House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Québec for agreeing to share her time with me.

Today we are debating the Liberal amendment that would have us reject the budget. The Bloc Québécois decided to vote in favour of this budget, not because it is an ideal budget, but because it does give Quebec some of the money it needs to be able to fulfill its obligations. For the first year of this budget, this amounts to $1.763 billion. For the second year, this is increased to $2.808 billion. And for the third year, it is $3.338 billion. This represents a significant effort in terms of additional funds for Quebec. This is part of the debate on the fiscal imbalance.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government ended its efforts at the calculation of the additional money it has in its surpluses that could go to the province of Quebec so as restore the financial imbalance somewhat. However, it has not corrected it in any permanent way.

If they had transferred income tax points, we would have reached a permanent position that would have assured Quebec of revenue that it could hold on to for the future. Now, we are simply dependent on the power of the money flowing into the federal government. If, in three to five years, that flow diminishes and we are in a more difficult financial situation, Quebec will in no way have obtained satisfaction.

In this Parliament, on one side there are the centralizing parties, the Liberal party and the NDP, who are unhappy to see money going to the provinces. On the other side, there is the Conservative party that has decided to respect one of its election promises by giving more money to Quebec. For our part, the Bloc has said that the commitment was not simply to put money on the table but also to change the way in which it is done. For example, the federal spending power really should have been defined. In no way does this budget reflect the solutions that the Bloc Québécois and Quebec, as a whole, had put forward to deal with the principles of income tax points or spending power.

All the current leaders of the provincial parties in Quebec have said that it was not enough and that the fiscal imbalance has not been corrected. Each of them said how they would use the additional money. In the end, Mr. Charest’s position was probably the worst. For a long time he claimed that the fiscal imbalance had to be corrected to provide money needed for services. Then, the first thing he decided to do with the additional money was to reduce taxes, something that he had not done in four years. He did not keep his promise. I believe that he damaged Quebec’s position with that attitude. In contrast, Mr.. Boisclair, of the Parti Québécois, said he would use the additional funds where they are most needed, whether in education or for health care. That will ensure a better balance.

The real solution to the problem of fiscal imbalance is to provide additional funding to Quebec in an automatic way, by a transfer of income tax points. At the same time, when the Conservative government comes forward with money today it can be used to ensure the quality of services.

In any event, we shall find out this evening what Quebeckers have decided. It is apparent that, of the options available to voters, the Parti Québécois will govern Quebec fairly and enable it to achieve sovereignty. We could thus put an end to these debates about fiscal imbalance.

A great deal of energy has been spent on this issue in the past four years, since the Séguin commission was established by Bernard Landry, then the Quebec premier and a Parti Québécois member. Many steps have been taken to date, such as the commitment by the Conservative Party made during the election to resolve the fiscal imbalance. Today, they are not providing a solution at all. What the government is doing is making a payment and saying that is the solution and it can give no more. However, everyone in Quebec knows that this debate will continue. As long as we do not have permanent funding, the issue will not be resolved. In the end, sovereignty is the best way to ensure adequate funding for Quebec, which would then have control over 100% of its taxes and could allocate them in the way it deems most appropriate for Quebeckers.

In this budget, there are a few items that I would like to discuss in addition to the fiscal imbalance. First, I am frustrated that there is no money for older workers in the budget. Last year at this time, we had managed to ensure that, in the Speech from the Throne and then in the budget, there were signs that steps were being taken towards a solution, that there was an acknowledgement that the situation of older workers was a problem. Finally, a committee was established and is examining this issue.

What would it have cost to include the $75 million needed to implement a good program for older workers, for people who cannot re-enter the workforce after everything has been done to help them find a job? The government could have made that financial commitment so that once the committee makes its recommendations, the money could be allocated accordingly.

They chose not to go there. I think this shows just how closed-minded the Conservatives are: they do not believe that this kind of program to redistribute wealth is either justified or necessary. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has seen how globalization and the opening of new markets have created interesting possibilities. However, there are also major drawbacks, which are now having an impact on several economic sectors.

Thousands of jobs have disappeared in the manufacturing sector. Some people find other work, but in the end, several hundred, if not several thousand workers over 50 have no source of income. Now, despite the fact that they dedicated their lives to their companies to support their families, they end up on social assistance. We were hoping the budget would include a measure to address this problem.

People in my riding were hoping for a solution to another problem. During last year's election campaign, the Conservatives promised to reopen the RCMP detachments that the Liberals had closed. In light of this government's public safety agenda, it is surprising that no real solution has been put forward and that they did not think reopening the detachments would be necessary to ensure adequate public safety.

The Conservatives made a promise and I know they are looking for a way to resolve the situation. It was quite simple. It was simply a matter of announcing it in the budget. This would have allowed the regions to have adequate coverage. They did not announce it, despite receiving many letters from municipal authorities from all the regions concerned, and despite pressure from the Bloc Québécois through its continued efforts. This year we would have expected to find a solution to this in the budget.

I would like to raise one last point. The Bloc Québécois had also proposed expanding a fiscal concept that exists in Quebec, namely a tax credit for young graduates who settle in the regions. This $8,000 tax credit has proven effective and has started to reverse the trend in certain regions of Quebec where we are seeing young people returning. We would have liked the federal government to come up with a similar measure. We believe that, as a way of keeping people in all regions of the country, this would have been a positive step, and not very costly. It would have allowed young graduates to settle in the regions and start their families and ensure that our local and rural populations can support the necessary municipal and school services.

This budget was expected in Quebec and it came during the election campaign. The Bloc Québécois decision to vote in favour of the budget was supported by most Quebeckers, who are nonetheless aware that we are receiving this money because the federal government happens to have a major surplus.

This in no way restores balance in the Canadian federation. Nothing has been permanently corrected. The battle still needs to be waged in the coming months and years in order to get real transfers of tax points and permanent ways of correcting the situation that do not depend on federal government funding.

Surprisingly, in the budget before us, the current government is suggesting that it could continue to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. Furthermore, a list of sectors has been identified for this.

The principle is not being corrected. The presumption by the Minister of Finance and certain Conservative members that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected is absolutely not shared by Quebec. Roughly 80% of the population believes that the battle will continue until a solution is found.

As far as I am concerned, the real solution is Quebec having control over 100% of taxes, deciding as a sovereign state how this money is to be spent and not having to devote so much energy anymore in an unproductive battle that has been going on for months and years, with results like the ones before us today.

The Bloc Québécois will support this budget because of the extra money that Quebec desperately needs. But that support in no way means that the debate on fiscal imbalance is over for Quebec. The Bloc Québécois will continue to spearhead Quebec's action on this side of the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that my hon. colleague's premise that he will wait for the successful completion of a sovereignty exercise in Quebec before moving forward on many of the issues that affect working people in this country is the approach that would fit with the people in his constituency.

The Conservatives are trying to sell the budget on the basis of it being a working class budget for working people. However, when we see no help for EI; no help for day care that is of any significance any more; corporate tax cuts of some $9 billion carried on; tax exemptions that are not targeted or do not deliver the maximum to lower paid Canadians but actually deliver the maximum to middle and upper class Canadians, when we see what the budget actually entails and we take it apart piece by piece, we realize pretty quickly that the budget is not about working class people.

Is my hon. colleague prepared to leave working class people in Quebec waiting until some date of a potential sovereignty vote before dealing with these issues?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend is confirming what I indicated in my speech: there are two parties in this House which are especially centralizing. The NDP and the Liberal Party consider, for example, that the federal government has to be in charge of the distribution of wealth in Canada. What the Bloc Québécois has fought for and gained in this budget is the transfer of billions in extra money to Quebec. This money should be transferred shortly.

But the long term battle is not over. For it to be over, we would have to be talking about permanent transfers in the form of tax credits. Still, when they look at what the Bloc has accomplished, particularly on the softwood lumber and free trade agreement front, the public and the workers in my riding feel that we have made the right decision, a decision with the interests of Quebec at the heart of it. It was imperative that we get the money back as soon as possible, so that Quebec businesses would have a chance to keep their heads above water.

People feel the same way about this budget. During the election campaign in Quebec, all three leaders of the main parties commented that the choice made by the Bloc Québécois was the right one. Quebec has for a long time been of the opinion that the federal government has far too much money for the responsibilities it has, whereas the provinces clearly do not have enough.

I will conclude by talking about the need to support the budget. However, the debate on fiscal imbalance must continue.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, although I disagree with my hon. colleague on his take on sovereignty, I would pose a couple of questions for him.

The budget talks about hybrids and gives money to hybrids. One of the things, however, the budget does not do is give money to Canadian manufacturers to establish technologies and work on technologies to have hybrids that are made in Canada. All the hybrid money will go to cars made outside Canada. It certainly is a slap in the face to Canadian auto workers.

The budget also failed to recognize and continue the work that the GTA caucus of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government was doing to extend mass transit in certain parts of Toronto. For example, in my riding the subway line was to be extended. In my riding we were supposed to be getting more LRT. The Conservative government has certainly failed with the budget.

How does my hon. colleague feel about hybrids, especially since he will be supporting the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to manufacturing, a unanimous report was submitted by the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. This report recommended, among other things, that capital cost allowances be accelerated, so that the purchase of equipment can be written off over two years instead of seven or eight, making production more efficient. This measure can be found in the budget, and personally, I am very satisfied with it. The committee made many other recommendations, but the government did not immediately accept them. I hope that it will in time.

Regarding the environment, obviously the Conservatives are still trying to turn things around. But they still have some major problems. They do not want to create a carbon exchange, which has been recommended by economists as well as environmentalists. We must continue to put pressure on them and ask questions so that they make changes. First of all, they have to recognize the importance of the Kyoto protocol.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Cambridge.

First and foremost, I want to point out that this budget is balanced and fair for all Canadians. While cutting taxes for working families and introducing pension income splitting for seniors, the government is also investing in key priorities, such as infrastructure and the environment.

While offering a balanced, fair budget with long-term measures to offset the fiscal imbalance, we also set up the wait times guarantee trust. And thanks to our tax back guarantee, lower debt will mean lower interest payments, and therefore lower taxes.

I am proud to say that I am a part of a government that realizes the importance of a sound economic plan to ensure the prosperity of Canada over the long term and not a focus on one-off side deals that compromise all principles of fairness.

In my limited time to talk about the budget I want to take the opportunity to relate to the House how this budget positively impacts the areas of my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac. I specifically want to discuss the support for agriculture and forestry, a commitment to infrastructure and to helping our truckers, small businesses and families. Those are all very important to my riding and all areas where this budget has delivered and will continue to deliver results.

When it comes to agriculture, our government continues to support with unprecedented levels.

For agriculture, this budget includes two new commitments totaling $1 billion that will help improve our agricultural sectors. For instance, $400 million will go directly to farmers to help them deal with rising costs.

We are also adding $600 million to create contributory style producer savings accounts, which will be available as soon as agreements can be reached with the provinces and territories.

The $600 million for the savings program, in my view, is a start to implementing an income support program that will lead to a new program which will make up for the serious deficiencies in the current CAIS program. We expect that $10 million of this funding will go directly to farmers in New Brunswick, enabling them to stay competitive in local, regional and international markets. This effort, combined with the next round of discussions and consultation on agricultural policy framework, will be good for farmers. It will be good for farmers because we are doing this right and not ramming a program down the farmer's throat, as we saw with the current CAIS program.

There is no question that producers in my riding are very interested in a new generation of programming that includes a saving component, somewhat like the old NISA program, and ensuring we deal with the cost of production. The farmers certainly shared those ideas with the Minister of Agriculture when he was in Tobique—Mactaquac a mere weeks ago.

This budget also addresses a key element for diversifying the products we produce through funds earmarked for biofuels. This biofuels program will also benefit renewable fuel for agricultural producers by allocating $1.5 billion for renewable fuel production, including the technology and projects associated with ethanol biodiesel.

I will save the rest of my speech for after question period.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member can continue his speech after question period and he will have about six and a half minutes left.

Victims of Crime
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to an initiative to remember those who are most affected by crime.

In the midst of debate over proper sentencing, conditional sentencing, long term sentencing and house arrest, it is easy to lose sight of the people most affected by crime, the victims.

For the past week, statements in every provincial legislature and the Senate have been drawing attention to the victims of crime. I am pleased to add my voice to this chorus.

Crime always has consequences. I have met the parents of a young man who was murdered. We know that no sentence will bring this young man back to life but we can do a better job of caring for those who are left with only memories.

Our government has taken some great steps of compassion toward crime victims. We have announced a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, as well as funding for programs and services to support Canada's victims of crime.

National Victims of Crime Week is the last week of April. I ask everyone to please think about how we can help crime victims, not just in April but throughout the entire year.

Greek Independence Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday, March 25, Canadians of Hellenic descent celebrated their 186th anniversary of the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire.

In 1821, after 400 years of oppression from the Ottoman Empire, the Hellenes, through the leadership of people such as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Palaion Patron Germanos, Melas, Karaiskakis, Miaoulis and many others, fought bravely so that once again they could live as free people.

Historic battles, such as the battle of Souli, and heroes like Lord Byron of England, collectively all made supreme sacrifices, for what? For a spirit called Hellenism, but more so, they fought for freedom, for liberty, for justice and the rule of law.

In 1821, the birthplace of democracy was once again liberated.

It is, therefore, my hope, as we move into this new millennium, that tensions of the past are put to rest so that Greece and Turkey can focus on nurturing the positive energies of their people leading to a prosperous and peaceful future.

[Member spoke in Greek as follows:]

Zito to eikosi enna.

Manawan Atikamekw Reserve
Statements By Members

March 26th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Lanaudière native friendship centre and Connexion-Lanaudière on the official launch of the Internet site marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Manawan Atikamekw reserve.

The Internet site commemorates the 1906 establishment of the Atikamekw community in Manawan through text, archival photos and videos. This ambitious project required months of work and depicts the settlement of the aboriginal community, focussing on the nomadic life, the end of that lifestyle, their settlement and life on the reserve, and the difficulties in adapting to that life. It also shows how the move to the reserve altered the lifestyle of the Atikamekw and clearly explains the current difficulties experienced by this northern Lanaudière community.

I invite you to visit the web site at www.manawan.org where you will find some very interesting information.

Once again, congratulations, and I hope everyone will visit this site.

Construction Workers
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, for ordinary, hard-working Canadians, last week's budget is a total failure. It fails to address the growing prosperity gap and throws about new programs and tax credits to the few lucky enough to get a place around the boardroom table where it was written.

Governments, whether Liberal or today's Conservatives, continue to ignore the reasonable demands of a group of Canadian workers, our construction workers. There are no measures for construction workers by trade and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses incurred by employment away from their homes. People who work from home can deduct certain expenses relating to a home office but people for whom the very nature of their jobs require frequent travel to job sites, the location over which they have no control, there is nothing similar.

The NDP is the only party to put forward a concrete legislative solution to this problem with a private member's bill introduced by my colleague from Hamilton Mountain. The long distance truck driver has an enhanced meal credit program in recognition of the additional expense borne while travelling for work, why not construction workers?

It is long past time--

Construction Workers
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Fundy—Royal.

The Budget
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be a Conservative member of Parliament from New Brunswick and proud that the government is getting things done for my province.

Only the Conservative government recognizes that the Fundy Trail is one of Canada's natural wonders and is investing in it for Canadians' continued enjoyment.

Only the Conservative government made the Saint John Harbour clean-up a priority project by investing $26.6 million to clean up Saint John Harbour.

Only the Conservative government is delivering for New Brunswickers through budget 2007.

A new child tax credit will provide up to $310 per child in tax relief for New Brunswick parents. New initiatives will deliver nearly $10 million for New Brunswick farmers and New Brunswick will receive an unprecedented level of federal support totalling $2.3 billion.

Canada's government is getting things done for Canada and is helping to build and strong and prosperous New Brunswick.

Hockey
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a proud day in Fredericton as the University of New Brunswick has captured its second Canadian Interuniversity Men's Hockey Championship.

The Varsity Reds won the University Cup with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the top ranked host, Université de Moncton. It was a sweet win, given les Eggle Bleu knocked off UNB to claim the Atlantic title just two weeks ago in double overtime.

UNB advanced to the national final by edging Saskatchewan and blanking Trois-Rivières. Congratulations to these fine student athletes, head coach Gardiner MacDougall, his staff and the entire athletics department.

Last night's game was another testament to the quality in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. It will be great to see another championship banner hanging from the rafters of the Aitken Centre.

Curling
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the Kelowna Curling Club team who yesterday became the Women's World Curling Champions.

Skip Kelly Scott, Gina Schraeder, Sasha Carter, Renee Simons, Michelle Allan and coach Gerry Richard beat Denmark in the championship game 8-4, a resounding win that capped off a near perfect tournament.

With their win last night, Kelly Scott and Sasha Carter became the only Canadian women to ever achieve both World Junior Women's and World Women's titles.

This latest Kelowna connection cements Kelowna's reputation as the curling capital of Canada. Kelowna has produced world champions in men's, women's, junior men's and junior women's divisions, the Canadian National Blind Championship and has won gold in the Paralympics.

Team Kelowna has curled together for five years, has won the last two Canadian championships and will go on to try to win its third in 2008 as Team Canada.

On behalf of the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country and Canadians across this country, we salute Kelly Scott and her team for bringing the Women's World Curling Championship back home to Canada.