Speech by Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons on Budget 2015

April 23, 2015

Check against delivery

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak the day after the Conservative government tabled its 10th budget. This is a budget that gives the most to Canadians who need it the least. I am not saying that this is not an important document—quite the contrary.

Soon we will have an election. When the time comes for us to campaign, the Prime Minister and his candidates will cite this latest budget when they try to convince voters to keep them in power. Therefore, it is important that Canadians know what this is, what is in it and what is not.

It is not, for instance, a plan for jobs and growth for the middle class and those looking to join it.

The budget is a political document produced to that end. It is a vision for a Conservative election campaign; it is not a vision for Canada.

A long time ago, before Canada officially became a country, another campaign was under way, and when Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine talked to his constituents in Terrebonne, he said:

“Canada is the land of our ancestors; it is our country as it must be the adopted country of the various populations which come from diverse portions of the globe, to make their way into its vast forests as the future resting place of their families and their hopes. Like us, their paramount desire must be the happiness and prosperity of Canada, as the heritage which they should endeavour to transmit to their descendants in this young and hospitable country. Above all their children must be like ourselves, Canadians.”

While Canadians have been struggling, the Prime Minister’s government has justified spending some $750 million on advertising to promote things that sometimes do not even exist.Justin Trudeau

Former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, said: “In that small paragraph are enunciated all the principles by which we as Canadians live in an immigrant society.” I agree, but that is not all.

This paragraph expresses a fundamental idea that Canadians are committed to and have respected for generations: the idea that their children and grandchildren will have an equal chance and a better life than they had.

That is how it was in Canada for a long time. Over the past century, our economy grew, and so did our middle class, becoming the foundation of a prosperous economic future. When the middle class grows and succeeds, so too does the entire country.

Nonetheless, something changed in the past decade.

When the Prime Minister first took over in 2006, he inherited a $13 billion surplus. It was at the time of perhaps the strongest fiscal situation in the world. It took him only three years to put Canada back into deficit, and that was ahead of the recession. Since then, nearly 10 years of Conservative fiscal mismanagement have left 139 other countries ahead of Canada for expected growth in 2015, and that was before oil prices took a slide. That was before this delayed budget.

However, Canadians do not have to hear about international finances to know how poorly things are going. Over the past 30 years, median after-tax family incomes in Canada, those of the middle class, have only increased by 15 percent. Still, Canadians keep working hard, making contributions to our country and its future. Yet what happens when those hard-working Canadians are ready to settle into retirement? Many will not. They will have to keep working just to survive.

Studies now show that a full third of Canadians nearing retirement age have not been able to save for it at all.

It used to be that the government would help. Now that is less the case. By pushing up the age to qualify for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the Prime Minister has made it even harder for Canadians to get the retirement they deserve. He did this so his government could double the Tax-Free Savings Account limit. Again, that doubling only favours the richest Canadians. That is unfair. Canada deserves a better plan, focused on strengthening the middle class.

The Prime Minister could have implemented a plan for growth; he did not. When we study this budget, we see that he still does not want to. This government has done nothing to promote growth in the last decade, and therefore our middle class, the backbone of the economy, has begun to weaken.

He will spend another $7.5 million to ensure that this budget looks good on TV. That is not a plan for Canada.Justin Trudeau

Less than half of Canadians consider themselves to be part of the middle class, compared to 67 percent in 2002. No less than 57 percent of Canadians now believe that the next generation will be worse off.

How can a nation such as ours, which is rich in so many ways, have come to this, and why are so many Canadians having trouble making ends meet every day?

It is because the government has neglected that other key component of Canada’s character that LaFontaine hinted at 170 years ago: fairness.

Here is the thing about fairness. It does not mean everyone is equal, but it does mean that everyone is given an equal chance. Canada is about that. No matter who people are or where they are from, they deserve a fair shot. That is how we succeed together. That is how our economy grows.

As we have seen with this new budget, the Conservatives still have no plan for growth. Here is what their plan is instead.

The Prime Minister and his Conservative government want to spend $2 billion on a tax break for the richest Canadians. In order to pay for it, they sold a bunch of assets and cut back on things like critical infrastructure investments, support for the RCMP and our security services, and health care funding for our veterans. All of this so they can give fewer than 15 percent of Canadians a tax break and have the other 85 percent pick-up the tab. That will not help our economy grow and it will not help our middle class grow.

It is not fair.

The Prime Minister and his government like to talk about the number of jobs created since the recession. However, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are still unemployed or underemployed. There are some 200,000 more unemployed people than there were before the recession.

In fact, the rate of job growth was less than one percent for 15 consecutive months. This is the longest period with growth below this threshold in almost 40 years, excluding recessionary periods.

The statistics on youth are even grimmer. There are now more than 165,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than there were before the recession.

What does a plan for growth actually look like? It could start with infrastructure investments. The Conservatives will tell Canadians that they have poured money into infrastructure, but that is not the entire truth. Their plan for infrastructure is simply too little too late. Last year the government slashed the Building Canada infrastructure program by 87 percent from its previous level.

This year there has been no real improvement. What has been committed for infrastructure is back-loaded until years from now.

A real plan for growth would put in place today a serious infrastructure plan to create jobs and prepare Canada for the changing global economy, as well as changing climate, although I suppose in the latter case one has to believe it is actually happening before one can do anything to address it.

To get back to infrastructure and investments, every dollar invested in roads, water or public transit generates $1.20 in growth. Every dollar invested in affordable housing generates $1.40 in growth. One $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 16,000 person-years of good jobs — the kind of jobs Canadians need and are prepared to do. That is an excellent rate of return. That is economic growth.

To get back to infrastructure and investments, every dollar invested in roads, water or public transit generates $1.20 in growth.Justin Trudeau

Modernizing infrastructure facilitates and accelerates commerce. It enables Canadians to get to their destinations more quickly and more safely. As I said, smart investments in infrastructure will prepare Canada for the effects of climate change. I should also point out that climate change is not mentioned once in over 500 pages in this budget — not as a reality we face or as an economic challenge. That exclusion speaks volumes. Honestly, a discussion on climate change is not just about science; it is also about the economy. This is a discussion that we need to have in 2015, and the government’s complete disregard for this issue is a special kind of failure.

What is the Prime Minister’s priority instead; that is, aside from that $2 billion tax break for the richest Canadians? Advertising.

While Canadians have been struggling, the Prime Minister’s government has justified spending some $750 million on advertising to promote things that sometimes do not even exist.

Think about it. That is three-quarters of a billion dollars on TV commercials and billboards, on paid persuasion. This is not fiscal prudence; this is waste, pure and simple. More than that, it is insulting. The Prime Minister must not think much of Canadians to suppose they believe that legitimacy to govern is earned by running a bunch of commercials on TV.

The budget is a political document produced to that end. It is a vision for a Conservative election campaign; it is not a vision for Canada.Justin Trudeau

Do members know how Canadians know their government is working? I will give them a hint. It is not because they saw a TV ad. They know it when they drive to work on new roads and safer bridges. They know it when a new fleet of buses gets them across town in less time. They know it when we have a plan to address our changing climate. They know it when we have well paying, full-time jobs, and when their kids can go to a good school.

Canadians know that their government is working when they have a real, fair chance to succeed. However, the Prime Minister has no real plan for anything.

Instead, he will spend another $7.5 million to ensure that this budget looks good on TV. That is not a plan for Canada. That is an advertising plan for the Conservative Party. He is using hard-working Canadians’ money to pay for that advertising. That is just plain wrong.

Generations of Canadians have shown that in our dealings with our friends and with strangers, we strive to be a fair people. Decades before we were even properly a nation, this was a principle to which we knew we must adhere so we would all prosper, whoever we are, wherever we may be from.

A government’s budget should not be a marketing tool. It should be a document that, among other things, lays out a road map for how we want our country to look.

It is not a callow piece of advertising. It ought to be a fair and compassionate plan, one that is both fiscally and socially responsible. This budget is none of those things. We cannot support it.

Therefore, I move that the amendment be amended by adding the following:

  • unfairly benefits the rich instead of helping the middle class and those working hard to join it and;
  • contains no plan for jobs and growth.