Debates of March 3rd, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.
- Question Period
- Unborn Victims of Crime Act
- The Budget
- Official Languages
- International Mother Language Day
- Concept Mat
- The Budget
- Tackling Violent Crime Act
- Medal of Bravery
- Bloc Québécois
- Lydia Angiyou
- The Budget
- Health Care
- The Budget
- International Aid
- Centres of Excellence
- Social Housing
- Status of Women
- Lena Jacobs
- Bill C-10
- Securities Industry
- Federal-Provincial Relations
- Arts and Culture
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Aboriginal Affairs
- The Environment
- The Budget
- Automotive Industry
- Presence in Gallery
- Points of Order
- National Defence Act
- Canadian Wheat Board Act
- Employment Insurance Act
- Criminal Code
- Income Tax Act
- Employment Insurance Surplus Transfer Act
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Questions Passed as Orders for Return
- Points of Order
- The Budget
- Director of Public Prosecutions
- Business of Supply
Director of Public Prosecutions
The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Opposition Motion--Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division relating to the business of supply.
Business of Supply
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that the issue of the manufacturing and forestry sectors is attracting so much interest and that so many members are here for these adjournment proceedings.
On February 5, 2008, I had a question for this government, for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, on the appropriateness of adding the measures announced to help the manufacturing and forestry industries. At that time, the Prime Minister had decided that the vote on the $1 billion trust would no longer be linked to the budget. We managed to get him to reverse that decision and we hoped that the government would inject some new money in order to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors deal with the crisis.
The budget has been presented since then, but we note that the Minister of Finance unfortunately did not listen to our demands, for which he is being severely judged in Quebec. The three parties of the National Assembly, including the premier and the Quebec finance minister, as well as the leader of the opposition and the leader of the third party, have all denounced the situation and called the budget inadequate for the manufacturing and forestry sectors, as well as for older workers. This budget does not meet the needs of Quebeckers.
Today, I am raising this issue again, because the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Finance now number among those who are unhappy with the budget. In fact, today, they agreed to support a motion calling on the committee to examine the issue of the manufacturing and forestry industries in the coming days and try to report by March 31, so that the government can take additional steps to help the industries.
It is scandalous that the government plans to use the $10 billion surplus to pay down the debt, when that money could be used to help our economy. Instead of spending $10 billion to reduce the debt, the government could have spent only $3 billion on that and used the remaining $7 billion to help the manufacturing and forestry industries and older workers.
I hope that the government will change its mind, because it has until March 31 to decide how it will allocate the surplus. It changed its mind about the trust fund, so why not in this case?
I am encouraged by Conservative support for the motion I introduced today. I hope that the government will act accordingly and that, as early as tomorrow, we will have news confirming that the Conservative government has recognized that allocating the $10 billion to debt reduction was unacceptable and that a significant portion of that money needs to be spent to revive the manufacturing and forestry industries.
We are going to go to bat again tomorrow, at the next meeting of the committee, and I hope that the position the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Finance took today will reflect the government's desire to provide additional funding.
Companies in the forestry sector, including paper manufacturers, and in the manufacturing sector are continuing to close their doors. In regions such as Beauce, which had an outstanding reputation in the manufacturing sector, jobs are disappearing left and right. The industry grew and developed when the dollar was worth 65¢, but now that the dollar is at par, the industry is in serious difficulty. Moreover, the same problem is occurring throughout Quebec and Ontario and across Canada.
Will the government take steps to correct the situation, and will it allocate additional money in the short term? That is my question for the government.
Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance
Mr. Speaker, this Conservative government fully understands the very real needs of workers and communities that are feeling the impact of economic challenges.
While the Canadian economy remains strong, we are mindful of the challenges before us: global uncertainty, volatile markets and the difficulties confronting some of our traditional industries such as manufacturing and forestry. This is exactly why we have aggressively moved to support Canada's and Quebec's traditional industries.
Budget 2008 continues to build on the significant pre-emptive steps taken in the 2007 fall economic update and during winter 2008 to lower taxes for people and businesses, pay down debt, and provide targeted support to struggling communities.
To date, we have introduced $9 billion in tax relief, mostly broad-based for manufacturers and processors, and that will be by 2012-13.
We are also providing $1 billion for the community development trust to help provinces like Quebec assist in one-industry towns facing major downturns, communities plagued by chronic high unemployment, or regions hits by layoffs across a range of sectors such as manufacturing and forestry.
In budget 2007, we brought in a $1.3 billion temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in machinery and equipment. In budget 2008, we extended that measure three years on a declining basis, which will provide the manufacturing and processing sectors with an additional $1 billion in tax relief.
University of Manitoba economics professor John McCallum, has applauded this initiative, noting, “Anything that is an incentive to invest in assets that make manufacturers and others more competitive is a good thing. This budget does that--”.
We are further supporting Canada's job creators by increasing the capital cost allowance rate 10% for buildings used in manufacturing and processing and to 55% for computers. Budget 2008 additionally provides greater accessibility to the enhanced scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program and additional funding to improve the administration of this program.
In budget 2008 we are also extending the targeted initiative for older workers to 2012, providing $90 million to a federal-provincial employment program that provides employment activities for unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities in order to encourage workforce participation.
We are also bringing forward numerous measures to specifically assist the forestry sector, such as: providing $10 million over two years to Natural Resources Canada to promote the forestry sector in international markets, investing $127.5 million in the forest industry long term competitiveness initiative to support innovation and assist the forestry sector to shift toward higher value products to tap into new markets, establishing a $25 million forest communities program that will assist 11 forest-based communities to make informed decision making on the forest land base, concluding a softwood lumber agreement, and restoring access to the U.S. market resulting in over $5 billion in duty deposits returned to Canadian producers.
Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC
Mr. Speaker, then how do we explain the position of the Canadian manufacturers and exporters, the Quebec federation of chambers of commerce and all the unions and workers? Last Friday, 150 laid-off workers went to the Minister of Labour's constituency office with signs saying, “You are a member from Quebec. Not Alberta.” People want a chance to work in their own communities. People are saying that they do not want to go to Alberta. A 55-year-old who has spent his life raising a family in his region does not want to move to that province.
Today, the government is refusing to implement an income security program for older workers. These people have done everything they can to find jobs, but have not been successful. How are these people supposed to understand that the government is putting $10 billion in surplus towards the debt, when it cannot find $50 million, for the current year for all of Canada, to help ensure these workers have sufficient funds to get them through to retirement?
Should the government not go back to the drawing board, as the Standing Committee on Finance recommended today?
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, again, we do recognize the need of workers and communities dependent upon traditional industries, such as manufacturing and forestry, as they face global economic turbulence and are feeling the impact of challenges. However, it is important to remember the Canadian economy, especially Quebec's, remains vibrant outside of the traditional industries.
In 2007, Quebec showed solid economic vigour, with job growth at 2.4%, far above the national average, which also represented the province's best showing in over five years.
Quoting from an article in the February 9 issue of the National Post, one can begin to get the sense of the evolving Quebec economy:
Notice the transformation of Quebec. It's manufacturing sector may be withering away but big gains in other areas like construction, transportation, warehousing and accommodation have spurred a tumble in its jobless rate to a 33-year low of 6.8% in January. That is a tremendous drop from the peak of 9.7% in August, 2003.
Claude Picher in La Presse has noted this transformation in his recent article “La légende des McJobs”, making very similar observations. This new job growth is good for Quebec and all Canadians.
Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC
Mr. Speaker, to put this evening's debate into context, this discussion follows up on a question I asked the Minister of the Environment on November 26, 2007. It is now March. I would like to suggest that this is an indication of how important this issue is to the Conservative government. This is probably the most important issue the current government will face, since it is our duty to future generations to try to do something concrete to curb global warming caused by the increased amount of greenhouse gases we are emitting.
The question was asked in November at the height of the Bali conference where, unfortunately, the Conservative government embarrassed us on the world stage. Instead of being a leader on the environment, the Conservatives decided to point the finger at other countries who are not only signatories, but are respecting their obligations under the Kyoto protocol. I am referring to India and China. The fact is that when the protocol was signed, it was always understood that emerging economies would have a little more time to adapt. This was considered fair by all signatories, including Canada.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that China emits one-fifth the greenhouse gases per capita that Canada does. Nonetheless, we know that on average, Quebeckers emit half the greenhouse gases that other Canadians do. And in some parts of Canada, 10 to 20 times more greenhouse gases are emitted per capita. There is nothing to be pleased about here and no reason to hide behind China and India.
The Bali conference was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A similar conference had been held in Montreal. We must stand up to the Conservative government. Just this evening, we saw another example of exactly how badly the so-called official opposition, the Liberal Party, is doing its job. Later this week, during the opposition days, each party will have a chance to express its concerns about the most important issues facing our society.
It is a shame that we cannot put forward a non-confidence motion against the official Liberal opposition, because its representatives had a lot to say about the Kyoto accord, but the party did not do a thing. They no longer stand for anything. They did not take a stand on the budget, which ignored this serious issue, except for a brief mention of carbon sequestration, which is a solution few support.
Canada has a legal obligation under the Kyoto accord. The Conservatives claim that respect for the law is one of their government's greatest priorities, but they are contravening the international law that Canada has signed. Perhaps the Conservative government should refrain from lecturing people on failing to comply with the law, seeing as this country's own obligations as a state have been flouted by the government's failure to comply with the Kyoto accord.
I invite anyone interested in this issue to listen carefully to the minister's statements in the House, and to read the record. He has demonstrated a complete failure to understand his file. No doubt his assistant, who will read us a text prepared by the Prime Minister's Office, will look as though he understands it, but the Conservatives have no inkling.
Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Outremont for his question and assure him that contrary to what has been asserted, this government has a track record of leadership on the environment.
It is under this government that Canada will for the first time ever be regulating the big polluters to require them to reduce in absolute terms their greenhouse gases. We have a plan and a national goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. That is an absolute reduction of 20% in 12 years.
Our plan will also see us reduce emissions by 60% to 70% by 2050. It is not going to be easy to achieve those reductions. It will be difficult. This government is committed to reducing emissions and improving the environment for both present and future generations of Canadians.
Our goals in our national plan are further espoused by a number of key principles that were set out by the Prime Minister. Any long term post-2012 climate change agreement must include the major emitting countries like China, India and the United States. It must be fair and economically realistic without placing unfair burdens on any one country. It must be long term and flexible. It must have a balanced approach that preserves economic growth and protects the environment.
Set out clearly, we need all major emitters on board and that is absolutely essential to fight global warming.
It is this message which we brought to the most recent United Nations climate change meeting held in Bali, Indonesia last December. As the conference began, Canada and the United Nations worked cooperatively on three main goals.
First, the world must come together and agree to launch negotiations for a post-2012 agreement.
Second, there must be an agreement on what the building blocks should be for the framework.
Third, there must be an end date of the negotiations by 2009.
Canada was successful in achieving those goals. We are committed to the United Nations process. We are committed to a new international framework driven by science. We are committed to action in our turning the corner plan.
Our government is proud of the principled position we have taken on the environment. We are proud of what we have helped to achieve at the Bali meeting. We will continue to work with our international partners in the lead-up to the 2009 build-up of the international climate change framework built on good and sound principles.
Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC
Mr. Speaker, that is garbage and nonsense. The only thing the Conservatives did in Bali was embarrass us.
Contrary to what the hon. member just said, there are no binding targets. There are intensity targets. That means that if the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to produce a barrel of oil is at level 10, for example, then a polluter can indeed say that the intensity of greenhouse gases has been reduced when the amount emitted drops to level 8. Nonetheless, if they triple the number of barrels, they are still increasing the quantity of greenhouse gases considerably.
That is the Conservatives' real plan. It is directly related to oil production from the oil sands. The way oil is being mined there right now will cause the worst environmental crisis in the history of Canada for generations to come. That is the Conservative philosophy: take as much as possible today and let future generations fend for themselves with the problems we are leaving them. That is what the Conservatives are doing.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. The Bali conference launched a formal negotiation process to develop a post-2012 climate change agreement by 2009. That includes all major emitters, including China and India. It is called the Bali action plan. The action plan, which will have a clear agenda and work plan, will be based on four building blocks: mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing.
The Bali conference was a positive start to what will become an intense and challenging two years of negotiations. Negotiations will continue along both tracks over 2009 with the goal of coming together with a new global agreement at the COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009.
Guided by our domestic climate change plan and the Prime Minister's principles, Canada will actively participate in this process over the next two years. The planet cannot be let down. We must succeed for the sake of our children and our children's children. Canada is committed to playing--