their tireless effort to ensure that this community would win Hockeyville 2017. It has already received $100,000 for facility upgrades to its arena. It will be hosting an NHL pre-season game between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils. This is a significant accomplishment for a small community with a population of less than 1,000. Therefore, I want to acknowledge this tremendous effort. It was an island-wide effort. Indeed, the effort was from coast to coast, as people were supporting it. I am pleased that I also took part in it.

I briefly want to acknowledge budget 2017 and the positive impact on my home province of Prince Edward Island. The budget would increase transfer equalization payments by $10.1 million from the previous year. There would be $152 million through the Canada health transfer, which is an increase of $4.6 million, and $56 million through the Canada social transfer, which is an increase of $1.7 million.

I am pleased that the government would provide Prince Edward Island with an estimated $45.1 million in the next decade, of which $24.6 million would be dedicated to better home care, including for addressing critical home care infrastructure requirements, and $20.5 million would be allocated to support mental health initiatives in the province. These are issues I heard a lot about during the campaign in the summer and fall of 2015: the issue of home care and support for our aging population, seniors; and the growing issue of mental illness and the need to provide more services. I was pleased that our government recognized that my home province was meeting additional challenges in these areas and required additional funding to make sure that the citizens of Prince Edward Island have access to health care that is equal to that enjoyed across the country.

I want to touch briefly on a specific issue my colleague from Newfoundland spoke to a little earlier, and that is the significant new announcement by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of $325 million to support innovative technological investments in the fish sector on the east coast, in fish processing facilities, and in training upgrades to bring this industry into this century. It is recognition that we must invest in technology to ensure that our first-class seafood is processed in the most innovative manner to allow us to stay competitive in the international market.

As well, this budget would continue on from budget 2016 by allocating an additional $5 million to small craft harbours, which are essential to a successful fishery. This would follow on an investment last year of $149 million. These are strategic investments in strategic infrastructure on the east coast to support the very important fishery on Prince Edward Island.

While addressing the budget today, I want to focus on three areas that I feel are important in our society. Those three areas speak to the heart of what a government is expected to do in the area of strong social policy and social supports.

Governments, after all, always have to meet the challenge of managing the affairs of a country with methods close to the private sector. At the same time, they have a social responsibility to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks and that they have access to programs and funding to ensure that they have equally productive lives in this country.

I did a little research. The 2016 budget was an historic one, with the transfer of a significant amount of money to children in this country. I do not have to go into detail. There have been various debates in the House on this issue. Why I am referring to this is that when I look back at three very significant social programs in the country, they were all initiated by Liberal governments.

The first family allowance in Canada was issued on February 20, 1945. Mackenzie King was prime minister of the country. The first family allowance cheques to Canadian mothers was $5 a month for each child under the age of five, $6 for children aged six to nine, $7 for those aged 10 to 12, and $8 for teenagers 13 to 15 years of age.

My riding is small compared to some of the larger ridings in the country. In one month, in my small riding, our government's child tax benefit, and this is an estimated figure, is $2.31 million. It is money that goes to children in my riding of Egmont. That is a significant benefit to children, families, and single-parent families in my riding. That is one of the signature initiatives of our government. It started last year and we are continuing to build on it this year. It is $2.31 million for a program that was started in 1945 by a Liberal prime minister. It shows that our government recognizes that we have a responsibility to make sure that children have every opportunity in life. The Canada child benefit is the tool that does that. It is one of the initiatives I have been most proud of since I became a member of Parliament.

As well, the first mandatory old age security system, in 1927, was under Mackenzie King. A non-contributory program, the system was later updated by Prime Minister St. Laurent in 1957 and by Prime Minister Pearson in 1965. It is interesting to note that universality was repealed for a while by the Mulroney government in 1989. Again, the old age security system, one of the hallmarks of Canadian society, was an initiative introduced by a Liberal government.

I was pleased that our government was able to recognize that seniors most in need, single seniors, were depending on OAS and GIS, and we raised that by $90 a month in the last budget.

The final issue I want to talk about briefly is the employment insurance system. I was pleased that in this budget, our government recognizes that a deterrent to skills training and higher education is that people on employment insurance cannot take training on their own initiative for fear of losing the benefits they depend on. We recognize this. It is an issue I long championed as a provincial politician. Why not allow people who are out of work to access training, upgrade their skills, and receive employment insurance at the same time?

That is why I am proud to support this budget. These three social programs are pillars of what defines Canada as a nation, and I am delighted to support budget 2017.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet

NDP

Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP)

Madam Speaker, this morning, in the all-party anti-poverty caucus, a doctor told us about one of his patients whose mental and physical health had been affected by the presence of mould in her apartment and who was unable to find affordable social housing because the waiting lists are too long.

In Hochelaga, as in Montreal, there are over 20,000 people on the waiting lists, and the situation in Toronto is even worse. Many people cannot afford decent housing and that is affecting them. However, what the Liberals are telling them in this budget is that, even though they are in crisis and there is mould in their home, they will have to wait because 90% of the money will not be allocated until after the next election and 50% of the money will not be allocated until two elections from now.

How can the Liberals look those most in need in the eye and tell them that they will have to wait a little longer?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

Bobby Morrissey

Liberal

Mr. Robert Morrissey

Madam Speaker, that is a good question. At least our government has recognized that there is a crisis in housing in large urban centres, as in other communities across the country. Our government recognized that crisis by announcing the largest single investment in housing in some time in this country.

The very issues that my hon. colleague referred to are issues that our government is sensitive to and aware of. We are the first government in some time to put a commitment in the budget to begin to recognize this situation across the country and to make investments in housing in major centres across the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
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Gord Johns

NDP

Mr. Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for talking about youth mental health. For over a decade on the west coast, primarily in the Nuu-chah-nulth communities, we have had a high number of youth suicides. We have had many suicide attempts, and recently there was a significant spike in the Nuu-chah-nulth communities.

We recently asked the government for funding for one full-time child and youth counsellor and one full-time adult counsellor. We asked for funding to build capacity for cultural healers, to include an opportunity for an intensive traditional healing space, and also for funding to build an apartment for external support services.

The support staff are working overtime. We have some staff who have worked 21 days straight, and still there is no help. Not only have we not seen any money for first nations youth in this budget, but we have not even heard back from the minister on our request.

Children are dying in our communities. This is not okay. In spite of its clear promise and multiple rulings from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the government refuses to end discrimination in funding for first nations child welfare. The member stood in the House and voted for our motion calling for an immediate investment of $155 million to close this gap, but the budget does not contain a nickel of it. Does the member believe that the government should comply with the Human Rights Tribunal and end this discrimination so that we can save these children's lives and provide the adequate resources that are needed right now, urgently?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

Bobby Morrissey

Liberal

Mr. Robert Morrissey

Madam Speaker, the first priority of the government is to recognize that there is an issue and a serious challenge in parts of this country. Beginning during the election campaign and since this session of Parliament began, our government has made a number of commitments to begin addressing the wrongs that the former government put toward our first nations communities. A lot of work still has to be done, but in the last two budgets our government has recognized that this is a priority and that we have to put money into these areas. That is why I was pleased to see in the budget that we will begin looking at areas such as mental health issues across the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could provide some of his thoughts with regard to the Canada summer students program. We talk about trying to provide opportunities for young people, and with this government we have seen significant increases within that program that will have an effect in all of the different regions of Canada. Could the member provide some of his thoughts and reflections on the importance of that increase?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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LIB

Bobby Morrissey

Liberal

Mr. Robert Morrissey

Madam Speaker, I would be pleased to share my thoughts. My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, is correct in recognizing that our government, beginning last year, made a significant investment in youth employment across the country.

That is extremely important in a rural riding like mine, where young people do not have the same job opportunities as in larger centres. It is important that the government provide funding to various non-profit organizations to allow them to hire young people who can get work experience in a field related to their education background.

We have come a long way in that area, and I am really pleased with the numbers we have reached. They are significant investments, and significant numbers of young people are being employed through that program.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

David Graham

Liberal

Mr. David de Burgh Graham (Laurentides—Labelle, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I grew up in a rural area, and like the member for Avalon, rural issues are very important for me.

The town I grew up in has about 1,000 people. It is about an hour from Montreal. It is not a large town, and it lost its school more than 40 years ago. The school, of course, is the anchor of a small town. The school was lost before I was born, and with it went a small number of economically critical good jobs, as well as the social and cultural focal point of our community. A few years ago, we got a gas station. Life, it seemed, was starting to look up.

However, my hometown is one of the lucky ones in rural Canada. Our population is stable. Today I am a member of Parliament for my hometown and 42 other municipalities in the riding of Laurentides—Labelle. The riding is some 40 times the size of the Island of Montreal.

The trouble with big ridings like mine is to understand the different needs we have in rural areas, so I really appreciate that the budget is putting billions of dollars into rural needs, very specifically, especially into our biggest issue, which is Internet access. For me, Internet access is the core of all of our issues. We can invest billions and billions of dollars into rural infrastructure, but if we do not have the Internet to back it up, it is not going to help with the bigger problems that we have. We need to ensure that families can bring their kids back.

In my riding, we have people who finish high school and leave to go to college or CEGEP, because we do not have very much in our riding. They do not come back, ever, or they come back to retire many years later. When I ask the students at the end of high school who is planning to stay, none of them are. The issues, they say, are the lack of public transit in rural areas, the lack of post-secondary education, and the lack of Internet and cellphone service.

Therefore, for me, the addition of $2 billion in the fall economic update for infrastructure is very important. That was just for deep rural needs. The budget made this money available for rural Internet projects.

This is a really critical infrastructure program when added on top of the $500 million Connect to Innovate program from last year.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
?

Carol Hughes

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

If I could just interrupt the member for a second, there is a lot of feedback on the speaker. I would ask if he could be a little more mindful that the microphone is there.

The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
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LIB

David Graham

Liberal

Mr. David de Burgh Graham

Madam Speaker, I do not remember exactly what I was saying, but I was talking about the need for Internet in rural areas. Very often I see people who come to the riding, want to buy houses or set up businesses, look at beautiful properties, look at their phones, and see the famous red X because there is no signal. They ask the real estate agent if they can get online, and the answer is that they cannot get online here unless they want to use satellite, which has high latency and low reliability. People are looking for solutions, and I am really looking to solve these issues. The billions of dollars available for Internet will help that region.

My riding in the north has the MRC county of Antoine-Labelle with a population of approximately 35,000. It has 17 municipalities. It is a large and not very wealthy region. We did a study last year to find out who had access to Internet, and fewer than one in three households had theoretical access to 10-megabit service. Even fewer than that are actually connected.

What happens is that the kids finish high school, and they want to get online. They want to participate in the modern economy. They go to to the city and they simply do not come back. Then the parents want family to come visit, but they will not even come to visit as much as they used to. The cottage owners are having their grandchildren come less often than they used to because of this very serious problem.

Related to this is cellphone service. If people do not have both Internet and cellphone service, we are not going to solve the communications issues we have.

What do we do about all this? We have to invest. The federal government, provincial government, municipalities, and the CRTC have all committed large sums of money to grow the Internet, so I am very happy with that progress. The CRTC's statement just before Christmas that broadband has to be defined as 15-megabit service with unlimited data is a critical new threshold, because, quite frankly, nobody in my riding has that access.

I am really hoping we can build on the huge progress in our budget, which moves a whole lot of things forward very well, and move this file forward as quickly as possible. Internet is critical, and I would like to make sure we get there.

Another issue is public transit funding, which I think is terrific. I spent years, when I was living in Guelph, as a transit advocate. I believe that if we invest a lot of money in our transit systems, then we can get enough people out of their cars that we do not have to expand the highways infinitely.

I always wanted to know if there is a line beyond which we do not need to pave any further. I have always been curious if we can find that line. We can build highways and roads in every direction as far we want, as long we want, as often as we want, but at some point we have to ask if we have enough, if there is a better way of getting around. Our budget and platform have committed large quantities of money over a long period of time to improving our public transit infrastructure. I really believe this is the direction we need to be going as a country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
CPC

Dianne Lynn Watts

Conservative

Ms. Dianne L. Watts (South Surrey—White Rock, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear about the importance of rural communities. Right across the country we are all affiliated with rural communities.

I would like to ask the member for his thoughts about the almost 300 jobs from the rural community of Vegreville being removed to go into an urban centre, Edmonton; the $15 billion from communities, including rural communities, being pulled out of infrastructure to go into an infrastructure bank; and of course the removal of the credit for public transit that would help seniors and youth get around his community. Perhaps the member could comment on those items.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

David Graham

Liberal

Mr. David de Burgh Graham

Madam Speaker, I am not sure that the public transit credit did a whole lot in my community, where public transit is essentially non-existent. We have a system that I believe uses six retired school buses on a one-off fare system with no passes, so there is nothing that worked for the actual credit. Those six buses try to service 35 communities about four times a day. It is not a realistic system, so we need to figure out ways to move this forward and to better invest in rural areas. Rural is a rather large portion of this country, as my colleagues will definitely relate to. Rural needs are really important, and I always look forward to new investment in rural areas.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, one of the things on which my colleague is very consistent is advocating for rural Canada.

I have had the opportunity to witness first hand a very strong sense of passion in wanting, for lack of a better word, urbanites to better understand the importance of rural Canada, so I do applaud him for his efforts to make it a little bit easier for us to understand.

The issue he talked about today was the Internet and the impact that it is not having in some areas of Canada. It is because of limitations, and that is one of the reasons why the government does need to invest in Internet.

I am wondering if the member could just continue to provide a sense of why Internet is so important. When I listen to the member, I cannot help but think about the lost opportunities because of lack of access to the Internet in our rural communities. Could he maybe just add a few more thoughts with respect to that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

David Graham

Liberal

Mr. David de Burgh Graham

It is true, Madam Speaker. Had I stayed at the end of school in the town where I grew up and which I now represent, I would not have the career that I had. I found really interesting work, on contract, working on the Internet from 2000, for almost a decade, as an editor for an online high-tech news website. With all my education, all my experiences having been the same, had I stayed at home I simply could not have done that.

The economic opportunity loss for our youth in rural areas is very serious. The Internet file is the number one issue that people speak to me about in my riding. There are so many other issues that come up, but there are none that come up more often or more firmly than the lack of Internet access in our region.

When I toured the 43 municipalities in my riding, all 43 of them, every one of them, said that their number one priority in the community was Internet. A town of 400 people spent $100,000 of their municipal budget on getting Internet access when it had a boil water advisory in its small aqueduct downtown for more than 10 years.

If that does not tell members how important this file is for us, there is no way of expressing it well enough.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
?

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet

NDP

Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP)

Madam Speaker, if I understood the member correctly, he is saying that the elimination of the tax credit for Montreal metro passes, for example, does not affect him because he does not live there.

I would like to remind him that he lives just one hour from Montreal and that, if fewer people take the metro in Montreal because this tax credit has been eliminated, the pollution will affect his community.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink
LIB

David Graham

Liberal

Mr. David de Burgh Graham

Madam Speaker, obviously, it is important to look at all of the policies surrounding tax credits. I do not fully agree with my colleague.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
Sub-subtopic:   Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
Permalink

April 4, 2017