House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the intervention of the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine leads me to exactly what I wanted to say. It is the same NDP that for the sake of gaining a couple of seats--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

And $1.75 a vote. Don't forget that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

That is exactly what they did. They brought down the Liberal government.

This policy lies with the Liberal Party. Now NDP voters are very clear on it and in the next election they will deliver that, because they will not be voting for that party. They will be voting for the policy and that policy lies with the Liberal Party of Canada on this side of the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to oppose Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill.

I can assure members and the people of Nanaimo—Cowichan that I will actually be in my seat and will vote in the House when Bill C-50 comes before the House. Not only will I speak in opposition to the bill, but I will actually vote in opposition to the bill, unlike some members of the Liberal Party.

There are many good reasons to oppose the bill. On one of them, I will come back to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which has issued a paper called “A Budget Canadians Can Count On”. In the paper, the centre says:

The legacy of this minority government is one of neglect: the Conservative government has failed to address some of the most pressing issues of our time....

Canadians are working harder but they are struggling to afford the basics: housing, child care, post-secondary education. There has been nothing in the previous two Conservative budgets to address these issues. Canadians have not been able to count on their government to get them through shaky financial times.

The centre goes on to state:

This, for a minority government, is shocking. Its tax cut agenda to date reduces Canada's fiscal capacity by close to $190 billion over the next six years. That $190 billion could, and should, fund programs and services that all Canadians can count on but within a matter of years--the blink of an eye--it will have disappeared with no lasting investment in this and future generations of Canadians.

That in itself is a very good reason to oppose the budget implementation bill.

Over the last several months since the budget came out, we have seen increasing joblessness in Canada. A CBC story dated May 9 talked about the fact that manufacturing continued its decline in April, with losses in Ontario and British Columbia. The number of factory workers has decreased by 112,000 since April 2007, according to Statistics Canada. Recently, of course, we have heard of more layoffs in the auto sector, and certainly forestry is reeling.

In my province of British Columbia and my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, we have seen hundreds of jobs disappear over the last six months. We have heard nothing but absolute silence from the government. We have called on the government to institute a national forestry strategy and a national auto sector strategy. The silence is deafening.

The Financial Post of Saturday, May 10 said:

B.C.'s forestry industry has experienced hard times before, but nothing close to this. As long as fallers worked the forests, and truckers hauled their logs, and sawmills produced lumber, and pulp mills turned their waste to paper, the whole system, while precariously co-dependent, seemed to work.

With three production lines capable of producing 400,000 tonnes of pulp product a year, Harmac was the industry's Hercules. It was ageing, and not terribly efficient and probably in need of a major overhaul. But the mill was always counted on to chug along...

This week was black. A sawmill near Campbell River, on Vancouver Island, was scheduled to permanently close. Its owner, Vancouver-based TimberWest Forest Corp., had been trying to sell the Elk Falls plant since 2005. Another 257 jobs, gone. Production stopped this week at Harmac's sister pulpmill in Mackenzie, a town in the B.C. interior, putting 260 more people out of work. A thousand loggers and contractors on Vancouver Island were laid off this week by Western Forest Products Inc., a leader in the industry.

Trees are still being felled in B.C. forests, but more and more, logs are loaded onto ships and delivered, raw and cheap, to such countries as the United States and China, where they are processed. Trucks used to haul logs and wood products around the province are sitting idle.

The result: Mills are starving...A sawmill in Ladysmith, near Nanaimo, closed indefinitely in April. More than 80 workers just lost their jobs at a mill in Crofton, down the highway. Almost 150 people were told not to return to a papermaking plant near Campbell River.

According to the Forest Products Association of Canada, there have been 46 mill closures in B.C. since January, 2007, and 5,747 jobs lost. There is no fix on the horizon...

Nanaimo lost something integral. The city, a thriving, busy hub of shopping malls, new housing developments and myriad services, is at heart a mill town.

All of that was from the Financial Post, but I want to now put some names and faces to this, because this is not just about numbers. This is about people. It is about their families. It is about their children. It is about their grandchildren.

I want to talk a little more about what the article says about how this impacts on people's lives. The article states:

“We thought it would go on forever,“ said John Kloppenburg, 53, one of the few men who did stop to talk outside the mill on Wednesday...“It was my bread and butter for 34 years. And now...” His voice trailed off. “Now I feel lost.”

Further on the article states:

“Guys are looking for answers, they are trying to figure out how they are going to put their lives together,” says Gerry Tellier, president of president of the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers Union, Local 8....His father, Louie, started at the mill in 1951, three years after it opened. “He told me that if I was going to work for a living, I might as well work for a big company that's going to pay well, because they are likely going to stay around forever,” Mr. Tellier recalls.

He took his dad's advice, and signed on at Harmac in 1966. He passed the wisdom along to his own son, Trevor, who went to work at Harmac 20 years ago.

There are three generations of the Tellier family who worked at Harmac. Now they have lost their jobs and they are being forced into leaving the community where they grew up, a community which they love and which they contribute to in so many different ways.

Another person from my constituency, Laura Bohun, in writing on behalf of her husband, said:

As a voting taxpayer in the degenerating province of British Columbia, I feel I must call on you to address the issue of Employment Insurance. My husband is one of the many thousands of men across the country that lost long term forestry employment as a result of the criminal changes made to our forestry code by provincial government, ignored by federal Ministers....The rape of our forest communities continues the sell off of raw logs to the U.S. while forestry communities are dying.

After 26 years of employment at the Ladysmith Western Forest Products Mill (formerly known as Domans) he was given a one week notice (on April 17, 2008) and told that the mill was shutting its doors indefinitely, at least one year minimum. Since January of the same year, my husband only worked every other week on an on call basis. Never enough time off to apply for EI benefits until the mill shut down on May 5th.

She goes on in her letter to talk about the fact that her husband is going to face an unconscionable delay in even getting a decision about whether he qualifies for EI benefits. She recognizes the fact that there are surpluses, excuse me, that there were surpluses. She said:

I implore the powers that be to take some of this EI surplus and use it for the purpose it was intended to serve. How...are ordinary working class people supposed to stop paying mortgages and buying food while we wait for the government to give us back money they failed to disburse to us?

She goes on to talk about the fact that there are 10,000 other unemployed skilled workers in B.C. and that work is very hard to find, and that no one who makes $10 an hour can afford to own a house.

That is a critical point because in Bill C-50, there is a clause to actually set out the EI fund at arm's length to the government. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with setting the EI fund at arm's length so that successive governments cannot pilfer the fund, what we are really concerned about is that over $50 billion has disappeared from the EI fund. This is money that could be used to help workers in transition, to help them with bridging into other employment, to take a look at reinvesting in communities so that communities can diversify and make sure that families get to stay in their own communities instead of having to move somewhere else.

On March 5, the member for Acadie—Bathurst in a question put to the minister responsible for the EI fund, said:

Why does the reserve fund of the new crown corporation not contain the entire $57 billion that belonged to workers?

Fifty-seven billion dollars. The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development responded by saying:

Mr. Speaker, there is no question the Liberals did raid the EI account to the tune of well over $50 billion.

The minister acknowledges the wrong that was done by the Liberals but does nothing to rectify it. We are telling Canadians it is perfectly okay for the previous government to take $50 billion of workers' money, money that workers have paid into a fund for decades and never collected, and then when it is time to actually make sure that workers have that social safety net in place, the government says it is too bad. The money was pilfered by the Liberals, but the government is not going to put it back in the fund where workers can actually take advantage of that fund to make sure that their communities stay viable.

Mr. Speaker, I am very aware of parliamentary privilege and that we have to be very careful about how we talk about funds that go missing, but the member for Halifax today talked about a former finance minister and about misappropriation of funds. I would argue that when workers pay into a fund and expect it to be there and the fund disappears, that sounds like misappropriation.

We know that the previous Liberal government gutted the EI fund anyway. The Liberals took the money out and made sure that only one in four men and one in three women who were working could actually qualify. The Liberals reduced the amount that people would get to 55%. The benefit rate is now only 55% of their earnings. They made the number of hours much higher so that people would have more difficulty in qualifying.

What is happening right now in Nanaimo--Cowichan is that people who had worked for decades in the forestry industry, after five or six months on EI, are told that their benefits are running out because Nanaimo--Cowichan's unemployment rate is tied to that of the Lower Mainland, a completely different labour market. When we followed up to find out if there was anything that could be done about that, we were told that the regions are reconfigured every so many years and it is just not time. We wrote to the minister saying that these are real people who are worried about paying their mortgages, about sending their kids to college and could something not be done. The response to date has been silence.

Those 1,500-plus workers who have lost their jobs over the last six months, whether it was at Munns Lumber, Ted LeRoy Trucking, Catalyst Paper, Harmac Pulp Mill or Western Forest Products' Ladysmith mill, whatever the company, are all people who have homes in our communities, who pay taxes in our communities. Not only are those workers worried about whether or not they are going to have a future in our communities, but the municipalities are also worried about it. They are losing a good tax revenue source as these companies close. The very health and vitality of Nanaimo--Cowichan was the forestry sector. People are wondering what the future holds for them.

There are some very good reasons, just on the forestry sector alone in Nanaimo--Cowichan, British Columbia and across this country, for opposing this bill. This bill holds nothing for forestry. It holds nothing for the EI fund in terms of making sure money goes back to the workers who actually deserve it.

On another note, as the aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democrats, I have to draw attention to the shocking absence in the original budget speech and now in the budget implementation bill of meaningful measures for aboriginal people.

I have spoken many times in this House about the desperate poverty with respect to many first nations, Métis and Inuit, but as a reminder, 41% of aboriginal children under 14 were living in poverty nationally in 2001, rising to 51% in Manitoba and 52% in Saskatchewan. Those are shocking numbers. In Canada in this day and age we should not be talking about how poor the first nations, Métis and Inuit children and their families are, but sadly all we see is the government's inattention and neglect in such matters as education, housing, clean water, and many of the initiatives in early learning and child care that would actually help lift first nations, Métis and Inuit out of poverty.

We all know from the many studies that have been done that education is one of the tools that can be used to make sure that people have access to employment. In some areas there are skills shortages, for example, apprenticeable trades, physicians, medical technologists. There are many, many occupations where there are skills shortages. It has been studied to death, whether it was in the aboriginal affairs committee or the human resources committee, and the recommendations have consistently been to put more money into education. It is simple. The second piece of that is to make sure that first nations, Métis and Inuit are involved in designing, developing and delivering that education.

I have spoken about the First Nations Technical Institute many times in this House. We recently received a letter from the minister indicating that although the First Nations Technical Institute got some additional money this year, it is not likely to happen in future years. In fact the letter stated:

--the Department's preferred focus is on transferring tuition dollars directly to learners. As a result, 2007-2008 is the last year the Department will provide transitional funding to the First Nations Technical Institute.

This flies in the face of so many reports that have talked about the importance of indigenous control of education. The First Nations Technical Institute graduates high numbers of students. The students have a very high success rate in terms of placement in employment or further education. What we are hearing from the minister is, “Too bad. You have the results. You are performing, but too bad. You have to find some private money from somewhere”. First nations post-secondary students have to go to institutions that are privately funded from somewhere else. We do not ask other students in Canada to do that. Why would we ask first nations students to do it?

While I am talking about schooling, the member for Timmins—James Bay has been tireless in bringing forward the shameful fact that Attawapiskat children do not have access to a clean, safe public school.

We did a bit of research. We asked the Library of Parliament to do an analysis. The analysis showed that there was roughly $56 billion in federal corporate tax cuts from 2001 to 2007. Based on that amount, we could build every pending school project 177 times.

When we tried to get a list of what schools were pending for construction or renovation we were able to get the names of 39. We know the number is substantially more than that because of an access to information request. Based on 39 schools that needed renovation or construction, that would total $315,833,000. From the billions of dollars that were used for corporate tax cuts, surely we could have found $315 million to build schools to provide education for first nations children. Without proper education, first nations children will continue to face the wall of poverty that their mothers and fathers faced.

Officials from Indian and northern affairs appeared before committee. I posed a question to them around the funding issue. There are a couple of issues here. There is something called the band operating funding formula which allows the schools to continue to operate. We found that they received exactly the same money as they received last year even though we know that was substantially less than what is needed to operate the schools.

On reserve schools are substantially underfunded compared to schools off reserve. Does this mean a first nations child does not deserve the same level of education as an off reserve child? First nations children do not have access to computers or other technology or libraries. They do not have access to special needs programs or a speech therapist because they live on reserve and they are a first nations child.

I asked the associate deputy minister about the funding and he said that K to 12 funding is still part of the 2% funding cap and that is a challenge. It is a bit of an understatement to say that it is a challenge. The Auditor General has identified population growth at around 11% and yet funding has been less than 2% when a bunch of other elements are factored in, such as the cost of living and those kinds of things.

The 2% cap was put in under the previous Liberal government in 1995-96 as a cost saving measure despite the fact that it knew that the population was growing. The Conservatives have maintained that 2% funding cap despite all of the reports, including the Auditor General's report, that talk about the serious underfunding crisis in education, in housing, in health care.

I want to put a couple of faces to this issue.

The member for Timmins—James Bay has done an excellent job in raising the issue around Attawapiskat. Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognize that the children from Attawapiskat articulately talk about what it means for them to go to school.

The Canadian Press on January 24 published a report, “Funding crunch affects native schools”, which states:

“They've put a freeze on even our renovation dollars,” said the co-director of education for the Prince Albert Grand Council in Saskatchewan. It's one of the largest tribal councils in Canada, representing 12 bands and 26 communities.

Hill said at least a quarter of the council's 29 schools need major repairs.

Sometimes there isn't even a building. A school at Deschambault Lake in northern Saskatchewan hasn't been replaced since it burnt down in 2004.

That was four years ago. For four years those kids have been shipped all over their community, taking classes in basements and wherever else that space could be found. I would argue that in any community off reserve it would not take four years to get a school back on the ground; in fact, I know it would not. In other communities where schools have burned down, they have been rebuilt within two years.

The member for Timmins—James Bay did an access to information request on the state of school construction projects. I could not even find that one on the list.

We talk about the importance of education, yet the government keeps shovelling money away from education. It has underfunded so many projects. In the period 1999-2000 and 2006-07, a total of $72 million per year was reallocated internally from the capital facilities maintenance program to address the pressures in other areas.

When we are trying to fund schools, there has to be a dedicated pot of money that puts children first. We need to make sure that first nations kids on reserve have the same access to education as has every other off reserve child in this country. It is criminal that children are not getting that education.

We in the NDP will be opposing this bill on principle.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, particularly the reference she made earlier to employment insurance. I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify the framework under which employment insurance works.

The member talked about the employment insurance fund. In fact, in the days of the Liberal government there was no EI fund per se. There was a notional fund. The Conservative government is planning to set up a crown corporation or something, but the previous government had a notional fund.

In the late 1980s the auditor general requested that the government consolidate the EI fund, or notional fund, into consolidated revenue because the fund was in deficit. The EI fund, notional fund, was in deficit from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s. At that point, I do not recall the unions or management clamouring to Ottawa to say that they would make up the deficit.

Yes, it is true that the EI surplus did form part of consolidated revenue and helped the government deal with the $42 billion deficit left by the Conservative Party, but, as I said earlier, there was a string of seven or eight years when the EI fund was in deficit and there was a certain logic to allowing that to happen. Then when our government came in, it reduced the employment insurance premiums every year. We were able to get it to the point where now the Conservative government can look at it as a self-sustaining insurance fund.

Is the member aware of the history of EI fund and notional fund and would she look at it in the context of her remarks earlier, when she seemed to intimate that the surpluses were from the wages of workers and were exploited by the Government of Canada?

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very well aware of the CRF.

The member talked about the fact that there were a number of years when there were deficits in the EI fund and that the government had to step up to the plate to ensure workers would continue to have access to the social safety net that they quite rightly believed should be available to them. Then the surplus grew because of a number of factors, including raising the premiums. It also grew in part because the government reduced the amount of benefits that workers could actually collect. A significant number of workers are no longer eligible for the fund, despite the fact that they continue to pay premiums week after week.

We now have a crisis in manufacturing and forestry and workers simply do not have access to an adequate fund as a social safety net. The understanding of the workers is $50 billion have been paid into the fund over a number of years. They wonder why that social safety net is not in place for them. They simply do not understand why the present and previous governments have failed them in a most fundamental way. When we talk about a misappropriation of funds, I still maintain that workers deserve to have an adequate social safety net in place and their communities deserve to remain viable.

The current legislation puts $2 billion into the fund. The Auditor General has indicated those are insufficient funds to deal with potential labour crises in the country. She says that a minimum of $15 billion are required to be in the fund. If we want to ensure workers are looked after in this country, we need to ensure money is available to look after them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for her speech and particularly the soundness of her remarks regarding employment insurance. I find it unfortunate that the Liberal member provided some information that does not correspond to reality. I would remind the House that, in the past, when the fund was running a deficit—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Look, Mr. Speaker. The member is continuing. It is hard for him to hear the truth, because it is his party that created the problem.

As I was saying, when the fund was running a deficit, the public purse made up for the deficit with a loan. And every time, additional contributions had to be made in order to pay back those loans.

Over the years, after this fund was rolled into the consolidated revenue fund, both successive governments—the Conservatives until 1993 and the Liberals after that—began dipping into it. How did they go about it? They began restricting access to employment insurance and lowering benefits, to the point that, today, out of everyone who pays into employment insurance, only approximately 40% can hope to receive benefits, since about 60% of them have been excluded. That is how they have accumulated surpluses, namely, on the backs of people who lose their jobs. That is the Liberals' pathetic record and I understand why the Liberal Party gets worked up when we bring it up.

My question for my colleague is as follows. Does she not believe it is time for the government to pay back, gradually, over the long term, the money that was diverted from the employment insurance fund?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do believe that the money the workers have paid into the fund for all these years should be returned to it.

For example, I spoke earlier about the critical skills shortage in our country. One of the ways that EI money could be used is to enhance training money, currently available through HRDC, and do some of that bridge training for unemployed workers, like forestry workers, so they can take advantage of some of the skills shortages. I know Bloc members have been very vocal about programs for bridging for older workers. Back in the early eighties, some effort was made to bridge pension funds for workers who were 55 plus, where there were major industrial downturns.

The Liberal member who spoke previously talked about the consolidated revenue fund. It really is smoke and mirrors to talk about the consolidated revenue fund, taking money out of it and supplementing from other areas. The bottom line is workers and their employers pay premiums and they expect that money to be dedicated to a social safety net for workers, their families and their communities.

Members can play it whatever way they want in terms of the money that went into consolidated revenues, that we had access to it to pay down other money. This is nonsense. The money belongs to the workers and it should be used for the workers. Any other avenue is simply a misappropriation. If the government wants to tell those workers that they do not get to take advantage of those funds, it should be up front about it, particularly when they pay their EI premiums on every paycheque. It should tell them that the money will be used for something else and not for the workers.

Workers have an expectation that the EI fund will be used for the benefit of workers and their communities and it should remain in that context.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak today to the budget bill. I want to speak about a number of problems I have with the fiscal management of the Conservatives.

I will be maintaining consistency in standing against the budget, but ensuring there are not enough people that the government falls at this time. I do not have a rush of constituents who want an election this week. However, that does not negate the fact that there are all sorts of problems with the fiscal management of the government, and I want to go through a number of smaller items I may not have had a chance to mention in previous budget debates.

The first is related to Northern Native Broadcasting. Its fiscal year ends April 1 and it is waiting for a decision on its funding. If members of Parliament did not get their paycheques since April 1, they would pretty upset.

Last year I brought up the fact that Northern Native Broadcasting, a very large and important organization in native broadcasting in Canada, did not receive its cheque until October. Once again this year it has not received a decision on its funding. This year is especially unique. Because of new requirements for high definition television, it has to lay off six of its crew. This is totally unacceptable. I hope the Department of Canadian Heritage will make good on this very soon, get the decision made for whatever adjustments have to be made and get the payroll flowing. It should not have to be behind the eight ball like this every year.

The second point I have mentioned a couple of times in this debate, but it is so urgent I have to mention it again, is related to the refugees on the Thai-Burma border in Thailand. There are 140,000 of them there. The price of rice has gone up three times since Christmas. The results of that is the Thai-Burma border control, which feeds these people with the money it receives from 14 countries, including Canada which it has donated for 10 years, does not have enough money. In fact, it has a $7 million shortfall. The people's housing rations are already cancelled as are many other things. They are eating six or seven types of food. The critical decision day will be tomorrow, when they will be cut back to basically one type of food, which is rice and salt.

Imagine eating rice for every meal. That is what these people will be eating. Not only that, they will have only half the amount the nutritionists say on which people need to survive. It is going to be a disaster. The refugee program is going to collapse. It is not like I have not mentioned this before and that the government is not aware of it. When the prime minister in exile met with the Prime Minister of Canada a few weeks ago, he made an urgent, critical plea. Therefore, the Liberals or the parliamentary friends of Burma are not the only ones saying this. The prime minister in exile of Burma as well as the members from all parties in the House of Commons and Senate understand this critical crisis, and that is the TBBC, at its board meeting tomorrow, will have to make these harsh decisions about lives of people.

This is a tiny amount of money in the grand scheme of things. It is simply $1 million. If Canada comes in, the other donor countries will be convinced to raise their donations so these people can at least eat enough rice in a day to survive. I know all members of Parliament want to help out in this crisis. I ask the minister responsible for CIDA to please make a decision somehow to give this small amount of $1 million tomorrow to increase the food aid to the 140,000 people who will in such a dire condition. They are depending on Canada and a few other countries.

The next item I mentioned earlier today, and I want to mention again because it is almost unbelievable, is the government has cut back its future funding on polio. How could members of Parliament ever suggest that we would want to cut back on that?

Polio, as we all know, can cause a person to be crippled. There are people around the world who are called crawlers. Not only are they crippled, but they crawl around for their whole lives because they do not have the crutches to help them to stand or wheelchairs to move around in. They do not even have that. What a sad state of affairs when it only costs 60¢ to vaccinate these people. How could a modern country like Canada deny that 60¢? What is even more phenomenal is that approximately 10% of Canadians are not even vaccinated against polio. It could happen to us.

I would ask the government, for that small amount of money that would be pocket change for the government, to please reinstate our support for the fight against polio and let us eradicate it from the face of the earth.

The next area I want to talk about is child care, not globally, just one small aspect of it, because we have talked about it globally and we know we will not convince the Conservatives to reintroduce the national child care program that we had. I want to talk about the funding for the Canadian Child Care Federation. My information, unless it is outdated, is that it had all sorts of support. This is a national organization that really helps organize child care workers. It speaks for them and advances their cause. I do not think any MP, including governments, would be against that type of objective to help out in that area.

This organization needs funding because a lot of the funding from the past is no longer there. I will give some sources of past funding. It had a capacity grant of about $750,000 from HRSD in 2007 but that was terminated this year. It had received $154,149 for national crime prevention but that was terminated this year.

According to information given to me by the Canadian Child Care Federation, the funding from the Canadian International Development Agency has been terminated.

In 2007, the organization received $260,469 from the Public Health Agency of Canada but the funding was terminated on March 31 of this year.

Heritage Canada had a project in 2005 but that has been terminated.

I would encourage the government to at least support this national child care organization to help make it better for the children. This is not the $5 billion that we put into national child care program. This money would be to help the organization to provide information, advocacy and improve the operation of child cares in Canada.

The next item I want to mention is the clawback of military pensions. I have asked a number of ministers to look into this and I am hoping for a response soon. As we know, a lot of military people have made the case that when they turn 65 there is a clawback in their pension system. I think most MPs have heard of this. I would like a comprehensive reply on that. It is not just veterans who are now asking. It has been passed as a motion in the Yukon government. So there is another entire government asking for the government to deal with this.

The next area I want to deal with is homelessness and to once again implore the government to make decisions on some of the very successful and critical programs related to homelessness. I cannot imagine there would be an MP in this House who would not abide by the dictum that we rate a nation by how it deals with its most vulnerable and, among the most vulnerable, obviously, are the homeless.

Canada, over the years, has come up with some programs that have helped out and some programs that have been very successful. Obviously a lot more could be done, which I will not go into, but it should at least not let the things that are working die as we come up with new solutions.

There are a number of programs, three of them in particular, that have been very successful in my area and, I think, across the country from what we have heard in the House. The first is the national homelessness partnering strategy, which has been a huge success in my riding. It is always totally subscribed. There are shelters for people who have never had a shelter before.

That program is scheduled to expire at the end of March, 2009 and I implore the finance minister to announce very soon that he will reinstate that program. In all these things, we cannot make an announcement the day before because people need time for planning. This program is run by local committees, which is one of the reasons for its success.

The second area is the residential rehabilitation assistance program which helps people to fix up their houses, especially those who are disabled and elderly, once again, the people most need it. In this time of oil price increases, it will be incredibly painful. I do not know how some poor people, people on fixed incomes and elderly people will survive if heating oil stays at the rate it is now. I will talk about that later in my speech.

We should not let that program expire because it at least helps people to fix up their houses so they will not need to use as much heating oil, which they cannot possibly afford. I implore the Minister of Finance to please announce soon that this program will continue past March 2009. Canadians of all political stripes have said that it has been very successful. I hope the minister lets the people know now so the whole machinery of the program does not shut down and people are not left in the lurch. The program needs to carry on smoothly.

The last area I want to mention is the affordable housing initiative. With the prices the way they are in Canada, I think it is pretty clear to everyone that affordable housing is very essential.

The next area I want to talk about is the residential schools. Along with the residential school settlement, there was an agreement that Health Canada would provide services to the survivors who are obtaining payments. As we know, after they received their payments, there were a number of sad stories about those survivors.

During the walk on the day of protest, and there obviously were a number of things to protest but I probably will not have time to get into them in my speech today, the people with whom I was walking, who work at the national associations, were saying that this service was not being provided in the way it was supposed to be.

I certainly hope the government will deal with that. In fact, I would hope the government would meet with the national aboriginal organizations to come up with solutions concerning the reasons they were having the national protest. It was only the second one in history, the last one being last year. It would be a very wise, mature and thoughtful thing for the government to sit down with those national aboriginal leaders, ask them about the key items on the day of protest and then ask what can be done to work on those. This, of course, would have financial ramifications, budget ramifications.

The next area I want to talk about is justice. Being on the justice committee, it is an area we spent a lot time on this year. The government brought forward a number of justice bills that would incarcerate a lot more Canadians for a lot more time. Fortunately, a lot of the bad bills did not get through, but there was no budget to go with it to pay for the increased people in the jails and the services that they would need. In fact, when those services were terribly underfunded in the first place, it makes that strategy counterproductive. Although it was counterproductive anyway, it makes it even worse.

If people go into jails and they do not have the appropriate rehabilitation, educational, anger management, personal and readjustment services, they will come out much more likely to reoffend. Where was the investment for all of that over and above all the extra services that would be caused by this increased incarceration that was roundly decried by the experts who came before the justice committee to talk about the solutions?

One of the really successful programs, and I commend the justice minister for supporting it this year, is the aboriginal justice strategy. However, what I have been asking for a number of times is that it be made permanent. Once again, if we have something that is part of the justice system, it must be funded. We would not appoint more judges next year and the next year and then decide in the following year whether we will provide the funds for those judges. It is part of the system.

Therefore, the aboriginal justice strategy should be made permanent. It should not be right on the edge to the end of the year as it was a couple of years ago.

The next area I want to talk about is gasoline. We are in a critical time with rising oil and gas prices, which can be particularly problematic for seniors and people on fixed incomes. When we were in government we had a fund to help those people get through a cruel winter.

Everyone has a big problem with income trusts, which was a major broken promise that cost seniors billions of dollars.

The one thing that was promised for the north was two icebreakers and we obviously do not have them. One has been announced way into the future but that is another broken promise.

There is no money yet for northern economic development. I hope that will come through.

This is National Tourism Week. I wish the government would understand that this is a huge sector for the national economy, some $70 billion a year, and it should take it seriously. It should stop cutting things like the museum assistance program which was cut by 25%. It should reinstate the GST rebate that all countries in the world have for tourists. My riding is dependent on tourism and it is being hit particularly hard because of the high Canadian dollar and high gas prices. At least the government should not make it worse by doing things like cancelling the GST rebate.

Finally, the government cancelled the $5 billion for aboriginal people, some of the most needy in our country. It cancelled $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and infrastructure, $170 million for policy capacity of aboriginal organizations and $1.350 billion for health.

I could go on but I do not have enough time. I mentioned a number of areas and I hope the government listened because I made them in a positive way and they could help Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I would like to advise the hon. member that when we come back to the study of Bill C-50 he will have 2 minutes left in his debate and 10 minutes under questions and comments.

Business of the House
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultations between all the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following two motions concerning upcoming votes. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the deferred recorded divisions on second reading of Bill C-393, on report stage amendments, concurrence and third reading of Bill C-377, and on second reading of Bill C-490, currently scheduled to be held immediately before the time provided for private members' business on June 4, be held instead at 3 p.m. on June 4.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. minister have unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.