House of Commons Hansard #11 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

11 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that Bill C-10, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill in this Parliament. It contains many measures. It contains measures related to infrastructure, tax changes, training, and all sorts of things that will help stimulate the economy.

With regard to infrastructure, many of the experts the finance minister consulted believe that the best way to help stimulate employment is through infrastructure. That is why we made arrangements with all the provinces to work with them to build the basic infrastructure of this country: roads, sewers, water plants and even a RInC program. We will provide $500 million in the budget to help restore the quality of the various RInCs around the country, most of which were established in 1967.

Beyond that, we are now working with the provinces to ensure there is sufficient training for our citizens because unemployment is starting to rise. Recently, it was 6.2% and it has now moved into the 7% category.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Training is required because unemployment is starting to rise. This rise in unemployment was basically caused by the worldwide recession. As we know, the worldwide recession began in the United States where there was a very weak housing situation. Millions of houses had been sold to people who could not pay their mortgages. They defaulted on their mortgages, causing many banks and trust companies to default. The banks which defaulted caused a ripple effect through the rest of the economy and banks around the world began to default. This has forced many nations to inject large amounts of capital into their systems to try to restore order within the banks.

The ripple effect began to affect companies, which in turn began to lay off people. This has affected Canada because Canada--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. chief government whip, but I forgot something when he suggested he would be splitting his time. First speeches in debates on bills cannot be split. I am afraid that while he indicated he would like to do that, it would require consent. I am wondering, to help him out, whether there might be consent to treat him as not having spoken and call on the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance to start his speech. Is there consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent. There is a general cry then to hear the chief government whip. He will have his full time allotted, but I am afraid I cannot split his time unless there is unanimous consent. I see the chief government whip is ready to continue his speech.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, to carry on this illuminating speech, today we begin the legislative process for the first budget 2009 implementation bill, Bill C-10, a crucial piece of legislation in a period of unprecedented economic upheaval.

This process in itself might understandably confuse those Canadians not terribly familiar with the complexities of the budgetary process. Last week, they read newspaper headlines that blared, “Federal budget passes in House of Commons” and “MPs approve federal budget”. Naturally, they would believe that because the budget had passed or been approved that all measures in the budget could move forward. However, that is not the case. What the House passed was merely a general motion that approved the government's budgetary policy, not the legislation needed to actually implement its provisions.

This is a standard procedure. A budget motion passes and is followed in short order by the introduction of a budget implementation bill. That bill and the measures included therein cannot move forward until they go through the long process of approval through the House of Commons: second reading, referral to the finance committee, report stage and third reading, and then to the Senate. Again, after second reading, referral to the Senate national finance committee, and then to report stage and third reading. Once all this has successfully been completed, then royal assent is given. Again, this is a standard procedure, but it is also a lengthy and timely procedure.

Last year, the 2008 budget implementation bill was introduced on March 14, 2008. Only three months or nearly 100 days later, on June 18, 2008, was it passed by Parliament and given royal assent. I am not criticizing that process. I am a believer, as we all are, in the role of proper Parliamentary oversight. However, I am suggesting, in the midst of a global economic recession, and after witnessing the worst monthly job losses in Canadian history and the pressing need for economic stimulus, that we work together as parliamentarians to expedite the consideration of this bill.

We can move forward on measures in Canada's economic action plan dependent on this passage, measures that would help stimulate economic growth, work toward restoring confidence and, most importantly, support Canadians and their families through the current economic upheaval. Over 120,000 Canadians lost their jobs last month. Next month will not likely be better. We have been saying for some time that this will be a difficult year. We know that there will be significant and sustained job losses.

Our concern as parliamentarians should be in what lies behind those figures. There are families sitting at kitchen tables somewhere in Canada forced to have a discussion they would rather not have, asking difficult questions that have no easy answers, wondering where a new job will come from, where the money for the next mortgage or rent payment will come from, or even food on the kitchen table. We have a moral obligation to these families to not engage in frivolous, abstract and partisan debates that would only serve to delay the passage of this bill. The assistance it would provide them is far too important. We cannot wait three months. We cannot wait 100 days. This bill is too important. The consequences would be too severe.

I am heartened to see that the official opposition has understood the gravity of the situation and has supported the budget. I ask the Bloc and NDP to follow this example. I ask them to work co-operatively on expediting passage of this bill within the next short few weeks or even much sooner. We must a;; recognize that the time to act is now, not three months from now. To do otherwise would be tantamount to inviting economic catastrophe while also betraying our international commitment to contribute to current international efforts to provide urgent economic stimulus that will help to stabilize the global economy.

Looking at this situation, it is instructive to pay attention to what is occurring in the United States, the epicentre and genesis of the current economic downturn and President Obama's attempts to ensure timely passage of his stimulus legislation. Job numbers were also released in the United States a few days ago, showing nearly 600,000 jobs lost in January, continuing a string of 13 straight months of job losses that has seen nearly 3 million jobs vanish in that year alone.

The release of those sobering January U.S. job numbers prompted President Obama to make a plea to American legislatures on Friday:

The situation could not be more serious. These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay, or politics as usual...Now is the time for Congress to act...This is not some abstract debate.

It is an urgent and growing crisis that can only be fully understood through the unseen stories that lie underneath each and every one of those 600,000 jobs that were lost this month...These Americans are counting on us...We have to remember that we're here to work for them. And if we drag our feet and fail to act, this crisis could turn into a catastrophe. We'll continue to get devastating job reports like today's -- month after month, year after year.

To this point we are fortunate enough to not have experienced the degree of economic chaos faced by our American neighbours. We are in a relatively much stronger position compared to them. Indeed, as BMO Nesbitt Burns chief economist Sherry Cooper recently declared, “Canada is in better economic shape to handle the global recession than most other countries--”.

As I said before, now is not the time to rest on our laurels and hope we will remain in a stronger position, especially in light of the severity of the present situation. We must avoid the temptation to engage in abstract and academic debates, avoid partisanship, and avoid inexcusable and irresponsible delay.

Now is the time for Parliament to act. We have an economic action plan in place. We need Parliament to help enact that plan by passing this legislation as soon as possible and without delay. That is what we can do right now.

While our plan is not going to save every single job, no plan could. We are doing everything we can to protect those hit hardest by the global recession with a plan to stimulate the economy and to help create and maintain jobs.

In the remainder of my time today I will systematically outline the few select measures from Canada's economic action plan included in this legislation. They are measures vital to stimulating Canada's economy, to help maintain and create jobs, to spur private sector growth and investment, and to help families most in need. They are measures that merit expedited passage.

This legislation would implement the tax measures proposed in our economic action plan, measures that would remove 265,000 low income Canadians from the tax rolls in 2009.

It would increase the basic personal exemption that all Canadians can earn before paying federal personal income tax.

It would increase the top of the two lowest personal income tax brackets, so Canadians can earn more income before being subject to higher tax rates.

The legislation would also provide an additional $150 of annual tax savings for low and middle income seniors through a $1,000 increase to the age credit amount.

We are increasing the amount that can be withdrawn from an RRSP under the homebuyers plan to $25,000. The Canadian Real Estate Association has applauded this announcement for both stimulating the housing market and “--[helping] Canadians who want to own their own home, and do it in a responsible way--”.

The bill would extend the temporary mineral exploration tax credit to help companies undertake exploration and adjust to new commodity prices.

It would increase the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal tax rate of 11% to $500,000 from $400,000. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business praised this measure as one of “importance of helping small and medium sized businesses to grow”.

The bill would also help Canadian families who will face job losses. For two years, all regular EI benefit entitlements would be extended by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration from 45 weeks to 50 weeks. Food Banks Canada, the national charitable organization representing the food banks across Canada, has recognized the critical importance of enacting this measure. In its words, the five week extension may help to keep many Canadians out of the food bank lines. One-fifth of those it helps are not working or on EI and those households are facing a very precarious year. Food Banks Canada said it was glad to see the five week extension of EI benefits.

The bill would also improve access to financing and it would strengthen our financial system. We all recognize the impact the global recession is having on Canadian businesses, especially access to credit. We have heard loud and clear in the past months that Canadian financial institutions have been less willing to lend credit to worthy Canadian families and businesses. This has made an already difficult economic situation much worse.

To combat that, Canada's economic action plan announced measures to support the extension of financing to Canadians and Canadian businesses, and this bill helps implement that. With access to financing, Canadian families can continue to make the purchases that keep the economy moving ahead. Businesses will be able to purchase new equipment, invest in their operations and grow for the future.

This bill allows Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada to extend additional financing to Canadian businesses, as well as increases the maximum eligible loan amount under the Canada small business financing program to $300 million per year.

Organizations such as the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters heaped high praise on the economic action plan:

The government took critical steps in the budget to stimulate liquidity, provide incentives that will encourage manufacturers to invest in machinery and equipment, as well as a much-needed investment in strategic infrastructure.

This bill also authorizes key spending, as outlined in part 6, on infrastructure, community adjustment, housing and health care. This includes nearly $4 billion in investments for urgent infrastructure needs, spending to pave roads, improve our universities and colleges, fix sewers and repair bridges. These are investments that will not only modernize our infrastructure but will also, as the Canadian Construction Association has noted, “create jobs, stimulate economic recovery, and better our communities while providing Canadian taxpayers with the best bang for their stimulus buck...ensuring that Canadian communities, businesses and our workforce are well equipped and prepared to respond to the new opportunities that will present themselves as the economy recovers”.

It also includes over $1 billion in investments for social housing, and houses for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities, as well as first nations housing, investments praised by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as they “put Canadian labour and building materials to work providing adequate housing for low-income families”.

It provides over $500 million to help foster economic development, science and technology initiatives, and other measures to promote economic diversification in struggling communities across Canada. It also authorizes $500 million for the development of electronic health records. The Canadian Medical Association commended this investment as “rightly aimed at supporting the front lines of health care,” and that it “will lead to better, more efficient care”.

These are but a few select measures in this bill that are vital for the implementation of Canada's economic action plan. Also included in the bill are measures that will help assist in the transition toward a Canadian securities regulator with willing provinces and territories. It will modernize the Investment Canada Act to encourage foreign investment and to make sure that new investments do not jeopardize Canada's national security. There are new provisions to the Competition Act to protect consumers from anti-competitive behaviour as well as unscrupulous business practices, and much more.

This is a comprehensive, detailed 524 page document, a lengthy piece of legislation. Indeed, I have only provided the highlights in my time today. We could literally spend hours, or months, engaged in abstract academic discussions about this bill, but we do not have the luxury of time, nor do the Canadians who have lost their jobs. With all due respect to those here who wish to engage in lengthy debates, I would ask them to remember that we conducted the most comprehensive prebudget consultation in history, open to all Canadians, this past December and January. We asked them for their input then; that time has passed.

As the Canadian Chamber of Commerce noted, “The government has consulted extensively.... In the interests of all Canadians, the plan should be given a chance to work.... We believe it is an important step forward”.

Let us work together and move forward with the vital measures in Canada's economic action plan as quickly as possible. We on the government side will do whatever we can to expedite this bill. We will put no further speakers up at second reading. Conservatives have offered to sit extended hours, night and day, at committee. I call upon all parliamentarians to act responsibly and follow that example. We must ensure that this bill passes as quickly as possible without the delay of months. Now is the time for Parliament to act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the chief government whip. He told us about what is in this budget. He talked about the need for co-operation. He knows very well that the Liberal team is putting people and country first, but with caveats, and that is what I would like to ask him about. He told us what is in this budget. Could he tell us about a timeframe?

I ask the question because in the building Canada fund some years ago, the Conservatives put in $33 billion, of which not even 10% has been delivered. What good is it if all these programs are put forward? We are co-operating on this side to make sure that the bill is passed. What are the Conservatives going to do to make sure that the programs are indeed funded?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, we accepted the Liberal amendment that we report back to Parliament on a regular, prescribed basis and of course we will. In fact it is in our interest to do this because we in government want this to succeed too. We are trying to overcome red tape and bureaucratic rules to get this money to people in the various areas. We are asking for the co-operation of the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP in order to help Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech and the question from the Liberals, who have decided to support the government.

In a way, this is a Liberal and Conservative budget. Last week, the economic reality brought us to reel and showed us that there are indeed several industries in difficulty. Take for instance the forestry and manufacturing industries, as well as the aerospace industry in Quebec, which are especially hard hit.

Some Conservative ministers have even said of the measures that they were not adequate and that further measures are needed to remedy the situation. The Prime Minister seems to have called them to heel. At any rate, the government is really short on specifics about what its position and attitude will be.

Does the government intend to move forward with further measures to really help the forestry and manufacturing industries, as all of Quebec has been asking for quite a while, even in a unanimous motion passed at the Quebec National Assembly?

What is the government's position on how to improve the measures it has introduced, which are clearly not enough to stimulate the economy, in Quebec and in the manufacturing sector across Canada?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, we are suffering the economic consequences of what is going on in the rest of the world where economies are experiencing a downturn and 35% of our economy is related to exports, which includes forestry, mining, manufacturing, et cetera.

We are hoping that the budget will pass as quickly as parliamentarians will allow it to pass, because until the budget bill passes in Parliament, that is, by both the House and the Senate and the bill is signed by the Governor General, no money will flow. We need that money to flow.

In the budget there is assistance for every sector of our economy including forestry, mining and manufacturing. I realize that in the province of Quebec there are many people who are now unemployed in these various areas and others, but so are people in the rest of the country. We are the Government of Canada and we are trying to look after every province and the nation as a whole.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, a lot of students are having a hard time paying their student loans. Some of them are unemployed. They cannot find a job. Hidden in the budget implementation bill is clause 363, which is four or five pages long, which punishes students. It gives the minister the power to deny students financial assistance, deny students interest free periods, deny students deferral of payments, deny students payment of interest under subsection 9(2), deny students special interest free or interest reduced periods, et cetera.

It is filled with punishment and allows the minister to go after people within six years after the situation occurred. What does this have to do with stimulating the economy, creating jobs and protecting the vulnerable? Students are in fact vulnerable because they cannot find jobs these days.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, ever since it took power, this government has recognized the importance of students. Our future is to have a very well-educated citizenry who can take on all the various jobs in the world, because our future is in outperforming other countries. It is having a labour force that is better qualified to do various jobs, such as in high tech, manufacturing, et cetera, than other people in the world. That is based on education and training. The budgets of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 coming up, in each of those budgets we have increased the amount of money going to education and training.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am quite excited about the bill and the speech by the government whip. There are all kinds of initiatives to stimulate the economy and that is very exciting.

There are Liberals who support this budget because they understand the importance of getting this money into the economy. However, I am puzzled that at the same time as we have all these wonderful initiatives in the bill, New Democrat members of Parliament are asking me if I can help support this initiative or that initiative. I say absolutely, let us get the budget bill passed. The Liberals are onside. Yet the NDP members voted against the budget, the same people who asked me if I could support this initiative or that initiative.

Can the chief government whip explain that inconsistency between what NDP members say privately to me and what they do publicly?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, my recollection is that the NDP has voted against every one of our budgets. It does not matter what is in the budgets. In fact, with respect to this budget, we were told by the leader of the NDP that he would oppose it regardless of what is in it.

We are about to spend $85 billion to stimulate the economy. In the budget there are an untold number of ways to help Canadians, but because the NDP chose through its philosophy to oppose the budget regardless of what is in it, that party is not going to support this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like my hon. colleague across the way to recognize a few things. Last week, it was announced that 129,000 workers lost their jobs in Canada. The government is always trying to say that things are worse in the United States, except that, proportionally, Canada has one tenth of the U.S. population. Multiply 129,000 jobs lost in one month by 10. That makes 1,290,000. That is how many people would have lost their jobs if Canada were the size of the U.S, and that is twice as many job losses as were recorded in the United States last month.

Is the government closer to showing some flexibility regarding municipal infrastructure such as municipal garages, to ensure that our municipalities are provided with the tools they need to develop, regardless of the type of infrastructure they need?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has consulted with the provinces and the cities to determine what they need. I think everyone will find in the basket of opportunities within infrastructure that most needs can be satisfied.