House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #169

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division at second reading of Bill C-343, under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #170

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Consequently, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion.

Electoral Reform
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. M-262 under private members' business in the name of the member for Vancouver Island North.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #171

Electoral Reform
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:25, the House will now proceed to private members' business.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions).

Let me begin by saying that I believe hot spots in our economy, mostly in urban centres, tend to draw young Canadians away from the less populated regions when they begin to look for work after college or university.

That is why I commend my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for recognizing the need to ensure that our regions have the workers they need in order for their economies to thrive. His private member's bill certainly has this principle at its heart.

The bill proposes to provide a non-refundable tax credit to recent graduates who take their degrees into one of the regions identified as a designated region by the Development Incentives Act and find work related to their degree. Young Canadians who meet the qualifying employment criteria are able to claim a non-refundable tax credit of 40% of their salary up to a maximum of $8,000 for the first 52 weeks of employment.

The principle of the bill is a good one. It encourages young Canadians to settle in these designated regions after graduation. During that time, they will hopefully create ties to the local community, develop friendships and perhaps family and then choose to remain there when the 52 weeks qualifying period has ended.

While I have no doubt that the bill would offer some amount of success in achieving this, it does, however, miss the larger picture. The fact is if we want young people to settle in these regions, we need to ensure there are well-paying jobs for them there.

If we were to ask ourselves what is more likely to attract young workers to the regions, a one year tax incentive that will put $2,000 into their pockets if they find employment there, or the creation of real well-paying jobs that will provide for that young person year after year, most people would accept the latter.

What about the people who live in these regions and are struggling to find meaningful employment? In short, what we really need are the kinds of comprehensive regional development strategies that the party of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is quite simply against.

We need something just like the previous Liberal government's regional development plan. The 2005 budget included $800 million to provide over five years for the creation of new initiatives through Canada's regional development agencies, ACOA, FedNor, WD and Canada Economic Development for Quebec, which received roughly $300 million of that investment.

This showed real investment and real commitment from the Liberal Party, a commitment that the current Conservative government seems to lack.

I will not get into all the details about the views of the Conservatives on regional development as most of us know them well. I could tell the House for hours about how the government, time and time again, fails British Columbians.

I am sure that most of us can recall any number of quotes from the Prime Minister that illustrate his disdain for Canadian regional economic development. We can recall speeches, for example, where the Prime Minister has accused Atlantic Canadians of relying on a “culture of defeatism”, or the Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity) calling for the elimination of western economic diversification.

Today, we can still see the disregard of the Conservatives for the regions, and all these good things they have done for Canadians, including my constituents in Newton—North Delta. For instance, look at their decision to eliminate the summer career placement program, a program that was designed to find college and university students summer employment, which, for the most part, was in the very regions we are discussing today.

Thankfully, after much pressure, the government relented and reinstated the program by changing its name to the summer jobs program. The Conservatives, however, only gave the revamped program half of the resources of the previous Liberal program. This will no doubt result in many fewer students finding summer jobs in the regions.

Returning more directly to Bill C-207, I believe the bill represents one potential tool that will help to ensure young people settle into regions, but it is just one small tool when what we need in Canada is a box full of tools.

I also have some concerns regarding some technical aspects of the bill. I believe some of the wording needs to be tightened up. For instance, the bill does not clearly define what “employment related to their degree” actually entails. Without clarification the measure might possibly become prone to abuse.

Second, I wonder if the 52 weeks that the bill allows for is a long enough time period to create a real incentive for young Canadians to decide they want to work in one of Canada's designated regions.

All in all, however, the bill does have some merit and I will be pleased to lend my support to it at second reading. I hope, as it moves through committee stage, the members there will give the bill serious consideration and return it to the House with these questions addressed.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his work.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions). The designated regions are those regions that have traditionally high levels of youth out-migration.

I am interested in the bill because it closely mirrors work that we have been doing in my office for my region of northern Ontario because it has suffered from massive levels of youth out-migration. It is not just affecting our economic potential but it is seriously affecting the future of our region.

A number of players in the Timmins region have been trying to bring issues to bear on this, such as the Far Northeast Training Board, Northern College and Collège Boréal. Mike Kentish, who has been involved in adult literacy, learning and training, has also come forward with a number of ideas similar to those in the bill.

I find that the bill does have some vague areas which we could actually tighten up in terms of defining what regions would merit this and whether or not a year is enough. I do not know if that is worthwhile. I think young people who commit to returning to a region after a certain period of time would merit the tax credit. However, it is important because some of our northern communities are seeing 20% of their young people leaving and when they leave they do not go back. There are a number of reasons that is happening.

Our regions include the northern mining belt. The gold region extends from Val-d'Or over to Sudbury and Timmins. In the early days the mines were founded by immigrant miners because in those days the mining companies did not want Canadians working in the mines. They hired young men from Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bulgaria on short term work contracts because the work was hard.

My family were immigrant miners who came to Canada to do this work. The miners did not want their children to work in the mines. The old Croatian miners used to tell their kids that they would break their legs if they went underground. That may not actually be what they said but they did want their young people to get an education because they valued it. Those men worked hard and died young so their children could get an education. However, when they got their education they left. Year after year they left and new workers arrived.

However, the economy changed and by the 1970s and 1980s we were not seeing the same level of immigration in the north. Young people were still being encouraged to get an education and leave but now there is a serious problem. However, we do have economic potential in a region where there are opportunities for work but our young people are still leaving.

What do we need to do? We need to start focusing on the trades and training to ensure that our young people have the opportunity to work. In northern Ontario, the young people who want an education go to Guelph, to Ottawa or to Toronto where they spend four years in school. What happens when they finish? They end up with $40,000 worth of debt. While they are there, what else happens? They fall in love and now have $60,000 or $80,000 worth of debt.

We can rest assured that these young people are not going back to northern Ontario because starting over in northern Ontario becomes too difficult financially. As a result, we are losing our best young people who are our greatest resource. They are a much greater resource than gold, diamonds, the white pine, nickel or copper. Our young people are our resources and we need to find a way to encourage them to go back to their regions.

The story in northern Ontario is similar right across Canada.

I would like to talk about the young Franco-Ontarians who must leave northern Ontario to get a post-secondary education or to get a job in Alberta or in southern Ontario.

When young Franco-Ontarians leave a community such as Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing or Timmins, they leave behind their Franco-Ontarian community and culture. When we lose our young people, we lose our future.

It is critical that the provincial and federal governments provide sufficient resources for the construction of a new Collège Boréal campus in Timmins. It is equally critical that we give our young people the opportunity to learn a trade in their own language.

In the region of Timmins, a new Collège Boréal campus is essential for the development of the Franco-Ontarian community. It is essential for the development of a new economy in the north.

We need to work on education. We need to ensure that our young people have the opportunities to get trained in the trades and trained in university in their own regions and in their language so they can stay in our region so that when the opportunities do arise we will have given our young people the chance to stay and to have a new future.

The bill does speak to some of the areas of how we can start to encourage young people to come back. As I said, some more work needs to be done on the bill to fine-tune it to focus on kinds of incentives and where. Right now I think the area is somewhat vague. I do not think all regions of this country need it. We are looking at how to tweak certain areas that are suffering from extreme high levels of youth out-migration. Other areas are much more stable.

However, as federal members we need to recognize that rural Canada plays an important role and that the communities of rural Canada need to be maintained and the vitality of these communities can only be maintained if we have young people who are still living there.

What does happen when our young couples are down in Guelph, Ottawa, the University of Calgary or wherever with their $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 worth of debt? As we said, they fall in love and stay wherever they are. What happens then is that they have a family and then the grandparents start to go south to visit them. Sooner or later, after the young people leave, the parents leave to be with their grandchildren because it is too hard to be so far away.

The youth out-migration is the first step to the loss of the population of our region and then it is followed by the older generation. Once we lose enough of a critical mass we lose the vitality that holds our northern communities together.

I am very interested in this bill. As a New Democrat, I would be more than willing to work on how we can tweak it to improve it, but it is taking us in a direction that will help us in the north build and maintain the communities that we are so proud of.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to speak to the bill introduced by the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. First, I would like to congratulate him.

The bill tabled amends the Income Tax Act to give new graduates working in designated regions a tax credit. This is a concrete example of social and economic measures that Quebec has taken over the years. We have developed all kinds of original social initiatives, such as child care centres.

What about land occupancy? To ensure that our population will continue to have the requisite resources in our villages and municipalities, the Government of Quebec has developed a practice that it has already implemented. It gives a tax credit to a young person who settles in a region, in order to counter the exodus of youth and avoid the shortage of skilled labour.

This measure is available in my region and has had a positive impact. For example, population movement had been declining for a number of years. Now it seems that this measure has tempered matters in this regard. Additional efforts are required to achieve an even better result, to add a sort of catalyst that will result in further progress.

Bill C-207 is a step in that direction because it simply suggests extending this measure to all of Canada by defining the regions where these credits can be claimed. Consequently, in the end, this will provide an incentive for youth to settle in the regions. This is not charity. It is important for all of our land to be used and developed and for benefits to be found in every location. It is to the advantage of the major centres for the regions to be strong. This bill will help make this happen.

The original project was tested in Quebec. It allowed a new graduate to get an income tax credit equal to 40% of earned salary, up to a maximum of $8,000. That measure was implemented in 2003. That same year, 2,500 people applied for the credit. In 2004, it was claimed by 9,700 people from different regions, including 1,200 from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 1,600 from the Lower St. Lawrence, 800 from the Gaspé and Magdalen Islands, 1,000 from the North Shore and 4,000 from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. We can easily understand why the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is so interested in the measure. His region did benefit from the initiative put in place by the government of Quebec. Now, we want to broaden the measure.

The experience Quebec has had with it must be taken into account. In fact, the original measure has been amended. The changes made could be included in the bill when it is studied in committee.

I listened to the speech made by my colleague from the NDP and I agree with him. I recognized an interesting principle, a positive way of doing things. For Quebec, the system is already in place and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We only need to apply the federal tax credit in the same regions where the Quebec credit applies. As for the other provinces, we need to identify the right regions where the tax credit should be offered.

I invite hon. members to consider the results this type of measure can achieve. Young people are moving to the regions and sometimes they stay for a number of years. We would be prepared to consider an amendment, among other things, to spread out the tax credit over three years, like it was done in Quebec. This encourages applying for the credit just once. When someone moves to a region, they often get the urge to invest the rest of their life there and to contribute to the development of that region. The result is quite interesting.

Indeed, an amendment could be adopted in committee to make the tax credit more flexible and make it apply over a number of years. The incentive would have a more lasting effect.

As I was explaining, another amendment could be made with regard to eligible regions to ensure that this will truly be a positive incentive. Furthermore we have to avoid future disputes as much as possible, since there are always borderline areas in these cases. Nonetheless, as far as I am concerned, this issue should not prevent us from implementing a tax credit where it would be appropriate to do so.

Let us take for example the regions I mentioned. My colleague from Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, our party's regional development critic, is certainly aware of this reality.

We have seen the figures for his region in the Gaspé peninsula and for the Lower St. Lawrence. We are well aware that in terms of regional development, we now have to deal with the natural market forces inherent to globalization, which is causing our regions to lose their populations. One might say that that is how the market operates and we have to let the market dictate how this works, but this has a significant impact on support for municipal structures and support for our regions.

When the population of a town diminishes, it does not take long before it can no longer offer services. This disorganization, this de-institutionalization is very negative for our society. In my opinion, it is up to the government to go ahead with measures like this. They do not cost very much and they provide a return. For example, in the medium term, the bill will ensure that schools in villages stay open because young people will settle there, couples will form and children will be born. In that sense, we are keeping the wheels turning and making sure that life can go on in the communities.

It is important to move ahead with the bill so that it can be referred to a committee that will study it, hear witnesses and obtain the necessary expertise. The basic principle is that population movements are not solely a matter of economic markets. It is a question of regional development.

In the past, there were all sorts of initiatives like this that attracted people to regions throughout Quebec and across Canada. We need more such initiatives, because if we do not act, the consequences will ultimately be negative.

Look at what is happening in major cities in countries in the south. Artificial towns are being creating around the cities, where people from rural areas are settling. This is happening in China, and it is creating serious problems.

I hope that we will have the support of the majority of members of this House so that the bill will get through the report stage, come back to this House with any amendments we have suggested and have an impact so that this measure will be implemented in the short term or at least in the next budget. Then, the efforts of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord will have paid off.

In the next budget, there will be such a measure, and it will improve the situation in our regions and their ability to attract young people. I believe we will all benefit from such measures.

My time is almost up, so I will just remind this House that we are elected in ridings and that when a member like my friend from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has the interests of his own riding and all rural regions at heart, he deserves to be heard by this House. I hope that hon. members will support the bill so that it can move on to the committee stage.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we are continuing the debate on Bill C-207, a bill proposing a tax credit for new graduates working in certain designated regions.

While one can recognize the aim of such a measure and the desire to foster economic development in forming that measure, the proposal in Bill C-207 is saddled with a number of fundamental flaws.

The chief flaw of Bill C-207 is that while it encourages recent graduates to remain or relocate in designated regions, it does nothing to generate new employment in those regions. As a result, it could be argued that the proposed credit would primarily benefit individuals working in such regions regardless of the presence or absence of the tax credit. In that light, such a measure would clearly not be an effective avenue for this purpose.

This also speaks to a larger problem with Bill C-207. The bill proposes to address the issue of economic development in essentially a temporary or fragmented manner. Properly fostering economic development involves a multi-faceted approach responsive to local needs and creating strategic partnerships between businesses and public institutions, the community and other stakeholders.

Canada's national economy is highly diversified across different economic regions with varied needs in terms of workers' skills. The skill sets needed to work in the offshore oil industry in Newfoundland differ significantly from those needed to work in the high tech sector in Waterloo. As well, at any point in time each of these sectors will experience business cycles and economic adjustment.

Economic adjustment is constantly taking place and is a sign of a healthy and flexible economy. Most economically successful adjustments happen naturally and without intervention from government.

Governments, domestic and international, have been moving away from subsidies. Instead they have been focusing support toward fostering high valued added economic activity through education, innovation and infrastructure.

Canada's new government promotes innovation, research and development and post-secondary education through a variety of programs that benefit directly and indirectly students pursuing post-secondary education. For instance, as confirmed in budget 2007, federal investment in granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, among others, will total $1.4 billion this year.

We also support an assortment of economic development programs totalling $1.2 billion through the regional development agencies, like the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

The regional development agencies work in partnership with stakeholders to tailor their specific programs to meet the economic development needs of their local communities. These programs include support for small to medium size enterprises which can benefit recent graduates.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, has a program that provides an excellent illustration of this approach. The export internship for trade graduates initiative provides training and employment opportunities to international trade specialists graduating from colleges and universities in Atlantic Canada.

Small and medium size enterprises receive help to acquire the expertise they need to successfully develop and implement an international marketing plan. Eligible companies work with ACOA and post-secondary institutions to select qualified graduates with training in international business. Together the employer and the intern develop and implement a strategic export plan for that company. At the conclusion of the internship, the employer can apply through ACOA for assistance to retain the graduate's services for up to three additional years.

The Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec offers other examples of how Canada's new government supports similar programs that involve a multi-faceted approach to regional development. The innovation, development, entrepreneurship and access program for small to medium enterprises is a financial assistance program that fosters the growth of small and medium size enterprises in Quebec, helping these businesses become more competitive in the world markets in activities ranging from product development to marketing plans.

Also, the community economic diversification initiative - vitality, CEDI-vitality, is an initiative designed to support communities in seven regions and 21 Quebec regional county municipalities with slower economic growth. The initiative helps foster economic development by supporting the diversification of the economic base of these communities to create sustainable long term jobs, jobs that will stem, or even prevent, the exodus of youth from these regions.

Small and medium size enterprises, business groups and industry associations can all apply under vitality for assistance in the development of strategies and action plans, capital projects for enterprise startup and business expansion, and marketing of new products and services. The program also assists with the establishment of entrepreneurship support organizations, projects aimed at enhancing cooperation between knowledge institutions, such as universities and colleges, and the business community.

In 2006-07 total government support of these programs will total over $380 million.

These are the types of regional development measures that define a multi-faceted approach. They are forward looking in promoting export markets in an increasingly globalized economy. They involve key stakeholders, employers and post-secondary institutions to help create new opportunities for new graduates, and they work.

Bill C-207 proposes a tax credit nowhere near as well targeted. It proposes a tax credit that would do nothing to foster economic development conducive to job growth. It would do nothing to create the opportunities vital for the retention of those new graduates. Yet the proposed credit would cost up to $600 million annually. I submit that this would be an inefficient use of public funds.

Canada's new government takes seriously the challenge of ensuring Canada is equipped for an increasingly competitive global market. We are all working for all regions of Canada. All young people need to be given the opportunity to acquire the skills and training so that Canada can have a knowledge advantage with the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.

Canadian businesses need to operate in an environment that encourages investment and innovation. When Canada succeeds, we all succeed.

Bill C-207 proposes to use a tax credit to encourage young people to stay in a particular region. Yet it does not help create the type of employment opportunities that would provide an incentive for a young person to stay there. It ignores the varied nature of Canada's economy and that economic adjustment is an ongoing reality of a healthy, dynamic, diversified economy.

The Government of Canada supports regional economic development and devotes significant resources to programs that are responsive to local needs, employ strategic partnerships with other stakeholders and are multi-faceted in their approach.

This Conservative government is working to improve the standard of living and quality of life for all Canadians. This government is working to make Canada a world leader for today and for future generations.

Bill C-207 does nothing like that. Instead, it proposes to spend up to $600 million on a tax credit that would not help create a single additional job.

For these reasons, I am unable to support this legislation. I hope that my colleagues, after taking full account of the larger picture, will decline to support this bill.