I begin my speech on the Conservative budget—my critique of the Conservative budget—by highlighting the fact that there are only five mentions of Newfoundland and Labrador in the entire 518-page document.Only five mentions, Mr. Speaker.
As a representative of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl – one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seven ridings – my priority is my riding and my province.
And five mentions – one in a graph of crude oil prices, another in a statistic about pensions and the other three offhand mentions – is not good enough, Mr. Speaker.
Not near good enough.My critique is both good and bad, Mr. Speaker.
Make no mistake, there is more bad than good - there always is with these Conservatives.Well not so much bad news, Mr. Speaker, so much as wrong priorities.
Conservative priorities that are wrong for Canada.Conservative priorities that are changing the face of Canada.
Conservative priorities that put the wealthy first, Mr. Speaker, that put the more affluent, the more influential first.And that’s not who we are. It’s not who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and it’s not who we are as Canadians.
It’s not who we are, Mr. Speaker, but it is who this Conservative government wants us to become—and we cannot let that happen, Mr. Speaker.We will not let that happen.
Let’s go first to piece of good budget news for Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, or what would appear on the surface to be good news.In its budget the Conservative government announced $5.7 million over 5 years to help secure new markets for Canadian seal products.
That’s good news, Mr. Speaker. That’s welcome news—on the surface it is.Let’s put that news in the context of where the sealing industry is today.
Mr. Speaker, we have a $5.7-million pot to help secure new markets for seal products when, under this Conservative government, we’ve seen the biggest collapse of world seal markets in our history.Under this Conservative government seal products have been banned in Russia, the European Union, Belarus, Taiwan, and Kazakhstan.
So, Mr. Speaker that $5.7 million for seal marketing is just a little late coming.
That money is also a little late coming when you consider Carino—a Newfoundland and Labrador company that’s the largest buyer of seal pelts in Canada –isn’t buying any pelts this year.Instead, Mr. Speaker, Carino is going to rely on its inventory.
That $5.7 million is also a little late coming, Mr. Speaker, when you consider the Canadian Sealers Association shut the doors of its St. John’s office recently to reorganize because it was broke, Mr. Speaker.So better late than never with that $5.7 million for the sealing industry, I suppose, Mr. Speaker.
What’s clear is that this Conservative government has no right to bill itself as a champion of the seal hunt because the facts don’t support it, Mr. Speaker.Moving on, Mr. Speaker, this Conservative budget is also incredibly worrisome – from Newfoundland and Labrador’s perspective – because of what it doesn’t mention.
Red flags waved all across Newfoundland and Labrador in February, Mr. Speaker, when the government released the main estimates.As you know, Mr. Speaker, the main estimates lay out the expected spending of the federal government in the coming fiscal year.
The red flags were raised because the subsidy for Marine Atlantic – the Crown Corporation that runs the ferry link between Newfoundland and mainland Canada – has had its budget slashed.Marine Atlantic’s budget for this fiscal year, according to the main estimates, Mr. Speaker, has been set at $19.3 million. That’s a massive drop from the $127 million last year, and $154 million the year before that.
So Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister in this House before the budget was announced whether Marine Atlantic would receive full funding.
The minister’s response was to “wait for the budget.”Only there wasn’t a word mentioned about Marine Atlantic in the budget, Mr. Speaker. Not a whisper.
So what’s the score, Mr. Speaker?A Gulf ferry link is guaranteed in Newfoundland’s Terms of Union with Canada, Mr. Speaker.
If Marine Atlantic’s budget is indeed set at $19.3 million for this fiscal year it will amount to the lowest amount of funding the corporation has received from the federal government going back at least 15 years.If Marine Atlantic’s budget is indeed slashed ferry rates are sure to rise.
Why is that incredibly bad news, Mr. Speaker?It’s incredibly bad news because 60 per cent of all freight going into or out of my province does so on a Marine Atlantic ferry.
Slashing the federal subsidy will jack up the rates and increasing the ferry rates will drive up the price of everything.
So what’s the score, Mr. Speaker?Is this government preparing to punish Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
Is this government preparing to ignore the spirit of the Terms of Union?Mr. Speaker, the leader of this government once described Atlantic Canada as having a culture of defeat but it is this government, Mr. Speaker, that has a defeatist attitude towards Atlantic Canada.
This government has turned its back on Atlantic Canada, and not before spitting in the eye of Newfoundland and Labrador.Maybe pay back for Danny Williams’ Anyone but Conservative campaign?
It’s like we don’t matter, Mr. Speaker. We’re only 32 seats in Atlantic Canada.This Conservative government is not good for Atlantic Canada. This government is not good for this country.
Mr. Speaker, the Canadians who will most benefit from this budget are the wealthiest 15 per cent.The wealthiest 15 per cent are the ones who will qualify for incoming splitting.
They’re also the ones who will be able to put away $10,000 cash into a Tax Free Savings Account, which the Conservatives have almost doubled in their budget.
What typical family will benefit from the Conservative budget, Mr. Speaker?The typical family as outlined in page 6 of the budget document is a family of four, a couple with two children.
The man earns $84,000 a year while the woman earns $36,000.For a total household income of $120,000 a year, Mr. Speaker, which puts that “typical” Conservative family at the top 15 per cent in terms of income.
That’s their example, not mine.There’s nothing typical about that household income, Mr. Speaker. That will tell you who the Conservative target group is, Mr. Speaker, the wealthy.
The difference, Mr. Speaker, between the typical family in this Conservative budget and the typical family in previous Conservative budgets is that the man of the family now makes a lot more.In all previous years, all previous Conservative examples, the woman was the biggest breadwinner.
In the income-splitting year, Mr. Speaker – this year - the man suddenly has the biggest income. Sounds like old boys’ club to me.Let me quote my party’s finance critic – the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley - who says this Conservative budget's family example “is all about politics, it’s not about fairly illustrating tax policies.”
"The Conservatives' imaginary 'typical family' doesn't reflect the reality of Canadian families: they make almost twice as much as the real average Canadian family. They benefit from boutique tax credits that most real families don't make enough to qualify for.”There’s an expression worth repeating, Mr. Speaker, boutique tax credits.
I would go so far, Mr. Speaker, as to call this a boutique budget.Only most Canadians, most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, can’t afford to shop at boutiques, Mr. Speaker.
Which tells you this, Mr. Speaker, if I can cut to the chase and summarize what Canadians, what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, should take away from this budget, it’s that we cannot afford to vote Conservative in the next election.As for the Conservative boast that this is a balanced budget written in black ink, I disagree, Mr. Speaker.
This budget is written in Conservative blue ink whereby balancing the budget means raiding the EI fund, it means robbing from the emergency contingency fund.Balancing a budget by creating such an imbalance in incomes, in directed tax breaks, is nothing to boast about.
It is shameful.Thank you, Mr. Speaker.