House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.

Topics

Interprovincial Bridge
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the seventh consecutive day, I would like to present a petition on behalf of the citizens of Ottawa—Vanier as well as citizens from the entire national capital region. This petition is asking the government to intervene in the bridge issue. There is currently a proposal under consideration to build one or two new bridges that would eventually link to a ring road around the national capital region and that would remove heavy truck traffic from the core. Every self-respecting city, particularly Canada's capital, should have a ring road for heavy truck traffic.

The petitioners are asking the government to direct the National Capital Commission to carry out a detailed assessment of another option: an interprovincial bridge linking the Canotek industrial park to the Gatineau airport, which is option seven of the first phase of the environmental assessment of potential bridges in the national capital region.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 28th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

As this is my first speech in the House, I would like to acknowledge and thank all of the voters in the riding of Alfred-Pellan, who renewed their confidence in me during the most recent election. I would also like to thank those who have given their time and energy to the Bloc Québécois team to raise awareness of our ideas and our priorities. I would have been so proud to have seen their efforts result in a plan to bring some much-needed stimulus to the economy.

I believed that the Conservative government, with the support of the opposition parties, would have offered Quebeckers and Canadians solutions to help people and businesses deal with this global crisis that, some say, will be worse than anything we have seen since the Great Depression.

Every other government on the planet is taking steps to deal with the crisis by stimulating the economy, but this government has given us a partisan, ideological statement that has a lot in common with the Reform Party's far-right agenda, a right-wing ideology that has blinded the government to the importance of acting now.

Instead of breathing life into the economy, which desperately needs help, the Conservative government has chosen to stifle it. It has left businesses, regions, and by extension, the entire population, high and dry. We cannot accept that. My party and I condemn the fact that, instead of tackling the economic crisis, the Conservative government has chosen to create a crisis of democracy for strictly partisan reasons by eliminating funding for political parties.

In the current economic situation, the Prime Minister should have given workers a helping hand, but instead he decided to attack their interests by suspending their right to strike. He also continued his campaign to erode the status of women by making pay equity a right henceforth to be negotiated in the collective bargaining process but without compensating for the fact that the fundamental right to strike is being eliminated. In the hope of more readily imposing his ideology, the Prime Minister wishes to muzzle the political parties, the unions and women. In short, he wants to muzzle all opposition.

Although they said they were prepared to work with the opposition parties, the Conservatives rejected the proposals in the economic recovery plan presented this week by the Bloc Québécois. These were realistic proposals that met the needs created by the current economic crisis. The federal government has the responsibility to take action at the juncture of this economic crisis. Furthermore, Ottawa has the means to do so without increasing debt servicing or creating recurring deficits.

The Bloc Québécois put forward a recovery plan to help businesses and the general population, a three-part plan that could have made a significant contribution by injecting some $23 billion into the economy. The plan we presented this week was realistic and it could have been implemented to help Quebeckers and Canadians protect what they have and to stimulate their industries and the economy.

This plan included immediate measures that cost nothing. Some of the measures not retained were: adopting legislation on the government's preferential procurement practices; regulations requiring federal organizations to use forestry products in federal construction projects; abolishing the two-week waiting period for employment insurance benefits; reinstating funding for economic development organizations; reinstating cultural programs; the implementation of the Kyoto protocol and credits for non-polluting industries, particularly in Quebec; raising to 73 the age for converting an RRSP to a RRIF.

Our plan also includes measures for businesses. For example: a $4 billion modernization fund to stimulate investment in manufacturing companies and increase productivity; a comprehensive plan to support the manufacturing and forestry sectors; a $2 billion development fund for affordable housing using CMHC assets; and a $2 billion fund for home energy efficiency renovations, also using CHMC funds.

We have also proposed measures to help people directly, such as full compliance with the equalization formula; an additional $1.3 billion transfer for post-secondary education; an incremental increase in the guaranteed income supplement; graduated retroactivity for those eligible for the guaranteed income supplement who were swindled by the government; improved access to the employment insurance fund; an income support program for older workers; and a $4,000 rebate program for the purchase of electric, hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles.

As I said earlier, the government has sufficient means to fund this kind of economic stimulus package. Funding can come from a strategy to reduce the use of tax havens for tax evasion. We also recommend that tax breaks for oil companies be cancelled. Ottawa's financial assets, which total $176 billion, will also be called upon.

Instead of showing Quebec and Canada its true Reform Party colours with its right-wing economic statement, the federal government could have put forward measures, some of which would not cost a penny, to help the economy.

That is what the Bloc Québécois proposed to the Minister of Finance just days ago. Our economic stimulus plan is realistic and strong, and it shows that we can act to stimulate the economy and give businesses and individuals the tools they need to deal with the crisis.

The Bloc Québécois will vote against the Harper government's ideological economic statement because it attacks democracy, workers and women, while doing nothing to stimulate the economy. The Conservatives have chosen provocation over cooperation, but the people do not want an election.

In closing, I would like to quote La Presse's André Pratte, a strong federalist. This morning, in an editorial entitled “Irresponsible, Mr. Harper!”, he said—

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. I believe that the hon. member is referring to the Prime Minister, and he must use his title, not his name.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, you were right to call me to order.

I was quoting an article written in French by André Pratte which said: “Mr. Harper is attempting another one of his dirty tricks... The opposition parties will have no choice, they will have to vote against the bill. It is a question of survival.”

Because I believe in democracy, in workers' rights and—

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member knows that even when he is reading an article, he cannot do indirectly what he cannot do directly. He ought to refrain from using the names of members of Parliament and refer to them by their title, even if he has to insert that into an article.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry.

I will end by saying that I believe in democracy, in workers' and women's rights, and I will stand with the Bloc Québécois to oppose this economic update.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, as an aside, Marc-Aurèle Fortin was a great painter.

I would like to ask my colleague a question following his wonderful speech. Would any of the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois create numerous jobs and, in addition, fulfill one of the duties of a civilized society, which is to provide decent, affordable housing to everyone? Where would this money come from so that the budget's fiscal balance would not be affected?

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. That is one of the elements of our plan that I mentioned briefly. Obviously, one way to make a quick contribution to this country's economic development would be to use the surplus accumulated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC, which amounts to about $8 billion.

The government should quickly implement a plan for affordable housing, which is desperately needed across the country. I have had feedback in my riding, where people have to go on a waiting list before they can get affordable housing. Since the government coffers already have a surplus, this would have no effect on the budget. This immediate action would be appropriate to respond to the economic crisis.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt we have committed funding over five years of $387 million, or $1.9 billion, which is a significant amount.

The member wishes to use the funds in CMHC. CMHC has insured mortgages. It is there, although a huge amount, to protect against any defaults.

Particularly given the uncertain times in the economy, would the member not agree with me that it is wise to ensure there is a sufficient amount kept in surplus or in assets so the liquidity is there in the event it is necessary? Would the member not agree that it is only prudent to do this and that it would not be wise to take funds out of this account?

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the wording of the Conservative member's question is a very good reflection of his party's philosophy: always be cautious, maintain a balanced budget, but all the while ignore the crisis we are currently experiencing.

But a government needs to be close to its people to realize that they are experiencing difficulties. Many of them are losing their jobs. Seniors' incomes are decreasing, because their assets, their pension plans, are consistently decreasing. They do not know how they will survive.

The government's job now is to invest in the economy, and later, when the economy has improved, the government can focus on a balanced budget.

As for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, it has an existing surplus that is not being used. We are not talking about the government creating an additional expense in the current budget. We are talking about the government using the surplus instead of letting it sit there as their ideological safety net, saying that there is a huge $8 billion surplus, and it will stay there as protection, but all the while, people need housing. Building more affordable housing would stimulate the economy.