House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member. My question would be with regard to the fiscal responsibility contained in the new budget.

One of the key priorities that the leader of the New Democratic Party brought to his meetings with the Prime Minister was the trade-off of taking out the $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts, which nobody ran on or had a mandate for, and replacing that with investments in protection for the environment, affordable housing, support for student debt and important infrastructure in municipalities.

Given that those changes were made and given that one of the prerequisites of the leader of the New Democratic Party was that there was to be a balanced budget, no increase in taxes and continue to paydown on the national debt, would the member please comment on the fiscal responsibility aspect of the better budget negotiated between the leader of the New Democratic Party and the Prime Minister?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, one man can only do so much, but when we put a couple of heads together, they always seem to come up with better ideas. The input from our cooperative situation in a minority government is definitely helping all Canadians deal with financial situations and plan for their future endeavours.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address Bill C-43.

At the outset I would like to pay tribute to the Liberal member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell who I just spoke with a minute ago. He has been in this place for a long time and is retiring, and will not be running again. Although we have often been at odds in this place I respect him as a parliamentarian. He has put many years of public service into this place. I believe it is over 20 years now. I certainly wish him well in his retirement whenever that may actually come.

The Conservative Party deeply regrets how the government has changed this legislation and weakened it. We have other concerns about this legislation, but we regret that some of the changes that the government has made to Bill C-43 will hurt families, seniors, and large employers, the people who employ so many people in this country. The changes will also hurt farmers and people who provide necessary vital services in this country like our military and front line police officers. Those are the people who are going to be wounded by this legislation. Many people will be hurt by the changes that have been made to Bill C-43 and the adoption of Bill C-48, and I want to talk a bit about that today.

I just heard an NDP member ask a Liberal member about the removal of the tax relief for large employers in Canada and then talked about how it was important that the money instead go to affordable housing for instance. I would simply make the observation that if the tax relief for large employers is taken out, that will pretty much guarantee the need for more affordable housing in Canada because there will be a lot fewer jobs.

A study came down recently from the C.D. Howe Institute that pointed out that if the government had actually followed through on the tax relief for large employers, it would have created 340,000 jobs in Canada. I thought the NDP was the friend of labour. I thought that was the party that wanted to see more good paying jobs, jobs that would allow people to look after their families and put their children through university, and do the things that ordinary Canadians want and deserve. What they really want is some hope. Unfortunately, by the government doing the kinds of things it has done with Bill C-43, it is taking that hope away from a lot of people.

I want to argue too that there are other problems in Bill C-43. There are concerns about how tepid the personal tax relief is for Canadians. The income tax cut for individual Canadians in the upcoming tax year amounts to $16. That is it.

As I pointed out in the debate yesterday on Bill C-48, many Liberal advertising agency executives received their money. They received bags of money, literally, from the government through the sponsorship program. They received suitcases full of money amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. What do rank and file Canadians get? They get a $16 tax cut. That is not enough to buy a large coffee at Tim Hortons once a month. It sounds like Canadians are rolling up the rim and losing with the government, but Liberal ad executives have done extraordinarily well.

When the government wants to deliver money, it can deliver it by the suitcase full to the people it wants to deliver it to. However, when it comes to rank and file Canadians, the Liberals are all too prepared to sacrifice their principles to look after themselves. We saw it in the sponsorship scandal. We are seeing it now in Bill C-43. The government caved in to the NDP with the creation of Bill C-48. We will reap the whirlwind for this legislation.

I am not just talking about the impact on jobs and the standard of living. I hasten to point out, as other members have pointed out in this place, that since 1989 the standard of living, the take home pay in Canada, has only gone up 3.6%. It amounts to an $84 a year increase. That is unforgiveable in a country that should be so extraordinarily wealthy.

We should be the wealthiest country in the world. We have resources that are the envy of the world. We have tremendous human resources, people who are knowledgeable and have an education. We have a diverse population. However, that is not translating into a higher standard of living.

I argue that the reason is because of poor government policies. One of the greatest advantages of all is that we have this access to the U.S. market, the richest market in the world ever and 25% of the world's economy. We should be mining that, but unfortunately, we have very bad government policy. I am afraid that the government has just made it worse again. It has made it worse again by removing the tax relief for large employers which would have encouraged more investment in Canada. Many investors would use that to start businesses in Canada and then use the more or less open border to the U.S. to sell their goods and services.

That is what has happened in the past, but we are losing that. We are taking it away voluntarily now for some reason. We know why. It is because the government is too prepared to sell out Canadians in order to save its own skin by getting 19 votes from the NDP. That is simply wrong.

I want people to think about what could happen if we did not do the sorts of things that are being contemplated today. In Bill C-48 the government is giving the NDP $4.6 billion to play with. I did some quick math and that works out to about $150 per person in Canada.

I think about a family that I know, a great family that lives not far down the road from us. They have four children. If we took that $150 per person and allowed them to keep it, it would be $900 with six of them in the family. If the members of that family were able to keep that, imagine what they could do with that every year. That extra $900 could go into an RESP for education or an RRSP.

Let us say that they put it into an RRSP and let us say they got a really good yield on that. Let us say they got a 10% yield on average. I know that is a high yield, but I did some figuring and over 30 years it would amount to about $150,000 which would be a nest egg for them when they retired.

Let us say that they only get a 7% yield. It would still be $80,000 or $90,000. It is a tremendous amount of money that they could use for their retirement. Why not allow people to keep more of this money in their own pockets, so they can make decisions for their families?

I think it is time for Canadians to get their cut. Liberal bagmen and the Liberal Party got their cut. There is no question about that. We have had confessions from three executive directors of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, basically confessing to all the money coming back to the Liberal Party out of the sponsorship program. Bureaucrats and politicians got their cut. In fact, the bureaucracy in Canada has grown by 77% since 1997-98. That is a tremendous amount, but what happens to the take home pay of Canadians? It has gone up 3.6% in 15 years.

It sounds like the ones who are getting the short end of the stick are families, farmers and fishermen. When the NDP cut this deal, it claimed to be concerned about farmers, but did it think of farmers when it got all this money out of the government? No, not one penny for people on the farm.

We have the worst crisis in agriculture today since the Great Depression. That is not an exaggeration. That is an absolute fact. In 2003 we saw incomes fall on the farm into negative margins for the first time since the thirties. Did the NDP think of farmers when it cut its deal with the Liberals? No, it did not.

We must defeat Bill C-48. Bill C-43 has become deeply flawed. I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to consider this as we prepare to vote on both of these measures on Thursday.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to address three items that are contained in Bill C-43, as they relate to environmental issues. The bill presents details of two funds announced in budget 2005: the climate fund, which was referenced in the budget as the clean fund and is now known as the climate fund; and the greenhouse gas technology investment fund.

In addition to that, the bill refers to and introduces amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to remove the word toxic from certain sections and place greater emphasis on the criteria in section 64 of the act. These changes will preserve CEPA's ability to reduce harm to human health and the environment.

Let me speak first of all to the climate fund. Indeed, this whole element of the greening of the Liberal budget was certainly not just an initiative by the Minister of the Environment or by his parliamentary secretary, who did an extraordinary job of bringing initiatives forward for the consideration of not only the Prime Minister and the finance minister, but all of my colleagues in this side of the House did an extraordinary job of looking at all elements of the budget from an environmental prospective through the green lens and as a result contributed to that element of the budget.

The purpose of the new climate fund is to create a permanent market based institution as one of the primary tools for Canada's approach to climate change. By tapping the potential of the market, Canada will stimulate innovation, enable Canadians to take action, encourage energy efficiency, deliver cost effective reductions and sequestration, and drive the adoption of best available technologies.

I had the pleasure, as did my colleague from Thunder Bay--Rainy River, of being involved with the national board of directors of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Through the strategic investment of the federal Government of Canada into green municipal funds or green municipal enabling funds, it put $250 million into creating a reference bank for those municipalities to access. Part of our investment in this budget is a further enhancement of $300 million, of which $150 million will be toward the restoration of brownfield sites. That is a perfect example of strategic investment of our funds.

The climate fund's purpose will be under the authority of the Minister of the Environment. It will be funded at a minimum level of $1 billion over five years. The fund's primary mandate is to promote domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions with a view to positioning Canada to compete in the 21st century.

This economy is very interesting from the standpoint that this new 21st century economy appears to be focused on a carbon restrained global economy, so not just what we do ourselves, but what we do ourselves affects the global economy and our neighbours. We just cannot do one-offs. We must work hand in hand and in concert with our global neighbours.

The fund will also invest in internationally recognized Kyoto emission reductions to the clean development mechanism and joint implementation, as well as thorough procedures for greening other international credits. Only green credits, that is, credits that represent real and verified emission reductions, will be recognized.

The proposed legislation says that the climate fund agency will be an agent of the Government of Canada, meaning that it would carry out all of its activities on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Minister of the Environment is accountable to Parliament for this agency.

A number of aspects of its mandate, such as how to assess the benefits to Canada from investment in international emission reduction, will be the subject of public consultations planned for later this spring. The funding levels reflect the reality of start-up for the climate fund agency receiving and reviewing applications and ensuring that Canadians understand that qualifying projects must demonstrate real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As understanding of the fund grows and more and more quality applications are received, the funding levels will grow.

The funding levels as set out in budget 2005 are $10 million in this budget year, $50 million in the 2006-07 budget, $300 million in the 2007-08 budget, $300 million in the 2008-09 budget, and $340 million in the 2009-10 budget. That totals $1 billion, and that is a minimum of $1 billion.

The climate fund will be established by legislation. Aspects of the fund's mandate, such as how to ensure benefits to Canada from investment in international emissions reductions, will be put forward for public review and comment very soon.

The second fund I referenced was the greenhouse gas technology investment fund. It is an innovative funding arrangement that will recognize qualifying investment in research and development as a way of meeting mandatory greenhouse gas emissions requirements.

As announced in the 2005 budget, in the coming weeks the Government of Canada will set out the details of a mandatory emissions reduction regime and emissions trading system for Canada's large final emitters, companies in the oil and gas, thermal electricity and heat intensive mining and manufacturing sectors. As part of this system, large final emitters will be able to make contributions to the greenhouse gas technology investment fund in exchange for special emissions credits. Companies can then use these emissions credits toward meeting their emissions targets.

The revenue generated by the fund will be used to make strategic investments in innovative technologies and processes that will reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

The greenhouse gas technology investment fund will support the development and application of new emissions reducing technologies by large final emitters in meeting their greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Natural Resources Canada is best placed to manage the greenhouse gas technology investment fund as part of its ongoing operations due to its position as the lead federal department on energy technology development. This will allow it to apply the expertise and experience it has gained over the years in order to ensure that investments under the fund are allocated to projects that will yield optimal emissions reductions for large final emitters on a sector by sector basis. It will also encourage potential synergies between technologies for large final emitters supported by the fund and the department's responsibilities for management of other technology investment programs that support energy efficiency and emissions reductions on a more general basis.

Finally, I reference the changes we are proposing to CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Amendments are being made to CEPA to remove the word “toxic” from certain sections and to place greater emphasis on the existing criteria for assessing and managing substances under section 64 of the act. Part of that section would read “a substance may be added to the list in schedule 1 if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have or may have an immediate or long term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity”. That is the intention of making those particular changes.

The proposed change is one in pursuit of smart regulation. It brings clarity by eliminating a confusing term without altering the Government of Canada's obligation and authority to protect our environment. It also positions CEPA as a viable regulatory tool for use by the government and Canadians to more effectively and efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

When the Government of Canada was assessing and then taking action to reduce the risks from road salts and other substances, we heard numerous representations, including from members of Parliament, that the term “toxic” was confusing and misleading. We are responding with this legislative change to reduce that confusion.

The amendments proposed for CEPA are designed to not change the regime that was endorsed by the Supreme Court and therefore do not change the basis for the act's constitutional authority.

Further, budget 2005 set out the key parameters for a system to obtain greenhouse gas emissions reductions from industrial large final emitters. In this system, reduction targets will be based on emissions intensity in order to accommodate economic growth.

As with any other effective regulatory obligation, there will be penalties for non-compliance, but we do not expect non-compliance. We have modified the system to address industry concerns and we expect there will be broad agreement with our approach.

In conclusion, these three initiatives alone contribute in a major way to a very purposeful and contributing budget. The fact that we are able to address the concerns not only here in Canada but globally through the green lens is very important for all of us.

As I and other members have said, certainly what happens on a day to day basis is of concern. More important, it is not what affects me but what affects my children and grandchildren. The initiatives laid out in Bill C-43 are very positive and I encourage all members of the House to support that legislation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the final comments of the member from the Liberal Party about the regulatory amendments the government is seeking and is going to be responding to. We have heard these weasel words before from the Liberal Party in many other instances.

Canadians, particularly those in the energy business, believe that the original inclusion of the word “toxic” in the changes the government made to the CEPA programs was part of a hidden agenda so that it would have the authority to impose another fossil fuel tax on energy producers in this country.

We can go back a number of years to the national energy program. A Liberal government brought in legislation which ultimately brought about the national energy program which decimated the energy producers in all parts of Canada. Canadians saw the inclusion of the word “toxic” and the subtle word changes as evidence of a hidden agenda that the Liberal government had to get into a position where it could unilaterally impose a fossil fuel tax. The government got caught, and rightly so, because Canadians are not that far removed from the national energy program which devastated the country's economy, particularly among the energy producers.

I get very nervous when I hear such phrases as, “we in the government are responding to it”, “we are going to seek amendments,” or “we are going to look for broad agreement” for the changes the member is talking about now. There is a big difference between “we should do this” and “we will do this”. The words Canadians are looking for from the government are, “we will make this change to allay the fears of people in the energy industry, and we will not seek to have regulations that will put a fossil fuel tax on energy resources”.

Can the member stand and say that his government will not allow regulatory change that will enable them to impose another fossil fuel tax and deny any type of hidden agenda to do so? Will he stand and be absolutely positive about that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in short, the answer is no, I personally cannot guarantee that we will not do that.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and I were part of the consultation group with regard to asking that this be taken away. As national vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities I chaired its environmental issues committee. We were one of the groups that was consulted widely with regard to the impact of this particular terminology.

We, like all the others alluded to by the hon. member on the other side, indicated that it caused major angst. Whether it was the large producers of oil and gas, natural gas or the municipalities, everyone had major angst with regard to the interpretation of that word.

I do not believe it was a hidden agenda that was laid out by the government of the day that introduced it. I have a feeling that as things evolved it was offered with the best intentions, but as things have turned out, the interpretation is what needs to be clarified. The fact that it is being removed clearly is in response to the concerns raised by the organizations he is concerned about.

My involvement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was specifically with regard to the incorporation of road salts. As a municipal organization involved in ensuring the safety components and the ability to move people from place to place, it was a major concern. For that reason it is logical that “toxic” should be removed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-43 and to talk about some of the things that are important to Canadians with regard to this budget. We want to make sure that there is some stability in this country. Moving forward on this budget is important. If a potential election is looming, this country should at least have a budget before that. The New Democrats have been working on Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, the amendments that we proposed, to make sure that Canadians do not go without a budget.

I want to touch on a couple of topics. One of them is a specific reference to students.

My constituency of Windsor West has thousands of students because of our great St. Clair College of applied arts and technology and the University of Windsor. Those two institutions have been at the forefront of training and educational opportunities for young people. Those institutions have been important not only to the growth of their students' knowledge in specific areas related to the arts and humanities but also in terms of training. One example would be with respect to the automotive industry, through research and development at CARE, the Centre for Automotive Research and Excellence. St. Clair College has specific programs, such as the Ford Centre for Excellence.

Students have been moving successfully through a process to obtain skills and abilities that lead the way to ensuring that our auto industry has trained professionals that will contribute very much to the economy in the short term, but also in the long term to be progressive with some of the newer technologies. The automotive industry is the single most important industry that contributes to the coffers of this nation. It also provides stable employment for thousands of people across the country, be it through the initial manufacturing and assembly process or through servicing the vehicles later on. We need to protect that stable economic pillar of Canada.

The two budget bills, Bill C-43, now amended through Bill C-48, are not perfect by any means. Certain things give me some concern. There are some things that are being done now but not to the degree that I would have wished. However, it is a better budget . I will be supporting it because the students at the university and the college in my riding will be receiving some type of an offset in terms of tuition. This is a very important part of our future progress.

The government has downloaded educational costs over the last 12 years to students. Not only does it affect them, but it affects the country because literally, students are leaving post-secondary institutions with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. They are also graduating later in life. Not having the opportunity to start their careers earlier leads to a couple of problems. When they leave university with such massive debts, they are not likely to purchase vehicles and other manufactured goods, and they are not able to purchase new homes or renovate old homes. Servicing such massive debts is a major burden for them.

It also hampers something else which I think is overlooked. They leave school later and therefore, they start their families later in life. For example, my wife and I wanted to service our debts first. We decided to wait a little longer before starting a family. Many delay having their families. The consequence sometimes is there are smaller families because people do not start them until later in life.

One thing which young people face today and which is a major shift and is really critical is that they have less pensionable earning years. They are servicing these massive debts in their late twenties and it is taking them until their mid-thirties to erase those debts. They are delaying purchasing things, whether it be a car, a house or other things they need because they are paying massive interest. They are delaying economic growth. Their pensionable earnings are condensed because of the current types of employment. Getting a pension is very difficult and having the same job over one's life cycle now is more difficult.

The colleges and universities in my community are setting up programs and services that will allow people to go back to school and upgrade their skills and abilities. Previously more support was given to individuals to get those skills and abilities through their employer or through some type of program training. This is now being put on the backs of students again. Having student relief in the budget is important. The last 12 years have been extremely negative in terms of our educational system by placing the entire burden on the backs of students.

People in my constituency are giving up on some career and educational opportunities because they do not want that type of burden placed upon them. As a result we are eliminating some of the new people we need to contribute to our economy.

We can apply the same thing to the automotive industry. Newer technologies are out there now and our party has been pushing for a green auto strategy, something that David Suzuki has supported. We have proposed a number of different positive initiatives that would get newer vehicles on the road.

The government has claimed that this budget is a green budget. It is certainly an improvement but I think more could be done. One of the things we could do to clean up our environment would be to get some of the older vehicles off the road. This would not only be good for the environment, but it would be good for the automotive industry itself.

Older vehicles, even though they could be compact cars, often have higher emissions than some of the newer vehicles on the road today. This is a result of the different standards that are in place now and the way they operate. Getting those newer vehicles on the road would improve our environment. We need to ensure that the government's commitment to the automotive industry is stronger.

This budget is a good step toward giving students some basic relief. Students delay purchasing vehicles because they are servicing a massive debt load. Constituents have told me they would like to purchase some things but cannot afford to because of the financial burden they are facing. That financial burden gets worse as people go to the next level of post-secondary education where they are looking at graduate degrees or looking at specific training because they already have their under-graduate degree.

In terms of continuing to expect people to have a higher degree of education and to have the skills and abilities required for the workforce, we were faced with the issue of putting the entire burden on them. I think this budget is the first step in the right direction.

I hope the government takes my message strongly that other industrialized nations have been reducing the cost of tuition. In fact, some countries actually do not have tuition fees, which is what we could do here in Canada. The issue is not always about how much money is actually put into a budget.

One of the things I would like to see changed is the policy relating to interest rates on student debt. Why is it that an individual can get a car loan or a couch loan at a lower rate of interest than a student loan? This predatory practice of having high interest rates on student debt is something that could be adjusted and it would be very worthwhile. It would generate that income back into the economy and allow people to pay off their debt quicker as opposed to the predatory basis of having them borrow money and the government making a profit off the backs of individuals who want to improve their educational and vocational stature.

I will be supporting this budget. It is the first step of many toward ensuring that our young people leave college and university with a lower debt load while at the same time having the skills and abilities necessary to make Canada a competitive nation for the upcoming challenges.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I imagine members of the NDP are probably doing a little gloating these days considering they somehow made a deal with the Liberals to include an extra $4.8 billion into the budget on items that are somewhere off in the future. Much of the increased spending that was in the NDP induced budget will in fact not kick in for another year or year and a half.

Given the history of the Liberal government of making promises and not keeping them, going right back to 1993 in the infamous red book, which I think made something like 21 or 22 promises that were not kept, and given the performance of the government over the last 12 years of making billion dollar promises just before an election or before a crisis in the party, how on earth can that member or any member of the NDP have any confidence that the Liberals will keep their promise?

Members of the NDP have to be pretty naive to believe what the Liberals are saying today given their record over the last 12 years of breaking promises.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of trust is really being flushed out with the member for Newmarket—Aurora. At least as New Democrats we negotiated a deal as a party position under what we stood for as Canadians but Conservative members are now crossing the floor to join cabinet positions. We stand by our principles in terms of the things that we fought for at election time to make a better Canada. We are very pleased with what Bill C-48 does.

The fact is that this is a better balanced budget and it is also one that is very reasonable. We were very pleased, for example, to take the opportunity to extract corporate tax cuts to the largest corporations and redirecting that elsewhere. We think it will be very successful for the economy. For example, we think there will be a housing boom for many of the different construction industries. We do know that many people need affordable housing which will then put that money back into the system as opposed to having to pay rent at a higher level which makes it difficult for them to be able to sustain families. We believe it is very much a family issue.

The government has historically over the last 12 years, via major surpluses, underestimated the budget, so we are quite confident. Our party did due diligence with different economists, those in the party system and outside of our party system, to ensure what we were doing was reasonable and was achievable. That is something that we believe will see fruition and that is important for Canadians.

When we went to the break week, while the leader of the official opposition said that he would talk to Canadians about whether to go to an election and then consider voting against the budget because his party did not vote against it when it first came forward, we did not sit around and wait to see whether the Conservatives and the Bloc would team up to bring this country to an election or, alternatively, live with a bad budget. We voted against it because we believed it did not represent the views of our constituents.

We sought to make changes to make Parliament work. We negotiated something that is of benefit to Canadians, something that makes me comfortable as an individual and something that is above board. We did not do it in a way that was disrespectful of the House. When we came back from the break we had a position that we could now support. As New Democrats, that was better than sitting around waiting to see if the other parties would bring this to an election or have to eat a budget that did not suit the needs of Canadians.

This budget still has a lot of holes in it and is not as good as we would like it to be but it is balanced and fair. It is a compromise for some of the things that we have asked Canadians to support us on. We will be proud to hopefully get those achievements into our communities to have a better Canada for all of us.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have a number of very serious concerns relating to the budgeting process and the budgeting track upon which the government is now set.

When the budget itself was first introduced the record shows very clearly that we took a look at it and made a decision at that point because it contained some things which we felt would be positive, some things that we as opposition members had suggested, that we would not go for a non-confidence motion at that point on the budget as presented.

Things have changed radically since the Prime Minister introduced that budget and he has now embarked on a process that is ad hoc, add on and ad absurdum. It goes to the point of absurdity. No plan is in place. Nothing is more dangerous than a Liberal with a bunch of money in one hand and no plan in the other. That is a recipe for disaster.

We have seen that constantly in fund after fund. Whether we are talking about the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC or the horrendous $2 billion disaster in the gun registry, it does not matter. Whatever the Liberals get their hands on, if there is not a strict regime overlaying the dollars in their hands, we have a run-away wreck.

Certainly we are seeing that, without a doubt, in the sponsorship scandal. We have also seen it reflected in report after report from our various auditors general. The question that they ask more often than not of the Liberal government, not just our present Auditor General but a former one, is: who is minding the store? The Liberals are out of control when it comes to spending. They panic when it comes to possibly losing a vote here and there and, in this particular budget process, it is very important to acknowledge what the Prime Minister has done.

In abject fear of losing any kind of vote in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has taken $4.6 billion and he hopes he has purchased 19 NDP votes. That is about $3.5 billion more expensive than what the Liberals were doing with the sponsorship plan in trying to buy a few more votes than that in Quebec. That will go down in history as the most expensive vote buying plan ever seen in a democracy anywhere.

There are serious problems with the approach that the Liberals are taking. What they should have done is they should have brought in three separate bills so that we in the House could have analyzed one in a proper and mature fashion and done it in a way that would have given confidence to Canadians, that Canadians in different parts of the country with different issues and concerns would know and have a sense that we are looking at their concerns.

One part of this particular budgetary approach should have looked at the Atlantic accord separately. Clearly, the Kyoto measures should have required a separate look and separate distinction, and it should have included traditional budget measures.

With regard to Kyoto, all of us want clean air and clean water for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren for hundreds of years to come, and there are ways that can be assured even in the budget.

For close to 10 years we have asked the Liberals to please bring forward a plan so we can understand how the Kyoto measures are to be enacted and arrived at. There never has been a plan, just grandiose verbosity and suggestions that ultimately it would be very expensive.

When it comes to Kyoto, the argument is not the environment or jobs. In fact, there is a way to approach this in which we can ensure the integrity and the purity of our environment and also maintain economic strength in our country. Therefore we continue to press the government on what exactly the plan is relating to Kyoto.

We finally got a plan several days ago. Bringing it down to its core elements, the Liberals' approach to Kyoto is this: take taxpayer money, which they do very well, and give it to jurisdictions such as China, which is not a part of Kyoto and is operating in a substandard way in terms of the environment, pay communist China with Canadian taxpayers' money to continue to subvert the Kyoto process, and at the same time allow Canadian companies to deliver substandard regulatory processes themselves.

That is not the way to show respect for the environment or respect for taxpayers. In fact, the government's plan on Kyoto rewards pollution pirates in other countries with Canadian taxpayer dollars. That is not the way to do it. This should have come in separately so that we could have had a full discussion on it.

As far as the Atlantic accord is concerned, again it is this whole notion of extortion that the federal Liberals seem to embrace when it comes to taxpayer dollars. They take money from taxpayers and then use subtle forms of extortion to give them back a bit so that we as taxpayers then shiver in concern that we might not have our basic needs met and are forced to think about voting for the federal Liberals just to get back a tiny portion of what they extorted from us.

Certainly this is what the federal Liberals are doing to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, in effect holding them hostage by linking the Atlantic accord provisions in such a way as to say that if their flawed budget process and bill do not pass, the people in Atlantic Canada will suffer. Members can get out a thesaurus if they like; there are other words for that approach, but I am sticking to the word extortion, that is, using fear to extract dollars from people for a particular goal. That is not the way to respect and to show respect for Atlantic Canadians.

This budget process upon which the Liberals have now embarked should have entailed a separate approach to the Atlantic accord. Why would they not do that? Why would they not bring the Atlantic accord here?

This is why I think they would not do it. The Liberals do not want Atlantic Canadians to see that in fact it is Conservative members of this caucus who have articulated the strengths of and the things that are necessary in the Atlantic accord, which we have said we will support. The Conservative members have been very clear about that. They will support absolutely the provisions of the Atlantic accord, because most of them are ideas which those Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada, from Newfoundland and Labrador and from Nova Scotia and other areas brought forward.

It is those MPs who brought forward these notions about how to make Atlantic Canada strong and prosperous. I think the federal Liberals do not want that exposed. As they usually do, they take our good ideas, dress them up just a little differently, call them their own and then tell people to vote for our ideas dressed in their clothing.

The Atlantic accord provisions should have been brought in separately.

Then, in terms of the budget process itself, it was fascinating in the last election to watch where the Liberals, true to form, campaigned against many of the things that we wanted to see and which they said would never work. Then, when they did their nightly polling--because a Liberal cannot go to bed at night without polling to see if he or she should be sleeping or not--they thought, “Oh my goodness. These things the Conservatives are proposing would be good for Canadians and Canadians like them”.

So now they are coming back and again taking our ideas and putting them in their budget, or trying to, with half steps and half measures. They are trying to pretend, with some mediocre and substandard tax cuts, that they actually care about hard-working people. It is a tremendous camouflage, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, and unfortunately some Canadians may be misguided by it.

I will bring my remarks to a conclusion by saying that when the budget first came in, we did not oppose it. Now the Liberals have drastically and in a panic changed it and that is a recipe for financial disaster. The present Prime Minister, the former finance minister, likes to rest on what is now an increasingly shaky legacy of having dealt with the deficit 10 years ago. He dealt with the deficit by slashing health care by 36% overnight. That is mainly how he did it, but now he is abandoning even that notion of some kind of fiscal restraint.

He has thrown everything to the wind in this budget process and has come up with $4.6 billion to buy 19 votes. That is not the way to handle the taxpayer money of this country. These notions that I talked about, these three separate areas, should be brought in here separately so that each could be debated and supported on its own measures. That would be true fiscal accountability for the people of Canada.

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11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is particularly appropriate that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla is speaking on the budget bill given his experience in provincial politics as a provincial cabinet minister and in the area of finance in the Alberta government.

I have a question that the member could help me with. Over the last 23 or 24 days since the infamous deal was made between the NDP and the Liberals and since the 2005 budget in February, it appears to me that there have promises made for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $23 billion or $24 billion in increased spending. The Liberals are saying they are able to do this because of the unplanned surpluses they have suddenly found.

If unplanned surpluses become unplanned shortages, what happens to all these promises? Is it the Liberals' intention to say some day down the road in the very near future, if they hang around, that they have unplanned shortages so those promises cannot be kept? How drastically does this $23 billion or $24 billion affect the normal operation of government, given prudence in a budget? How dramatic an effect could it have on these promises they have made if the revenue comes in, unplanned, at far lower than they are saying it could?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
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11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

As usual, Mr. Speaker, the insights of my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George are incisive on this point.

Let me point out what happens when one departs from one's budget as radically as the Prime Minister has from his. I have tabled a number of budgets, each in the multi-billions of dollars, and I know what it is to budget for the ship of state, whether it is the federal or provincial ship of state.

We can compare it to a large tanker out on the ocean. It takes a lot to turn it, and once we start to turn it just a few degrees it does not seem like much at the start, but the shift becomes monumental. The effects can be devastating when that ship of state runs aground on the rocky shores of bad planning. The environmental spill of poor financial planning wreaks havoc on the environment in which we live. The federal ship of state is headed for the rocky shoals because the person at the helm, in a panic, is starting to turn the wheel. That becomes devastating.

There is a case in point here. The member from Cariboo—Prince George has pointed out something interesting. In 22 days, the Prime Minister has blown a $23 billion hole in the budget. That is over $1.1 billion a day in announced spending. I heard one Liberal say last night that it was not $1.1 billion a day but only $1 billion a day. Let me note that a billion dollars a day is a lot of money.

As a provincial finance minister, I sat around the financial table with the present Prime Minister when he was the finance minister. We sat around that planning table with other provincial finance ministers and territorial ministers. The current Prime Minister was sitting at the head of that table as federal finance minister. When we asked for more funding for health care, for instance, funding which he had taken away from the provinces, he would say, “We cannot change the budget. We cannot do that”.

I can remember him saying that one could not, just because of pressure, announce a $1 billion or $2 billion shift in the budget, but because of pressure he himself has now announced a $23 billion change.

I have a final point in terms of my observations from around the finance ministers table. When we used to question him about provincial funds, and we have a variety of them, he knew every dollar amount. He knew how they flowed and to whom they flowed. If he did not have the answer right then, he would go to his officials sitting beside him.

Thus, for him to say today that he does not know anything about that sponsorship fund when he presided over it for 10 years is a terrible stretch of credibility. It undermines the whole budget process that we are looking at today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
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11:55 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this morning I met with representatives from a company.

It is an aboriginal company that specializes in waste management and waste water treatment. This company claims that it has the expertise to address the problems created by municipal solid waste, through total combustion at extreme temperatures, in a way that reduces operating costs for industries, eliminates the development of new enormous landfill sites, creates no greenhouse gas emissions in doing it, reduces existing large landfill sites and reduces groundwater and atmospheric pollution, all of this in a way that will generate electricity.

I have been Minister of the Environment since last July and not a week has gone by without my meeting with representatives of companies like this that have capacities to offer Canada that we can only dream of. According to what they tell me, however, companies need assistance in the beginning to get their initiatives going. In order to succeed, they need help from the Government of Canada. However, there is no program for these companies, each of which is developing its capacities through different initiatives. Creating a program for every initiative would result in huge bureaucratic paralysis.

Instead of that, the climate change plan which we just launched and whose implementation depends on the vote on this budget provides for the creation of a climate fund. The Government of Canada is prepared to invest $1 billion in it, beginning with this budget—an amount that will increase with following budgets until 2012, for a total of $4 billion. This climate fund will make it possible for all these companies with new ideas to find funding if they manage to reduce greenhouse gases in the municipal, industrial or residential spheres.

It will be a cash for tonne project. It will be completely revolutionary. We need it. Canada needs it. If we do this, we will not recognize our country in 2012 because we will have improved our country in so many files. It will be spectacular. This is the tool Canada needs and it depends on the vote on this budget: no budget, no climate fund, and no climate fund, none of the spectacular changes we need.

In the climate change plan that we announced, there is a list of the possibilities that this climate fund could provide for all the following stakeholders:

farmers who adopt low till or zero till practices;

forestry companies that engage in state-of-the-art forest management practices;

property developers that include district heating and renewable energy elements in their plans for new subdivisions;

businesses that develop innovative ways to reduce emissions through recycling and energy efficiency;

companies and municipalities that invest in their communities by encouraging alternative transportation modes;

municipalities that capture landfill gas and use it to generate electricity—

I could also mention university presidents who want to encourage their students to take the bus by giving them free “eco passes”, and so forth. There are boundless possibilities when one thinks of all the Canadians who could find essential assistance thanks to this climate fund.

Only for this climate fund we need this budget, but there are so many other examples. When we speak about this budget, let us note that it is the greenest one since Confederation. That shows how, through this budget, we will be able to bring the environment and the economy together.

This budget does more than invest $5.2 billion, including $3 billion in new funding, in the federal environmental policy. It will transform our economy and make Canada a leader in the sustainable economy.

Let me give members the list of the things we need to have through this budget. We need $40 million for improving the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem and $85 million for a strategy to combat invasive alien species, such as the sea lamprey, the zebra mussel and the Asian longhorned beetle. The budget devotes $28 million to the first phase of the government's oceans action plan, and $269 million in additional and much needed funds will go to our national parks.

With regard to science, the budget sets aside $60 million for geographic information, $111 million is devoted to the development of a new generation of remote radar sensing satellites, and $200 million is allocated to the development of a sustainable energy, science and technology strategy.

In my opinion, the $5 billion in gas tax revenue that the Government of Canada will transfer to the municipalities in order to ensure to the sustainable development of our communities is essential.

This transfer targets support for environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects such as public transit, water, waste water treatment, community energy systems and the handling of solid waste.

Furthermore, in cooperation with the NDP—they are not here but they are in agreement—we have set aside $800 million to further develop public transportation.

Added to the $300 million the budget invested in the green response fund, this new deal for cities and communities is itself a green plan.

We have allocated $90 million to Health Canada in order to help identify harmful substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In addition to the climate fund, we have devoted $4 billion, on which $2 billion is new money to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I want to mention especially an additional $225 million that will help quadruple the number of households that take advantage of the very popular EnerGuide for homes retrofit incentives program.

I want also to mention that in the budget we have a strong push for clean, renewable energy that will be encouraged, solar, wind power, renewable energy such as small hydro, biomass and landfill gas. We will invest $1 billion to help them to be more competitive in the market and we will submit also through the climate fund. It will be a great push. The list is so long.

I also want to mention $2 billion to $3 billion for the partnership fund, the fund that will help us to work with the provinces, which have so many leverages regarding the energy policy, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This one is aimed at helping the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments to co-finance their common priorities with regard to climate change. It is not hard to imagine many projects with clear environmental and economic benefits. The provinces have applauded the partnership fund. They are waiting for the budget, especially because of the climate fund.

I am going to quote what I consider to be the most important paragraph for Canadians in the budget speech given by the Minister of Finance. I am being completely objective, of course. In my opinion, the following words were the highlight of this budget:

Our great challenge—and our clear responsibility—is to bring the same focus, the same determination and the same dedication to protecting and enhancing our environment as we did to restoring the health of the nation’s finances. Canadians don’t want a fiscal mortgage hanging over the futures of their children and they don’t want an environmental mortgage to be the legacy of this generation to the next.

That is why we need this budget. If the opposition members do not believe me, maybe they will believe this:

David Runnalls, president of the Canadian National Institute for Sustainable Development has summarized the gist of my remarks today. Of Budget 2005 he said, “It is not just a bunch of money for environmental programs. There are lots of different incentives to the good things that make the economy greener”.

I want also to mention that more than 30 environmental groups in Canada have written to the leaders of the parties in the House. I want to quote the letter. It states:

We are writing to remind you that the vast majority of climatologists are calling on all governments to take urgent action on climate change. Canadians in all regions support rising to the challenge and are looking to you, their leaders, to act responsibly in defense of present and future generations. Yet, this important environmental and economic issue is being overshadowed in the present atmosphere of partisan politics. We call on all parties to put aside their differences long enough to ensure the measures that are necessary for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, introduced in the February budget, are approved by Parliament without delay. There will be plenty of time in the coming years to reevaluate, redesign and expand the plan as it is rolled out. In the meantime it is essential we act now. We assure you we will work with Parliament to improve the plan and make it the best and most credible in the world.

There is a long list including Greenpeace Canada, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Toxic Watch Society of Alberta, et cetera that have signed the letter. I hope the leaders will listen and will vote unanimously for the greenest budget in the history of our federation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the minister speak today. I would like to hear exactly what his detailed plans are for the agricultural and rural areas of Canada. They are probably the ones that can contribute the most to the green plan, but will probably be the ones that get the least in incentives.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, if there is a group that needs this budget, it is certainly the people who work in agriculture and rural Canada.

With respect to our climate change plan, the Government of Canada is committed to investing $10 billion in the next eight budgets up to 2012, the end of the Kyoto, and we will invest at least $1 billion for agriculture, whether it is ethanol, or biodiesel or the climate fund. As I mentioned, the climate fund will have a lot of capacity to help reward farmers with good practices such as low till practices or whatever it is such as changing the waste in electricity.

We will change the practices in agriculture in Canada and will make Canada the greenest model in the world if we act altogether. We have the best plan for that. It has been celebrated by many of my colleagues around the world. I will quote from the German federal minister of the environment, Juergen Trittin, who said:

I am delighted that Canada is promoting climate protection with an ambitious action plan...the country hosting the next international climate change conference in Montreal in December.

He goes on to say that Canada is sending a strong and progressive signal to the world and that Canada offers the evidence that climate protection also on the North American continent is feasible and politically rewarding.

Germany has done a lot to modernize its agricultural industry in order to make it greener. It is a good compliment and incentive for us to vote unanimously for this green budget.