House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Response to Oral Question by Committee Vice-Chair—Speaker's Ruling
Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Before proceeding to the orders of the day, I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Friday, March 7, 2008, by the hon. Government House Leader alleging the inappropriateness of the response provided by the Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, to an oral question raised by the hon. member for Churchill during oral questions that day.

I would like to thank the government House leader for raising this matter and the hon. member for Wascana for his intervention.

The government House leader contended that in response to a question posed by the member for Churchill regarding the agenda of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the answer provided by the member for Hull—Aylmer was inappropriate because it was substantive and partisan and, therefore, did not follow the usual practice for this kind of response. He also added that this constituted a breach of the rules of the House that was deliberate and calculated.

The opposition House leader argued that the response given by the committee vice-chair was within the rules of the House since it referred explicitly to the agenda of the committee.

Let me begin by putting this point of order in context. It is well established that questions to committee chairs, with the emphasis on questions, should be strictly restricted to requests for information concerning matters of simple committee administration rather than the substance of their proceedings.

In a ruling on May 20, 1970, on page 7126 of the Debates, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux clearly defined the limits of this line of questioning when he stated:

… the only questions which are acceptable when directed to the chairman of a committee are questions which relate to procedural matters—whether a meeting is to be held, whether a committee will be convened, at what time a committee will be held, and so on; … I think there has to be a very strict limit on questions that may be asked chairmen of committees.

Furthermore, House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 429 states:

Questions seeking information about the schedule and agenda of committees may be directed to chairs of committees. Questions to the Ministry or a committee chair concerning the proceedings or work of a committee may not be raised.

Our practice in this regard seems quite clear.

In fact, as recently as February 12, the Speaker had occasion to address the issue of questions to committee chairs and hon. members will recall that he reminded the House of the narrow parameters of questions that are acceptable.

He also took the opportunity to underline the Chair's very limited powers in determining what constitutes an appropriate response to such a question. Specifically, he acknowledged that the Speaker was not the judge of the nature or quality of the response and that the Chair was, in the matter of responses to questions, limited to the language used. Thus, he stated in part:

If the response is not an answer to the question, I cannot rule the response out of order unless unparliamentary language is used in the response....

Accordingly, in the case complained of, while it appears that the response includes remarks that were unnecessary simply to provide information about the committee’s schedule, in the view of the Chair, those remarks--superfluous to requirements as they may be--nonetheless cannot be construed as unparliamentary and so there are no grounds for ruling them out of order.

I confess that I am somewhat surprised to find the Chair being asked to examine the procedural acceptability of a response during question period. Whatever certain commentators may claim with regard to the prerogatives of the Speaker, the House of Commons has never, to my knowledge, required the Chair to be the arbiter of the appropriateness, completeness or even relevance of responses given to questions during question period. Hence, the old saw that this 45 minute period each day is called question period and not answer period.

However, I must say that I have some sympathy with the concerns that continue to be expressed by members about this category of question. Questions to committee chairs, once rare and exceptional, have lately been used more frequently. This trend and the repeated procedural squabbling it has occasioned prompts me to inform the House that in future when considering the procedural acceptability of such questions, the Chair intends to demand strict adherence to the intended practice, namely, the scheduling and agenda of committee meetings. I am counting on the cooperation of all hon. members in this regard.

At the same time, I strongly encourage committee chairs or vice-chairs, who are the only members in a position to answer these kinds of questions, to do so in a spirit of fair play and in keeping with the very specific information-seeking strictures that apply to members asking these questions.

I thank the House for its attention.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2008 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to lead off this second reading debate and speak on behalf of our Conservative government on Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.

Bill C-50 reflects the responsible leadership provided by our Conservative government at home and abroad, leadership that gives Canadians good reason to be confident about the future, despite the economic uncertainty beyond our borders. In fact, we have the strongest fiscal position of any G-7 country.

That position has allowed the government to take important action in support of our long term economic plan entitled, Advantage Canada, a plan that was introduced in 2006 that benefits Canadians today and for the years ahead.

For example, the fall 2007 economic statement took important steps to jump-start the plan by providing broad based tax relief for individuals and business, vitally important measures totalling $60 billion, prudent measures taken at the request of the finance minister and our Prime Minister in anticipation of impending global economic turbulence.

It is important to recognize the actions taken in the economic statement that have been recognized by a wide range of observers as extremely important in the maintenance of Canada's solid economic fundamentals. Observers, like BMO's economist, Doug Porter, who said:

It was brilliantly timed. Just as the economy was running into serious heavy weather we had some serious fiscal stimulus.

The Conference Board of Canada noted that:

The Canadian economy will weather the storm of uncertainty....

...recent changes, such as tax reductions announced by the federal government...will maintain the momentum.

A recent Calgary Herald editorial praised the Conservative government for using the economic statement and stated:

...to strengthen consumer demand, notably the one per cent GST reduction....

...for once a government seems to have been ahead of the curve.

Additionally, we took further action through the $1 billion community development trust, a program that assists workers and communities experiencing difficulty due to international economic volatility.

Budget 2008 directly builds on that important action. It confirms our commitment to strong fiscal management by reducing the federal debt by $10.2 billion in 2007-08. It reduces taxes to the lowest level measured as a share of the economy since the Diefenbaker government. It invests in the future of Canada.

Budget 2008 will support Canada's economy with a plan that is real and one that is committed to responsible spending. Unlike the reckless Liberal opposition that would plunge Canada into a massive $70 billion deficit, our Conservative government is committed to a balanced budget.

We have also made a commitment to Canadians to reduce taxes and we are proud to say that we are keeping that commitment. We are reducing taxes for all Canadians and we are proud of that.

To date, our Conservative government has taken actions that will provide nearly $200 billion in broad based tax relief and $140 billion of that relief will benefit individuals directly. These are permanent reductions that hard-working Canadians will see each and every time they file their income taxes. Taxes will continue to decline thanks to our government's tax-back guarantee. This represents our commitment to dedicate the effective interest savings from federal debt reduction each year to permanent and sustainable personal income tax reductions.

Moreover, I am privileged to be part of a Conservative government that introduced one of the single most important personal savings vehicles ever introduced, one which the C.D. Howe Institute described as a “tax policy gem”: the tax-free savings account. This groundbreaking, flexible and general purpose account will allow Canadians to watch their savings grow tax free. It is an historical first for Canadians and here is how it works.

First, Canadians can contribute up to $5,000 every year to a registered tax-free savings account, plus carry forward any unused portions to future years.

Second, the investment income, including capital gains earned in the plan, will be exempt from income tax, even when withdrawn.

Third, Canadians can withdraw from the account at any time without restriction. Better yet, there are no restrictions on what they can save for.

Finally, the full amount of withdrawals may be recontributed to their tax-free savings account in the future to ensure no loss in a person's total savings room.

The new tax-free savings account will help Canadians save for whatever is important to them. I would encourage Canadians to visit www.fin.gc.ca to find out more about this innovative new program. There is an on-line calculator that will help them deal with this. This will demonstrate just how Canadians can save by investing in this tax-free savings account.

Let me share with my colleagues that the savings can be substantial. For example, assuming a modest 5.5% rate of return, a person contributing $200 a month to one of these new accounts for 20 years could enjoy a tax savings of $11,045 compared to saving in an unregistered account.

Of course, not everyone is able to save each and every year. Those who cannot contribute $5,000 in a given year will be able to carry forward their unused contribution room to future years.

Saving can be difficult, especially for some low and modest income earners, which is why an important component of this proposed legislation is that there will be no clawbacks. This means that neither the income nor the capital gains earned in a tax-free savings account, nor the withdrawals from it, will affect eligibility for federal income tested benefits. As a result, the tax-free savings account will be of tremendous benefit to all Canadians.

The praise for this initiative has been almost universal. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said:

This is an excellent policy proposal. Canada needs to reward people that save because their investments fuel economic growth and job creation.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business added that “it was an inspired measure”.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce heralded the measure, saying it will “encourage savings, a measure which the Chamber has sought for many years” .

Bill C-50 has an important measure to benefit Canada's seniors, measures that build on earlier actions we have taken. Many seniors in Canada are living on a fixed income. This can sometimes make it difficult to make ends meet.

To help those Canadians, our Conservative government has taken action that provides about $5 billion in tax relief each year for seniors and pensioners, including doubling of the pension income amount of $2,000 and increasing the age credit amount by $1,000.

We have also increased the age limit for maturing RPPs and RRSPs and, for the first time ever in Canada, introduced pension income splitting for seniors and pensioners.

We are continuing on that path to supporting seniors in Bill C-50 by increasing the guaranteed income supplement exemption to $3,500 from the current maximum of $500. This means that seniors can earn up to $3,500 before having any GIC benefits reduced. This measure will benefit low and modest income seniors who chose to continue working.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons commends our Conservative government for “listening to many of its recommendations over the years and taking steps in the right direction”.

The Conservative government is also committed to making Canada an even greater place to create and expand a business.

Last fall we set out a long term plan to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% by 2012. This initiative will give Canada the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G-7 by 2010 and the lowest statutory tax rate in the G-7 by 2012.

As the Canadian Council of Chief Executives declared, and I quote again, “The federal government clearly has done everything it can to reduce tax rates within the boundaries of prudent fiscal management”.

We are also taking targeted action to assist Canada's manufacturers as they face challenging economic circumstances. For instance, in budget 2007 we brought in a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This measure is helping Canadian manufacturers make the investments needed to build modern facilities here at home to take on the world.

Budget 2008 proposes to extend temporary accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for three additional years. This extension will provide the manufacturing and processing sector with an additional $1 billion in tax relief by 2012-13.

Bill C-50 contains proposed measures that will provide additional benefits to businesses in Canada. For example, small businesses can face challenges in accessing capital to finance research and development investments.

That is why an enhanced scientific research and experimental development, or SR&ED, with the investment tax credit of 35% will be available to small Canadian controlled private corporations on their first $2 million of qualified expenditures.

During the prebudget consultations many stakeholders noted that access to the enhanced SR&ED investment tax credit is phased out quickly once the taxable capital threshold of $10 million is reached. They suggested that medium-sized businesses should have access to some enhanced benefit. In addition, many suggested that the expenditure limit has not kept pace with technological innovations that have made startup research and development investment more costly.

In response to these concerns, Bill C-50 proposes to increase the expenditure limit from $2 million to $3 million and to increase the upper limit for the taxable capital phase-out range from $15 million to $50 million. The upper limit of the taxable income phase-out range will also be increased from $600,000 to $700,000. Increasing these limits will encourage small and medium-sized Canadian controlled private corporations to grow.

Canadians spoke and this government listened.

Budget 2008 includes new measures to strengthen and ensure the effective implementation of our government's plan to ensure a cleaner, healthier environment for all Canadians.

To that end, Bill C-50 proposes to commit $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects. This will allow for harmful emissions to be stored underground rather than released into the atmosphere.

Public transit is one of the keys to achieving a cleaner and healthier environment. That is why our government, under the leadership of this excellent environment minister who is here with us today, has made significant investments in public transit infrastructure.

Bill C-50 goes even further by proposing an additional $500 million to make further investments in public transit capital infrastructure. These are measures to encourage Canadians to leave their cars at home and assist Canada's municipalities.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association called this support, “a major boost to future access and mobility in Canadian communities”. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities called it, “good news for cities and communities”.

Canadians want a clean environment in which to live. They also want healthy and safe communities. To help ensure that safety, Bill C-50 proposes to build safer communities and put criminals out of business.

Speaking of putting some out of business, I want to take a moment to mention how damaging yesterday's NDP motion would have been had it passed. It would have put legitimate Canadians out of business. We do thank the Liberals for supporting and recognizing that it would have put Canadians out of work, and we do appreciate that support.

Most of all we do appreciate the fact that the Liberals did come and vote last night, but most of all, to support us. I look forward to seeing them in their place when it comes time to vote in favour of Bill C-50 as well.

The bill proposes to provide $400 million to hire 2,500 new front line police officers over the next five years. Support recognized an important step in helping “address the much needed resources for tackling crime”. That was said by the Canadian Police Association, who added that they were also very happy with the commitment that was in budget 2008.

Mr. Speaker, as you are no doubt starting to notice, this is a very comprehensive bill. Time does not permit me to describe all of the details of the measures in Bill C-50, but I would be remiss if I did not mention certain initiatives in it that would help Canada prepare for the future, our youth.

First, in recognition of the importance of education in our future, the bill proposes a new consolidated Canada student grant program to take effect in the fall of 2009. All federal grants will be integrated into one program, a program which will provide more effective support to more students for more years of study. In doing so, this will assist Canadian families who struggle with the cost of higher education.

Bill C-50 proposes an investment of $350 million in 2009-10, rising to $430 million in 2012-13. Additionally, Canadian students and their families also need simple, effective, financial assistance programs. That is why budget 2008 commits $123 million to streamline and modernize the Canada student loans program.

Measures will be put in place to improve service for students in a number of ways, such as: a new service delivery vision that will expand online services; more equitable supports for part time and married students; a new in-study, interest free period for reservists; and an enhanced flexibility for those students experiencing difficulty in debt repayment as well as including those with disabilities.

Canada's students responded enthusiastically to budget 2008. Groups like the College Student Alliance said, “It showed that the federal government is keeping an eye to the future and our future leaders of tomorrow”, or the Canadian Federation of Students who thanked the government for responding to “a longstanding call by students and their families”, probably a call that has been out there for 13 long years.

In order to ensure a strong and secure future for Canada, our immigration policies need to be closely aligned with our labour market needs. That is why our government is also making important new innovations in immigration, including changing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In doing so, we will improve and speed up the application process.

Summing up, this Conservative government has taken care to strengthen Canada's economic fundamentals. The bill is prudent, focused and responsible in order to ensure Canada is well positioned to weather the uncertainty of today's global economy.

The Liberal Party of Canada's continued support for our Conservative government is a clear indication that we are getting the job done. We are on the right track for all Canadians, and on behalf of the government, I thank our Liberal friends for their consistent support of our initiatives, redefining the official opposition, and we congratulate them for that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech he said that time did not permit him to go through all the details of the Budget Implementation Act. He is quite right. There are a broad range of matters that are covered in this bill.

In fact, they are so broad that it does beg the question of where are we going with this? What is the vision? There really is no vision here.

As a matter of fact, if we look at the member's statement, one of the things we will find is that it has not laid out an assessment of where we are today, what emerging forces are facing Canada over the coming periods, and what security, prudence and contingency have been provided to ensure the continuity of providing the services and the care and protection for all Canadians on a consistent basis.

That is the purpose of debate here I believe. The purpose is not to see how much time can be filled up by listing a bunch of individual items without showing how they knit together and how they integrate into a vision.

Maybe the member would like to comment on one aspect of a vision and that would be the aspect of perhaps fiscal responsibility. I would say that in the government's own projections it is looking now in the second year of the forecast of being within one SARS event of going into deficit. That is of concern to Canadians.

We do not want to ever go back into deficit. Now, with the high level of petroleum prices, with the U.S. recession, and with the high value of Canadian dollar, all of these factors are putting great pressures on our economy. Many of those have been experienced in certain provinces versus others, such as Ontario in its manufacturing sector. Maybe the member could help advance this debate by telling--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would love to advance the debate, especially with such an inviting opening line referring to fiscal responsibility.

It was only weeks ago that our Conservative government started to realize the exact numbers of pre-election promises where the Liberals would spend money. Out of a concern that we wanted to share with Canadians, we added up those numbers. These were hollow promises from the opposition if they ever were, heaven forbid, to form government again.

I can say what that number of promises added up to. It was $70 billion of uncosted promises. If the Liberals were returned to government, that is what they would hoist on to Canadian taxpayers: uncosted, unsubstantiated, rather scattered promises to get them back into power. As we have heard in the last few days, the only reason for the existence of the Liberals is to get back into power.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, while listening attentively to my colleague's presentation, I got the impression that I was listening to the captain of the Titanic mere hours before the boat hit the iceberg. He says that all is well. The budget has been presented as if there are clear skies ahead.

However, this morning, the American Federal Reserve confirmed the current recession in the United States. As well, the International Monetary Fund announced growth of 0.5% over the next three years in the United States. Given that we know how much the entire Canadian economy depends on the American market, since we export many products to the United States, it is rather surprising that the federal government is not acting.

Hence my question for my colleague about the budget for the year that finished on March 31. How could they have decided to put $10 billion towards the debt and not in any way have offered tools that could help our businesses become more competitive in the manufacturing and forestry industries? They could have announced refundable tax credits or funding to make our products more attractive to Americans. Now, by lowering the GST, they have only encouraged people to purchase more Chinese products.

I may be playing it up somewhat, but I would like to know if my colleague feels a little like the captain of the Titanic. Will he be changing course?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a prairie boy. I have never had much to do with a ship the size of the Titanic. However, I am part of a team that has a firm direction of where it will go. Through the economic fall statement, we proved the government knew where it was headed. We knew there were concerns.

My hon. colleague is correct. The United States is having some difficult economic times. We saw that coming. This is leadership. This is being at the wheel. This is knowing that could very seriously impact Canada. This is why we took the position in the fall to cut taxes, to stimulate industry.

We see the economic fundamentals in the country today because we have strong leadership. We are not only dependent on the U.S. economy. We have diversified our economy. We have supported those struggling industries. A $1 billion community development trust—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. I was also disappointed with the lack of vision for ordinary working families.

Canfor, in my community of Westminster, British Columbia, shut down last week. Many more across the country have closed. Good paying, family supporting jobs are disappearing, and it is a very serious situation.

He also has said that Canadians want a clean environment, and I agree with him. However, there is nothing in the budget to deal with climate change, another missed opportunity by the Conservative government, carrying on, sadly, in the tradition of the previous Liberal budget.

The budget has $500 million going into a trust for transit. When the New Democrats had an opportunity in 2005 to amend the Liberal government's budget, they managed to get $900 million for transit. In this budget it is a paltry amount.

When the government found almost $1 billion for transit in Toronto in the last budget year, why is there so little for transit and infrastructure, which is very much needed to clean our environment, in this budget?

The Evergreen Line is in my community. What was provided for the Evergreen Line, the actual cost of which is $1.4 billion, was about $64 million, enough to fund half a kilometre of that line only. This is all that has been provided by the Conservative government for the city of Port Moody and the tricities in British Columbia. Why so little? Why half a kilometre of transit for British Columbia when it has funded, in the last year, almost $1 billion for the city of Toronto?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again I reiterate that I am proud of the environmental record of the government. We recognize that the environment does not stop at any borders. We support environmental programs from coast to coast to coast, including in British Columbia. It is in partnerships with the provinces that take initiatives of their own to protect the environment where the federal government steps up.

Through a $33 billion investment in infrastructure across the country, an unprecedented amount of infrastructure investment by the federal government, the largest since the second world war, we are stimulating not only the economy and the jobs that it will provide, but the required replacement and rebuilding of the weak infrastructure we have seen depleted and reduced over years and years of Liberal misconduct. Liberals did not support the infrastructure. They did not recognize that we needed to keep infrastructure up on a day by day and year by year basis. We have put in $33 billion in partnership with the provinces to keep that infrastructure up.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Garth Turner Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to say a few words on Bill C-50 , and I will frame my remarks in three sections.

First, I have a few comments to make on part of my hon. colleague's speech across, which he covered off in one sentence at the end of his presentation. Obviously the government is somewhat embarrassed about how it has tried to bring in crowbar changes to the immigration act.

Second, I asked a number of Canadians if they would like to participate with me in this talk this morning. I have a few comments from people across the country, which I am very happy to read into the record.

Third, I have a few comments as well on the financial implications of the budget and Bill C-50 and where the government and the sad excuse for a finance minister seems to be taking us today.

I stand in the House to speak on behalf of all Canadians on the issue of immigration. Canada is a great nation. We have a reputation around the world for openness and compassion. People want to live here, and I do not blame them. I have a constituency that is literally teeming with new Canadians. They are so welcome in our community all the time.

The Conservative government wants to change the attitude that Canadians have had toward immigration for a long period of time. I do not think the government really wants people to come here, at least in the quantities they have been. I believe Conservatives want to roll the clock back to a sad time of what I would call Reform Party isolationism. They want to change our immigration policy, not make it more efficient, and that is clear, not fund it properly and reform it to make it less effective.

I think the Conservatives want to limit the number of immigrants who are accepted into our country and slam the door on the rest. Shame on them. It is slamming the door on families that wish to be reunited. It is shutting the door on people seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. It is shutting the door on people who love our country and legitimately want to be part of it. Canada is a beacon that is held up to people around the world.

Canada has a proud history of immigration. Our country was built on it. Perhaps we all saw the report on television last night that more than 5 million Canadians are now visible minorities. That has doubled the number in the last decade or so.

Conservatives now want to wipe out this proud tradition. Not only that, they are trying to force the bill through, placing these measures in a budget bill. That makes it a matter of confidence. It is a bunch of bullies across the way saying that they want us to make their day once again, that they are going to roll everything into a bill and make the opposition members roll the dice. To the Conservatives, it is all or nothing. We cannot debate this or have a proper discussion on it.

That is typical, it is sad and its shameful. These immigration reforms should be removed from Bill C-50, taken out, stripped away, brought into the light of day where we can examine them, as we are supposed to in this place, go through the proper channels so they can get the appropriate amount of due diligence needed to ensure that the interests of all Canadians current and those who look to come here and be Canadians will be met.

We on this side of the House have made it clear. There is nothing in the budget which is even worth defeating. Right now we do not think this is the issue on which Canadians really want to be pushed into an election. There are many, but the budget is not it. It is so tepid, so worthless and so inconsequential that it is not worth it.

However, the immigration issue is something of more substance. It was brought in at the last minute, and that concerns us a lot. Should these reforms remain in the bill, it really is incumbent upon Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Finance to review the measures within the budget implementation bill, hear from Canadians, have hearings, call witnesses and understand it in more detail and explain to Canadians why this is bad legislation.

The Liberal Party has always promoted a progressive immigration policy. We see Canada as a country that welcomes immigrants of all backgrounds and abilities. It is a cornerstone of our party's policy and I believe it represents the feelings of most Canadians. As such, any review of this will have to be looked at in detail and in perspective. We need to ensure that any change to immigration reflects our collective Canadian values and not just those of the governing Conservative Party.

One of the reforms would put unprecedented power into the hands of a single minister, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. She would be able to pick and choose immigrants she would deem worthy of being accepted, according to the current beliefs of the Conservative Party. The minister would be given the right to establish categories of applicants and then use these categories or other means to play with the order in which applications would be processed. Does that not strike members as being dangerous? It certainly strikes me and my colleagues that way.

I see my hon. colleague across the way agrees. This is a dangerous precedent. We no longer give people the protection of our laws of Canada. This effectively gives the minister free reign to decide which applications will get processed and even which ones can be returned without even having been processed. Of particular concern to Canadians should be the ability of these reforms to adversely affect categories such as family class and permanent resident status that are made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

I said a minute ago, I have a riding that teems with new Canadians. Many constituents in my riding and ridings across the country have families abroad, families that hope one day they will be united with their loved ones. However, the Conservatives do not think reuniting families is good for Canada. They believe these classes do not contribute to our economic growth. If we listen to the pronouncements of the Conservative Party, it is clear it plans to focus resources on the economic class of immigration to the expense of other classes and at the expense of families and those that need our help and our compassion.

This should be of great concern to us in the House and to all Canadians. I, for one, do not trust the Conservatives to use these new powers without a little of their ideological Reform Party ideals.

My colleague says it is the Reform Party isolationism and anti-immigration bias, which we all have seen and we know is there, Fifteen years ago I was a Progressive Conservative. In the 1993 I campaigned hard against exactly the kind of principles that sadly are now instilled in the new Conservative Reform Party.

These will effectively destroy the right of every applicant to be given a fair review and to be considered regardless of background, country, ethnicity, origin, skill-set. The amendments put no limit on these discretionary powers and make them consistent with existing federal-provincial immigration agreements. In fact, it might be a big problem in the province of Quebec, considering its unique jurisdictional authority over immigrant selection.

The Conservatives are saying that these measures with help with the backlog of applications. However, I noted the parliamentary secretary did not even try to justify anything about the inclusion of these changes in the budgetary bill. I think he is probably pretty ashamed at the fact they tried to shoehorn these things in at the last minute, hoping Canadians would not notice. However, they have, they will and they will speak out against them.

The reforms reduce any incentive the government has to do what it should do, which is to increase the immigration department's capacity to process the number of applications it receives each year. The Conservatives say that they are not trying to decrease the number of immigrants into Canada, but the record tells a different story. They throw around numbers in their press releases, media releases, scrums and in those horrible 10 percenters that they flood the country with, which are completely illegally and break every rule we have in this place, and they should be ashamed that. In those messages they say that they have increased the number of immigrants, but that is not the case.

Last year and the year before the Conservatives issued approximately 251,000 permanent resident visas. Of those issued in 2007, only 236,000 visa holders had arrived by year's end. In comparison, more than 262,000 permanent residents were actively admitted to Canada by the previous Liberal government in 2005.

Canada obviously needs more immigrants, not fewer. We are already facing critical labour shortages that will rise to an alarming rate unless we find new people to help us, people who will put their shoulders to the wheel to build this country. We have an aging population. We have a demographic time bomb in our midst. We need immigrants. We need people who want to be in Canada to build this place.

I said a moment ago that I think my hon. colleague opposite and his fellow Conservatives want this to go through without people noticing. It is not going to happen. I would like to read into the record a couple of comments from some of the people from across the country who overnight last night asked me to read some of their comments into the record. I said I would.

David Bakody from Nova Scotia said:

This is the prime example of “Do as we say not as we do”. It was just a week ago or so [the Minister of Finance] stood [and] stated to the media that the RESP [the passage of it by Parliament] was an American style tactic. (untrue) It was as have many before and will be “A Budget Amendment” fully open to debate. This Immigration Bill is a long time Reform idea hatched by [the Reform Party] and now about to be forced down the throats of Canadians that is truly a classic case of...Republican Style in your face plans to remove all rights that democracy has achieved in lives of brave soldiers and peoples in two world wars.... Even all those ungrateful Reformers now hidden in Conservative uniforms who sit and plot behind closed doors. Shame--

I asked him to make his remarks addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. He has great respect for your position. David from Nova Scotia said:

Shame Mr. Speaker, please ask each and every MP to look to the right, look to the left, look across the aisle and ask yourself what did mine and your family bring to Canada a couple of hundred or so years ago? Most will say hope? Hope for a better future for our children, and now that hope is about to be removed.

I asked another commenter, a fellow from Toronto, what I should say when I stand to speak to the bill in the House of Commons. He suggested:

I would [use] this quote from an April 2, 2008...article with respect to its latest polls that demonstrates a waning momentum for the Conservatives and by contrast, a building for the Liberals, as more and more citizens are awakening to the deceptive methodology that seems [to] underlie every single movement taken by this [Conservative] government, with questionable “ends-justifies-the-means” ethics employed right back to the birth of that party.

He said:

I would draw a parallel to the unprecedented powers that Republicans gave their President to overrule Congress and [the] long history of habeas corpus in the accumulated foundation of the Common Law, and how this new Conservative law too would short-circuit existing checks and balances [that we have in our government]. Then identify where such subversion of the checks and balances has been a general theme of this government through such things as dismantling of [the] Court Challenges Program, this being a further progression of that theme.

He recommended that I should conclude this speech by saying:

...that when the momentum has built for the Liberals to return to leading government, contrary to the Conservative government where words and action with respect to accountability and ethics do not jive--word will be [the] bond--they will rescind the subversive travesty against honest and proper procedure. Along with the rescinding of tactics will be a rescinding of the unprecedented ministerial power that is so open to abuse.

K. Murphy of Alberta said:

I recall a comment made by Stephen Harper sometime prior to the 2006--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. The hon. member should know that he cannot do indirectly what he is not supposed to do directly. I am sure he could have substituted some other word.