House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 82 will be answered today.

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82--

Question n
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

What plans does the government have to reduce the number of seals as a means of protecting fish stocks in Atlantic Canada?

Question n
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok
Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Seals in Atlantic Canada consume large quantities of fish, including cod. The Eminent Panel on Seal Management studied the situation and reported that the real impact of seals on the recovery of cod stocks is very complex. The panel concluded that while seals consume large amounts of fish throughout Atlantic Canada, there is less scientific evidence that this predation was having a major impact on the recovery of most commercial fish stocks. The panel also noted that many of these stocks would probably take a long time to recover to fully exploitable levels, even if all seal predation is removed.

A new multi-year management plan governing the Atlantic seal hunt has just been announced. The harp seal Total Allowable Catch, TAC, has been increased to 975,000 animals over three years with an annual TAC of up to 350,000 seals in any two years. For example, sealers could take 350,000 seals in two years, but would only be allowed to take 275,000 in the other year. This represents an increase of almost 18% over the previous TAC and is consistent with allocations requested by sealers in Newfoundland and Quebec.

The harp seal population will be reduced if the actual harvest is over 250,000 animals per year. If the full TAC were taken in each of the three years, it is estimated the population would decline to 4.7 million by 2006.

The panel's report, along with consultations with more than 100 stakeholders at a seal forum last November, greatly assisted in the development of this plan. The consultations included discussion on seal exclusion zones, or cod conservation areas, and cod predation by seals.

Question n
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question n
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question n
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government; and of the amendment.

The Budget
Government Orders

February 26th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, at the outset I would like to indicate to you that I will be splitting my time with the member for York North, who of course has been my parliamentary secretary for the last two years and a paragon of parliamentary secretary virtues, so it is a great pleasure to have her with me at this time.

Certainly I am pleased to rise in this discussion today to speak on the budget, which is the greenest budget in Canadian history. The citizens of this nation say that preserving the environment is a fundamental value of Canadians and the government agrees. When I travelled the country, as indeed the Minister of Finance travelled the country, we were told time after time that the environment is among the top priorities of Canadians. Canadians understand that link between the environment and health and the environment and the economy.

Budget 2003 commits the largest investment to the environment in Canadian history. Quickly, let me say that there is a an implementation of the climate change action plan of $2 billion. Second, in addressing critical environmental and health issues over the next two years, there will be an additional $40 million spent on clean air, an additional $75 million spent on the management of toxic substances and an additional $175 million on the cleanup of federal contaminated sites. As well, over the next five years there will be the expenditure of $600 million to improve water quality in first nations communities.

We will also spend, over the next two years, some $74 million of new money to protect Canada's unique spaces and species through the creation of new national parks and new national marine conservation areas while ensuring the integrity of our existing parks system. In addition, there will be a new expenditure of $33 million to assist in implementing the Species at Risk Act.

The $3 billion announced in budget 2003 represents the largest investment ever made by a Canadian government in the environment. If we add this amount to the $2.3 billion that has been invested in the environment since 1997, we get a total of $5.3 billion, which is an unprecedented amount in the history of the Government of Canada.

This budget recognizes that economic investments must support environmental objectives, that environmental action is essential to long term economic growth and to sustainability, and that environmental action achieves social objectives such as good health and more liveable communities. It shows, in fact, that the government has clearly a green agenda.

Not only are the environmental investments included in this budget complemented by other initiatives that will promote sustainable development, such as new tax measures supporting biodiesel fuel and renewable and alternative energies, and by financial support for research in the Arctic, but the efforts made to achieve our goals regarding climate change will be integrated into the way the federal government will now operate.

By ratifying the Kyoto protocol in December, the Prime Minister was seen a leader on the climate change issue. The climate change plan for Canada is the outcome of extensive consultations with Canadians. We are currently investing $2 billion, over a five year period, to implement this plan.

Budget 2003 will allow us to develop partnerships with other levels of government, industries and Canadians. This will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating the economy and cooperating on individual projects.

In addition, there are our investments in infrastructure, with an extra $3 billion over the next 10 years added to the previous $5 billion in previous budgets. That will give particular consideration to projects to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Further, budget 2003 will also allow us to increase our support by $300 million for research, development and commercialization activities of the most promising greenhouse gas reduction technologies, funded through the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and through the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology.

Federal programs, especially those in the industry portfolio of my colleague, such as the granting councils and the regional development agencies, have been asked in the budget to look to their programs to determine how they can enhance their contribution to meeting Canada's climate change commitments.

The government has worked very hard at making the environment a government-wide priority. Environmental issues are no longer the purview of my department alone. They in fact encompass every department and agency of government. It has been and will continue to be integrated in what we do as a government at every level and in every facet, from agriculture, to industry, to fisheries and oceans, to transport, to heritage and also the Department of National Defence. The environment is now a concern for them in ways that simply were not the case some 10 years ago.

Protecting nature is essential for our economic prosperity and quality of life. Again, protecting nature is essential for our economic prosperity.

The Species at Risk Act provides us with the necessary tools to protect threatened or endangered species, and the habitats that are indispensable to their survival.

The budget provides $33 million, in addition to the $90 million provided in budget 2000, to make good on our commitment and to implement the Species at Risk Act.

In the Speech from the Throne, the government made a commitment to take additional measures to preserve the ecological integrity of Canada's natural heritage.

Since 1993, we have already created seven new parks. Budget 2003 provides $74 million for the creation of 10 new national parks and five new marine conservation areas. We are protecting new areas and we are creating new opportunities for future generations.

Budget 2003 also provides $600 million, over a five year period, to improve the quality of water in first nation communities. This investment addresses a critical environmental and health problem, and it guarantees that the quality of life on first nation reserves will be improved.

In many parts of Canada, such as the lower mainland of British Columbia and many Atlantic provinces, we continue to experience high levels of air pollution. Ontario has just had its worst smog season on record. The science is clear. Air pollution costs lives and creates enormous burdens on our health system. That is why there is a $40 million sum announced in the budget to build on the $120 million announced in 2001 as part of our 10 year clean air agenda.

Finally, our investments in fulfilling the commitments we made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development will contribute to lasting improvements in the quality of life of people around the world.

This budget is not the start nor the completion of our environmental agenda, nor the last of the work we have to do. Since coming to power the government has stressed the need for a long term approach to environmental management, such as our action plan on cleaner vehicles, engines and fuels. The budget recognizes this need and continues the budget after budget investments by the government on the environment and will help us achieve our long term objectives while at the same time improving the quality of life for current and future generations of Canadians.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan York North, ON

Madam Speaker, while I was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment way back in 1996-98, I was unfortunately not the parliamentary secretary to the current minister. However, perhaps I can bask indirectly in his compliment.

I am pleased to speak to and support budget 2003, a budget that takes advantage of the sound state of the nation's finances to deliver important new initiatives that will benefit all Canadians. Allow me to begin with a few impressive statistics, some of which have already been raised by other members but bear repeating.

Canada led the G-7 in growth in 2002 and expects to do the same this year. Canada is the only G-7 country expected to record a surplus in 2002-03. Canada saw 560,000 new jobs created in 2002. This is more than any other G-7 nation and it is our largest 12 month gain on record. This is the government's sixth consecutive balanced budget. The Canadian standard of living has grown faster than that of any other G-7 country.

As I said, these statistics tell a remarkable story, but as we know, a budget is merely a collection of numbers and projections. One might ask, what is the human face of the budget? What will it really mean for the people we represent? Unlike some of my colleagues across the way, I have never believed that the bottom line of government begins and ends with balanced books, even though we have done an excellent job of that.

The purpose of government is not to count the beans well. Rather, it is to provide for the health and well-being of our people. It is to invest in Canadians, to constantly seek new advantages for them. For some, money spent on poor children, for example, is interventionist or social engineering. I say that it is money extremely well spent. Such programs reflect our moral obligation to improve the lives of Canadians. Those who would simply hand every excess dollar back to tax cuts conveniently forget that it is our great social programs like health care, employment insurance and the CPP that Canadians point to first when asked what governments are for.

Allow me to touch upon some of the key investments that budget 2003 makes in the future of our country. First and foremost is health care. As we know, this is the number one issue for Canadians, including the constituents of my riding of York North. Our national health care system will receive an investment of $34.8 billion over the next five years, which is a massive commitment of resources. Noteworthy in this is the $16 billion health reform fund for the provinces and territories to target primary health care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage.

There are a number of very important announcements in this budget that will improve the delivery of health care. Let me mention two. First, the separation of health moneys from the Canada health and social transfer is very good news and will enhance transparency, as will the new accountability framework agreed to by first ministers. Also, the money targeted for home care and the new employment insurance benefit for six week compassionate care leave will go a long way in alleviating the stress and suffering many Canadian families face when a loved one is gravely ill or dying.

Budget 2003 also contains good news for small and medium sized businesses. Small business will benefit from the increase in the small business deduction from $200,000 to $300,000. Additionally, the EI premium rate will be reduced and the federal capital tax will be eliminated over the next five years.

My constituency of York North is home to the Chippewas of the Georgina Island First Nation. I am pleased to note that budget 2003 provides additional funds for aboriginal peoples: money for aboriginal people in urban centres, for education and training opportunities, for health programs, for first nations policing, for language and cultural centres, and for the Aboriginal Business Canada program. As well, $600 million will be dedicated to upgrading water and waste water systems in first nations communities.

York North is also home to many farmers. Under budget 2003, agricultural producers will see an increase in funding support through a variety of measures, as well as increased funding to Canada's veterinary colleges.

Let me briefly mention some other key investments in the budget.

Canadian families will benefit from an infusion of $965 million to the Canada child tax benefit. Some $1.7 billion will be invested to further strengthen research and innovation. As well, $285 million will be devoted to improving skills and learning opportunities for Canadians.

I am also encouraged by the significant allocations in the budget for sustainable development initiatives. First among these of course is the $2 billion over five years to help implement the government's climate change plan for Canada.

The budget will also invest an additional $1 billion for other environmental measures. As part of this, there is a commitment of $74 million over the next two years to help establish 10 new national parks and five new national marine conservation areas. This falls short of the recommendations of the Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks which called for a larger five year funding commitment, but I hope that we will see significant funds in future budgets to complete the action plan for national parks.

In addition, there are new moneys to implement the species at risk act and the significant improvements made to the legislation by members of all parties during its review by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I would now like to turn my attention to initiatives successfully undertaken by the Arctic research caucus.

Last year I was approached by an eminent Canadian Arctic scientist, Professor John Smol, who told me about the grave funding crisis in Arctic science. With the support of the former secretary of state for science and technology, the member for Vaughan—King—Aurora, the Arctic research caucus was formed.

In recent years the government has created a number of initiatives that reflect our distinctive identity as a northern people. These include the Arctic Council, the Arctic University, the northern dimension of Canada's foreign policy and the ratification of important international agreements, such as the Kyoto protocol and the Stockholm convention.

Arctic research is of enormous importance to all Canadians. It contributes to our understanding of so many issues facing northern communities. Ecologically for example, the importance of Arctic research is not limited only to climate change. It is also the pillar upon which our knowledge of all northern scientific issues rests, such as ozone depletion, transboundary pollutants and the changing nature of Arctic ecosystems.

I am pleased to say that budget 2003 has recognized some of the urgent short term funding needs for Arctic research. It provides $16 million over the next two years to expand federal programs in northern science. The polar continental shelf program will receive an additional $6 million over two years. There is a requirement in the budget documents that a portion of the $125 million in new funds given to the granting councils be devoted to northern research. This is good news.

However, as our Arctic research caucus has discovered through its work, there are long term, more deeply rooted problems with the state of northern science. Chief among them is the fact that no one minister or department is responsible for a coordinated approach to the development and delivery of northern science policy and programs.

Other issues remain, including how research is conducted in the north and the ways that northerners, particularly aboriginal peoples, are included. But this budget takes important first steps by providing new funding to crucial programs that support northern research. As well, the budget speech recognizes the unique contribution that Canada can make to the scientific study of the north.

In closing, a budget is more than a mere tally of revenues and expenses. It is the articulation of a vision for the future of the country. As budget 2003 so clearly outlines, our future is bright, our path is bold and our commitment to Canadians is fiscally sound, yet rooted in opportunities.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member for York North. I paid particular attention to her reference to there being no need to balance the books; that was not part of what she thought was important. At least I give her credit. It is a return to the Liberal roots that we have seen for 30 years that put the country in such a difficult position to begin with.

I have two questions for her. Does she not recognize that accumulated deficits which now make our national debt on the federal side $536 billion mean that about 23% of every tax dollar Canadians send to Ottawa goes to pay the interest? In fact, last year it was $36 billion. Does she not recognize that is a huge problem for Canadians and there is a huge danger that we are going to go there again?

Since the Liberals have been in power, from 1993-94 to 1996-97 spending actually declined by 3.8% or $13.3 billion. In phase two, 1996-97 to 1999-2000, spending increased by $6.8 billion or 6.7%. In phase three, the one we are in right now, the spending spree, 1999-2000 to 2004-05, the timeframe the finance minister introduced in his budget, spending is increasing by $40 billion, or 37%, during this period of time.

I have to ask the member for York North if she believes that this kind of spending level is sustainable. After all, if population growth and inflation were taken into account as a formula for how much spending should increase, that would be roughly 2% to 2.5% a year. Here we have spending levels in excess of 7% to 8% under the current government. Does she believe they are sustainable at that level?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan York North, ON

Madam Speaker, what the member opposite forgets is the condition of the nation's finances when the Liberals were elected and became the government in 1993. At that time we inherited a debt of $43 billion. Actually that was the deficit, $43 billion. Canada was identified as the basket case of the G-7 at that time.

We have come from being the basket case of the G-7 to leaders of the G-7. Our debt to GDP ratio has gone down by 20%. It has gone from the mid-60s down to 47%.

Unfortunately I do not have it with me but there was an article in the Globe and Mail this past week which talked about the truth in the spending numbers. I am going to send it to the hon. member opposite to ensure that he is accurate in the numbers that he is quoting.

As I said in my speech, I am very proud of our government's record. We have shown fiscal responsibility. We have shown that we are prudent managers of the nation's finances. We made the tough cuts and indeed, Canadians sacrificed along with us as we made those tough cuts. Now we are making investments in the future that are really important. The bottom line of government is not a financial bottom line, it is the health and well-being of our people.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I had asked a question of the hon. member and I would like her to answer it. Is this sustainable?