House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economic.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree that passing the Olympic torch across Canada is not the same thing as taking our artists and sending them abroad, in order to make our culture known throughout the world. These are two completely different things.

If the government wants to have the flame passed around and shown to its friends all over its beloved country, that is fine, but the government should not cut funding for people who do not have much money to start off with, and stop them from promoting their and our culture abroad.

The culture of a nation like the Quebec nation must be promoted abroad. We had excellent tools for doing so, and this government, which only says that it recognizes the Quebec nation, wants to completely muzzle us and stop us from expressing who we are throughout the world. The government has shown this once again with this drastic cut, which we feel has no basis, but is completely understandable coming from a government that has decided to muzzle the Quebec nation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I first want to congratulate you on your re-election as the head of this House. Also, I would like to thank the voters in Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher who elected me for the first time. Thank you in particular to the volunteers who helped with my campaign. To both the voters and the volunteers, I would like to say that I will put all of my energy into proving myself worthy of their trust. I am committed to defending their interests with as much vigour and rigour as my predecessor, the outgoing member, Caroline St-Hilaire. I am aware that I have big shoes to fill because our constituents really liked Caroline, so I am coming into Parliament determined to do my best.

Today, as many of my Bloc Québécois colleagues have done, I am denouncing the Speech from the Throne, which I find to be uninspired and unacceptable.

First of all, the proposed measures go against Quebec's traditional demands, particularly when it comes to federal spending power, which the Conservative government would limit, at least for new federal programs.

Quebeckers agree that federal spending power must be eliminated. All the Quebec governments, without exception, have expressed the desire to defend the integrity of Quebec's legislative authority, notably in areas such as education, health and social services.

The Séguin report, which received the support of all the parties in the National Assembly, recommended that:

Québec vigorously reiterate its traditional stance concerning the absence of a constitutional basis for “federal spending power” since this “power” does not respect the division of powers stipulated in the Constitution.

And the report also recommended that:

Québec maintain its demand to exercise an unconditional right to opt out with full financial compensation in respect of any program implemented by the federal government in a field falling under provincial jurisdiction.

In 2006, the current Conservative Prime Minister of Canada stated:

I have said many times, even since the election of this new government, that I am opposed and our party is opposed to federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions.

And he continued on, saying:

In my opinion, such spending power in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions goes against the very spirit of federalism. Our government is clear that we do not intend to act in that way.

How ironic. That is what he said at the time, and yet, on pages 15 and 16 of this week's Speech from the Throne, the same Prime Minister said:

The federal spending power will be constrained so that any new shared-cost program in an area of exclusive provincial responsibility will require the consent of the majority of the provinces to proceed, and that non-participating provinces can opt out with compensation, provided that they implement compatible programs or initiatives

I repeat, “provided that they implement compatible programs or initiatives”. By placing such a condition on Quebec's withdrawal from federal programs that infringe on Quebec's fields of exclusive jurisdiction, the Conservative government shows that it does not understand Quebec's unanimous position.

The Bloc is calling on Ottawa to agree to simply stop spending in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, either by eliminating the federal spending power outright, because Quebec has always disputed the legitimacy of that power, or by giving Quebec the right to opt out, with full compensation and with no strings attached, of any federal program in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction.

There is nothing of the sort in the throne speech.

It is as if Jean Chrétien wrote this throne speech, considering that the Speech from the Throne delivered February 28, 1996, states:

The Government will not use its spending power to create new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction without the consent of a majority of the provinces. Any new program will be designed so that non-participating provinces will be compensated, provided they establish equivalent or comparable initiatives.

Quebeckers will remember what became of those empty promises.

They are not stupid: they know what that kind of limit on federal spending power means, especially since the government was only talking about “new programs” and therefore left intact the result of 100 years of federal meddling in areas that are supposed to be under Quebec's control.

During fiscal year 2005-06, the federal government spent no less than $55 billion in areas outside of its jurisdiction. The Conservative government seems to think that this is okay and should go on indefinitely.

The Canadian government's so-called open federalism is a fraud.

I would also like to point out that the government is offering only “compensation” for any new cost-shared interference. How can we be sure that this compensation will be full compensation?

Basically, Ottawa wants the right to punish provinces that refuse to participate in its new programs. Once again, the government is trying to impose Canada-wide standards, even in areas not under its jurisdiction, by giving provinces the right to opt out of new programs only if they offer programs that are, as it says, “compatible”. If the Quebec nation chooses to do something other than what Canada is doing, it will not have the right to opt out.

I will repeat that there is consensus in Quebec concerning the complete respect for our constitutional jurisdictions such as health, among others.

Not only is the Conservative government not acting in the best interests of Quebec, but it is also proving that it has no understanding of Quebec's values and legitimate aspirations. And as if that were not enough, the Prime Minister is going even further by proposing to reduce Quebec's weight in the House of Commons, which will only facilitate future federal incursions.

In fact, in the Speech from the Throne, the government confirms its desire to increase the number of seats for Ontario and certain western provinces, which at the same time implies a reduction in the relative political clout of Quebec in the House of Commons.

Once again that is proof that the Prime Minister still refuses to give concrete recognition to the Quebec nation and that Canada has no other future to offer Quebec than that of a dwindling minority.

The Bloc Québécois will oppose any institutional reform that is counter to the interests of Quebec just as it will continue to oppose any interference in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

This throne speech was to deal with the economic slowdown but instead ignores the real interests of Quebec. It does nothing for the most disadvantaged and ignores outright those citizens who have lost their jobs or who are seeing their pensions evaporate before their eyes.

Even though the snow has not yet started to fall, the Conservative government's vision leaves us cold.

It is sending chills through Quebec even before winter arrives.

I have a completely different vision for my country, Quebec. That is why I want it to be sovereign, independent and free.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the last election there was a financial earthquake. Unfortunately, it also occurred in the middle of a global sea and it will create a tsunami that has yet to hit the world and Canada.

In the last Parliament, one of the first things the government was to do was to pass the Federal Accountability Act and to create the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, who, yesterday, completely refuted the government's arguments that things were sound, that we will keep the course and that we are in better shape. In fact, he announced to the government and Canadians that the deficit next year will be about $13.8 billion and about $11 billion each year thereafter until the year 2013, accumulating increased debt by about $50 billion. He says, very clearly, that it is due to the decisions and actions of the Conservative government and not the deteriorating global economy.

It would appear that the Prime Minister's position has been eroding very slowly and that he, very slowly, is admitting that some things may need to be done. However, what concerns me the most, notwithstanding that Parliament passed that act, created the position of a Parliamentary Budget Officer and received a report from that budget officer, is that the finance minister's position now in the media is that the government has its own set of economic forecasts.

It appears that the government continues to be in denial about the seriousness of the economic crisis that Canada is in and will be facing for some time. I wonder if the member shares that view.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's lack of transparency is a serious problem. As far as relations with Quebec are concerned, in the past, federal governments often used difficult financial times as an excuse for not making the necessary transfer payments. In the coming years, I believe we are going to witness the same sort of denial of financial reality.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, my friend made an excellent speech, and I would like to ask him to tell us more about the need for Quebec sovereignty.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. The people who oppose Quebec sovereignty are people who would like to see Quebec in a position they would never accept for themselves. For example, I do not believe that English Canada would agree to join the United States as a group of states. English Canada wants to keep on running Canada in accordance with its own concerns, its own values, its own interests. We have the same concern in Quebec.

I was Quebec's delegate general in Tokyo at the time of the Quebec referendum. When the Japanese asked me why Quebec should be a sovereign country, I asked them whether it made sense for Quebec, which is a nation in itself, to be relegated to the status of a province of another country. I asked them whether, as Japanese citizens, they would agree to have Japan be a province of China. Now, one could say that China has many faults. But even if China were perfect, a highly democratic and prosperous nation, would they want Japan to be a province of China? Embarrassed, they would smile and acknowledge that there is nothing unusual about Quebec's aspirations. We do not want to be a province of another country; we want to be our own country.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on your re-election as the Speaker of the House. I am certain your re-election was due to your past record of non-partisan oversight of this House and your commitment to fairness to all members of the House.

I also would like to take this time to thank the constituents of Okanagan—Shuswap for their overwhelming and increased confidence in me as their voice in this place. It truly is an honour and I am humbled to be given such a vote of confidence. I would be remiss if I did not credit my electoral success on the leadership of our Prime Minister and the great job my staff in the riding and Ottawa offices have done in serving the constituents of Okanagan—Shuswap. I thank the many volunteers who helped during my campaign. Their time and dedication is sincerely appreciated.

The theme for this session's Speech from the Throne is protecting Canada's future. This theme is a reflection of our government's approach to these uncertain economic times. Our government will not react in a knee-jerk, irresponsible physical manner today at the detriment of tomorrow. The Speech from the Throne is very clear: our government will make calculated decisions that will weather the current storm in preparation for the sunny days in the future.

The problem today is that the current global financial framework has not served the global community well. Lack of sound fiscal policy and regulation framework has proven the undoing of many developed nations' financial institutions.

Canadians can be proud of the policy and regulatory work that this government and previous governments have put in place to ensure Canadians of a secure and stable financial sector. Our government's budgets have been balanced, our economic growth has proven surpluses and the $37 billion in national debt repayment has cushioned Canada from this current economic meltdown.

As our throne speech indicates, Canada will work with the global community to put in place international regulations to prevent this type of exploitation of financial markets and overextension of the credit markets. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance began this important work on November 15, joining the leaders of the G-20 in Washington, D.C., and will continue to pursue this in the future.

The global economic downturn has challenged the liquidity in global financial institutions and compromised the capitalization of the equity markets causing a lack of capital for home mortgages, business capital expansion and development. This credit crisis has weakened dramatically the prospects for growth of our domestic economy in the global economy.

Canada needed a throne speech that assured Canadians that we will keep our house in order by tight fiscal management and prudent targeted spending. This throne speech is just what the doctor ordered. We must remind ourselves that Canada is built on the promise of opportunity, the chance to work hard, raise a family and make a better life. Today it is more important than ever to deliver on this promise and ensure that all Canadians share in the hope and prosperity of this land.

Our government has already cut the shackles of high taxes and released businesses to be more competitive, labour to have more disposable income and investment to be more vibrant.

Our government has lowered consumer taxes, such as the GST by 2%, has increased tax credits for spouses, children, seniors and businesses, all contributing to less money in government and more money in citizens' pockets as well as in the economy.

Initiatives such as accelerated capital cost allowance invite businesses to retool, expand, and create new jobs, resulting in new wealth for Canada.

Statistics tell us that one-third of our economy is wealth creation, that is, creating new money. Resource extraction, manufacturing, farming, power generation, forestry, and technology products generate new dollars for the economy. The other two-thirds of our economy takes this new wealth and provides services such as transportation, retail goods, food services, consumer goods, financial services and government. A drop of 10% in the resource and manufacturing sectors results in a 20% drop in the service sector.

In my past, when I was gold mining in the Yukon, our motto was “The buck starts here”. For every dollar created, there were two dollars spent in the service sector.

I tell members this so that they will understand why it is so important that our government invest in education and skills training, infrastructure, transportation, and research and development: so that those who are creating wealth for this nation will have the tools to create new money in the economy.

This Speech from the Throne sets a stage for investment and a climate for success for those who would risk and succeed.

In Vernon in my own constituency of Okanagan--Shuswap, Tolko Industries, the fifth-largest lumber products company in the world, has its head office. This company is a well-run and innovative company, but it has, as has all the forest industry, struggled in the past three years.

Tolko Industries has not hung its head low. It has taken the opportunity to make its operations more streamlined and energy-efficient. The gasification project to the Heffley Creek operation saved $1.5 million a year in natural gas costs. Its cogeneration operation in the Armstrong mill supplies electricity to the power grid in British Columbia, and its new OSB and engineered beam plants in Alberta are state-of-the-art, modern and efficient operations.

This Speech from the Throne reaffirms our government's commitment to continue to partner with industry to make Canadian businesses more competitive and more energy-efficient. Our government will continue to assist these industries through measures aimed at marketing Canadian products abroad, expanding trade opportunities and helping business to be innovative.

This means wealth creation. This means jobs.

The throne speech reveals our government's continued support for higher education, research and development, and skills training. A good example of our government's partnering with educational institutes to realize skills training for aboriginal students is in my riding. The Government of Canada partnered with the Vernon campus of Okanagan College to fund the carpentry apprentice program for aboriginal students. Through this investment, graduates were given the skills needed to fill vacancies in the building construction sector.

Canada has one of the smallest labour forces in the developed world, so we must be the most skilled, the smartest and the most innovative if we are to survive. Canada has a successful, proven track record. We must continue to invest in our greatest resource, our human resources.

Sometimes how we do things in government is just as important as what we do in government. This cannot be more clear than in the relationship between the economy and the environment. As citizens of this planet, we must do our part to ensure that we are good stewards of the environment around us. In the throne speech, our government committed to ensuring that by 2020, 90% of Canada's new energy sources will be from clean energy production.

We are taking action to move away from dirty coal and carbon fuels to the clean, efficient and environmentally responsible energy of the future. Truly, Canada is turning the corner on the environment. Our government will continue to work with the provinces and territories, the private sector, and our citizens to make Canada cleaner, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.

Our government believes that the foundation of this country is the family. In its throne speech, our government has once again supported families.

The continuance of the child care allowance, which helps parents make parental decisions for their children's best interests and supports them financially with those decisions, has further demonstrated our commitment to families.

Our government is introducing a new opportunity for family-owned businesses. The throne speech offers business women the opportunity to participate in maternity leave benefits as administered under the EI program. This is a great program to help small family-owned businesses to have children without compromising their business interests and their family income.

This throne speech also ensures that the transfer of payments to the provinces for education and health will keep up with inflation, ensuring that growing families will have top-notch education for their children and timely access to the health care they need.

Finally, the economic slowdown does not mean a slowdown in our efforts to make our communities safer. We will continue to crack down on organized crime, guns and gangs, drugs, and violence.

Governments are called upon to provide citizens with law and order. Our government will continue to review the young offenders act and make certain that a young age will not be an excuse for criminal activity.

Canadians want to know that their children are safe from those who would exploit their sons and daughters with drugs.

Our government will not only make our streets safer, but we will also continue to make our nation safer and more secure. Our government will continue to improve border security in an effort to stop the flow of guns and drugs into Canada.

Our government will build a new icebreaker and an Arctic port. We will increase our presence in the Arctic and protect Canada's sovereignty over our northern frontier.

Security of our nation is the responsibility of the men and women of our Canadian Forces. Our government will continue to support their efforts by purchasing new and more modern equipment. Whether in a foreign field or at home, our men and women stand bravely for the freedom we enjoy daily, and we appreciate their commitment. We support them in their work and we will continue to give them the tools needed to do their job.

I once again remind the House of a good definition of good government. As a famous statesman said many years ago:

--a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain [its citizens] from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government--

This Speech from the Throne embraces all of these: law and order, freedom of enterprise, and low taxes. It is no wonder Canadians returned this Conservative government to office with a larger mandate.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for being re-elected.

I have three suggestions for him to take to his government. They are three easy things it could do to address the pressing concerns of our citizenry.

First, arguably the second most important issue affecting Canadians is health care. Would the member ask the Minister of Health to work with her counterparts across the country to address the medical manpower crisis we are facing?

Second, consistent with the interest the government and all of us share in dealing with the issue of crime, the most effective preventive measure is actually the early learning head start program for children, which has proven to reduce youth crime 60%.

My last question is with regard to our veterans, to whom we owe a debt that cannot be repaid. Many of our veterans are coming back and struggling to find the care they need. The veterans charter was intended to be a starting point, a living document. Will the member ask the minister and committee to do a public review of the veterans charter to ensure that our veterans will receive timely access to the quality care they desperately need and seek?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government has a proven track record on delivering support to the provinces for health care. We increased health care transfer payments to the provinces by 6% each year for the past three years.

In the last Parliament we worked with the provinces to shorten wait times, and we saw some significant decreases in wait times in our health care system. Our transfers of those dollars to the provinces proves we are concerned about health care and patient wait times.

I was at a fundraising foundation's reception for the local hospital in Vernon, the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. It was very encouraging to hear one of the physicians from that hospital say that they are seeing some new equipment and some capital investment in the hospital, and that what our government is doing in the financial support for the provinces is great. That was very encouraging.

With regard to our initiatives around the issue of crime, when we made our announcement about our challenges with drugs and said that we would attack that problem in our society, we looked at rehabilitation, education and enforcement. These three things were funded equally. Our concern is to make sure we educate the youth of this country on the challenges drugs bring to life and on the need to stay away from them.

We increased the funding for Veterans Affairs and we established an ombudsman so that veterans could have a better resource for appealing any decisions for benefits. Those measures were brought forward by our government in the last Parliament. I spoke with some of our veterans during my campaign, and I found they were deeply impressed by the increased benefits and the easy access to Veterans Affairs.

We have done it in the past and we will continue to do it in the future.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for electing me to this House for the first time, and for trusting me to represent them. I would also like to thank the team of volunteers and activists who worked on my election campaign.

My question is of course for the member who spoke in this House about the same old measures just packaged a little differently. In the throne speech there was a list of important objectives, but there were no big surprises.

Unfortunately, Canada and Quebec are currently experiencing huge job losses. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the past few years, and unfortunately, the Conservative government, with its laissez-faire attitude, has done nothing.

Now, it is waking up and saying it will do something for the automotive and aerospace industries. The Conservatives boasted about giving $80 million to Ford. But everyone knows that in the automotive industry, $80 million is peanuts. It takes money to move this type of industry forward.

My question is about what the Conservative government plans on doing in the present dire situation to help workers who are affected by major lay-offs. What will the government do to help them?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we do not have our previous Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to tell the good news about what we did in the last Parliament, which was to fund skills training for those who have been laid off in the forestry sector and to fund retooling for factories that have been shut down.

It is interesting that no province in this country took more advantage of the moneys and programs put forward by the government than did Quebec. It was great to see people who had been in the forest industry being retrained, having the opportunity to go into, for instance, the aerospace industry, and actually finding better-paying jobs after they were retrained with those new skills.

I see this also in my own constituency, where a glass factory shut down on November 1. All those people have the opportunity to be retrained for other jobs in the sectors that are growing in British Columbia.

It is the same in Quebec, where we see so many good things happening in the aerospace industry. Those developments are a credit to Quebec and to that industry. They are innovative and aggressive. They are world leaders in that sector, which will make more opportunities for people who are looking for jobs.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election. As this is the first opportunity I have had to speak in this honourable House, I would like to thank the voters of Halifax.

The hon. member referenced his time in the gold mines in the Yukon. He actually used the phrase, “the buck starts here”. I am originally from a gold mining town in northern Ontario called Kirkland Lake. The irony is there is no lake. The lake is filled with mine tailings. We have poisoned lakes and rivers. Workers are living in poverty. Hundreds of miners have died underground. This is the kind of legacy the government wants to see, bucks made at the expense of health, safety and the environment.

How can the hon. member talk about doing our part for the environment when the Speech from the Throne is silent on mining regulations, silent on the impacts of resource extraction and silent on the impacts on our environment?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, things have changed. The regulations in place for the mining industry are actually some of the toughest regulations in the world. If anything, they have become a bit of an economic challenge for those who want to develop new ore bodies.

It is good that those regulations are in place to protect the environment. We definitely want wealth creation. We want to see these resources developed. We also recognize the need to assure Canadians that the environment is protected.

Sea Cadets
Statements By Members

November 21st, 2008 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, on October 4, Bonnie Rourke, a constituent of mine, released a historic compilation of her memories of growing up at the Queen Elizabeth and Princess Alice sea cadet camps on Minicoganashene Island. The book is called The Sea Cadet Years on Georgian Bay.

From 1943 to 1953, Bonnie lived at the cadet camps with her family. From these recollections, her father’s journal, Navy League documents and the stories of former sea cadets, Bonnie has made a profound contribution to the history of Canada’s Sea Cadet program and our Navy League.

Gary Garnett, National President of the Navy League, has praised her work, noting that, “The fertile ground of Minicoganashene grew much more than blueberries. For a time, it served to grow our country”.

Please join me in congratulating Bonnie and Canada’s Sea Cadets, past and present, who helped create this tremendous and historic work.

Bennett Campbell
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this chamber today to pay tribute to a great Canadian who passed away on September 11, 2008. I speak of the Hon. Bennett Campbell, a former member of the House and minister of veterans affairs for Canada. Mr. Campbell was also a former premier of Prince Edward Island and held cabinet positions in the Prince Edward Island legislature. Mr. Campbell was also an educator for 10 years before he entered politics.

Since leaving public office, Bennett worked tirelessly for his community, serving on many boards and committees. He was chair of his village commission and an active member of the local funeral co-op. Bennett loved politics. Bennett loved people. He was happiest serving his community and his neighbours. Bennett Campbell will be sorely missed by all whose lives he touched. I wish to offer my condolences to his wife, Shirley, and his family.