House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to again highlight some of the points that were brought up by my hon. colleague.

What I find most alarming is the household debt at record levels. The average Canadian owes almost $42,000, which is among the highest levels in the OECD.

Some of the other issues we addressed earlier regarded measures in the budget for EI and pensions.

I brought up pensions first thing this morning and I would like to leave with it as well. One of the options that is being discussed here, and I remember it being discussed in the U.K. some time ago, is the idea of having a supplemental CPP. That would allow Canadians to increase their contributions to the Canada pension plan and get a defined contribution plan that is portable.

I say portable because there are so many people, especially from my neck of the woods in Newfoundland and Labrador, who are travelling, and they are the skilled workforce at that. They are travelling to the west and to many areas around the world as well as to Labrador in the mining and technical sector. This would allow them to have the savings, have the money available, at pension time and to get close to their income just before they retire.

I was wondering if my colleague could comment on some of those options that seemingly are not within this particular discussion.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is what I call forward Liberal thinking. That is what I call Liberal compassion. As years go by we have to make changes to our pension system, health system, et cetera. We have to find the means and the ways to provide that portability for the security of each and every Canadian.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures.

The Bloc Québécois voted against the budget, and rightly so, because this budget left an entire segment of the economy, the forestry sector, to fend for itself. This sector is currently going through a very tough time. This is why the Bloc Québécois once again voted against the budget.

However, members must understand that when the time comes to implement the measures in the budget, this is done through certain bills. One of these budget implementation bills is before us today.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of sending Bill C-47, which implements certain measures in the budget, to committee to be studied. We are giving our approval because we analyzed each of these measures one by one. We often need additional information to get the government to move on these measures and show some openness—a quality that the Conservatives have yet to show. But we are in favour of several of the provisions being proposed today. I will mention the measures we support.

First, to improve the allocation of child benefits, the government agrees to pay half to each parent who shares custody. Parents who have shared custody can now divide the income from these benefits in half, which makes sense.

Also, the government is proposing to ease the tax burden of beneficiaries of a registered disability savings plan, a plan that was designed to ensure the financial security of severely disabled children. This is an interesting measure that is worth adopting.

The government is also cutting red tape for charitable organizations and some small businesses. Red tape has always put a huge burden on corporations, small companies, not-for-profit organizations and charities, which often lack the administrative staff to handle paperwork. This bill would lighten that load, and that is worthwhile.

The bill tightens the rules around TFSAs to prevent tax avoidance. TFSAs were brought in previously, but it did not take long for some people to see them as a way of avoiding and evading taxes. I think it is a good idea to ensure that measures such as the TFSA are not used to avoid taxes.

Lastly, businesses will stop benefiting from double deductions for stock options. Even though we feel that this does not go far enough, we will see what happens in committee. These measures are worth sending to committee for discussion.

But we have to be careful. We are concerned about pension plan reform, because the bill gives the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions discretionary authority in the case of pension plans that are subject to the legislation of more than one jurisdiction.

This measure must be studied, because it pertains to private pension funds and it can encroach on the provinces' jurisdiction. The pension funds can be partly under federal authority and partly under the authority of Quebec and the other provinces. We feel it is important to ensure that Quebeckers' interests will always be protected and that Quebec law will always apply.

At the same time, this is a good opportunity to talk again about the whole pension system and how the government could help. The government likes to brag that it came out of the recent economic crisis in the best shape, but one reason is that our banks were smaller than the U.S. banks.

When I arrived here as a member in 2000, the first lobbyists who came to meet me were from the banks. They wanted permission to merge so that they could buy other banks outside the country, for example, large American banks.

By fighting tooth and nail to block those mergers, we saved those banks. Canadian banks had fewer investments in American banks. They were less contaminated than the other banks. This is the reason Canada has weathered the crisis better. Our banking system was smaller, less concentrated and less at risk because it had fewer interests in the United States. That is why Canada has weathered the crisis better than other countries.

At that time, the Conservatives were in favour of bank mergers. The Liberals caused quite an uproar. Then there was an election and the mergers were blocked. I was the one who was the most surprised to see Paul Demarais Sr. admit to the media, three or four weeks ago, that his one mistake in life was supporting the merger of Canadian banks. Paul Demarais was not born yesterday. He has met all the heads of state. He was one of the biggest advocates of bank mergers. He regrets it bitterly because the fact that we blocked bank mergers is the reason that Canada weathered the crisis the best. It has nothing to do with the Conservative government, which was in favour of bank mergers, and it has nothing to do with the Liberals either because they were also in favour of bank mergers but decided to oppose them at the last minute—because of the election, I suppose.

We were always against those mergers, from start to finish. Once again, we stood up for Quebec. That allowed Canada to weather the crisis. Once again, Quebeckers came to Canada's rescue. That happens quite often. Some might say too often, since Quebec does not get the rewards it deserves.

There is also the important question of pension funds. This morning I had the chance—or the sad duty, as I told the people who invited me—of attending a march with former Fraser employees. They were all retired workers who saw their August and September pension cheques cut by 40% on average. One worker came to see me and told me that his retirement pension had been cut by 58%. What a difficult situation.

For the past five years here in Ottawa, we have been calling for programs to help the forestry industry. That industry was the first to be affected, even before the big crisis. The government started to react when Ontario was affected by the automotive crisis, but the forestry crisis had already been going on for three years before the recent financial and banking crisis. This was not important to the government, since it was happening primarily in Quebec and in the northern areas of some provinces. The fact remains that this bad financial situation led to losses for many companies.

Now the government is telling us that it is a question of markets, or lack thereof, even though what the big forestry companies wanted was loan guarantees, which are allowed by the WTO. We have proven that in this House. Was the problem in the automobile sector not a market problem? Cars were not selling. Yet the Conservatives still gave the auto industry $10 billion to help it through the crisis, which was causing a drop in the market. They did not do the same thing for the forestry industry. In fact, that is why the Bloc voted against the most recent budget.

Let us go back to pension funds. Today, 200 Fraser workers and their families organized a march. Approximately 300 pensioners have been affected. They were there to try to make sense of the situation. The owner of Fraser is the majority owner of Brookfield Renewable Power. This corporation made more than $900 million in profits for the period ending December 31, 2009. The majority shareholder is a multi-billion dollar corporation that posted huge profits even during the economic downturn. The employees have difficulty understanding why governments allow a rich multinational to close its subsidiaries, to place them in bankruptcy, when the unfunded liabilities of their pension fund total $175 million.

Considering Brookfield's profit of almost $980 billion at the end of the 2009 fiscal year, this amount would have been acceptable had the company been nudged by governments to cover the liability, given that it was very rich. I am putting myself in the shoes of these workers and their families, who are wondering how this can be permitted. How can governments allow a multi-billion dollar corporation, through its subsidiary, to go bankrupt with the result that the workers, who have worked all their lives for the company, have their income cut by 40%?

In the La Lièvre and La Petite-Nation area, that amounts to $470,000 less per month and $5 million less per year in the local economy. Some will say that it is a small business and that 300 employees are not very many. However, the same thing has happened with other companies such as Nortel and AbitibiBowater. Once again, I was reading the Nortel agreement in which the employees instructed the government to make risky investments in order to not lose their pension income. They instructed the government, which is now managing their pension fund, to make risky investments. Is there someone somewhere who will stand by these investments in these times? It is suicide, but that is the decision they made in order to not lose their monthly income. We shall see what happens in the medium and the long term.

As for AbitibiBowater, the corporation negotiated a secret agreement. All we know is that governments allowed it, and that the union consented. Governments will say that the union said yes. But what choice did it have? When the time comes to renegotiate an agreement allowing a corporation to forego making up the pension shortfall, the choices are approve it or watch the company close its doors. The reality is that the employees are doomed and governments give their approval. But afterwards, governments take no responsibility. They say yes to the company and give it five to ten years to make up the pension shortfall. In the case of AbitibiBowater, rumour has it that it may even have up to fifteen years. Once again, if the company does not make it and declares bankruptcy, the employees have the most to lose. Governments do not have a plan because the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act does not protect the unfunded liabilities of pension funds, even if they were approved by governments. The government does not want to change the law.

The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-270, which would create a refundable tax credit to cover such losses. The government is not interested. The Liberals and the Conservatives oppose it. They say we must not spend money.

That is how it starts, with 300 Fraser employees losing 40% of their income. It will happen with other companies. In this region, many people are employed by the government, with good pension plans. But one day, a political party will get elected by promising a 35% cut in pension plans for public servants, to save money or to invest it elsewhere. As was mentioned earlier, the Liberals pillaged $54 billion from the employment insurance fund surplus to spend on their budget. The Conservatives keep telling us here that the Liberals pillaged $54 billion and spent it. But when the Conservatives were bringing in $17 billion a year, they never offered to pay back the money taken from the employment insurance fund. Now, when we want to improve the plan, the government says that we need to increase premiums. The government would never tell us to take the $54 billion that was originally pillaged to try to cover other expenses. No, it will blame the Liberals, but it would never do that. Inevitably, it is always the worker who pays.

In the case of the Fraser employees, it is the workers who pay. Their income has dropped by 40%. They are between 64 and 75, and 75 and 80 years of age, and they cannot find a new job, because now is not a good time to try to find one. So they have to cut expenses and are forced to pinch pennies after spending their whole lives working.

Let us all think about it. One day, we will be pensioners ourselves. If our governments decided to cut our pension fund by 40%, I do not think that we would be happy about it. This will happen because we will have allowed multi-billion dollar companies like Brookfield to cut employee pension funds, claiming that it was just that one company. Then, there will be another. In the end, all pension funds will be cut by 25% to 30%. Will federal, provincial and municipal public servants be able to protect their pension funds? No. One day, the majority will say that the government must cut all pension funds. I thought that the bill before us would address this situation.

So it must be understood that in committee the Bloc Québécois will do everything it can to make the government understand that it could show some interest in jurisdictional issues. Should Ottawa, Quebec or the provinces be managing this? We also need to discuss the real problem. When the plans post actuarial losses and governments have covered those losses, how will the people be compensated? Often, because we do not want companies to close, these losses are authorized and this has happened on a medium, large and extra-large scale.

So we can try to reduce these losses for the people. I am not talking about eliminating them. But the 200 families that I saw today were resigned. They knew they were going to lose money. But when it is that much, it starts to hurt. At first, they thought it was a bad joke, but now they are not finding it so funny.

Often, these people are not the most educated, but, once again, they dig around and try to find out who the shareholders, the owners, are. For example, the majority shareholder of Brookfield is a multibillionaire who is still making billions of dollars in profit annually. This is paid out in dividends to dozens or hundreds or thousands of shareholders, but no more. There are not hundreds of thousands of shareholders, just tens of thousands. At some point, governments need to think about that.

Inevitably, one day the people will have the power and will try to put everything back in order. And you wonder why the Bloc Québécois does so well. It is because we are close to people and because, as I did this morning, we walk with the retirees to try and understand their situation, to try and sympathize with them but, above all, to try and see if we can find solutions. We were elected to represent them and to help them understand why they have lost 40% of their pension funds, of their life's work, and that, every month, that 40% will be lost.

Meanwhile, here in Parliament, we see Conservative government misspending, we see contracts going to friends of the party, we see all sorts of things going on. People wonder why politicians do not sit down with them to work out solutions. As I said, they are willing to make sacrifices. They know they are going to lose money, but is 40% a norm we should hope for or accept? It is unacceptable. We are going to have to sit down very soon to discuss the future of all the pension funds of all the companies.

Government employees often watch us and listen to us. One day, political parties will get elected by promising to cut pension funds by 35%, because that is the only way to get money back. That will happen because the government allowed private companies to cut their pension funds and stood by while banks made bad investments. The bank managers were not put in prison; they were given bonuses. That is what happened.

People see that and they realize that the bank managers, who were often paid to give talks, all lost money during the recent crisis, like sheep. It always amazed me that a chamber of commerce or some other organization would pay a bank manager to come and give a talk. They may have had all the staff they needed, but they all got caught with risky investments. They all lost money, and not one went to jail. I find that shocking. What is more, they are protected by all of us here, and we allow them to get outrageous bonuses, because the practice of paying bonuses is starting to take off again. Bank managers are getting bonuses because the banks are restructuring. They have laid off employees, yet they are entitled to bonuses.

No one ever thought they might lose everything because they had lost 25%, 30% or 40% of people's pension funds. No one ever thought that. Once again, it is time to stop standing up for the wealthy and start looking after the people with problems.

I would say that pension funds are a real problem. All of us need to use our position here in the House of Commons to stand up for our workers who pay taxes and who pay our salaries. If there were no workers and no pensioners who still pay taxes—because pensioners do pay taxes—we would be out of a job.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the parliamentary secretary rose to talk about one of the benefits of this bill, which is to change the rules on tax-free savings accounts. Evidently, there has been some abuse in the past year on the part of some high-level taxpayers who were over-contributing to TFSAs. Clearly, the government is on top of some of the abuse, but the parliamentary secretary did not say how many people are involved, how much money the government is trying to collect, or whether the government is even trying to collect it.

In addition, we know that between $6 trillion and $10 trillion is stashed away in tax havens around the world, and we are wondering what the government is doing to collect from some of the people who have been investing in tax havens. There were 100 people identified last year in the Liechtenstein bank situation. We know there were 1,800 Canadians identified with the recent Swiss bank information, which has been shared with Revenue Canada.

The question is, why is it only Germany and France, so far, that seem to have any interest in trying to track down these tax cheats, collect some of the money, and put up some figures to show how much they collected. We have heard nothing from the government over the last year and a half. They have said they have an amnesty in place, but there is no indication that they have collected one dime from any of the people investing in tax havens.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question.

My colleague is quite right about the TFSA. Canada's major banks were surveyed and earlier this week I heard that barely 30% of taxpayers old enough or otherwise eligible are using a TFSA. Once again, this measure helps only a few privileged people in society. This program has not been very popular.

On the other hand, it was a way for the government to further its election cause. It was more a election promise or commitment than something the people were really wishing for. Now we realize that there have been some abuses. It is quite likely that among the 30% who are benefiting from a TFSA, some are abusing the program.

We have heard nothing. My colleague is quite right. I heard a news report with the individual responsible for the investigation in France. He said he was surprised that some countries, including Canada, were not making any requests regarding the tax evasions, because he had a list of the individuals involved.

Is the Conservative government afraid of seeing who is on the list, because they might be friends of the Conservative Party? I do not know. There is a problem here. I am a member of Parliament and I was astounded to hear the person responsible for the investigation in France say that he was surprised that no one had contacted him. Canada has not requested any information about Canada.

I must thank Radio-Canada for going to interview that individual, but it is still a harsh reality to face. The government could be recovering money owed by some of the wealthiest people, yet it does nothing. However, when the time comes to crush my 300 Fraser workers and take away 40% of their pension, the government does absolutely nothing to protect them. This is hard to take.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Bloc friend has quite rightly concentrated his remarks on the impact that the economic cycles have on working Canadians.

He says that Canadians who are not working are not able to contribute to pension plans. He also makes the point that the actuarial costs of multinational corporations are paying a large dividend, and that the actuarial costs with respect to corporate pensions are not in keeping with the draw required for retirement. It is much less. Corporations are going out of business and leaving workers high and dry.

The Bloc and the opposition parties looked at amendments to EI that would tap into the many billions of dollars that are in the EI fund. That is a fund that has been set up by workers and contributors to be used not only as insurance but also as an investment in workers.

We have been castigated by the government because they say the draw is going to be $10 billion on a fund that is now over $50 billion.

My question to the member is, are the criticisms of his comments and the government's principles fair or unfair?

Does the member see the ability to use the employment insurance fund for protecting workers and investing in key corporations?

I have to take exception to his criticism of the payments to the automobile industry, given the spinoffs and multipliers generated by that industry, particularly in the province of Quebec.

I would like the member to respond to the criticisms having to do with using the fund for investment in workers, in light of the objectives that he has outlined.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would point out to my colleague that the forestry industry creates two and half times as many jobs as the automobile industry. The economic spinoffs from the forestry industry are two and a half times greater than those of the automobile industry. A choice was made. I am aware that his party supported that choice, but he could acknowledge that roughly 35% of Quebec's economy is based on the forestry sector. It is a very important industry in Quebec.

When it comes to employment insurance, he only has it half right. Just last week, the Bloc Québécois called for a vote on a bill to improve the employment insurance system. The majority of Liberal members voted in favour of the bill, but the Leader of the Liberal Party left before the vote; I remember that quite clearly. He was criticized by the Conservatives and reminded of precisely what the parliamentary secretary was saying earlier, that this would cost $7 billion and create a deficit.

It is true that because of the current economic crisis, if we wanted to improve the employment insurance system, premiums would need to go up. How soon we forget that the EI fund contributed to reducing some of Canada's debt with the $54 billion it had accumulated over the years. I take issue with the fact that the Liberal Party and its leader are not speaking out and telling the government to stop saying foolish things. It is true that the Liberal Party used money from the employment insurance fund for other purposes. However, today, it is time to use that money to help the unemployed, who deserve it. The Liberal leader should have put the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party in their place.

When we ask for improvements to the system, the Conservatives tell us they will have to raise the premiums for all workers. They do not need to raise workers' premiums. They need to take money out of the consolidated revenue fund, which is where the surpluses ended up. That is what we need to do to help the unemployed. It is as simple as that.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak briefly on what Bill C-47 means to most Canadians.

In general, this budget means very little to ordinary Canadians. It has little positive impact on them. Instead, it provides a road map for the large corporations to use in reaping greater profits and for the average working Canadian to lose faith in their government. What this budget bill does not do is provide any relief for the unemployed or any hope to those who are in imminent danger of losing their employment.

Let us look at the record of the finance minister. He has wasted away a $13 billion surplus that was left to him as a legacy to protect for the Canadian people. This was left to him by the prudent and excellent fiscal managers, the previous Liberal governments, under the leadership of Prime Minister Chrétien and Prime Minister Martin. What did the minister do? In good economic times, he wasted away the surplus and has now turned the $13 billion surplus into a $53 billion deficit. This is in good economic times, and he wishes Canadians to believe that he can manage their money in bad economic times.

Canadians need to be told how the finance minister intends to add further to this deficit by borrowing more money to pay for unneeded tax cuts for big businesses to the tune of approximately $6 billion, another $16 billion on new fighter jets, and untold billions wasted through mismanagement of the economic stimulus package. Why is it that the Conservatives preach fiscal responsibility but practice the complete opposite? The minister is the brains behind the biggest-spending government in the nation's history.

The current finance minister has a history in Ontario of destroying finances. He did it in Ontario by borrowing money to give tax breaks. He cut hospital funding, which led to the closure of 26 hospitals and layoffs for some 16,000 nurses. He left Ontario in a huge deficit, which Ontario is still reeling from. In many economic and financial circles, the finance minister has been labelled the architect of deficit .

The Conservatives and the finance minister take credit for Canada's being able to do better than others during the economic crisis. But let us look at the facts. Canada was able to buffer the economic crisis because the Liberals did not allow bank mergers and put in strict financial controls, so that we would not have a sub-prime mortgage scenario. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Paul Martin also ensured that the CPP was funded for 75 years.

What did the current finance minister do? Remember the introduction of a 40-year mortgage with no down payment? It smells like a sub-prime mortgage. Remember trying to create or dip into the CPP to pay for boutique tax cuts? Is that really economic sense?

The opposition stopped him. Instead of taking credit for fiscal management, it is high time that the Conservatives took a hard look in the mirror and realized that they have been the biggest spenders since Confederation, turning a $13 billion surplus into a $54 billion deficit, and overspending by $70 billion. And for what? They have nothing to show for it except a huge, growing deficit. And to compound their economic incompetence, guess what else has been done?

The Conservatives have the temerity to give, through EDC, a loan to a foreign company to the tune of $1 billion. This foreign company is Vale, a Brazilian company. For those who do not know it, it was Vale Inco that created a hostile environment for workers at the Sudbury mine and then shut them out for a year.

Is this how Canadian taxpayers are treated by the government? Their hard-earned money is being given away to foreign corporations that have no intention of fulfilling their obligations to give work to Canadians, and to boot, the Canadian workers have to foot the bill. How do they foot the bill for this economic incompetence?

Canadian workers will have to fork out higher EI premiums. The effect of this tax on small and medium-sized enterprises and hard-working Canadians will be to the tune of $13 billion.

This pattern of Conservatives taxing the middle and lower income people and giving breaks to their friends in large corporations, both domestic and foreign, is a very similar pattern that we have seen recently.

The government is spending $16 billion on untendered contracts for jets, which will not create any jobs for Canada or benefit any regions and which even the Pentagon thinks is a wrong choice. Members should think this through: $16 billion has nine zeroes after 16. What could be done with this money if invested in a Canadian company, in Canada, or if a Canadian company could bid? The multiplier effects are tremendous. There would be millions of good-paying professional jobs.

It is simply unfortunate that, every day, working Canadians will be paying more as they worry about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. These decent Canadians will have to pay through their noses while the corporate friends of the Conservative government get to boast to their international colleagues about paying the lowest rates of tax in the industrialized world. I need to emphasize that the large corporations do not create jobs. In fact, they drain jobs away. It is the small and medium-sized enterprises that need the benefit.

How does the government then have the temerity to show such utter contempt for the vast majority of working Canadians while giving money to those who least need it?

In the past, some governments have talked of a trickle-down theory in which the wealth of the rich would somehow trickle down to those with much less. The Conservative government seems to favour the flooding-up theory, in which they take desperately needed funds from the average worker and small businesses and just dump it on those who will use it to buy toys, a second Mercedes, et cetera. Canadians want and deserve better.

I would like to give a few examples of the government's economic mismanagement. Let us look at the stimulus package.

The government's stimulus plan created photo opportunities for ministers and Conservative backbenchers to pose with oversized cheques with Conservative Party logos on them. The real truth is that it has yet to be revealed where these billions of dollars have been spent.

We have found some examples. In Kitimat, B.C., $2,316 was used to purchase a portable dance floor. In Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, a group received $404,416 to build a floating gazebo. In Maniwaki, Quebec, the owners of Auberge du draveur received a $212,500 federal grant to install a glass dome over their terrace pool.

We now know that rather than wanting results that would benefit unemployed Canadians and those in danger of losing their jobs, the government's priority was to situate signs on every piece of wall and fence and it demanded that 8,500 public workers would go and do that job for it.

If the Prime Minister and his colleagues were a little more interested in running the government for the benefit of all Canadians rather than changing government websites to Tory blue colour schemes, I might be a little less critical. Unfortunately, there is little good I can say about the budget and the government, except to say it has finally done something that I thought almost impossible. It makes Brian Mulroney look good.

Aside from a feel good campaign in the stimulus area, what jobs have actually been created?

The minister responsible for infrastructure and his officials are still unable to show how many jobs have really been created or have been saved by these stimulus funds. In fact, they have made a conscious effort or decision not to track these numbers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has complained that the government is frustrating his efforts in getting the real numbers and what exactly this expenditure created.

Let us look at some of the areas where I think there is incomprehensible economic thinking.

One wonders why the government, between 2009 and 2014, is planning to borrow about $156 billion which would then cost the taxpayer $10 billion in interest payments each and every year for decades to come. Borrow $156 billion and add another $10 billion every year. Does that make economic sense, especially when the government is trying to state that it wants to create a recovery? There is no recovery when the government keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper.

To boot, the government is going to spend $13 billion on constructing jails for unreported crime. One wonders what the purpose is. We need to get to the bottom of economic thinking.

When it comes to giving prisoners an opportunity to work, the government says no and gives us no rationale for killing the prison farm system. The farm system has been proven to be beneficial not only to the prisoners, but to the system itself by providing low-cost food. It also provides many prisoners the first responsible job that they have had in their lives.

The government would rather have prisoners locked in their cells wasting away than learn a viable work ethic. The government will feign surprise when the recidivism rate climbs up to the 70% figure of our neighbours to the south.

What could have been done with the money? What are the alternatives? We can talk about the mismanagement, the bad spending, et cetera, but what is the issue here? The issue is Canadians who are dying to get a job, Canadians who are struggling to pay their mortgages, Canadians who are struggling to put food on the table.

What could the government do? It could do a lot of things. For example, the $1.2 billion that it wasted on a 72-hour photo op could have been utilized to give relief to caregivers. There are many caregivers in Canada. There are approximately three million caregivers who look after their elderly parents or their sick children. It is important for this sandwich generation to be given some relief.

There are so many other areas in which the government could have worked to help Canadians. Instead, it reduces the corporate tax, thereby reducing its revenue by $6 billion, which it could ill afford, and for corporations that really do not create jobs. Small and medium-sized enterprises create one job in eight.

What could the government have done? What can the government do with the $13 billion that it is planning to spend on building prisons for unreported crime?

We could use that money to address the deterrents of crime. We could use the money to alleviate poverty and illiteracy. There could be money for mental health and affordable housing. There are so many things the government can do that are positive for Canadians in general. It is important that the government listen.

As I review this I just cannot believe that the government keeps on increasing taxes. It created a payroll tax and it will increase the EI premiums in 2011 for both employees and employers. This will have a negative impact.

A lot of small and medium-sized enterprises are run by women. Women, who form 50% of the population, will get a double whammy. They are there as sole proprietors and they will have to fork out more in EI premiums. They work individually or as a collective and they employ people. The problem they are facing is that they do not only look after the economics of their business, but they also look after the family. Sometimes they have to bear the burden of caregiving.

With this double whammy, I would ask the government, why does it not change its thinking and not focus on ideology but on investing in Canadians? It is important to invest in Canadians.

In conclusion, if the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister stay the course they are following, they will not have any economic recovery. They will crash and the economy will go into a tailspin. There are issues around the environment and issues around programs, and it is important that these be fixed.

The budget reinforces my belief that the Conservatives are not here for the average Canadian, and unless they change their minds, they are only here for their friends in big business.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to address this bill, the second budget implementation act. I did not actually hear the member address any of the contents of the bill in her speech. I would like to perhaps highlight three sections of the bill.

This bill allows for the sharing of the Canada child tax benefit, the universal child care benefit, and the goods and services tax or harmonized sales tax credit for eligible shared-custody parents. That certainly seems like a good idea.

It allows registered retirement savings plan proceeds to be transferred to a registered disability savings plan on a tax-deferred basis, which is a very popular measure.

The third item I want to highlight is that it expands the availability of accelerated capital cost allowance, which is depreciation, for clean energy generation.

These items are on the first page of the bill.

Can the member address these three items and inform the House as to whether she and the Liberal Party support these three measures in Bill C-47?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, my biggest consternation is that the government has no money in its kitty. The government is saying that it will give from one hand, but it takes from the other.

The government has taken away research and innovation. It has killed programs and then reinvented them. Why does the government talk from both sides of its mouth?

I want to see what is there for the average Canadian, the Canadian who is trying to put food on the table, the Canadian family that is trying to send its kids to school, the Canadian family that is trying to get its kids to university. Where is it?

Canadian firms need technology, but the government kills research and development, kills what the scientists present, and then it claims that it is doing something wonderful. That is not valid.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, over and over again I have heard Liberal speakers in the House criticizing the budget implementation process, with Bill C-9 and Bill C-47. With Bill C-9, they complained about the airline tax increases that would raise airline tax fees 50%, bringing them much higher than competing American airlines from which Canadian airlines were trying to draw business. They criticized the provisions of the omnibus budget bill of 880 pages that threw in things like the privatization of the remailers with Canada Post. Then when all was said and done, the Liberals ended up supporting the government, keeping the government in power by making certain that 30 of their members walked out just before the vote.

Are the Liberals going to continue this practice of keeping the government in power, or this time are they going to vote with other members in the opposition and defeat the government on this budget bill? If they are so opposed to the budget, then why do they not vote against it?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not need to take lessons from a party that killed Kelowna, that killed Kyoto, that killed child care and that killed the cities agenda. NDP members had absolutely no principles when they went to bed with the Conservatives.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Oral Questions

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.