House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

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The House resumed from June 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-52, the Conservative government's budget. I am unfortunately the first person to rise after the tawdry, cheap events of last Friday in the House, the unparalleled, unprecedented, tawdry events of a government that is so desperate now to get its budget through it had to go down into the bowels of the House of Commons to look through dusty books, looking back to the 1960s and the 1970s, to find some sort of procedural trick that would allow it to pass the budget when it knew that most Canadians are opposing it. In the last few days we have seen the budget self-destruct, as many of the Atlantic provinces, Saskatchewan and many Canadians from coast to coast to coast have said very clearly that the budget is manifestly not in the interests of Canada.

Last Friday, with two minutes to go in private members' business, the House leader stood to try to conjure a trick out of his pocket and try to force through, what he called “a national emergency”, the budget, without a vote, not complete the debate only to force it through.

As members well know, the House refused that. However, the fact that the Conservatives would use such a cheap and tawdry trick to try to get their budget through I think belies the reality. The Conservatives acknowledge now that their budget does not have the popular support of Canadians. As a result of that, they had to resort to this trick.

What they used was a procedural trick to try to declare this a national emergency. The only emergency is the rapid and constant fall of the Conservatives in public opinion polls. We have seen in places like British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia that the Conservative vote continues to erode. Why does it continue to erode? Not only because of tricks like that, the trick of last Friday, a trick that manifestly failed, but also because their budget simply does not have credibility.

I will talk a bit about the situation that Canadians are really living through while the Conservatives are playing their little political games here in Ottawa. From there, I will talk about how the budget does not address what are very clear concerns, crises that are occurring in main streets across the country.

Instead, very clearly what we have is a Conservative budget, a Bay Street budget, the same as the Liberal budgets were, oriented toward corporate tax cuts and huge handouts, shovelling money off the back of a truck through the oil and gas sector. That seems to be the Conservative priorities. Canadians are living a much different reality.

Let us talk about the reality of most Canadians. Let us talk about average family incomes. Since 1989, Statistics Canada tells us, since the signing of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, most Canadian families have seen their income fall. They are earning less money now than they were then.

What we have seen under now more than 15 years of Conservative and Liberal economic policies is the wealthy are fabulously so. They are able to buy their 15th or 16th Lamborghini without any problem. However, most Canadian families are earning less. It is not just that they are working harder and longer weeks, and I will come back to those statistics, the bottom line is Conservative and Liberal economic policies have manifestly failed.

Let us look at the figures. The poorest of Canadians, the family with an income of less than $20,000 a year, those below the poverty line, have seen over this 15 year period the loss of about a month's income. What they used to earn in 12 months, they are living on 11 months' worth of income. We have seen a 10% fall in real income for the poorest of Canadian families.

The Conservative budget does absolutely nothing to address that catastrophic fall in Canadian income levels for the poorest of Canadian families. It is no secret, 300,000 Canadians will be sleeping in the parks and main streets of our country tonight, 300,000 Canadians who no longer even have the resources to have a roof over their heads. The Conservative budget does absolutely nothing to address the crisis in homelessness and the catastrophic fall in the incomes of the poorest of Canadians.

Let us go to the next group. Another 20% of Canadians, and let us call them the working class, are families earning less than $36,000 a year. They are now earning two weeks' less income than they were in 1989.

In other words, after 15 years of Liberal and Conservative economic policies, they have seen their incomes fall so that they are now living on 50 weeks of income, whereas they used to live on 52 weeks of income. They have actually lost two weeks of income and are trying to make ends meet with far fewer financial resources.

Let us continue on to the middle class. It is the same thing for families earning less than $56,000 year. They are now earning two weeks' less income than they were in 1989.

We now are talking about 60% of Canadian families who are struggling to get by on fewer and fewer financial resources. The Liberals did absolutely nothing to address this. They simply shovelled money at the wealthiest of Canadians. The Conservatives now are doing exactly the same thing.

Even higher income earners, the upper middle class, have actually seen no income improvement since 1989.

That is 80% of Canadian families who see stagnation or who have seen increasing impoverishment under the watch of those parties over the last more than 15 years.

Who has profited from the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and NAFTA and from the Conservative and Liberal economic policies shovelling money at the corporate sector? There are unbelievable amounts of resources to give to the oil and gas industry and the banks, and to give in corporate tax cuts, but who has profited? Only one sector has: the wealthiest of Canadians. In fact, Statistics Canada tells us that it is the wealthiest 5% of Canadians who have seen their incomes skyrocket over this period.

What the people who are listening to us today or who read these remarks in Hansard say, what the people say certainly as we knock on doors in my neighbourhoods, is that they cannot understand why Ottawa does not get it. Why it is harder and harder to make ends meet, they say, and yet the government seems to want to favour the wealthiest of Canadians with corporate tax cuts? They say that the government does not seem concerned about ordinary, hard-working Canadian families. They ask that question.

We have seen the Conservative response. The Conservatives' response was a cheap conjuring trick to try to get their budget through before Canadians wake up to what an appallingly negative impact it will have on them.

The Conservative government erodes resources in health care. It does not do anything to open up doors to post-secondary education and training. It throws a few dollars here and there but does not address the underlying systemic problems in this Confederation, which has led to the fact that most Canadian families are falling further behind and most Conservative and Liberal economic policies are favouring that small proportion of Canadians who have everything they could possibly want.

What is wrong with this picture when the top 5% of Canadian income earners receive most of the attention of Conservative and Liberal governments? Those governments simply shovel money at them. What is wrong with this picture when ordinary working families are forgotten?

I have talked about the fact that income levels are actually falling while the Conservatives have this delusion that everything is just peachy-keen. They say that because they look at the job figures. The job figures from Statistics Canada actually prove the point: the jobs that are created today are not sustainable manufacturing jobs or family-sustaining jobs. They are part time and temporary jobs. They are jobs paying the minimum wage.

Every time the finance minister stands up and says that we have full employment, what he is actually saying is that we have full employment like most third world countries have full employment. Canadians are scraping to get by on minimum wage, part time jobs and whatever temporary contracts they can get. They are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The finance minister does not recognize that the economic policy of the past 15 years has actually led to a steady impoverishment.

It is not because Canadians are not working harder and harder. The Community Social Planning Council of Toronto produced a study just a few weeks ago which indicates that for the average family raising children the annual number of hours worked went up by 200 hours, that is, the average family worked 200 hours more in 2004 than in 1996.

What this means is that the average Canadian working family is working five weeks more. Those families are trying to jam another five weeks of work into a working year. They are struggling. They are putting in an unprecedented number of overtime hours, yet their revenue levels are lower than they were in 1989. What a destruction of our quality of life. What a failure on the bottom line.

Canadian families have seen their incomes tank, yet they are putting in five weeks more of labour in a 52 week year. It is an annual average of 200 hours more worked in 2004 than in 1996. It would be even higher today. Overtime hours have gone up by over 30% and yet most Canadian families are earning less now than in 1989.

That is what is fundamentally wrong with how the Liberals and Conservatives have addressed economic policy for the past more than 15 and nearly 20 years. They simply do not understand the impact of their policies. They are economic illiterates. They cannot check the bottom line to see if the economic policies have actually made sense. They are shovelling money at the corporate sector with more and more corporate tax cuts when we already subsidize the corporate sector to an unparalleled extent through the subsidies we provide to medicare.

Our medical system now in place offers a competitive advantage that no American corporation can match, yet the corporate sector is continuing to request lower and lower tax rates when our subsidies already give them a very clear competitive advantage. What is wrong with this picture when the corporate sector fails to acknowledge that the hard work of Canadians from coast to coast to coast gives the sector a competitive advantage but that corporations have to pay their fair share of taxes in order for that competitive advantage to be sustained?

They cannot have their cake and eat it too. Corporate leaders need to be told that. They need to be told that they have to be responsible, and that since we are already subsidizing them to an unparalleled extent, with study after study showing that medicare is a huge competitive advantage when Canadian companies compete with American ones, they cannot at the same time have lower corporate tax levels than they have in the United States. They cannot have both. They have to make clear and responsible choices.

We have not seen those responsible choices from the Liberals. We certainly have not seen them from the Conservatives, and last Friday in particular attests to that, but things have to change and that is certainly why more and more Canadians are looking to park their votes with another political entity. We certainly are seeing a greater interest in new ideas. The NDP, of course, since its inception, has always been the birthplace of new and responsible ideas, whether they are economic or financial in nature or in terms of social policies.

Before I move on to the next portion of my presentation, I do want to say one thing. The ministry of finance actually charted NDP, Liberal, Conservative and even the Parti Québécois governments over a 20 year period. It charted and compared the actual year-end fiscal returns to the budgetary promises of each of those governments.

This was done by the federal ministry of finance, which we certainly could not say is an NDP ally in any way, but that long term study, the only long term study that has ever been undertaken on this phenomenon of what the actual fiscal period returns show, clearly proved that the NDP as a party and NDP elected officials as individuals are the best fiscal managers. The worst were the Liberals. No matter what their promises are, 86% of the time the Liberals actually run a deficit. The Conservatives were a little better, actually running deficits 66% of the time over that 20 year period.

The NDP projected surplus or balanced budgets most of the time, and most of the time we actually achieved that. There is no difference between the spin and the results, between the rhetoric and the reality. We actually perform better in terms of fiscal management than Conservatives or Liberals. No wonder Canadians are looking around now and taking a hard look at what political parties promise and what they actually deliver.

The NDP is the only party that actually addresses the economic reality of most Canadian working families and we are the best financial managers. Those are two reasons why we are seeing increasing interest in our party.

Before I move on to B.C. issues, I want to mention the catastrophic collapse of our manufacturing sector. We have trade policies from the government, like we did from the previous government, which do not address the fact that value added and manufacturing production is collapsing across this country. A quarter of a million family-sustaining jobs have been lost in the last few years under the Liberal watch and under the Conservative watch.

Let us look at some of the impacts of that manufacturing loss. In Nova Scotia, 20% of manufacturing jobs have been lost. In Quebec, 18% of manufacturing jobs have been lost. In Windsor, and we have had very eloquent testimony to this effect from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the member for Windsor West, we have actually seen 35% of manufacturing jobs lost.

Windsor is in crisis. Southern Ontario is in crisis. The minimum wage, part time jobs that the finance minister is offering do not in any way compensate for this hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs.

In Toronto, over 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. That is 21% of manufacturing jobs in Toronto. In Oshawa, it is 21%. In Thunder Bay, it is over 20%. We are seeing a hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs across this country and there is nothing in the budget that addresses this crisis.

We have a variety of crises that have developed over the past 15 years under the Liberal watch. The Conservatives said they would take a completely new approach. Instead, they have taken exactly the same do nothing approach, a shovel money at the corporate sector approach, which has not addressed the catastrophic fall in manufacturing jobs. It has not addressed the very real erosion of family income since 1989 and the signing of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement.

This approach does not address the homelessness crisis. It does not address the inability of most families to have their kids or adults move on to post-secondary education, apprenticeship and training. It does not address that crisis. It does not address the health care crisis. Instead of dealing with the underfunding of our public health care system, we have seen the Conservatives take exactly the same road as the Liberals and look to more privatization.

We know that in the United States more privatization means more costs and fewer benefits. The United States health care system costs twice the amount per capita that the Canadian system does and yet 60 million Americans at any point in one year will have absolutely no health care coverage whatsoever. It is a failed American model that the Conservatives are pushing, as the Liberals did before them.

As I come from British Columbia, I would like to move on now to the budget and what it does not do for British Columbia. The finance minister rose in this House and said that his Canada went from the Alberta Rockies to Newfoundland and Labrador. He completely excluded British Columbia.

I admire his honesty, because there is nothing in the budget that addresses clear Conservative promises to B.C. The Conservatives said they would deal with the leaky condo crisis. The Conservatives promised they would take action on that. Instead, they have left 60,000 British Columbia families with absolutely no support in the leaky condo crisis.

With softwood lumber, we have seen the complete disregard for softwood communities in British Columbia and elsewhere.

Regarding the pine beetle issue, the Conservatives promised and spun but they did not provide the funding. The Kamloops Daily News said the following just last Friday on the pine beetle, “When will [the government] come to the table and be a part of the solution?” For whatever reason, the feds just do not get it on the pine beetle. We have seen devastation throughout the interior of British Columbia. The government has done absolutely nothing to address that.

I could go on, with the World Police & Fire Games and a whole host of other issues such as the flooding in the Fraser River and the Skeena district of British Columbia. We have seen only $16 million offered up for the flooding even though we know that $22 million is required just to protect the city of Chilliwack alone.

I could go on and on but the reality is that the Conservative government just does not get it, which is why it tried to force this budget through by a conjuring trick last Friday.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member but he cannot go on and on because his time is up.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Yukon.

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12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to finish his last thought.

Does the member know why the government conjured up that trick last Friday? Why would it do those types of tricks? There are two weeks left in the session. Speakers like my colleague and others had not had a chance to speak to the budget. Does the government not want honesty and transparency? Does the government not want people to speak and provide their opinions on the budget? Why would the government do that on a Friday when most MPs are working with their constituents in their ridings except those on House duty? Does the government not want members working with their constituents?

Did the government do that because the budget is falling apart with respect to income trusts and interest deductibility? Was it because the budget is falling apart as far as the provinces are concerned with respect to the Atlantic accord? In fact, the Canadian Press reported this morning that the Prime Minister told Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia to sue him.

Did the Conservative government not say that it was elected on accountability? Does doing something like this not fly in the face of that philosophy?

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12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the government is now facing a perfect storm on its budget. A member of its caucus has already been kicked out. Other members of the Conservative government are under pressure from their constituents to leave the party.

With the collapse of the Atlantic accord, the government is facing a storm because the premiers across Atlantic Canada are now coming out against the budget. The premier of Saskatchewan, who has a tremendous reputation and a great deal of credibility, has also been speaking against this appalling budget. We have not heard a peep from any of the Conservative members from Saskatchewan in support of their province. Not a single member of the Conservative Party from Saskatchewan is actually willing to stand up for the province of Saskatchewan.

In British Columbia we have a proud tradition of standing up for our constituents. There used to be Saskatchewan members in this House who would stand up proudly for Saskatchewan. Now we have a troop of sheep, none of whom, not a single Conservative member, will stand up for their province or their constituents. It is unbelievable. Not a single Conservative member from Saskatchewan has dared say anything about the farm crisis or the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board. Not a single Conservative member from Saskatchewan has dared say anything against the talking points they are getting from the Prime Minister's Office.

With that crisis in confidence from Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, the Conservative government is clearly in trouble. It knows its budget is in trouble. However, rather than consenting to honest debate so each of the issues, which it has failed to address, would be out in the public domain, which is our responsibility as parliamentarians, it tried to get the budget adopted by using a cheap and tawdry trick. However, it did not work because members of the New Democratic Party and other parties were here and we simply stopped the government in its tracks from what was a conjuring trick to try to get a budget passed that no longer has any legitimacy whatsoever.

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12:25 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was really impressed by the breadth of my colleague's knowledge about the impact of this budget on his home province of British Columbia and on his own riding.

My home riding is Hamilton Mountain in Ontario. Our province has been absolutely decimated by the loss of manufacturing sector jobs. In my home town alone, 11,000 of those jobs have been lost.

When people look to this budget and to the government, they want real help. What they had hoped for, at a minimum, was some real investment in employment insurance and some real access to retraining so they could get jobs in new fields because the manufacturing sector is being decimated in part because of the trade policies that were started under former Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, but the same environment exists now for trade and for the economy in this country today.

I know the member does not have the same manufacturing base that I have in my riding but I would think that issues like EI and retraining would be equally important to the forestry sector. He has been an eloquent spokesperson against the softwood sellout that was so readily supported by other parties in the House but which has devastated many workers and their families in my colleague's province.

I just wonder whether my colleague could comment on whether he is getting the same groundswell of outcry because the government failed to do anything for working families in this country.

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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton Mountain has been a passionate advocate of advancing through Parliament the quality of life of ordinary working families and, as has all the NDP caucus, has been pushing forward an end to this economic disillusion that somehow just continuing to give to the wealthiest in the country will somehow, through some magical, mystical trickle down theory, bring prosperity for all Canadians. Clearly, that has not worked.

We also have the failure of the budget to deal with employment insurance, retraining, access to apprenticeship programs and post-secondary education programs. What we have seen instead is an incredibly short-sighted, misguided trade policy that continues down the same road that the Liberals took. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

We see the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA, because we capitulated on all points, are leading to an actual fall in the income of most Canadian working families. They certainly understand it. When we ask families whether they are doing better now than they were 15 years ago, most say that they are not. Most families say that they are struggling to make ends meet. They said that they are working harder and longer hours and yet they have fewer and fewer financial resources.

After the government capitulated on NAFTA, it moved forward with the softwood lumber capitulation. Now we are seeing the trade minister, as a renegade because the Prime Minister has no understanding of trade policy whatsoever, moving forward to sign free trade agreements that will lead to more catastrophic job losses. The FTA will gut our shipbuilding industry. The trade minister, who has betrayed his constituents and who is now betraying the whole country, which makes him consistent, is now trying to sign a trade agreement with South Korea which will devastate our auto sector. What is next?

Time and time again we have seen the government capitulate and give away everything. The results for most working families from coast to coast to coast are lower incomes and part time, temporary minimum wage jobs, such as burger flipping because that is all that is left when the auto sector is gutted, the shipbuilding sector is gutted, the textile industry is gutted and the softwood lumber industry is gutted. When, in every sector, our value added manufacturing is simply tossed away so that some banker in Toronto can make another million dollars then we can understand why we are seeing greater and greater frustration arising across the country.

The government is off the rails. It said that it would be different than the previous Liberal government and yet we now see the exact same inability to grasp economic fundamentals. It does not understand that when most working families are earning less it must change the policies in order to address the fundamental income crisis. It is same old, same old.

The NDP will continue to push and say that the emperor has no clothes and that the government needs to start taking action on these issues. We will continue to press because we are the only voice for ordinary working families who have seen their incomes erode, their manufacturing jobs taken away, the doors to post-secondary education and apprenticeship training closed and access to health care when they need it no longer there. Alberta and Saskatchewan are experiencing an agricultural crisis but the Alberta and Saskatchewan Conservative MPs will not say a whit about that. We are here to stand up for Canadians and we will continue to do so. We know there will be a lot more of us in the House after the next election.

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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007.

As vice-chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance, the committee and I had the opportunity to study the bill in detail and we heard from numerous witnesses on some of the bill's more contentious issues.

For the past 16 months, one of my major grievances with the government has been its lack of vision. Since my time on Parliament Hill, I have never seen a government anger and disappoint all sides of the political spectrum the way this Conservative government has. It has not only managed to alienate its former supporters but it has also failed to endear itself to its adversaries.

At several points during its mandate, the Conservative government enacted piecemeal legislation that had not been well researched, developed or consulted upon. It has botched several files, most recently the Canada summer jobs program where hundreds of community organizations were left without funding. Even worse was the fact that these groups had no contacts and could not receive straight answers from the ministry because of government mismanagement.

First the Conservatives cut the program and then they reintroduced it but with less money. They received thousands of complaints and put more money into the program. At this point we still do not know which group is getting funding and how much. This is just another example of how far removed Conservative values are from the values of most Canadians. It took intense pressure from this side of the House, as well as protests from groups across the country, to get the government to backtrack on its ill-conceived plan and to reinstate funding to non-profit community groups across Canada.

I have spoken to the budget on several occasions and have highlighted all my preoccupations with the Conservatives, mainly that they lack any vision whatsoever and look only to immediate, political gain instead of long term goals for Canada. A perfect example of this are the green levy and the auto eco-rebate. Those are the only green initiatives contained in the budget and they were developed without any consultation with the automotive industry.

Encouraging Canadians to purchase fuel efficient vehicles is a step in the right direction, but an additional tax on certain vehicles is not the answer. In fact, it is a simplistic solution to a complex situation that instead requires a multi-pronged and careful approach.

According to testimony the committee heard from both industry and environmental groups, the proposed green levy and auto eco-rebate will fail to produce any meaningful change in reducing carbon emissions. These programs damage domestic automakers by placing $67 million worth of levies on domestic vehicles, which is about 80% of all the levies that will be collected. The transfer of $47 million in benefits to one company, which is 75%, for one vehicle that is produced offshore.

We should remember that when Canada imports foreign cars, greenhouse gases are produced by ships that cross the ocean to get them here. The more cars Canada imports, the more emissions the ships produce. Therefore, when the government offers a feebate benefit to only one foreign produced car, not only is it discouraging people from buying cars made in Canada, it is also encouraging increased emissions from a greater volume of imports which essentially cancels out the emissions difference the rebated cars produce.

Only three of the twenty-one eligible cars under the feebate program are made in Canada. While I do not want to give cars that are not fuel efficient an easy pass, I do think the government should not be punishing Canadian automakers at a time when our industry has suffered so many job losses in the last decade.

2006 marked the first time in 18 years that Canada had an automotive trade deficit. This was down from a $15 billion trade surplus only seven years earlier. In those seven years, Canada has gone from being ranked number four in auto assembly worldwide to being ranked number nine in 2006.

Companies such as Ford, Chrysler and GM account for eight out of every ten auto workers in Canada. However, with these measures in the budget, Canadian workers are being punished. These measures also damage the Canadian economy segment in vehicles. The $1,000 rebate for one vehicle, which makes up half of all rebates, undermines the ability of other dealers and manufacturers to sell equally beneficial subcompacts competitively on the same basis. Perhaps the biggest failure of these measures is that they fail to help get older cars off the road.

The majority of greenhouse gas emissions produced by Canada's on road fleet of cars are produced by older vehicles. There are significant differences between the amounts of emissions a 1990 model creates as compared to its 2007 counterpart. The Conservatives were better off putting more money and more energy into getting older cars off the road than they were by punishing new cars.

Recently, the finance minister has been quoted on committing another flip-flop by announcing that he would reconsider the way that the green levy and the auto ecorebate would function. This is a good sign, but it is too vague to have much meaning.

During the clause by clause of this bill in committee I put forward a motion to remove the clause dealing with these measures in order that the government would be able to rethink its policy on this issue, but without success. I only hope that the minister will stay true to his word and look at alternative measures to deal with the auto industry. These measures should not punish Canadian automakers which is currently the case, and should emphasize getting older cars off the road.

As I mentioned earlier, these vehicle feebates were some of the only green initiatives contained in the budget. The Conservative government is failing to protect the environment and Canadians are getting fed up.

The environment minister has attempted to douse the fires by putting together more piecemeal legislation but, guess what? That has also failed. By not consulting environmental groups the government demonstrated its arrogance and its ignorance on the issues of climate change and the environment.

One specific example that was raised during the finance committee study of this bill was in the crucial area of ocean conservation. The government has reduced the budget of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by $105 million and has only allocated $18 million over two years to the conservation of oceans in our economic zones.

It is a sad statement when experts agree that it will take over $100 million per year to get Canada on track to meeting its international commitments in ocean conservation.

In 2005 the Liberal government announced the Canada's oceans action plan and had begun allocating money when a premature election was called. Since coming into power the Conservatives have mismanaged all environmental files, but perhaps they have done the most horrendous job of protecting Canada's oceans.

Canada has only protected less than 1% of our economic zone and with the Conservatives in power that figure will surely not improve. I cannot understand how the Conservatives can spend millions of dollars buying military equipment to protect Canada's Arctic region, but allocate practically nothing to protect the Arctic Ocean.

They can spend millions on patrol boats, but refuse to allocate money into protecting our oceans, which directly employ approximately 98,000 Canadians. Seafood exports account for about $5.5 billion of our economy, yet the government does not deem the oceans important enough to properly fund their conservation.

These measures contained in the budget have not endeared the government to environmentalists and we can forgive climate change experts for doubting the Prime Minister's new found devotion to the environment. We can also forgive these same experts for going one step further and calling the government's environmental plan a fraud and sellout.

As I was saying, the Conservatives have not only raised the ire of the left, but they have turned their backs on their allies on the right. I am talking of course about the energy sector in Alberta and its dissatisfaction with the government's decision to tax income trusts. I suppose that when he came into power in 2006, the Prime Minister never imagined that the Liberal Party would come to the defence of so many energy corporations in Alberta and the way in which they want to structure themselves.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance delivered a low blow to investors and corporations when they blindsided them on Hallowe'en with a 31.5% tax rate on income trusts.

Several months ago, the Standing Committee on Finance tried to understand how the government calculated the so-called tax leakage in the income trust sector. After the committee was repeatedly denied access to these documents, it came to the conclusion that the government's decision to tax income trusts was based on imprecise data and was another case of mismanagement. Unfortunately, the Conservatives' mismanagement of the income trust matter cost Canadian workers $25 billion. These working people had found a high performance investment mechanism for their retirement. From one day to the next, the Minister of Finance destroyed years of savings. And the government has the audacity to claim that this measure is part of its tax fairness plan. I do not see what is so fair about liquidating Canadians' savings or the consequences of this decision to the energy sector in Alberta.

Small oil companies are having trouble because of reduced access to capital. These companies are using all of their resources just to stay afloat. That means that they have less to invest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making their production systems more environmentally friendly. Moreover, the income trust decision is threatening our energy corporations. They are at risk of being taken over by foreign interests. Recently, we have seen a number of takeovers and takeover attempts by foreign companies, which will weaken the Canadian economy and reduce the government's tax revenues. Rather than help Canadian companies, the government has hurt our industry and has made an unprecedented number of foreign takeovers possible.

The Liberal Party proposed a fair solution to income trust taxation. It was a solution that experts, businesses and investors agreed on. Unfortunately, the government ignored our proposal, which was rejected by the Standing Committee on Finance. Then the Liberal members proposed adopting the Bloc Québécois' income trust amendment. The amendment would have extended the grace period from four years to 10. Thanks to Liberal support, that amendment would have been passed had the Bloc members not changed their minds and voted against their own proposal. This proves that the Bloc Québécois has no useful solutions to offer to Quebeckers and that it is not protecting Quebec's interests.

During a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, a Bloc member said:

Let's not forget that when we examined the report, the bill had not been submitted to us. We wanted to find the best possible solution. However, in the present context, what we really hope for is speedy passage of the bill so that the budget can be implemented as soon as possible.

In other words, the Bloc members are here for the sole purpose of protecting their own interests. An amendment could easily have been adopted to allow Quebeckers and all Canadians to benefit from a four- to 10-year grace period. After speaking out so vigorously against taxing income trusts, the Bloc members changed their minds. Moreover, they lack courage when real changes have to be made.

I doubt that the many people who have invested in income trusts in Quebec and Canada are pleased with the Bloc's about-face.

Another area where Canadians will be feeling the crunch from Conservative mismanagement is set to begin as the summer gets underway. With Canada's tourist season in full swing, a thriving section of our economy must deal with the elimination of one of its greatest selling tools, the visitor rebate program.

The program gave Canada's tourism industry a valuable tool to help it compete for global tourists. Once again, without any consultation with the tourism industry, the government eliminated the program. Only a small handful of developed nations do not have a federal sales tax rebate program for tourists. Thanks to the Conservatives Canada can count itself among these few. It is difficult to understand why the government wants to weaken Canada's tourism industry since so many Canadians are dependent on this industry.

After the special finance committee's hearing requested by Liberal MPs to study the visitors rebate program, and along with the help of industry stakeholders, the continued pounding of the government on its ill-developed decision finally convinced the finance minister to announce a federal foreign convention and tourist incentive program in Bill C-52. That measure in the budget partially corrects the mistake made by the government when it first eliminated the GST rebate program, but it does not go far enough.

Why was the government determined to destroy a program that worked as it did with the Canada summers job program? The argument surrounding the GST rebate could not be timelier as summer is now upon us. I am glad to see some reversal by the government on this matter, but there is another set of seasonal problems for which the government must account.

As we know, summertime is also a season of festivals in Canada. My hometown of Montreal is host to an endless number of world renowned festivals which draw millions of visitors each year. Anyone who has seen the international jazz festival and the just for laughs festival understands how important festivals are to Montreal's economy. I wonder if the current Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women has been to Montreal during festival season because her actions have led us to believe otherwise.

Just a few weeks ago, the presidents of Montreal's two largest festivals spoke out against the minister's lack of action to secure funding in time for the summer. Festivals are a huge economic boost to local economies across the country and the minister's inability to assure funding for these festivals is a complete failure on her part and on the part of the government. I cannot understand how the Conservatives can mismanage such an obvious and crucial file such as this one.

Art groups across the country have been criticizing the government for months about the disastrous underfunding of the arts. Cultural groups in the country have felt insulted and ignored by the government and it has caused well-known authors and artists to speak out. We cannot allow Canada's vibrant arts community to suffer under the Conservatives' ideological program cuts and mismanagement.

We have already seen them mismanage countless files by closing Liberal programs and then reopening them only a few months later under a new or different name, whether they wanted to take credit for these supposedly new programs or whether they just thought that no one would notice that they were gone remains unclear.

This began in September 2006 when the Conservatives cut a number of effective Liberal programs. The Liberal Party protested these ideological cuts, as did the public. Since then we have seen the government re-announce these programs under new names and pretend as if the Liberal initiated programs never existed.

Canadians deserve better than what the government has given them, ill-conceived, piecemeal programs that will not help Canada advance into the 21st century. The government is much better at photo ops and slander than it is at governing and our country is not any better for it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's very thoughtful speech reflected a depth of knowledge and understanding of financial issues that I know he certainly possesses.

Members of the Conservative government were arguably the last group of Canadians to understand the issue of climate change and to understand the necessity for the federal government to actually do something about climate change or global warming.

It was not, for instance, one of its much vaunted five priorities. There was nary a mention made by anybody on the Conservative benches in 2006 about climate change or global warming, but it is funny that a couple of public opinion polls published in December 2006 sort of coached, cajoled or finally led the government into doing something about climate change.

A couple of years ago a budget was introduced by the then Liberal government. It talked about project green. I would ask my hon. colleague how the measures contained in project green in 2005, and the half measures contained in the most recent budget from the Conservative government, stack up?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not get a chance to talk much about environmental issues, nor am I an expert on those matters. There are hon. members in my party who are much better at it than I am, but I could provide a couple of numbers and some information on what the Liberals did in 2005.

Some of the facts have changed because we have lost two years in advancing on project green which the Liberal government announced in 2005. The federal government's action to implement the Kyoto protocol peaked with the release in 2005 of a climate change plan which set up a series of funds and initiatives designed to assist with the costs of achieving them. It also set sector by sector targets and a mix of voluntary and regulatory measures.

In budget 2005 the Liberal government had committed $10 billion by 2012 to meet all those targets. That spending included a climate change fund of $1 billion over five years which was booked to create a permanent institution for the purchase of emissions reduction and removal credits on behalf of the Government of Canada. The focus of this program was by and large to encourage and fund domestic projects that would qualify under the Kyoto protocol.

We also introduced a partnership fund that was created to work with provincial governments on the reduction of greenhouse gases and a role in combating global warming. Budget 2005 also booked $250 million for large projects to be undertaken in conjunction with the provincial governments toward national objectives. Funding was scheduled to increase to $1 billion and would have provided $538 million to support closing coal fired electricity production in Ontario and a further $328 million to support Quebec's Kyoto plan.

We also introduced a one tonne challenge and the EnerGuide retrofit program, which I mentioned in passing in my speech. The Conservative government decided to cancel that and reintroduce it with less money. This program had been assigned $120 million to reduce emissions. The EnerGuide retrofit program included EnerGuide for low income housing. It was designed to help Canadians save energy and money by making their homes and buildings more energy efficient.

There was also a wind power production incentive and renewable power production incentive. The Liberal government set aside $1.8 billion in funding over 15 years for that initiative. There were some other initiatives for sustainable energy and science and technology strategies in budget 2005. Some $200 million was dedicated for that.

When we hear that there was no plan and no moneys put aside, I am not sure what members of the Conservative government are thinking about when they make those statements.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I note the member said that money was set aside for this and that. In fact, when the Conservatives came to government there was no money set aside for any of those things.

I want to bring the issue back to my home province of Manitoba. The Liberal government had promised money for the floodway. Manitoba is deluged from time to time by the flood waters of the Red River, the Assiniboine and other bodies of water. The Liberals were good at promising money. Indeed, they made the promise publicly over and over again.

When the Conservatives came to government, the promise the Liberals had made of cost sharing the floodway, which was a $650 million project, the outstanding money was simply not there despite public assurances by former Treasury Board president, Reg Alcock, that the government was onside.

It took the Conservative government nine months of trying to ensure it had money and not take it out of local infrastructure money. In trying to find the amount of money that I was looking for in terms of the $171 million that was outstanding from the federal government, we could not take it out of local infrastructure money. We had to go to a national infrastructure program. Despite the assurances that the money had been set aside, that money had not been set aside. It simply was not there. We had to identify it.

With regard to the numbers that the member has pointed out, where were the moneys set aside specifically in terms of money that had been appropriated by any budget, a budget that had in fact been passed?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it odd that a Conservative member, a cabinet minister, would ask me a question that is specific to his own riding and how moneys are spent.

In the budget book there are some comparative numbers. I hope, especially since the member is the President of the Treasury Board, he understands where money is being spent. In this budget book there are comparative numbers where the government has said it spent between $130 billion to $140 billion on programs. I am hoping some of that money is accounted for reasonably and there are some controls in place.

I stated that most of the money was committed for programs. I do not think I have to tell the hon. member how that works, but the programs are developed. These are some of the arguments that we hear from the heritage minister when she says that the details for allocating the money for festivals have not been finalized yet and that is why the money cannot be allocated.

I am not sure where the hon. member is going with this, but in answer to his question, the money had been allocated for project green. The criteria on how the money was going to be spent were to be developed with the industry, environmental groups and stakeholders across Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief because I am so surprised that I am actually in agreement with something that one of the government cabinet ministers would say that I really do not quite know what to do. I am in agreement that the Liberal record is not actually anything to crow about.

In particular, I want to take the member back to Bill C-55. I have spoken in the House about how the manufacturing sector in my community is being decimated and I will talk about that again later when I get my own turn to speak. Members will recall that we hoped that at a minimum the Liberal government would address wage and pension protections in cases where companies went bankrupt.

The member will want to speak about the Liberal government's record some more, but the Liberals introduced Bill C-55. The bill did not do enough on pensions but at least the Liberals started to move forward on wage protection. That bill passed through the House. It passed through the Senate. It received royal assent, but when push came to shove, that bill was never proclaimed. Once again the Liberal government let down workers right across the country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am going to have to end the question there to allow the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel about 30 seconds or so to respond.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it curious that the NDP is now worried about workers' retirement money when that party was not in favour of the Liberal amendment to no longer tax income trusts. We know that a high percentage of retirement funds and retirees who invest in income trust funds were hit with a $25 billion shot overnight on Halloween. Therefore, the NDP should not be asking questions about the retirement money of Canadians.