House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was income.

Topics

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his little history lesson because I too remember the fiscal responsibility policies of great premiers like Tommy Douglas, Roy Romanow and Gary Doer. It seems to me, in terms of Saskatchewan, that the economy was doing very well there and that the government of Lorne Calvert was doing well. Of course this was after all the Conservatives went to jail.

My colleague talks about senior women and the fact that $14.5 billion went to tax cuts. Nothing went to seniors, nothing went to the needy--

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the NDP opposition motion. I would like to thank the sponsor of the motion, the member for Sault Ste. Marie.

The motion reads as follows:

That the House recognize the harmful effects on working and middle-income Canadians of the growing income gap fostered by this government's unbalanced economic agenda, including its failure to reform employment insurance to ensure that people who lose their jobs during economic downturns are protected and trained, and therefore the House has lost confidence in this government.

First, I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for sharing her time with me. She has given a good explanation of the problem faced by women with seasonal jobs. In many cases, these women cannot even work the number of hours they need to qualify for employment insurance.

Before I go any further, I would like to correct something. If I understood correctly—and we can check in the blues—the member for Blackstrap, who comes from Saskatchewan, said that after electing an NDP government for 13 years, that province now had a Conservative government. It is regrettable that the government of Saskatchewan, formed by the SaskParty, is not a Conservative government. It is a government of Conservatives in disguise, who convinced the people of Saskatchewan that they were forming a new party with new policies.

The member for Blackstrap, a Conservative member of the House of Commons from Saskatchewan, admits that the party in power in that province is not the SaskParty, but the Conservative Party. No one really wants to talk about the Conservatives who were in power in the 1980s, before the NDP, because most of them were put in jail as a result of scandals. We have to tell it like it is.

How many times in this House have the Liberals and Conservatives said that if the NDP were in power, we would head straight into debt because we do not know how to manage money. Not very long ago, the Government of Canada had a debt of $535 billion or $565 billion. It was not the NDP, though, that was in power and put the country into debt but the Liberals and Conservatives.

These corrections having been made, I want to start now on the subject up for debate today in the House.

The Conservatives boast that the economy is doing well and thousands of jobs have been created. They never say, though, that 55,000 well paying industrial jobs have been lost.

If the economy is doing well in Alberta, I congratulate them and am happy for them. It is not a matter of jealousy. At the same time, though, there is more to Canada than Alberta. Canada is the entire country. Why does the government not say instead that the economy is doing well in some places but it is worried because things are not going so well in north-eastern New Brunswick?

Four fish-processing plants have closed: two in Grande-Anse, one in Maisonnette and one in Anse-Bleue. The Conservatives do not mention that. They do not say that, at the same time, a paper plant was closing in Bathurst taking with it jobs that paid $30 an hour. They do not mention UPM in Miramichi, which just closed down, taking more than 600 jobs with it. They do not talk about that but just about how well the economy is doing in certain regions.

It is all very well to make fine speeches here and say that jobs have been created. The trouble is that they are minimum wage. People are telling us that they need three jobs to earn a decent income. The government says that jobs have been created, but many of them do not pay very well. I am not talking about Alberta but about other places in Canada. There is more to Canada than Alberta.

In Ontario, right now, they are getting ready to call for transfer payments, because things are not going so well in that province. Jobs have been lost in northern Ontario, in White River, in Hearst, in the factories of Ontario, and in London and Windsor. And there have been jobs lost in the auto industry. Nobody is talking about that.

In a country like ours, people do not agree with what they have been seeing in this government’s recent budgets. On the one hand, they will be giving $14 billion in tax breaks over the new few years to big companies that are making money. On the other hand, when we are talking about all the companies that have closed down, the government says it is going to provide $1 billion to help the manufacturing industry and paper mills in Canada. There is $1 billion to help the entire forestry industry, which is falling apart and where good jobs have been lost.

In my riding, people have had to leave home—and not just in my riding, this is happening in many places—to go and work in Alberta. They have had to leave their families and children behind and go away for three months. Then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development talks about the employment insurance system. Nothing has changed in that system for worker mobility in Canada. Absolutely nothing has changed.

She talks about the pilot project for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Why has this not been put into law? Why is it a pilot project? The Conservatives say they are the ones who created it. Excuse me, but this project was created by the previous government. The Conservative government has been asked to put it into law, to make regulations that would be permanent. But they are still playing with pilot projects.

The government changes its mind and then it brags about it. When the Conservatives were in opposition, the only thing they wanted to do was to reduce employment insurance premiums, no benefits to help families. They do not want to help families. They are more interested in investing in the big companies that are making millions of dollars in profits, like the oil industry. This year, it has a $22 billion surplus and people are getting robbed at the gas station. They are not getting robbed by the gas station owner, they are getting robbed by the big refineries.

Then we turn around and all those people are doing work with the new industry as cheap labour. That is what we have. There are people who have to work at three jobs. The government says that things are going well in our country and that it has created lots of jobs. But people have to have three jobs in order to survive.

How many women have to work in one restaurant in the morning, in another restaurant at night and in another restaurant on the weekend? How many people have to do that? They do not brag about it, but when we meet those people on the street, they are telling us. When we meet people at the shopping malls or when people phone our offices, they are telling us about the cheap labour occurring across the country.

Yes, it is going well in Alberta. Good for them, but that is not the answer to the economy of our country. The answer is not to take the Atlantic region and move it to Alberta. For those people who want to move from New Brunswick or any other place to work in Alberta, there should be the flexibility in the employment insurance to help them. Only 32% of women qualify for EI in our country. Only 38% of men qualify for EI. There is something wrong with the program.

The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger and bigger. When the big oil industry makes a $22 billion profit and people cannot even buy food to put on the table for their children, and they have to have three jobs to survive, there is something wrong in our country. There is something wrong with the Conservative Party when it gives a $14 billion tax break to the big corporations and at the same time $1 billion to try to fix all the problems in the pulp and manufacturing industries.

We are not getting our share of economic growth. Ontario itself has proven it. It is not going so well in Ontario. The car industry is not doing well and the government is doing nothing. The only thing the government says is if people do not move to Alberta to go to work, they are lazy. The government says that if it changes the employment insurance program, it will discourage people from going to work in Alberta.

That is wrong for society. We are not building a good society when people in some regions of the country have to separate from their families to go to work for six or three months at a time.

For those reasons we have no confidence in the government.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong in the House. It is wrong that the NDP does not acknowledge the facts that are out there on the economy.

I take offence at some of the things that have been said, that somehow people are working at more jobs since this government came to power. My father for the most part had three jobs when I was a kid. He always had at least two. My mother also always had at least two jobs. They worked hard and they paid a lot of taxes. They paid a lot toward the establishment of this country.

This government believes in hard-working Canadians. We want to support hard-working Canadians. That is what the government policy has been. What are the results? There are 17 million Canadians working today. It is a record. There is record low unemployment. We reduced taxes to the lowest level in 50 years last October.

What is consistent? The NDP has voted against every credit for families, every credit for small business. The NDP has voted against every hard-working Canadian.

I would love to hear what the member has to say about that.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, what I have to say about that is I feel very bad about his mom who had to have three jobs and not be with her family. Probably the government that was in power was not supporting families. Life is not only about working 24 hours day, seven days a week. People should have the right to be with their families and earn a living too.

The government only thinks about sending people to work in cheap jobs. People have to have three jobs. It is a shame. I feel bad to hear that his father had to have three jobs and his mother had to have three jobs to earn a living.

I believe people have the right to live too. It is not only about big corporations and companies. People should have a family life. What we are losing with the Conservative government is the family life. The people of this country are losing their family lives.

I am very proud that we voted against a budget that gave $14 billion in tax breaks to big corporations when nothing was there for the poor people.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, talking about budgets the member will recall in 2005 when the Liberal government proposed to increase the threshold on tax free income to $10,000 removing off the tax rolls 860,000 of lowest income earners, including 240,000 seniors. The lowest income tax bracket was going to be reduced from 16% to 15%. There was the $5.1 billion Kelowna accord to address poverty among aboriginal Canadians which the member is well aware of. There was the $2.2 billion toward the working income tax benefit to help people on social assistance so they could keep more money in their pockets. The NDP voted against those provisions.

How can the NDP members say they are in favour of supporting the poor and the most needy in our society when in fact they were the ones who defeated that budget, defeated that government for political reasons rather than for political need?

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the only reason we defeated the government was that the government was corrupt. The Liberal Party was corrupt. The Liberals gave a million dollars to their friends in their own organization in Quebec and they got caught. Canadians had the right to decide who would run the country. I am sorry but Canadians democratically decided to put the Liberals out of office. I do not want to be blamed for that. We did what Canadians wanted us to do and they made a decision.

When we look at what the member said about the budget, in 2004 the NDP came in with a budget because the Liberals were giving big corporations breaks, as the Conservatives did in the last budget and on which the Liberals did not vote. The Liberals did not take their responsibility as the official opposition party. They sat here and did not vote. I do not think they should get their pay because they did not do their work. As well, the Liberal government in 1996 cut employment insurance to the point that they took $55 billion out of the pockets of the working people. That is what the Liberal Party has done.

The member wants to talk about the poor people. The Liberals are the ones who have made 1.4 million children go hungry today because 800,000 people do not qualify for employment insurance. Those people have families. Those people have kids. They are poor because they lost their jobs and have no way to make a living. The Liberal Party did it in 1996. What happened? The Conservative Party legalized all the money that was taken in 1996 with this new bill that it passed to have a corporation which is arm's length from the government. It is legalizing the change that the Liberal government made, which made our children poor in this country. It is the fault of the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this issue which I consider to be extremely important.

The motion talks about the harmful effects of the growing income gap fostered by the government's unbalanced economic agenda. It is my belief that this is one of the most important challenges facing all levels of government today. It is probably an issue on which we as leaders in the federal government and leaders in the provincial governments are going to be judged. The situation is serious and I submit it is getting worse.

The statistics that were released last week confirmed trends which most of us were aware of already: the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Presently across Canada, 788,000 children are living in poverty and 244,000 seniors are living in poverty. Statistics Canada has broken down the figures into five strata. Between 1980 and 2005, the income of people in the top 20% increased by 16.4%, using constant dollars. However, the income of the individuals in the bottom one-fifth decreased by 20.6%. We can see the dramatic effect that has happened over the last number of years.

This is an issue that all Canadians should be concerned about. The issue is one of social justice. It has a tremendous effect on our economy, our society and our future.

The correlation between levels of poverty and health care is fully documented. It is well known to people who study this particular issue. The relationship between people living on a low income and crime is also well documented. I do not hear that discussion when we talk about getting tough on crime. The relationship between people living on a low income and lower educational attainment is also well documented. The incidence between people living in poverty and their participation in society, which I call the “demogratic” deficit for lack of another word, is well known. When we combine education and participation in society, we are getting right to the heart of the whole productivity agenda.

This issue has such a dramatic effect on our productivity right now, and will have in the future, that it should concern everyone in this assembly.

The motion talks about the growing income gap, which is extremely important. It also talks about reforming employment insurance. I am going to speak briefly about employment insurance, which is a very important issue to all Canadians, especially seasonal workers, people who do not have income security. However, it is only one part of the overall policy and any changes have to be part of a larger comprehensive strategy.

Over the last five to ten years there have been some significant changes made to the EI regime, some of which are extremely important. The most significant social change I have seen in the EI program has been the institution of paternity benefits. We have seen lower EI rates. We have seen compassionate benefits. Changes have been made to allow five additional weeks of benefits in certain areas. These are steps in the right direction. I submit that paternity benefits are a major step in the right direction. I agree with a lot of the other speakers that further changes are required.

However, this is all part of a larger issue, which must be improving income and income security for lower income Canadians. It does require a comprehensive strategy and the federal government working closely and in cooperation with the provincial governments, some of which are doing more work on this particular issue than others.

Above and beyond EI, it talks about the rates of social assistance that are now being paid to low income Canadians. It talks about the minimum wage and about job opportunities that are not available in many regions. It talks about the need for increased supports for people moving from welfare into the workforce and the disincentives that are there for those people who want to make that jump.

It cries out for the need for increased public transit, supporting individuals. It cries out for the need for increased affordable housing. It talks about the need for affordable early childhood education and affordable child care. It talks about aids and support for children from low income families trying to pursue their goal for post-secondary education. It talks about pensions, child care programs and workforce training.

We see a whole hodgepodge of strategies that the government is not pursuing. As we saw from the statistics that were released last week, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It is my position that that will have a tremendous effect on our future productivity, whether it be health care costs, crime rates, educational attainment or the economy.

What have we seen in the last couple of years? We have had some tax cuts. I certainly supported the corporate tax cuts that were made because they support the productivity of this nation. We saw a very small decrease in the personal income tax rate and the basic personal exemption was raised, but not significantly.

The GST was reduced. Do people earning $14,000, $16,000 or $18,000 a year receive any benefit from the decrease in the GST from 7% to 5%? I do not think so. If the benefit is there, it is very minimal. They do not pay GST on their rent, on their fuel oil or on their food. Any benefit to that class of people is extremely minimal. If, on the other hand, people were to go out and purchase a new Audi, the benefit would be significant.

The Kelowna accord for our aboriginal population was gutted. The early childhood programs that were implemented were gutted. The affordable housing programs were not gutted but they were decreased. Cuts were made to the literacy programs across the country.

Most important, what I have seen happen in this assembly over the last two years is that the fiscal framework of the Government of Canada has been destroyed.

The government in power inherited a surplus of approximately $15 billion a year but now, according to all economists and people who are talking about this issue, we are very close to going into a deficit like we had in 1993. We have lost the ability to respond to issues that come up like this, issues that cry out for a response from the Government of Canada.

I certainly support the announcement made by our leader, the 30-50 plan--

Opposition Motion — The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I regret to interrupt the hon. member but it is 2 o'clock. He can continue his speech after question period.

We will now move on to statements by members.

World Red Cross Day
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the outstanding work of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

As we witness the devastation in Burma, we can see why this world renowned organization remains as vital today as it did at its inception.

Canadians are a very compassionate, caring people. We take pride in the work that we do, both at home and abroad. This government's commitment to humanitarian efforts is a reflection of Canadian society.

I was personally touched by the outpouring of support from Canadians in my riding of Crowfoot during the tsunami. I know families across the country are pledging donations for the mission in Burma.

I am pleased to inform this House, on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, that Canada will support its courageous efforts with $500,000 of the $2 million set aside for the international humanitarian response to the natural disaster in Burma.

The Government of Canada is a proud partner with the Red Cross.

World Lupus Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to recognize World Lupus Day that occurs on May 10.

Lupus is known as a disease of a thousand faces, as it can affect a person in many different ways. Lupus is a disease that could be affecting the person beside us, our teachers or our neighbours, but we may not even be aware of the struggles they are facing.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any organ of the body and in a pattern that varies greatly from person to person. This disease affects men and women, both young and old. The people and their families who are dealing with lupus are looking for more and concentrated research, a greater awareness of the disease and, of course, increased public support.

This Sunday, thousands of Canadians and people around the world will be walking in a “Walk a Block for Lupus” campaign to raise awareness for this disease.

I ask all members to join me in recognizing those facing this disease and the commitment of those walking in support on Sunday.

Official Languages
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, imagine for a moment that this government had not put any figure under the National Defence heading in the March budget. Unthinkable, you say? But for the official languages action plan, on page 256 of the budget, there is nothing. It says: “to be determined”. That was on February 26, and here we are on May 8, 72 days later, and still there is nothing.

The Conservative government said to wait for the results of consultations leading up to the Lord report for the action plan renewal. The document was made public on March 20, and still nothing.

The fact that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages has yet to table the second plan proves that the anti-French-language and anti-French-culture neo-Reform ideology reigns supreme amongst the Conservatives.

Charles Caccia
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to the life of the Hon. Charles Caccia, a distinguished former colleague and my predecessor as Dean of the House of Commons.

Charles was the member for Toronto--Davenport for 36 years and, while he was here, he established a reputation as one who practised politics with dignity, with principle, with civility, with independence of mind and with a deep, abiding and well-informed concern for the environment.

It is not an exaggeration to say that had Charles Caccia been listened to more often over the years by both Liberal and Conservative governments, many of our ecological problems would be far less difficult than they are today. Unfortunately, he was the minister of the environment for only a very short time.

His concern for the environment was part of a larger ethic of care that made him an advocate for peace and social justice in general and a mentor to many in this place. I worked with him in the mid-eighties when we were our party's respective environment critics, on the environment committee, on the special committee on acid rain and on many issues of mutual concern over the years.

Many others will also gratefully remember the excellent work he did more recently as chair of the environment committee for over a decade, producing critical reports that challenged his own party and government.

Parliament could have used a lot more Charles Caccias. May his memory be instructive now and in Parliaments to come.

Victory in Europe Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, 63 years ago today, the guns in Europe fell silent after six agonizing years of conflict.

Today we pause to remember those who fought and the 45,300 Canadians who died on land, at sea and in the air as the allies triumphed over evil and set Europe free from Nazi tyranny.

We owe a debt that can never be fully repaid to those who served and those who never came home. These few words are my humble attempt to thank them.

I thank those of Churchill's Few. I thank those who braved the Atlantic and enemy submarines to keep Europe supplied. I thank those who fell at Dieppe and who stormed the shore at Normandy. I thank those who fought their way up the Italian boot and across North Africa. I also thank those who, night after night, flew into the valley of the shadow of death as members of Bomber Command. Fifteen Canadian squadrons were part of that incredible effort and 10,000 aircrew made the ultimate sacrifice.

Some of those who survived join us today as we remember Victory in Europe Day. We are privileged and proud to be in their presence.

Lest we forget.

Mother's Day
Statements By Members

May 8th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Steckle Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a nation that embraces various cultural lifestyles and groups. In spite of this obvious diversity, we also share many common traits. In particular, each one of us has a mother.

This Sunday we will observe the 94th annual Mother's Day, an observance that was originally set aside on May 11, 1914, as a way for us to remember the numerous and substantial personal sacrifices that our respective mothers made on our behalf. In many cases, our mothers put their own lives on hold to see that we were provided with the tools that we would require to enjoy a prosperous and rewarding future.

If we look back over our history, I am certain that we would see countless Canadians who made a difference to this country and to the world in general. If we look a little further, we would find that many of those remarkable achievements were made possible because of the selfless efforts and acts of caring provided to those people in their formative years.

I stand here today as a father, a grandfather, a husband, a successful businessman and a member of Parliament. I am blessed with success and have only one more thing to say to my mother, Seleda, who is preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday this fall, thanks, mother.