House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ontario.

Topics

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the last two NDP speakers and of course I remember the last time the New Democrats were in government in Ontario. That government was Dalton McGuinty's high-tax-and-spend government on steroids, which in 1995 took us near the brink of being a have not province. Our government has been concerned, of course, that the same direction could happen again. I think that explains why, in the prebudget period, we had a very public prebudget submission, so to speak, that business taxes had to start coming down to create jobs now.

We seem to accept, for example, that it is okay for provinces to very publicly make their demands known for what should be in federal budgets. This may be a bit unusual, but the federal finance minister has made the case why we need business taxes cut now. Unlike the way it used to be in Ontario when Harris was cutting taxes, the federal Liberal finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, was slashing billions from the CHST. No such situation exists today.

In fact, transfers to the provinces for health care are up. For post-secondary education, they are up. For all the social programs they are up, as are per capita transfers in everything except health care spending. Our case is actually a solid one. It is one which says that Ontario could afford both to invest in social programs and to make the business tax cuts now. Proof positive is that $2.1 billion in business tax revenues, unexpected in the Ontario budget, would have paid for business tax cuts now, which could have created jobs starting today. That is the right track.

What the NDP is talking about is the absolute wrong track. The NDP took us to the brink of have not status in Ontario in 1995. That is exactly where the Ontario government is going now, on a slower track. We need better than that.

I would like to hear the member account for the high taxes and high spending that took Ontario to the brink of have not status. That was the NDP's political strength.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will remind the hon. member that NDP provincial governments have a stronger record for balanced budgets than those of any other party in the country.

I will also remind the hon. member of the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost in the province of Ontario and of those that are on the chopping block. Eleven hundred jobs just went out of the third shift at Chrysler in Bramalea and 1,200 jobs were lost at a truck plant in Oshawa. There are many more plants and jobs on the chopping block.

I would answer with another question. If this tax cut strategy is working so well, why are so many people losing their jobs in the province of Ontario?

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the member for Parkdale--High Park, one of the things that I find particularly annoying is that the Conservative government seems to talk about tax cuts as the panacea for almost everything. It is an ideologically driven agenda and argument.

Let us look at some of the measures the federal government could have done to help Ontario manufacturing, such as, for example, extending the accelerated capital cost allowance so that companies, especially with the Canadian dollar the way it is, could import technology, machinery and equipment to increase our productivity. Why did the government extend it to only one year when the planning horizon for corporate Canada is three to five years?

Second, tax reductions are good only for companies that are paying taxes. What about making these research credits refundable so that companies can take advantage of that?

These are things this government could have done and did not. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Parkdale--High Park has 45 seconds to comment on that.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly there are many measures in the industry committee manufacturing sector recommendations that this government could act on and should have acted on. When the hon. member says that tax cuts are not the solution, I agree, but I wish he would convey that message to the Leader of the Opposition, because he has argued that he will bring in corporate tax cuts further and faster than the government will. I wonder how he squares that circle with the comments he has just made.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate. I must indicate that it is actually a rather sad commentary that we need to have this debate.

The debate obviously is centring on supporting and investing in the province of Ontario, the economic engine of Canada, on the need to have good federal-provincial-territorial cooperation, and on the fact that almost a year ago, on March 19, the finance minister said that we really needed to end this unproductive bickering between the provinces and the federal government. Certainly at that time I would have agreed with him.

I am rather disappointed that over the last seven weeks we seem to have gotten into very unproductive verbal warfare with the province of Ontario. It clearly is not helpful for the province. It is not helpful for the country. It certainly sends out the wrong message when it comes to investing in this country, particularly in Ontario, which has been hard hit in a number of sectors. I will certainly go over that.

Clearly if we are going to respect not only jurisdictions but the fact that we need to work together, particularly when we are seeing bumps in the road with regard to the economy, this kind of strategy, if we can call it that, certainly does not augur well in terms of dealing with plants that are shut down and with workers who are now thrown out and need retraining. To invest in this province is critical. The messaging we have heard from the federal government has not been at all helpful.

For example, before we even get into the economy, I note that the government produced Bill C-22 on the issue of representation for a future Parliament. Again, based on the numbers and the increase in population, one would have assumed that Ontario would receive 20 additional seats. Under the legislation, we in Ontario receive 10 seats. We of course support more seats for British Columbia and Alberta, but not at the expense of the province of Ontario.

Where were the Ontario members on that side of the House when this issue came up? They were silent. That silence has been deafening. It is this side of the House and the Liberal Party that have stood up, along with the premier of Ontario, to say that this cannot go forward, that this is obviously not in the interests of the people of Ontario. Again, the members on that side, particularly the members from Ontario, have been very quiet when it comes to this particular piece of legislation. That is not in the interests of Ontario. That is not in the interests of the country at all.

The question becomes why. There seems to be a pattern developing here. Again, when we look at the issue of the economy, we look at the area of infrastructure. We know that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities released a report late last year which said that there was a $123 billion infrastructure deficit in Canada and that this infrastructure deficit needed to be addressed.

We know that the Conservative Party has always been silent on infrastructure. It certainly was when former prime minister Mulroney was in power. In 1983 when the FCM proposed the original infrastructure program, it lay dormant under that government. It was not until the government of Jean Chrétien came in that we in fact embraced a national infrastructure program whereby all three orders of government were able to contribute.

Unfortunately, however, infrastructure is not simply about roads, bridges and sewer plants. It deals with issues of productivity and issues of innovation. In order to make our cities and our communities more competitive, we need to address the infrastructure deficit. Unfortunately, the finance minister said that the government was “not in the pothole business”. In fact, as a former president of the FCM, I had not heard that language in over 10 years. I thought it was Back to the Future.

When it comes to infrastructure issues, we need to be investing, not recycling. The government proudly announced its $33 billion program, of which $17 billion was recycled money. Mayors and councillors know when somebody is trying to hoodwink them. The reality is that we cannot simply recycle. We need to make genuine investments in these areas in order assist our cities and communities so that we can be competitive, not only at home but obviously on the international stage. We cannot do that if governments only think that the role of the federal government is certainly not to be in “the pothole business”.

I can tell members that there are many mayors and councillors across this country who took issue with that and very clearly believe that at the end of the day, if we do not invest, it is going to get worse. A deficit of $123 billion is obviously one that we need to address and to address very carefully.

For the province of Ontario to move goods and services, whether it be at the border or between communities, we need that kind of support and leadership from the federal government. It is the leadership that the Liberal Party has shown over the years. We did it in 1994 with the national infrastructure program, which was renewed by successive Liberal governments, again demonstrating that we understand the issues.

We also have a national Liberal caucus that deals with cities and communities. It understands these issues. Again, there is silence on the other side when it comes to those kinds of investments for our cities. In fact, if everything were as rosy as some of the members on the other side suggest, then one wonders why the big city mayors caucus of the FCM, and others, continually say that those members do not get it. The government does not get it. Until it does, we are going to have this continual problem.

In terms of an investment issue, on infrastructure alone we know the government does not get it. We know the Conservatives do not get it on the environment. Clearly they do not get it when it comes to transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They do not get it in terms of investing in subways and buses and understanding that there is a crying need out there.

Again, we should be partners. It is all about partnership. Confederation is about partnership. It is not about “my way or the highway”. It is about working together collaboratively with our partners, whether they be the provinces and territories or the cities and communities across Canada. Again, it is disappointing that we are not seeing that kind of leadership from the other side of the aisle. This is something that we on this side have articulated. We repeatedly have demonstrated partnership when it comes to dealing with the $123 billion deficit on infrastructure.

Another thing, of course, is that we have heard the House leader refer to our premier as “the small man of Confederation”. If a government is trying to build collaborative relationships between the federal government and the provinces, then why on earth would those kinds of cheap comments be made about the premier of any province? Certainly in the province of Ontario that was not viewed very positively. In fact, it certainly demonstrated the small-mindedness on that side of the House, and again it shows that the Conservatives do not get it.

It all comes down to the fact that the Conservatives do not understand how this country works and what it means to be collaborative. Of course provinces and territories are not always going to agree with the federal government, and vice versa, but it is not done by finger pointing and name-calling. The two governments need to work together.

I understand I am going to have to wrap up until after question period because of what is going to happen next, but I thank members for their attention.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Richmond Hill will have 12 and a half minutes left when we resume debate.

We will now have statements by members. The hon. member for Saint Boniface.

Women's World Curling Championship
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, a month ago I stood in the House to congratulate the Jennifer Jones team the day after they clinched the Canadian women's curling championship. Ms. Jones and her foursome hail from the St. Vital Curling Club in the heart of my riding of St. Boniface.

Today, I have the privilege to once again herald their success, but this time as the world curling champions. Jennifer Jones, Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin fought their way through the round-robin and then through two playoff games to defeat the young upstarts from China in the final on Sunday.

The last time that Manitoba won a world championship was in 1984, under Connie Laliberté, another one of my constituents.

The Jones team drew on their international experience and skill to emerge as champions, and Canadians had to be filled with pride and emotion as they watched their team walking up the ice waving their Canadian flags.

I would ask my colleagues in the House to acknowledge these four amazing Manitoba athletes and newly crowned world champions.

Quebec Social Workers' Week
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 23 to 29 was social workers' week in Quebec, with the theme “a humanizing presence". This week aims to promote public awareness of this profession, of all it has to offer, and of the many areas in which it makes a contribution.

There are over 7,100 social workers in Quebec in the health and social services sectors, in education, in community organizations and within the legal system. Their work is based on universal and humanitarian values, and their motto is “people first”. The primary objective of these professionals is to treat each person with dignity and respect, so that they can achieve their full potential.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to honour the dedication, compassion and humanizing presence of all social workers in Quebec.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, Monday, March 31, 2008, marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Since 1998 this organization has worked tirelessly to encourage and support aboriginal people in creating and sustaining healing programs which address the sad legacy of Indian residential schools.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation helps aboriginal people help themselves by providing resources for healing initiatives, promoting awareness of healing issues and needs, and nurturing a supportive public environment.

The foundation has distributed 1,300 grants to healing programs across the country. It has played a pivotal role in healing and helping countless former students of residential schools, their families and communities.

I am pleased to note that the Indian residential schools settlement agreement, which was finalized by our government in May 2006, provides for an additional $125 million to allow the foundation to continue its important work over the next five years.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate the Aboriginal Healing Foundation on its many achievements to date and thank it for its contribution to the lives of former students of Indian residential schools across Canada.

House of Commons Security Services
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of all my colleagues in the House of Commons to those great people who protect us and guard us on a regular basis in the House, our House of Commons Security Services personnel.

The reality is that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they stand on guard so that we and our staff in turn can do the great job that Canadians ask us to do.

Three constables from Security Services have now reached their retirement levels and I would like to mention them in the House: Edward Burke, who retired on March 16; Gerald McAteer, who retired on March 15; and Bobby McDonald, the great Bobby Mac, who will be retiring on April 24.

I ask my colleagues to stand and applaud the great men and women who wear the blue and protect us on a regular basis.

We wish the three constables a very happy retirement. We thank their families for the opportunity to share their professional lives with us.

We thank all Security Services personnel who provide a great service to us and to all Canadians.

Women's World Curling Championship
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday some of Manitoba's finest athletes curled their way to a stunning victory at the world curling championship in B.C.

While the final game against China was close, Canada prevailed with a sensational performance. Skip Jennifer Jones led the women's team to Canada's fifteenth women's world curling championship and only the third gold medal on home ice.

These women have shown that teamwork, commitment and devotion can result in a world class victory.

As a fellow Manitoban, I am thrilled to congratulate Winnipeg native Jennifer Jones and her teammates Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin on winning the gold medal and bringing great pride to all Canadians, especially Manitobans.

Trade
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NAFTA-gate story just got a lot more interesting.

Last Thursday we learned that the Privy Council Office outsourced the investigation of sensitive diplomatic leaks to BMCI Investigations & Security Ltd. of Ottawa, a private company. Yet, the government never said a word about this decision.

If the government is incapable of conducting its own investigation, why did the Prime Minister not say so when he announced it in the House? Why was a private company chosen and, more important, what is its mandate?

These leaks involve the Prime Minister's inner circle. Both his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, and Ambassador Michael Wilson are under investigation.

Yet, instead of operating in an open and transparent manner, the government continues to conduct its affairs in complete secrecy. In response, I have been compelled to once again write to the Clerk of the Privy Council asking for further clarification, something the Prime Minister has failed to do time and time again.

The Prime Minister is desperately trying to sweep this issue under the rug, but we will not let him.

Magdalen Islands Tragedy
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada offers its most sincere condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the crewmembers of L'Acadien II. On Friday afternoon, L'Acadien II broke down in the ice northeast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In the early hours of Saturday, the vessel capsized while under tow by a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

We are saddened by the tragic loss of Bruno Bourque, Gilles Leblanc, Marc-André Deraspe and Carl Aucoin, but grateful to the master and crew of the Madelinot War Lord for their invaluable assistance in the rescue of two crewmembers.

The investigations being undertaken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Transportation Safety Board will allow us to shed some light on the incident.

At such a tragic time, I think it appropriate to pray that seal hunters enjoy safety and prosperity commensurate with the daily efforts they put forth for the well-being of their family and community.

Ingrid Betancourt
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the release of Ingrid Betancourt, who has now been held hostage by FARC for six years, is all the more urgent considering that, according to the latest reports, her health is deteriorating ever more quickly.

President Uribe signed a decree allowing Colombian authorities to immediately release hundreds of FARC guerrilla fighters from jail, if rebels release former Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. French Prime Minister François Fillon said that France is prepared to accept FARC members, to speed up Ingrid Betancourt's release. According to the Élysée, President Sarkozy ordered a medical plane to be ready at all times to take Ingrid Betancourt to a hospital, if she is freed.

The Bloc Québécois joins its voice with that of the family of Ingrid Betancourt and of all those who are making the necessary efforts to ensure her release at the earliest opportunity.