House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, with respect to what really happened with the forestry industry, members will recall the outcome of the softwood lumber crisis of a few years ago: we gave the Americans a billion dollars.

Yes, the softwood lumber industry was at the end of its rope. Industry representatives asked us to support the measure even though we ended up giving the Americans a billion dollars. However, we always called for loan guarantees, regardless of whether the Liberals or the Conservatives were in power. If those governments had offered loan guarantees to companies in the forestry industry or to sawmills, they would have been responding to a need. Those demands are still on the table. Both the forestry industry and the mills still want the same thing as before.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, in the past I have made a statement to the effect that the measure of a country's success is not an economic measure but rather a measure of the health and the well-being of its people. I believe that is the important issue in this budget and that, in this time of our country's financial duress, we need to keep our eye on the condition of our people, particularly the most vulnerable.

We bandied the term accountability around quite a bit so I thought the members would be interested to hear my definition of accountability. To me, it means to be able to explain and justify one's actions or decisions in a manner that is true, full and plain. That is a high mark for almost anyone to hit, but today, in this time of financial duress, it is time for our parliamentarians to step up to the level of accountability so that all Canadians have hope for tomorrow and for the future, rather than fear.

We need to deliver that hope, which is why this Parliament is sitting now and why many members have lamented that the House's business was disrupted by prorogation and by a fairy-tale November economic statement that was clearly not true, full and plain and did not reflect the reality.

Another election was not in the best interests of the people. It was a partisan issue and that is why the opposition stepped forward after that economic statement which was unacceptable not only to the opposition parties but to Canadians as a whole.

The economic statement was very rosy. It projected surpluses throughout the five year period when all the private sector economists and all the pundits who had looked at the fundamentals knew that the country was facing some serious problems.

That is one of the reasons that an amendment was proposed to the budget and why it was adopted by the government. It is important to understand that the principles of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, those who are unable to help themselves, had to be included in the budget.

Unfortunately, I have heard far too often in this place that we would rather people just kept the money in their pockets rather than paying taxes to the government. What the budget does not take into account is that there are people in our society who are unable to care for themselves. They do not have the means and they do not pay taxes but they do need the government to assist them, whether it be a social safety net or with the goods and services that they need to sustain themselves.

That one proviso in the amendment protects the most vulnerable in our society and the growing vulnerable, those who will lose their jobs. Some 230,000 Canadians have already lost their jobs, more than are projected to be created by the budget.

The second two issues concern jobs. The challenge right now is jobs. The measure of success of the budget will include our performance on the job side: saving existing jobs or reducing the job loss in existing businesses and industry, as well as creating new jobs in the emerging and highest probability areas where new jobs may be created.

Finally, it is with regard to a plan for getting out of deficits. It is unfortunate that the government has squandered, through its reckless spending and fiscal imprudence, a $14 billion annual surplus that it inherited in 2006. It is gone.

I wrote down a few things that reminded me of the things that paint a picture of what the Conservative government has presented to Canadians since it took office in 2006. I remember statements by the Prime Minister about the cultural industry. He said that it was a subsidized whiner. When does a prime minister use that kind of language?

The first thing the Conservatives did in forming government was to develop a 200-page binder on how to make committees dysfunctional, which they were successful in doing in a couple of cases, the procedure and House affairs committee, as well as the justice committee.

The government taxed income trusts when it promised not to do that. The $25 billion of wealth, particularly of retirees, was wiped out. A 31.5% punitive tax is still there. It should be gone and replaced with something that protects Canadian investors. The government passes it on to offshore investors who are the ones getting the most benefit from income trusts.

The government sued the former leader of the opposition over the Cadman issue. It voted non-confidence in Elections Canada. It broke its own legislation on fixed election dates. Our election was not supposed to be last October 14. It was supposed to be October 19, 2009. Why was the legislation broken? It was broken because the Prime Minister thought Parliament was being dysfunctional so he called an election.

When the Prime Minister gave a speech on that bill he said that no prime minister would ever be able to use partisan objectives for calling an election, that every Canadian would know the election date. It did not happen. The legislation was broken and it was the government's own legislation. Go figure. It is amazing that it had to happen.

Everything that the government brought forward was made a confidence vote. It meant that if those legislative measures were defeated we would go into an election. How is it that everything is a confidence vote? It was politically motivated. The government was trying to take advantage of the political vulnerability of other parties. That is not the way to put the interests of the people ahead of partisan interests. It is quite the reverse and yet the government purports quite the opposite.

I could go on but I think people get the idea of where we are now.

Where are we today? Stock evaluations are low. Markets are down about 40%. Emerging markets have lost about 60% of their value. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's assertions that our banks are strong, the credit crisis exists in Canada and the government itself is coming forward to take some of the pressure off by taking over asset backed mortgages.

Housing is not only stalled but prices have plummetted. Bankruptcies are up 50% year over year. We now have 230,000 jobs lost, more than the 189,000 that the budget purports to create.

Eighty percent of our trade was with the U.S. but now the protectionist rhetoric has put us on our heels again. The auto industry has been crushed. The forestry industry is dwindling. The shipbuilding industry is virtually dead. It paints a picture that Tory times are tough times, and that is the reality. With all of the signs of the past year, the government insists that the problem is elsewhere, that it is the U.S. and that we are strong and everything is fine.

That is not the case. When one is a trading nation and the other nations it trades with, particularly the United States, are in difficulty, the nation needs to recognize that fact and bring it into the reality of its fiscal management, policies and the way in which it governs.

In December, the Prime Minister said that there would not be a recession in Canada and that we were fine as long as we did not do “stupid” things like running a deficit. Look at where we are now.

In October, he suggested that the market represented some good buying opportunities for Canadians. The stock market has gone down a further 20% since he said that. In November, the government's failed economic statement promised us surpluses for the next five years. Twelve days later, the Bank of Canada announced that we were in a recession. In December, the Prime Minister admitted that the government would run a deficit of $20 billion to $30 billion. In January that was amended to say that it was closer to $40 billion. Once budget 2009 was tabled, we saw that the government was running a deficit even in the current fiscal year of 2008-09.

It goes back to the issues of accountability, credibility, being truthful, plain and honest with Canadians, not to create fear but to say that we understand what is happening. My concern is not so much about the economic measures and numbers but more about the condition of the people. I do know that when people lose their jobs and problems occur in a financial sense, it creates stress, depression, desperation and bad things happen. It affects a person's mental and physical health and it affects their families and interactions. It means that the cost of health care and social services programs will go up. It also means, as was shown in the 1990 recession, that there is a very positive tracking between the level of unemployment and the level of crime. I hate to say this but it shows that there will be a level of crime. It will mostly be property crime because people are desperate.

Many of those costs will be borne by the provinces but they have had no increase in terms of transfers to the provinces to deal with these inevitable areas. The government has not seen it far enough. On page 219 of the budget bill, members will see the government's minuscule plan to return to surplus. It is simply, “We hope”.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, the last part of the member's address dealt with closing the accountability loop. He became more precise when he talked about the social interconnection between high unemployment and the trauma that Canadians would be facing, issues related to criminal activity and other activities in response.

I wonder if the member, who has had a great deal of experience through his membership on the public accounts committee and certainly from having been in this House a long time, could give the House some insight into how he sees the ongoing monitoring of expenditures under the stimulus package, particularly in the social programs that he talked about. I wonder if he could give us an idea as to how that could be linked to the invitation that the government appears to have put out, which is that if the stimulus package does not work it is prepared to reinvest or find other mechanisms that would come to grips with stimulating the kinds of programs that would meet the kinds of issues to which the member has alluded.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the experience that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has had, in looking at the last reported year 2007-08, has to do with rolling out money. Indeed, in 2007-08, with regard to the infrastructure investments, for example, only half of the money actually went out. Some $2.2 billion never went out. It lapsed. It meant that it was promised but not spent.

What I and, I think, the member are concerned about is the government saying that it will do things but never gets the money out there.

With regard to the social side, the budget does not address the concerns that the member has articulated. It means that this budget is not a finishing point for me. It must be a starting point. We need to change some things down the road. I hope the monitoring mechanisms, to which the member referred, the quarterly reporting and the work of the chair of the government operations and estimates committee, will bring to Parliament the evidence necessary to show that Canadians are being served in the areas that help those most in need.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is rising again— like all the other Liberals before him and like those who will come after him—to tell us that it is not a good budget. Each one of them will present an argument on a specific subject and will make comments such as: this budget does not live up to their promises; it is too little, too late; there is an obvious lack of transparency; that it is a fairy tale; that it takes a partisan approach; and that those who will suffer are ignored by this budget.

If my colleague, and all the other Liberals, truly believes what he says why is he going to vote for this budget?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, if this were simply a partisan issue, I would vote against the budget because it is not as good as it could be and should be.

We have already had some false starts. In the economic statement back in November it was clear the government was going in the wrong direction. The member is well aware that the opposition parties came forward with the conditions under which the government should come back with another budget and deal with matters such as the stimulus for infrastructure and for job growth and job protection, as well as for dealing with the vulnerable, dealing with EI. We asked for those things. They are now here. It is not a perfect budget.

The member, all hon. members and Canadians ought to ask themselves if they really think that going back to the electorate, having another $300 million election and putting Parliament out of work for another two or three months would be in the best interests of the people. I and I think most hon. members in the Liberal caucus came to the conclusion that having another election would not solve anything and all it would do would be to make things worse.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, since this is the first opportunity I have had to rise while you have been in the chair, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment and tell you how proud I am as a woman parliamentarian and a fellow British Columbian to see you in the position that you hold today.

I am speaking today on the budget implementation bill. A number of issues have been discussed already in the House around the inadequacies of the budget that the government has put forward. The budget does not adequately address the very desperate needs of Canadians from coast to coast to coast in this critically uncertain economic time. People are losing their jobs and families are very concerned about being able to hold on to their homes.

The government is also doing something else. The government had committed not to bring in unnecessary confidence motions, yet in the budget bill the government is adding items that have nothing to do with the budget. It is bringing in through the back door things that are more ideologically motivated and really have nothing to do with stimulating Canada's economy.

The Conservatives are taking away women's right to pursue pay equity under the Human Rights Act. They are opening up Canadian industry to more foreign ownership. They are almost putting a for sale sign on Air Canada. They are making punitive efforts to go after students who are carrying student loan debt. The budget overall totally fails to protect the vulnerable in our society, to safeguard the jobs of today or to create the green technology jobs needed for tomorrow. It does nothing to protect the vulnerable in society, the people without homes, women and children. There is nothing in it for child care.

Some of the things in the budget implementation bill which have nothing to do with stimulating the economy are the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to streamline the approval process. More authority is being given to the minister to allow construction without environmental assessments. Pay equity will no longer go through the Canadian Human Rights Commission. With regard to foreign ownership there are changes to the Investment Canada Act so that only significant investments will be reviewed. A new national security provision has been added, which is rather worrisome. Members will remember the debate we had last year in the House of Commons about RADARSAT-2. I have mentioned the Canada student loan changes.

Collective agreements are being cut. In fact, the government on that side of the House that always talks about crime and community safety is rolling back the increases that were given to the RCMP only in June. If the RCMP cannot trust the Conservative government, I do not know how other Canadians can.

Another issue is employment insurance. The necessary changes have not been made to the two-week waiting period. In my community people are waiting up to eight weeks for their first cheque. As we all know, less than 40% of working Canadians qualify for employment insurance and the government has made no changes to that.

I want to take a moment to talk about the process my community went through in the lead-up to the budget. We were asked by the government side and by Canadians to consult with them about what they wanted in this federal budget.

In my riding we sent out thousands of invitations to British Columbians to participate in a community forum. Large advertisements were placed in the papers and emails were sent. Each of the three city councils and councillors were invited to attend. A non-partisan facilitator who has a lot of experience, Ted Kuntz, was present, along with other facilitators.

On January 3 there was a snowstorm in my community. We do not get snowstorms in New Westminster—Coquitlam very often, but even then the room was full of people from the community, community organizations and interested people from my riding who wanted to have some of the hard discussions around what they would like to see in the federal budget. We broke down into small groups with the facilitators and came back with recommendations. I want to talk about the kinds of things that activists, city councillors and mayors in my community thought should be in the budget.

They noted that from 2005 to 2008, homelessness in the city of New Westminster has risen 53%. They noted that homelessness in the Coquitlam area, in the tri-cities had risen 157% from 2005 to 2008. They noted that average rents in New Westminster had gone up 28% in the last six years alone. All of us from B.C. and from the Vancouver region know how unaffordable ordinary housing is for families. They talked about needing a national affordable housing strategy, and of course we did not see that in the budget. There is a small tax credit for people who want to renovate their cottages and for people who want to put new grass around their homes, but there is no national housing strategy. Canada at one time had a housing strategy that was the envy of the world. Nations came from all over the world to look at how we developed our housing strategy, but no longer. That speaks to why we have so many people on the street today.

My community also raised the issue of transit. They would like to get out of their cars and get around our community and to downtown Vancouver with rapid transit that would be ecologically more sustainable. They talked about the Evergreen transit line which, by the way, is mentioned in the budget as the priority for British Columbia, but all it says in the budget is that it could be funded. There are no hard dollars attached, no real commitment at this point to the Evergreen line.

They talked about the desperate need in my riding for seismic upgrades to our schools. Madam Speaker, you know, because you live in the same province as I do, that we are in a very dangerous earthquake zone, the worst seismic hazard zone in all of Canada, in fact. Fifteen schools in my riding rate high on the need for vital upgrades to make those schools safe for our children in the event of an earthquake.

They raised the issue of public safety. They noted that Canadians had been promised in the 2006 election an additional 2,500 RCMP officers for municipalities across the country. We have not seen that either. My community in Coquitlam has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to population in the entire country. Instead of delivering on this promise, the government is rolling back an agreement on wage increases for the RCMP. I submit that could further demoralize the force and make it even more difficult to recruit the RCMP officers that we need.

Child care was a huge item mentioned because the demand far outstrips the supply in my community. Five hundred and twenty requests for child care placements were denied in the city of New Westminster in 2007 alone. Average full-time child care spaces cost families about $700 a month which is far too high.

They talked about the green economy. They talked about shipbuilding. They talked about salmon. Salmon is almost a cultural icon in British Columbia but is also very much a part of our economy. They also looked for promises on addressing the pine beetle infestation that has affected British Columbia. Douglas College tuition has increased by 78% in the last five years.

It was a terrific consultative process. Out of that process came the “Community Blueprint for the Federal Budget, New Westminster--Coquitlam--Port Moody, Economic Investment Considerations and Priorities”. We have heard over and over on this side of the House how New Democrats have not put any effort into what they wanted to see from the Minister of Finance. This document was put together by the community members, the community leaders and ordinary citizens in my communities of New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody and was delivered to the Minister of Finance in advance of the budget being tabled in the House. However, we did not see our needs reflected in the Conservatives' budget.

Therefore, today I would like to seek unanimous consent to table this document, the community blueprint for the federal budget from New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody, and have it added to the public record. There have been some discussions with different parties, indicating that I would be asking for unanimous consent, and I hope I have that.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to table the document?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Dianne Johnston
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of our lives. Parliamentary spouses deserve much credit, but they seldom received any recognition.

One special hero was Dianne Johnston, the beloved wife of Dale Johnston, the former member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin. On January 7, cancer claimed Dianne's life. An MP's spouse for over 12 years, Dianne was a confidante, soulmate and a source of moral support for Dale as he tackled the challenges that come with this demanding job.

While Dale made the long weekly commute to Ottawa, Dianne kept the home fires burning on their farm. On weekends, she accompanied Dale as he made the rounds of constituency activities. She patiently listened and applauded hundreds of speeches and campaigned alongside Dale with vigour. Dianne's charming nature and infectious sense of humour were appreciated by all those who had the good fortune to meet her. She will be truly missed by everyone who knew her.

As we send our heartfelt condolences to Dale and their daughters, Dalene and Michelle, let us all take time to thank our spouses for their dedication, their love and their support.

Ajax
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, one community in Canada produced more munitions for the allied war effort during World War II than any other in the British Commonwealth. This community is named after a legendary Royal Navy ship, key to the first decisive victory on the seas against Nazi Germany. It is the town of Ajax, the community I am honoured to represent.

The town of Ajax is seeking one other very special distinction, for a Canadian navy ship to be named in the town's honour. Ajax is a community passionate about its links to the navy and its unique role in the defence of liberty.

This October Ajax will hold a 70th anniversary event commemorating the battle of the River Plate. For both Ajacians and surviving war heroes, no honour could be more great than the government announcing that a future Canadian naval ship will bear the name HMCS Ajax.

I recognize the dedicated work of so many Ajacians in this campaign, including Ajax town council and Mayor Parish, and I ask for the full support of the House.

Emergency Services in a Valleyfield Factory
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, on September 22, the first responders at the General Dynamics factory in Valleyfield received an emergency call over the radio, stating that a man was lying on the floor. The emergency response team quickly began looking for the victim, which is not easy in a factory of that size. The rescuers, who are employees at the factory as well as volunteer firefighters, found a man who had stopped breathing and was without a pulse. They started CPR and, a short time later, his heart began to beat again.

When the victim, Jean-Louis Benoit, was admitted to the emergency room, the doctor made it clear: without such quick and effective help, Mr. Benoit would not have survived.

Speaking personally and on behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to commend the heroic acts of the first responders: Serge Fecteau, Guy Guymont, Sach Haineault, Gérard Jodry and Jacques Roy.

Bravo, their vigilance has saved a life.

Tool, Die and Mould Industry
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, today a group of tool, die and mould shop owners from my community are travelling far and wide to ensure that they are not among the forgotten and forsaken of the Conservative government. This sector, which employs thousands of Canadians across the country and is the backbone of the entire manufacturing industry, has been left to twist in the wind while the government tries to figure out how to support an industry it chose to ignore until the eleventh hour.

This is yet another example of the Conservative government scrambling to make the insufficient and ill-conceived appear constructive. It is unconscionable that these reactive half measures have become business as usual for the government. Even more shameful is the official opposition, which is aware of these shortcomings, has chosen to align itself with the very people who have led us down this tragic path.

Allow me to acknowledge the efforts of these individuals who are only asking for fairness and support, support that the government has so willingly provided to other sectors of the economy. It is outrageous that they are compelled to put so much time and energy into demanding from the government what should have already been provided.

I hope the Minister of Industry will meet with this delegation and start to work them on a solution.

2010 Winter Olympics
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the countdown is on. With only one year to go before Canada hosts the 2010 Winter Games, communities across the country are being invited to celebrate the countdown to 2010 in their own unique way.

One of the easiest ways to participate is simply by making some noise this Thursday, February 12, one year from the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. At exactly 6 p.m. local time, in time zones across the country, Canadians of all ages are invited to make some noise. Honk car horns, sound foghorns, ring sleigh bells, sing songs or bang drums, anything to show Canada's pride as the games draw near.

On Parliament Hill, the Minister of State for Sport is inviting everyone out at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday to meet with our athletes and ring the Peace Tower bells. Let us build on the huge success of our athletes over this past weekend.

No matter how people plan to celebrate the one-year countdown, let us make some noise Canada and get involved in what will be the greatest Winter Olympics in the history of the games.

Health
Statements By Members

February 10th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the Mental Health Commission of Canada holds its regional round table in Ottawa today, providing local stakeholders with an opportunity to respond to its draft document, “Toward Recovery and Well-being—A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada”, I remind the House that good health is not possible without good mental health.

Each year, one in five Canadians will encounter mental health issues. Consequently, virtually every family in this country will be directly impacted by mental illness.

Support for mental health is especially pertinent during this economic crisis as Canadian families struggle to pay the bills and cope with job losses.

For far too long, stigma has kept mental health issues off the public agenda. Canada needs a system that puts people living with mental illness at its centre, with a clear focus on their ability to recover.

The Mental Health Commission has a mandate to ensure that mental health issues stay out of the shadows forever and to reduce the stigma of mental illness. We have to do our part too.