House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the eloquence of my hon. colleague from Cape Breton—Canso in talking about matters that I think are important to this entire Parliament.

He mentioned that several amendments were brought forward at committee and were subsequently withdrawn. I would ask the member to give us this thoughts on this.

After a committee has deliberated on this, taking valuable input from witnesses and using its own collective wisdom as parliamentarians from all sides of the House, after all of that, why is it that a standing committee of the House of Commons could forward amendments after significant deliberation only to have them thrown out? Could the hon. member comment on what that does to the whole process of crafting better legislation for the protection of the interests of all Canadians?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, as committees do their work, I think many committees function well and do so in the best interests of the people of a particular community that they serve. In this instance, where there is political benefit, I see the government seeing that the amendments that were there levelled the playing field. If taken out, there would be a disadvantage to the Liberal Party of Canada.

I think it is well known that we have had struggles adapting to the new reforms, even when we presented them initially. We have had challenges. I think things are starting to turn the corner and improve as far as broadening our base of support. That would be for leaderships plus the funding of the parties, and election funding.

Certainly, when the two right-wing parties merged, the Progressive Conservatives and the Reformers, the Reformers had a broad base of support. They were able to take that and evolve that into where they are now for funding their party. They are fairly comfortable where they are.

We are yet to reach that point, but in striking the amendments that have been presented by the committee, that would further handcuff our party. It would be a greater challenge for us to reach that maturity of a broader donor base and so we would hope that those amendments, as presented in committee, will stand. We would be able to support the legislation should they stand.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the fact that toward the end of his response to the question, the hon. member got to what I think is the nub of the issue, that he sees the amendments that were proposed as having policy merit. I must admit that I do not really agree with him on that point, but I am glad he said that because he had been feeling a bit frustrated during his earlier remarks when he was talking about the process, saying that we ought not in this chamber to be revisiting amendments made in committee.

Well, that is why the process is set up this way. Committees make recommendations effectively to the House and the House can either accept them or reject them. That is the purpose of doing things this way. If we wanted to have the committee's word be the final word, we would change the Standing Order's instructions.

I just wanted to get that on the record because I do not think that process or argument was really very legitimate.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I will take note of that, Mr. Speaker, but I know in no way would he want to diminish or dismiss the good work that committees do. In this particular case, I would hope that the government would abide by the human resources committee. In this particular case, I see that the recommendations that came forward from committee are strong. They held a broad base of support within that committee and I would hope that they would stand here in the House.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on this particular legislation. I will join with my colleague in asking the government to resume a principled position of respecting the will of Parliament, the will of committees, and maintain the substance of the amendments that were put forward by the committee during the course of its deliberations. These, of course, were very well thought out. They received input from Canadians from all over, from all walks of life, but expert opinion as well.

I think it is very important that when we look at new drafts of the Canada Elections Act, we look at all the issues. One of things that I think is missing here is that there are obviously other issues as well that the government has not brought forward for consideration.

For example, just not too long ago, there was an issue where the governing party, the Conservative Party of Canada, was involved in a dispute with Elections Canada over the inclusion or the non-inclusion of convention fees as they relate to a political contribution which is tax receiptable. The dispute went on. There was much dissatisfaction expressed by the government toward Elections Canada on its point of view.

However, I believe, at the end of the day, there was some reconciliation that the Conservative Party of Canada had the matter wrong and Elections Canada had the matter right. We do not really know exactly what the Conservatives did about that, it has not been widely reported, but we understand that they have accepted that because they have offered no amendments or revisions to the Elections Act to provide any further clarity toward their point of view.

The second issue, of course, is related to the supposed in and out scandal. In my own constituency, the Conservative candidate in the last election was named by Elections Canada as participating in that. I understand, and I fully believe, he probably did so completely unwittingly. His official agent was given specific information from the party offices, the headquarters, related to the nature of the transfer.

Probably questions should have been asked, but they were not. But, of course, within the Elections Canada Act, if there is a dispute about that, the governing party has offered no amendments to put forward its point of view on that. That I think is very relevant.

In my own constituency of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, about a year and a half ago, the entire Conservative riding association resigned en masse, I was told this by a former executive of the riding association, over a dispute about the Atlantic accord. It took this position principally on principle, but it did so because it was very dissatisfied with the nature of the political process. It was given a promise and a commitment that it would indeed be honoured. The government's position at the time was that--

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order. It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private member's business, as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill C-29, there will be seven minutes left for the hon. member.

The House resumed from April 7 consideration of Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about this excellent private member's bill, introduced by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, a member who does an excellent job. I would also like to say that the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is an example for everyone in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, a region that, for various reasons, is not always favoured economically. One of those reasons is the current serious forestry and manufacturing crisis.

Obviously, one way to deal with the forestry and manufacturing crisis is to encourage businesses to hire young people. That is what this wonderful bill, Bill C-207, introduced by my colleague for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, seeks to do.

I will summarize the bill for you. The Bloc Québécois does not reinvent the wheel. Our goal in this House has never been to claim that we are all-knowing. We are able to look at what other parliaments are doing and borrow their positive initiatives. One of those positive initiatives came from the Quebec government, which implemented a similar credit in 2003. Their goal was to curb the exodus of young people—this bill has that same goal—as well as to deal with the shortage of skilled labourers.

This bill would introduce a tax credit for young graduates who accept jobs in a resource region. Under the bill, this credit would be equal to 40% of the young graduate's salary for the first year, to a maximum of $8,000.

In 2003, the first year the Government of Quebec instituted a similar credit, 2,500 young workers applied for it. In 2004, the number rose to 9,700. There was a tremendous increase of 7,000 young workers between 2003 and 2004.

This applies to all designated regions, which are regions with a declining population. That is the bill's objective. As I have already said, and will continue to say, my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is being practical. He looked at the situation in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, decided to take the bull by the horns and deal with depopulation.

There is not one member in this House who can afford to ignore such situations. When areas such as Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean experience an exodus of youth we must try to find solutions. The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has made a good attempt, in tabling Bill C-207, to do something about the exodus of youth and the shortage of skilled labour.

This tax credit for designated regions will not apply to just the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area. The bill will apply to all Quebec and Canadian regions that may experience depopulation so that we can retain our youth and deal with the shortage of skilled labour.

We will see, in this House, those members who care about the regions. We will see where political parties stand when they vote on Bill C-207. I cannot fathom that there would be a Conservative member who would vote against. The former mayor of Roberval is from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region and the member forRoberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. I met this member when he was mayor of Roberval and he had a backbone. It seems that he has become spineless since becoming a member of the Conservative Party. We will see what he does and how he will react to the vote on Bill C-207.

Once again, the minister responsible for this region, the member for Jonquière—Alma, has already said he opposes this bill. That is not surprising because he was already a spineless Conservative. He only has himself to blame.

There is one thing, however. Once again, this bill, which was introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, simply duplicates a measure adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec in 2003 that produced positive results. I invite people to listen to the figures once again. I am pleased to repeat them, since some of my colleagues in this House seem to prefer to hold the party line. They will be given documents prepared by their research staff and what I have to say will certainly not appear in their documents.

With respect to the program instituted in Quebec, in 2003, 2,500 people took advantage of it and in 2004, that number rose to 9,700 people. It continues to increase all the time. This therefore allows businesses to hire young people and allows the regions to stop the exodus of young people. It does not apply to all regions of Quebec. Some regions of Quebec are seeing a growth in population, like elsewhere in Canada.

The regions that are experiencing growth do not warrant such assistance, but we must do everything we can to keep young people and jobs in the regions with declining populations. We must stop the decline of the regions. That is the major problem created by the current crisis in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. We run the risk of losing our entire work force in the regions, of losing all the expertise and experience of those men and women who were the economic driving force of our regions.

And this is all because the Conservative Party decided not to give businesses direct assistance. They offer tax credits, but those are not refundable. A forestry or manufacturing business that is not turning any profit will not get any tax credits and cannot benefit from the advantages of the budget that was tabled. The Conservatives do not seem to understand that if a business is not paying taxes, tax credits must be refundable.

We also need a plan to help companies modernize. In the case of the forestry sector, trees will continue to grow. It is not a matter of telling people, as the Conservatives are doing, to try to find a new career, when forestry workers have experience in that field. They are being told to go into computer technology or into other economic diversification sectors. Meanwhile, the trees will continue to grow. If we want to compete, we need to modernize our companies and help them purchase state-of-the-art technology so that they can become more competitive and regain their position on the market.

The Conservatives decided to leave it to the free market. They saw that smaller companies had been taken over by larger ones, and that the larger ones will not make it through the crisis. The situation will play out as they want it to. There will be regions living off the forest that will no longer have an economy, and the people will move to larger centres. That is not what the Bloc Québécois wants.

My colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is doing excellent work. I am always surprised by what I read in the news in his region. Even the media, which is often rather tough on the Bloc Québécois, believe that he is doing excellent work. That is to his credit, but not to the credit of the two Conservative members from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

I am anxious to see how the Conservative members will vote on this bill. I thought that the former mayor of Roberval, the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, found it interesting. Then he realized that there is the Conservative Party line to toe when the minister, the member for Jonquière—Alma, said that he opposed the idea. He is probably about to vote against a measure that would help young workers in his region and stop them from leaving the area.

I always find that surprising. I am always amazed to see a Quebecker buckle before the Canadian right and to give in. I have a great deal of difficulty with that. He is repudiating our values, the interests we defend and our citizens for the sake of the future of a political party that no longer has a future and that will see what happens in the next election. Perhaps the time has come for Quebec MPs to rise and defend the regions of Quebec, whether they are Conservatives or Liberals.

They will be in a position to say to Quebec's designated regions experiencing depopulation and the exodus of their youth that, for once, they will implement a positive measure on their behalf—one that produced results in 2003 when implemented by a similar law by the Quebec government. Quite simply, it would give this opportunity—

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member.

I now recognize the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-207.

Unfortunately, I cannot support this bill, because it is flawed and expensive.

However, I supported a bill that created a fund for the manufacturing industry and I supported a budget that creates a package through which manufacturing businesses throughout Quebec can expand and create good, well paying jobs.

As usual, the sponsor of the bill introduces bills to impress the gallery, but unfortunately, he did not act at the right time. He did not stand up for Quebeckers, to support concrete measures for Quebec industry.

I would simply like to remind the sponsor of this bill that the economic outlook is very encouraging at this time. The manufacturing sector in Quebec saw an employment increase in the last quarter. Imagine that. These are encouraging numbers in terms of job creation in the manufacturing sector. There was also an increase in the net number of jobs created in Quebec.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, you can hear them, too. I would like the members to listen to me. I had enough respect to listen to them and I would like them to do the same.

This is yet another in a slew of disappointing and really poorly thought-out economic proposals coming from the Bloc Québécois, proposals that really do not address the priorities of Quebeckers in any meaningful way. It is such poor proposals that have even led the sponsor’s Bloc colleague, the member from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, to admit, and I quote:

The economy is constantly an albatross for us. We are profoundly uncomfortable when it comes to discussing the economy.

The Bloc members had the chance to support budgets that included concrete measures to help Quebec's economy, but they remained seated. Other colleagues, such as the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, rose in this House and stood up for the people of Lac-Saint-Jean by supporting these measures. Colleagues like the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles rose and stood up for Quebeckers. They are working here, proud to be both Quebeckers and Canadians.

Why did the majority of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance vote against this bill? Because of its many serious and glaring flaws and the fact that it does not hold water.

First, the designated regions referenced in the bill are drawn from a list that has not been updated in over 20 years and does not account for the economic changes that have taken place during that time.

Second, the tax credit would also introduce inequities in the tax system: inequities between recent graduates and those who graduated earlier, and inequities between new graduates who work in different regions.

Third, the credit would be exceedingly expensive. The money could be invested elsewhere to support our manufacturing sector, which would create jobs and keep our young people in regions such as Bellechasse, Les Etchemins and other regions throughout Quebec.

Bill C-207 tries to use the tax system to encourage new graduates to work in certain regions of Canada in order to address perceived skills shortages, but attempts to do that in ways which, in the end, would make the tax measure ineffective. It would, for example, only provide tax relief to a new graduate's first 52 weeks of qualified employment. What happens after the initial 52 weeks when there is no longer a credit available? Clearly, this type of measure cannot yield long term benefits to regions, and I am not even sure it would have an incremental impact in the short term beyond reducing taxes for a selected group of workers.

Another concern with the bill is that it does not make any attempt to target skills sets that are in short supply in a designated region or that could benefit its development. As I just mentioned, it has been 20 years since the list of designated regions was updated.

That is not all. There are other flaws in the bill. As I said, it would create severe inequities by discriminating between regions, and between groups of graduates.

Graduates who finish their programs around the same time, but who live and work in different regions, could face entirely different income tax burdens during their first year of employment. That would result in inequities and create two classes of graduates. As well, two graduates working in the same job and region, but whose graduation dates are a year apart, would face an $8,000 gap in their respective tax burdens. This, too, is patently unfair.

Finally, this bill would be incredibly expensive. Not only would it be ineffective, it would be costly. Estimates suggest that the credit could cost up to $600 million, money that would be taken away from other areas on a tax measure for which the outcome is uncertain.

This bill is the wrong way to go.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

The member had opportunities to support real measures for workers and apprentices, but he chose not to stand up for those measures.

While we all believe it is important to provide our young people with the training and education opportunities they need to compete in a knowledge economy, it is important we do that in a responsible and effective manner.

This government has committed, through Advantage Canada, to creating the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. To achieve that goal, this government has taken action in a number of areas. The people on this side, Conservatives from Quebec, did stand up to support these measures.

For instance, Budget 2007 included a $2.4 billion transfer for social programs, a 40% increase. These tools will enable Quebec to support all of the measures and programs developed for young people. The government has provided the greatest number of scholarships ever granted to graduate students, and it has eliminated the federal income tax on all income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships.

I want to remind the sponsor of this bill that the new Canada Student Grant Program is investing $350 million. We believe in our young people, in our young Quebeckers and young Canadians. We want them to be the most successful in the world. In 2012, this allocation will increase to $430 million. Our new grant program will support low and middle income students in particular who will be able to enrol in school with the security of knowing they will be awarded a grant for each year of study. And the new grant program will provide support to over 100,000 students more than the old, heavily criticized system would have supported. We are taking action, making corrections and getting things done.

What is more, this government is spending more money than any other on youth skills development and training. For instance, we have created a new apprenticeship tax credit of up to $2,000 per apprentice per year. Unfortunately, the Bloc did not vote in favour of this. The Conservatives, however, stood up to support this bill.

We also have a $1,000 grant system for the cost of tools so that not only can our young people work in a trade, but they can also have the financial resources to get the tools they need to be prepared for the job market, with tax deductions to boot.

It is no coincidence that with the policies put in place by our government's Minister of Finance, nearly 750,000 jobs have been created in Canada since our election—and of these jobs, 80% are full time. The employment rate is at a 33-year high. Hon. members have had an opportunity to support the budget, but unfortunately they remained seated. Fortunately, we have Conservative members from Quebec to defend the interests of Quebec.

Obviously, I will not be able to support this bill because, again, it was not well prepared. I truly hope that my colleagues will agree with the points I have raised today and join the majority of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance in realizing that this bill is going nowhere. It is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

The Liberals and the Conservatives have also rejected this bill. I hope my colleagues will vote against this proposal and instead support the concrete measures to support our young people in all the regions of Quebec and the country.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

June 6th, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise during private member's business to speak to Bill C-207 put forward by the Bloc member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

As has been covered in the debate, and I do not want to spend too much time describing the bill, it prescribes a tax benefit through a tax credit to allow employees, in areas which have economic challenges, who may have skills needs but may not be able to compete with some of the more attractive centres, an opportunity to work in those centres.

I can only imagine what Canada would be like if some of the smaller, economically challenged regions and communities in our country were to continue to fall behind. The population and businesses would decline, people would move away, jobs would be lost, and companies would shut down.

I believe this bill is important for Canada because it has to do with the shared value of the need for regional economic development. There are areas within our country that need some assistance from time to time to ensure they have some of the tools they need to continue to be economically vibrant.

We can imagine new graduates with the needed skills having opportunities to go to work in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. What about a place like Abitibi-Témiscamingue? Is it going to be able to compete with the fancy job in Montreal? Is it going to be able to pay the same money to attract a skills set to that area?

When I look around the country, I feel like saying that Canada is a picture or painting which has many aspects to it. How many of those parts of the picture can be taken away and still retain the integrity of the picture? It is very easy to imagine that Canada could shrink to urban economic centres. Eighty per cent of our population lives within 100 kilometres of the U.S. border.

There is a real threat and it affects not just agricultural communities, not just resource communities but thriving communities that have good fundamental economic bases, and they are at risk. That is why we have regional economic development programs because we need to ensure that there is a continuation of operations and the sustainability of communities.

When I spoke to the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, I looked at some of the names of the places. I do not know how many members may have been to places like Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador; Cape Breton; the north shore of Nova Scotia; Miramichi or Edmundston in New Brunswick; Gaspésie; Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec; Estrie, Quebec; Laurentides; and Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Windsor-Sarnia right now is undergoing a tremendous downturn in its economic outlook. Housing has gone down and unemployment has gone up. This was not the case a long time ago. Communities like Windsor were vibrant. The economic spin was going very well. Now, Windsor is becoming a have not area. It is just like a number of other communities across the country, whether it be in eastern or western Canada, northern Ontario or within Quebec. Circumstances change.

In fact, we are experiencing a significant shift in wealth and economic activity in Canada right now. Resource provinces are doing extremely well: Alberta, Saskatchewan and now Newfoundland. But 60% of the economic activity in Canada is in Ontario and Quebec collectively. That is where there is a lot of manufacturing going on and that is where there are going to be great pressures in terms of both employment and population dropping.

Populations are shifting where the resources are. I do not know what happens when finite resources start to disappear. I assume that people will migrate back again to the next best opportunity.

In the meantime, what will be the consequences? What areas will have to be sacrificed because we have not taken the initiative to provide certain incentives to allow them to sustain themselves when there are significant economic challenges.

We need our young people to be proud and to continue to be part of the communities in which they were raised. We do not want them all to stay in that community. We need to allow them to be as good as they can be. It may be a matter of graduates being able to go into another community which may be very similar, maybe not an urban centre, but chances are the economic advantages will not be there and will not be attractive enough for them, compared to other opportunities.

This particular bill provides at least initial economic assistance for these individuals to go, to take that job in a community that they know is the best fit for their skills, or is in an area in which they feel most comfortable. It is a win-win situation, not only for these individuals but also for the community and for the country as a whole.

I looked at the evidence presented at the finance committee. Everybody thinks that the committee did a very good job on this. I must say that I was a little concerned because one of the members of the committee, and I will not name the member or his party, but the member did say:

So the goal of your bill is to get young people to stay where they're from; it has nothing to do with making sure that the skill sets are meeting the needs of certain areas.

That tells me that this member did not even read the bill nor even understand the bill. In fact, the objective of the bill is quite the opposite. It is not to ask people to stay where they are, it is to give them the opportunity to go where they have the best opportunity to get that job and to develop those skills.

Then I hear another member over here saying, “You give them a tax benefit for one year, and then what are they going to do?” He has a lot of studies. I did not see any, but I can only assume. He can make that assertion. He asks, “After one year, what will they do?” He would say that they may leave because they are just there for the little tax credit, but once the tax credit ends, they are gone.

I know of members, even in my own caucus, who said, “My kid went to a community. He said he is going there for a year or two years”. That was eight years ago and that individual is still there doing that job because when a person gets that first job and develops that skill, his or her career is starting to build. People do not build careers by bopping around, job to job, every year, looking for a tax credit. We have to respect people's intelligence a little bit more than that.

I see that my time is up. I have a few more things that I really would like to say about the bill, but let me just say that I have taken enough time to look at it and I believe that the approach of the bill is sound.

There may be some disagreement or some discussion about the mechanics, but Quebec has had such a program since 2006. I understand that about 10,000 graduates were eligible. It is estimated that some 30,000 Canadian students, graduating with good skill sets, ready to serve Canada no matter in what region they choose to, would be eligible for such a program.

How can we be against that? It is the right thing to do. I support it and I will encourage my caucus to support the bill.