House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recovery.

Topics

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to comments that were made outside the country, I will remind my good friend of the comments made by his leader with respect to Canada when he was outside the country. They were, indeed, shameful.

The parliamentary secretary said this is not a made in Canada recession. I want to ask him a question that many Canadians are asking me. A short three and a half years ago the reformed Conservative government inherited a $13.2 billion surplus. It now has a $56 billion deficit, for a total of close to $70 billion. Canadians are asking where it blew $70 billion and they are making the following comparison. The Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney increased the deficit in nine years by approximately $21 billion. At this rate, the reformed Conservative government of today is blowing $70 billion every three years. If it governs as the Mulroney government did, in nine years we will be in a deficit of over $210 billion. Can he tell us where this money is going and how we are going to recover it?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate his enthusiasm and I hope no Canadians were listening to his math. I guess that is Liberal math.

Since this Conservative government has been fortunate enough to lead this country, we have paid down $37 billion in debt. That is one of the main reasons we are able to withstand a short-term deficit that we are now running.

As to the incredible statement that the hon. member made about blowing money, he should tell that to an unemployed individual who is now receiving employment insurance. He should tell that to an unemployed individual who is now receiving retraining. He should tell that to an unemployed individual who has an extra five weeks of employment insurance. If that is his view of blowing money, I think Canadians are going to take exception to that sort of comment.

The Liberals talk about their surplus. In fact, they have talked about the surplus that was legislated. Members have heard me make this comment in the House before. It was never legislated. Under a Liberal government there were budget bills passed that had a surplus in them, but there was never a legislated contingency fund, which is the term they use. It was never there.

This government has the interests of Canadians at heart. To suggest that we are blowing money on encouraging Canadians to be able survive in this downturn is unbelievable.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the outset that while we in the NDP support Bill C-51, I have a question for the parliamentary secretary regarding the CPP amendments.

One of the benefits is a reduced incentive to retire early and an increased incentive to stay in the workforce longer. I would like to know from the parliamentary secretary what the government's models show as to the projected number of people who will be affected by this. In other words, how many people will take a pass on early retirement and elect to stay in the workforce longer, based on the formula it proposed, and what sort of basis did it present for these numbers?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I would use the terms the hon. member used in referring to the changes in the Canada pension plan.

We need to remember that the Canada pension plan has a triennial review and it is under the joint administration, so to speak, of the provinces, the territories and the federal government. It was reviewed and that review was reported back to the finance ministers in May, with the recommendation that it was actuarially sound. However, there were some minor changes suggested to do with, as the hon. member said, early access to the Canada pension plan for those 60 years of age and older.

It was felt by all ministers across this country that it was not exactly fair, that some improvements needed to be made. They are minor changes. They will impact very few and will impact only those who will be coming into that system in the future.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance for his speech today and his leadership on the finance committee. I appreciate his advice. I am a member of the finance committee and his leadership has made a big difference in that the committee actually works well.

My question is simple. The Liberal Party supported the economic action plan in the spring. Part of that plan is the home renovation credit which is part of what is being implemented in Bill C-51. Is it not hypocritical of the Liberal Party not to be supporting this bill at this time?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer to that simple question is yes.

While I have the opportunity, I want to recognize the hon. member for Burlington for his great work. He is always willing to step up and fill in when some of us are called away. He has done a great job. It is Conservatives like him who make this government strong and proud.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the speech by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and I heard him mention their successes. I hope he will also acknowledge their failures.

The situation in the forestry sector is a Conservative government failure. The forestry sector has been in crisis for five years now, and for four of those years the Conservative Party has been in power. Again, the Conservatives have provided assistance to the automobile sector, it is true, but they did nothing for the forestry sector.

I hope my colleague will be honest enough to acknowledge in this House their failure when it comes to the forestry sector.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will do no such thing because there has been no failure of any industry through support of this government.

We have recognized that in this economic downturn and even before we were facing this economic crisis around the world, that the forestry sector was facing some huge impacts of its own.

It was two years ago, I believe, that the community development trust fund was put in place to help communities transition into an economy where the forestry sector was facing some struggles. We brought in a softwood lumber agreement with the United States that brought $5 billion back to the forestry industry in Canada.

We are there for the forestry industry just as we are there for any industry in this country.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very convenient for the member to say that it is very important to stay the course and for Canadians to keep the government in place because it has not yet gotten the job done. That is like asking for an indefinite extension with no end to it.

I have two questions for the hon. member.

The government keeps harping that 90% of the infrastructure projects have started and are under way. If it is true that 90% are already on track, how would an election stop things that are essentially, according to the government's own words, on automatic pilot?

The hon. member talked about a recession that is not made in Canada. I will remind the hon. member that we are a trading nation. We are very much dependent on world economic trends. Could the hon. member tell us the last time there was a recession in Canada that was not simultaneously going on in the United States or somewhere else in the world?

Would the parliamentary secretary stop with his truisms? Of course it is not a made in Canada recession. We are always affected by what goes on south of the border or elsewhere in the world because we sell natural resources to other economies that use those as inputs in their economies.

Could he tell us when the last made in Canada recession was?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I referred in my speech to Hansard, which keeps track of all the speeches, all the words that are uttered in this House. Mr. Speaker, if you would ask some of your support staff to check Hansard, they would find many occasions where Liberals stood in this House and talked about a Conservative recession.

It is the member's colleagues who try to talk down the Canadian economy, who try to suggest that it is any one government in this one country that has caused this recession.

For him to stand and ask that question now, I would suggest that at his caucus meeting on Wednesday, he ask that question of his colleagues who have suggested that it was a made in Canada recession, because that has only come from that side of the House.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-51 and I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Brampton South.

I oppose this bill for one simple reason. Along with my Liberal colleagues, I have lost confidence in the Conservatives' ability to govern this country and guide it through difficult economic times back to a robust, strong economy. Through its budgetary actions over the last year, the Conservative government has failed Canadians by its incompetence and divisive tactics. We can no longer support a government whose failed policies have hurt Canadian families and their interests.

Over the last 10 months, the Liberal Party has tried to make Parliament work and focused on helping Canada through this recession. We tried to work with the government. We insisted on a stimulus package and fought for effective changes to employment insurance that would help Canadian families. However, we have lost confidence and trust in the government.

Let me count the ways. There is a record deficit that was revised from a surplus, from $34 billion to $50 billion to $56 billion in less than a year. The government has failed to plan for the H1N1 flu by delaying the ordering of flu vaccines and sending body bags to communities rather than assistance.

There are 450,000 more unemployed Canadians today than there were a year ago. The Conservatives' fiscal update recently said that another 200,000 plus Canadians will join the ranks of the unemployed in the coming year. The government has done everything to turn the hands of time back on women's equality, especially regarding pay equity.

Harper's broken promises not to raise taxes are an issue. Those are some of the—

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I believe I heard the name of the Prime Minister. We only use titles or riding names.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

My apologies, Mr. Speaker.

Bill C-51 deals with the Nova Scotia offshore petroleum resources. It would bring certain payments for Nova Scotia's offshore petroleum resources outside the framework of budget bills. This means that in addition to the one time payment the province receives of $174 million, in future years the payment would be automatically sent to the province rather than needing to be passed annually in a budget bill.

Regardless of the details of this change to revenue sharing, the Conservative government does not have the kind of track record on federal-provincial relations that breeds confidence in its ability to treat provinces fairly.

The Conservative government has demonstrated time and again that its promises to Canadians, whether promises not to raise taxes, promises not to tax income trusts, or promises to protect Canada's fisheries, are meaningless.

No province is more aware of the Prime Minister's willingness to break promises than Newfoundland and Labrador. Time and time again the government says one thing and does another. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians well know this with the promises on the equalization formula and Goose Bay. Promises made, promises broken.

Another challenge is the Canadian fishery. The government never meant a word of its promise to reform NAFO to better protect our fish stocks.

The amendments to the NAFO convention failed to adequately protect fish stocks off the east coast of Canada and would create substantial new problems which could eventually compromise Canadian sovereignty and allow foreign patrol boats to establish and enforce catch and quota regulations within Canada's 200 mile zone.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know too well the divisive politics of the Conservatives as we were hit earlier this year with a broken promise regarding the $1.4 billion that was taken away from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with changes to the equalization formula.

During the government's first two years in office, the Prime Minister did not once convene a meeting of first ministers, preferring instead to leave provincial and territorial leaders outside of the federal government's plans to lead the federation. When he finally did meet with them, he promised to send them a letter of suggestions on how they could stimulate their economies.

This politics of division and heavy-handed federalism is unfair and has been the hallmark of the Conservative government. Canadians are tired of politics of division and isolation. Canada works best when federal and provincial governments work in partnership, in the best interests of all Canadians. That is how the Liberals have governed in the past, by striking agreements with the provinces and territories on things like the universal child care agreement, creating plans to address health care issues, and the Kelowna accord.

On the home renovation tax credit, the Liberal Party has expressed its full support for this tax credit. This credit is part of the budget plan already implemented by Parliament. The Canada Revenue Agency is already working toward the home renovation tax credit.

It would be far more prudent for the government to have included the home renovation tax credit in previously introduced budget implementation legislation along with the rest of its flagship programs. It is disingenuous for the government to tell Canadians that this tax credit is at risk while at the same time running hundreds of ads promoting the use of the program.

In my view, this is the kind of political trickery that the government plays so often to manipulate voters. That the credit is at risk is simply untrue. The Liberal Party is fully in support of the home renovation tax credit and Canadians will not be fooled by attempts to divide them to think otherwise.

With respect to the CBC, this legislation would adjust the borrowing authority that applies to the CBC substantially, permitting the national broadcaster to borrow up to $220 million in order to cash manage through the coming year as it develops a new strategy. Current legislation restricts the amounts that the CBC can borrow, allowing the broadcaster to access loans only up to $25 million.

It was the current government that only a few months ago refused to step in and meet the broadcaster's request for bridge financing to deal with the shortfall in revenues during an economic downturn.

Not only did the Conservative government refuse to provide the CBC with the bridge financing it required to maintain 2008 staffing and service levels across the country this spring but it went so far as to vote against a motion put forward by the Liberal Party recognizing the indispensable cultural role of the CBC in providing national, regional and local programming in Canada.

This challenge to the CBC came at a time when its success and audience share of the market was growing. Every week almost 80% of English Canada uses the CBC. This success comes despite the fact that the CBC is the worst financed public broadcaster in the industrialized world.

The government long argued that funding the CBC was a waste of taxpayers' dollars and used the pretext of tough economic times to launch an assault on this national institution by withholding the bridge financing the CBC needed to ride out the economic storm without job and programming cuts.

In fact, the government went so far as to withhold approval of the annual top-up funding for the broadcaster forcing the CBC to make dramatic job and programming cuts to meet its government forced budget cuts of $63 million.

Had it acted in the spring and made additional financing available to the CBC, the government could have saved jobs and crucial cultural and regional programming that has now been lost. Instead, the government's inaction has forced the CBC to come up with an alternative plan to weather the economic storm.

As a crown corporation, the CBC cannot access loans from the private sector. Because of this and because of the refusal of the government to provide the network with $125 million in a bridge financing request, the CBC had to look elsewhere to find the financial security and flexibility it needs at this time.

Through the bill, the government is allowing one of our most valued cultural institutions to mortgage future stability by selling off assets, monetizing future lease revenues so that the CBC can access the cash it needs during this economic downturn.

The sale of assets means that the CBC will be forgoing future revenues to deal with the short-term economic pain caused by the government's unwillingness to step in and mitigate the fallout of the economic downturn. There is little doubt that members of the government do not value the CBC.

One final point is with regard to the Canada pension plan. The bill makes an accounting change that will reduce the amount older workers are penalized by choosing to work after the age of 65. These changes will be made on a go forward basis and seniors currently collecting their pensions will see no real change in their benefit amounts as a result of these accounting differences.

While ensuring pension policies are actuarially neutral is a responsible step for any government to take, it would be wise for the government to face up to the fiscal realities our seniors are facing in so many parts of our country and look toward providing meaningful support to seniors.

With one in three Canadians retiring with no retirement income savings beyond the core mandatory government programs of CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, governments need to consider making more than cosmetic and accounting changes to ensure Canadian seniors can access benefits they need as they age.

We can do better. We must do better for Canadian seniors and for all Canadians.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech. I am a little shocked to begin with. I am glad that she did finally get back on topic.

We are actually debating the budget implementation act, not whether or not the House has lost confidence in this government because obviously it did not. We survived a confidence vote last Thursday.

I think it is time that all hon. members of the House move on beyond that. I am sure they have not, but I think we should all move on beyond that and actually deal with what is more important to Canadians, and that is ensuring that we survive and recover well from this economic recession.

I then listened with shock to the hon. member's comments about the CBC, suggesting that we had cut funding to the CBC. This is a business plan that the CBC has asked for. We have put that in place.

Before we actually managed to elect a Conservative government, why did the Liberals cut the CBC's budget in three consecutive budgets?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thought it was most important to give the reasons why I was not supporting Bill C-51 which included the fact that I have no faith in the government's ability to move us through these difficult economic times.

Regarding the CBC, it was the government's inaction that forced the CBC to make cuts to its programming and to ask for these changes so that it could borrow money. It is as a result of the government's inaction that has caused the CBC to make these moves. That is the reason why this has been so challenging to the CBC. That is one of the reasons why I will not be supporting Bill C-51.