House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 16th, 2005 / 11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology in relation to Bill S-18, an act to amend the Statistics Act.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-48. Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey for the Minister of Finance

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-48, in Clause 1, be amended by restoring Clause 1 thereof as follows:

“1. (1) Subject to subsection (3), the Minister of Finance may, in respect of the fiscal year 2005-2006, make payments out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund up to the amount that is the difference between the amount that would, but for those payments, be the annual surplus as provided in the Public Accounts for that year prepared in accordance with sections 63 and 64 of the Financial Administration Act and $2 billion.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), the Minister of Finance may, in respect of the fiscal year 2006-2007, make payments out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund up to the amount that is the difference between the amount that would, but for those payments, be the annual surplus as provided in the Public Accounts for that year prepared in accordance with sections 63 and 64 of the Financial Administration Act and $2 billion.

(3) The payments made under subsections (1) and (2) shall not exceed in the aggregate $4.5 billion.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-48, in Clause 2, be amended by restoring Clause 2 thereof as follows:

“2. (1) The payments made under subsections 1(1) and (2) shall be allocated as follows:

(a) for the environment, including for public transit and for an energy-efficient retrofit program for low-income housing, an amount not exceeding $900 million;

(b) for supporting training programs and enhancing access to post-secondary education, to benefit, among others, aboriginal Canadians, an amount not exceeding $1.5 billion;

(c) for affordable housing, including housing for aboriginal Canadians, an amount not exceeding $1.6 billion; and

(d) for foreign aid, an amount not exceeding $500 million

(2) The Governor in Council may specify the particular purposes for which payments referred to in subsection (1) may be made and the amounts of those payments for the relevant fiscal year.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-48, in Clause 3, be amended by restoring Clause 3 thereof as follows:

“3. For the purposes of this Act, the Governor in Council may, on any terms and conditions that the Governor in Council considers appropriate, authorize a minister to

(a) develop and implement programs and projects;

(b) enter into an agreement with the government of a province, a municipality or any other organization or any person;

(c) make a grant or contribution or any other payment;

(d) subject to the approval of Treasury Board, supplement any appropriation by Parliament;

(e) incorporate a corporation any shares or memberships of which, on incorporation, would be held by, on behalf of or in trust for the Crown; or

(f) acquire shares or memberships of a corporation that, on acquisition, would be held by, on behalf of or in trust for the Crown.”

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, your having to read all of the motions was a completely unnecessary exercise, but I guess it reflects the fact that we are off to a wonderful start on the bill. I know that hon. members opposite are absolutely thrilled with the opportunity to delay government legislation.

This is actually an interesting bill. It is legislation which deals with an unplanned surplus. I am not sure that any such bill has ever been introduced in the House before, because by virtue of the fact that the government has run surpluses over the last number of years, we have had some rather happy surprises. I know members opposite prefer the opposite kind of surprise. They would prefer deficits, but it appears that the government over the last eight years has been able to run surpluses, some of which have led to a reduction in the national debt in the order of about $60 billion. That has left us in a relatively good situation.

Going forward, the budget anticipates that there will be a further five years of surpluses. In anticipation that there will be further surpluses, and given the commitments to running a balanced budget and given the commitment that we have made in the budget and in this bill to at least a debt reduction of $2 billion on an annual basis, the question which arises is what we would do if we had any additional moneys beyond the threshold moneys of $2 billion. This bill attempts to address that.

The bill is novel in the sense that we as a government are indicating the areas in which we would spend money in the event that we had money beyond $2 billion on an annual basis. It leaves quite a bit of discretion to the government as to how to time those moneys.

First of all we have to meet the threshold of meeting the $2 billion. It could all be spent in one year, or it could all be spent in the second year, or it could all be spent in a combination of either year. Additionally we could spend the money in a fashion which mixes all of the above. There is a fair bit of flexibility.

The Conservative Party tried to introduce its own version of legislation on an unplanned surplus by directing all moneys beyond the $2 billion or $3 billion threshold to tax relief. While that may be an attractive alternative to a certain ideological set who think that by giving tax relief we can somehow or another attain nirvana here on earth, there are other priorities. Those other priorities are being spoken to by the government in this bill.

Canada's social foundations are key to our identity. There are areas in which we would have liked to have spent some additional moneys, such as affordable housing, post-secondary education, the environment and foreign aid. All of those are coherent with the original budget as presented in Bill C-43 and the preceding budgets 2004, 2003, 2002, et cetera.

Far from being as opposition members allege a deal cooked up on the back of a napkin in a motel room or in the back of a Chevy Nova--and I frankly have never understood what those hon. members have against Chevy Novas--this bill, which was entered into after negotiations with the NDP, reflects the priorities of Canadians. One example is affordable housing. I do not quite understand why members opposite have a problem with additional expenditures in affordable housing. Can they give a coherent reason as to why they would be opposed to spending on post-secondary education, or the environment, or foreign aid? Apparently they do not appreciate that Canadians have aspirations other than merely tax relief or debt reduction.

The Government of Canada over the past number of budgets has put significant sums of money into affordable housing. The significance of this $1.6 billion that is going into affordable housing is that it is not attached to a matching funds regime and it also includes aboriginal housing. Previous funding has been somewhat contingent upon matching funding generally from the provinces or other entities, but in this particular case, the investment of $1.6 billion is not contingent upon matching funding from the provinces.

This builds upon the $2 billion that has already been put toward homelessness and affordable housing over the last number of years. For instance, in 1999 we launched a three year national homelessness initiative, otherwise known as SCPI. That constituted about $305 million. That was to address a specific number of problems.

Madam Speaker, you and I share somewhat parallel demographic profiles in our respective ridings. Certain sections of the ridings are quite affluent and other parts of the ridings though are somewhat less than affluent.

In my riding there is what is called the strip. My riding is the easternmost riding in Toronto. Before highway 401 was built, it was the gateway to the eastern section of Toronto along highway 2. As a consequence there were a number of motels along that section of the highway. Over time they have fallen into something less than an ideal state. The consequence of that was they were available for shelters for homeless people and refugee claimants.

This was supposed to be a temporary measure, but after 10 years of temporary measures it was perfectly obvious to anyone who did an objective study on the area that it was not an acceptable way in which to house homeless people. At one point there were about 1,400 people in the riding each and every night who were either refugee claimants or homeless from other parts of Canada. We felt that something had to be done.

Madam Speaker, I know that you and other members of the caucus approached the GTA political minister at the time, the hon. David Collenette, and others to address the issue. The result was a significant infusion in cash. The hon. minister of labour took over the administration of the supporting communities partnership initiative, otherwise known as SCPI. She poured her heart and soul into that initiative, the result of which I am happy to say in my riding has been a reduction from about 1,400 people a night down to 75 people a night.

I look to that as one of the initiatives taken by the government that has been very successful on the ground. It has addressed real and meaningful needs on the part of Canadians.

Budget 2003 provided a three year extension of the SCPI initiative at $135 million per year which is welcome money in the community. Madam Speaker, I know that you and I and certainly members on this side of the House appreciate the efforts of the Government of Canada to address the social scourge of homelessness in our respective ridings.

In budget 2001 simultaneous with the announcement of the $305 million was the announcement of a further $680 million over five years for affordable housing. I just want to mention to those who might be listening, as I do not anticipate that members opposite might be listening, but at least other people might be listening, that this builds on $1.9 billion that is already there in support for housing by the Government of Canada.

In addition, the bill proposes $1.5 billion to increase accessibility to post-secondary education, building on a whole other set of initiatives that have been in place.

As well, the budget proposes a further $900 million investment in public transit and energy refit, building again on a whole host of initiatives, particularly in budget 2005, for clean air, which was reflected in Bill C-43.

Finally, the bill contemplates the additional investment of $500 million in international assistance, which I know, Madam Speaker, you are very keen on seeing.

I hope hon. members will support the bill and that it will be a reflection of trying to make this Parliament work.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, at the outset, I know the government likes to try to spin that we are trying to oppose and delay this bill. it is very true that we are adamantly opposed to Buzz Hargrove's bill.

This is $4.6 billion worth of spending, outlined on a page and a half of paper. I do not know how the government could possibly believe we could support that kind of reckless spending. We have no idea what it will spend it on. There is absolutely not an ounce of detail in the bill. It is like giving the Liberals a blank cheque. What they have done in the last years, it would be irresponsible for us to even begin to try pursue this.

We will object to this at every opportunity in the interests of Canadians. We have one of the major national banks now saying that the spending is wildly out of control and it is irresponsible.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

An hon. member

The CFIB.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Exactly, and the CFIB. They are lining up.

What part of this do the Liberals not get? It is very clear that there was only one motive for this $4.6 billion in spending. It was a desperate attempt to buy power. Now they are trying to pretend this is something they believed in all along. Maybe that is their true cause with the NDP. It is not something we can support and we will oppose it at every level, at every opportunity, on a matter of principle.

How can the government expect us to support a $4.6 billion blank cheque when the bill is barely a page and a half long? Does it not believe Canadians are entitled to just a little of detail? Do the Liberals think that their record is that great, considering what is happening at the Gomery commission, that people should trust them in the way they spend the money?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, it is amusing to have the hon. member stand up and say that they are not trying to delay this, having spent the entire morning trying to delay it. Then the bill was returned from committee as a blank bill, having been stripped of all of its contents. Of course they are not trying to delay this.

I would appreciate it if the hon. member would read the bill. That would be a good start. If he had read the bill, he would know that this is entirely contingent spending. I do not care whether the hon. member or his acolytes, or people who apparently support his position, say that this is wild, crazy and reckless spending. That is idiotic nonsense. It is contingent spending. It will not happen unless the contingency occurs. If the contingency occurs and we have a surplus, then that money will be spent. Otherwise it will not be spent.

The hon. member has just given a classic illustration of why that party has spent 12 years in opposition and it is more than likely going to spend another 12 years there.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I think most Canadians know that the government was going to put in place $4.6 billion in tax breaks for corporations in the initial budget. In the NDP bill, we are giving $4.6 billion of services to Canadians rather than giving the tax breaks.

It is my understanding that the Conservatives voted unanimously for the $4.6 billion in tax breaks to corporation. Their leader was out within seconds after the first budget reading supporting those tax breaks. Now they somehow call it free and unruly spending to give those dollars back to Canadians.

I just want to verify if that is the actual situation that has taken place.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, the original budget, Bill C-43, did contemplate corporate tax reductions in roughly that amount. My recollection of the number is $4.7 billion. As part of the arrangement with the implementation of Bill C-48, that legislation will come in on a separate track and restore those tax measures.

The hon. member needs to bear in mind that Bill C-48 and the restoration of tax relief and tax competitiveness are delinked. The bill proposes that in the event there are moneys in surplus in excess of $2 billion, then this will be the direction in which the government spends money: affordable housing, foreign affairs, environment and post-secondary education. All those items are perfectly consistent with previous spending initiatives that the government initiated in previous budgets and indeed, in budget 2005.