House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Question No. 113
Routine Proceedings

April 15th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

What discussions have taken place between government officials regarding the proposal to “twin“ the Ambassador Bridge with: ( a ) the Ambassador Bridge Company; ( b ) the Canadian Transit Company; and ( c ) any other level of Canadian or American government?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 114
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

With regard to a new international crossing in the Windsor-Detroit corridor: ( a ) what discussions have taken place regarding public versus private ownership; and ( b ) what timelines have been set for decision-making for the new crossing?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 114
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

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

Question No. 114
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 114
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech given by the minister, and I want to thank him for being honest and plain-spoken. I do not know whether he realized that, at the start of his speech, he said in French, “promesses faites, promesses retenues”. I just want to remind him that when a promise is “retenue”, it means it is not kept.

That is exactly what the unemployed got with regard to EI: “promesses faites, promesses retenues”. That is exactly what happened, too, with regard to sharing the wealth. The riding I represent has many expectations about many things, in different areas. The motto here too is “promesses faites, promesses retenues”.

With regard to government transparency, the unfortunate conclusion is also “promesses faites, promesses retenues”. I repeat, in French, “retenir” means to forget and not to implement.

With regard to the fiscal imbalance, too, Quebec and the provinces are being strangled, “promesses faites, promesses retenues”.

I want to thank the minister for his honesty and give him the opportunity to tell us more about the reasons why many of the promises made by this Liberal government were retained and therefore not kept.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, what I meant to say, and what is in fact the case, is that the government has done exactly what it said it would do.

It was totally clear in this budget; during the election campaign, the government had promised various initiatives for the new deal for cities and communities, the environment, child care, defence and health. In the budget speech, we saw that, without fail, the government did exactly what it had promised to do.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, on February 1 I rose in the House to speak to hon. members about the policies and priorities that I believe should have been reflected in this budget. My comments today may reflect the disappointment that I feel in the lack of acknowledgement of what I felt were very obvious and valid suggestions. Much like the first few months of the government, there has been so little action on the real issues that affect Canadians.

The Liberal minority government across the floor is sinking deeper into crisis with nothing to fall back on. There is no defence review. There is no international policy statement. There are no solutions to something that is very important in my riding, and that is the issue of BSE. We are nearing the 24 month stage of this crisis. We have seen no results.

Canadians have rightly lost faith in their elected representatives. At a time when real leadership should shine like a beacon in the fog, so many ministers are making announcements with no real plans, giving speeches with no real substance, and spending money with no real strategic vision.

In February I directly addressed the issues in the international cooperation portfolio. In February the world was just coming out from underneath the shock of the tsunami aftermath in southeast Asia. In the cool light of hindsight, there were so many lessons to be learned from Canada's response to this disaster. The government did not have a coordinated plan to react. It did not have a grasp on the seriousness of the devastation.

On the eve of unveiling the international policy review, there is an opportunity to decide who we are and what we do in the world. I believe we have been on the eve of this policy review for several months now.

What is clear is that we will not be able to meet the expectations of the world or of Canadians under this budget. Do not be fooled by the well-intentioned words of the Minister of International Cooperation. The department is not growing under the minister or under the Prime Minister. In fact, Canada's official development assistance spending has systematically been gutted under the Liberal government.

There are some damning facts from the OECD. It monitors the world's commitments to development assistance. A peer review of Canada looked back on a decade of Liberal rule, and the OECD pointed out that the ratio of its official development assistance, ODA, to gross national income has been halved. Rather than going up, it has been halved, down to .22% of gross national income in 2001 from .45% in the early 1990s. I might mention that it was the former Conservative government that got it up to the .45% level.

Canada ranks 19th out of 22 development assistance committee members in terms of ODA. Those are not stellar records. This is all based in terms of official development assistance as recorded against gross national income.

Put very simply, the government has reduced our foreign aid budgets by half since it has come to power. This is not good enough. In fact, it is unacceptable. The 8% annual increases that it has suggested are just not good enough. This will not even return Canada to our former levels of generosity in the next decade.

Finally, I want to bring to the attention of the House to the shocking news released by CIDA itself only a few weeks ago. Despite the damning rebuke of falling aid levels by the OECD and commitments to raise spending levels by the Liberal government, CIDA's most recent statistical report stated that Canada's ODA spending for 2003-04 amounted to some $2.7 billion, which represented only .23% of gross national income.

We have not moved anywhere in three years. We have fallen behind in the 11 years of Liberal government and we have fallen off the radar screen in the world.

Clearly international aid suffers under Liberals, but it has flourished under Conservatives, so rather than try to help the government find its way out of this mess, I want to address the budget bill as it stands before us.

As my colleagues have said, the Liberals should have brought at least three separate bills forward instead of trying to bully members of Parliament into passing a mish-mash of legislation all in one bill. By dividing the bill into three parts, the House would have had the opportunity to consider Kyoto measures on their own merit, the provisions to implement the Atlantic accord, and traditional budget bill measures with appropriate seriousness.

This bill just shows how arrogant the Liberal Party has become after a decade in government. It is time the Prime Minister stopped governing like he has a majority and starts governing in the best interests of Canadians.

The Liberals knew that the majority of the House would not approve their Kyoto measures if they were presented in stand-alone legislation, which is why they attached them to Bill C-43. This move has, at the very least, delayed legitimate budget measures from implementation and may have even put their implementation at risk.

The Liberals have also shown their true national unity colours in the bill. The Liberals have become toxic on this topic. They are extending their ability to alienate Canadians on our eastern shores by linking the Atlantic accord provision, that most members in the House of Commons support, with the bill to pass Kyoto. Essentially, they are holding the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia hostage with their devious ways. The Atlantic accord provisions in Bill C-43 could have been passed in one day if the Liberals had placed it in stand-alone legislation.

The Conservative Party does not play games with the well-being of Canadians. It is high time the Liberals stopped playing politics and followed the lead of the Conservative Party by acting in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

In the last election, the Conservative Party committed to $58 billion in new spending and tax reductions over five years. Instead of following the leadership shown by the Conservatives, the Liberals have lined the pockets of their friends with taxpayers' money, hidden massive surpluses, and failed to address the real problems facing Canadians.

Many of the steps taken by the Liberals in the budget, as reflected in the budget, do not go far enough or occur fast enough to have a substantial impact on the well-being of Canadians. The personal tax relief measures in the bill are insufficient and are back end loaded. They amount to a reduction of no more than $16 next year. We will not have trouble spending that tax reduction. It is all of $192 when fully implemented by 2009.

The inadequate productivity enhancing measures in budget 2005 illustrate that the government is not taking warning signs that Canada's high priority programs could be put in jeopardy if comprehensive steps are not taken to grow the economy before the demographic crunch.

Some of the measures in this bill are not reflective of how they were presented in the budget document. The Liberals have once again been caught behind their false numbers. The budget document was not telling Canadians the truth about how much surplus money is available in funds for priorities.

Last week, Parliament's four experts on budgetary estimates reported to the finance committee that on average their surplus projections, parliamentary numbers, showed a surplus of $6.1 billion. That is already double what the Liberals claimed in budget 2005. This is the same pattern we saw last year with the 2004 budget, where it started out at $1.9 billion and in fact, the reciprocal was $9.1 billion when all of the smoke cleared.

The Conservative Party will work in committee to strengthen the bill, so that it is more reflective of what hardworking Canadians want and deserve.

The Conservative Party will continue to hold the Liberals to account when spending is unfocused and wasteful. Over a decade of Liberal waste, mismanagement and scandal has shown that billions of dollars sent to Ottawa would have been much better managed if they were left in Canadians' pockets.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43 and the budget provide a series of measures that are absolutely not in tune with Quebeckers' priorities. Let me just quickly remind the House that the government's management of the EI plan has been a disaster. Bill C-43 does not in any way respond to the concerns of Quebeckers.

With the Kyoto protocol, once again the polluter-paid principle is being applied instead of the polluter-pay principle, at the expense of all Quebeckers and indeed all Canadians.

Budgetary forecasting by this government has been abysmal. A Conservative member mentioned that within a few weeks time, they went from a $1.9 to a $9.1 billion surplus forecast. It is outrageous.

The Liberal government very often accuses the Conservatives of having a hidden agenda. How can they have a hidden agenda when the Prime Minister talks about it every day in the House?

Bill C-43 does not in any way meet the needs of Canadians and Quebeckers. Could the Conservative member tell us more about the impact of this bill on his constituents?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member's comments in relation to the EI shortfall.

Kyoto is very near and dear to my heart and I am glad the hon. member raised it. In its present form, even though we do not actually seem to have a plan in place and although there was something announced the other day on whether or not it is actually a plan, it is definitely going to hurt the people in the riding that I represent.

The agricultural industry is going to be put at a tremendous disadvantage with this planned Kyoto implementation. The farmers in my riding have improved their farming practices. They have reduced emissions and increased carbon sequestration. They have put a lot of effort and expense into improving the environment. The Liberals do not seem to want to recognize that.

As producers, and I am a farmer myself, we are good stewards of the land and of the environment. We have done a lot to improve them and that is not being recognized. We have a system that is going to be top down driven if we are going to be buying hot air credits from other countries. We are going to be giving them the advantage that we have gained by voluntary measures.

I look at Australia and the improvements it has made in its environmental practices. It did not sign on to Kyoto. Kyoto is a flawed science that does not do anything to help the environment. It provides an environment to trade carbon credits and that is not beneficial to Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the budget today. The last overview that was given in response to a question from my colleague was an entree into the perspective on the budget that I would like to address.

In as much as I am the chairman of the environment and sustainable development committee, commenting on those aspects of the budget from an environmental perspective is probably very appropriate.

From time to time in the House the economic sustainability with respect to what we do is often drawn into question. It has often occurred to me that in the heat of partisanship we tend either to forget what the corporate memory is with respect to our economic advancement or we deliberately choose not to remember it.

In fairness, when we do reflect on Canada's economic position on a comparative basis in the world, it bears repeating that we have achieved, in a global context, a pretty remarkable and quite substantial fiscal success.

I would like to emphasize that in a world where even our provinces are struggling with fiscal deficits, Canada's record, in several consecutive budgets since the early nineties, has been to bring the deficit under control. In fact, in 1997 we eliminated the deficit. Among the G7 countries, Canada continues to have one of the most progressive and successful economic strategies, to the extent that we have one of the best job creation records with the creation of nearly three million jobs since 1997. For people watching their government struggle with economic pressures and issues in the global village, that in itself is a tremendous success.

Yes, we face huge challenges with respect to rural areas, in particular in our farming and agricultural communities, in our softwood lumber industry and in our cattle industry, but, generally speaking, living standards across our country are improving. When we look at those who are most affected, such as our first nations people, many aspects of the budget reach out and attempt to deal with those issues.

When one reflects on the stagflation and inflation cycles over the last 30 years, one cannot help but look at the economy in terms of its key indicators: the low rate of inflation and the stability within our interest rates and financial regime. These have contributed to the kind of confidence that people have, not only domestically but externally, entrepreneurs and those who are looking to invest capital, and are looking at Canadian opportunities. They have in fact voted with their confidence in sustaining that level of growth in the economy.

I think the budget attempts, which is what the Minister of the Environment said, to find the confluence of two important and fundamental phenomena. One emphasizes what Canadians truly feel in terms of the environmental legacy that they would like to pass on to future generations. All the indicators are, in terms of climate change and so on, that legacy is threatened and every poll has indicated that Canadians are very concerned.

The second phenomenon is the economic phenomenon, the value added that comes from the investment in new technologies, the recognition that globalization is changing a lot of things in terms of tariffs and barriers to commerce and capital. The Minister of the Environment has captured those two essential economic phenomena and has said that we have to combine the concept of sustainable development with a sustainable economy. He calls it the sustainable economy in the sense that we are not only creating a legacy for our environment but also value added in terms of our economy. Everything we do is an attempt to balance those two particular characteristics.

The other criteria that we attempt in this budget and in everything we do is to first invest in people. We want to know what capacity the people of Canada have to be entrepreneurial, to be creative, to add value to their own lives and, in turn, build a stronger Canada, to also invest in ideas and research and enable the commercialization of that research to add value to the Canadian economy.

The third criteria was to look at the regions. Canada really is, and has been throughout history, cognizant of regional needs. Whatever the budget does it should attempt to satisfy those regional needs, to maintain a fair and competitive tax system and to finally to make markets more efficient and more effective.

When we talk about the environment, we try to capture the stability of our economic past in this budget by attempting to maintain those five or six critical areas for investment in reinvigorating the Canadian dream.

When we come to the economy, the record has been quite clear in terms of the environment. Since the 1997-98 budget, the government, with the support of the opposition parties, has invested over $10 billion in areas related to adding value from an environmental perspective to the Canadian economy.

The 2005 budget delivers on some key commitments that have been in two or three red books or throne speeches. The budget delivers on the government's commitment to a green economy with a $5 billion package of measures over the next five years. It does this by addressing the issue of greenhouse gases and by recognizing that investing in environmental technologies will transform the economy and add jobs as we do it. It also recognizes that building on the tax measures that have been announced in the past will create a stronger investment climate and, in particular, in the area of renewable energies.

The whole concept of investing in public infrastructure, be it through cities or be it through the areas of the green funds through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, cannot help but add value to the Canadian economy.

In terms of climate change, I just wanted to mention, in case it has been missed, if we look at the $1 billion with respect to the climate fund; the $250 million in the partnership fund that is reaching out to the provinces and regions, the cities and rural communities; the $225 million over five years for the retrofitting programs in residential and commercial homes and buildings; and the sustainable energy science and technology strategies, all of these form a comprehensive framework within which there will be investment and returns that will come back. Those returns cannot help but improve life for Canadians, make us more competitive and create a better environment for the future. I would hope that those elements of the budget would be supported by all members of the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, questions certainly come to mind after listening to what the member for York South—Weston said this morning in the House of Commons.

Bill C-43 is a bill that has some flaws in it. As we all know the Atlantic accord provisions could be passed in a day in the House if they were stand alone legislation.

I heard the member across the way say that he believed in people and in investing in people. The people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have some big concerns at this point in time and the Atlantic accord could be free standing legislation.

Could the member tell me why all this was linked together? Why was the Atlantic accord linked to the bill at the present time, when the people from the east coast have such grave concerns about having the legislation passed, in view of the fact that the Kyoto measures are also linked to it and most members in the House do not agree with that part of the bill?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not experienced to the extent that others are in the House with respect to procedures. I can only infer, from the degree of support that had been in the House from all sides with respect to the Atlantic accord, that the government thought it would not be a hindrance and it would not fetter a bill on which there was so much agreement.

It would appear that the omnibus approach is being held back somewhat because while there is total agreement on the accord, the instrument appears to be the part that is contentious. I would hope that we would find some resolution to that.

It has been brought to my attention that we would be prepared to pass the budget today if we had unanimous support.

However, on the second point, we also, creatively, will find solutions to that particular issue. I think we have found a solution with respect to the second case that the member has mentioned and that is the proposal to take toxic out of the CEPA legislation and to incorporate that into the budget bill as it has been deemed to be a necessary instrument to the implementation of some of the funds that are mentioned.

There appears to be a resolution to that. I tabled a report from committee that delineates why there is another way of doing it. I would suggest that once that goes through finance there will be no obstacle to approving the budget bill, at least not from that perspective.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member made a point of stating that he sits on the environmental and sustainable development committee and of mentioning the plan to implement the Kyoto protocol.

However, the vast majority of observers agree on one point: the Liberals have been very generous with heavy greenhouse gas emitters. They also note that the plan presented by the Minister of the Environment is lacking crucial elements and that it took eight years before a plan was tabled to implement the Kyoto protocol.

The bill talks about expenses of about $10 million to implement the Kyoto protocol with a rather vague and incomplete plan.

What does the minister have to say about all the criticism surrounding the Kyoto protocol?