House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before the debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore had the floor and he has seven minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

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3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, again I am going back to the issue of the day, which is the big difference between those of us in the NDP and those in the Conservative and Liberal Parties.

We in the NDP believe in the collective. We believe that the government can be a source of good for Canadians across this country from coast to coast to coast. We also believe that the resources of this country should benefit Canadians. As well, we should be able to share our expertise and wealth with those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity and also on the environment, education, health, et cetera.

However, also within our own country there are many who are veterans and widows of veterans, who have been promised certain things by the government and have been denied. As my colleagues used to say, there is no greater fraud than a promise that has been broken.

On June 28, 2005, when the current Prime Minister was then opposition leader, he promised Joyce Carter of Cape Breton that if the Conservatives formed the government they would immediately extend the VIP services for all widows and veterans of World War II and Korea. Twenty-two months later, there is still nothing.

Also, when the Prime Minister and the member for New Brunswick Southwest, who is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs, were in opposition, they said publicly in Gagetown and during the campaign in 2005 that they would look after and compensate all those victims of defoliant spraying in Gagetown from 1956 to 1984. “All” of them is what they said. They recently came out with a package that covers only those in 1966 and 1967, which is exactly what the Liberals had proposed beforehand.

The Conservatives in New Brunswick were elected on that promise and they broke that promise. It is unconscionable that a government that is like Scrooge McDuck, sitting on a pile of coins, loonies, toonies and cash, is not able to help those who served their country with such distinction and honour.

I recently toured the north. One of the most outrageous conditions people there are living with is extremely crowded housing. They simply do not have enough housing to go around. We talk about Arctic sovereignty, first nations rights and helping aboriginal people and improving their health, yet the government does very little, if anything, to solve the housing crisis of the far north.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. After travelling to Resolute, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay or Iqaluit and the other communities of the great territory of Nunavut, one understands that there is a terrific housing shortage going on. If the government is not going to help when it has billions and billions of dollars of surplus, when is it going to do so?

As I said earlier, a colleague of mine who just got back from Afghanistan said the mission in Afghanistan will not end until the final soldier who serves in that country passes away. What he meant by that was quite clear. A lot of the individuals coming back from Afghanistan are going to suffer from mental and physical disabilities. A lot of them are going to require long term care. They and their families are going to need that care for the rest of their lives. That is what he was referring to: the mission will continue in their lives. It is the same for people who lose loved ones in Afghanistan. For them, Remembrance Day is every day.

The government has billions of dollars for the mission in Afghanistan. We argued that point the other day. The reality is that it is not hesitant to spend money on the actual mission itself, but when the government is asked what contingency funds are put aside to help with the mental and physical disabilities the soldiers and their families may have down the road, the answer is zero.

I reiterate to the government: if it cannot do this now, when it has surpluses, when is it going to do it? I advise the government to make sure there is enough money put aside to ensure the proper care and treatment down the road of those brave men and women who serve their country.

Also, one of the greatest opportunities we have for economic development in this country is shipbuilding. The industry committee unanimously adopted a resolution that the accelerated capital allowance, or ACA, proposal should go from two years to five years, yet the government still has not done that. Those in the shipbuilding industry would like the same considerations that the government has been giving to the aerospace industry in Quebec for a long time.

We have approximately $20 billion worth of construction to do on naval replacement vessels, Coast Guard replacement vessels, ferries, the laker fleet, tugs, et cetera. We have five remaining shipyards in this country that could do that type of work.

I would encourage the government to ensure that the domestic procurement process enables those workers and those industries in those yards across the country, in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Welland, Lévis, Halifax, and Marystown in Newfoundland and Labrador,to have the opportunity for long term sustainable growth. That way, especially in Atlantic Canada, people would not have to go down the road to find work.

Those are some of the things the budget should be addressing.

Other issues, of course, are seniors and student debt.

We in Halifax have the privilege of being one of the education breadbaskets of Canada, but so many students who come to our schools get their education and leave with a massive debt. That cripples them in their opportunities down the road and they make choices that they normally would not like to make, such as having to move to the United States or other parts of Canada. We would like them to be able to work and find their livelihood right in Atlantic Canada, but saddling them with a massive debt is unconscionable.

We in the NDP were very proud to rewrite the last budget of the Liberals when they turned around, drafted Bill C-48, took away the corporate tax cuts and reinvested that in housing, public transit and student education. I was very pleased to see that the Premier of Nova Scotia just recently authorized a $400 rebate for students in our province.

These are some of the things the budget should be doing. I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the House of Commons may have.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I listened carefully to his comments. The member likes to paint himself as a champion of veterans and their families. How does he square this with the actions of the NDP caucus last Thursday evening when those members stood in the House to vote against the supplementary estimates?

The NDP was the only party to oppose the supplementary estimates, estimates that contained additional funds for ex gratia payments for victims of agent orange, for the establishment of five clinics for operational stress injury, for the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, for the restoration of World War I monuments and for the Vimy commemoration. I could go on. The NDP voted against $42.8 million for veterans and veterans services.

How does the member square that with his regular efforts to paint himself as a champion of veterans? When will he start to walk the walk? The member takes hypocrisy to staggering new heights.

How does he square the circle for the entire NDP as a party? NDP members talk and talk, but when it comes time to walking the walk and voting for the supplementary estimates and real money, significant money, $42.8 million for veterans, they do not walk the walk. They just talk the talk. I would love to hear his reaction to that.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the hon. member does not have that much service in the House, so let me remind the hon. member why we voted against the supplementary estimates.

It was his government that promised almost 300,000 people on the defoliant spraying in Gagetown that they would be compensated. It has ended up that less than 4,000 will be able to apply. Much more than $19 million is going to be needed to look after that. We are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars. That was the promise they made.

The Conservatives also made a promise to extend the VIP services to all veterans and all widows. That was not in the estimates.

There are many other things they have promised veterans and have failed to deliver time and time again.

Right now I have a veteran in Windsor, Nova Scotia, who is being denied compensation for the smoke inhalation he suffered while serving his country. Many more veterans are denied hearing aids. Many more veterans are denied VIP services. Many more veterans are denied orthotics. All of that is because there is nowhere near enough money, which the member said is in the Veterans Affairs budget, to look after those needs.

This is also the government that promised to get rid of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board and replace it with medical and military personnel. But what did it do? It brought in Angela Vautour, a defeated Conservative candidate, to sit on that board of appeals. She knows nothing about veterans and their medical concerns.

He talked about hypocrisy. The member for Palliser is oozing it out of his pores.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for walking us through some of the clear problems the NDP has with the current strategy of corporate tax cuts being the cure for everything, from toothaches to dyspepsia to whatever we can think of.

One of the things that my colleague from Sackville raises is a great deal of these corporate tax cuts would go to the oil and gas industry, which already enjoys record profits and do not really need any motivation to do any more development in the tar sands. Some say it is already overdeveloping the tar sands to the expense of our water reserves, et cetera.

Would the hon. member confirm if what I have read is true? The increase in royalties that the province of Alberta recently applied to the oil and gas industry is 100% tax deductible at the federal end? In other words, it is getting a tax deduction for paying a royalty to gouge and use up all our valuable energy resources.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the provincial and federal Conservatives are in cahoots on this one. The only aspect of our economy they seem to care about is the energy sector.

When it comes to individuals, those who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector, in forestry, in auto, in shipbuilding, in the fishery, in farming, et cetera, they are told to get to the back of the line.

The oil companies and the banks make record profits under the current tax regime. Why would the government give them further tax incentives when there are so many pressing needs out there? This includes not only in the city of Winnipeg, but from Vancouver to St. John's and up right to the far north.

There are so many other things the government could do with that money. In fact, if the Conservatives would like a lesson, they can come to Room 240, Confederation Building, and I would be happy to share a beverage with them and explain it to them very carefully.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the report stage amendment to Bill C-28 put forward by my colleague from Ottawa Centre, the one and only amendment. It calls upon the government and the House of Commons at this stage of debate to delete clause 181 of Bill C-28.

For those who have been following the debate over the last days in the House of Commons, clause 181 contemplates even deeper corporate tax cuts as an aspect of the economic statement.

The public should be aware that for the last decade or so, there has been a mantra, a theme, a motif, throughout the Liberal government for 13 years and now the Conservative government, that the cure to all Canada's evils is corporate tax cuts. If it is child poverty, we need corporate tax cuts. If we have potholes in our streets, we need corporate tax cuts. If we give more money to the Canadian business community, that will somehow translate into relief for health care ills, infrastructure and virtually everything of which we can think.

Those of us in the NDP have challenged that orthodoxy. We understand we need a competitive tax regime, but we believe we already have that. In fact, those of us who were asked to tighten our belts for the last 10 or 15 years through record surplus budgets have decided it is time to invest some of our hard-earned cash elsewhere. Some taxpayer dollars can go elsewhere other than its final state of repose in the deep pockets of a banker or somebody in the oil and gas industry.

We believe the deep corporate tax cuts contemplated in Bill C-28 would undermine the fiscal capacity of the government to address the many other legitimate priorities our country has. Simply put, it would take $190 billion of fiscal capacity away from the government and future governments, because God willing, the government may not last that long and perhaps another government will take its place. With a corporate tax structure, which would then be the lowest of developed nations, not in the middle of the pack, not in a competitive, on par basis, but the lowest, we believe we would lose the ability to address the many other pressing social deficits that have been created by years and years of what can only be described as an ideological crusade to eliminate taxes on business.

My father used to tell me that not long ago the tax system was structured in such a way that business tax would be about 50% of government's revenue and individual personal income tax would be approximately the other 50%. Systematically, incrementally, bit by bit, slowly over the last 20 or 30 years, that has changed dramatically. I do not know what it comes down to with these current, most recent changes, but the proportion was roughly 85% individual personal tax and 15% total revenue from corporate tax. That will be dramatically reduced even further. I can only surmise, given the relentless pressure to reduce and reduce, the ultimate goal would be corporations and businesses would pay no tax and all the tax burden would be shifted onto us.

In their race to the bottom, there has been a competition between the Liberals and the current Conservative government. The Conservative government said that it would reduce the corporate tax from 21.5% or 22% down to 18.5%. The immediate reaction from the leader of the official opposition was the Liberals would have gone even further. While that was pretty good, they could do better.

The Minister of Finance took him up on his challenge. If the Conservatives had carte blanche to cut in half and slash corporate taxes, they would take them up on that game of chicken and reduce it to 16.5% in 2011 and to 15% by 2012. That is way below the average of comparable developed nations. It is as if this in and of itself would be the answer to all the shortcomings and the social deficit and the spending that we all recognize is necessary.

There is a theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. When the economy is cooking, we all benefit. We have changed that cliché to “a rising tide raises all yachts”. It fails to lift a lot of the boats of the people I know and the boats of the people I represent.

I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for pointing this out. The only social spending that has occurred in the last 15 years, 13 years of Liberal rule and two years now of Conservative, has been when the NDP managed, through its balance of power, to stop contemplated corporate tax cuts put forward by the Liberal government of the day. We used our influence, traded our support, to the minority Liberal government in exchange for significant social spending in Bill C-48. We managed to interrupt another completely unnecessary and secretive gift to Bay Street.

The Liberals did not run on that. They certainly did not give Canadians a chance to have any say on whether another $4.8 billion would be dutifully shuffled to their friends in corporate Canada. Fortunately, we intervened and that resulted in $4.8 billion worth of social spending.

The Canadian public deserves to be made aware of this. Some of the social spending now announced by the Conservative government is money that was booked and earmarked two years ago in Bill C-48. The NDP used its balance of power in a minority government to trigger some much needed social spending in social housing, post-secondary education, transit and foreign aid, some of the shortfalls.

We were asked to tighten our belts for 10 surplus budgets in a row. The Liberals told us that the social spending we called for would come but they had to first take care of some necessary priorities, such as paying down the debt and massive corporate tax cuts to their buddies on Bay Street. It seems they always come first.

Without the NDP to provide a balance of power in a minority situation, the government will always come first. When a right wing corporate organization elects a right wing corporate government to serve its interests, it is not surprising then that budgets are crafted in such a way to benefit those right wing corporate interests and the rest of us are forgotten.

I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre, which off and on, depending on what details are used by Statistics Canada, is the poorest riding in Canada. When the Liberals ruled the day and told us that we had to tighten our belts, they cut and hacked and slashed every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians. Marginalized groups, low income groups, like in the riding I represent, suffered the most. Let me give one example.

When the Liberals cut back eligibility for UIC, or EI as it is called today, those cutbacks in my riding alone amounted to $20.8 million worth of income revenue. There was a similar amount in my colleague's riding of Winnipeg North and even more in some of the ridings in Atlantic Canada. This $20.8 million worth of income that came from the federal government into my low income community pushed more people off EI and on to welfare. That was like taking the payroll of a company with 2,000 employees out of my riding. It ripped federal government revenue out of the heart of my riding and put it into more tax cuts for corporations.

We have just about had it with this ideology. We will oppose, at every opportunity, these further gratuitous wheelbarrows full of money to corporate Canada. Every time the Conservatives are in charge of the budget, they give the money away. They squander their money.

The Conservatives are the most reckless, foolhardy, wasteful party in Canadian history, the way they shovel money to Bay Street with no expected return. It is like Jack and the Beanstalk, where Jack trades--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. We will now have questions and comments, and the hon. member for Abbotsford has the floor.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention. I did hear, however, that he has this fixation for corporate taxes.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

You do. You guys do. It is an obsession. That is all you do.

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we listen to the member's speech and also the heckling that is coming from the NDP corner of the House, we notice that the NDP members fail to mention in any way some of the other significant tax cuts that we have delivered to Canadians.

The NDP has failed to mention that we have added another 1% cut to the GST. The GST has gone from 7% down to 5%. That helps the poorest Canadians in our society.

We have also reduced income taxes for hard-working, ordinary Canadian families. The tax break provides them with a bit of help in raising their families. We have also reduced taxation on small businesses. Yet the NDP votes against all of those tax reductions.

Despite the fact that the member focused very much on reductions in corporate taxation, why does he oppose the reduction in taxes for hard-working Canadians, a reduction in the GST, a reduction in taxes for small business people across this country? Why?

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments are a graphic illustration of how out of touch the Conservatives are with low income Canadians. I am not sure if that party can consult at all. As soon as the government announced its 1% GST cut, my phone started ringing off the hook with calls from the low income people whom I represent.

I should point out that 47% of all families in my riding and 52% of all children in my riding live below the poverty line. When the government tells those people that there is a cut to the GST, they think it is a cut to their GST rebate cheque. They receive a rebate cheque on a regular basis from the government. They do not pay GST.

My colleague's targeted tax cut in terms of a GST break is of no use to the genuinely poor in this country. They do not pay GST. They get a GST rebate. If anything, they will get less money back from the GST rebate when the tax is reduced.

If the government were serious about targeted tax cuts and serious about ameliorating some of the social deficit, it would take some of the $190 billion that the government has squandered by shovelling it over to its corporate buddies and put some of that money toward the infrastructure deficit in our streets so that the public could enjoy public amenities like they used to.

The government should do something about social housing. The Mulroney government eliminated all of the social housing programs in 1993, except for one, and the first thing the Liberal government did when it took over in 1993 was to kill that too. I know because I was the president of a housing co-op that was waiting for an allocation of units so we could put the shovel in the ground and start building. The first thing the Liberal government did was kill the very last remaining social housing program. Canada has had a social housing deficit accumulating year after year ever since.

The government has squandered our future by giving all that money away to companies that do not need it. It is irresponsible. It is wasteful. It is negligent.