Mr. Robert Kitchen (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC): Madam Speaker, I am pleased that I am not denied, like so many of my colleagues, the opportunity to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-29, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2.
The provisions in the bill will have a wide range of effects on my constituency and all of Canada, and it is important that the Liberals understand how their decisions truly impact Canadians.
I will start off by giving a bit of background about the current issues facing my riding, located in southeast Saskatchewan. It is a rural riding and many people are employed in either the agricultural sector or the energy sector. In fact, my home town of Estevan is known as the energy city. Because of this, the downturn in the oil and gas industry has been devastating, particularly in the smaller communities.
There are thousands of laid off workers who are looking for employment. These men and women are wondering how they will feed their families, and it is unfortunate that the government seems to be unable or unwilling to provide them with the help that they so sorely need.
The trickle-down effect is also happening in my riding. Small businesses, such as retail stores and restaurants are closing their doors for good because the customers simply are not there. It is difficult for a family to justify going out for a nice dinner when they have not received a paycheque in months. My constituents need their government to help them in their time of need, but they are seemingly being ignored.
As I said, the biggest issue currently facing my riding is lack of jobs. The Conservative Party understands that jobs are created by small and medium sized businesses. We need to support these businesses in every way we can to ensure that our economy continues to thrive in the future.
There are hundreds of farms in my riding and there are thousands of people employed in the agriculture industry. These farms are small businesses. Many are owned and operated by families who have been farming for over a hundred years. They are essential to both the cultural and economic fabric of Canada. Farmers feed the world, and Saskatchewan farmers are known for producing some of the best agricultural and agri-food products available worldwide.
When the Liberals were campaigning, they promised that they would lower the small business tax to 9% from 11%. Somehow this did not seem to make it into the budget. Unfortunately, I am not shocked by this omission. The Liberals have broken promises time and time again, and the failure to lower the small business tax is no exception.
Farmers in my constituency are extremely disappointed. At a time when jobs are scarce, the government is essentially telling them that they do not need the help the tax cuts would provide. It is despicable that the Liberals would mislead Canadians so blatantly, but thus far, it is what we have come to expect.
On the top of the small businesses, the bill also increases contributions to the Canada pension plan. Not only did the government neglect to fulfill its promise to lower the small business tax rate, but now it is making these business pay even more on their employees pension plans. For a small business that employs 15 people, this is an additional $15,000 per year an employer has to pay. That is a huge amount for a small business. It could be the difference between keeping the business open or closing it down for good.
Not only does the government mislead small business owners about a reduction in the tax rate, it also adds to their financial burden by increasing the amount of CPP contributions. This is astounding. Changes to the CPP are not helping my constituents. One gentleman from my riding has attempted to bring attention to this issue through petitions, but nothing happens. My office wrote to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour on his behalf, sharing his concerns about increases to the cost of medication meant that his CPP payment does not even cover his basic necessities like food and heat. The response from the minister’s office outlined the government’s plan for changes, stating “wholly enhanced benefits will generally become available after about 40 years of making contributions”. Not only are the Liberals refusing to make a payment increase for those in need, they are touting changes to the CPP that my constituent will not see in his lifetime.
The Liberals like to talk a lot about helping the middle class. They say that they want to help those who are struggling to join it. The bill does not do that. The government has taken away measures that were making Canadians’ lives easier, such as the children’s fitness tax credit.
I am the official opposition critic for sport, a role I am very proud of. I have seen first hand the importance of getting children involved in sport at an early age and to witness the benefits that come from participation in sport. Sport improves social skills, leadership skills, confidence and it promotes health and fitness.
However, this can get expensive, and the children’s fitness tax credit was a way to ease that financial burden on parents who just want what is best for their children. Now they will not get that extra help. The Liberal plan has failed Canadians with tax hikes and red tape. This is not helping families, and it is not helping the middle class.
Speaking of benefits, I must touch on the government’s Canada child benefit, or CCB, which is essentially just an expensive reinvention of the wheel. Under the previous Conservative government there were three measures put in place to help Canadian families with children: the universal child care benefit, the Canada child tax benefit, and the national child benefit supplement. Those three programs worked. They kept more money in the pockets of hard-working families, which should be the goal of any government.
When the Liberals announced the Canada child benefit, they forgot one important issue—indexation. Bill C-29, the second budget implementation bill, now confirms that the government will index the Canadian child benefit to inflation beginning in 2020. According to the parliamentary budget officer, the estimated cost of indexing and enriching the CCB will cost $42.5 billion over the next five years. This is an expense that the government did not budget for. Canadian families simply cannot afford another tax hike. That is exactly what will happen in order to pay for the current government’s lack of oversight. My constituents do not need to pay more taxes, and Canadians in general do not need that either.
I have spoken about jobs many times in this speech. I feel as though I need to so the Liberals can start to understand just how dire the situation is. Due to the lack of available work in the oil and gas sector, many of my constituents have had to use employment insurance. Under the previous Conservative government, reforms were made to the EI system that actually helped Canadians get back to work. The changes made EI more efficient, focused on job creation, eliminated the disincentives to work, and helped to support unemployed Canadians by helping match workers and jobs. These changes are now being repealed.
On this side of the House, we know that the best cure to unemployment is job creation. Employment insurance is meant to be a temporary support that helps unemployed Canadians through a difficult situation. It is not a permanent situation, which is why the changes introduced by the Conservatives were so beneficial. These people want to work. My constituents want to work. They do not want to sit at home. They want to earn their paycheques. The government should do whatever it can to assist in finding jobs for these people . Instead, the Liberals are repealing measures that were truly helpful. Again, it shows how out of touch they are with the current needs of Canadians.
One way the government can create jobs is through investments in infrastructure. The Liberals say that their infrastructure will be the biggest and best that Canada has ever seen. They are spending billions of dollars, all of which is needed to be paid back by the taxpayer, and most likely our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, yet in my riding there is virtually nothing to show for it. With the millions of dollars available to enhance public transit in urban areas, small rural communities and their applications for infrastructure funding are being ignored. This is unacceptable at a time when job creation should be one of the main focuses of the government. Simply put, infrastructure projects create jobs. They need these jobs. However, it appears the Liberals are forgetting about rural Canada once again.
The record in Saskatchewan is plain to see. The Library of Parliament provided me with the figures on federal infrastructure spending in Saskatchewan over the past 20 years. From 1994 to 2005, the total spending was $222.2 million under the Liberal government. From 2006 to 2015, under the previous Conservative government the total infrastructure spending in Saskatchewan was $1.256 billion. That is a huge increase in spending, and it came at a time when the province needed help. Why is it that now when the people of Saskatchewan need their government’s assistance in creating jobs they are being left out in the cold?
The budget will not balance itself. The spending by the current government will affect Canadians for generations to come. The Liberals’ only solution to the problems facing Canadians seems to be to borrow and spend even more money than the budget initially set out, money that will have to be paid back by Canadian workers, families, and job creators.
This bill does not help the middle class and it certainly does not help my constituents. We need jobs and we need support. We need the Liberals to show confidence in the agriculture and oil industries, in innovation, and recognize the values of carbon capture to the coal and power industry. We need it to come now.
Because of these reasons, I cannot support this budget.