House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was atlantic.

Topics

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I present this income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Carol Crocker of Ontario who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said, “The greatest fraud is a promise not kept”.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts but recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise and, finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

June 7th, 2007 / 10:10 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2007, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.

In view of our recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. Leader of the Opposition, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

I am pleased to speak to today's motion. I would like to thank my Liberal Party colleagues on this side of the House and from all regions of the country who have supported those of us from Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. We are two of the provinces most directly affected by the Prime Minister's broken promise but, as we all realize, if he can do it to us he can do it to everybody else.

If it were not so serious it would be funny in retrospect to recall the finance minister saying that with his budget the days of arguing over fiscal federalism were over. In fact, he opened up new fronts in that ongoing dispute and picked fights he did not need to pick. He could have honoured the Conservative election promises but he did not. He could have kept the commitment that the Prime Minister made no less than six times but he did not.

In his famous mail out to thousands in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Prime Minister said:

That's why we would leave you with 100% of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.

It was a promise made and a promise broken.

In his election letter to Premier Williams, the Prime Minister said:

We will remove non-renewable natural resources revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resources sectors across Canada. The Conservative Government of Canada will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.

It was a promise made and a promise broken.

In a letter to the Council of the Federation, to every provincial and territorial premier, he wrote:

We believe that a new equalization formula should exclude non-renewable resource revenues for all provinces....

However, the finance minister chose not to honour those commitments and now he and others will have to live with the consequences. Those consequences include, as of Tuesday night, driving out one of their own member's of Parliament.

This is the second broken promise on a budgetary provision that has led to serious discord on that side of the House.

The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has joined our colleague, the hon. member for Halton, in the exodus from the sinking Conservative ship. This, despite assurances from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that members from Nova Scotia and from Newfoundland and Labrador would be able to vote their conscience without repercussion. These members knew all along that they were in political trouble due to the Prime Minister's broken promise concerning equalization and its impact on the Atlantic accords.

Last month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us:

We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes....

Not only was there hiring, firing and whipping, there was flipping and flopping.

Not that long ago, a Liberal member of Parliament voted in this place against the budget. What did those members opposite, when they were still calling themselves Reformers, say then? They called it heavy-handed and iron fisted. They said that it put party and politics ahead of principles and people. They said that it would not matter if an MP voted against a government bill, even a money bill. In the immortal words of the current Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who said:

I appreciate what he's done. I think he has taken the right position. He's standing up for his constituents.

How times do change.

Before our hon. colleague from Nova Scotia had even sat back down from voting his protest against this broken promise, his name was being erased from the government party's website and access to his important computer files was cut off. We all know who has the iron fist now.

Where are those Reformers now? I think we sometimes long for those reformers who called for an end to party discipline and promised that they would do what they campaigned on or resign.

The example set by our friend from Nova Scotia is especially galling to people in my province, especially in those three Avalon Peninsula seats occupied, for now I would say, by members of the Conservative government. They had the chance to show some backbone by standing with their constituents and with their province but they chose not to. They still have that opportunity. They still have a chance to show some honour in the vote on third reading.

The hon. member for Avalon already knows what it is like to side with his constituents and put principles above politics. He did that as a provincial MHA. It cost him his seat in government, but it endeared him to his own electors and launched him on his way to the House of Commons. However, it is sad on a personal level to hear what those people who supported him then are saying now. It is sad and disturbing to see the position he has been placed in by a Prime Minister who cannot keep his word.

The hon. member for St. John's East, who has served in politics with distinction for many years and has announced his retirement with the next election, has nothing left to lose. There should be no fear of party discipline or punishment on his part, and in any event, the foreign affairs minister already granted immunity. Yet he sided with the Prime Minister and the finance minister and voted to break a solemn promise, a written promise.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said, during the last great debate on this issue back in 2005, “You cannot ever turn your back on your province on an important issue like this, even if it meant your party says tough stuff, you have to sit in the last seat, last row”.

It is okay for him. He is still on that front bench. It is our friend from Nova Scotia who is now in the last seat and in the last row.

In Labrador we have long known about the worthlessness of the Prime Minister's commitments, written and otherwise. In 2005 he promised 60% federal funding for the Trans-Labrador Highway and in 2006 he promised to cost share the project, but in 2007 these promises are still left unkept. There was supposed to be a federal-provincial deal by June. It is now June, but there is still no deal.

The Prime Minister promised us a 650 troop rapid reaction battalion for 5 Wing Goose Bay, along with a 100 member unmanned aerial vehicle squadron. The defence minister said he would personally give the orders to establish these units, but all of us in this House know what the value of one of his orders is.

The Prime Minister said that he wanted stable funding for Marine Atlantic. What did the Conservatives deliver? Rate hikes.

The Prime Minister said he would “accept the targets” for social and economic progress for aboriginal peoples set out in Kelowna, and then scrapped the Kelowna accord altogether.

He promised, again in writing, to support regional development agencies such as ACOA and did so by cutting their budgets.

Supposed Conservative commitments on fisheries retraining and emergency measures to deal with the ice blockade this spring have also led us nowhere, other than in circles as we try to decipher the contradictions coming from that side of the House.

Overall, we view every broken Conservative promise and every platform plank left unfulfilled through the lens of the broken promise on equalization and the Atlantic accord. The Prime Minister promised to protect the deal that our Liberal government negotiated with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. The Prime Minister made those commitments. He made them in writing. He made them six times.

With this budget, he broke them. He went back on his word. With the support of his Atlantic Conservative caucus, trained seals all but one, and with the support of the separatists, he is about to turn his broken promise into the law of the land.

For my hon. colleagues I would only issue this warning: if he did it to us, he can do it to them.

Let me repeat that: if he can do it to us, he can do it to them.

The Prime Minister and his government deserve the censure of this motion.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Labrador for his speech this morning on what is really the betrayal by the Conservative Party and the Government of Canada of the region that the member represents and also the region that I represent in Nova Scotia.

I want to give the member a chance to comment. Today in newspaper editorials and letters to the editor and on the talk shows in Atlantic Canada, people are ripping to shreds the Conservative Party and the integrity of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I remember a particular individual who also was betrayed. His name is David Orchard. He said that the Conservative Party was “conceived in deception and born in betrayal”. Does the hon. member for Labrador agree with that statement?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do agree with the member's comments. Those members opposite in the Conservative Party of Canada came into our small towns and our harbours, sat with our fishers and plant workers, the hard-working men and women of our province, and promised to protect the Atlantic accords. They looked them in the eye and said they would protect the Atlantic accords. It did not take them too many months, or I should say, too many days--

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

Saskatchewan too.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Saskatchewan is in there as well, as I am reminded by my colleagues.

It did not take them too many days to break that promise and to really shaft the people of our province. We are hard-working people in Newfoundland and Labrador, as they are in Nova Scotia and across the country. We believe in electing politicians who are going to stand up for their people and follow through on their word.

What they have done is basically turn their backs on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. They have perpetuated a fraud on the people, and I believe this not only when it comes to the Atlantic accords but on the other issues that I have enunciated here today. I believe there are members in the House who could come up with their own examples of how the Conservatives have perpetuated a fraud not only on Atlantic Canada but on all Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 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 am sure we are going to have a wonderful conversation throughout the intervening hours between now and adjournment, but I have a question for the hon. member. Why in the world would he be speaking as he has this morning when in fact his own leader has contradicted the very things that he is advocating?

In March of this year, the leader of the official opposition was asked whether he believes in excluding 100% of non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula. The opposition leader said unequivocally: “No. No. I would not commit to this”.

How on the one hand can the member stand in this place and say that there is betrayal from the Conservatives when in fact his own party leader has stated that he would not agree to excluding non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula, which would devastate the member's home province? Has he had a conversation with his leader about that? Does he care to comment on his leader's comments?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, the word hypocritical comes to mind when I hear certain comments from the hon. member opposite.

We have a leader who, when he gives a commitment, will honour that commitment. We have a leader who has integrity. For the hon. member to get up and defend the broken promise of his leader, the Prime Minister, is unconscionable.

That is bad enough, but I find it so disappointing today that I do not hear a voice from the Atlantic Conservative caucus members. I do not hear that voice of response. I do not hear that voice of Atlantic Conservative caucus members and I do not see them standing up for their particular province. I find that disappointing.

I would say to the hon. member that there is another vote coming. He can tell his Prime Minister to do the right thing for Saskatchewan, where the hon. member is from, and for Atlantic Canada, and he can tell all those members from Atlantic Canada to vote against the budget. It is a bad deal for Atlantic Canada, a bad deal for Saskatchewan, and a bad deal for Canada.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, over the past years Atlantic Canadians have listened to the Prime Minister and many members of his government routinely promise to honour the Atlantic accords. In fact, they heard very specific promises, as my colleague, the member for Labrador, just explained to the House, like this one from a Conservative Party mailout, which stated in 2004:

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that offshore oil and gas revenues are the key to real economic growth in Atlantic Canada. That's why we would leave you with 100 per cent of your oil and gas revenues. No small print, no excuses, no caps.

Or there is this one from the Prime Minister himself, who stated in the House on October 26, 2004, that when it comes to the Atlantic accords, there is “a moral obligation to keep these promises: no caps, no clawbacks, no limitations, no conditions, no big exceptions in the fine print”.

Yet budget 2007 had just that: a cap, fine print, limitations, and conditions. Call it what we want, it boils down to one thing, a broken promise to Atlantic Canadians. Yes, the budget allows various options for provinces, but these are only designed to cover up the reality. The budget put in place exactly what the Conservatives promised not to do, a cap, and Atlantic Canadians know it.

The people of Saskatchewan heard very similar explicit promises. The Prime Minister even wrote a letter to Premier Calvert on June 10, 2004, stating unequivocally that 100% of natural resources would be excluded, no ifs, ands or buts, and no mention of a cap, another obvious broken promise.

The Conservatives' platform in the last election promised that they “would ensure that non-renewable natural resources revenue is removed from the equalization formula”. Those who voted for the Conservatives in Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada put their trust in that commitment. That trust was broken.

As is typical of the government, it is now trying to deceive Canadians by throwing up smokescreens. Even yesterday the finance minister talked about the promise being fulfilled because the provinces have options. They can choose the old formula or they can choose the new formula with 50% exclusion, but what they cannot choose is what they were explicitly promised, 100% exclusion, the honouring of the Atlantic accords, with no caps.

Canadians know that the Prime Minister and the government broke their word on equalization and the Atlantic accords. Premier Calvert, Premier MacDonald and Premier Williams know it, and even Conservative members of Parliament know it, but only one had the courage to stand up in the House and do something about it: the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I am proud to call this member my colleague.

All other Conservative government members should be ashamed of voting for this broken promise, particularly those members from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

The time has come for the government to come clean. It broke its word. There is a phrase that I believe the government and the Prime Minister need to learn. It is, “I am sorry”. In Canada if one is unable to say, “I am sorry”, there is another way to say it. It is, “Je suis désolé”.

The relationship between the federal government and its provincial partners is one built on trust, yet the Prime Minister is eroding that trust, and the relationship is suffering as a result. Former Progressive Conservative minister John Crosbie put it well when he said that the Prime Minister is setting “a poor example for future public policy-making within the Canadian federation”.

What is the current Prime Minister doing as relations with the provinces deteriorate? Instead of fostering dialogue and talking about issues with his counterparts, he is cancelling first ministers' meetings. He has not held one single first ministers' conference since coming to power.

He is doing much the same thing with respect to the Senate. The Prime Minister can broadcast as much negative publicity about me as he wants concerning Senate reform, but that does not change the fact that he was the one who proposed this reform without consulting the people whom the Constitution requires him to consult. That move prompted the premiers to express their concerns about the Senate in writing. As a result, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs recommended that the Senate reform bill be referred to the Supreme Court.

Still, why should we expect anything else from a Prime Minister who shows so little respect for ordinary citizens? By breaking his promise not to tax income trusts, he violated the trust of Canadians and caused people to lose $25 billion of their hard-earned savings. He has never apologized for this. He has never said “I'm sorry”. He has never said “Je suis désolé”.

Broken promises, no consultations, no trust: that is no way to run a federation; that is no way to run a country.

Since entering politics, I have always kept my promises. My good faith has been put to the test many times, and it has always been above reproach. I was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs longer than any other Canadian since Confederation, and during that time, I was always open and honest with my counterparts. When I was the Minister of the Environment, environmental groups, industry and other governments found that they could trust me to do what I said I would do. That is how it should be done. One simply cannot reach one's goals without the trust of the people one works with.

The Prime Minister seems to spend all his energy trying to score cheap political points while getting away with the bare minimum and breaking his commitments to Canadians.

True leadership requires honesty and integrity. This is what I am. This is what the Liberal Party is offering Canadians.