House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the 2003 budget implementation bill so that those listening to us can have a proper grasp of the implications of this budget.

Among the points I will address will be two of great importance to the Bloc Quebecois. First, the famous air security tax that is still being imposed upon airline passengers. It has been reduced from $12 to $7, or from $24 to $14 for round trips. Nevertheless, this tax is evidence of a very serious syndrome from which the government suffers in the way it decides to deal with the problems being faced by Quebec and Canadian society.

Since September 11, 2001 there has been a major crisis in the airline industry. Not a week goes by that we do not hear something about the problems of the regional carriers, which are disappearing or having restructuring or financial problems. Then there is the war situation. At the present time, Air Canada is the one having problems. There is always a good reason, but there is also always a good reason for the Liberal government not to help the airlines.

Worse still, is that since September 11, a tax was added to air travel. Once again, they are taking from the pockets of air travellers, Quebeckers and Canadians, by charging them another tax to pay for airline security.

The industry informed the government of the effects this tax was having. Their request was simple. They said, “Abolish the air transportation tax because it is making us less competitive than other types of transportation. Also, it is having a major impact on the industry”. The government decided to lower the tax, to give itself more time to rake in a surplus. In fact, when the request was made, no one in the House believed the government was not going to have a budget surplus. Everyone knew that the government would rake in a whopping surplus yet again this year. Next year, according to the Bloc Quebecois' calculations, the surplus will be even greater than last year's surplus.

So, it is not a matter of money. It is a matter of the Liberal government wanting to take more money from taxpayers' wallets, and in this case, the wallets of air travellers. What for? Not to put it back into the airline industry, but to put in into the consolidated revenue fund for who knows what. Obviously the opposition parties denounced the goodies handed out to Liberal cronies last year. Members will recall, the sponsorship program. That is the reality. The program was modified, adapted and a new program has been announced, the results of which we have yet to see. Money is being collected from Quebec and Canadian taxpayers for purposes that do not really meet their needs.

In the case I referred to, the airline industry is in dire need of help from the federal government. However, the 2003 budget does nothing to help the industry. The government decided to continue collecting the security tax. It has been reduced, but the fact remains that the airline industry is the only type of transportation where a special tax is levied for security. It was levied because there were plane crashes and because of the events of September 11. However, it could very well have been any other means of transportation.

Once again, the decision was made to apply this tax to one industry. And the effect on that industry? Canada 3000 went bankrupt. This made the papers again recently. Quebeckers and Canadians had bought plane tickets. They did not get refunds and lost their money. Not once did this government, in the budget just passed, decide to announce an assistance fund for those who put their trust in the Canadian airline industry and lost money because of a bankruptcy that had nothing to due with poor company management and everything to do with a terrible catastrophe in a neighbouring country.

September 11, 2001, was a catastrophe. But only one industry suffered the consequences. Once again, the users have paid the price. In the case of Canada 3000, ticket holders who had paid in advance were the ones penalized, and they have never been fully reimbursed nor will they be.

Ministers have stated that perhaps thought could be given to creating an insurance system or fund. But this will not help those who lost money when Canada 3000 went bankrupt. The fund does not exist yet. If anything ever happened to other airlines, there is still no fund to guarantee refunds to travellers with plane tickets.

The budget which we just passed and which we are discussing today will not resolve this situation. The security tax still exists, although it has been reduced, despite the fact the industry unanimously demanded its elimination to kickstart the industry.

Once again, the government has turned a deaf ear; it has decided to wait. How many other airlines will have to fold before it decides to stop penalizing this industry? By penalizing air transportation, we are penalizing regional economic development.

Finally, it is not the routes between Canadian cities that have been subject to cuts, but the regions in Canada and Quebec, which clearly have lost services because it is less profitable and airlines are disappearing.

So they try to keep the profitable routes, which means that once again the regions are poorly served as far as air travel goes.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

And it costs an awful lot.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

And the costs have become excessive, virtually unaffordable for users.

Everyone tries to find alternate means, but air is the fastest. When there is no air service to a region, businesses tend not to locate there. In fact, today speed is everything. Businesses operate in “just in time” mode.

My colleague from Jonquière tells me that a round trip Bagotville-Ottawa costs $948. That is what she has just paid. For one round trip. It costs more to travel to Bagotville than to France nowadays. That is the reality.

She is lucky to still have air service, although barely affordable. What happens? There are fewer flights. The companies wait until they have a plane load. After that, what do the airlines say—and I have heard this from a number of them—“Well, there is no service because there are no passengers”.

The fares have got so high that as a result the number of travellers has dropped. And the famous security tax has been slammed not only by the airlines but also by tourism associations in all regions of Quebec and Canada.

People came before the committee to tell this to the government. Once again, the government turned a deaf ear and decided to let the airlines fend for themselves. That was not long ago. The budget is not very old, and we are in the process of discussing it. Air Canada has announced a major restructuring in recent weeks. The minister got up in this House and said that if Air Canada wanted to be more profitable, it would have to go and negotiate with its unions.

Clearly it is the employees who will help Air Canada. It is not the government that decided to help restructure Air Canada. It is not up to the government to do that. It will be the employees, once again, who will take a salary cut to try to get Air Canada back on its feet. Finally the minister had to admit that if the company ever had problems, he would not allow it to founder. If he wants to save the airline industry, he may want to sit down with them now before it is too late. That is the reality. But it is not the reality of the Liberal government.

What will the Liberal government do? It will let the company die, just as it did with Canada 3000. Afterward, it will see what it can do for the airline industry throughout Canada.

Once again, there are countless examples, from budget to budget. The 2003 budget is a good example of deciding not to help the airline industry. On the contrary, the government has decided to continue squeezing money out of this industry, by collecting revenues and taking money from the consumer; from those who could help the industry, but who instead are seeing fares go up. Again, I repeat: my colleague from Jonquière had to pay $948 for a return ticket Bagotville-Ottawa.

It is a harsh reality because central governments should take an interest in the problems of communities. Air transportation is a significant problem in all regions of Quebec and Canada.

The Liberal government should be concerned about this but it is not. Why not? Because it thinks this industry has not suffered enough yet.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the United States has decided to re-inject money into the airline industry, especially in the regional airlines. It is a choice the U.S. government made. Canada may make the opposite choice. The problem is that the area that needs to be served has not shrunk since September 11, 2001. It is still as vast and cities are still just as far apart.

We would have liked to see this tax disappear. Once again, we oppose this budget. The Bloc Quebecois stands in solidarity with the regions of Quebec and is against a budget that dips into the pockets of the airline industry.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy today to speak to this budget implementation bill, which will give me an opportunity to share my opinion and my assessment of the budget that was tabled by this government, particularly when it comes to the environment. Over the next ten minutes, I will emphasize this aspect in particular.

The government tried to convince us that this was an environment budget, that the first priority was to completely reinvest in the environment in order to solve a number of issues that are related to environmental problems.

Whether it was the issue of climate change, contaminated federal sites and lands, sewer systems, or improving national parks, the government tried to convince us that the environment was important and a priority.

I will remind the House that this budget only provided for $3 billion over five years to deal with issues related to the environment and sustainable development. For some, this is an impressive amount, and testifies to the government's willingness to commit itself to a real reinvestment in the environment. Some members on the government side might even claim that this is a green budget.

But it is important to compare figures, to put them into perspective and to examine the government's commitments against what was done in the past.

In this budget, the government announced $3 billion over five years for the environment and sustainable development, but it has spent $2.3 billion on this item since 1997. We are therefore looking at $700 million more over five years for environmental protection and sustainable development.

That is $700 million over five years, while the government often comes up with new legislation to provide an environmental framework or establish Canadian environmental standards for environmental protection.

The government is giving itself new legislative tools, be it the Species at Risk Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or the changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In light of this budget however, it seems clear to me that the government's financial commitments are not commensurate with the legislative action taken.

There is no point passing a species at risk act in this Parliament without providing the means to implement it.

So, the amount announced is a relative amount and a very small one compared to the size of the environmental challenges Canada will be facing and is currently facing.

For climatic changes alone, the government has announced $2 billion over five years in order to be able to achieve the Kyoto objective which, I remind hon. members, is a 6% reduction in greenhouse gases below the 1990 level by the period between 2008 and 2010.

Two billion dollars is a mere $300 million more than what the government had announced since 1997. That is $300 million more to achieve the Kyoto objective.

How can the government now claim that an additional $300 million will allow it to achieve the international objectives set for Canada, considering that the moneys allocated since 1997 have not resulted in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada but, on the contrary, in an increase in such emissions? Over a five year period, this additional $300 million over the amount earmarked in 1997, represents only $60 million more per year.

Of the $2 billion, $250 million will go to Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and $50 million to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and the Atmospheric Sciences. Improved tax incentives for renewable energies have also been announced.

Finally, and this is important, funding will be provided for other measures relating to climate change. These targeted measures are estimated at $1.7 billion, but over a five year period.

The important thing about this $1.7 billion for climate change is that Quebec is asking the federal government for a quick bilateral agreement, so as to have the financial means to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of a Canada-wide program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, why is the federal government not providing Quebec, and the other provinces, with the financial means to achieve the action plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Quebec is one of the very few provinces, along with Manitoba, to have its own action plan on climate change. As we know, in Quebec, 95% of the electricity is hydro power; it is produced by using renewable energy. So, efforts should not be primarily focused on the energy and industrial levels, because industries in Quebec have managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, efforts should focus on the transport sector. Indeed, this is where efforts should be made.

If we compare that to the west, the people there have seen a dizzying rise in sectorial and industrial emissions. Emissions in certain sectors, such as the tar sands and the oil industry, may increase by as much as 200% to 300%.

We need a Quebec action plan on climate change, allowing Quebec to attain its objective for reduction based on effective optimal efforts to be achieved by sector. Only Quebec can determine these efforts, through an action plan.

Another aspect is the decontamination of federal sites. The government is announcing $340 million over two years, which is very little.

I will remind hon. members that around that same date, March 26, 2001, the Bloc Quebecois obtained documents under the Access to Information Act indicating that there were a considerable number of contaminated sites in Quebec that fell under federal jurisdiction.

Some were in my riding of Jonquière, and others in the riding of my colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier. There must be more funding available for decontamination. This is a major issue. It is not true that, with the funding announced in the recent budget, we will be able to reduce the number of contaminated sites in the medium term. No point in talking about the short term; we must be realistic. Even in the very medium term, we will not manage.

I am opposed to this budget, precisely because it does not provide the funds to attain the environmental and sustainable development objectives we have set for ourselves.

My congratulations to all colleagues who will be speaking in the next few minutes in connection with this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to put a question to the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, whom I congratulate.

I know how important the environment is to him. It is to us as well, because the environment is our legacy to future generations and something we can share with the current generation.

Many people in my riding are seriously wondering about that what kind of the bilateral agreement the Canadian government should sign with the provinces, and Quebec in particular, with respect to the Kyoto protocol.

I know that, a few months ago, in our region, the Alcan Aluminum Corporation signed with the Government of Quebec an agreement providing that, within the next two years, it will have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the hon. member's statement, I would like to know what the government would agree to include in this bilateral agreement with Quebec to allow action to be taken wherever it is needed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, what this bilateral agreement between the Government of Quebec and the federal government would do is provide Quebec with realistic objectives in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. In addition, it would be a bilateral agreement with respect to funding, providing fair funding that would enable Quebec to implement measures consistent with its own action plan.

This is not only a fundamental agreement but also an essential one. It is about fairness. I will give just one example to illustrate how the federal government's current approach, which is a sectoral approach and not a territorial one, as we requested, could promote the polluter pays principle.

Before the holiday season, we learned that the Minister of Natural Resources had reached an agreement with the oil industry to reduce their percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. After the holiday season, we learned that, after having reached an agreement with the oil industry, which is pivotal to western Canada's economy, the minister had just exempted the automotive industry, which is pivotal to Ontario's economy.

Yet to this day, the federal government is still refusing to reach an agreement with the manufacturing industry, which is pivotal to Quebec's economy. Through this approach, it is isolating Quebec by negotiating agreements behind closed doors with certain industries for the regional economic development of Canada. That is totally unacceptable, and in bad faith.

There are industries in Quebec, such as manufacturing, that have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions because they adopted plans and reached bilateral agreements with the Quebec government. I am thinking, for example, of Canada's forestry industry, which cut its greenhouse gas emissions from 18% to 14%.

Today, the government wants to tell these industries that their previous efforts will not count. There is now an agreement with the oil and gas industry, which has projected a significant increase in emissions, and the Ontario automotive industry, which is the foundation of Ontario's economy, has gotten an exemption. This is totally unacceptable.

In my opinion, this is a clear example of how inequitable Canadian federalism is. I say this in all honesty: it demonstrates the ineffectiveness and inequity of Canadian federalism which, once again, is working with Western Canada in a fundamental economic sector, which is working with Ontario in the automotive industry, but which is refusing to work with the manufacturing industry, the foundation of Quebec's economy, which has made an effort in the past. This is totally unacceptable.

This is just one more reason for Quebeckers to work toward sovereignty. I am saying this because I believe it. Once again, in the past year, I have been given another reason, here in Parliament, to be a sovereignist. If an equitable agreement is not reached with Quebec, Quebeckers will see that the “polluter pays" principle is not being respected.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, this debate on the budget gives me opportunity to make comment on the deplorable conduct of the Canadian Alliance in accusing the Liberals of anti-Americanism and, in so doing, causing incredible damage to our U.S.-Canada trade relations. I point out that the budget, on page 167, deals with the government's anticipated attempts to enhance trade relations with the United States. I submit that the Canadian Alliance's constant attacks on the government for anti-Americanism are damaging that trade. They are doing the very thing that the Canadian Alliance should deplore.

In only the last two days the leader of the Canadian Alliance called the Liberals and their attitude to the Americans a campaign of insults. The Alliance has used these phrases just in the last two days: anti-American remarks, anti-American potshots, anti-American heckling, anti-American bigotry, anti-American verbal insults, anti-American sentiment and anti-American attacks. That is the type of language it is using against the Liberals based solely on an incidental remark picked up at a press conference made by only 1 of 168 Liberal members. This is doing incredible damage because it is sending out a message that is simply not true.

The government, this Parliament, these Liberals on this side are not anti-American. We are simply on the side of a government that has decided to take a principled stance on the attack on Iraq and has decided that Canada's interests, Canada's adherence to principles, shall we say, are better served by staying out of an attack on another country that is not sanctioned by the United Nations.

These attacks by the Canadian Alliance have kept the issue of anti-Americanism alive in the press. There has been story after story after story. The National Post has huge headlines and it goes down to the United States. What it does is it creates hostility and anger in the United States and it damages our trade relations. The very people in this House who claim that we should be doing everything in our power to enhance those trade relations are doing the most damage. The reality is that our American cousins are bigger than what the Canadian Alliance would have them be. Of course they can accept that there is criticism of the administration in the war on Iraq. Of course they can accept that. Americans themselves criticize the American administration's position on Iraq.

Madam Speaker, I should inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Fredericton.

It is deplorable, because what I am getting in my riding are these hostile letters. What has happened is this has gone to talk shows in the United States. Canadians crossing the border encounter this hostility in the United States and it is terribly damaging to our relations, whereas in fact, at the highest level, at the level of the administration, I really do submit that there is not genuinely a problem, because the President of the United States is very certain in his moral justification for the war. I believe he is a moral man. We can respect that he has undertaken what we on this side of the border feel is a dangerous adventure, but he has attempted that adventure for what he sees are very good reasons.

If we disagree on principle, I am confident that the U.S. administration, while it may be disappointed because of course it would like to have the moral authority of Canada on the same side as the administration's decision, but if it cannot have it, surely it would respect the position taken by the sovereign nation, Canada, particularly as our position reflects 50 years of defending multilateralism in the world forum and insisting that conflict, war, should only be begun if a country is attacked first by another nation, or under the auspices of the UN Security Council.

Madam Speaker, the damage is tremendous. The damage is significant because, I remind the House, 80% of our exports go to the United States. This is not trivial. This is very, very dangerous to create this type of climate, to suggest there is animosity to the Americans on this side when it is simply not true. It is done purely for political gain to try to get some kind of political advantage. What they are doing on the other side is they are damaging the interests of Canada and they should be ashamed to do that, because for every job lost because of the charges of anti-Americanism made by the Canadian Alliance, it should be on their conscience.

It is absolutely deplorable. One member made an anti-American remark in a press conference and she was overheard accidentally. The two other remarks that were so terrible were a criticism of the president. Madam Speaker, if you look at the Los Angeles Times of earlier this week, you will see Arthur Schlesinger Jr. criticizing the President of the United States. If a distinguished American can criticize the President of the United States for his tactics in Iraq, then surely so too can a Canadian or two.

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have had this opportunity because I think Canadians have to know that when they take cheap political advantage and damage this country in the process, then I think they should be ashamed of themselves. They do not even understand Americans because Americans are far more generous than what they are giving them credit for.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am tired of hearing the Liberal member—

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry, but this is not a point of order. It is an issue relating to the debate.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member should get back to the issue being debated.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I would ask the hon. member for Jonquière to please sit down. It is not for the Chair to comment on the content of the debates. This is not the place to do so.

The hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, on a point of order.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to seek unanimous consent to re-introduce Bill C-206, the compassionate care leave bill, for a vote in the House of Commons to move the bill to committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.