An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Johanne Deschamps  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of Dec. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to give every new graduate who settles in a designated region a tax credit equal to the lesser of

(a) 40% of the individual's salary or wages,

(b) $3,000, and

(c) the amount by which $8,000 exceeds all amounts paid for a preceding taxation year.

The purpose of this measure is to encourage new graduates to settle in designated regions, thereby curbing the exodus of young people from those regions and promoting their economic development.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • May 5, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • May 27, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Tax Credit for New Graduates Working in Designated Regions
Statements By Members

May 5th, 2010 / 2:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, this evening we will vote at third reading on Bill C-288, which gives new graduates up to $8,000 in tax credits if they accept jobs in designated regions experiencing economic difficulty.

The Conservative members have shamelessly voted against this bill ever since it was introduced in the House of Commons.

Youth and student groups, municipalities and RCMs all agree that this kind of incentive is important because it will enhance the economic vitality of designated regions in Quebec and Canada.

Just last week, business people in the riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean complained about how hard it is to recruit specialized workers for their companies. This difficulty is proof that we need incentives like a tax credit to bring our young people back to the regions.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

April 30th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the chance to implore the opposition members to reconsider their support for this costly, misguided and bad proposal by the Bloc Québécois.

We need to be clear on what this proposal would do and how much it would cost. Bill C-288 would grant a temporary special tax subsidy for a chosen few graduates being employed in any of the ill-defined designated regions. Moreover, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, this poorly thought out proposal could cost over half a billion dollars a year.

For anyone who has actually studied this proposal, they would quickly realize the two biggest problems with it, besides the fact that it is counterproductive economic policy. First, the conditions surrounding qualifying employment are vague, and second, the list of designated regions that would be eligible is antiquated.

With respect to qualifying employment, Bill C-288 would, in essence, provide a temporary tax subsidy to almost any recent post-secondary graduate employed in the designated regions under Bill C-288.

According to the legislation itself, the subsidy could be claimed by any graduate if, “the knowledge and skills obtained during the individual's training or educational program are related to the duties performed”. That weak and overly broad definition clearly targets no particular skill or occupation and does not even specify on what basis this would be or could be determined, the ultimate result being that any graduate would easily qualify as any job would make use of general problem solving skills naturally obtained during the course of one's education.

Likewise. they would qualify for this tax subsidy irrespective of there being an actual surplus or a shortage of workers with that particular skill. This, obviously, makes little or no sense.

With respect to designated regions, Bill C-288 selects areas where graduates would be eligible for the subsidy. Specifically, the credit would be available to any graduate taking up work in a region defined in another piece of legislation called the Regional Development Incentives Act, only excluding metropolitan areas with populations over 200,000.

Under that specific act, there is a list of designated regions that have been classified as economically challenged because “existing opportunities for productive employment in the region are exceptionally inadequate”. However, there is the catch. That list of designated regions is an actual list that has not been updated since 1981, in other words, in nearly three decades.

Obviously such an outdated list based on the Canadian economy of the early eighties has little to no bearing on the economic realities of today.

Under Bill C-288, therefore, both the entire province of Manitoba and the entire province of Saskatchewan would be designated regions declared economically challenged, save cities within the provinces with populations exceeding 200,000.

Is Manitoba, with an unemployment rate 3% lower than the national average and whose economy a Laurentian Bank economist deemed as weathering the “recession with an ease that must surely make other provinces envious”, economically challenged?

Is Saskatchewan, with an unemployment rate also 3% lower than the national average and whose provincial economy has been recently pegged by CIBC economists as the one that will “lead other Canadian provinces in economic growth this year”, economically challenged?

Plainly, no reasonable individual would call either Manitoba or Saskatchewan economically challenged or in desperate need for tax subsidies to spur job creation, promote growth or attract workers. However, that is exactly what this poorly thought out Bloc Québécois proposal would do.

Even more interesting is that under Bill C-288 another set of designated regions would include large parts of rural and northern Alberta, Fort McMurray included.

I know the Bloc Québécois members tend to ignore the rest of Canada but I am truly stunned that they would bring forward a bizarre proposal that would suggest that Fort McMurray, the heart of Canada's oil sands, is economically challenged and that its workers need tax subsidies.

For the benefit of the apparently isolated Bloc Québécois members, let me familiarize them with the situation by reading a portion of a recent article from the Fort McMurray Today newspaper, which dealt with the local economy. I will quote at length:

There's less unemployed people in Fort McMurray than anywhere else in the province....

Craig Mattern, a market information manager with the Alberta government, said....employment numbers...remained through the economic downturn of the past year....

“There's been very little movement throughout most of the year. Unemployment continues to sit at the lowest rate throughout the province at 4%...”....

...job growth in the region has been substantially helped by developing local oilsands projects but other sectors have also been contributing....

“We continue to see employment gains in the accommodations, food service industries, wholesale retail trade and shops continue to show growth. Same with actually the healthcare and social assistance fields," Mattern said.

That Fort McMurray would be classified as economically challenged should alone be enough to cause any reasonable individual to stop and question Bill C-288.

What is more, Bill C-288 is also blatantly unfair to new graduates not in the designated regions. It would create very serious inequities between new graduates who work in different regions of Canada. Under Bill C-288, two similar recent graduates at similar jobs with the same pay but working only a few kilometres apart, perhaps, would face completely different tax bills. While one new graduate would receive a tax subsidy, another one would be paying $3,000 in federal taxes to help pay for that subsidy.

Canadians expect tax fairness. For those new graduates, Bill C-288 would not meet that test.

This Bloc Québécois proposal is so flawed that it is almost comical, almost, until we realize it carries a potential price tag of over $0.5 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself reviewed the proposal for the finance committee and concluded:

Overall, assuming no behavioural change on the part of graduates and based on the foregoing assumptions, these ranges suggest that at full phase-in the program could have a cost estimate of between over one hundred million to approximately six hundred million per annum.

We know that the Bloc Québécois really does not care about adding to the national debt and that fiscal responsibility is foreign to them, but they alone cannot pass Bill C-288. They need and are getting the support of the NDP and the Liberals.

We know the NDP is notorious for being fiscally irresponsible, so its support is a given. However,, the Liberals claim they are different. They claim they are not the NDP. The Liberal leader told Canadians recently, before endorsing any new proposal that, “One of the issues we have to confront is: How do we pay for this? We can't be a credible party until we have an answer for that question.... We have to be courageous and we have to be clear on the subject. We will not identify any new spending unless we can clearly identify a source of funds without increasing the deficit.”

I ask the Liberals how they expect to account for the cost of this proposal they support so forcefully now. What taxes would they raise to offset the cost? What spending would they cut?

Unfortunately, we do not have answers to those questions. I doubt the Liberals have thought about that or even closely reviewed this proposal and the many problems with it. I say this to the Liberals: That is not credible; that is not responsible.

Without question, the government will not support this costly and poorly constructed Bloc proposal. We hope the official opposition will come to its senses and reconsider its support.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

April 30th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-288, a private member's bill that would provide a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions.

I will begin by commenting on the speech of my colleague from the Conservative Party. It is a little hard to imagine that a Conservative MP would want to talk about the issue of fiscal responsibility considering the record of the government.

When the Conservatives left power in 1993, they left a deficit of $42 billion and it took time and a lot of sacrifice by Canadians to overcome that problem. However, when the Liberal Party left government in February 2006, it left a surplus of $13 billion, which the present government, in less than three years, managed to turn into deficits, deficits that it started by its decisions even before the recession began.

The Conservatives want to say that the deficit exists because of the recession. The fact is that it started before that. They created, what has been called by economists, “a structural deficit” because of their decisions in the years leading up to the recession not jut because of the recession. That is a very important point when they talk about this question of fiscal responsibility, when they have no fiscal responsibility to show. They do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to that.

They react strongly to that. Obviously it stings when I say this because they know it is true and it must bother them. If they call themselves Conservatives, one would think they would be fiscally conservative, and yet we have not seen that from the government. It must be for backbenchers who may believe in that idea of fiscal responsibility. The fact that they need to defend their own government's abysmal record when it comes to the nation's finances must be discouraging. It must be frustrating for my hon. friends across the way to go from a $13 billion surplus to a deficit in such a short time is truly remarkable.

However, I will now get to the bill that we are discussing today. The idea of a tax credit for new graduates working in rural areas across this country, particularly depressed areas, is a worthy objective and it is one worth support.

Like many other colleagues here, on a nearly daily basis I try to check the obituaries in my home paper, The ChronicleHerald in Halifax, to be aware of who may have passed away or what sad news there may be that day. One of the things I also look at is the places they have come from because The ChronicleHerald is the main newspaper for my province of Nova Scotia, as my hon. friend from West Nova will attest. He will know that it shows obituaries from across the entire province.

When I look at it, I look to see what communities people are from. It is remarkable most days how many of the people whose names are there are from small rural communities around Nova Scotia. When I see that it troubles me in terms of what I know is happening in those communities as they are aging. The demographic problems in those communities are real problems and we need to find ways to encourage young people to go there. Among other things, with our aging population like those in smaller communities, people need a variety of supports. One of the most obvious ones is in relation to health care, whether it be doctors, nurses, medical technicians or physiotherapists, a whole range of health care support systems and expertise are needed in those areas.

This bill is the kind of thing that would help to encourage young people coming out of post-secondary education training with particular skills to go into those kinds of communities and provide that kind of help and service to people who need it. This is very important in terms of keeping communities alive because if they do not have those kinds of supports, then what happens? More and more people leave those areas and that is a grave concern for many hon. colleagues when they think about those kinds of communities across the country.

The other thing this brings to mind is the issue of regional development. This relates to regional development, particularly in rural areas, smaller communities, which is a real challenge. It is certainly a challenge in my region of Atlantic Canada where the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, plays an important role.

One of the very important programs that was started back in 2000 by the previous government was the Atlantic innovation fund. The estimates just released not too long ago for 2009-10 showed that, when the Atlantic innovation fund is combined with the innovative communities fund, a total of $113 million was spent in the fiscal year that just ended.

What do we see in the budget? The government says it is going to spend a total of $19 million for both those programs next year. It has gone from $113 million for this very important area of regional development, particularly important for research and development or supporting small communities, to $19 million. That is from $113 million to $19 million. Talk about slash and burn. Talk about a lack of interest, a lack of resolve to help small communities, to help a region that needs assistance, especially during this period. That has to be frustrating for members on that side. How do they defend that?

Let us talk also about student debt. This bill really is designed, as well, to help those students coming out of university or other post-secondary institutions, like community colleges, who are shouldering debt in the range of $50,000, $80,000 or $100,000, as many are.

This is not a huge amount. It would obviously not pay off that debt in a hurry, but it would help. It is a modest incentive of between $250 and $750 per person, per year. It is not enormous for individuals but it may be enough, we hope, to help encourage young people to go to particular areas where they are needed. That makes sense to me.

The government's record in relation to students is deplorable. Think about the fact that, in the height of the recession, the government's answer in terms of students and their need for summer jobs was to cut the summer jobs program. One would think the government would have done as we suggested last year, as part of its stimulus program to get the economy going, and that is to put money into helping students get summer jobs. The government showed no interest whatsoever in doing that. To me that was unimaginable.

I find it very difficult to comprehend why the government would not choose to invest in assisting students find summer employment, when it was going to be much harder to find that in the private sector during the recession. That was a natural spot for the Government of Canada to intervene. I guess it is just that the government does not believe government should play that kind of role. But that is not the kind of thing most Canadians believe. Once again they see the government out of line with where Canadians really are.

Another important element of this bill is that it proposes a maximum community size of 200,000. One might argue about what size that should be and how we would define the regions that would apply. That is something we could certainly look at.

This legislation is going off to the Senate after this, and with the Conservatives now controlling the Senate, it probably will not end up becoming law, even though it has come to this House many times already. Perhaps it will become law in the future. Perhaps in the future there will be opportunities to make other changes.

My community is in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which has a huge geographic area and a population of 370,000, give or take a few. My community would not apply. However, that geographic area of HRM, as we call it, includes tiny areas like Ecum Secum, Middle Musquodoboit or Upper Musquodoboit that are a long way from the urban area and unfortunately would not qualify. The good news is that they are within a somewhat reasonable distance of the metropolitan area of Halifax where there is a stronger economy and the opportunity for jobs.

The opportunity is better for them than it is, obviously, for someone farther away from the major area. Generally speaking, within an hour or so of Halifax the opportunities for jobs are pretty good. There is a need for this kind of program in the farther outlying areas where it is much tougher, which is what this program is designed for. I think it makes good sense.

I know I am near the end of my time. I have lots more notes here. It is always a good sign when you have more to say, I suppose. My colleagues on the other side would probably say I said too much. I do think this bill is worthy of our support. It has a worthy objective. I hope the government itself would bring forward measures like this to make a difference in the depressed regions of rural communities of our country.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

April 30th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill C-288, which would give certain tax incentives to graduates who return to their regions or to rural regions across the country. In doing so, it would provide important services to those regions and the same kinds of services that people in metropolitan areas take for granted.

I live in a very rural area. My riding is slightly larger than the province of Ontario and within it we have a few people. We also had a very expanding economy in the last decade through the development of the diamond fields. Interestingly enough, as the economy expanded in the last four or five years, the population declined until we had a huge expansion in our gross domestic product.

Why was that? It was not because young people did not like living in the north. The allure of the north is big among young people across the country and there are many young people who would like to live in rural and remote areas. It was the cost of living. The cost of living in northern conditions is so high that people simply cannot make ends meet and they relocate.

We find that we replace a lot of these people with fly-in workers from across the country, from Newfoundland, from Nova Scotia, even from Ottawa here. I have sat in the airport in Ottawa and heard the talk of people around me who were headed to the Diavik diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. Right across the country, people take advantage of the economic opportunities in rural regions, but they do not live there and they do not provide continuity of service.

I lived in the north all my life and never had an opportunity to have a family doctor. I dealt with locum doctors throughout my whole life. I was lucky enough to live in a community that actually had locum doctors. Many of the smaller communities might be lucky to have locum nurse practitioners. They might be lucky enough to have a nurse in a nursing station. Many of the communities really do suffer because of the cost of living and the lack of the kinds of incentives that used to exist for living in the north.

My parents moved to the north in the fifties. Through the sixties, there were programs in place where all the costs of education for young northerners were paid. Young northerners could go to university. They could go to technical schools. They could go to colleges in the south and they would see that their costs were completely covered. It was a great system. It encouraged young people to get their education and as time went on, the governments of the region got smarter and said, “If you want to get that kind of break, rather than just giving it you, we will give you a remissible loan based on the years that you come back to the region and work there”. That system also has worked quite well.

What we are seeing with this type of program, this type of effort, is something that is actually replicated in the Northwest Territories now. It is one of the ways that we try to bring our young people back to the Northwest Territories and try to get them to work and live there.

Why is that important? It is because the north and rural areas in Canada are great revenue generators for the rest of Canada. Where are the mining industries in this country? Where is the oil and gas exploration? Where are the things that make our economy run? They are in rural areas. They are in northern areas.

Those things are so important to our economy and they are so important to the people who can live and work in those areas, and build those areas as successful places.

The mining industry estimates that it will need 80,000 new workers over the next two decades to service the mining industry. It is desperate to find people to come and work in those regions, to enjoy the opportunities that come with the mining industry and to settle and take the work there seriously.

The type of program we are offering with Bill C-288 is one example of utilizing the tax system nationally to help all the regions in a uniform fashion. We do have one program like that. It is something that I worked very hard on to get approved when I first came to Parliament. The northern residents tax deduction is an excellent program that goes right across the country and gives everyone in northern areas a tax break. If they are in an intermediate area in the northern parts of the provinces, including Conservative ridings, they are given a break on their taxes as well. That is good.

The problem with the program was it had been in place for 19 years and the real dollar amount had never changed over that time. Members can check the records. There was not much talk about this before that. When I got here, I worked very hard to get that into the mind of the government. In 2007 it agreed to increase the northern residents tax deduction by 10%. We were asking for 50%. Every organization in the north said that 50% was the only fair amount. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce came onside for the 50%.

The Conservative government realized that it had a problem. Its solution was not to offer up what was fair. It offered up a little so it could say it did it. I thank the government very much for the 10%. Everyone appreciates that. That is a couple hundred dollars a year extra in the pocket of the average northerner and the average rural person. That is great, but it was clearly not enough.

There is more work to be done there with the tax system to improve the lives of people in the regions of our country who make money for our country. The Conservative government wants to give away huge tax revenues from banks, from oil companies, from that same mining industry and from those that extract the wealth out of the country. When it wants to do that and not put money back into those regions and into the pockets of young people who want to build the region and build our country, that is sad.

It is a sad statement to make today in Parliament about the nature of a Conservative government that would stand up against this bill and against the idea of the bill. Yes, the bill has issues. These issues can be worked out. The principle of the bill is fine. What is wrong with the idea that we use the tax system to enhance the ability of people to live in northern or rural regions? What is wrong with the idea that we support Canadians in their efforts to build a better country that will be successful in the 21st century? What is wrong with the Conservatives? They cannot see past their end of their nose on this question of tax breaks.

I am glad it is Friday. I will have time to unwind over the weekend and return to Parliament with a slightly better feeling about my members on the opposite benches.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

April 30th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-288. At the risk of losing the rest of my audience, I realize I am in competition with the great Canadian singer, Bryan Adams, who is in the lobby. I am glad to see that not everybody has disappeared, but I am glad to have them back.

This is a bill that has had a fair amount of debate. It has been through committee and is a bill that we are happy to support. It is an act to amend the Income Tax Act regarding tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions. It would give every new graduate who settles in a designated region a tax credit. The purpose of the measure is to encourage new graduates to settle in designated regions, thereby curbing the exodus of young people from those regions and promoting their economic development.

This is an age old problem. Anybody who has grown up in a rural area, lived in a rural area, recognizes that as cities develop and as facilities develop in cities, particularly in health care but not limited to health care, people are attracted to the cities. If they do not move there when they are young, because they need to further their education, children leave their local areas after grade 12 and move to the city to go to university. They form friendships there and eventually get jobs in the city, and they do not return to their homes.

Likewise, we have a problem, particularly in the west and perhaps across Canada, with people hitting retirement age who do the same. They sell their property in the country, their farms, and once again they too move to the city. Just in the space since 1970, the population in Manitoba was roughly 50% rural and 50% urban, and today, only 40 years later, the population pattern now is about 70% urban and only 30% rural, and that is continuing.

That is in spite of continuing efforts on the part of governments over the last 20 years to keep people in rural areas, to offer incentives, and to make it easier to transfer family farms from one generation to the other. It is interesting to me that most of the Conservative caucus represents rural areas. I would think that the Conservatives would be more in tune to this issue as members on this side of the House because they know the efforts we have to make to keep people living in and moving to rural areas.

In Manitoba, we have offered, and other provinces have as well, incentives to doctors to move to the rural areas. Even in the days when the member for Souris on the Conservative side was a provincial member of the legislature, we were working out programs to encourage doctors to move to rural areas, particularly doctors from Winnipeg, but also doctors that we brought in from outside the country.

We have discovered over the last 10 years that we were better off training professionals, training doctors, who actually came from those rural areas, with the hope that they would go back to their home town. We altered our strategy somewhat to encourage people, say, from Thompson to become doctors, and then move back to Thompson, because we found we had a better chance of getting them to go back and keeping them there.

The Conservatives have focused greatly on the cost of the program. There will certainly always be a cost and the question is whether the cost is justified. It seems to me to create a bit of a balance here to try to reverse the flow of graduates from the rural areas to the city, but this certainly would be justified. We could argue about what sort of provisions should be enacted and whether or not the bill has hit the spot one hundred per cent.

There is talk that the list we are going to follow for designated regions is over 30 years old. It should be simple enough for the government to update the list of regions. That is something that can be fine-tuned to more adequately deal with the problem.

In terms of the cost, this is something that has bounced around, not only with respect to this bill, but with respect to other bills in this House, too. The Conservatives have wildly inflated the cost of some bills in the past. Upon reflection and examination, when we in the opposition have also costed the government's bills, we have come up with a figure that maybe is one-tenth of the government's figure. What sort of statistics are being used to do this calculation?

Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer from the Library of Parliament, appeared at the finance committee. He was asked about the cost of Bill C-288. As I indicated, the bill would provide non-refundable tax credits to new graduates who settle in certain regions of the country. He said that he had been drawing on the expertise of provincial governments, academics and government executives to assess the reasonableness of the cost assessment presented to the committee. There were two extremes, two diametrically opposed figures. The Conservatives' figure was on the extreme high side and the opposition's figure perhaps was a little more on the low side than it should be. I do not know. That is why he was asked to look at the issue.

As I outlined in my note, he said that the two cost estimates are based on different assumptions regarding the size of the regions that would be designated as eligible for the proposed tax credit and the propensity of new graduates to take up the new credit.

Last year the Conservatives knew that there was tremendous uptake on their home renovation tax credit program. The parliamentary secretary who is listening attentively now would say that he could not tell us what the total cost to the treasury was going to be until the end of the income tax season this year when the people who partook in the program filed their tax returns. Only then could the government tell what the renovation tax credit program was going to cost the treasury. It is true that until we actually implement the program and see how many graduates actually use the tax credit we will not know what the true cost to the treasury will be. It may be much lower than the government is suggesting.

I would advise the government to try it for a year. It could play with the designated areas. The Conservatives think that the current designations are 30 years out of date and cover the whole province of Saskatchewan and the oil sands area of northern Alberta. If they do not like that, we can always change the criteria to exclude those areas. Then based on what the uptake is, we will have a better idea over time about how this bill would work.

To reject the bill outright is absolute nonsense when there are increasing disparities between rural and urban parts of Canada. We do not want the urban and rural splits to widen. We want to lessen them. Anything that will help young graduates return to their hometowns to work in their hometowns and benefit rural Canada is something that we should be encouraging. Members should not be standing and saying that the sky is falling and that this is going to lead to terrible things, because that is not what is going to happen.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

April 30th, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude this long debate on my Bill C-288. Next week, this House will again have to take a stand on this bill.

It has been a year since I introduced Bill C-288, which would introduce a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions. My colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I have travelled throughout Quebec to tell people about how this bill would benefit them. In Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, on the north shore, in Gaspé and in the Lower St. Lawrence, people support this measure, because it could help their region economically.

Bill C-288 has received the support of various groups and different generations throughout Quebec, including the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which respectively represent 40,000 and 125,000 students all over Quebec. Moreover, the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens, which has 255 members, and the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités, which represents 972 Quebec municipalities, have given the bill their full support. The bill also has the support of a number of RCMs, chambers of commerce and youth employment centres.

In recent debates, we have demonstrated the importance of this initiative to attract young graduates to remote regions. The bill would solve two main problems affecting these regions: the exodus of young people and the serious shortage of skilled labour.

It is important to encourage young graduates to move to the regions to start their professional careers, and to recruit skilled labour for the good of the regions. Much thought has gone into Bill C-288 so that we can eventually offer all young, eligible graduates in Quebec and Canada a tax credit. The problem with the exodus of young people is not unique to Quebec. Across Canada, economic activity has gradually moved from the so-called rural areas to the major centres. My Conservative colleague who spoke earlier said that my proposal was almost comical. This comment shows a lack of respect for provinces like Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba, which already have a tax credit similar to the one proposed in Bill C-288.

The Conservatives tried to derail the debate on this bill by grossly inflating the cost of the program. In his report of November 24, 2009, the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the proposal according to a number of different scenarios. I would like to clarify some of the data so that members can focus on the essence of the bill. The regions designated in this bill will be determined by the Minister of Finance, after consulting with the provinces involved.

Also, the regions will not be designated based on the number of people who would be affected; they will be based on the needs identified in these regions far from Canada's major cities. I should point out that the bill excludes metropolitan regions with more than 200,000 residents.

Furthermore, the bill must focus on areas that are far from large centres and on rural areas with low rates of urbanization that are struggling with long-term unemployment rates, an indicator of poor employment prospects.

Finally, we used economic and health regions as geographic criteria. We then used the long-term unemployment rate to determine the regions where job prospects are more difficult. Of these regions, we considered only those that had over 12% of their population living in rural areas. In total, we identified 34 health regions that met these criteria.

I am still counting on the support of my Liberal and NDP colleagues, and I also hope that my Conservative colleagues from Quebec will vote in the interests of Quebeckers.

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Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, again we are gathered to debate Bill C-288, to give every new graduate who settles in a designated region a tax credit. This bodes well, because it means the bill has passed committee stage.

In 2007, my colleague the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord introduced a similar bill, namely Bill C-207. It received support from a majority of the members in the House at all stages and even got as far as the Senate. I promise my colleague, young people and the regions of Quebec to have the same determination to get this bill passed.

To put this into context, the purpose of Bill C-288 is to give a tax credit to every new graduate who settles in a designated region. Since being introduced in the House, this bill has come a long way and has received a great deal of support.

Bill C-288 is supported by a variety of groups and generations throughout Quebec: the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, or FECQ, and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, or FEUQ, which represent 40,000 and 125,000 students respectively in Quebec; the FADOQ network, which has 255,000 members, and the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, which represents 972 municipalities. They have all given their full support to the bill. What is more, the bill is supported by a number of RCMs, chambers of commerce and youth employment centres.

In addition to this sizeable support, last November the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I delivered 3,000 postcards in support of Bill C-288 to the office of the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. Contrary to what some people have suggested, these postcards were indeed signed by people who are affected by the bill.

Before going any further, I would like to thank two colleagues: the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier and the hon. member for Churchill who have been behind Bill C-288 from the beginning.

I would also like to thank the representatives of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec who came to show their strong support for Bill C-288 by testifying before the Standing Committee on Finance. I greatly value their support because, in a way, this bill is designed for the thousands of students and graduates who will move out of large urban centres to go live and work in the regions.

The main purpose of this bill is to attract young graduates to the regions in order to help solve two main problems: the exodus of young people and the serious shortage of skilled labour. It is important to encourage young graduates to settle in the regions, where they will start their professional careers, and to recruit skilled labour for the benefit of the regions.

The exodus of young people is becoming increasingly problematic in terms of the economic vitality of areas that are far from large centres. These areas need young graduates in order to develop and to enhance their ability to innovate. Obviously, giving recent graduates who settle in regions a tax credit of $3,000 per year—up to a three-year maximum of $8,000—would help revive local economies and meet labour needs.

The exodus of young people has a negative impact, both socially and economically, on any region. It speeds up population aging and reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines the region's ability to innovate. The more remote regions are losing the most residents. In many cases, they depend on one type of industry; these are called single-industry regions.

Gone are the days when resource regions could prosper based solely on extracting natural resources for primary processing elsewhere. In order to grow, the regions will have to look to technology and develop their processing industry more.

Quebec was hard hit by the forestry crisis. Since 2005, Quebec has lost 26,000 jobs in the forestry industry alone, that is, the industry and related services, such as transportation and logging equipment. This represents 50% of Canada's total loss.

Since the Conservatives came to power, about a third of all forestry jobs have disappeared. Some regions have been decimated. Since the summer of 2004, my region, the Upper Laurentians, which has been hardest hit by the crisis, has lost 58% of all forestry jobs in Quebec.

Of the 17 forestry companies in my riding, 14 have been forced to close their doors. Heavy machinery operators, engineers, technicians and truckers have borne the brunt of these job losses. Those with higher levels of education, special skills and expertise, such as engineers, have been forced to leave our beautiful region to find work in their fields.

The Government of Quebec realized that to promote regional economic diversification, it would have to develop new business opportunities in other fields.

This is a major hindrance to the development of secondary industry and high-tech. In all of the studies that have been done, many companies have said they would only be able to stay in their region if they did not grow very much. So long as businesses stay small, they can take care of professional and technical work themselves. If they grow, they have to hire skilled workers. Difficulty finding such workers in the regions might force companies to relocate to urban centres, where they are more likely to find qualified workers.

Bill C-288 proposes a beneficial tax measure for all young eligible graduates in Quebec and Canada. Quebec is not the only province experiencing a youth exodus. Across Canada, economic activity has gradually moved from more rural regions to larger centres. Some provinces—Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba—have introduced a graduate tax credit. The Quebec government introduced its credit in 2003, then amended it, so that it now resembles the tax credit proposed in Bill C-288, which I am talking about today.

The Conservatives tried to derail the debate on this bill by grossly inflating the cost of the program. In his November 24 report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the proposal according to a number of different scenarios. I would like to clarify some of the data so that members can focus on the essence of the bill.

First, the regions designated in this bill will be determined by the Minister of Finance, after consulting with the provinces involved. Second, the regions will not be designated based on the number of people who would be affected; they will be based on the needs identified in these regions far from Canada's major cities. I should point out that the bill excludes metropolitan regions with more than 200,000 residents. Third, the bill must focus on resource regions and regions with low rates of urbanization that are struggling with long-term unemployment rates, an indicator of poor employment prospects.

Finally, we used economic and health regions as geographic criteria. We then used the long-term unemployment rate to determine the regions where job prospects are more difficult—4.7% and up in 2006. From these regions, we considered only the regions that had over 12% of their population living in rural areas.

In total, we identified 34 health regions that met these criteria, representing 8.24% of the Canadian population. According to the estimates of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, such a measure would cost around $230 million per year, rather than the $600 million claimed by the Conservatives.

Of course, other regions could be added during the discussions between the federal government and the provincial governments, but these regions will have to meet the requirements of the bill, and have a high long-term unemployment rate, combined with a low rate of urbanization or a low population density.

Adding a few regions that meet the above criteria would not substantially increase the cost of the bill.

We still want the support of Liberal and NDP members for this Bloc Québécois initiative. We hope that Conservative members will put aside their partisan ideology and act in the interests of young graduates and the regions.

I believe that many young people who are about to complete their post-secondary education or professional training are waiting for this bill to pass. A number of my colleagues have probably had exploratory visits from young graduates. These young people are in contact with community stakeholders, the decision-makers, and are in a position to determine the regions' needs and to tell us what kind of labour force is needed in our regions to develop secondary and tertiary processing.

The bill creates many expectations. It provides an incentive for attracting youth back to the regions. However, young people who are interested in returning are also interested in the quality of life they may find there. A young person who moves to the region may start a family. Families add vitality to a region.

As I stated earlier, this time I hope that the Conservative members, especially those from Quebec—in particular the members for Pontiac, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière—Alma—as well as the independent member from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier will understand that they must put their regions' interests ahead of their party's interests in order to support all regions of Quebec and their young people.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see we are facing extremely different points of view. I do not understand. We are not talking about unfairness. Bill C-288 is designed specifically to encourage young people—who usually have to go to urban centres for training or study purposes—to return to the regions if they wish.

The regions of Quebec are at a crossroads. Indeed, several regions have been hit hard by the forestry crisis. I said in my speech that several regions still depend on a single industry, and I used my region as an example, because that is the case there. If we want to develop secondary and tertiary processing, we need to have a skilled labour force. In order to have a skilled labour force, young people must return to the regions. But young people who go to urban centres develop a network of friends and might be tempted to stay in those urban centres instead of returning home, knowing they will not find work there.

This is an incentive. This does not affect other options, other credits that young people can benefit from. This is an additional measure, nothing more, but one that will encourage young people to return to the regions.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to debate Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions).

As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance for several years now, I want to point out that our committee has studied this bill many times. The committee has been through numerous consultations and amendments other than those mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, and I believe we have achieved a state of near-perfection.

Though this bill is somewhat imperfect, that is the case with most private members' bills in this place. It is no fault of anyone's, but with the private members' bills that are brought forward, there will be some imperfections because of the limited resources we have as individual members of Parliament. We are not the government. We do not have the bureaucracy behind us, so some of the bills are limited in terms of detail. We have to try to work those details out. That is the reason we send these bills to committee.

However I feel the bill does address a crucial area of the Canadian economy that the Conservative government has chosen to ignore.

The parliamentary secretary spoke about what happened in committee. The government could have taken steps to propose better legislation. It could have tabled legislation using all the resources of the government to address this issue. It could have tabled a more complete bill, a bill that would have considered the needs of regions, that would have tied regional development, along with job creation, innovation, which we have been talking about, and green technologies, to consider the needs of students and their employment futures.

Instead the government decided to shut down Parliament and go on vacation for a couple of months and came back with nothing more than a vision to change the national anthem.

Given the failure of the Conservatives to work for all Canadians, I think at this point Bill C-288 is the best option we have on the table.

To ensure a prosperous national economy, wealth must come not only from big cities. We need a broad range of skills and professions in all regions of our great country. As the member for a Montreal Island riding, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing people who live in the regions. I want to talk about the labour shortage, the high cost of transportation, the lack of public transit and other huge challenges for those who live in the regions.

Those are just some of the reasons I support this bill.

The failure of the government to propose long-term solutions to strengthen the economies of our smaller regions has led to entire communities being left behind. The costs associated with regional economic failure are too great to completely catalogue in the short time permitted for me today.

Of course these include the stagnation of economic development and growth in smaller communities, the breakup of communities as the most capable of the young people migrate elsewhere, the departure of industries as the local talent pool dries up, and increased burdens on the EI system as unemployment in the region increases.

These students sometimes not only move away from the regions into the cities but they also move away from the cities to other places and to other countries.

Bill C-288 introduces a tax credit for young graduates who settle in one of the geographic regions listed in the Regional Development Incentives Act to take up work in their field.

The tax credit can be anywhere from $200 to $750, which is a substantial amount to students who have recently completed their studies and earned their degrees and are ready to work. I do not think this measure will bankrupt the government. That kind of money will not hinder economic growth. In fact, these graduates can work in the regions and create still more jobs.

Even if they want to return to their hometowns, many new graduates cannot because they have student loans and simply cannot work for the typically lower salaries offered in the regions.

This bill would encourage many Canadians to return to their home regions after completing their studies. It would enable new graduates to benefit from a tax credit equal to 40% of their salary, up to $8,000. That is one of the things we asked for when the bill was referred to the committee.

The Bloc proposed an $8,000 tax credit. I proposed that that amount be spread over three years, in order to prevent students from returning for just one year to take advantage of the tax credit and then moving somewhere else.

The committee decided to introduce an initial amendment to spread the $8,000 over three years: for example, $3,000 the first year, $3,000 the second year and $2,000 the third year. That way, young people will stay for 12, 24 or 36 months or longer after they get their first job.

This would provide young graduates who want to ply their trades back home an adequate financial reason to do so, and at minimal cost. The provincial government in Quebec has already instituted a measure similar to the one proposed in Bill C-288 and it has been quite successful so far.

While the bill has much potential, we also talked about costs. We have had all kinds of costs and that is why the Liberals introduced an amendment that would be applicable to communities of 200,000 and less. We had a cost of $600 million and I think the Bloc came up with $160 million. We are comfortable with $160 million, so we in the Liberal Party are ready to support that.

Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Finance proposed an amendment that was approved by the member who had originally introduced the bill. That amendment ensures that the bill targets rural regions in particular, by excluding students who move to cities with a population of more than 200,000. Thus, the bill will achieve its goal, while ensuring that the cost of implementing it will be relatively low.

This amendment would ensure that the tax credit is extended only to those students who choose to settle in truly small communities, not as the member opposite, the parliamentary secretary, just suggested. Thus it helps the bill better achieve its stated goal while minimizing the costs associated with implementing the bill.

In committee we try to improve some of these bills, but the Conservatives did not help or make any suggestions when in fact we did try to work out regions or areas where this bill would be applicable. Hopefully, places like Fort McMurray would not be one of those areas, but if there was all of a sudden—

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my deliberation on Bill C-288 by setting the stage. I was born in a town called Thompson, Manitoba, a town of 15,000 people. Like most of the people I went to school with who chose to pursue post-secondary education, I had to leave my home community. The closest place I could achieve a post-secondary education and follow my educational path was 800 kilometres away in Winnipeg.

Hundreds of young people leave my community and communities like mine every year. Most of them do not come back. They do not come back because they go to a place to get an education and they put down roots there, whether by meeting other people, establishing a family, finding a job or liking where they are. I was one of the few who decided to come back because it was important to me to come back to give voice to the exact issues we in northern and rural Canada face: The bleeding of our population and of young people leaving to pursue opportunities that might not be supported in our region; and the challenges that we face in accessing services that Canadians in urban centres take for granted, whether health care, child care, infrastructure, recreation or basic services that so many Canadians have in abundance in urban centres.

For me and my party this bill is about responding to one of the biggest challenges that rural Canada faces, which is about losing that capital, losing that most valuable resource, our young people, that human resource which allows our communities to continue to exist, to build and prosper into the future.

The bill is fundamentally about investing in rural Canada, and as the rural and community development critic for the NDP, I am proud to stand here to say that we are supporting our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and are certainly glad to see the cooperation of the Liberal Party. I am very dismayed to see the position of the Conservative Party, a party that claims to represent rural Canada and that in fact has members of Parliament that span, certainly, the prairie region. When it comes to a bill that looks to respond fundamentally to one of the biggest challenges we face, not only are the Conservatives not supporting the bill but they are also criticizing it, this innovative step that goes to the core of encouraging the retention of young people in our rural communities. Many of their constituents would be dismayed to hear that as well.

This investment in rural Canada is a beginning and ought to be one step in a broader strategy on how we continue to build our country. Many people talk about how urbanization is the new wave and that we have so many people not simply coming from rural Canada, but also others moving from other urban centres and people immigrating to Canada, all of whom are increasingly going to urban centres.

While that may be true, rural communities still exist. Rural communities exist because people have laid roots there and because some of the most fundamental economic drivers in Canada are based there. Resource extraction, whether mining, oil and gas, or the minerals found in soil, and forestry are based in rural Canada. So much of what our economy depends on comes from rural Canada, and without people living in these communities, that extraction, that economic driver, would not exist.

What we need to be looking at are steps to invest in our rural communities. Looking at encouraging young people to come back is a key step. This needs to be followed by other steps that we in the NDP have been fighting for for quite some time, and that certainly are based on the fundamental values that our party was built on, in terms of investment in health care, for example.

The disparities between health care services in rural Canada and urban Canada are shocking. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities published a report in 2009 that discussed how quality of life in rural Canada was less than in urban Canada, which is unacceptable. One of the main ways in which it is worse is health care.

I am saddened to stand here and say that I do not have a family doctor, like so many people in my community and my region. We have fewer doctors compared with our population needs. We have less ability to access services, and certainly when it comes to acute care and specialized services.

We also do not have child care. We have fewer child care spaces than many urban centres have per population. Many young people want to make a go and stay in their communities and work in the industries that exist around them, but without those child care spaces many of them, particularly women, cannot pursue their chosen paths.

We also have substandard transportation infrastructure in my region. I rose in this House last week to talk about how I represent communities that do not have all-weather roads. In the year 2010, I represent 22 communities that do not have an all-weather road, not because they cannot have one, but because the federal government has not partnered and not been part of an innovative strategy to look at that. I am pleased to hear it has heeded the calls from the province and, certainly, at the federal level, from advocates, to look at solution around all-weather roads. I hope we will be looking at this in the very near future.

Moreover, there is the issue of recreational infrastructure, looking again at the fundamental question of the quality of life and at the need for basic services that keep people in their communities and keep them healthy and, in general, allow these communities to grow in a much better way.

Bill C-288 is part of that step and the reinvestments that we need to be seeing in rural Canada.

I would like to respond to some of the claims that I heard from the governing side today and on other occasions.

Someone commented that this undertaking would be too expensive. Speaking of offensive, I think that statement is offensive, to use that same language. It seems to me that many investments in rural Canada would be seen as being too expensive. It is too far away and there are not enough people, et cetera.

A couple of weeks ago, we saw quite a substantial flip-flop by the Minister of Industry. Organizations in my riding and across Canada were told that the community access program, which allows them to access the Internet, which many Canadians take for granted, was going to be cut. A senior's organization, The Pas Golden Age Group in Manitoba, was told that it would no longer receive money to invest in accessing the Internet. Yet after substantial pressure, and I am sure significant pressure from its own constituents, the government turned around.

Was the initial claim correct that it was too expensive to invest in something as fundamental as Internet service in rural Canada? Once the Conservatives heard the voice of reason and how fundamental this was, it seems the government realized quite abruptly that a change of course was needed.

We certainly hope that similar sentiments will be applied to this bill, in recognition that this is key to way we look at building our rural communities and the future of our country.

The other statement that really struck me was the reference to certain regions being economically depressed. What is offensive about being called economically depressed?

I come from a mining community, and I know communities where generation after generation people have given everything for the benefit of not just their community and the company there, but also for their country. We need to turn around the language where people say that Fort McMurray or some other region in Saskatchewan might be seen as economically depressed. We need to change that language because in these communities we need to be looking at alternatives. We need to look at ways of supporting the diversification of those economies and at other opportunities, rather than letting people who have given everything to our country suffer.

One step in that support for rural Canada as it builds to the future, despite the economic situation, would be to support this bill. It is a bill that gives back and gives to the future of Canada's rural and northern young people.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to once again thank the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle for introducing and vigorously defending the bill which, as we all know, had reached the Senate before the October 2008 election was called. I am also taking this opportunity to thank Liberal members who have spoken so far, whether to address the first bill, namely Bill C-207, or this one, Bill C-288. I also want to thank NDP members.

The tax credit is for a graduate who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed his studies, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a region that is facing economic and demographic difficulties. The bill provides for a tax credit of up to a maximum of $8,000 to a young graduate, for a minimum of three years.

The purpose of this legislation is to curb the exodus of young graduates towards large urban centres, to encourage them to settle in regions to undertake their professional career, and to hire, for the regions' benefit, a skilled workforce.

The tax credit applies to an individual who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed studies leading to the awarding of a recognized diploma, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a designated region where he is going to settle.

At second reading, some members pointed out that the bill should be complemented by a comprehensive regional development plan. I certainly agree with this view, but Bill C-288 is a first step that will allow our regions and our regional businesses to hire and keep a skilled workforce.

I am very grateful to all those who have expressed their support here for this legislation, and to those who came to support us at various events, including the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec (FADOQ), the Liberal member for Honoré-Mercier, and the NDP member for Churchill, who were present at the press conference organized by the Bloc Québécois to support these measures. All these stakeholders expressed their support for this concrete and effective incentive, which consist in giving a tax credit to young graduates who settle in a designated region to work there.

A similar tax credit implemented by the Quebec government has proven its worth. The program was established in 2003, which means that it is almost in its eighth year. It helps new graduates settle in resource regions, the description used by the Government of Quebec. In the first year of the program, 2,000 young people applied for the tax credit; this number has since risen to 9,000. Some regions are beginning to feel the positive effects of this program. In my region, in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, migration is still negative but has almost reached zero.

Therefore, I am asking the members of this House to help our rural areas and to help our regions experiencing economic difficulties and losing population by supporting our youth. We must stop the population drain and the exodus of youth. These are two important issues in our regions. We must help develop processing industries by providing our businesses with access to the skilled labour force they need.

No one in the House would be surprised to hear me say that the regions of Quebec, and a number of regions in other Canadian provinces, are at the end of their rope and have been since long before the economic crisis. I am thinking about northern Ontario and British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Several parts of these regions have been hurting for years. It goes without saying that a tax credit to encourage young people to settle or even stay in a region would be greatly beneficial.

Our regions are going through a real crisis and the Conservative government is not paying any attention. I hope that this time the members opposite will have a little more humility and sensitivity and listen to the cry for help coming from the regions and the young people who live there.

I am especially disappointed in the Conservative members from Quebec and even more so in the two ministers from my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, who are very familiar with this measure that was implemented by the Government of Quebec in 2003, as I was saying earlier.

Again, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec, more specifically the hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and for Jonquière—Alma who, I repeat, are well aware of the importance of and benefits derived from this legislation and this program, to pass along the message within their caucus about the positive aspects of such a measure.

For those members who do not realize, the Government of Quebec is not the only one that has adopted such programs. The Saskatchewan provincial government has had a similar program for a few years, which gives a credit of up to $20,000 over a period of seven years.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's report mentions five Canadian provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—that have introduced incentive measures to attract young people to regions that are experiencing economic difficulties or that are losing young people.

The bill addresses a very serious problem. Many regions are in a period of economic distress, which of course is only increasing the trend of youth out-migration. Indeed, the further we go from the main centres, the more the population is declining. Quebec, like Saskatchewan, has taken measures to stem the tide. As I mentioned earlier, other Canadian provinces have adopted incentive measures.

The exodus of youth and the depopulation of the regions are not new phenomena. However, for decades, they were offset by high birth rates. With the drastic decline in the birth rate, the challenge today is to keep these young people in the regions and to attract others to come and settle there. Time is of the essence because the trend has continued since the 1990s and the situation is worsening in several areas of Quebec and Canada.

At present, the population is declining in 6 of the 17 administrative regions in Quebec, including the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspé and Mauricie. The regions need young people, especially skilled young people. With youth out-migration, the population ages faster and regions become less vital. The exodus of skilled individuals reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines regions' ability to innovate. These factors affect the potential for development and could send the regions into a downward spiral that will ultimately destroy them. It is a downward spiral that cannot be stopped.

The shortage of skilled workers in the regions is not solely a matter of training. In fact, the young people from the regions are no less educated than those in the big cities. The problem is rather that young people from the regions do not live there any more. There is an out-migration of young people and skilled workers.

I would like to remind the members of the House that when the Standing Committee on Finance studied this bill, an amendment was added to ensure that this program was truly directed to the regions. Metropolitan regions with a population of more than 200,000 are excluded.

I would like each member of the House, particularly those in the Conservative Party, to take the time to study this bill closely so that they can see the positives in this measure that would help the regions and young people.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

May 15th, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to engage in debate on Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), a proposal to grant preferential tax treatment to a chosen few graduates in designated regions who take up qualifying employment for a limited period, after graduation.

I would like to remind the House that this proposal is nearly identical to one considered in the last Parliament, known as Bill C-207, a proposal, I further note, that was soundly rejected by the majority of all party finance committee after it conducted a detailed examination only last year.

Why did the committee reject this proposal? It was more than likely due to the numerous problems associated with this legislation, problems I will briefly outline.

First, it would basically provide preferential tax treatment to recent select post-secondary graduates working in a designated region, regardless of whether there would be a surplus or a shortage workers with their particular skills.

Second, what this proposal would classify as economically depressed designated regions is informed by another piece of legislation that has not been updated in nearly three decades. This would lead to both Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which have among the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, to be comically classified as “depressed regional economies”.

Is Manitoba, with an economy that has remained so strong that it is launching television ads aimed at attracting workers from other parts of Canada, a depressed region?

Is Saskatchewan, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country and labour shortages, a depressed region?

Listen to what the Canada West Foundation had to say about Saskatchewan's economy:

Not only did Saskatchewan lead Canada in economic growth last year, it is also in solid contention for doing the same this year. In fact, many analysts expect the economy of every other province but Saskatchewan to shrink this year....In 2008, Saskatchewan created more jobs than ever in its history. Things were so hot that some industries faced labour shortages, to the point that Premier Brad Wall visited job fairs outside the province to try to attract new workers.

Is Saskatchewan a depressed region? Clearly, the answer to that question would be an emphatic “no”.

Moreover, a proposal based on the assumption that both provinces are economically depressed and in need of special assistance would not only be ineffective, it would be preposterous.

Third, there is no guarantee that new graduates attracted to a designated region would remain there once their eligibility for the credit expired.

Fourth, Bill C-288 would be tremendously expensive, representing $600 million annually in lost tax revenue. Is $600 million for a proposal that would likely not result in any meaningful economic activity and likely not create a single job efficient? Again, clearly, the answer is an emphatic “no”.

Fifth, this proposal would be exceedingly unfair in that it would grant preferential tax treatment to a select few and nothing for others. For example, a new graduate working in Saskatchewan, one of the outdated depressed designated regions, and earning around $33,400 would not pay a penny of federal income tax for three years. Whereas some in Ontario, not included in the nearly three decades old list of designated regions, would pay almost $2,700 per year in federal income tax.

Without a doubt, this proposal is fatally flawed and one that the House should reject. Not only is it costly and ineffective, it would do nothing to ensure Canada generates the highly-skilled workers we need to succeed in the global knowledge-based economy and meet the needs of employers across Canada.

A skilled, educated and adaptable workforce will greatly influence Canada's ability to compete in a global marketplace and ensure we remain a prosperous country. That is why our Conservative government has remained focused on helping provide the highest quality education and skills training.

One of our Conservative government's ongoing commitments has been to strengthen post-secondary education to enable more Canadians to pursue studies and better link the skills and expertise of students to real world needs.

We have not merely been talking about that. We have taken real action through significant new investments to make that happen. These include: an additional $800 million per year to the provinces and territories through the Canada social transfer to strengthen post-secondary education; support that will reach $430 million annually for a new consolidated Canada student grant program designed to increase post-secondary participation and, ultimately, graduation; $205 million in new annual funding to granting councils to support research and development at Canadian universities, creating new training opportunities for graduate students; close to $200 million per year in new tax measures to help students and families with the costs of college or university, including the textbook tax credit, a full exemption for scholarship and bursary income and making the registered education savings plan more flexible and generous; and, measures to directly support academic excellence by supporting the following: the creation of an additional 1,000 Canada graduate scholarships awards for outstanding Canadian masters and doctoral students; the establishment of 500 new prestigious scholarships to attract the top Canadian and international doctoral students to Canadian institutions; and, the creation of new practical research and development internships for graduate students at Canadian companies to provide students with hands-on experience and understanding of the research challenges of the private sector.

Our Conservative government has also taken action in support of skilled trades. These include: a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit, which provides eligible employers a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, up to $2,000 per apprentice per year; a new apprenticeship incentive grant that will provide $1,000 per year to apprentices in the first two years of an apprenticeship program in one of the nationally recognized red seal trades; and, a new tools tax deduction of up to $500 to tradespeople for the cost of tools in excess of $1,044 that they must acquire as a condition of their employment.

Also in budget 2009, we provided even further opportunities for short and long term skills upgrading. This included a targeted program for apprentices and new summer youth employment initiatives, such as $15 million to the YMCA and YWCA to place young people in internships in not for profit and community services organizations. As YMCA Canada noted, the latter initiative will “assist young people to gain valuable employment skills and mentor civic engagement”.

We have also recognized that a fair and competitive tax system is fundamental to ensuring ongoing economic prosperity, providing incentives for youth to obtain further skills and knowledge and fueling entrepreneurship and investment. That is why we have slashed taxes nearly $220 billion since forming government in 2006.

Unmistakably, our Conservative government has a comprehensive and long term plan to address current economic challenges while laying the groundwork for future prosperity. We cannot be sidetracked and we cannot afford to be derailed by expensive and ineffective proposals such as Bill C-288, a proposal that would do nothing to further regionalize economic development or lead to job creation.

Bill C-288 is a poorly targeted and unfair tax measure that is constructed on an outdated piece of legislation that has not been updated or revised in nearly three decades. That would absurdly classify Saskatchewan and Manitoba as depressed economic regions despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I am unable to support this proposal and would encourage the House to similarly reject it, as the all party finance committee did after examining it in-depth last year.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

May 15th, 2009 / 2 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I think that a couple of hundred of votes should do it.

In Saskatoon people talked about the need for this very effort, that regional economic development hinged upon their ability to retain and attract graduates and young people. Young people have been leaving. Those human resources are critical to the development of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan in general and yet their representative today was speaking against such an effort.

This also speaks to a fundamental philosophy that seems wrong with the government and needs to be altered with respect to resources in general. We are talking about natural resources as well as the human resources in our young people who go through the training programs. The bill attempts to address the disastrous loss of human capital we have seen in many parts of rural Canada.

I come from northwestern British Columbia. While we have exported minerals, forestry products and fish, we have also exported a great deal of our young talent. We on the New Democrat side support the bill. We believe this could help alleviate some of the strains within our community. This is important in a national context as well simply because failing to attract this young raw talent back to our regions, will inhibit the ability of the country to bounce back from this recession. That is getting more doubtful today as the Prime Minister puts on his rosy glasses. The IMF and the Parliamentary Budget Officer are forced to correct him time and again.

The recession seems to be deepening and the only way out is to have a national vision. The only way out is to have a strategy and a plan. We must encourage the redevelopment of our rural communities. We have been losing people and talent. It affects things in a cyclical way. The more difficult it is to attract young professionals to a community, the more difficult it is to attract anyone to that community, and the more difficult it is to have the services to give Canadians the quality of life they have come to expect.

We hope that the bill can address the professional shortages in particular. We are talking about the doctors, the nurses and engineers who can help stimulate an economy. When the tipping point has already been crossed it is very difficult to attract other nurses, doctors, engineers and architects into the community when there is a shortage. A doctor may not come if that doctor is going to be the only doctor on call. If two or three doctors are already there, it is much easier for a small town to attract another doctor or nurse. Architects, artists and all the other professionals do not come if the pool is too small. We have seen the trend over the past 20 years. Some of it is partly due to demographic trends. However, it is also because of a lack of vision on the part of the federal and provincial governments. It affects the urban and rural landscapes of this country.

Today I was pleased to welcome a group from my community of Thornhill. Members of the junior secondary band were here on a triumphant tour. The band had just won a bunch of gold medals at a national competition. These young people are in Ottawa for the first time. They are celebrating in our capital. They have such bright young faces and so much talent to exhibit over their lives. However, after they graduate from college, in the trades, or university, what will our ability be in northwestern British Columbia, or any part of rural Canada, to attract that talent back? How can we make it more welcome for them? Bill C-288 seems to help address that, to at least take some steps toward helping those who are interested in living in rural parts of Canada.

The history of this country has been driven by an idea that we would expand into some of the more remote and rural regions in order to access the incredible wealth in resources. Much of that was done in an ad hoc way, but there was always an understanding that the resources were common property, that the resources were of a collective good that Canadians were endowed with.

Time and time again we have seen natural resource policies from the government which shut down communities. We have certainly seen it across British Columbia in the forestry sector. It is absolutely devastating. Fifty-four mills have closed and 28,000 people have lost their jobs in a five year period.

Then when someone brings forward a bill to counteract that and make it more attractive for graduates to get back into those communities to start up their own businesses and have a professional career, we hear Conservative members say that we do not need that either. They will strip down our basic industries, and then when we suggest ideas that could attract professionals back to those communities, the Conservatives say that they are too busy for that. They are occupying their time with free trade deals with Colombia to which they are not applying any kind of intelligence whatsoever. If there were a better form of investment than this, I would ask the government to make that claim and stand on it.

The government has claimed that attracting our young people to rural parts of the country is just too expensive to do. Yet the Conservatives can find $1.3 billion every year to dump into the tar sands, into companies that make hundreds of millions of dollars especially in times when oil was $140 a barrel. They did not know what to do with the money, and the problem was it was overheated and the government was absolutely complacent with the previous regime and it continued to overheat.

That was considered a good choice and is still considered a good choice by the government. We see that as fundamentally flawed. The government should use that $1.4 billion to help graduates move into rural parts of Canada. It should stop these tax handouts to companies that do not need them, and put that money in places where it would actually make sense to help alleviate the strains that are happening within rural Canada.

The second point to this speaks to another vision that seems to be absent, which is what a restoration of the economy would look like. South of border we see quite an inspirational movement toward a green economy, toward making the recovery and the investments that are happening on behalf of the taxpayers lead to a betterment of and a creation of a sustainable economy.

The government says it is agnostic and it will just step back and let the invisible hand do its nefarious work. Yet time and again young professionals and new companies say that the investment environment here in Canada for green and new sustainable technologies pales in comparison to that in the United States, Europe and Australia.

The money will flow to the places that actually create the environment to attract the young professionals that we are talking about in this bill. The government cannot simply wash its hands of this and say that it is going to dump a bunch of money into the oil sands but do nothing on wind energy, which is running out in two months' time. Wind companies have been petitioning the government for months now, asking what it is doing to catch the shortfall.

Canadians are interested. Companies are being set up. People have made the investments. They are ready to create those jobs, and now the government is saying that the subsidy, which is one-quarter of the one in the U.S., already tipped out of scale, is just going to die out completely.

To young folks who are coming out of the colleges, universities and the trades right now, it is perplexing to encounter a government with a policy and a budget that was perfectly designed for 1950. It would have been an excellent set of numbers and initiatives from a government two generations ago, but not for a government looking to the future, to a new economy for the graduates of today.

We get these mixed signals all the time. And we wonder why young people do not get more involved, why the voting rates are so low, and why they do not stand for office as frequently as they should. I have talked to those young people. I know that even my Conservative colleagues sneak into a school from time to time, or encounter a young person, by accident, perhaps. The Conservatives need to ask the young people what they need. The things needed in rural Canada are initiatives that allow young people to feel some sense of hope of returning to their communities and reinvesting in those communities, creating the kind of economy and communities that we want to see for the future.

The Conservatives have to get out of the dark ages. Those guys have to turn around and support initiatives that are proactive and progressive. They should at long last leave the ideology behind and support the bill. Let us get on with attracting young people back to rural Canada.

Income Tax Act
Private members' business

March 30th, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

moved that Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by giving credit where credit is due. I must thank my colleague, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for all the work he did during the 39th Parliament.

Bill C-207, which he introduced on October 16, 2007, was supported by a majority of members of the House at all readings and even made it to the Senate.

Now we are back with Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), and I promise my colleague and young people in the regions of Quebec that I am just as determined as he was to get this bill passed.

I would also like to mention the role played by the government members representing Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean—the members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière—Alma. During election campaigns, federalists like to go on and on about how the Bloc Québécois is useless and does not have any power. But in this case, my two Conservative colleagues proved to their voters that being on the side in power is always bad for the regions of Quebec.

When the Conservatives voted against the old Bill C-207, they denied young people access to a tax credit they could have used as of this year's tax return. Conservative members from Quebec proved that their party line is more important than their regions' needs.

Once again, these members have proven that those who are members of governing parties in Canada tend to close their eyes and forget about standing up for the people they represent. This time, I hope that Conservative members from Quebec, especially the members for Pontiac, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière—Alma, as well as the independent member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, will recognize that they must put their regions' interests before their party's interests. I hope that they will support Quebec regions and the young people who live there.

It will come as no surprise to anyone in this House that the regions of Quebec, like many regions in other Canadian provinces, are in the midst of an economic crisis, and they were already struggling long before the current financial crisis hit. Northern Ontario and British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island are all regions that have been struggling economically for a number of years.

The lumber crisis that has been affecting many places for over five years now, a crisis that the Conservative government has done virtually nothing to address apart from handing out a few scraps, was the first indication of the deteriorating economic situation. Meanwhile, the auto and oil and gas industries are rolling in billions of dollars. Our regions are going through a terrible crisis that the Conservative government is completely ignoring. I can only hope that my colleagues across the floor will show a little humility this time by listening to the cry for help from the regions and the young people who live there.

The regions are in a period of economic distress, which of course only increases the trend of out-migration from the regions. Indeed, the further we go from the main centres, the more the population is declining. It feels as though Quebec is shrinking. The central regions, where people live within 150 km of Montreal or Quebec City, are faring better than the outlying regions. Some places are beginning to feel the devitalization, with the exodus of young people and the aging of the population.

Youth out-migration and rural depopulation are not new phenomena, but for decades, they were counterbalanced by high birth rates. With the drastic drop in the birth rate, the challenge now is to keep our young people in the regions and encourage even more to settle there. Time is of the essence, because this trend has continued since 2002 and the situation is getting worse in some places.

At present, the population is declining in six of the seventeen administrative regions in Quebec: Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Côte-Nord, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Mauricie (except for Trois-Rivières) and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. For residents of the Saguenay, a yellow bus filled with young people leaving the region for Quebec City and Montreal every week is the symbol of this decline. Given the statistics, I ask myself how my Conservative colleagues from this region can justify opposing Bill C-288.

My area in particular—from Ferme-Neuve to Notre-Dame-du-Laus, Mont-Laurier, L'Annonciation and Labelle—has been hit hard by the forestry crisis over the past four years.

Every day young graduates leave before they start a family. A region that loses its young people is condemned to certain death, in the medium or the long term. To make matters worse, the departure of a young person often sets off a chain reaction and many more young people leave their regions.

Young people who leave the regions to study in Quebec City or Montreal will establish ties, friendships and a network. It is more likely that, at the end of their studies, they will be more inclined to settle in their new environment rather than returning to the regions where they grew up. That is even more likely because, depending on where they came from, it is very likely that a good number of their friends have also left the region and moved to a major centre. I personally know a number of families who have been affected. The parents have quickly decided to follow their children so they will not be too far from their grandchildren. I ask you, what is left when a region loses its youth and its baby boomers?

The regions need young people, especially skilled young people. With youth out-migration, the population ages faster and regions become less vital. The exodus of skilled individuals reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines regions' ability to innovate. These factors affect the potential for development and could send the regions into a downward spiral that will ultimately destroy them.

Regional economies were traditionally based on the extraction and primary processing of natural resources such as wood and ore. These sectors require a large, but unskilled and uneducated workforce. Since outlying regions have few openings for skilled workers, young people with post-secondary education often leave the regions for the city and stay there, because they cannot find suitable work in their home region. Gone are the days when resource regions could prosper based solely on extracting natural resources for primary processing elsewhere. In order to grow, the regions will have to look to technology and develop their processing industry more.

It is often said that one reason for the problems outlying regions are facing is the fact that people there do not tend to start up businesses, but this is completely false. There are as many business start-ups per capita in outlying regions as in central regions. Today, a number of entrepreneurs are looking to lengthen the production chain by marketing products made from the resources they are already using. Others are using their expertise in raw material extraction to produce specialized equipment or are creating businesses in fields that have nothing to do with natural resources, such as fibre optics in the Lower St. Lawrence, video lottery terminals in Gaspé, diamond cutting in Matane or plastic parts in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

In 25 years, outlying regions' dependence on the primary sector decreased by half. There were nearly four times more processing companies in outlying regions in 2001 than in 1975. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, only 11% of jobs were in the primary sector in 2001, compared to 24% in 1975. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the rate declined from 10% to 6% over the same period. On the North Shore, it went from 19% to 9%.

The trend is certainly real but inadequate. In terms of jobs, these companies are still not managing to recoup the revenues lost in the resource sectors. Compared with those in the rest of Quebec, processing companies in the outlying regions are clearly growing less quickly and have lower survival rates. Even though companies in the regions have certain advantages—the lower cost of land, their proximity to resources—they also face difficulties that are peculiar to them.

One of these difficulties is the lack of skilled labour. There is less of it in the regions than in the big urban centres. This is a major hindrance to the development of secondary industry and high-tech. In all the studies that have been done, many companies said they would only be able to stay in their region if they did not grow very much. So long as the business stays small, they can do the work requiring professional or technical skills themselves. If the company grows, they have to hire skilled workers and the difficulty of finding them in their region might force the company to move.

The federal government is not responsible for education and workforce training. However, the shortage of skilled workers in the regions is not solely a matter of training. In fact, the young people from the regions are no less educated than those in the big cities.

The problem is rather that young people from the regions do not live there any more. There is an out-migration of young people and skilled workers. The federal government could help solve this problem without interfering in any of Quebec’s jurisdictions. That is the purpose of Bill C-288.

I want to turn now to the purpose and effects of the bill. Its principal purpose is to attract young graduates to the regions in order to help solve two main problems: the exodus of young people and the serious shortage of skilled labour. The bill gives a tax credit to young graduates who settle in a resource region and take up a job there. According to the current wording, this credit would be 40% of an eligible graduate’s salary in his or her first year in the region, up to a maximum of $8,000.

As the Province of Quebec has shown, it is, once again, more in touch with the regions' needs and realities. In 2003, Pauline Marois, then-finance minister in the Landry cabinet, introduced a similar tax credit. Since then, the program has been very popular and has delivered excellent results. In 2003, the first year it was available, over 2,500 young people benefited. In 2004, that number rose to 10,000 young people per year and has remained at that level ever since. Over 1,200 young people have come back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue, over 1,600 to the lower St. Lawrence, over 800 to Gaspésie—Îles de la Madeleine, over 1,000 to the north shore, and over 4,000 to Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

The tremendous increase in the number of young people who benefited from the program during its first and second years suggests that some 7,000 young people would not otherwise be living in the regions of Quebec. That means that 7,000 young people would have taken their first jobs in Montreal or Quebec City instead of in the regions, and would have started their families in an urban centre instead of in the regions. One of the big reasons they decided to settle in the regions is Quebec's tax credit, a measure that cost the province only about $30 million out of a $60 billion budget, or about $5,000 per young person.

My colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I toured eastern Quebec during the week of March 16, 2009, to raise public awareness concerning Bill C-288. That tour has clearly shown that this tax credit is very necessary and very welcome to the local elected officials and all the groups we met. Whether in Chicoutimi, Escoumins, Forestville, Baie-Comeau, Matane, Trois-Pistoles, Rimouski or Rivière-du-Loup, not one regional stakeholder we met with indicated any objection to this Bloc Québécois initiative. Every single one of them talked about the advantages of the tax credit put in place by Quebec and they all fervently hope that Ottawa will bring in such a tax credit. Once again, the Bloc has shown that it is very much attuned to the reality of Quebec and the relevance of the Bloc cannot be disputed.

During our tour, we met with Carrefour jeunesse emploi representatives, leaders of student organizations, mayors and municipal councillors, MLAs and MPs, representatives of local development centres, regional conferences of elected officials, chambers of commerce, unions, the UPA, representatives from youth round tables, youth homes, youth employment centres and many others, and they all expressed their unwavering support for our initiative.

In closing, I would like to ask all members of this House to study Bill C-288 carefully, and to think about the future of the regions of Quebec and Canada. The estimated cost of this measure, $270 million, is very minimal compared to the potential benefits for the future of our young people and our regions.

Income Tax Act
Private members' business

March 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill C-288, concerning a proposed new income tax credit that would be restricted to a select number of graduates taking employment in a limited number of designated regions.

For background, it should be noted that this bill is nearly identical to private member's Bill C-207 from the previous Parliament. In that Parliament, the all-party finance committee had an opportunity to engage in the study of that bill. After concluding that study, which uncovered a number of serious flaws, the majority of the finance committee declined to support the bill.

Like its predecessor, Bill C-288 contains serious flaws and does not merit the support of this House. Among them, it is poorly targeted. It creates unfairness in the tax system. It proposes a flawed, short-term band-aid for a long-term problem. There is a $600 million per year cost. It represents a substantial loss of tax revenue at a time of significant economic uncertainty.

One of my first concerns is that this proposal haphazardly selects regions in which new graduates would be eligible for the credit. The proposed credit would be limited to new graduates who take up work in a designated region as defined in the Regional Development Incentives Act. This term is supposed to refer to a region in which, and I quote the act, “existing opportunities for productive employment in the region are exceptionally inadequate”. The problem with using this act to define regions for this kind of tax measure is that the list of regions in it is seriously outdated. In fact, this list has not been amended or updated in nearly 30 years, October 1981 to be exact.

I think most rational people would agree that Canada's labour market has changed significantly since the early 1980s and that defining regions in this way would poorly target a proposal that is supposed to address current labour market conditions. To illustrate this point, I will draw the House's attention to the fact that the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in their entirety, are included on that list. If we think about that for a moment, this proposal would enact legislation that would permanently label the economies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as “exceptionally inadequate”.

Even a brief study of the state of provincial economies in Canada would quickly reveal that such a statement is ludicrous. First, both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have unemployment rates well below the current national average, with employment opportunities much stronger compared to other parts of the country. Second, both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been recognized as the strongest economies in Canada.

For example, a March 2009 Conference Board of Canada report declared:

No province is immune to the effects of the global recession, but the momentum in the domestic economies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba will cushion the blow from the downturn.... Saskatchewan will again post the strongest growth among the provinces.... Manitoba is also in a good position to ride out the global recession.

Clearly, this is a serious failing of this proposal.

Another deficiency of Bill C-288 is its complete failure to identify the specific skill sets it is trying to retain in these designated regions. In fact the credit does not target any particular skills or professions and it is available to all recent graduates. What is the rationale for a tax credit that provides incentives to work in select regions that have ample employment opportunities and that is totally disconnected from the actual skill requirements that each and every region faces?

This leads me to yet another major concern about this proposal, namely, the unfairness that it would create in the tax system, unfairness manifested through very serious inequities in the tax system between new graduates who work in different regions. The proposed tax relief in Bill C-288 would give a select few an extremely generous tax break. Effectively, the select taxpayers qualifying for the proposed credit earning around $33,400 would be completely exempt from federal tax. On the other hand, every single other graduate earning at least $33,400 would have to pay almost $2,700 per year in federal taxes. How is that fair?

Under this proposal, two people working at similar jobs making the same salary would face completely different tax burdens because they work a few kilometres apart. Canadians expect a tax system that treats them fairly. To the average Canadian, the inequity proposed in Bill C-288 would be completely unacceptable.

Another major concern with this proposal is that it fails to provide a long-term solution to the problem that it is actually trying to address. People choose where to settle and work based on a wide range of considerations. While special tax relief for a select group of graduates may temporarily influence choices regarding where to settle and work, it is only a band-aid. What happens when they are no longer eligible for the credit?

All of this points to a significant concern about the long- and short-term benefits and the impact of this proposal. Indeed, the only thing of which we can be certain is that this proposal would be restricted to a select group of taxpayers at a very significant cost.

This brings me to my final concern with this proposal, and that is the price tag. The proposed tax credit would result in $600 million per year in lost tax revenue at a time of significant economic uncertainty. That is $600 million for a tax cut that most likely would not result in any new jobs for new graduates.

We are facing very difficult and challenging economic times that have resulted in some difficult budgetary choices. One such choice was the deliberate choice to run a short-term temporary deficit in order to provide stimulus to the economy in order to protect and create Canadian jobs. However, we understand that many Canadians, recalling the legacies of deficits past, have reservations and concerns about deficits, as they should. That is why we initiated a plan to move back into surplus as the economy recovers. We also looked to ensure that all measures undertaken during this period would provide the greatest benefit possible for the overall Canadian economy.

The Bloc's prebudget submission included this proposal that we are discussing today. We reviewed it and determined, for the reasons mentioned previously in my remarks, that it did not meet this core objective.

Instead, we pursued an economic action plan that includes significant measures, one that will boost confidence, economic growth and create and maintain jobs. This includes up to $200 billion to improve access to financing for consumers and businesses, $20 billion in personal income tax relief, $12 billion in infrastructure investments, $7.8 billion to stimulate housing construction, and much more than that.

Bill C-288 undermines this effort by advocating a flawed and restrictive proposal that will do little to promote economic growth. It is highly unlikely that a single new job for new graduates would be created.

I encourage members to follow the example of the House of Commons finance committee in the last Parliament and reject this proposal.