House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Question No. 45
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

With regard to the way that shipyards of the South Shore—St. Margaret’s constituency are barred from the pursuit of maintenance and structural repair contracts due to the United States Jones Act, chapter 46 United States code USCS, appendix 688, which stipulates that no more than 20% of structural work on U.S. vessels can be done outside the United States, what avenues are being pursued by the government to rectify this situation and bring substantial economic gain to Nova Scotia and other Canadian shipyards?

Question No. 45
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

The Jones Act, a collection of U.S. maritime laws, and other marine legislation, imposes a variety of limitations on foreign participation in the U.S. domestic maritime industry. These restrictions, coupled with the national security, defence-related prohibitions of the Byrnes-Tollefson amendment, which precludes the acquisition and repair of ship hull structures by non-U.S. entities, effectively limit Canadian participation in U.S. shipping activities.

Despite continued calls, both within the U.S. and internationally, for reform of its maritime laws, the United States continues to maintain the U.S. Jones Act and its cabotage and cargo preference restrictions. Canada has been particularly vocal in seeking the liberalization of these restrictions in the context of trade negotiations, such as the NAFTA and the WTO.

Although in the past the U.S. allowed for two exceptions to its Jones Act provisions, there is no indication it intends to alleviate further the current restrictions in its maritime laws. Under the first exception, Canadian yacht producers benefited from a waiver, exemption, for foreign passenger vessels carrying fewer than 12 people. Second, following NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. undertook to clarify interpretation of allowable ship repair levels done outside the U.S., an action which benefits Canadian shipyards by allowing the replacement in Canada of up to 7.5% of the hull and superstructure of a vessel and up to 10% with pre-authorization.

Canada participates in various international bodies which provide regular opportunities to raise concerns regarding the Jones Act. The most recent example was at an informal meeting at the World Trade Organization in November 2003 where members had the opportunity to question U.S. officials on the Jones Act in advance of the WTO’s 2003 review of the act. The U.S. responded that neither congress nor the administration was prepared to consider changes to the legislation, and no amending action was likely in either the short or long term.

Issues relating to the Jones Act are discussed regularly at shipbuilding and industrial marine advisory committee, SIMAC, meetings. Industry stakeholders have recommended that the Government of Canada take stronger measures to gain an exemption for Canadian shipyards under the Jones Act. The Government of Canada continues to be ready to explore any bilateral or multilateral route to reduce or eliminate this barrier to market access.

The Canadian shipbuilding and industrial marine industry must be able to compete globally if it is to achieve growth. Accordingly, the government has developed the structured financing facility (SFF) to encourage shipowners to commission new building projects in Canada. Upon qualification and project approval, the SFF provides financing cost support of up to 15 % of the cost of the project to shipowners who commission new buildings or overhaul existing vessels at Canadian shipyards. This support is applied in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, understanding on export credits for ships.

It is recognized that there are systemic subsidization and overcapacity issues in the global market that inhibit the ability of Canadian shipbuilders to compete on a “level playing field”. The Government of Canada is participating in the OECD shipbuilding negotiations in an effort to achieve an international agreement prohibiting government subsidization of the shipbuilding industry. Such an agreement would enhance the competitive position of Canadian shipbuilders over the medium to long term by reducing trade distortions in the global shipbuilding market.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 36 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 36
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

With regard to all contracts (including amendments) awarded by Health Canada in each fiscal year since 1993-1994, what was: ( a ) the value of all contracts for communications, polling, speech-writing and stategic analysis; and ( b ) the name of the vendor, the amount, the purpose, the deliverables, and the names of other firms competing for the procurement of each?

Return tabled.

(Return tabled)

Question No. 36
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 36
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 36
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 36
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following questions on the Order Paper is deemed referred to the several standing committees of the House as follows: Question No. 42, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North, to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.

The Budget
Government Orders

March 29th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

When the House broke for question period, the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville had the floor and there remained to him three minutes in the time allotted for his remarks.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to complete my remarks. I was describing the hardships borne by the people of my riding because of the fiscal mismanagement of this government.

The recent financial injection is very welcome for farmers, but it only helps those who are left in the agricultural sector. Even for most of them, it is rather ineffective.

It took the government 10 long months to finally come up with something to offer our cattle producers. However, in those 10 months ranchers have lost so much money that they have had to choose whether to feed their animals or feed their families, whether to waste fuel transporting an older cow to auction or waste a bullet to eliminate one more cull cow, and whether to trust this government will come through with some help or sell a farm that has belonged to a family for 100 years. These are some of the decisions they have to make.

Every day another auction is being held in my riding, selling off whole herds and in some cases entire farms, all because Liberal aid came too late. For some who are selling their farms, they are also selling the only home that they have known and a family heritage piece. The tragedy is not only in witnessing the loss of a livelihood, it is in knowing that the livelihood is lost because this Liberal government could not get its act together quickly enough to deal with the crisis.

Tragedy is seeing farmers sell their homes because this Liberal government made them wait for compensation just so it could have a photo opportunity to announce aid to the agriculture sector. Tragedy is seeing the resentment on the faces of those people abandoned by this Liberal government. What does the government have to offer those who already have had to leave behind 100 years of family tradition and heritage? Members can believe that the picture-perfect press conference last Monday in southern Alberta did nothing for those farmers who have already gone broke.

With the death of our farms, we are also seeing the death of our rural communities. As the population ages, more and more people are moving to the cities. My riding has seen the migration of people to the city. Farms are being abandoned and with that comes the closure of businesses and schools.

Since 1997, one school division in the Yorkton--Melville riding saw four of its eight schools close before the division amalgamated with the city division. One community fought so hard to save its school that in the end it formed its own school division in order to remain open. Another school in the division has been granted one more year before its closure. Parents are struggling to keep even elementary schools open so that children as young as five do not have to sit on a bus for an hour each morning and again each afternoon.

While cities are seeing population explosions so great infrastructure projects cannot keep up, the rural communities are fighting to survive. A half hour drive one way for a jug of milk or the mail is a common event for rural people. As our agriculture industry continues to slump under Liberal rule, rural communities will continue to disappear. That half hour drive will become 45 minutes and then it will become an hour. There is resentment toward this government and how it has abandoned our rural population.

Just like the rest of Canada, my constituents are well aware of the little surplus game that the Prime Minister likes to play. They know the Liberal way: underplay the surplus only to see the surprise and delight on the faces of the Liberal bigwigs when they reward Canadians with supposedly unexpected money. Nobody is falling for it. Canadians do not want to pay into a surplus so that the Liberals can play the role of hero and suddenly hand out money just before election time.

No matter how we look at it, the Prime Minister is not suddenly coming up with more money for health care or the cities. It is still our money, but the Liberals just hoard it and that suits their purpose. In this case, the purpose will be an early election call and an attempt to buy votes with taxpayers' money. I am sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but my constituents and voters across the country cannot be bought off. In fact--

The Budget
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but I have tried my best to accommodate him on his three minutes. He has gone a little over. The hon. member for Athabasca.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back in the House today to participate in this budget debate, having been away for a while contesting a nomination back in Alberta. Of course that process gave me a great opportunity to connect with hundreds of people in my riding and get a sense of how they are feeling these days about the government and its budget. It is a real opportunity to be able to bring those thoughts back to the House.

Of course there is a huge amount of distrust out there among the public concerning the government and this budget, particularly when we look at the budget and see that really there is nothing new to speak of in it. With a few exceptions, it is simply recycled promises from the last 10 budgets of the government. We could not believe in the government following through on those promises in the last 10 years, so I do not know why anyone would believe that it will be any different this time.

The Liberal government claims that it is new and changed, but besides the facelift that the front bench has been given, the Liberals have not created any new initiatives. The budget just gives more proof to Canadians that the government is stagnating and has nothing new to offer.

For instance, we see no return of tax dollars to overtaxed Canadians and Canadian families. There is no reduction in individual tax levels, and the promise to reduce them seems to be absolutely empty. Do members know why it is empty? It is empty because the government and the Prime Minister had 10 years to do better and did nothing. Why should Canadians believe any of these promises in the new budget when the Prime Minister, as finance minister, had 10 years to make them happen? He had his chance and that chance is past.

The budget tries to make the claim that the government can be trusted to manage public funds, but clearly it cannot. We have continued record levels of spending. The government has been exposed as ripping off taxpayers in scandal after scandal. The government has been exposed as wasting taxpayers' dollars in program after program. This budget will change none of those things.

What reason has this government given Canadians to trust it? For a decade, the Liberal government has refused to create a genuinely independent ethics counsellor, failed to allow Parliament to review its appointments, failed to prudently spend Canadian tax dollars, failed to deliver on municipal infrastructure programs that adequately meet the needs of our communities, and failed to clean up contaminated sites such as the Sydney tar ponds.

These do not seem to be promises that were followed through on and, more so, they are failed attempts to pull the proverbial wool over Canadians' eyes.

I am my party's critic for natural resources. The budget has promised $70 million for mapping purposes in the Arctic as well as on the east coast. The government should have used this opportunity to start mapping the west coast, where there has been a moratorium in place for the past 32 years. The area off the Queen Charlotte Islands on Canada's west coast is believed to contain some 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 10 billion barrels of oil. With the moratorium lifted and the go-ahead to begin development, the west coast offshore drilling project could be one that brings British Columbia back to being a have province.

It would have a positive effect, not only on the local community and the province of British Columbia but also on Canada's oil and gas supply as a whole. With the technology available today, it is possible to develop energy resources without destroying the environment. As well, the record of offshore drilling in Canada is an exceptional one, as we have never had any major oil spill due to offshore drilling.

The government's involvement in Petro-Canada is a relic of the old national energy policy. The Conservative Party has long held that it should sell its stake. The free market is the best mechanism to determine prices at the pump. The government should get out of the business of selling gas.

The revenues from the sale of our $2.25 billion stake in Petro-Canada should not and must not disappear into the black hole of general revenues of the government. The profits should be used for fixing environmental problems that affect Canadians day to day in the prevention and elimination of air and water pollution.

The money from the sale needs to go to programs that are well defined and managed as well as having the ability to be measured. Gone should be the days when money is just thrown into programs that are more dreams and less reality.

The reduction of smog in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary is an environmental priority that is a reality. If it is not used for this purpose, then the profits should be used to pay down the federal debt which is a result of the creation of Petro-Canada and should not be used to pay for more Liberal boondoggles.

Like everything the Liberals do, their timing is off. The government has waited too long. A month ago Canada's share of Petro-Canada stocks was worth $3.3 billion. Who knows what it will be by the time it finally gets around to actually selling the shares.

I, along with millions of Canadians, thought that in 1993 the Liberal government's plan was to eliminate the GST. It is now 2004 and this tax, which created endless surplus dollars for the government, seems nowhere near being eliminated. This money could be better used by returning the massive surpluses to taxpayers' pockets instead of ripping them off and taking it out.

The EI surplus, or EI ripoff, is sure to continue with an increase of $4.3 billion. The surplus will go from $43.8 billion last year to $48.1 billion.

The overspending on the ridiculous gun registry will continue. As well, the government has created an incredible amount of room for spending scandals in the future. The government's spending is rising, but the outcome for Canadians is not changing.

We have seen tragically in the past few months that our soldiers are dangerously ill-equipped. When will the government start making decisions for the betterment of Canadians, not for the betterment of its individual luxuries?

This new budget also promises an aid package for farmers hit by BSE. This aid is long overdue and much needed in this torn industry. Canada's case of BSE was detected 10 months ago and our beef industry has been suffering since. I have a hard time believing that the announcement came in a genuine act of support and concern. I believe it came more as an act preceding a federal election campaign. Sadly, it does nothing to address the issue of surplus cattle on farms, nor what to do if the U.S. border does not open soon. This aid package did not include any solutions for that situation and therefore is left wanting.

The budget reannounced a $2 billion Canada health and social transfer supplement promised in the previous budget. I think it has been announced five times now. The government announced $665 million over three years for the new public health agency that does not exist yet. Both measures were promised in the throne speech.

When the current Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut $25 billion in purchasing power from transfers to the provinces for health and education. Without this money, provinces were forced to double tuition fees in the 1990s and put more of the burden on students. I must point out that the government has made more promises to assist students, but its track record has been less than stellar for the past 10 years.

For instance, the government has not met any of the education targets it set out in the 1998 budget. If a budget from four years ago which the Prime Minister himself presented failed, why then would we believe that this one would work?

The millennium scholarship program has been so unsuccessful that even the government's own review has realized that it was flawed. Like this program, most of the other programs announced in the 1998 budget have failed to deliver even half of the money promised to our students. Our students are buried in debt.

The government has attempted to do something positive in terms of education, such as the Canada learning bond which would allow an RESP contribution of up to $2,000 for low income families. It is a good effort but quite frankly, who can predict what tuition fees and education costs will be 18 years from now? To help students in the first year and abandon them in the following years is unforgivable.

I could go on and on, but obviously I am out of time. I will save the rest for another opportunity.