House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firefighters.

Topics

Question No. 155
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, from 1995 to 2004, VIA Rail Canada Inc. did not pay any dividends to the government. VIA Rail Canada Inc. is a subsidized crown corporation and as such is not in a position to pay any dividends.

Question No. 155
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

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

Question No. 155
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 155
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

June 10th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Earlier this morning, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance requested clarification concerning the groupings of motions in amendment at the report stage of Bill C-43.

The Chair had suggested that Motions Nos. 5 and 6 standing in the name of the hon. member for Niagara Falls would be grouped for debate, thus creating a new Group No. 2 and, as a result, moving Motions Nos. 7 and 8 into a new Group No. 3.

The Speaker has reviewed the motions to see whether Motions Nos. 5 and 6 could be included in Group No. 1, as the parliamentary secretary suggested, but he has concluded that the arrangement of three groups will stand.

To review: Group No. 1 includes Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in respect of income tax (corporate surtax); Group No. 2 includes Motions Nos. 5 and 6 in respect of the Canada emission reduction incentives agency; and Group No. 3 includes Motions Nos. 7 and 8 in respect of greenhouse gas technology investment fund.

I thank all hon. members for their contributions to the arrangement of the report stage of this bill.

We were at questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my Bloc colleague. We worked together on the Standing Committee on Finance, and I appreciate the excellent work he does. However, this morning, I have a few problems with the Bloc's position.

I want to recognize that the Bloc MPs are not the same as the Conservative MPs. The members of the Bloc are consistent. They always take an official position. They do not moan and complain like the Conservative members. They usually do not do that, and they are not sore losers like the Conservative members.

However, that aside, I cannot understand the Bloc's position on eliminating the tax reduction for large businesses and corporations. In my opinion, we are talking about a very minor change that will not have a major impact on the large firms but may bring in a lot of money that could be invested in projects of great importance to Canadians, such as housing, access to education and the environment. I want to know how the Bloc member can explain this unbelievable position.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to mention that I too love to work with my colleague from the NDP. While we do not always agree on various matters, we respect each others' divergent positions.

In response to my hon. colleague, I will provide relatively simple explanations.

After a corporate tax cut was announced in Bill C-43, on April 21, 2005, the Government of Quebec brought down its own budget. That government has announced a major corporate tax reform.

In light of Bill C-43, Quebec Finance Minister Audet cut the capital tax by half for the next five years and raised the tax rate slightly for large corporations. When combined, these two measures result in a tax reduction for corporations.

This corporate tax reform in Quebec is only possible, however, if the conditions on which it was predicated remain unchanged. This means that the federal government has to maintain the same course with respect to tax relief for larger corporations, so that, in turn, the Government of Quebec can move into this tax field from which the federal government has withdrawn.

That is totally in line with what we have been calling for for months and even years, that is, to correct the fiscal imbalance.

As regards federal responsibilities, the federal government taxes way too much. It does not leave any room to the governments of the provinces and Quebec. If the federal government withdraws, the Government of Quebec can then go ahead with its corporate tax reform by moving into this tax field and thus resolve at least a small part of the fiscal imbalance problem.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this chance to speak to three amendments to Bill C-43 which are critical to the NDP's overall position on this better balanced budget. They certainly were part of the deliberations we had with the Liberal government.

Negotiations were undertaken for a very important reason. In this minority Parliament and at a time when so many needs of Canadians were being ignored, we felt it incumbent upon us to try to make Parliament work in the best interests of Canadians. I know the Conservatives have a hard time with that concept. I know they are suffering from NDP envy.

I know the Conservatives wish they had taken the opportunity to improve the budget when they had the chance starting on February 23. At that time the Conservative leader chose to glance at the budget. He gave it a cursory review, walked out of this chamber and told the world that he thought it was generally an acceptable budget. Obviously since then, the Conservatives have had many second thoughts and doubts. They have changed their position four times, back and forth and back and forth. And they talk about Liberals dithering. It really is hard to tell the two parties apart when it comes to uncertainty and indecisiveness.

Today we are dealing with some amendments that Canadians want, that will make life better for many Canadians. The amendments will actually make a real difference to the objectives we have in common for improving the economy, for contributing to growth and thereby ensuring that more people, ideally every person in this great nation of ours is able to contribute fully according to his or her talents.

That is something that is now denied many people because of a decade or more of regressive Liberal policies falling on the heels of a Conservative government that certainly had no interest in putting people before profits. Governments under those two parties over a long period of time have done serious damage to the fundamental principles of our country which allow for the values of Canadians to flourish so that people can contribute to their fullest and make a difference for themselves and their families.

These amendments before us today simply eliminate the corporate tax reduction proposed in Bill C-43. It is a relatively small step. It means that the corporate tax rate does not move from 21% to 19%. This is after years of corporate tax breaks, not the least of which was the most recent reduction from 28% to 21%, in the supposed interest of building this great country.

We have not seen the results that have been touted by Liberals and Conservatives in terms of those corporate tax breaks. Profits have soared. We are witnessing record level profits among large corporations in Canadian society today. We have seen over the last five or six years record level corporate tax reductions. At the same time the profits have been going up, tax breaks have been going up for the big corporations, and investment has been going down.

There has not been a payoff for Canadians as a result of that kind of giveaway to the corporate sector. Canadians have not reaped a benefit. Jobs have not been created. Speaking of jobs, is it not ludicrous for the Conservatives to question this small shift in the corporate tax break, this putting on hold a further corporate tax break, despite the fact that corporations are now getting to the tune of $9 billion a year in corporate tax breaks until 2010?

It is interesting to note that the Conservatives say this small amount of $2.3 billion a year for two years is going to cause layoffs and economic disaster. They point ludicrously to the recent announcement by the automakers and the suggestion that there will be layoffs in the near future. That is primarily coming from the United States, which the Conservatives claim has the lowest corporate tax rate, contrary to the facts, a goal to which Canadians must aspire for us to be competitive.

Do the Conservatives want it both ways? Do they have any kind of mathematical sense to their fiscal policies? Do they have any kind of intellectual analysis of what has transpired?

I hear nothing but fearmongering and scare tactics which are not based on scientific fact or sound fiscal analysis. I see Mickey Mouse mathematics, something the Conservatives have the gall to accuse New Democrats of, when in fact there has not been one sign of reason, one sensible analysis throughout this entire debate about this tiny shift in corporate tax policy.

The Conservatives are not going to do anything objective on this front. We have had to get feedback from renowned public sector analysts as well as private sector corporate heads who know the importance of what we are doing. They recognize that when we invest in education, housing and the environment we get double the impact. We will get measures that help people deal with the basics of life so they can be contributing members of society without worrying about how they are going to pay for tuition, without worrying about the air they breathe, without worrying about whether they have a roof over their head.

We have investment in a sector that produces jobs. Thousands of jobs will be created as a result of this relatively small investment in important areas of public policy.

In this budget process we worked very hard to convince the Liberal government to put on hold the corporate tax reduction and invest the money in programs that are in dire need of attention, but which were not covered at all in the Liberal budget. One is education, because students are facing a growing crisis in trying to access affordable education without being left with a huge debt load. Another is housing, because there are thousands of Canadians who are trying to put a roof over their heads and access affordable housing. The other is aboriginal Canadians who have been denied the right to decent, safe housing as well as the right to access education. These are areas that were missing in the federal budget despite the need.

We convinced the Liberals that they had to take some of this investment from another tax cut for large corporations that would not produce a lot of results and put it into areas that would actually create jobs. We convinced them to stop playing games with the surplus, at least to some extent, something the Conservatives have always wanted, by bringing forward legislation that would ensure in a transparent way that we are taking into account the anticipated surplus in a way that Parliament has a say and the public knows what is happening.

It is interesting that the Conservatives went to all the trouble of supporting our initiative to have independent budget forecasters make predictions so that we can be sure about the surplus dollars. However, when those forecasters come up with the forecast, which by the way shows on average $8 billion in additional surplus every year for the next three years, the Conservatives ignored it. They said that this little bit of movement from a corporate tax cut to investment in housing and education would suddenly cause us to go into debt and deficit. I hope the Conservatives will come to their senses and realize that what is being done is something Canadians want.

We have before us a better balanced budget that will serve Canadians well. I hope the Conservatives will stop playing games, tying up the House in knots, obstructing and filibustering and being disrespectful to witnesses and to officials of the House and to parliamentarians and start getting on with the job of serving Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thought I might help the hon. member out and remind her that it was not only the Conservative Party that warned about deficit spending, something that we are very concerned about with this new deal. The Minister of Finance warned the House that deficit spending was a very real possibility when we got into, as he described it, cherry-picking or taking things away from one part or adding new spending to another part. There have been irresponsible spending announcements with no real plan to announce a budget bill. Bill C-48, with just two or three lines in it, has unleashed an unprecedented amount of unplanned and uncontrolled spending.

Why is the member so afraid of job saving tax relief? We have industries in Canada that are operating under an excessive burden. Does she not realize that the vast majority of Canadians work for a company or a corporation such as General Motors, Ford, Telus or any number of companies that have to compete in a global environment with other nations and companies. We have to give them that competitive edge. It does not matter how much they invest in other areas. If Canadians do not have jobs, if they do not have employment in secure and stable industries, it will not matter. No one will be working to pay taxes for the programs about which the member herself is concerned.

Those are a couple of things she should consider. She should always remember that the finance minister, who cut this deal with Buzz Hargrove and the leader of the NDP in a hotel room somewhere, warned about deficit spending.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of Mickey Mouse mathematics that I was talking about in referring to the Conservative Party. We have not had a word of reason or sense from that group throughout the course of this debate. It is about time to set the record straight.

It is clear that if the Conservatives do not want to listen to us and do not want to realize that the Minister of Finance did come to his senses and recognize the error of their ways and was prepared to see this money invested in important job creation initiatives, then let me refer back to some experts who are unlikely allies of the NDP.

Let me in fact refer to the president and CEO of Husky Injection Moulding Systems Limited, who said:

I commend the Prime Minister for continuing to demonstrate fiscal prudence while at the same time embracing sound social policy. The social policy acceleration announced by the Prime Minister and [the leader of the NDP] yesterday should be viewed as an investment in our future, our children's future and the future of our country. It is time to stop playing politics and to start governing.

Let me also refer to in fact the famous economist Michael McCracken, who said:

What does happen when you take away four-plus billion and start spending it on people is you get jobs...You get bigger bang for your buck. Whether that's on education, on health, on child care.

That in essence is what the NDP has offered up here, a re-profiling of the budget. It moved in the direction of a being a bit more sensible than it was. We should all be celebrating this event, not commiserating about it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, naturally the two motions here lead us, indirectly, to discuss Bill C-48. We have discussed this often in committee. It is a little ironic that it is the sovereignist members who are asking Parliament to respect its own Constitution, the very one that was imposed on Quebec.

The problem with the NDP agreement is that many of these measures interfere with Quebec's jurisdictions. I hope my colleague from the NDP will understand that it is unacceptable to Quebeckers for the government to enter into agreements directly with the municipalities.

Indeed, money is being offered by the government. Their heart is in the right place, but their methods are not. This will worsen the famous fiscal imbalance, since it is an invasion into the constitutional jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this take is unbelievable. If the Bloc's opposition to this bill is based only on the Constitution and jurisdiction, then they can certainly support amendments involving tax cuts for corporations. Why did they decide to oppose a simple amendment to eliminate the tax cut for corporations?

If there were investments, for instance, it is quite clear they would have nothing to do with the jurisdictional question. This is about investing in housing, education and the environment while still respecting jurisdiction and dealing with the request of Quebec to have its needs respected and the uniqueness of--

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.