House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Old Age Security Program
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 5 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Old Age Security Program
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:30.

Old Age Security Program
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it agreed?

Old Age Security Program
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in order, I hope, to get a clearer answer to the questions I asked about the scheming for a government appointment.

The House of Commons could do without the jeers of the hon. members opposite. It could also do without the smugness that surrounds the Conservative government.

Canadians have a right to clear, unequivocal answers from their elected representatives. They are responsible to the House and the people of Canada for answering clearly and accurately for their actions.

We all remember the O'Brien affair. I will summarize what happened.

In the last mayoralty race in Ottawa, candidate Larry O'Brien allegedly approached his rival Terry Kilrea. Why? To dangle before him the possibility of getting him a job on the National Parole Board and paying some of his election expenses in return for Mr. Kilrea’s withdrawal from the race. The two men exchanged emails about this.

The Ottawa Citizen has followed this saga and helped identify the main participants in it. Apart from the two principals, the following names have surfaced: Ms. Heather Tessier, who is Mr. O'Brien’s niece, a former executive assistant for Mayor O'Brien, and, according to the Ottawa Sun, a former executive assistant to the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton and Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

The Minister of the Environment apparently met Mayor O'Brien at Hy's Steakhouse.

Mr. Dimitri Pantazopoulos has long been close to the Conservatives and is the president of Praxicus Public Strategies. He is said to have approached Mr. Kilrea in this matter. According to The Ottawa Citizen, he mentioned a possible job but said it would have to wait until after the election.

Mr. John Reynolds was the co-chair of the Conservative Party’s 2006 election campaign. He supposedly spoke with Mr. O'Brien about this but claims he never pursued the matter.

Mr. John Light is the political assistant of the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton and the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board. He supposedly said that Mr. O'Brien’s campaign team was secretly working to persuade Mr. Kilrea to drop out of the race.

Mr. Doug Finley is the chief organizer of the Conservative Party of Canada. He is said to have been responsible for drawing up some kind of an offer.

Mr. Kilrea signed an affidavit explaining his version of events, and he even agreed to undergo a polygraph test, the results of which were positive. The Ontario Provincial Police investigated the matter, and Mr. O'Brien was charged.

During a question period last October, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons denied having offered an appointment or anything else. However, in an affidavit, Detective Sergeant Mason of the Ontario Provincial Police said that Mayor O'Brien had asked Terry Kilrea to drop out of the mayoral race if O'Brien could make an appointment happen. According to Mr. Kilrea, he received a call a few hours later from Mr. O'Brien, who told him that John Reynolds had put his name on a list. Parliamentary assistant John Light told police that Doug Finley was in charge of preparing an offer.

In November, the Liberal Party asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to look into the actions of the Minister of the Environment and other members of the Conservative Party.

This affair throws the government's lack of transparency into sharp relief. The Minister of the Environment knew that an offer had been made, but he did not do anything to stop it. The minister has his head in the sand and is pretending to see nothing, know nothing and hear nothing.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to repeat my question: How can the Minister of the Environmentclaim that his hands are clean when he did not inform the authorities as soon as he came into possession of this information?

6:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I suppose if it is Tuesday night and late show proceedings are on, it is an invent a scandal night courtesy of the Liberals.

The member opposite wanted some clarity. Let me be perfectly clear. An appointment for Mr. Kilrea was never considered. An appointment for Mr. Kilrea was never offered. An appointment for Mr. Kilrea was never granted.

There is no scandal. Case closed.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, last December, OPP Superintendent Dave Truax told the media that he would transfer the files from the O'Brien case to the RCMP. The following day, the OPP quickly released a statement saying that the files would not be transferred to the RCMP.

What happened during those 24 hours? Who used their influence to reverse that decision? What role did the Minister of the Environment play in this whole thing? His chief of staff admitted that he phoned the OPP.

Shockingly, the Minister of the Environment got involved not once, but twice in the election campaign, when he decided, on his own, to suspend federal funding for Ottawa's light rail project in the middle of an election campaign.

I repeat my question: How can the Minister of the Environment claim to have had nothing to do with this?

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, quite clearly, only the Liberals would consider it a scandal where a patronage appointment was not made.

With respect to the involvement of the OPP, only the Liberals could invent a conspiracy theory blaming the OPP, when they find out that the minister was not involved.

No scandal. Case closed.

6:35 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to use this adjournment debate to return to an issue I raised last November. I denounced the Service Canada advertisement in which two retired people literally bump into a Service Canada counter on a curling rink. When I saw that commercial on television, I was outraged that the Conservative government was spending fantastic amounts of money on advertising instead of allocating that money to really helping seniors. We are aware that there are still a great many seniors who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement but do not know it. If we looked for them perhaps we would find them.

Despite the surplus available to the government; despite its obligation to redistribute that collective wealth, the financial situation of thousands of seniors whose only income is the combined old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits continues to get worse. As we know, thousands of seniors are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement but do not know it. In fact, they are being deprived of it. Even though the government has made some changes in its procedures, it is not enough.

The government must employ the resources necessary to reach these people who could receive the guaranteed income supplement. Service Canada staff should be out on the ground to find these people and help them fill out the forms. This is local work that demands a serious and sustained effort. The staff certainly will not find destitute seniors in curling rinks.

The government must administer public funds prudently and without seeking to advance its political interests. Taxpayers' money should go to those who need it and not to advertising agencies.

When we think of the insufficient benefits, when we know that seniors whose only income is those benefits are living below the poverty line, and that thousands of people who are eligible are not receiving benefits, that kind of waste on advertising is unacceptable and shameful.

Who could serious claim that such advertising is effective? It does not deal in any way with the problems of older people, whom it is exploiting.

From the Auditor General’s report of November 2006, we have learned, and I quote:

Human Resources and Social Development Canada and Service Canada have limited information on why potentially eligible seniors do not apply for the GIS. The two organizations also lack data collection mechanisms that would reveal whether outreach activities translate into applications received.

That being the case, how can the Conservative government have gone on blissfully believing that the ads would really connect with those seniors? Why did the Conservative government not take more effective measures to ensure that it would reach seniors in need?

In the end, the formula is the same from one government to the next: look like it is doing something without actually doing it or intending to achieve results. Not only is that upsetting, it is unacceptable.

6:35 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, my remarks are going to be very brief because I spoke to this issue just last week during the debate on the hon. member's Motion No. 383.

I want to point out again that the federal government proactively contacts millions of Canadian seniors to inform them of the benefits to which they are entitled.

I have to point out to the member that we have done a lot for seniors. We have given seniors their own secretariat and their own voice at the cabinet table. We have acted very quickly to support seniors issues.

Within months after being elected, we introduced Bill C-36 which strengthened the CPP and the old age security programs. We simplified that application process. We had many changes. We reduced the number of seniors living in poverty. The government has overseen two increases in the guaranteed income supplement.

Effective January 2006, we raised the GIS by 3.5% and raised it again in January 2007. These measures are providing all single recipients of the guaranteed income supplement with an additional $430 per year and $700 per couple.

These increases will raise the total guaranteed income supplement by more than $2.7 billion in the next five years. These increases will benefit 1.6 million guaranteed income supplement recipients. This is more than 50,000 seniors who were not eligible for the program under the previous Liberal government.

In closing, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for her question, but I want to assure the member that Canadian seniors have finally found a government that really is interested in their issues and is responding.

6:40 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the least one can say is that this has been an evening of very brief remarks, at least on the government's part, even though according to the rules for the adjournment debate, each side should have spoken for four minutes. However, I am just as glad that the other side did not talk for four minutes because the Conservatives' tactic is never to give answers during question period or the late show.

The question was a simple one. The government spent millions on advertising that it said would reach seniors at curling rinks. Why did the government not use that money to make an earnest effort to reach the people who qualify for the guaranteed income supplement and to make sure they knew they were entitled to it? That is the government's responsibility.

The question was a simple one. I do not need to hear yet another secretary of state toot her own horn. Better that she not reply at all. That would be less insulting to the seniors I represent and to seniors across Canada.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is saying that Service Canada has not reached out to seniors. It has many outreach programs and we have taken seniors very seriously. That is why they have a voice at the cabinet table, which is very important. They have a strong voice.

We have expanded the new horizons program. We know there have been issues with elder abuse and we have worked to try to combat elder abuse. We have a very impressive record and we do not forget seniors. We have increased the GIS.

I think the member will understand that seniors have never had a better voice than the Conservative Party.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, on December 7 I asked when the government was going to establish a plan to address the very serious plight of the manufacturing industry in our country. The response I got at that time from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry was full of rhetoric and complaints about the NDP. The response failed to address the question in a substantive way and resulted in my asking for further clarification tonight.

Since my question on December 7, Canada continues to lose manufacturing jobs and those left are hanging by a thread. In December there were 33,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in Canada than in the month of November.

I will also say that the parliamentary secretary was right when he said that the NDP supported measures and recommendations coming from the industry committee last year. However, one thing is clear, and that is that the budget has failed the manufacturing sector, but do not take my word for it. On February 26 Jay Myers, the president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said:

Manufacturing is the grassroots leader of innovation in this country, but I am not sure politicians are hearing that message.

He went on to say:

This budget worries me because it sends the message that a reduction in corporate tax rates is the silver bullet for the economy.

On February 27, Mr. Myers, again naming the finance minister, said he “doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of the problems facing industry in Canada today”.

On the same day, February 27, CAW president Buzz Hargrove was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying:

This money should be the first part of a much bigger long term automotive strategy, not a one-time gesture to rally voters.

I hope the parliamentary secretary has come here tonight prepared to offer Canadian workers a better explanation of what his government intends to do to establish a forward looking, comprehensive manufacturing strategy that the industry says it needs and that Canadian workers expect from their federal government, a manufacturing strategy that not only protects existing jobs and helps prepare the industry for the job opportunities of tomorrow.

I look forward to the response from the parliamentary secretary.

6:45 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy is strong and investments in machinery and equipment are up. Unemployment across Canada is at record levels, salary and hourly wages are increasing and manufacturing unemployment is actually below the general unemployment levels across the country.

Both the hon. member and I agree that manufacturers are facing some challenges. However, we seem to disagree on how the government should be involved.

The results are speaking for themselves. Every measure the Conservative government has brought to the House, with the exception of one, the NDP has voted against. The member has sold out his constituents for the agenda of some radical interest groups that would prefer to see the Government of Canada attempt to spend the U.S. out of a potential recession and Canada back into deficit. We cannot go there.

Last year, the Standing Commission on Industry, Science and Technology tabled 22 recommendations and we have responded positively to all of them.

When it came time to act, this government provided in budget 2007, a budget that received overwhelming positive responses from the industry. However, when it came to a vote in the House, that member and his radical ideological party stood and voted against every measure and the recommendations of his industry critic.

Here is the short list of what the government has delivered. We cut corporate taxes. These were broad-based tax reductions resulting in $9 billion in tax relief. By 2010, Canada will have the lowest overall tax rate on new business. We are proposing to extend the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment. We did that for an additional three years, which is an additional $1 billion in tax relief.

Last January, we allocated $1 billion for the community development trust to support hard hit workers. We are injecting $90 million to extend the targeted initiative for older workers to 2012 to help older workers stay in the workforce. We are making the biggest investments in infrastructure in half a century of $33 billion.

We are also cutting red tape and reducing the paper burden so businesses can spend time being productive and less time filling out forms. We are supporting research and development.

This government has moved well beyond the need for assessing a strategy. We are taking real action for the people of Canada.