Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act

A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures

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

Sponsor

Jim Flaherty  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

Part 1 of this enactment implements a number of income tax measures proposed in the March 4, 2010 Budget. In particular it

(a) allows for the sharing of the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Universal Child Care Benefit and the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax credit for eligible shared custody parents;

(b) allows Registered Retirement Savings Plan proceeds to be transferred to a Registered Disability Savings Plan on a tax-deferred basis;

(c) implements disbursement quota reform for registered charities;

(d) better targets the tax incentives in place for employee stock options;

(e) expands the availability of accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation;

(f) adjusts the capital cost allowance rate for television set-top boxes to better reflect the useful life of these assets;

(g) clarifies the definition of a principal-business corporation for the purposes of the rules relating to Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expenses;

(h) introduces amendments that are consequential to the introduction in 2011 of new International Financial Reporting Standards by the Accounting Standards Board; and

(i) amends the Canada Pension Plan, the Employment Insurance Act and the Income Tax Act to provide legislative authority for the Canada Revenue Agency to issue online notices if the taxpayer so requests.

Part 1 also implements income tax measures that were previously announced regarding:

(a) rules to facilitate the implementation of Employee Life and Health Trusts, released in draft form on February 26, 2010;

(b) indexing of the working income tax benefit announced in the 2009 Budget;

(c) technical changes concerning TFSAs announced on October 16, 2009; and

(d) an amendment to the rules regarding labour sponsored venture capital corporations that are consequential to the introduction of TFSAs.

Part 2 amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act, the Excise Act, 2001, the Excise Tax Act and the New Harmonized Value-added Tax System Regulations to provide legislative authority for the Canada Revenue Agency to issue online notices if the taxpayer so requests.

Part 2 also amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act, the Excise Act, the Excise Act, 2001, the Excise Tax Act, the Brewery Departmental Regulations and the Brewery Regulations to allow certain small remitters to file and remit semi-annually rather than monthly.

Finally, Part 2 amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and the Excise Tax Act to extend the protection from civil liability claims that is already provided under the Income Tax Act and other federal statutes to agents of the Crown who collect the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax and the air travellers security charge in intended compliance with their statutory obligations.

Part 3 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to facilitate the sharing of taxes under Part I.01 and Part X.5 of the Income Tax Act with provinces and territories.

Part 4 amends the Bank Act and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act to require that banks belong to an approved external complaints body and to authorize the Governor in Council to prescribe the approval requirement for that body. The amendments also assign the responsibility for managing the approval process and supervising the approved external complaints bodies to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Part 5 amends the Canada Disability Savings Act to allow a 10-year carry forward of Canada Disability Savings Grant and Canada Disability Savings Bond entitlements.

Part 6 amends section 11.1 of the Customs Act to exempt from the User Fees Act fees that are charged for expedited border clearance programs and that are coordinated with international partners.

Part 7 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to implement the total transfer protection for 2010-11, to set out the treatment of the one-time transfer protection payment under the fiscal stabilization program, update legislative references made in the fiscal stabilization provisions and give greater clarity to the calculation of the fiscal stabilization payment.

Part 8 amends the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act. In particular, the Act is amended to

(a) harmonize the assessment of costs associated with the administration of the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 with the regime in place for the assessment of costs associated with the administration of laws governing financial institutions; and

(b) allow the Superintendent to remit assessments, interim assessments and penalties and to write off certain debts.

Part 9 amends the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. In particular, the Act is amended to

(a) authorize the Minister of Finance to enter into an agreement with the provinces respecting pension plans that are subject to the pension legislation of more than one jurisdiction;

(b) authorize the Minister of Finance to designate an entity for the purposes of receiving, holding and disbursing the pension benefit credit of any person who cannot be located;

(c) permit information to be provided in electronic form, including information provided by the administrator of a pension plan to members or to the Superintendent;

(d) allow the administrator of a pension plan to offer investment options with respect to accounts maintained in respect of a defined contribution provision or accounts maintained for additional voluntary contributions;

(e) provide rules regarding negotiated contribution plans;

(f) require consent of a member’s spouse or common-law partner before the transfer of the member’s pension benefit credit to a retirement savings plan; and

(g) authorize the Superintendent to direct the administrator of a pension plan that is subject to the pension legislation of more than one jurisdiction to establish a separate pension plan for certain members, former members and survivors.

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

  • Dec. 7, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Nov. 4, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, discussion about the budget and the Conservative government's budgetary intentions and orientation takes place in a certain context, just like everything else in this place. Today, there are more very troubling reports in the business press regarding Canada. Reuters is reporting that our performance is one of the worst of the G20 nations. At this point, it is difficult to live with the consequences of the Conservatives' decisions. They have decimated the manufacturing sector and destabilized our previously balanced economy, which we have been building since the second world war. We are now feeling the consequences.

On this side of the House, we have been trying to sound the alarm for a long time. The Conservatives' approach—giving across-the-board, one-size-fits-all tax cuts—had only one predictable result. Companies that needed relief and which often did not turn a profit, did not pay taxes. Hence they did not benefit from tax reductions. The $60 billion in tax reductions went to the companies that needed relief the least, such as banks and major oil companies. Bank profits are being published at this time.

As Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, repeatedly says so well, these decisions have resulted in an economic mess. We are going to record the worst deficit of all time. We have an employment crisis: 1.5 million people are unemployed and another 250,000 will soon join their ranks. Many people have paid employment insurance premiums for years but will not be eligible for benefits because the Liberals and the Conservatives raided the employment insurance fund in order to create tax room and reduce taxes. They never thought about productivity and the jobs of the future, or the quality of jobs.

The Conservatives say that we want to pick the winners in the economy, while they believe that the market should do that. The problem is that the Conservatives picked their winners a long time ago. They chose to back the banks and major oil companies at the expense of many communities in the forestry and manufacturing sector in Canada. The proof was published today. For that reason, the Conservatives' policies should not be followed.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention on Bill C-47 and more broadly on the underpinnings of our economy. He is quite right. The GDP dropped down to 0.03 from 0.06.

At the finance committee meeting where the minister appeared on Bill C-47, the minister was engaged with regard to the economic stimulus plan, particularly the reports in the press where cities, municipalities and provinces were concerned about the March 31 deadline. Last Tuesday in The Globe and Mail, the minister himself reported that there may be some movement. Yesterday, the member for Ottawa—Orléans was a little more specific about the economic stimulus and that projects were substantially completed.

This seems to be a creeping story about what is happening, but the fact remains that the government is playing coy with Canadians and with the cities and provinces. I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not the government has been straight with Canadians and with stakeholders, such as the provinces and cities, about making appropriate plans. It could be a very expensive proposition if the government were to download these costs on the banks--sorry, their backs.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are not in the habit of downloading costs onto the banks. The costs of the banks are being borne by people who have to give a tip to the bank president every time they use the bank machine.

On the specific topic of the infrastructure program that was put in place that was part of the measures brought in to try to stimulate the economy at a time of grave crisis, the artificial March 31 deadline has been a conundrum for many municipalities. If they realize that that date cannot be met, they could lose their funding and that could put a lot of them in the hole. The date is entirely artificial.

The danger now is that we face the possibility that the Conservatives are going to play the same partisan game they played when they were giving out the money for the infrastructure program. As we know, the Canadian press did great work during the summer to prove that the program was heavily weighted in favour of Conservative ridings. We can imagine that if it now becomes a question of discretion whether or not to extend the deadline, the Conservatives will again play favourites with their own ridings.

Following the rules of natural justice, if we do not want to have discriminatory practices that could later be challenged, the date would have to be changed for everyone. If the date goes from March 31, let us say, until September 30, that would be fine. We could do that and everybody would have those new rules.

If we start adding totally subjective criteria such as whether something is largely completed, and who is going to assess that, whether it will be deemed largely completed if it is in a Conservative riding as opposed to an NDP, Bloc or Liberal riding, those are the types of questions that should not have to be asked.

This was all done in good faith. Sometimes meteorological conditions change everything. Look at the province of Saskatchewan and the severe flooding it has had in the past several months. It is just not in a position to start filling out forms for bureaucrats. That is the type of thing that should be taken into account. A realistic assessment should be made and a new date should be determined and applied across the board so that everybody has the same chance. There has to be a level playing field.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, what is really of great concern to people in the region of Timmins—James Bay is the absolute disconnect in terms of the government's priorities. We see this as a government that has spent billions on prisons and billions on single-sourced contracts for fighter jets to fight the last cold war. Yet in my region, more and more seniors are falling through the cracks. Right across the region people are unable to heat their houses because of the taxes the government is imposing on home heating fuel.

The other real concern is that the government has completely abandoned seniors and working people in terms of affordable pensions and pensions they can live on with dignity.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that the government will bend over backward to give the big oil companies and the big banks any kind of break they ask for, while seniors are going to food banks and losing their homes and Canadians are living with a larger affordability gap in our country.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

It is a question of priorities, Madam Speaker, and the Conservatives have been very clear about what their priorities are.

Let us consider one of the examples that my colleague just raised, the $16 billion untendered contract for fighter jets. We know that there is not even a contract stipulating $1 of economic spinoff for Canada. The Conservatives have never even gone to the basics of taking care of that. They cannot even boast about it. Somehow the Bloc Québécois is voting with the Conservatives for this untendered contract for F-35 fighters.

If we took $700 million, in other words, if we took a very small percentage of the $16 billion, we could raise every senior citizen who now lives below the poverty line above the poverty line by adding to the income supplement that is available to them. That would be the right way to help people with taxpayers' dollars. Instead, the Conservatives gave a gift of $60 billion to Canada's richest corporations in the form of a tax cut that they absolutely did not need, that did nothing to produce new jobs.

The real problem, of course, with the Conservatives is failing to internalize the costs of the oil sands. They brought in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars, forcing the loonie ever higher and hollowing out our manufacturing sector.

Before the current crisis hit in 2008, from 2004 to 2008, according to Statistics Canada, we had already bled off 322,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. Those were often jobs that came with a pension which would allow people to take care of their families now and themselves in the future.

We are not only shovelling onto the backs of future generations the highest debt in Canadian history, but we are shovelling onto their backs the responsibility to take care of a whole generation of people who are going to come to retirement without an adequate pension, and that is a shame.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am delighted the member raised the $16 billion contract.

I would like his view on a point I am not sure anyone has raised in this debate. I wonder how the thousands of union workers in government departments feel. Those workers have spent their whole career following meticulous contracts. When they want to buy a pencil, for the smallest projects, they almost have to go through a standing order or put it out to contract to ensure that we get value for money.

These government workers have had to follow the rules meticulously. They have done it to save dollars and cents throughout their whole career. How does the member think they feel when all of a sudden a $16 billion contract is let with no bid, no paperwork and no care for the government pocketbook which could lose what those workers have spent their entire career trying to save for the taxpayers and all Canadians?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for Yukon raises an extremely important issue of government accountability.

It is worth bearing in mind that the leitmotif of the Conservatives since they arrived has been to do as they say, not as they do.

Yesterday when the Speaker of the House granted our request that a question of privilege be referred to the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservatives recognized that taking in confidential prebudgetary information and transferring it to Conservative lobbyists was of course a breach, and now it is going to be dealt with in committee.

There has been a whole series of behaviours like that. A staffer of the Minister of Natural Resources was caught, and let us not forget that we only catch a certain number of things the Conservatives do, interfering illegally in the process of access to information. Again, it was only when that staffer was caught that they finally fired him. That is another repeat behaviour; whenever the Conservatives get caught doing something wrong, they turn around and fire a junior staffer. That is supposed to take care of the problem.

With regard to government expenses, we should also look at what happened with the infrastructure spending. People like Louis Ranger, a 35-year career civil servant, senior deputy minister of transport, were being forced and pushed. These are high-level people who understood one thing. When the Conservatives came in, they said that they were bringing in an accountability act. That meant they were trying to shove onto the backs of the senior civil service their own ministerial responsibility. It is a notion that is completely foreign to the Conservatives, the notion that is the basis of our parliamentary system of government, of individual ministerial responsibility.

The Conservatives named the deputy ministers, the civil servants, as being responsible in the Federal Accountability Act, and they are still trying to strong arm them on a lot of these files.

Taking $16 billion of taxpayers' money without even a competitive bidding process is the most egregious example in Canadian history of misspent public money. It is a proper scandal. The government should be held to account for it.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, Parliament is currently reviewing the contents of Bill C-47, the Conservative government's budget implementation act. The bill was tabled on March 4 and received first reading only on September 30.

This is the largest deficit spending budget in the history of Canada. The spending will occur through borrowed funds that not only this generations but generations to come will have to pay for. The debt will be growing.

What is not unveiled in this budget document is another source of income to pay for these provisions within the budget document.

Canadians were told, it was revealed in the House just last week, that a significant source of the income of the funds required to pay for this largest deficit spending budget in the history of Canada will be borne on the backs of Canadian seniors.

It was revealed just last week that a secret policy had been established by the Conservatives to strip seniors of their pensions, to do so by taking away the right to GIS, a guaranteed income supplement. This is absolutely ridiculous.

The policy dates back to May 17. There was absolutely no notice of the policy. There was absolutely no information given to any Canadian senior or any Canadian citizen. It goes beyond impacting seniors, because it also impacts any Canadian who is attempting now to put money away for future retirement through an RRSP.

We know that our retirement system is based on several key platforms or planks. One of course is the Canada pension plan; another is the OAS, the old age security and subsequent GIS benefits, which flow from it; and the other plank is private investment, where working Canadians through the course of their entire working lives try to put a few dollars away in an RRSP, in a sheltered RRSP, which by law must be converted into a registered retirement income fund in due time.

The travesty has so upset Canadian seniors, when they discovered this information through things that were revealed in the House by myself and through the hard work and dedicated work of a retired Service Canada employee. He spent his entire working lifetime helping and supporting seniors and helping them navigate and understand the rules related to Canada's pension systems, Canada's public pension system and as well trying to navigate those rules and how they work with Canada's private pension system.

It was revealed by a Mr. Gerard Lee through his own work, through his own understanding and investigations of this that secret rules were put in place on May 17 affecting a senior's eligibility for GIS, the guaranteed income supplement.

For the benefit of members on the other side of the House who may not be aware of how the GIS works, the guaranteed income supplement is a key plank, an income-tested plank in the public pension system of our country. It builds upon the old age security program, OAS, which is a near-universal public pension for seniors. The GIS, which flows from that, is actually a directed pension system, directed in particular at our lower income Canadian seniors.

How the GIS is influenced by other forms of income is very important. In order to determine eligibility, the GIS is not based on seniors' current year income. It is actually assessed on their previous year's income. In other words, the determination of whether a senior might be eligible or might be receiving a GIS supplement in 2010, a guaranteed income supplement, was made based on 2009 income. The total amount of income seniors received in 2009 would determine whether or not they were eligible in 2010.

However, because last year's income is not always a very appropriate determiner of what resources a senior has available to him or her in this year, 2010, the government when it established this program recognized that one-time or lump sum income sources can be excluded from the income assessment for the pensioner in determining eligibility for GIS.

Specifically, income sources such as employment insurance benefits, which have a finite start and stop, which were basically made available in the previous year, can be optioned out of the GIS eligibility criteria in determining this year's benefits. Workmen's compensation benefits, which have a finite stop and start, could also under existing, former and current rules be optioned out of the eligibility calculation. Certain pension benefits and annuities can be optioned out of the calculation.

Since 1957, Canada has had a registered retirement savings plan and we champion that as a source of retirement investment. We encourage Canadians to invest in RRSPs. We put it into law that any RRSP after a senior hits the age of 71, must by law be converted into a RRIF. So we encouraged investments into RRSPs by granting tax shelter benefits, tax reprieve at the time of the investment, and we guaranteed our citizens that we would not mess with it; we would keep this as a stable, solid investment in perpetuity. We want to encourage working people to invest in RRSPs so that, coupled with the public pension systems and their own workplace pension systems, they have an additional source of income to be able to meet their needs and to meet the needs of their families. That was a solemn commitment, I thought.

On May 17, in a very secret, very dishonest way, the government changed all that. Conservatives put in place a new system of rules for the calculation of the guaranteed income supplement. They did not announce one word of it to any citizen. They did not put out a press release. They did not make this information available to any seniors' organization. Conservatives said, effective this date, that for the purposes of calculating the guaranteed income supplement, when senior citizens withdraw any money from a RRIF, deplete a RRIF, that money now is calculable against their income for the purposes of whether or not they are eligible for the GIS.

Let us think of a senior citizen who puts away a small amount of money under an RRSP, by law is required to roll it over into a RRIF, thinking that is a nest egg, a safety net, a source of funds to respond to emergencies with. That senior citizen, after the age of 71, has the unfortunate circumstance of having to bury a loved one, or pay for emergency home repair or pay for unanticipated costs related to a medical illness, cancer, heart attack or otherwise. Prior to May 17, he or she could use RRIFs, could organize finances in such a way as to use some of a RRIF, withdraw those funds, deplete that RRIF and not have that money used against him or her for the purposes of the calculation of the GIS. That is no more.

Now as of May 17, the government decided, but did not tell anyone, that any senior citizens who withdraw their RRIFs in a lump sum payment or otherwise now are going to lose their GIS. Fundamentally what the government did was it took the value of their RRSPs, the value of their RRIFs, and cut it by 50% right off the top, and it is also taxable at the moment the money is withdrawn from the fund. It is an incredible assault on the well-being and the security of our seniors, and the Conservatives did not even bother to tell anyone about it.

It has been said here in this House that (a) the minister did not know anything about it, but (b), now that she does know, it really does not affect too many people.

First, let us talk about whether or not the minister knew anything about this.

In the last number of weeks, when queried by investment counsellors as to whether or not the practice had changed, the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada sent out letters acknowledging the change made May 17 and defended the policy.

Second, the minister now says that this does not affect very many seniors.

Let it be understood that there are 1.5 million eligible recipients today of the guaranteed income supplement. That is 1.5 million, by definition, lower-income Canadian senior citizens. As I said, the GIS is income-tested. Only those who have a lower income threshold are eligible for the GIS. There are 1.5 million lower-income Canadian senior citizens who are directly impacted by this.

Bear in mind that $3,500 is not an elitist amount, $3,500 a year to try to help maintain and stabilize the standard of living of a senior. However, any senior citizen who withdraws any more than $3,500 a year from a RRIF will lose the GIS or a substantial portion of it. Those are the facts.

Any senior citizen who contributed a dime into an RRSP, over 20, 30 or 40 years of a working lifetime, will be directly impacted by this decision, because as we know, an RRSP must be converted to a RRIF, by law, at the age of 71.

The minister suggests this is only a small number of lower-income senior citizens, and I would love to know exactly what the minister thinks is just a small number. Lower-income senior citizens are directly impacted by this cash assault for the benefit of paying for Bill C-47. What is it, 200,000, 300,000 or 400,000 Canadian low-income senior citizens? I guess that is a small amount.

This is an outrage. It is not only the 1.5 million Canadian seniors currently depending on the GIS system for their income who are affected. People who are now contributing to an RRSP, thinking they are developing a modest nest egg for their security in retirement, need to know whether or not they should stop doing that and start putting their money underneath their mattress.

Here are the consequences of these rules. When funds are withdrawn from a savings account, not a registered account, to pay for a cancer treatment, emergency home repairs or to offset the cost of the burial of a loved one, that is not computable against the GIS. That is a person's own money. However, withdrawing money from a registered retirement income fund, which one may have spent a lifetime trying to acquire, is computable against GIS.

In other words, the RRSP and RRIF system is now in jeopardy. Not only would one lose 50% right off the top but other benefits too.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, and many other provinces base their social programs for senior citizens on an income-tested program. Instead of creating a second set of rules, considering the federal government's guaranteed income supplement, GIS, is income-tested and is directed specifically at lower-income senior citizens, many provinces simply model that, and a recipient of GIS will also get other benefits, such as a provincial senior citizen's drug card.

A drug card can be worth anywhere from nothing, if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in great health, to $50,000 per year, if you happen to need emergency high-cost medications and other services. All of a sudden this decision to pay for the federal budget on the backs of senior citizens in a secret, clandestine way, is not only costing senior citizens their full GIS entitlements that they worked so hard for, fought for and built this country for, but what is not known to many of them is that they are also losing their drug cards from the provincial governments as a result.

The government did not have the gumption to even bother to inform them what would happen if they made this decision. After years and years of following a particular practice and of understanding the rules a certain way, seniors acted within what they felt were the rules. It is hard to act within the rules when we are not even told what they are. In other words, if senior citizens, on November 30, 2010, withdrew RRIF funds thinking the rules were in place in a certain way, they will not find out that they just hit themselves very, very tragically in their own personal finances until next year, because GIS is not based on a person's current year's income. If we make a withdrawal from a RRIF, deplete a RRIF in 2010, the impact is not even foretold to us until Canada Day, July 1, 2011. Happy Canada Day.

That is what a secretive government does. It prevents us from knowing what the consequences of its actions are and prevents us from acting in our own best interest. That is what they did to Canada's senior citizens.

It would not be until 2011 that anyone who withdrew any funds from a RRIF, depleted a RRIF, would even know about it, because the exercise of optioning those funds would not be explained to them, or the fact that they cannot option those funds like they can option employment insurance, workers' compensation benefits and certain annuity payments. To pay for Bill C-47, the budget implementation act, the most significant deficit-spending budget in the history of Canada, what was not told to them, was not told to me, was not told to us and what was not told to any Canadian citizen is that the government will pay for this budget on the backs of Canadian seniors. The cash grab in all of this is unreal.

The minister has said that he has just found out about this and he will put a stop to processing the policy right now. He will review it, but it is still very much on the table. It is still very much on the table for him to do it down the road, and should he, by implication, agree with what he decided on May 17, 2010 after all, he will recoup an awful lot of money. He will have court judgments or whatever. He will file letters of notice that the money he is forgiving right now, he will recoup down the road.

The integrity of our registered retirement savings plan system, of our registered retirement income fund system, and of our public pension plan system requires consistency and a solid, steady hand at the administrative wheel. It does not need and will not accept a minister who decided but just got caught, so now he will give it a temporary reprieve to try to get out of this mess, but he will hold us in limbo until he figures out whether or not he will keep the policy.

Our seniors deserve better. Rescind this policy, do not review it.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the passionate speech made by the Liberal member on a single topic: the plight of seniors. I believe that this is a very important topic, one with which all parliamentarians should be more concerned.

However, I would also like to remind the Liberal member that we currently have a minority government. When the 2010 budget was presented, we could have expressed our strong disagreement with it and refused to accept a budget that was unsatisfactory in several respects.

What does he think about the fact that the members of his party did not show up in sufficient numbers to oppose it?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and I appreciate the fact that he also agrees with what I had to say about seniors.

There is not one word of anything that I spoke of in Bill C-47, except to say that this is how they are going to pay for it. There is not one word about depleting the GIS in the budget implementation act, except now we know that this is how they are going to pay for it. So although the budget implementation act speaks softly and kindly about seniors, it is not what is in the budget that matters, it is what is not in the budget.

This would have been the proper place to describe what the Conservative government did. It did not do it. The decision was made on May 17, 2010. The legislation that we are debating here was not even given first reading until September 30.

The Conservatives did this solely outside of the purview of Parliament. They did this behind closed doors, and they did it by regulation. These are the issues on which I feel all parties should have a say, which we were denied. It is not in the budget but it certainly has serious implications for it.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation regarding Bill C-47. I want to initially congratulate him for discovering this issue and dealing with it very expeditiously, and of course, the government has responded. So it was very good that he got onto it very early and dealt with it.

This budget of the Conservative government increased the air travellers security charge by 50%, which makes it now the highest in the world. Revenues collected through the tax exceed the amount spent on security. Over five years, we have raised $3.3 billion through the tax, but we have spent only $1.5 billion on security itself.

One of the results of this is that the government is now the best friend of the North Dakota and U.S. air industry, with over 50,000 Manitobans now streaming to Grand Forks to fly on U.S. carriers because they are increasingly cheaper than Canadian carriers. So as a result, they are bypassing the use of Canadian airports. I understand, of course, that part of this has to do with the high dollar, high passport fees and other issues, but certainly increasing the air tax by 50% in the budget, when Canada already had the second highest air tax in the world, makes us now the highest taxed in the world in terms of air taxes.

Could the member comment on what this is doing to the tourism industry in this country, which is already on a downward spiral?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, the member and I have become colleagues in another cause, which is to protect the consumer rights of airline passengers. We have been working on this effort collaboratively, as we are in developing our tourism industry.

It is a fact that five million fewer international arrivals are occurring by air in Canada than just a few short years ago. We moved from number seven in terms of international arrivals as a destination of choice to number 15 in the world. We are losing our market share and our position.

The member rightly points to high-cost airport services as having a major implication in this. Canada has an aviation system that is high cost not only in terms of the direct ticket price, but influencing the ticket price of Canadian air travel are other ancillary costs, such as security.

The member quite rightly points out that the Canadian government today is collecting more in airport security fees than it is spending on airport security. This is adding to the cost, causing Canadian passengers to move to U.S. airports to take U.S. airlines, to take U.S. flights, rather than Canadian airports, Canadian airlines and Canadian flights to international destinations.

That high-cost factor is also causing fewer international arrivals into Canada, especially on Canadian airlines in Canadian airports. It is a serious problem. Why the government does not at least balance the books on the airport security charge is beyond me. The government does not seem to want to explain that.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, we are very concerned about the way the government is ignoring the needs of seniors across this country, particularly with the guaranteed income supplement. Our party has pushed to work with the government to increase the guaranteed income supplement so that seniors are not living in poverty. Yet the government blew $120 million on hospitality in its various departments, which was basically booze and tickets for buddies. It blew more than $600 million in a day on the G20. That would get every senior citizen in this country out of poverty.

The government seems to do anything for the large banks or for any of its friends, yet for senior citizens, the people who helped build this country and are falling further and further behind, the government has no plan for or consideration of their needs. In fact, the only plan it had was to claw back the seniors' guaranteed income supplement to help fund its other costs, whether it is building prisons or buying stealth fighter jets.

I would ask my hon. colleague why he thinks the government has abandoned the senior citizens of Canada.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, the other question is, what is next?

The government introduced this clandestine policy on May 17 without any information, announcement or dissemination to any investment counsel or seniors organization. There was no effort to actually publicize this. The Government of Canada prides itself on informing Canadians of things they need to know. It spends $120 million a year on advertising. I think this should have been advertised.

Instead of talking about programs that have already expired, such as the home renovation tax credit, and there are still ads running about expired programs and other things, I wonder what would have happened to the government's fortunes if it actually ran a multi-million dollar ad saying, “By the way, seniors, we are clawing back your GIS and stealing from your pensions to pay for fake lakes and other ancillary expenses that we incurred in a multi-million dollar PR exercise”. I do not think Canadian seniors would be very pleased about that and the Conservative Party's fortunes probably would not have been enhanced.

Therefore, we are not seeing any of the government's tax money being spent on advertising fundamentally important changes to the pension system of lower-income Canadian senior citizens. Every year, $120 million is available to do that, spent on other things that the government wants to advertise. However, we will not see this little item advertised ever, because it is a bad news item and the government does not like to talk about what it does behind closed doors.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-47, a budget implementation act, is at third reading.

The Bloc Québécois spoke out on several occasions against the budget presented by this government. The budget proposed by the Conservatives perpetuates the federal government's encroachment on areas of Quebec jurisdiction. The budget also clearly penalizes the Quebec government. Another source of major dissatisfaction for Quebec is the fact that this budget maintains a tax system that is extremely generous to the banks and oil companies while putting the burden of the deficit on the middle class, workers and seniors.

The Bloc Québécois's budget suggestions have always been consistent with the expectations of Quebeckers and, if the government had implemented them, they would have ensured that Quebec came out of the crisis prosperous, sustainable and green.

The Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, have continued to focus their policies on the needs of Ontario and Alberta to the detriment of Quebec. Despite all the fine Conservative promises of 2006 about a new openness toward Quebec, the Conservative budget does not satisfy the needs of Quebec's economy. Forestry, aerospace, the environment and culture are priorities of Quebeckers that have been completely ignored. What is more, Quebec's top priorities—enhancing employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, harmonizing the QST with the GST, and implementing a real plan to help the forestry industry—have not been addressed in the budget.

The government is also confirming its intention to create a Canada-wide securities commission despite opposition from economic players in Quebec and its National Assembly.

It is clear that the Conservative government has many priorities other than Quebec. The automotive industry in Ontario has received $9.7 billion, while the forestry industry, which is so vital to the regions of Quebec, has received only $170 million.

For all intents and purposes, the environment was ignored in the budget. However, the Conservative government has put $1 billion toward developing nuclear power, which benefits Ontario, Alberta and the oil companies. These companies already have generous tax benefits.

What I find the most upsetting in this budget is that it ignores the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, which is keeping our seniors in poverty. It also ignores the need to deal with the issues of social housing and homelessness.

As for the guaranteed income supplement, an issue that is dear to my heart and concerns many of my constituents, for years now the Bloc Québécois has been calling on the various Liberal and Conservative governments—we had a Liberal government in 2004 when I was first elected—to stop pulling the wool over seniors' eyes. We have asked the government many times to take concrete action in order to help the thousands of seniors throughout Quebec who are lacking the basic resources they need to live in dignity. In 2007, I introduced Bill C-490 to make significant changes in order to allow our seniors to live in dignity.

Since coming to power, the Conservatives have gotten into the habit of being misleading and telling half-truths in order to govern according to their ideology while keeping public discontent at bay. Just recently, we saw another shocking example of their bad faith when they distributed documents congratulating themselves on increasing guaranteed income supplement benefits.

Those increases are nothing more than adjustments that have been planned since 2005. In reality, the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing since 2006 to help older people who are struggling financially, and needs remain considerable and urgent.

But let us go back to the legislation before us, Bill C-47, to implement various initiatives presented in the budget on March 4, 2010. The Bloc Québécois voted against the budget because it was unfair to Quebec, but does not object ideologically to all the measures resulting from it. The Bloc Québécois actually supports many of the initiatives presented in the bill, which our party helped to enhance. We especially support the clauses to improve the allocation of child benefits. The government agrees to pay half to each of two parents who have joint custody in order to ease the tax burden on beneficiaries of a registered disability savings plan, a plan that was designed to provide severely disabled children with financial security.

We also support the provisions to reduce the administrative burden on charities and some small businesses and tighten the rules around the TFSA in order to prevent tax avoidance, as well as those that will prevent companies from benefiting from double deductions for stock options.

However, despite our support, we also have many reservations. This bill confirms the Conservative government's intention to spare rich taxpayers at all costs and have the workers and the middle class pay off the deficit. The government will continue to treat stock options like capital gains for ordinary taxpayers. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that only half of the income derived from stock options is subject to federal income tax. The Conservative government could show fairness to workers and collect $1 billion in tax by cutting off this gift.

Businesses are not being asked to pay their fair share to increase government revenue, except that they have to make source deductions to ensure that employees with stock options pay their taxes. Furthermore, this bill attests to the Conservative government's inertia with respect to the environment and the fight against greenhouse gases. Only one environmental measure is included: encouraging the production of clean energy.

The government is ignoring the Bloc's urgent calls concerning equalization payments and increased transfers for education and social programs. It is ignoring our recommendations concerning income security for pensioners.

I would like to address some of the measures in this bill that affect entire areas of Quebec society. First, I want to address the measures regarding income tax on charities, as included in part 1.

The government is changing the rules on sums that have to be spent on charitable activities by repealing the rule on charitable spending, changing the rules on capital accumulation, and strengthening the rules against tax avoidance. In Quebec, we can count on the dedication of 16,000 charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The Bloc Québécois believes it is vital that charitable organizations be able to focus on their activities, rather than on constant fundraising. Accordingly, we supported the campaign to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of securities and private equity holdings to charities.

In addition, the Bloc Québécois is open to the idea of extending the tax credit for charitable donations.

In response to the 2010 budget, the Bloc Québécois deplored the fact that the government did not consider the issue of charity funding. The survival of these organizations is especially important given that the Conservative government has used terrible methods to reduce its deficit, which could lead to reduced public services. The decisions related to health transfers are one example of this.

When it comes to international aid, we cannot help but be concerned by the major withdrawal and the politics of fear imposed on NGOs by this government. This withdrawal is particularly apparent in the case of organizations whose positions are at odds with the government's viewpoints.

In budget 2010, the federal government announced its plans to cap expenditures for development assistance, thereby confirming that it would not make the effort needed to achieve its target of 0.7% of GNP.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the important role of charitable organizations in Quebec society and around the world. They all need predictable, long-term funding in order to fulfill their respective mandates. The federal government must stop extending certain programs on a temporary basis and stop being so secretive about its intentions regarding the funding of organizations. In doing so, the government creates uncertainty among the most vulnerable, our community groups and the charitable organizations that help them.

The Bloc Québécois will also continue to call on the federal government to implement a realistic plan to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GDP for international assistance as quickly as possible. If the federal government does not increase its budget for development assistance, it will greatly impede the vital work that is being done by charitable organizations in the developing world.

Part 3 of the bill deals with measures pertaining to federal-provincial fiscal arrangements. The purpose of these piecemeal arrangements, made at the behest of the federal government, is to facilitate tax sharing by Canada and Quebec. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is high time to come up with a vigorous mechanism ensuring that Quebec receives all taxes paid in the province. For that reason, we are asking the federal government to initiate talks with the Government of Quebec in order to create a single tax return in Quebec, on the basis of an agreement similar to that for the GST, for all taxes paid by Quebeckers.

Since 1991, the Government of Quebec has collected the goods and services tax for the federal government, which compensates it for this service. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec should collect all income tax. Not only would corporations and individuals save considerable sums every year, but the reduced cost of tax collection would lead to recurring savings that, in turn, would lower pressure on public finances. The introduction of a single tax return by the Government of Quebec would save hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing duplication.

Part 7 of the bill, which also deals with federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, particularly addresses total transfers, including equalization. The Quebec government is the loser with this implementation bill, as it was with the 2010 budget, because the Conservatives have maintained their decision to unilaterally cap equalization payments.

Since the equalization envelope is now capped, the total amount of equalization payments will be calculated in line with economic growth, which means that Quebec will lose several billion dollars over the coming years.

There is nothing in this bill about the formula affecting a segment of Hydro-Québec's revenue, either, which deprives the Quebec government of an additional $250 million. Lastly, there is nothing planned with regard to education and social program transfers. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs to return to the 1994-95 indexed level. Such an increase would mean that Quebec would receive $800 million more annually for the funding of its social programs.

The government is flatly refusing Quebec's urgent calls for an increase in federal transfer payments, in particular in education. The growth in health and education transfers will be compromised as of 2014-15 since the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act does not allow for any further growth in these transfers beyond 2014.

Furthermore, the bill currently before us provides no compensation for the harmonization of Quebec's sales tax. Even though Quebec has been unanimously calling on the government to provide financial compensation of $2.2 billion, this is still being denied. Total compensation of $6.86 billion has been allocated, including $4.3 billion to Ontario, and the rest to British Columbia and three Atlantic provinces.

For days there have been rumours from the office of Quebec's finance minister that Quebec and Ottawa will reach an agreement on this by spring. It is only a glimmer of hope, but if this agreement goes through, more than 20 years of injustice will finally be remedied.

The Bloc Québécois will support this bill to implement various initiatives in budget 2010, but the many reservations we have expressed about this budget and its serious shortcomings show that the Conservatives still have not understood the economic and cultural reality of Quebeckers.

The public cannot be fooled so easily, as we saw in yesterday's byelection in Quebec. The Liberal government in Quebec, which for months has been ignoring calls by the public to hold a public inquiry into the ties between the construction industry and political parties, was defeated in a riding that it had held for more than 25 years.

The fact of the matter is that Quebeckers do not identify with this Conservative government. They deplore the fact that their cultural and economic development are being hindered by this government and they are not shy to make that known at election time.