Bill C-43 (Historical)
Budget Implementation Act, 2005
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Ralph Goodale Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
November 17th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK
Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed listening to the debate today and to some of the specious arguments at best that I have heard from the government as to why we should not go forward with this common sense compromise idea.
Many of them centre around the seniors will not get their raise in January and the infrastructure money will not flow to cities. If my memory serves me, those were all passed in Bill C-43, the budget bill last spring, and there is a problem with delivery. Those guys are great at promising all these programs. We voted them through, being good governance. We worked together. We compromised. We worked on those programs and put them out there for people. However, the Liberals have not delivered them yet. Now they are saying that they are going to withhold them if there is an election. That is ridiculous.
We hear things such as the estimates process will be in jeopardy. That is the supplementary (A) estimates. There are generally supplementary (B) estimates that come in March as well for as much money as the (A) estimates. Those would be in jeopardy under the Prime Minister's game plan for an election.
There are many different arguments that are specious and not founded in any kind of reality. We saw a budget introduced under a ways and means motion. That is a novel way to do things. This is a novel motion and deserves some serious consideration.
We are hearing rumblings that there may be even a tremendous amount of cash for farmers who will go wanting if this election is called. Farmers are not fooled by that. They already realize they have had announcement after announcement for the last 12 years under the Liberals which have never been delivered.
The argument I would put forward is that the motion deserves some serious consideration. The opposition parties have come together to put this motion forward, and I would like--
November 15th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the motion to amend the Access to Information Act.
I want to come at this one from a bit of a different angle. I have listened to the debate all afternoon. The minister was up a few minutes ago talking about whether the committee did or did not do its work, and committee members tried to challenge that.
I want to get back to why this needed to be brought to the House at this time and debated. Why are we discussing this amendment, when it could have been done long before this time?
I congratulate my colleague from Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre for bringing the motion forward because it is important. It focuses the House on one of the big problems we have at the present time, which is accountability and transparency of the government. It is one of the reasons why the government is on its eleventh hour, or maybe a little beyond that, of its reign, a very short one as a result of Justice Gomery's report on the sponsorship scandal. It is all fresh in our minds and will continue to be fresh in our minds because it is so important.
The report laid out the facts which showed this was something that happened under the government's reign. It set up, ran and used the program to move money from the public purse into the Liberal Party of Canada. This was a theft of millions of dollars from the public treasury. It set up a culture of entitlement.
The government has had four consecutive wins. I guess if there is a lesson there for Canadians, it is that we should not leave any government in office too long. If this is what happens, that is not in the best interest of the public. Woe to our country if we give it five wins because it will send the wrong message. It would say that what the government has done is okay.
The electorate will have a choice. It will either condemn the actions of the government or it will condone it. A vote for the Liberals will be complicit. It will say that it is okay to be corrupt. I do not believe that reflects the values of Canadians. I think the government is about to learn that lesson. I would implore every Canadian to think very soberly. It is not about whether they grew up under a political banner of the Liberals, Conservatives or the NDP. They need to understand what is at risk in this election, which is the democracy on which our country was founded. We need to stand and protect that.
We just went through a Remembrance Day ceremony where we honoured our veterans for going to war and risking their lives to secure the democracy and the rule of law and justice. Yet we see it eroding before our very eyes. We in the House, where we come to protect and promote it, have seen that eroded. I see members of Parliament from all sides of the House failing to stand and fight to continue the battle to protect our democracy. This is very important. The amendments that have been brought forward shine the light on the lack of accountability and transparency by the government.
One thing that really amazes me is we have a motion before us, we will vote on it and if it passes, how many members in the House feel the government will act on it. I can think of votes in the House giving direction to the government of the day and the government has totally ignored them. That not only shows the amount of corruption, but it shows a lack of respect for the democracy of the land and for the will of the public, by extension through individual members of the House.
Some of these motions have been pretty significant such as the hepatitis C file. I remember when that came to the House. It was an issue we had been fighting for many years. It was a directive by the members of the House of Commons to the government that those individuals outside of the 1986 to 1990 window should be compensated. Yet not one cheque has been signed to comply with that motion.
We saw the same thing with another one that I brought forward to the House on the sale of pharmaceuticals to the United States on Internet pharmacies. It was a directive by 288 members to zero in the House. Yet we have seen absolutely nothing from the government to give us any confidence that this will happen.
This happens all the time. This will be the 15th time. We will vote on this, the House will agree with the motion and the government will ignore it. That is contempt of Parliament if I ever saw it, and it has to stop.
Why is it so important for us to deal with the Access to Information Act? I think it has to be examined because there is a question here. How does the government think it is in the interests of Canadians to take their money and put it into foundations, for example, which already have $9 billion in them, setting it aside so it can be hidden from them? Foundations are outside the purview of the Auditor General and outside access to information. It is as if the money the government puts into foundations has nothing to do with public money. It is as if it is Liberal money that the government is just sliding into a separate fund.
In light of the sponsorship scandal and the dollars we see going into foundations, we have to ask this question. What government in its right mind would take that amount of money and put it outside the Access to Information Act and the Auditor General's ability to investigate? I believe the government will have a difficult time answering that question.
I asked the Auditor General that question when she came to the health committee a little over a year ago. I was interested in one of those foundations, Canada Health Infoway Inc., which has $1.2 billion. I asked the Auditor General if she was not concerned about the number of dollars being spent or not being spent in Health Infoway. She said she was concerned and would like to take a look at it, but it was outside her ability to do so. She said she was just as concerned about the other eight foundations that were set up by the government.
Nine billion dollars of taxpayers' money is sitting in these foundations. I am speaking of foundations like Genome Canada, the millennium scholarship fund and many others. Why would a government not set up foundations so the House and Canadian taxpayers can understand what is in them?
Therein lies the reason we sought two changes, one under a minority government, which was the ability for the Auditor General to access a bit of crack in the accountability of these foundations. We were able to get Bill C-43 passed, which provides the Auditor General with the ability to look at foundations. Hopefully she will be able to look at them, although I am not sure that will actually happen. It is supposed to. The other change is the motion before us today. We will see whether the government will actually comply with it. I believe we will win. I believe there will be another motion on the floor. We will see how that vote goes. But I do not think anybody is too convinced that it is actually going to happen.
Why is Canada Health Infoway so important? This is not just about money or accountability. The Health Infoway money is about the loss of lives. The Baker-Norton report estimated that 24,000 deaths occur in Canada's acute care centres because of a lack of information or medical errors. If Health Infoway had medical records following patients, that would go a long way toward saving many lives.
This is not just about a government that is trying to hide money for its own self-interest. This is not just about the foundations that were set up inappropriately and our inability to access information. This is about government accountability.
What do we have to do to fix this? Accountability measures will be brought in by the Conservative Party when we become the government after the next election. We will have to change the rules of the House, unfortunately, because they are not stiff enough. The Liberal government does not understand what it means to be a servant of the public.
The Conservative Party will change those rules so that no corporate money will go to any political organization or political party. We have to limit to $1,000 any money going to a political organization.
We have to make sure there is whistleblower legislation so public civil servants know when they see corruption within government that they will have the opportunity to blow the whistle without losing their jobs or being disciplined.
We have to make sure that the rules regarding lobbyists change. Parliamentarians must not be impacted by those who have become lobbyists for five years after they have worked on the Hill or as senior bureaucrats or as members of Parliament.
We also have to give the Auditor General more power.
All of these measures have to be brought in. Why? Because we have to keep reminding the House, and now forcing the House, to understand that the job of members of Parliament is to represent the people who put them into office, not the people who lobby them or give them funds. That has to change in the House or we will not have democracy in this country. That is why it is so important that we change the act now. That is why we are going into an election: to have Canadians deal with this corrupt government.
Unanticipated Surpluses Act
October 27th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON
There we go. Those members even contradict each other. They cannot even agree on that side. One says that is a premium and the other says that it is a tax. It shows us what their policy is all about.
I want to touch upon the word “premium”. What has happened again is another reduction in the EI premium.
Back in 1993 our unemployment rate was 11.2% and 11.3%. The corporate world said to the government that it wanted to create employment, but it wanted the government to address EI and lower the rates. For so many consecutive years EI premiums have been reduced, and most recently again, with tens of billions of dollars less being paid by the employer and the employee.
If that is another fiction, then I challenge the member for Cambridge or anyone else across the way to talk to their constituents. Ask them if they were paying more then and less now. Members will get the answer. If they think it is peanuts, that is fine.
Members over there have the tendency to only complete half the sentence. The member talked about the GST. I state here and now that I am willing to take up the challenge with the member. In the 1993 red book we said that we would replace the GST with an equally revenue generating tax. He knows very well that unless we have revenue coming in, we cannot address areas such as Bill C-67, or Bill C-43, or Bill C-48, or $41 billion for health care, or money for post-secondary education, or money to address the concerns with respect to our environment or the close to $13 billion for our military. If this money is not generated, from where is that revenue going to come?
As I close my remarks, I first challenge the member to come and see me. I will show him the quote in the newspaper and the quote in the red book. Canadians until this very day are asking us why did we not get rid of the GST. We did not promise to get rid of the GST. We promised to replace it with an equally revenue generating tax, and that is in writing.
Second, the proof is in the pudding. Certain provinces have already harmonized. If other provinces were to pick up on that lead, it would be indeed a savings to the provincial governments.
Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
October 26th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC
That Bill C-280, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing lines 4 to 26 on page 1 and lines 1 to 38 on page 2 with the following:
“1. Section 65.3 of the Employment Insurance Act is repealed.
1.1 Sections 66 to 67 of the Act are replaced by the following:
- (1) Not later than November 30 in each year, the Commission shall set the premium rate that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,
(a) serve the best interests of the contributors and beneficiaries under the employment insurance system;
(b) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account;
(c) maintain stable rate levels; and
(d) ensure that the difference between the assets of the Employment Insurance Account and its liabilities does not exceed fifteen billion dollars.
(2) On the first day of October in each year, the Commission shall cause a report to be sent to the Minister containing
(a) the reasons for setting the premium rate for the year;
(b) any change to the amount of benefits that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,
(i) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account, and
(ii) maintain stable rate levels;
(c) a detailed description of the assets of the Commission on the first day of September in each year;
(d) a detailed description of the amounts that have been paid into or paid out of the Employment Insurance Account since the previous report;
(e) an estimate of the amounts to be paid into the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the premium rate set by the Commission in the report;
(f) an estimate of the amounts to be paid out of the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the amount of benefits to be paid set by the Commission in the report;
(g) any recommendations that the Commission considers necessary for the improvement of the employment insurance system, including amendments to Acts, regulations and policies with respect to employment insurance; and
(h) any other information that the Commission considers necessary.
(3) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first five days on which that House is sitting after the Minister receives it.
66.1 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2004 is 1.98%.
66.2 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2005 is the rate set for the year by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister and the Minister of Finance.
- Subject to section 70, a person employed in insurable employment shall pay, by deduction as provided in subsection 82(1), a premium equal to their insurable earnings multiplied by the premium rate set under section 66, 66.1 or 66.2, as the case may be.”
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor as sponsor of Bill C-280, which is concerned with the creation of an autonomous fund.
To begin, I would like to say to all those listening to us that employment insurance is primarily insurance that is paid for by workers while they are working, in case they lose their jobs or stop working. The problem is that workers pay premiums thinking that they are insured, yet they are not. Since the 1994 Axworthy reform, under the Liberal government, insured persons who have paid premiums in order to be insured in case of job loss or separation have not in fact been insured.
The objective of the Liberal Party is to generate surpluses and deposit them in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The former finance minister, now the Prime Minister, used to crow that he was realizing annual surpluses of $9 billion, $10 billion or $12 billion. Again this year, revenues surplus to premiums and benefits have been generated in the order of $4 billion to $6 billion.
This motivated the Bloc Québécois, immediately upon its arrival in the House of Commons, to work on behalf of workers, the unemployed and the groups such as the Sans-chemise, and to defend their interests. This is not the first bill on the subject we are discussing in this House. The Bloc Québécois has felt itself obliged to make certain commitments to workers, the unemployed and the Sans-chemise. In the last federal election campaign, the Bloc Québécois promised to table in this House the bill we are debating today at the report stage, namely Bill C-280, which would create an independent fund.
In my riding of Manicouagan, I also have workers, unemployed people and students who pay EI premiums, yet unfortunately are not insured under the present employment insurance system.
I had the opportunity to speak at first reading, that is, when the bill was tabled, at second reading, as well as in committee, when this bill was studied. I was able to intervene, as did the hon. member for Chambly-Borduas and the hon. member for Québec, at the amendment stage. We agreed to huge reductions so that this measure would not be expensive for the government.
For example, we reduced the number of administrators. We would have liked to have seven representatives on the union side, as many on the management side, and three on the government side. As long as this fund is not administered by those who contribute to it, we will be faced with the problem we have today. The government takes the money in the fund and uses it for purposes other than those for which people contributed. It then becomes a disguised tax that is collected on the backs of seasonal workers and the unemployed.
I am now pleased to speak at the report stage. As I was saying, we have tabled some amendments. Our amendment that permits concordance with the budget has been accepted tonight. At the time we intervened in committee, the budget had not yet been passed and we were not able to make the necessary amendments. This evening, at the report stage, the Chair has deemed admissible an amendment we had tabled. This is simply an amendment to align Bill C-280 with Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act.
We do hope that cabinet, which has the authority to give royal assent, will give workers and the unemployed the money that belongs to them. For far too long, the government has been using that money for its own purposes and spending it on various programs. One might even wonder if this money from the EI fund—we are talking about $5 billion or $6 billion a year—was not involved in instances of waste of public funds. Put simply, I am referring to the sponsorship scandal. It would be disastrous if the government had taken money that belongs to workers and the unemployed to fund the sponsorship program in an attempt to pad the coffers of the Liberal Party. We are asking cabinet to give a royal recommendation with respect to this bill.
In addition, I hope that the House will get to vote on this bill at third reading stage, so as to show the true face of the Liberals. They keep promising to improve the employment insurance program, but no sooner do they get elected than they do the exact opposite.
The Bloc Québécois promised to introduce legislation. That is what we are doing today. That is what we have been doing ever since coming to Ottawa. If it is not passed and a majority of parliamentarians vote against it, the Liberals will pay the price.
Why is legislation necessary? It is necessary to stop the government from tapping into the surplus, these billions of dollars that belong to the workers, those who have contributed to an insurance fund they do not get to use because the government decided to undertake a much too stringent reform, which is increasingly preventing people from qualifying for EI benefits.
The independent employment insurance account management committee had the power to set premium rates and to pay out benefits, to administer and report to the House. It was also to recommend improvements to the employment insurance program. That is very important. It has the power to recommend improvements to the EI program.
Six women out of ten contribute to the EI fund, but are not eligible for benefits. That is disastrous. We are talking about 60% of women on the labour market, women and young people who are contributing to the fund. Six people out of ten do not qualify.
Why? Because the reforms are too strict. We are talking about new people on employment insurance. They need 910 hours of work. That is 910 hours in seasonal jobs. These are different kinds of jobs, and I find that everywhere in Quebec and Canada.
There are different kinds of jobs in which, as I was saying, six women out of ten did not qualify for employment insurance. These are women and young people. It is all the people who are on call, casual employees, replacements for workers on holidays, contract workers and even students.
I will be told that the act requires all workers to pay employment insurance premiums. However, the government knows very well that although everyone is obliged to pay premiums when they work because that is the law, the government is not obliged to pay out benefits to everyone.
We in the Bloc Québécois are proposing an independent fund, with administrators who would manage the premium and benefit rates. They would make recommendations and submit reports to the House. We also say that the 910 hours required to qualify for employment insurance should be reduced to 360.
We demand as well that the benefits be increased from 50% to 60%. We want to increase the number of insurable weeks to 50 in order to eliminate the gap.
Between the period when people receive employment insurance and the period when they return to work, there are workers in seasonal jobs in some regions who go as long as two months, two and a half months, often ten weeks, without any income.
There is also the abolition of the two-week waiting period. With a total surplus of $48 billion and annual surpluses of $4 billion to $6 billion, it is impossible to understand why the famous two-week waiting period cannot be eliminated. It really does take two weeks of waiting, two to three weeks if there is no investigation and all goes well. It takes about five or six weeks before people get their first employment insurance cheque.
In some families, when the employment insurance cheque arrives, it is certainly due. The banks do not wait, and neither do mortgages or grocery stores. Everybody needs it.
We also need a POWA program and a program for independent workers. I will let my hon. friend from Chambly—Borduas speak about that.
This bill is supported by unions and employers. Why employers? Because they are having difficulty recruiting employees. There is also the high cost of training employees.
On behalf of working people, on behalf of the unemployed, and on behalf of the Comité des Sans-Chemise, we ask the House to vote in favour of Bill C-280.
Energy Costs Assistance Measures Act
October 26th, 2005 / 3:50 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to address Bill C-66.
I want to read the bill into the record and what it is supposed to do, because it is important in terms of analyzing whether or not it actually fulfills the government's objectives in terms of addressing the increasing costs of home heating fuel and gasoline prices for Canadians. The full title of the bill is “an act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure, and to make consequential amendments to certain acts”. The bill has three main parts.
Part 1 of the bill outlines who will receive a payment and how much. The payment is targeted to some low income Canadians and will be sent to three different groups: first, $250 to families entitled to receive the national child benefit supplement in January 2006; second, $250 to senior couples where both spouses are entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, in January 2006; and third, $125 to single seniors entitled to receive the GIS, in January 2006. These are one time payments that will not be issued until the bill is passed.
Part 2 of the bill increases and expands financial assistance and incentive programs for houses and housing projects that make heating system upgrades, improve windows and engage in draft proofing, et cetera. All of this assistance will be delivered over a five year period.
Part 3 deals with public infrastructure. It states that $400 million previously provided for under Bill C-48 will be freed up by Bill C-66 in each of the next two fiscal years for municipalities to boost investments in urban transit infrastructure.
Parts 4 and 5 of the bill are housekeeping measures.
In addition to the measures laid out in the bill, the government has also announced two other measures with respect to energy prices. First, the office of petroleum price information will be created. Second, the government has indicated it will be introducing amendments to Bill C-19 which are intended to strengthen the role of the Competition Bureau in investigating allegations of price fixing in the oil and gas industry.
To begin, I would like to discuss the reasons for various increases in energy costs. Then I will address the issue of payments for low income Canadians and offer an alternative plan to the Liberal plan. Then I will discuss the secondary measures introduced to attempt to offset high energy prices which are outlined in the bill and those announced outside of the bill. Finally, I will discuss energy policy generally under the government.
I would like to briefly outline the current supply and demand issues facing Canadian consumers, Canadian businesses, and our market. There has in fact been a spike in energy prices. There have been a number of contributing factors to the reduction in supply that have caused this spike.
The first obviously is natural disasters. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have caused considerable disruption in the supply of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and across North America. As of October 11 three refineries were still shut down from hurricane Katrina and four were still shut down from hurricane Rita, obviously taking that supply off the market.
While Canada is in fact a net exporter of energy, we do import a great deal of our refined oil and gas, especially those provinces east of Manitoba.
International issues such as the political troubles in Iraq, Nigeria and Venezuela have created uncertainty in the supply chain. In addition, there have been production declines in the North Sea and Russia, while worldwide spare production capacity is at its lowest level in three decades. Only Saudi Arabia at this point has any spare crude oil production capacity available.
Despite the decrease in supply, demand has remained stable. The 2004 demand increased worldwide by approximately 3%. This growth will likely slow, but will continue to grow between 1.5% and 2% in 2005-06.
At a briefing this week by four of the industry associations involved in the energy sector, it was basically pointed out that over 40% of the increase in the demand for worldwide crude was as a result of the growing economy in China particularly.
This steady demand coupled with the decrease in supply has led to increased energy prices both at home and abroad in every sector.
I must point out, however, that most of the Canadian information on the projected increase in energy prices for the upcoming winter actually comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy. It is a shame that similar information cannot be obtained from the federal government through the Department of Natural Resources.
MJ Ervin & Associates, the private sector forecaster and observer of oil and gas prices, has estimated that the average price of home heating fuel has jumped to its highest level on record, 93¢ a litre. The best guess is that homes heated with oil can expect to pay 32% more this year, while homes heated with natural gas can expect to pay 48% more. Electricity bills will also rise but not as dramatically.
In New Brunswick the cost of home heating oil is 5¢ higher than the national average. New Brunswick Power has announced it will request a 10% increase in its electricity rates next year. In Quebec where 70% of the homes are heated by electricity, the provincial energy board will review a request by Hydro-Québec to increase rates by 3%.
In Ontario the Ontario Energy Board approved a rate increase for Enbridge gas that will increase natural gas bills by about $123 a year. Union Gas also sought and received a rate increase. Sixty per cent of Ontario residents rely on natural gas for heating.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission just approved a 13.3% increase in natural gas. Even in Alberta, Direct Energy has asked the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to approve a rate increase that will increase the average home heating bill by more than 20%. The average monthly bill for October in Calgary will be $162.
As we can see, the increase in the cost of heating one's home is affecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast. What has the government done to deal with this massive, broad problem facing Canadian citizens and businesses across the country?
At the heart of Bill C-66 is a payment for some of Canada's poorest citizens. Obviously we in the Conservative Party support measures that provide relief for low income families. We have an obligation to represent and support those who have so much less than the average Canadian.
The government estimates that 3.1 million low income families, or 10% of Canadians, will receive these so-called rebate cheques, although they are actually payment cheques. I am pleased that some effort is being made to try to assist low income Canadians. These Canadians should not simply be left on their own to try to deal with rising energy costs, particularly those on fixed incomes dealing with increases in home heating.
The problem is that the delivery method chosen by the government will miss too many Canadians who need help paying their heating bills and their gasoline bills for their cars to get them to and from work. Persons with disabilities who claim a disability benefit will not receive the payment. Seniors who qualify for the GIS but do not claim it will not receive a payment. A Statistics Canada study released on Friday, October 21, 2005 found that over 206,000 eligible individuals missed out because they did not in fact claim the GIS.
With respect to seniors, we also have a situation where someone whose pension makes them equivalent to someone on the GIS will not in fact receive any sort of assistance under the government's program. Students will not receive a payment.
This program will not help poor Canadians who do not have children. Research from Statistics Canada again indicates that nearly two million individuals under 65 who fall below the low income threshold have no children. Under this bill these individuals will receive no help.
It will miss most farmers who have been hit very hard by the energy price spike. They must not only heat their homes but their barns as well. It will also miss many Canadians who are poor, but not quite poor enough in the government's eyes to qualify for a payment. Of course, it must be noted that this plan does not in any way, shape or form offer relief at the pump nor compensate for the increase in fuel prices.
We in the Conservative Party have an alternative. We have an alternative because too many Canadians will not be assisted by this plan. We have a plan that will help all Canadians. The fact is the government should start by axing the tax on the tax at the pumps. This would give an immediate tax break to all Canadians. Two Liberal members spoke and basically gave the party line as to why the Liberal government does not want to do this.
The fact is it would be a very immediate measurable thing that would impact Canadians by reducing the tax at the pumps. It would obviously reduce it for people who drive their own vehicles but it would also reduce it, as the member mentioned, for public transit. It would also reduce it for municipalities and others who have to pay for school divisions, who have to pay for fuel, who have to ship students to and from school, municipalities that have to subsidize their public transit.
Further to that, if the government wants to help public transit, then it should adopt the plan put forward by our leader this summer in Toronto to allow people who have public transit passes to claim a certain percentage of the cost. It is not one or the other. We can do both at the same time and offer tax relief to more than just a few Canadians in this plan.
The fact is 42% of the cost of a litre of gasoline is federal, provincial and municipal taxes, including the GST. As a comparison, in the United States it is 27%. Currently the 7% GST and the HST are charged on gasoline after federal, provincial and in some cases municipal governments have added their excise taxes.
The fact is the Liberal government continues to overtax Canadians. The government should not profit when people are feeling the effects of these increased prices in their pocketbooks and at the dinner table.
For every 1¢ increase in gasoline prices, the federal government receives about $32 million in extra revenue. That money should be going back into the pockets of Canadians and not into the pockets of the government.
In addition, the Conservative Party will reduce personal taxes overall. That is the second way to immediately address this issue in a broad way. Instead of selectively picking some low income Canadians over other low income Canadians, we could reduce personal taxes overall.
A Conservative government's approach would provide immediate and long term broad based tax relief starting with reducing personal income tax rates and substantially raising both the basic personal exemption and the spousal exemption under the Income Tax Act. Reducing personal income taxes would hike the take home pay and raise the standard of living of all Canadians.
The fact is we have driven the tax agenda in this country for years and we will continue to do so because it is fair. It is fair that Canadians keep more of their own life energy in their own pockets to spend as they best see fit.
I want to move on to the second part of the bill. I want to point out that while part 1 books the expenditures on payments to low income Canadians in the current fiscal year, the expenditures in part 2 are over five years. This is very odd accounting, but as we are finding out more and more with the way the government deals with budgets and finances, it is simply a classic example of Liberal accounting.
What I believe the Liberals are trying to do is to force us to accept spending on the EnerGuide program, spending that could have been announced in past budgets or in the next budget. They want us to accept this by tying it to the energy payment for low income Canadians. There is no reason to put it in this bill.
In fact Bill C-66 includes $205 million from already announced energy efficiency programs, and $100 million which is being moved out of Bill C-48 and into Bill C-66 under the guise of energy efficiency. This is simply ridiculous. This clause of the bill is completely unnecessary. A whopping 43% of the funds set aside for the bill will go to the administration of the EnerGuide program, not toward tax cuts or rebates.
In theory, the EnerGuide program provides financial assistance to homeowners and landlords to help improve energy efficiency. I encourage members to talk to constituents who have actually utilized this program, because I have. The fact is it is an extremely complicated program. It requires a homeowner or landlord to pay for an inspection of their home both before and after renovations to see if they can receive a loan or rebate for the changes they have made to improve the energy efficiency of their own home. Some funding will flow through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but will benefit only 130,000 low income Canadians. The same number, only 130,000 Canadians, have used this program since October 2003.
We are spending more than $1 billion on an EnerGuide program that may be only used by 260,000 Canadians. This is yet another example of misguided Liberal priorities.
I would like to move on to part 3 of the bill, which deals with infrastructure. Again, this section of the bill is not necessary. This spending was announced under Bill C-48, the second budget bill, but has been moved to Bill C-66, which is a bad example of tricky Liberal accounting. This is certainly a question that the government should have to answer.
First of all, how can the Liberals introduce a budget by Bill C-43 and, second, declare non-confidence in their own budget, introduce a second budget, say that the funding would proceed once they knew the fiscal figures for 2004-05 and say that spending would commence as of August 2006? I believe that is what the parliamentary secretary told the Senate committee. Then, somehow, the government moved spending from that bill, Bill C-48, to this bill, Bill C-66.
This money does not help rural Canadians, who pay some of the highest energy costs. In addition, it does not provide the stable funding that municipalities are looking for. The money is actually being allocated without any thought as to what it actually might be used for.
The Conservative Party, on the other hand, is committed to developing an infrastructure plan that would not only provide money to municipalities to meet infrastructure needs, but would also provide benchmarks to allow local governments the ability to plan in the long term for their own infrastructure needs.
We have also committed to meeting and even possibly exceeding the amount of money spent on infrastructure by the federal government through the so-called gasoline tax transfer. Such commitments are very much in line with the infrastructure goals of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Moving to the last two sections of the bill, I note that they deal with measures that are rather small measures in terms of costs but large in terms of the federal government.
First, Industry Canada is finally giving more money to the Competition Bureau to allow it to conduct investigations into collusion. The Conservative Party and members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology have been requesting the government to increase funding to the bureau since April 2002. The bureau has indicated for years that it does not have the resources needed to carry out the investigations.
However, we have not seen the amendments to Bill C-19 that would make changes to the Competition Act and allow the bureau more flexibility in its investigations. I am certainly looking forward to those amendments, although I have a bit of a digression here. At committee we have heard witnesses on Bill C-19, which the government is sort of presenting as the answer to increased gasoline prices by saying that if there is any evidence of collusion it will be dealt with by increasing the powers of the competition commissioner.
I can accept the argument that perhaps more resources are needed for the bureau, but the fact is that any six Canadians can write to the competition commissioner and ask her to investigate any sort of a discrepancy they feel is in the oil and gasoline industry. The government's argument that in fact the bureau needs more powers to conduct investigations is actually ridiculous.
The fact is that Bill C-19, according to some very able lawyers across this country, is simply an incredibly flawed piece of legislation. It is in no way an answer to what the government is saying it is in terms of dealing with gasoline prices. Frankly, the government should even withdraw the bill. It should send this back to the justice department and rewrite a proper bill.
Second, to return to Bill C-66, it would create the petroleum price monitoring agency. It is rather ironic that the government is presenting this as an answer, because lo and behold, the current Prime Minister eliminated this in the 1995 budget. I find it a little strange that something that the then finance minister and current Prime Minister eliminated in 1995 is now being presented by him as an answer in 2005.
The fact is that if the natural resources department would act in a practical manner and provide this information we could easily have this information available. The natural resources department and this entire government have languished in developing a long term energy framework and have actually contributed to the high heating costs we will experience this winter.
The Conservative Party has been focusing for a long time on a long term energy framework which would focus on renewable and non-renewable energy sources, take into account outstanding obligations and meet our long term requirements for domestic consumption and export.
We believe that strengthening energy market integration will ensure greater reliability of energy supplies across the country. We will explore ways to reduce barriers to the movement of energy products across provincial and other borders. The fact is that the Liberals have not addressed any of these issues. The Liberals have not had the time to monitor or publish an energy policy or reports on gas prices, which was promised this fall. Private companies such as MJ Ervin and Associates have stepped in to fill the void.
We find that the bill is severely lacking and way too limited in scope in terms of who it helps and that it is misguided in its approach. We will begrudgingly support the bill, as it does help some low income Canadians, but we certainly hope that the government will bring forward another bill. We will certainly be looking forward to committee, where we can actually try to expand this to help all low income Canadians and in fact all Canadians who are dealing with higher energy costs.
October 20th, 2005 / 2:30 p.m.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43, passed by the federal government, establishes four conditions that child care centres must meet in order to fulfill Ottawa's requirements.
Can the federal government tell us if it is claiming that it has the jurisdiction to assess whether these mandatory conditions have been met? In other words, does the federal government believe that it gets to be the judge here?
Committees of the House
October 18th, 2005 / 7:10 p.m.
Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak this evening with great pleasure in connection with this rather special and original report, since I am the member who initially introduced Bill C-277.
We have had occasion to debate it several times. If a report has been tabled not to proceed further with Bill C-277, it is not because it was no longer valid, or that its substance and value were no longer important. It is merely because, pursuant to the parliamentary procedures of this House, another party has also found it of great interest. Bill C-277 enabled the Auditor General to audit the main foundations and crown corporations—those in excess of $9 billion. That party was the Liberal Party.
Since the government has upstaged me by allowing the Auditor General to have that control, which she had been demanding for the past four or five years, and which the committee had recommended twice in two or three years, I felt I needed to publicly acknowledge in this House the occasional good things our political adversaries do. They should do them more often. So I felt they more or less deserved thanks for having understood that there was a need to restore a bit of the public's confidence in its elected representatives, particularly after the sponsorship scandal. This bill is a credit to them. It was necessary, and needed to be implemented urgently and promptly.
I was therefore pleased to propose to the committee that the bill be withdrawn.
In closing, I want to add that it is all well and good that the foundations receiving federal funding, such as the foundations for innovation, the millennium scholarships and all those with $9 billion in their coffers, are now subject to scrutiny by the Auditor General.
However, once I had achieved this, I continued to examine the public accounts and I realized that there is now another area that deserves our full attention. I am talking about the transfer of funding by departments to not-for-profit organizations. For example, the Canadian Unity Council gets nearly $12 million per year from Canadian Heritage, and its internal audits are extremely compromising.
This will be another hobbyhorse for the members of the opposition. I hope that the Liberals will show the same open-mindedness and allow the Auditor General to consider all of these files. At present, she can do so in the case of the Canadian Unity Council, but the internal audits of each department should be tightened up and redone so as to ensure the proper management of public finance.
I am pleased, therefore, to see that the essence of the bill has been recovered and that the wording from the budget legislation has been copied. It is therefore my pleasure to withdraw Bill C-277, particularly since it has been in force since June.
Committees of the House
October 5th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning Bill C-277, an act to amend the Auditor General's Act (audit of accounts). Mr. Speaker, your committee recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill as Bill C-43 achieves goals similar to those proposed in Bill C-277.
Business of the House
September 26th, 2005 / 5:35 p.m.
Civil Marriage Act
June 28th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted with the news you have just given us about the passing of Bill C-43 with customary speed by the Senate. That is great news for the province of Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, more than fulfilling the Prime Minister's commitment of last year.
I am honoured to speak to Bill C-38, an act to extend the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians. I will be splitting my time with one of my favourite parliamentarians, the member for Winnipeg South Centre.
The vote that we will take tonight in just a few hours will provide equality under the law for all Canadians, those men and women, our brothers and sisters, our friends and those whom we love. This vote represents one of the most clear opportunities we are likely to have to declare our faith in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to support our values of inclusion, justice and dignity.
None of us here have taken this responsibility lightly. Each of us have our own reasons to vote as we see fit. I can only affirm for my part the belief that one's human dignity is non-negotiable. Our responsibility here today is to acknowledge that reality, so that through our actions as legislators we might recognize that which we all know to be true, that gays and lesbians are fully equal and that Parliament will do the right thing, in my view, this evening.
On March 21 I spoke to the issue of civil marriage and outlined my views. Today I would like to speak about the process that we have undertaken since then, having been a member of the legislative committee dealing with civil marriage, as well as the ongoing discussions and interactions I have had the opportunity to have with my constituents.
Many people have opposed the bill and many have provided reasons as to why we should not vote on the bill tonight in a positive way. I would like to address a few of those issues.
First, some have suggested that we are rushing the bill through. I think the record will show that this is not the case at all. Indeed, some members opposite have, on the one hand, suggested that we are wasting our time on this issue because there are more important issues to deal with, as if equality is not an issue of national importance. Yet on the other hand there are members who have said that this is so important that they would like even more debate.
I believe there has been more than a healthy debate in this country, going back for years. Certainly, we have had ample witnesses appear before the legislative committee and they have expressed their views. How many more bills have had this much attention? I do not think very many. The suggestion that somehow we are rushing this through rings hollow in light of that debate.
Second, an issue that has been of particular concern to me is that it has been suggested that we should not allow this law to pass because people of faith oppose the bill. In fact, we just heard the previous speaker. He is a man whom I respect and whom we know has faced certainly challenges, but has come here to cast his vote. I respect that. But to suggest that the Prime Minister does not live his faith is outrageous. It is outrageous and outdated.
As a member of the legislative committee on civil marriage, we have heard representatives from many religions. We have heard from Catholics, Evangelicals, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and members of the United Church. There is no unanimity on this issue. Some are against the legislation and some support it.
In fact, in our committee work we heard very positively on this bill from the Unitarian Church, some Sikhs, Rabbis and from the United Church. My own faith is rooted in Catholicism. I was raised by parents who taught me that the gospel message was about love and peace through a living faith.
I support the right of those who, because of their faith, oppose this legislation, but not all people of faith have that same view. In the end we would do well not to assume any one of us have an exclusive domain on what constitutes good morals or family values.
I agree personally with the moderator of the United Church when he suggested that supporting same sex marriage is not an abandonment of faith, but an embracing of faith. This view, expressed in simple terms, captures my own approach. I have not compromised my faith in supporting this legislation. I have embraced it.
Another question raised to exclude gays and lesbians from civil marriage was that only two other countries have adopted such legislation. Why would we want to be among the first countries to do so? My answer is, where do we want to be when it comes to embracing equality and recognizing the rights of individuals? Should we strive to be in the middle of the pack or to be the last nation dragged in?
Canada takes great pride in being the first nation to have officially adopted multiculturalism as a policy. There were many opposed to that, but we look back on that with pride and as a turning point for Canada, and that is a good thing.
We are a leader in many other areas: eliminating third world debt and patenting drugs for HIV-AIDS. The fact that we are among the first is not something we should hide. It is something we should celebrate.
Another reason we have heard not to support this legislation is that gays and lesbians do not even want this. So if they do not want it, why are we putting it forward. We have had people in committee tell us that gays and lesbians do not want to be married, but there are many heterosexuals who do not want to be married either. I do not think anyone would suggest that they should not have the right.
A number of gays and lesbians have fought very hard for that right, to have their marriages recognized as equal to those of other Canadians. I salute them. I salute their fight. I salute their courage including people like the former member for Burnaby—Douglas. Today when we vote on this issue, I will be thinking of them including my sister Jane, her partner Vicki, my godchild Rosie and her sister.
Some people feel that religion will be compromised, that religion trumps equality is what we hear. In a truly civilized society religion and equality do not compete. They co-exist easily and they complement each other. No church has been forced by the Government of Canada to marry or not marry people. That has not happened. The Catholic Church, for example, can decide who can enter into the sacrament of marriage. It alone determines who is married in the Catholic Church. That is how it should be. That is how it is. That is how it will continue.
We have even heard some people suggest that our health care will be compromised if we extend the right to marry to gays and lesbians. We have heard if we allow gays and lesbians to marry there will be an increase in all kinds of diseases and HIV-AIDS. The people who suggest that have no idea what the bill is about. The bill is not about sex at all. It is about love and commitment. Anyone who suggests that allowing gays and lesbians to marry, that it will lead to a dramatic increase in levels of sexual activity, should check with their heterosexual colleagues who may be married. They may be disabused of that theory.
We have gone well beyond the issue of whether it is right or wrong for homosexuals to have sex. A great Canadian once said, “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”. We have moved beyond the morality of that issue. This is not about sex. This issue is about love and commitment, and the recognition that gays and lesbians are equally qualified and equally capable of making a commitment to each other. The moral aspect is an issue we decided in this country a long time ago.
The next argument is that we should have a national plebiscite. If we had a national plebiscite on whether women should have voted, imagine the result considering that those who would have been deciding that would have been men. Or if they had a plebiscite in states like Alabama or Mississippi on whether blacks should have the vote, they still would not.
When it comes to an issue like this, the majority cannot determine the rights of the minority. Alongside the plebiscite argument are people who say we should listen to the voice of the people in our ridings and vote the way they want us to vote. I decided on this issue some time ago.
In fact, it is an issue I have supported and ran on in the last campaign when this was an issue. Rights and justice cannot be subject to a poll. Equality does not find its legitimacy in meaning through a referendum. That is not the Canadian way. I have met and spoken with hundreds of my constituents, both for and against. I have never refused a meeting with anyone because they had a different point of view and I have valued every opinion I have heard.
Today we will vote on the issue of civil marriage, Bill C-38. Today we will decide if gays and lesbians will have equal access to civil marriage as do other Canadians. This week, as we celebrate Canada Day, is a very appropriate week to vote on this issue. On Canada Day we celebrate the best of Canada, the diversity of Canada, a nation of equality, a nation of strength, a nation of compassion, a nation that believes we are stronger together than we are apart, and a nation where we celebrate equality.
Being equal does not mean that we are all the same, far from it. From those who were born here from our founding peoples, to people who came here hundreds of years ago, to people who have just recently chosen to come to this nation, we celebrate our differences. We do not all look the same. We do not all go to the same church. We do not all speak the same language. We do not all eat the same food. We are different. We celebrate those differences because those differences make us stronger. We not only encourage but celebrate those differences.
Today in this chamber we will celebrate the diversity of Canada once again. We will send a statement to the world that in Canada gays and lesbians will not be considered second class citizens. They will not be offered marriage lite; they will be offered full marriage.
When members of this House from all sides look back on this day in years to come, I believe they will see this as one step of the many steps that Canada has made to be a world leader in recognizing that one of the great privileges of freedom is equality. I am proud to support this bill.