House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Human Trafficking
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present petitions containing close to 500 names regarding trafficking of women and children across international borders for purposes of sexual exploitation.

These petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to condemn this practice and to continue the good work of our government to stop this horrendous crime from happening here on Canadian soil.

Infrastructure
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present another petition signed by citizens of the nation's capital concerning the matter of the necessity of building a bridge or two bridges, so that eventually there would be a ring road around the nation's capital so that the heavy truck traffic could be removed from the core of the city.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to instruct the National Capital Commission to proceed with a detailed assessment of an interprovincial bridge linking the Canotek Industrial Park to the Gatineau airport, which is option 7 of the first phase of the interprovincial crossings environmental assessment.

Income Tax Act
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by nearly 2,000 people calling on Parliament to support a bill that was numbered C-445, which I introduced during the previous Parliament with the support of the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour. The purpose of the bill was to create a refundable tax credit for retirement income losses of 22%, for the victims of these substantial financial looses.

A number of retired employees of the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos in my riding and of Atlas Steels in Sorel-Tracy saw their retirement income drastically reduced after their former employer went bankrupt. Since February 2003, $55 million has been lost in retirement funds and $30 million in benefits for retired workers of the Jeffrey mine, while incomes have been reduced by between 28% and 58% since April 1, 2005, for retired workers of Atlas Steels.

As I present this petition, I can assure the House that my colleague and I remain committed to pursuing the fight to provide justice to the retired workers of the Atlas Steels facility and the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos.

Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by dozens of constituents who are very concerned about the Conservatives' changes to our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the way they were slipped through the last budget implementation bill.

The petitioners are concerned because the changes give major new powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism on an arbitrary basis. They are concerned that these changes limit the ability of ordinary Canadians to be united on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. They are concerned that the minister has the power to deny visas to those who meet all the immigration criteria.

They call upon their government to abandon these changes, to increase staffing in overseas visa offices, to increase Canada's immigration target to 1% of the Canadian population and to stop the expansion of temporary foreign workers in this legislative initiative.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

December 1st, 2008 / 3:20 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

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When question period began, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence had the floor and there are 12 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I, therefore, call upon the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to continue the remarks that I was about to begin with respect to the economic update that the government said it presented last week.

The reason I say “said it presented” is that as I stated in my preamble, in my initial discussion, there was no response to the crisis of the day, a crisis that was recognized by the Prime Minister, reiterated by his Minister of Finance, and reinforced by the Prime Minister's presence in the G20 discussions of about 10 days ago.

From our perspective as Canadians, we all needed to have action to address the issues of Canadians and the way they lead their lives. It is no secret to anybody who follows Canada, who follows the way we earn our moneys, the way we develop our standard of living and the way we enhance our quality of life, that certain industries needed immediate attention, and that to them the government said, “No, not yet”.

The first of these is of course the forestry industry. Members might have heard some of the questions during question period. The forestry industry is responsible for about $85 billion worth of our GDP. It is a big contributor to our economy. In addition to the immediate cash that comes into our GDP, it is responsible for approximately 800,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to the forestry business. Whether it is paper mills, lumber mills, or lumber manufacturing, it means approximately 800,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

Of those 800,000 jobs, 300,000 are directly responsible to the forestry industry. It is one of the bulwarks of our economy. Three hundred communities, 300 small or large towns, are directly dependent upon lumber and lumber alone. Those 300 communities, those 300,000 individuals, look to their government, to us, for some indication that we are about to protect not only their lifestyles but their futures.

In his economic update the Minister of Finance said, “Sorry, not interested. I am going to continue with the way that I dealt with this before”. When the softwood lumber agreement collapsed and there was an imposition of countervailing tariffs, our producers put $5 billion on the table during very tough negotiations. It was spread over several years. The government opposite decided that it would negotiate by leaving 25¢ on the dollar in the hands of our competitors to the south.

Is it any wonder that some of those sawmills and paper mills are shutting down? Is it any wonder that the lumber industry in Canada is facing the challenges it faces today? In addition to the collapse of the construction industry in the United States, we had to give 25¢ on the dollar for every one of those dollars that we put on the table for tariffs and countervail to our direct competitors in the industry down south.

That is the way the government has handled the economic stresses facing Canadians in those remote and isolated communities that depend upon the forestry industry. It is the same indifference, the same disdain that the government has demonstrated with respect to the auto industry.

I know my colleague from Guelph knows the statistics very well. Over 500,000 jobs are directly or indirectly related to the auto industry in Canada. Some figures put that number at 570,000. He knows quite well that for every job in the assembly plant, there are seven to ten other jobs that directly flow from that activity.

When we talk about the auto industry, we are talking about at least half a million people who are directly or indirectly related to the assembly industry, the auto parts industry and the associated dealerships.

When we think about how that translates to life as Canadians, it is approximately a million people, perhaps a little bit more. A million families are directly dependent on the auto industry. One million people is the equivalent of the entire population of Saskatchewan, the entire population of Manitoba, more than the population of Nova Scotia, twice the population of Newfoundland, and 10 times the population of Prince Edward Island.

Those people who depend upon the health of the auto sector and the auto parts sector have every right to receive the attention of the government. It is not just in assembly or manufacturing, even though they are very important elements of the auto industry.

Think for a moment of all of the moneys that we have attempted to invest in human resources development and skills training, in research and development. Think of all the engineering jobs, the educational jobs, the institutions that were built in association with auto assembly and auto parts in Canada, specifically in southern Ontario.

My colleague from Guelph would agree that some of those universities and community colleges stretching down along the golden horseshoe are not so much interested in whether the auto industry is going to get x dollars or y dollars.

They are interested in a government that takes a position that we must ensure appropriate negotiation, not only with the auto sector here in Canada but also with the auto sector in North America. What we need to do is make sure that the decisions made by the auto industry take into consideration the needs of Ontario and the needs of Canada, and that decisions with respect to the auto industry are kept front and centre.

I note that the government has taken credit for the fact that the Government of Canada has been responsive to the auto sector in the past. It might come as a surprise to some people in this room, but the government that actually did consider and concern itself with the auto sector was none other than the former government, a Liberal government.

I had the extreme pleasure of being the minister responsible for Ontario when that happened. Now the government takes credit for it, four years after the fact. The Minister of Industry is a good man. I know him well. He went down south and was kept in the lobby. Nobody wanted to talk to the Government of Canada about this critical issue.

For us the important thing is to exercise the political weight that has been garnered by governments past in order to ensure the enormous input and investment that we have in the educational, academic, human resources, and skills development areas of the auto sector.

As the government sees itself through the manufacturing and auto industries, are we going to engage in discussions with governments that impact on these decisions?

Clearly the government opposite does not have that interest. It blames the industry, just as it blames so many other people for their own woes. It says the auto manufacturers are producing cars that nobody wants to buy. That is true. It also says that the workers are getting too much money and that their pensions are exorbitant. Why would you blame people for their own success?

What we need to do is ask the government to address what happens to those of the 2.6 million vehicles produced in Canada that are exported into Maine. About 1.5 million are exported outside this country. Think about what that does to the relative wealth of everybody in this nation.

When the auto industry picks up again and 3 million cars per year are consumed as a portion of Canadian consumption, where are those vehicles going to come from?

Where is the research and development going to come from for the development of those new vehicles? Is it going to be some place in Asia? Will it be Japan, China, India? Is it going to be Europe?

Where are the engineering, architecture, and research and development jobs that lead to the new technology that is going to drive the next phase of manufacturing going to be developed? Are they going to be developed here in Canada, or are we going to import the final end product from abroad?

That is what the economic update should have addressed. We did not hear a word about that. We did not hear a single word in the presentation about it. We did not hear one plan about how to insinuate Canada into discussions relative to the research and development of tomorrow and the manufacturing of tomorrow. We did not see one iota of evidence that the Government of Canada, as it is currently constituted, is concerned about the biggest industry in Canada.

I know members wanted me to talk about the construction industry as well. I hope I will get the opportunity to do so, because it is another important segment of the shortfall of the economic update, an economic update that needs to be defeated.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, does the member see one penny of the new dollars that Toronto desperately needs for the city's transit plan?

The transit system plan would bring 24 million riders to the new Don Mills line, 52 million new riders on the Etobicoke-Eglinton line, 24 million on the Etobicoke-Finch line, and 19 million riders on the Jane line. Is there one new penny? I am not sure.

Is there any money for the Scarborough-Malvern light rapid transit line, which would bring in 22 million riders? What about the Sheppard East line, which would bring in 20 million riders? What about Waterfront West, with 15 million riders? If we add that all up, it would be 176 million riders.

Is there one penny in the economic statement for this kind of infrastructure, which the city of Toronto desperately needs?

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague did not want a one-word answer. Were I to give it, I would say no. As the member is not accustomed to one-word answers, I am sure she would want me to elaborate. I would like to give my colleague an indication of what could happen and what should have happened, but did not happen.

I hope this does not sound like self-congratulations, but when I was minister of the day during the Liberal government, we announced $350 million over a five-year period. That was in partnership with two others, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, for a total in excess of $700 million. That funding was to address the issues of public transit in order to build the infrastructure to move passengers not only in and around the city of Toronto, with a population of over two million, but around the GTA, with a population of over five million. My colleague will recall the announcement because she was also at the presentation.

That was progressive thinking. That was forward thinking. It was architectural thinking, because a lot of the work was going to be done here in Canada. It was going to be employing Canadians and be for the benefit of Canadians. It was going to provide public transit in an environment where we were looking to engage the public in more public transportation systems.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his re-election. I have had the opportunity to serve with him on the transport committee. He has always been a valuable member of our committee.

I find ironic the conversation that just took place with the member of the NDP. We were talking about our differences. Our government proposed $50 billion in stimulus that would go to the business world to create the jobs that everyone is talking about saving.

We know the auto industry is facing a challenge and we know there have to be solutions.

How does the member square his position of a coalition with a party on the other side that wants to eliminate that $50 billion? I would have to verify it, but I would guess that many segments in the automotive industry, from manufacturers to parts plants, have taken advantage of that $50 billion to continue to create and maintain the jobs they now have.

How do we balance that with the member's free thinking and position on the economy?

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his personal congratulations and may I reciprocate in kind.

I think I work well with members from all parties on the transport committee and there is a genuine desire to move things along. I think that is what people are asking all members of Parliament to do.

We must keep in mind that we are elected as members of Parliament. Some of us run under a particular umbrella or a flag but we are brought here as members of Parliament to come up with a very constructive approach to resolving issues.

The member again mentioned the auto industry. I think we need to bring the major players in any industry to the table to get their specific plan, not just a money grab but a specific plan for what needs to be done. The performance and accountability benchmarks need to be addressed before we give the public's money back to the public through a third party.

My hon. colleague opposite asks how we can do that with other people. I have been here for quite some time and along the way I have met some really nice people, he being one. Those who want to work toward a particular objective will always get my support. If they want to meet an agenda that meets the needs of Canadians, they will get my support. It looks like the member for Trinity—Spadina actually wants to work with me on this.

Economic and Fiscal Statement
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is that there is a disagreement with the prescription of what Parliament should do now with regard to the economic climate that we are in. The government is in denial that we can somehow continue to carry on with business as usual.

The opposition members would appear to have been calling solely for an accelerated stimulus package. We know what happens when the economy turns down.

The member who just spoke has been here 20 years now and has been through these cycles. He knows that a minimum of 250,000 jobs will be lost. By the time there is a recovery in the economy, it will not be the older workers who will get the jobs and they will need some help.

We will have people who have jobs and do not have the skills to move into a new industry. We will have people who will not be able to pay their bills or even sustain themselves while they are transitioning into new work, which means there will be family hardship.

Does the member agree that a stimulus package just cannot be a $50 billion tax cut to everyone and hope that it will do something, that we need some targeting, some hope that we can give to Canadians by investing in those areas where job loss can be mitigated and new jobs can be created so that we put people's interests ahead of political interests.