House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that advice. I will not necessarily follow it but I will come to the subject of immigration shortly.

Since the news of the morning is so timely, I thought the House might wish to know some of the headlines from this morning's Statistics Canada report: “Exports fall”, “Business investment slows”, “Personal spending moderates”, “Housing investment declines”, “Prices move upward”. Those are the things that real Canadians are dealing with right now. The last thing they want to hear is the finance minister telling them that they have never had it so good.

What they do want is an explanation from the government as to how it squandered the $13 billion surplus that it inherited just over two years ago and how it has taken this country to the brink of deficit. The fiscal cupboard is bare right now. Some experts are saying that we are already in deficit. It would not be the first time the finance minister hit a deficit and pretended he was in surplus.

Whether we are in deficit or just a SARS crisis away from deficit, the fact is that the government overspent when times were good, leaving nothing in the cupboard, as the Statistics Canada report this morning suggests, for when times are bad. A prudent finance minister would have spent less when times were good, leaving more money available right now when times are bad with which to support the economy.

The finance minister's stewardship has been so bad that at this moment, when the Canadian economy needs support, he has no money unless he wants to go back into deficit. I would not be terribly surprised if he did go back into deficit. That is what the Ontario government did when he was a senior minister. Indeed, the Ontario government pretended it had a balanced budget and ran an election on a balanced budget. However, when the Conservatives lost that election in 2003 and Dalton McGuinty called in the auditors, lo and behold, the auditors discovered that there was in fact a $5.6 billion deficit.

Since the government acknowledges that it is right on the brink of deficit, I wonder whether the experience of Ontario might be repeated and, indeed, we might already be in deficit but a deficit hidden by the government.

On the question of immigration, the parliamentary secretary is entirely wrong when he says that the Liberal Party supports the government amendments on immigration. As my colleague pointed out recently, the government is changing the picture of an immigrant from a person to a commodity. The fact is that if substantial new resources are not put into immigration, which the government is not doing, that implies that if one group is fast-tracked, by definition another group is slow-tracked.

The parliamentary secretary can talk all he likes about people lining up in Egypt to come to Canada but fewer of those people will be able to come to Canada under the government's rules than would have been able to come to Canada under the previous rules. It is fast-tracking economic immigrants and, given that the resources are pretty well constant or at a very modest increase, that implies that it is slow-tracking family reunification.

I believe it is important that we choose immigrants who are needed in the economy but I do not believe that should be at the expense of family reunification, which is precisely the price the government is imposing on family reunification by its proposals.

Indeed, we do not even know where these proposals will lead because they provide enormous additional powers to the immigration minister. The government is asking Canadians to trust it but it will tell them what it is going to do. Why should Canadians trust the government in light of all of the unfolding scandals that we have been experiencing in recent months?

Whether it is the security problems associated with the former foreign affairs minister, whether it is the in and out Elections Canada scandal, whether it is the emerging new scandal on NAFTA-gate, or whether it is broken promises on anything from income trusts to the Atlantic accord, Canadians have no reason to trust the government.

Therefore, when the government asks Canadians to trust it to do the right thing on the immigration provisions, I do not think Canadians will accept the government's proposition.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my first thought is, God help us if the Liberals were in government at this time when this country is facing some economic challenges from outside the country and throughout the global marketplace.

The member for Markham—Unionville flipped-flopped, not once but at least three times during his speech. The Liberals are being dishonest with the House and with the Canadian people. They criticized our budget and yet voted for it. That is dishonest.

That member, among all the members of the Liberal party, should know that there is a direct correlation between a low tax regime and a buoyant economy and a direct correlation between a high tax regime and a struggling economy.

Our Minister of Finance knows that giving taxes back to families, back to small business, back to low income people and back to seniors is a good formula for making it through times of external challenges to our economy. That is what that member's party did not do. God help us if the Liberals were in power now.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not detect a question in that spew of nonsense coming from my hon. colleague but I will try to respond to what might have been a question.

In terms of competent management of the economy, I would remind the gentleman across the aisle that it is we, the Liberals, who inherited a $42 billion Conservative deficit, and it is we, who within a few years, fixed that deficit, turned it in to a surplus and for 10 years in a row paid down debt.

It is that party that inherited a magnificent $13 billion surplus from the previous Liberal government and proceeded, in the space of just over two years, to spend like crazy when times were good, thereby shrinking that $13 billion surplus to $1 billion or $2 billion, far less than the contingency reserve that Liberals maintained.

To spend like crazy when times are good is incompetent economic management in the extreme. It leaves nothing available to support the economy when times become bad, as we saw in the Statistics Canada report just this morning.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech by my colleague across the way. He may have touched, in some ways, on why the Conservatives included the immigration business in the budget.

The budget seems to deal dishonestly with figures. It also deals dishonestly with the figures when it talks about the impact on immigration that it will achieve with this particular set of amendments.

Does the hon. member not agree that we need decisive action to reduce the wait list, not this reconfiguration of the rules to change the basic nature of our immigration system?

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not detect a question in those comments.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question. At the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the Liberals voted against these changes to immigration; at the Standing Committee on Finance, they abstained.

Will they have the courage to stand in this House and vote in favour of my amendments, or will they pathetically stay seated during the vote?

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Markham—Unionville has 30 seconds to respond.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds is not enough time to respond to such an important question.

All I can do in these next 30 seconds is repeat that, in our opinion, the government's immigration policy is not at all acceptable for the reasons that I have outlined during—

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to the report stage amendments of Bill C-50. I thank my colleague from the Bloc for bringing some of them forward because the NDP also supports these motions that would delete clauses 116 to 120 from Bill C-50.

The first point that I want to make is that it is really quite outrageous that here we are debating a budget bill, which of course is a core of any government's agenda, and within that government bill, that budget bill, there are significant changes to our immigration system.

There is no question that the Conservative government tried to quietly slip these major changes through the back door in a budget bill. I think they have been probably quite astounded by the reaction of Canadians and communities across Canada.

In fact, the Conservatives are so worried about the backlash that these proposed changes contain that they have now gone to the extreme of running advertisements in ethnic papers across the country even before this bill has been approved. That is something that is quite unheard of, to put out propaganda and information about a bill that has not even yet been approved.

I think it is very good evidence of the concern that the Conservatives have that the message that they hoped they were getting out there, that they were somehow fixing the immigration system, is very far from the truth. In fact, what we are dealing with in this budget bill are significant changes to the immigration system which will undermine the kind of process that we have had in this country for dealing with immigration and refugees.

One of the deletions that has been put forward for the bill today deals with clause 116. Under the current provision of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, subsection 11(1) currently says:

The visa or document shall be issued if, following an examination, the officer is satisfied that the foreign national is not inadmissible and meets the requirements of this Act.

With the changes in this bill, which we are now hoping to delete, it would now say that the officer “may” issue a visa even if the applicant has met all of the criteria as set out in the immigration regulations.

The same is true for clause 117, where under the existing process in regard to humanitarian and compassionate applications, it says that the minister “shall” examine these applications. Under the proposed changes it would say that the minister “may” examine these applications.

These are only two of many changes that are included in this bill. We think they are very substantive and we think it is quite shocking that these immigration changes would be contained within a budget bill. It should be part of a stand alone bill. It should have gone to the immigration committee. There should have been hearings through the immigration process so that people could comment on it, but none of that has happened because the government, by stealth, is trying to put these changes through in a budget bill.

I must say that I listened with some surprise to the Liberal member for Markham—Unionville when he spoke so vociferously against the budget bill and against these changes, and yet we know the Liberals are going to support it. How does one reconcile this?

The Liberals get out there and they hammer the bill and say how bad it is, and in committee when there is a chance to vote they vote with the government. Here in the House when the Liberals have a chance to vote against the government, they either sit on their hands or they do not show up and they do not bother to vote.

The same will now be true with these immigration changes. Is it any wonder that people feel so disillusioned about the official opposition members as they are about the government? Here they are hand in glove working together to get through these significant changes.

I am very proud that in the NDP we have taken a strong position, not only against the budget bill on the provisions as a budget bill but also because of these immigration changes that are included.

One of the things that we are most concerned about is that in Bill C-50 there is a shift in emphasis from family reunification, from bringing people to Canada on the legitimate process of a point system, to in effect a dramatic increase in the temporary foreign worker program.

We have seen more than a 100% increase in the number of applications and people being processed through this system. We have seen people brought to this country, who come here as temporary foreign workers. They are working in the tar sands. They are working in the agricultural industry. They have been working on the Canada Line in Vancouver.

These are workers who come here and often end up in terribly exploited situations. They have no rights. In some situations we have had cases where workers were being paid less than the minimum wage for the work that they were doing. It is only because of the advocacy within the labour movement that some of these cases have been taken up and brought forward before the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

Therefore, we are very worried that the changes in Bill C-50, including the immigration changes, are basically giving a signal of this very dramatic change in the way immigration will work in Canada.

Historically, we have seen an emphasis on family reunification. In fact, on the Government of Canada immigration website it was always listed as one of the key goals for our immigration policy. Somehow that has disappeared. It is not even on the website anymore, so this should be sending off alarm bells for people.

We know that organizations like the Canadian Bar Association are concerned. Stephen Green of the Canadian Bar Association said:

Bill C-50 would return Canada to a time when visas were given out on a discretionary basis, without sufficient objective criteria.

The YWCA in Toronto has called on the government to not proceed with these dramatic changes for immigration under Bill C-50.

I know in my own community of East Vancouver we have many people who are recent newcomers to Canada. They came through the immigration system. We have many organizations that work as advocates and help people with their processing for immigration. In a forum that we held just a few weeks ago people were very concerned about what these changes will mean and the fact that it will give so much discretion to a single person, and that single person being the minister.

Why would we want to have a system that allows that kind of power to be conferred on one person? This is something that we should be very opposed to and that is why we are standing in the House today making it very clear that we are opposed to these changes.

We have heard from the government today that this bill and the immigration changes will allow more people to come to Canada and it will be a responsive bill, as I think this is what the parliamentary secretary said. We are also told that somehow these changes will deal with the backlog of 900,000 people who are waiting to come to Canada.

However, the fact is the changes that are before us will only affect applications that are submitted after February 27, 2008. Therefore, in actual fact they will have no impact whatsoever on the backlog that the government claims it is trying to deal with.

We agree that the backlog is there and certainly the lack of support and resources for our immigration system and processing in the previous government created that backlog. That is not an issue. What is at issue is that these proposed changes will not deal with that backlog and will give enormous discretion to the minister which we think is patently undemocratic and unfair.

That is why we are supporting these motions today to delete these clauses in the bill. We will have other deletions as well later on today. We hope that the bill will be defeated. I would implore Liberal members across the way to rethink their position. They cannot go out and tell people they are opposed to these changes, they are opposed to the budget, and then come back to the House and vote for it, and give the Conservative government a majority in that regard. This is something that is quite unconscionable, so perhaps they need to rethink their position.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member as she spoke about what she claimed was propaganda. I have not heard as much propaganda in as short an amount of time as I have heard from her.

Let me tell members about propaganda. She says the government, by stealth, is bringing in Bill C-50. But just before that she said that we were advertising in newspapers some of the changes we want to bring in. How could we be acting by stealth and advertising in newspapers? I guess that is NDP propaganda.

Also, this member and her party voted against every single budget this government has brought in: budgets that have helped seniors; budgets that have helped homeless people; and budgets that are helping veterans today. She and her party voted against low income Canadians. More than 600,000 low income Canadians have been taken off the federal government tax rolls. Yet, she and her party claim to be for the working class.

Yesterday, we were discussing her leader's bill. I believe it is Bill C-377. People working in the auto industry and people trying to earn a livelihood who work in the auto parts industry in my riding, including the CAW, are fearful of that bill.

We heard from witnesses from that industry at the environment committee who said that bill that her leader is trying to bring in is going to kill their industry, an industry that is already in trouble in our province. It is one of the hugest income generators in our province.

How can she say some of the things she is saying when in some parts of her statements she is arguing against herself? There are words for that, but they are unparliamentary. I would like her to respond.

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to respond.

Let us just look at what happened. The fact is that this government brought in a budget bill and tried to sneak through significant immigration changes in that bill. For decades, immigration changes would have taken place through an immigration bill.

So, the Conservatives tried to get it through the back door. When the word got out there, people were outraged about what was taking place. If the member has not read the press releases, the letters, the emails and heard the phone calls that have come in, then I would ask him to do a bit of a reality check.

When the information came back in and people understood what was going on, the government then had to react and began its own propaganda advertising campaign. That is the sequence of events that took place. So, my comments are not contradictory at all.

What is contradictory is the fact that this government is trying to make significant changes to our immigration system in a budget bill. That is fundamentally wrong and that should not be allowed.

I would ask the member, why is he supporting such a measure and not allowing a proper examination of changes to our immigration system which should go to the immigration committee?

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, I asked my hon. Liberal colleague if his party was going to follow the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and vote against part 6 of this bill. I know the NDP has already said it will be voting against it.

Does she know how the Liberals intend to vote? What would she recommend to them?

Motions in Amendment
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to try to advise these guys how they should be getting themselves in line. They have been, now, contradicting themselves so many times by standing and saying that they oppose the budget, opposing the immigration changes, not coming into the House to vote, and not voting in committee. I think they have to get their own act in order and reconcile with the community where it is that they really stand.

We know where we stand on this bill. We know why this bill should be defeated. I think my colleague in the Bloc knows too and his members will vote that way as well.

However, as far as the Liberals, they are just lining up with the Conservative members and allowing this bill to go through, and that is going to be bad for the people of Canada.

Partnership Group for Science and Engineering
Statements By Members

May 30th, 2008 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have long been a regular at the Bacon & Eggheads Breakfast sponsored by the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering, PAGSE for short. I have found these breakfasts to be very educational and inspiring. It is a real pleasure to hear from the brightest and most articulate researchers in our country.

PAGSE is a cooperative association of more than 25 national organizations in science and engineering, representing approximately 50,000 individual members from industry, academia and government. It was formed in 1995 at the invitation of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada.

Here are just a few of the topics that have been covered in the past: understanding the brain; bionic limbs; preparing for the next pandemic; nanotechnology; fighting cancer with food; building the car of the future, idea by idea; wind power; fuel cell technology; and the list goes on.

I invite members to visit pagse.org for more information. Also, I invite--