Debates of March 20th, 2007
House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.
- Question Period
- Parliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- The Budget
- Wladyslaw Guzdziol
- International Day of La Francophonie
- Grand Forks Post Office
- Prime Minister's Awards
- Tourism Industry
- International Day of La Francophonie
- The Budget
- Hockeyville 2007
- Human Rights
- The Budget
- Prime Minister of Japan
- The Budget
- The Environment
- Transfer Payments
- Points of Order
- The Budget
- Business of Supply
- Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Mr. Speaker, we have in Canada growing complaints about skills shortages, even though there are record high profits.
We have not really seen, in this budget, a Canadian literacy initiative that would fund new workplace and community programs that would strengthen adult skills in reading, writing and basic math. There is no workplace skills strategy that would provide financial support for innovative pilot projects.
There really are no labour market partnership agreements that would expand apprenticeship programs; literacy programs; workplace skills development; and support for immigrants, aboriginals, older workers and other employees who face labour market barriers. Nor are there training and education centre infrastructure funds that would support different apprenticeship training programs.
I also note that in Quebec this year there is a cut of $213 million for child care. Quebec was supposed to receive, under the old funding agreement, $269 million for child care.
What I do not understand, given that there is very little funding for apprenticeship programs, post-secondary education and child care, is how this budget could be supported?
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, that is what separates the Bloc Québécois from the NDP, even though our outlooks on social justice are quite similar. Nonetheless, in our opinion, the key players, the major stakeholders in finding solutions to these significant social problems are the provinces, Quebec in particular.
We want to have transfers without conditions. Obviously we would prefer to have equalization transfers, or money sent to the Government of Quebec so that it can assume its own responsibilities, including a certain number of the problems that have been raised.
For example, literacy is not a federal government responsibility. The federal government has a responsibility to transfer money to Quebec so that it can have suitable literacy programs. The federal government has a responsibility to literacy coalitions. That is why we criticized the last fall's program cuts of over a billion dollars.
We have to work on resolving the fiscal imbalance so that Quebec has all the means necessary to deal with the problems raised by the hon. member.
In that sense, we support the budget, even though the initial response is inadequate, as I have already explained. Nonetheless, it is by resolving the fiscal imbalance, by transferring the tax base revenues to Quebec—the provinces that want to benefit from this will follow suit—that Quebec will have the means to deal with all the problems she has raised.
Social programs, learning and literacy are not federal government responsibilities. The government's responsibility is to properly redistribute wealth across the Canadian political federation, which it still has not done.
In my opinion, this will never happen because the federal government, regardless of its political stripes, will always want to have a stranglehold. There is still the good old-fashioned idea that Ottawa knows best, when in fact it manages practically nothing as far as social programs are concerned.
Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell.
I want to start by addressing the fact that I personally feel this is the best budget that the people of Canada, and particularly the people of Alberta, have seen for a generation.
For far too long, we have suffered at the hands of a Liberal government that chose the privileged class over hard-working Albertans who work 60 hours a week to keep our province prosperous. For far too long, we Albertans have had to deal with Liberal governments that chose to pit one region against another for partisan purposes. For far too long, Alberta has suffered at the hands of fiscal mismanagement from successive Liberal governments that promised everything and delivered nothing. At the end of the day, they just did not get the job done.
Turning the page, however, today is a great day for Canadians. With the release of budget 2007, Canadians will finally have fiscal balance. Thanks to Canada's new government, we have rectified Liberal negligence by providing a budget that has something in it for everyone. From families to farmers to seniors to military personnel, this budget leaves no rock unturned.
Canada's new government is giving back to Canadians. We are putting money back where it belongs: in the hands of hard-working Canadians.
In the province of Alberta alone, fiscal balance is being restored with over $3 billion in 2007-08. Our government is giving provinces the resources they need to deliver the front line services that matter to all Canadians.
Finally, we have a government that respects the role of the Constitution and the role of municipalities and the provinces.
During my first term in office, I have had the privilege of knocking on many doors. One such door I want to tell a quick story about was in Redwater. I was talking to a nice young lady by the name of Carrie Fischer. When I knocked on her door, I asked if I could go in and elicit her support. She said certainly, but she had a message she wanted to give me first. I sat down at her kitchen table, across from her three young children, and listened to her talk about how she felt she had been mistreated for years by the Canadian system of taxation. She felt that as a married mother who stays at home to look after her children she had been penalized because her husband goes off to work.
I am proud that our Prime Minister has listened to those people sitting around kitchen tables. Hard-working families are the backbone of this country and Canada's new government recognizes this.
Families in Alberta and across the nation will enjoy a new $2,000 child tax credit that will provide more than three million families with tax relief of up to $310 per child. In Alberta, parents will save an estimated $173.2 million.
Albertan families will also enjoy a new “working income tax benefit” of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families. This will benefit Alberta workers, with over $55.2 million going back into their pockets.
That is not all. Alberta residents will save roughly $30.2 million with an increase in the basic spousal amount that will provide tax relief of up to $209 to a supporting spouse or a single taxpayer supporting a child or relative.
Alberta taxpayers will also save $13.5 million with an increase in the RRSP and registered pension plan maturation age limit from 69 to 71 years of age. This is well over $272 million back in the hands of Alberta families alone.
The buck does not stop there. Canada's new government is just getting started.
Farmers and homegrown biofuel producers will also have their fair share of what it means to have a government that not only listens to their problems but also acts on those problems.
One billion dollars will be committed to farmers for the improvement of national farm income programs. Of that commitment, $600 million will go toward contributory-style producer savings accounts.
This is exactly what farmers in my area are asking for. In Westlock--St. Paul, we have some of the most progressive, advanced, hard-working farmers in the world. They feel they need a system like this. They feel that we need to make some of these changes to help get rid of the CAIS program and move on to a new style of program. This is exactly what they are looking for.
While there will be an additional $400 million paid directly to producers to help address high production costs, Alberta farmers will receive roughly $210 million of these initiatives. That is $1 billion and $210 million more than the Liberals ever gave Canadian and Alberta farmers respectively.
Homegrown biofuels producers will also be able to put their hands on the money, given the $2 billion in incentives for renewable fuel production over a seven year span. A renewable fuels operating incentive program will bring stability, allowing the domestic ethanol and biodiesel industry to finally flourish and compete with national and international markets.
The program will provide 10¢ per litre for domestic renewable gasoline, ethanol, and 20¢ per litre for domestic renewable diesel production for the first three years. By bringing over 20 new world class biofuels facilities to Canada and creating over 14,000 new jobs in rural communities, this provides a new market for over 200 million bushels of Canadian grains and oilseeds.
I had the privilege this summer of going around my riding to many town hall meetings and talking to hundreds of different producers. All of them were very hopeful that we would not go just partway in the budget, that we would not just promise something, give a little bit of what was promised in the first year and 20 years later have it all doled out when it is too late.
Our producers wanted us to do it and to do it right the first time. I am proud to say that our Minister of Finance has heard that message loud and clear and our Prime Minister has endorsed it. These initiatives are exactly what our agricultural producers have been looking for.
I would be very remiss if I did not speak on one of the most pertinent issues in my riding: the men and women of our armed forces. It has been my biggest privilege as a member of Parliament in this first 14 months to serve and to have the opportunity to deal with many of the men and women from CFB Edmonton and from CFB Four Wing, Cold Lake. I have taken a lot of time to listen to what these men and women have to say to us and to what they have to tell their government.
I want to tell another quick story. When I was in Bon Accord during the campaign, I was knocking on doors. Like most politicians, I was a little nervous at the beginning. A man walked up to me and said, “Is that a politician coming up here? If it is, I've got something to tell him”. He happened to be a sergeant in our armed forces, with over 20 years' experience. He was very perturbed. He said that we send our armed forces over there and give them difficult missions, which they do not mind, and they do not mind being worked hard or being put in harm's way because that is why they signed up, but he said they do mind us not giving them the means, the tools and the equipment to do their jobs properly.
I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to go back this summer to talk to that same gentleman. He thanked me and wanted me to pass on the message to the Prime Minister or whoever is in charge of it, because at the end of the day the forces got what was most important to them: the tools and the equipment they need to do their job properly.
I am proud to say that we are putting in $60 million per year to level out the allowances paid to soldiers serving in army field units. This is very important for the men and women of CFB Edmonton. There is also $10 million for operational stress injury clinics, showing that we are concerned about the men and women not just while they are in theatre but also when they are out of theatre.
There is $19 million going to the veterans ombudsman to help ensure the enhancement of the veterans' bill of rights. Probably most important, as I have already stated, there is $175 million in budget 2007-08 for the Canadian Forces Canada first defence plan.
I am running out of time. The budget has so many tremendous things to talk about, but I will wrap up by mentioning municipalities. I served as a town councillor in the community of Barrhead and had the privilege of dealing with many of the concerns that come forward at the local level. One of the biggest concerns is that municipalities are never given the funding or the tools to do their job.
Once again, our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance have listened to this. They have brought forward $16 billion in infrastructure over a seven year period. They have also brought forward $2 billion per year to municipalities from 2010 to 2013 by extending the gas tax fund transfer. Most important for Albertans, they have increased the transfer by $171 million by per capita funding. That is very important.
It is a privilege to speak to the budget. I look forward to taking questions.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, as a new member of Parliament, the member for Westlock—St. Paul certainly represents his constituents well. I want to commend him especially, as I know that this member, before this budget was announced, was one of the very strong advocates for helping biofuels, recognizing exactly what this does for the producers and the farmers in his riding. I know that he lobbied very hard for this.
I wonder if he could tell this House about the significance of this budget for Alberta farmers and farmers across the country. Perhaps there are a couple of things he could highlight.
I know that in the riding of Crowfoot many farmers are frustrated with the way the CAIS program is operating. This budget addresses that. It puts money aside and gives us a kickstart on a new program that I think will better serve the producers.
Also, as far as the capital gains exemption is concerned, this budget now allows farmers to go from a $500,000 maximum to $750,000. Perhaps he could talk about the importance of that to farmers and also about the biofuels and the many other things that this budget has for farmers.
Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB
Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Crowfoot, for long being a leading advocate in Alberta for our farmers and our producers, both on the opposition benches and on the government benches, making sure that farmers are heard and pushing the same programs and the same priorities. He has delivered the same message in opposition and in government.
It is a real privilege to be part of a government in which for the first time in years the farm programs and the agriculture debate is actually taking place. A very important part of what the member talked about was the biodiesel and ethanol incentives that we have put forward so our industry can be competitive.
This is exactly what Conservatives focus on. They focus on bringing industry into it. They also focus on levelling the playing field so people can be competitive. That in turn is going to drive up the prices at the farm gate, as it already has, and that is the most important thing.
Subsidies are important and we have acknowledged that with over $1 billion in our first budget and an extra $1 billion in this budget, and in eliminating the CAIS program, which is very important, but no farmer I have ever talked to wants to be a subsidy chaser. He wants to have farm gate pricing. That is exactly what this initiative is bringing forward.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I have two quick questions for the member.
As members know, the Liberal Party started the infrastructure programs and the gas tax programs, which are very popular in municipalities. They are absolutely essential. We fought and fought with the Conservatives to extend those programs in the long term. We are very happy that they have been extended from five to seven years, as is the FCM, but we were looking for a longer extension and so were Canadian municipalities. I would like the member to comment on the comment from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that there is no long term solution, no long term extension like we were looking for.
The member was praising the military. I would like him to answer, again, to the Prime Minister's broken promise, the only promise to the north, which was a promise for icebreakers and a northern port. Once again, these are broken promises not showing up in the budget.
Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB
Mr. Speaker, I can talk only about what I have witnessed and what I have experienced with the men and women of our armed forces. I represent not a small number of them. Over 7,000 men and women in our Canadian armed forces are housed right in my riding. They are ecstatic with the measures taken by the government. They are hoping that we are in for a long time so that we can continue to fix the neglect of 13 years of Liberal government.
However, I really want to make sure I address the question on the gas tax funding, because I think the member brings up an excellent point. It was a Reform-Alliance proposal in the first place that finally drove the Liberals to put this funding in place. Now we, as a Conservative government, have only expanded that program. I think the steps taken by this government and the extra infrastructure dollars are very positive. I know that my municipal councillors and municipal reeves, to whom I talk on a daily basis, thank us and ask us to continue with this great work.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Mr. Speaker, in 2000 the corporate income tax rate was 28%. By 2004, the former Liberal government had dropped it to 21%. In 2005 it went down to 19%. The NDP stopped this cut in budget 2005 in June, but by the fall the Liberals recommitted it. Now the Conservative government is cutting it even further to 18.5%.
Every dollar of corporate income tax that is cut adds about 25¢ to banks and insurance companies, and we know how much help they need, and only 13¢ to struggling manufacturers.
Why is the Conservative government giving a big break to banks, which last year made $19 billion in profits, rather than investing at least a billion dollars, as it should, to child care providers?
Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB
Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my answer as brief as I can. We in Canada's new government believe in working with all facets of our economy and that includes industry. I think the hon. member will note that the biggest tax reductions and tax breaks this government has given in its first two budgets are somewhere in the neighbourhood of $39 billion. These tax breaks will go to individuals and hard-working families. That is the most important thing.
The last thing I want to mention is that this government is going after those tax havens that for far too long have survived in our country.
Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to express my enthusiasm for a budget that will be recognized as one of the most beneficial budgets for Canadians. I say this as the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, which, like all ridings in Ontario, will benefit from this budget. This is true for all Canadians.
Our Minister of Finance had the courage to tackle the fiscal imbalance and to resolve this fundamental issue for all the provinces of Canada. Furthermore, the Ontario Minister of Finance, Greg Sorbara, recognized the importance of the measures taken by our government to restore tax fairness—something the Ontario government has been calling for for some time. He said:
Today's federal budget appears to make some considerable progress in addressing fairness in Ontario.
It is a step forward in addressing our long-standing position that our province deserves to be treated fairly.
The $39 million allocated to resolving this file represents a historic amount. For Ontario, this means more money—an additional $8 billion—for health care, and more money for social services and infrastructure.
Correcting the fiscal imbalance is an excellent step for Ontario, for all the provinces and for Canada.
However, our government is doing even more by addressing the deficit with its own citizens, which was another one of our commitments. With this budget, our government is clearly showing that we put workers and families first. Tax relief is well targeted and affects those who really need it.
Our Minister of Finance understands the difficulties facing families. He also understands what they want from the government. The $2,000 child tax credit helps families directly, by putting money in their pockets. Eliminating the marriage penalty is also proof that tax relief can effectively serve family values.
Additionally, I would like to emphasize that our achievements also benefit seniors who need our support. Measures that allow pension income splitting will bring invaluable financial support. Many seniors will also appreciate that they can stay in the labour market thanks to measures that allow them to retire gradually, without having to pay a penalty.
In keeping its commitment to guarantee that tax relief is proportional to the savings achieved by paying down the debt, the government will prove that transparency and respect for workers are fundamental values.
Our latest budget gives Canadians reasons to be proud of their country.
As the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, I am very proud that our government is serious about supporting culture, in particular by contributing to la Francophonie and to festivals celebrating our heritage.
In total budget 2007 also invests $4.5 billion for environmental initiatives. These include investing $225 million with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect up to 2,000 square kilometres of ecologically sensitive land, dedicating $30 million to safeguard the Great Bear Rain Forest on the central coast of British Columbia and strengthening enforcement of environmental protection laws by increasing the number of enforcement officers by 50%.
We promised to be tough on criminals, and this budget shows that we are serious. Considerable sums have been allocated to the fight against drugs and gang activity, two issues threatening the honest members of society.
We should acknowledge our government's unprecedented effort to give the Canadian armed forces the support and respect they deserve: more resources for those currently serving our country and also more services for veterans, whose sacrifices we will never forget.
For veterans, our Conservative government is committed to creating an ombudsman position, to ensure that their rights are respected.
Furthermore, in this budget our Conservative government is taking real action to support farmers. Since being elected, we have listened to producers across the country. They told us that the Canadian agricultural income stabilization, or CAIS, program did not address their needs. With our provincial and territorial counterparts, we have responded with significant improvements to the margin based program.
Agreement in principle has been reached on a disaster relief framework and we are working to expand production insurance to more commodities. With budget 2006, our government delivered on its commitment to provide an additional $500 million annually for farm support programs and, in addition, provided an extra $1 billion.
The passing of budget 2007 will solidify the Prime Minister's recent announcement of another $1 billion commitment to help address gaps in existing programs and significant increases in the cost of production. Through this budget, we are providing $1 billion in new direct assistance to farmers and we are replacing the top tier of the CAIS program with a new savings account plan. A farmer savings program is an important step forward in replacing CAIS with programming that is more predictable, bankable and better able to help producers respond to rising costs.
This new program, combined with a disaster relief framework, improved production insurance and an improved margin based program, is all good news for farmers.
The $1 billion in funding that farmers will be receiving through budget 2007 includes a $400 million payment to help with the high cost of production. Funds will be delivered through a direct payment to producers of non-supply managed commodities. Producers will receive a payment directly and will not have to apply.
An additional $600 million in federal funding, once an agreement is reached with the provinces and territories, will kick-start new producer savings programs. Moreover, in recognition of the importance of the contributions of farmers to the Canadian economy, budget 2007 proposes to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000 from $500,000. Therefore, increased—
The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer
I hate to interrupt the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, but it is 2 p.m. He will have three minutes to finish his speech at the end of question period, but now we have to move on to statements by members.
Statements By Members
Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the citizens of my riding to commend the Minister of Finance for the significant investments and tax changes made in budget 2007.
In my riding of Peterborough the additional support for our seniors will relieve a heavy tax burden off of more than 20,000 of my valued constituents. Peterborough is a blue collar town, relying on the success of Ontario's manufacturing, agricultural and tourism industries. The support for families in budget 2007, in particular those with children under the age of 18, was both well received and long overdue.
The Peterborough riding is the proud home of two of the finest post-secondary institutions in Canada. If Canada is to take its place as a global leader in today's competitive world, institutions like Trent University and Sir Sanford Fleming College must be adequately supported. The 40% federal increase in post-secondary transfers will enable them to provide both an affordable and accessible post-secondary education that is of the utmost quality.
On behalf of the citizens of the Peterborough riding, I thank the Minister of Finance for his vision and commitment to a stronger, better, safer Canada.
Statements By Members
March 20th, 2007 / 2 p.m.
Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS
Mr. Speaker, the good people of Cape Breton and eastern Nova Scotia have suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of a committed and distinguished citizen, Dr. Wladyslaw Guzdziol. Dr. Guzdziol passed away this week at the age of 93, having served multiple generations of families in the Port Hawkesbury area.
Born in Poland in 1913, he completed his medical doctorate in 1937. During the second world war he was a prisoner of war in Poland and placed in a Soviet prison camp. He remained captive for more than five years, surviving seven different camps.
After liberation, he served as a lieutenant in the Polish navy where he met his wonderful wife, Anna. They were wed in 1947 and soon afterward came to Cape Breton.
He was a doctor who prided himself on extending a helping hand to the poor, the vulnerable and did so for over 55 years. Our community mourns the loss of a man of fortitude and distinction.
To his wife, Anna, and daughter, Barbara, we pass on our heartfelt condolences.
International Day of La Francophonie
Statements By Members
Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, many Francophone countries have been celebrating the international day of La Francophonie since 1988. Every year, this day gives 200 million francophones an opportunity to celebrate the language they share.
The French language is a precious legacy that lies at the very heart of La Francophonie. It is also a gateway to modernity, and a tool for communication, contemplation and creation.
In Quebec, Francofête celebrates La Francophonie all month long. This year, Francofête invites us to speak to the world in French and reminds us that Francophones around the world all bring their own colour and flavour to the French language. Our wealth of words, terms and figurative expressions deserves to be shared.
The Bloc Québécois and I invite Francophones on all five continents to proudly celebrate the French language.
Grand Forks Post Office
Statements By Members
Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, at a community forum held last week in Greenwood, I was approached by Ms. Pat McGee, president of the Grand Forks Canadian Union of Postal Workers, where she outlined some pretty disturbing news.
A recent decision was made to delete a full time clerk position in the Grand Forks post office, which has resulted in large lineups. The citizens in rural parts of my riding need to know that they have access to quality services, not a systematic dismantling of a core service. It appears that post offices across Canada are being dismantled one employee at a time.
According to Ms. McGee, big business is lobbying fiercely for privatization of our postal services. We must not let this happen. Privatization means higher postal rates, uneven service standards and quality, fragmentation of our delivery network and possibly a decrease in mail security.
This is a bad move for everyone. We need not look any further than our own B.C. communities to see how bad privatization really is. Highways are not being looked after and public health care and the environment are under attack.
The public service is already understaffed and privatizing post offices is a step backward for our community.