House of Commons Hansard #169 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Answer the questions.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member wants me to answer the questions but he continues talking. I will try to answer the question. What he does not want to hear is that the budgets that we have brought in reduced taxes by more than four times what was done in the previous budgets by the Liberal Party opposite.

A tax reduction is important, which is why Bill C-52 going forward is important for Canadians.

The question was about consultations among House leaders. I understand that there was an agreement to report the bill to the Senate by June 6 but, obviously, that has gone by. There was a comment about there being an attempt to move forward today by the opposition House leader. If he wants to move forward today, that is exactly what we are proposing to do, to move forward with Bill C-52 to third reading today. I am sure the opposition House leader will support that since he says that is something he wanted to do, which is to move forward today with Bill C-52 to a vote.

In terms of the timing of Bill C-52, which has been debated here at some length, there were discussions between the House leaders about the number of speakers. I am told that the Liberal opposition kept adding more speakers after saying that they would only have so many speakers. This elongates debate, which is a good thing.

As to whether there were other bills being debated in this place, yes, important bills about democratic reform of the unelected Senate that is dominated by Liberal senators who are, as I say, unelected. We are trying to reduce their terms somewhat from a lifetime appointment to age 75 without them ever being elected.

The other legislation that is in this House, which has been opposed and delayed repeatedly by the Liberal opposition, relates to crime. I come from the greater Toronto area and crime is an important issue for us. One would think that the Liberal opposition would have been anxious to pass a bill that would have a minimum sentence for the use of a gun in a criminal offence, particularly given what we live through in urban areas of Canada, particularly the greater Toronto area. However, the Liberals were not. Those bills needed to be brought to this place for debate so we could get them passed and we could strengthen anti-crime measures in the country, which does not seem to be of interest to the members opposite.

Another question had to do with what went on in the finance committee but I would leave that to the members of the finance committee to debate.

The last point raised by the member opposite had to do with the Atlantic accords and the sort of discussions that have been taking place. It is always interesting to hear these questions from the opposition Liberals because they are led by a leader who says that there is no fiscal imbalance between governments in Canada. In fact, he goes further and says, “Fiscal imbalance is a myth”. Therefore, if the Liberals were the government they would do nothing on this subject, led by the current leader of the Liberals, and yet they want to ask questions about the Atlantic accords.

If we go back and look at the history--

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I am sorry but I will not permit a lengthy debate. We have other people who were trying to ask questions. We had four or five questions from the Liberals already.

We will resume with questions and comments. The member for Winnipeg North.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my questions have to do with the use of a very blunt instrument to achieve the government's agenda when it had many other avenues available to it to ensure that the budget was passed on a reasonable basis.

Today we are faced with a government that has chosen to bring in the heavy hand of closure on democracy and debate in this place. It is a measure that we regret. We know it was used hundreds of times by the Liberals but we thought the Conservatives were different. They said that they were different. They said that they believed in an open and democratic process. They said that they would not resort to these heavy-handed tactics and yet today they did so without having used all available means at their fingertips to move the process along.

My questions are threefold.

First, why did the government miss 11 days of opportunity to advance this bill through second reading? We know that between April 17 and May 11 there were 11 days when Bill C-52 could have been called for second reading debate. The government chose not to that and put us back on a schedule so we are at this point today.

Why did the government not use every opportunity, and the will of this House, to have a thorough and reasonable debate on Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill? Does the government have something to hide? Is it afraid of the developments that we are seeing today with respect to the Atlantic accord and Saskatchewan? Did they prevent the government from having the open debate back then? Was the government afraid that it would get out in the open? If that is the case, the government really hoisted on its own petard because it just created the circumstances for a much greater outcry from across this country.

Second, why is the government now using closure when the finance committee did its job in a very expeditious way? We took only five sittings to deal with this bill in terms of all of its ramifications, to have hearings and to do clause by clause. We were very responsible in that way and yet the government still brings in closure.

Third, why did the government not take advantage of our Standing Orders for consulting around the use of closure? The government has avenues for consulting with all parties, for seeking opinions and advice. Instead, the government chose to go immediately to the last resort measure in the Standing Orders, which is to unilaterally impose this motion on Parliament.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the concerns mentioned by the member. I also understand that 22 concurrence motions have been brought in with respect to debate on this matter.

The member talked about thorough and reasonable debate. I understand that 30 speeches in total have been given by Liberal members on Bill C-52 and 24 speeches in total by the NDP. This includes a series of members from both of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party who have spoken more than once to this issue, which is their right.

However, when the member raises the issue of reasonable debate, I think it is reasonable to look at the number of speeches that have been given, the number of concurrence motions that have been brought forward and the number of members who have spoken more than once with respect to Bill C-52.

With respect to consultations, I understand that the government House leader and the deputy government House leaders have had a series of discussions with their opposition counterparts with respect to the progress of the bill.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, because there are many questioners, I will just ask one question.

At report stage not one Conservative member spoke to the five government report stage motions. Only a few minutes after the debate commenced at third reading stage, a Conservative member rose to move that the question be now put. The finance minister simply said that the Liberals spoke so many times and that the Conservatives spoke so many times. The record will show that the Conservatives are not even speaking in support of the budget, not even exposing themselves to questions from hon. members about the matter.

Why is it that at the finance committee, HDR Decision had pointed out to the minister that his so-called tax leakage on the broken promise of income trusts was erroneous and that it did not include legislative tax changes that would be in effect in 2007? It means that it was a mistake in the minister's calculations and the minister should have corrected that. Not only has the minister not corrected it, but he has not even admitted that he made a mistake in his calculation of the tax leakage on that and several other points.

Why is it that the minister and the Conservative Party have failed to address the important questions that have been raised by parliamentarians?

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is correct that Bill C-52 does address a very serious inequity in the Canadian tax system, that is, it would introduce a tax on distributions from certain publicly traded income trusts and limited partnerships, effective beginning with the 2007 taxation year. I thank the members of the NDP for supporting that measure.

Unlike the member for Mississauga South and his colleagues, we believe in tax fairness. This is an issue of some corporations that were paying the normal corporate tax rate and some that were choosing to become income trusts so they would not have to pay their fair share of taxes in Canada, which simply means that unless we change the law this advantage would be taken by certain corporate entities over some other corporate entities. It means that other people would have to make up the taxes so that we would have proper funding of health care, education and other important priorities of Canadians.

There is no mystery to this. It is quite straightforward. As I say, I thank the NDP for seeing the light. I regret that the Liberal opposition, including the member for Mississauga South, has failed to see the importance of tax fairness for Canadians.

With respect to speaking to the bill, I am told that at report stage the member for Calgary—Nose Hill, who is my parliamentary assistant, spoke to the bill.

Of course, the government members have the advantage of working directly in making sure that we answer their questions and that I can answer their questions concerning the budget bill, but also, they see the absolute importance of getting this bill passed before the end of June so that the transfers, the important Canada social transfers for important parts of provincial agendas, can be transferred to the provinces and territories. They see that clearly. Regrettably, it does not appear to have been seen by the members opposite, including the member for Mississauga South.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a number of questions. I am very concerned by the questions that have been brought forth by the opposition. Clearly there was an agreement in place at the finance committee whereby this bill would be put forth by June 6 to the Senate to be passed so that the very important transfers for the provinces could be made. They are transfers for the environment, health care and patient wait time guarantees, things that really matter to the government. They may not matter to the opposition, but they certainly matter to the government and to Canadians from coast to coast.

I am really concerned about what was mentioned by the member for Mississauga South when he said that government members have not stood on the budget. I stood here on Friday and gave a long speech on the budget. I took questions on the budget. Quite frankly, I was honoured to do so because it is a great budget for Canada.

My question is for the finance minister. Quite simply, if the budget is not passed by June 30, what will be lost? I ask him to please tell Canadians what they stand to lose by the obstructionist tactics that are being employed by the opposition in the House today. What would be lost?

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Peterborough not only for the good question, which actually gets at the factual issues here in the House and the factual consequences, but also for his speech on this bill last Friday and for his hard work in the House of Commons finance committee on many issues, including Bill C-52.

What happens if this budget bill does not pass? When we talk about the environment, this will not happen: $1.5 billion to support provincial and territorial governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. In health, this will not happen: $612 million to support provinces and territories to put in place a patient wait times guarantee, which is vitally important to all of us across Canada.

In terms of training and post-secondary education, there is to be $570 million for Ontario for post-secondary education and training, which is very important to the people of my home province of Ontario. In terms of the territories, there is to be $54 million for the Northwest Territories to cover payments related to the previous formula arrangements. It very important to the territorial governments that they gets the funds to which they are entitled so they can carry on with day to day government in Canada's north.

In British Columbia, and these are important environmental initiatives, there is to be $30 million to promote environmentally sustainable practices in the spirit bear rainforest and Queen Charlotte Islands areas, which are beautiful areas of British Columbia.

Again on training, there is to be $21 million for Manitoba and $18 million for Saskatchewan for labour market training.

As I say, all of these things will not happen unless we pass Bill C-52.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that what began as a tendency of the government and then turned into a trend has now turned into a measure of desperation as it has complete and utter disregard for the Standing Orders in the House in terms of how it is bringing business forward.

I would like to follow up on what was said by the member for Winnipeg North, who pointed out that the Standing Orders are being used in a way that is not intended. Standing Order 78(1) makes it clear that a minister of the crown can seek agreement from all parties for time allocation. That was not done. Standing Order 78(2) makes it clear that the government can seek a majority of representatives for time allocation. That was not done.

Today the government now is asking for time allocation, without any consultation, but Standing Order 78(3) makes it very clear that this is to be done on the basis that an agreement could not be reached. I have to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to other members, that no agreement was sought.

Here we have another example of the government ignoring and disregarding our Standing Orders, even in how it uses this procedure. I find that very objectionable. I think the government should be accountable for that. The government should respond to that and tell this House why it is disregarding the Standing Orders in terms of how it brought forward this time allocation.

Second, why is time allocation required for Bill C-52 in the first place? As we have heard time and time again, this House has a calendar to sit until June 21. We have heard that the finance committee dealt with the bill in good order, heard witnesses and brought the bill back to the House. It was the government itself that either was incompetent or deliberately did not wish to bring this bill forward at second reading. There is a clear indication that there were 11 sitting days when the government could have brought this bill forward if it is as urgent as the government claims.

I bring this to the government's attention again because here we are now, the Conservatives are desperate, and they are using time allocation. They are not consulting with the parties as they should under the Standing Orders. They now are trying to rush this through when nobody in this place has held up Bill C-52.

We are asking only for reasonable and timely debate. One day at report stage cannot be characterized as stalling. I would ask those questions of the government.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I thank the member for her questions, she raises the point of reasonable and timely debate. She is a member of the New Democratic Party. There are 29 members of that party in this place. I understand that a total of 24 speeches were given by that party on this bill. One would think that tends toward a fulsome debate on a particular bill.

With respect to moving the bill forward and consultations and agreements, as I mentioned earlier, there was an agreement between the government and the Liberal Party, the official opposition, to move Bill C-52 to the Senate by June 6. That agreement was broken by the Liberal opposition. That is one of the reasons, of course, why we have to move forward.

The government kept asking the other parties in this place how many speeches would be given. Some of the other parties kept adding speakers, so we have come to a place where, as a responsible government, what does one do? We have these very substantial large transfers from the federal government to our government partners in Canada in the provinces and the territories. We need to get them out. The Liberal opposition apparently does not feel any urgency to work with our partners in Confederation for this to happen. In fact, the Liberal opposition broke its agreement to move this bill to the Senate by June 6.

For all of these reasons it is our duty as a government to move forward and make sure that the country works well as a federation in the fiscal sense, that is, that transfers happen for these important areas of government activity, for the people of Canada and of course for those relying on transfers relating to the environment, the Canada social transfer and the other important transfers.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we know a couple of facts. We know that yesterday the Prime Minister said that there would be no side deals negotiated. We know that the Minister of Finance said in the Chronicle-Herald that there would be no deals negotiated.

The government knows that it will get its budget vote this week. It knows there is no urgency. But there is one fact that changes, because we know the Prime Minister said there would be no negotiations but we now understand that there are negotiations. Such is the nature of the Prime Minister and the flip-flops.

Today we have the premier of Nova Scotia in Ottawa. Could it be that this is a ploy to force the premier of Nova Scotia to take a lesser deal quickly in the negotiations that are ongoing as we speak?

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

No, Mr. Speaker.

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak for a few moments about the allegations we have been hearing this morning as to the fact that there has not been ample time given for debate on Bill C-52. I want to underscore a point first made by my colleague, the hon. Minister of Finance, when he pointed out quite correctly that in this House on 22 occasions there have been concurrence motions brought forward by members of the opposition parties.

If we take a look at what concurrence motions actually do, we will see that they allow three hours of debate on that particular concurrence motion but that they in effect prevent three hours of debate, per concurrence motion, for government legislation. In effect, then, 66 hours that could have been used to debate important pieces of government legislation were absolutely boycotted by members of the opposition, because they felt they wanted to usurp the responsibility of the government to enter debate on legislation.

Any time I hear members of the combined opposition complaining about lack of meaningful debate, it is their own fault, and they have done it for purely political reasons--

Bill C-52--Time Allocation Motion
Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. It is a time for questions. That is what it says in the Standing Orders. If the member has a question for the Minister of Finance, he should put it now.