Madam Speaker, I am going to start by acknowledging that we are here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples. Meegwetch for tolerance and patience in the path of reconciliation.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mirabel.
I am addressing the budget late this afternoon. There are things in the budget I like quite a lot, so I am going to start with the things I like quite a lot and then explain why I cannot possibly, in good conscience, vote for this budget.
Among the things we like quite a lot, yes, is that we have the New Democratic Party’s confidence and supply agreement. It has been a Green Party policy since 2015 that dental care is health care and should be part of our health care system, so we are pleased to see it in this budget.
We also are pleased there is a repetition of some sort of aspirational goal to deliver pharmacare to Canadians. There is not enough in this budget for me to believe it yet. We want to see the actual path to pharmacare clearly laid out, and fast.
I am very pleased to see a number of other items here, such as the follow through on child care. I suppose “I am old enough to remember” will be a theme in this speech. I start sentences with “I am old enough to remember”. I am old enough to remember 2005, when then minister Ken Dryden achieved what the now new government, which is not that new anymore, has done.
Ken Dryden had gotten signed agreements with every province and territory to deliver affordable child care to every Canadian. Many years later it was derailed by the decision the NDP made in those days to defeat the Liberals and put Stephen Harper in place for a very long time. We lost Kyoto, we lost Kelowna, and we lost the child care plan in 2005 and the election in January 2006.
I am really pleased child care is back. Affordable child care is going to make a difference to every Canadian family that has children and desperately needs to have child care. When I was a single mom, I earned $24,000 a year as executive director of the Sierra Club. I spent half of it on child care. The woman who was hired to do the child care in a program in the neighbourhood is a wonderful woman who became a good friend. My salary was split in half and I paid her through a child care program. Because she earned only $12,000, her child care for her children was free. I was making $24,000, and half of it was going to child care. These things are sort of unbelievable to people with good incomes, like those of us in this place, all of whom are paid so handsomely as members of Parliament. I do not take it for granted.
I am pleased with much that is in this budget, and I am pleased to see the government keep its promises in a couple of areas. On housing, the thing that made me most pleased was to see co-op housing back on the agenda. It is not enough money; we need to do more, but there is $1.5 billion to bring back one of the most affordable, socially supportive ways that we can house ourselves, which is through co-ops. That is good.
I know there are a lot of good intentions behind things like the tax measures against flipping. There are many good measures, including one of the promises, which was to bring in for the first time a searchable public registry for beneficial ownerships. Let us hope that helps deal with the problem of snow washing and of overseas interests buying up our housing.
We still really need to deal with things like Airbnbs and the ability of people to buy homes, residential properties, and take them out of the marketplace. At the same time as they are making it harder to find affordable housing for Canadian families, they are undermining the tourism business, in which hotels and real B & Bs have to pay staff, buy insurance and be regulated. We need to protect our housing market from Airbnbs, but I also think we need to protect tourism industry employees and owners from the competition of Airbnbs.
Let me move on to areas that were token and inadequate, and where we need to do so much more. It really was a broken promise on the mental health strategies and the need for mental health and addictions. The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George has done so much good work on this. Why do we not have the suicide prevention line? Why do we not have supports for mental health in this budget? We should have seen them.
Another key gap is the commitment that was made in the Liberal platform to put $1 billion toward fresh water. This budget is such a bitter disappointment. This title comes from The Hill Times and was signed by some of Canada’s leading advocates for fresh water. Ralph Pentland, who used to run Environment Canada’s freshwater programs, signed this article, as well as Oliver Brandes and Bob Sandford, who are eminent people in the field. The headline says it all: “Federal budget a failure when it comes to addressing the water crisis”.
This is one of those sentences that starts with, “I am old enough to remember”. I am old enough to remember that, when I worked in Environment Canada in the 1980s, the Inland Waters Directorate in Burlington, Ontario had a staff of 1,250 people who did nothing but work on freshwater science and regulatory policy work. They had an annual budget of $60 million, so when this budget says the Liberals are going to provide $43 million over five years on fresh water and $8.7 million to the new Canada water agency, I would laugh if it was not so sad. It does not even begin to start adjusting dollars for inflation.
This is an abject failure, and I do not know how this has happened when there is such urgency and when the government had already pledged to do this. The promise of a Canada freshwater agency is now more than two years old, and here we are with flooding and drought and fires. Water policy is also climate policy, and I want to just take a moment to say to the people of southern Manitoba, who are right now being walloped by climate crisis events, that a Canada water agency could help anticipate, prevent and adapt. I just want to give a shout-out to those people right now, because I know that in Manitoba things are very tough for many families.
Also, in this budget there are things that are completely missing. There is nothing for ground transportation. Many people will say that is provincial jurisdiction, but so is municipal public transit. It was really great that the Harper government made the gas tax a permanent predictable fund for municipal transportation, but where are we as a federal Parliament in responding to Canadians from coast to coast who have lost their bus service, and whose service on VIA Rail is down to an occasional antique train that rumbles through? I am talking about between Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal to Halifax. We have not seen any significant investment in that ground transportation in at least a decade. All the money that has gone to VIA Rail in all these years has gone to the Windsor-Quebec corridor. That is great. We need decent train service in the Windsor-Quebec corridor, but we also need decent train service with spokes that run off this hub.
We need bus service across Canada. Again, this is more than transportation and this is more than climate policy. This is justice. One of the key recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was that people need to be able to get access to safe and affordable public transit so they are not hitchhiking. The most marginalized people in our society are forced into hitchhiking because we act like there is not a problem. If people want to get from Kamloops to Prince George, if they want to get from Kamloops to Vancouver or any of these routes, or if they want to get from Moncton to Campbellton, they have almost no way to travel if they do not own a car. Also, for seniors and for a lot of us, being forced to drive on unsafe roads, particularly during hazardous winter blizzards, to get to doctors’ appointments does not suggest we are a wealthy industrialized society. In fact, our public ground transportation system is worse than in any developing country I have ever visited.
Moving on to what else we need, there is nothing in here for the tourism sector, which I would submit has been the hardest-hit sector in the pandemic. What we hear is that there is going to be a tourism strategy developed, but there is no money in this budget for it. We really need to do something to make sure that since, and I will say it out loud, the pandemic is not over, small businesses in the tourism sector can survive.
Why can I not vote for this budget? It is a complete failure in responding to what, three days earlier, was laid out by the IPCC. On April 4, the lead author said it was now or never. The panel never gave the option of later. It is now or never for a habitable planet, and this budget fails in that fundamental threat to our survival.