House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 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.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to start third and final reading of the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act. Before continuing, let me quickly thank the House of Commons finance committee for its timely consideration and adoption of this important legislation.

The sustaining Canada's economic recovery act, which includes numerous initiatives from budget 2010, is a key element of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that has helped ensure that Canada has weathered the recent global economic storm better than all other countries in the G7, a plan that has given the Canadian economy a $62 billion shot in the arm when it needed it the most, a plan that was well designed.

As Auditor General Sheila Fraser, following her examination of Canada's economic action plan, recently concluded, “I would give the government high marks.... [T]hey paid a lot of attention to managing the risks” and they deserve “a lot of credit” for that.

It is a plan that worked and is still working.

Indeed, listen to what prominent Canadians have said about it.

Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter exclaimed:

Canada has arguably had one of the most successful stimulus programs in the industrialized world....

Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Brock Carlton, has applauded:

the economic action plan has been very successful

Canadian Public Works Association president Darwin Durnie has remarked:

Conceived in response to the chaos of the global economic recession, the Economic Action Plan has saved jobs and generated economic activity

Likewise, our continued economic growth also clearly shows that Canada's economic action plan is working and that our Conservative government is on the right track on the economy.

Let us look at the facts: Canada's economy has grown in 11 of the past 12 months; Canada has created almost 430,000 net new jobs since July of last year; and Canada is projected to have the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the next few years by both the IMF and the OECD. Little wonder countless independent experts and observers have been near unanimous in their praise for Canada's economy.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Catherine Swift has noted:

Canada is currently faring better economically than most other developed countries around the world

TD Bank Financial Group chief economist Craig Alexander, has declared that Canada's “economic performance was better than any other industrial nation”.

A recent Victoria Times Colonist editorial has heralded:

far from needing a lecture on financial management or sound public policy, Canada should be delivering one.... Our handling of the economic downturn has been an example for the world.

Even the Toronto Star, no friend of our Conservative government, has grudgingly admitted:

Canada has come through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression remarkably well — better than any other industrial nation in the world.

Without a doubt, our Conservative government is on the right track on the economy and for Canadian families. However, as our government has said all along, the global economic recovery remains fragile. As witnessed by the ongoing fiscal challenges currently affecting European countries such as Ireland, we are not out of the woods yet. That is why our government's main focus has been and will remain the economy, including implementing Canada's economic action plan.

The sustaining Canada's economic recovery act does exactly that, moving ahead to protect Canada's economy and further strengthen the recovery.

Today's act accomplishes that objective in numerous ways, through a group of key steps, steps to help Canadian families get ahead, such as indexing the working income tax benefit, allowing registered retirement savings plan proceeds to be transferred to a registered disability savings plan on a tax deferred basis, allowing a 10-year carry forward for registered disability savings plan grants and bonds, implementing employee life and health trusts, and further strengthening federally regulated pension plans; steps to cut red tape, such as helping registered charities with disbursement quota reform, allowing taxpayers to request online notices from the Canada Revenue Agency, and reducing the paperwork burden for certain taxpayers; steps to close down tax loopholes, such as better targeting tax incentives for employee stock options, and addressing aggressive tax planning related to tax-free savings accounts; steps to further protect consumers by improving the complaint process for consumers when dealing with the financial services industry; and finally, steps to promote clean energy by expanding access to accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation.

I would like to pause here a moment to highlight a few of the key steps in greater detail, especially outlining what they mean for everyday hard-working Canadian families and businesses.

To start, I would like to explain how the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act's proposal to index the working income tax benefit will help better ensure that Canadian families can better get ahead.

Our Conservative government has made a lot of progress to help low-income Canadians since 2006, including key investments in social housing and removing over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls.

We have also fought hard to make sure that no Canadian is penalized for taking a job. This has been underlined by the introduction of the working income tax benefit, or the WITB, in 2007. This benefit was designed to ensure that Canadians would be better off as a result of taking a job, and not face unintended and perverse disincentives for taking that job. Taxes, reduced income support, and loss of benefits had often discouraged individuals receiving social assistance from working, clawing back nearly 80% of their income.

WITB helps address that situation by both increasing income support while simultaneously strengthening work incentives. I am happy to report that approximately 1.5 million individuals and families benefit from the WITB each year.

What is more, since our Conservative government first introduced it, WITB has been roundly applauded.

The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has called it:

a welcome addition to Canadian social policy.... [It] fills a long-recognized gap in Canada's income security system.

McMaster University Professor William Scarth has observed that WITB:

stimulates employment rather than subsidizes people not to work. So it's a fundamental and beneficial change.

The United Way of Greater Toronto has declared that WITB is a positive change “that will help to improve the situations of low-income families”.

When we introduced it in 2007, our government also indicated it was only a first step that we hoped to build on. Indeed, we have done exactly that.

In budget 2009, we effectively doubled the tax relief provided by WITB, increasing benefits by an additional $580 million. This further strengthened work incentives for low-income Canadians already in the workforce and encouraged low-income Canadians to enter the workforce.

In the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act we propose to further improve WITB in a small but important way. Each year, certain personal income tax and benefit amounts are indexed to inflation using the consumer price index. This act will ensure that WITB amounts will also be indexed to inflation on an annual basis.

Following royal assent, WITB amounts payable in 2010 and subsequent years will be indexed to inflation on an annual basis, providing a few extra dollars to Canadian families that need it most. This is particularly important coming out of a recession where we understand that low-income Canadians have taken the brunt of the impact.

The next key step in sustaining Canada's economic recovery act that I would like to highlight in greater detail relates to cutting red tape for charities.

Supporting the good work of charities across Canada is obviously a shared goal among all parliamentarians. In that respect, we have heard from many charities throughout the years about the need to cut their red tape so they can devote more of their time and resources to actually helping others, not dealing with needless administrative paperwork.

One measure being proposed through today's act helps cut red tape facing charities, specifically significant reforms to the disbursement quota regime to reduce administrative complexity and better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities.

The disbursement quota, originally introduced in 1976, has been criticized by many as antiquated and failing to take into account the varying circumstances of charities. The disbursement quota has also been criticized as imposing an unduly complex and costly administrative burden on charities, particularly small and rural charities.

Additionally, in recent years, Canada Revenue Agency's ability to ensure the appropriateness of a charity's practices has been strengthened through new legislative and administrative tools. These tools have provided a more effective and direct means to fulfill many of the purported objectives of the disbursement quota. As a result, today's act proposes to cut that red tape overlap by eliminating the majority of antiquated disbursement quota requirements.

I note the feedback that has been received to this move has been extremely positive. Imagine Canada has applauded it for providing greater flexibility for charities as they seek to meet the increasing and changing needs of Canadians. The disbursement quota added layers of red tape and reduced flexibility in responding to the needs of Canadians and communities. It would help charitable organizations, especially smaller and rural ones, to better plan their activities to meet the real needs of their communities.

The Salvation Army has cheered it, stating:

The removal of the quota will provide The Salvation Army; one of Canada’s largest charities, with increased flexibility....

We are very pleased with this announcement. The proposed changes will allow us to better respond to the needs of the people we serve in 400 communities across Canada.

Community Foundations of Canada has enthusiastically added:

This move is a win-win situation – it has a dramatic impact on communities, making it easier for charities to serve people in need.... We applaud the government’s decision to reform the disbursement quota policy.

The next steps in sustaining Canada's economic recovery act I would like to look at in greater detail, also focused on cutting red tape. Parliamentarians often hear complaints from constituents and small businesses about the unnecessary paperwork and red tape they face around filing their annual taxes. This is especially true for small and medium size businesses, the engines of growth in the Canadian economy.

Indeed, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that businesses in Canada currently spend over $30 billion each year complying with regulations. Our Conservative government understands the burden unnecessary red tape places on taxpayers, and that is why we have taken important steps to reduce the administrative and paperwork burden.

Over the past few years, we have taken important steps to reduce the administrative and paperwork burden on Canadian businesses and taxpayers. In March 2009, for example, we met our target of reducing the paper burden on companies by 20%, eliminating almost 80,000 redundant regulatory requirements. This was done by streamlining regulations, eliminating duplicate or overlapping requirements and reducing excessive information requirements.

To build on our record and further reduce the administrative red tape burden on taxpayers, today's act would take another two steps. First, it would provide the Canada Revenue Agency with the authority to issue online notices, if the taxpayer so requests, for those notices that can currently only be sent by ordinary mail. This would help reduce the volume of paper to be dealt for both the taxpayers and the government.

Second, it would allow certain small businesses to file and remit semi-annually rather than monthly. With this change, many small businesses would be allowed to invest more of their time in managing and growing their businesses and the jobs it will create in our communities.

Before I conclude, I would like to highlight in detail one final item in the act: expanding access to accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation.

Our country's energy supply is of vital importance to Canadians, especially promoting clean energy generation technologies. For that reason, the tax system provides incentives through accelerated capital cost allowance to help promote investment in generation equipment that conserves energy or relies on renewable or waste sources.

Today's act would expand the scope of that tax incentive to assets used in heat recovery and clean energy distribution across a broader range of applications. This extension would encourage investment in technologies that contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.

The four or so steps I have reviewed in greater detail are only a small sampling of the many steps in sustaining Canada's economic recovery act aimed at supporting everyday, hard-working Canadian families and businesses. Clearly, this act would help make certain the Canadian economy continues to move in the right direction.

With the timely and effective support of Canada's economic action plan, the Canadian economy has weathered the global recession better than our peers. As the global recovery remains tentative and fragile, Parliament must continue to remain squarely focused on the economy and provide the steady guidance needed to keep Canada on the right track to recovery.

Accordingly, I strongly urge all members to support the continued implementation of Canada's economic action plan and pass the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, why is it that the whole issue of poverty never gets mentioned by the government in its speeches or in the bill that we are presently debating?

We heard last week that under the government's watch the poverty level of senior Canadians has increased by 25% over the last two or three years and that 610,000 Canadian children now living in poverty. We have very clear evidence of the close association between poverty and future health care costs, poverty and future interactions with the criminal justice system and poverty and the productivity of the nation.

Two studies have been tabled recently, one by the Senate committee and one by the House of Commons committee. They are both excellent studies that make sound recommendations.

Why is it that issue never comes to the attention of the government?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague opposite that billions of dollars have been spent on helping those who are underprivileged in our society. We have also cut over 100 taxes putting over $3,000 a year back into the pockets of the average Canadian family. Over one million lower income Canadians are no longer on the tax rolls. We have allowed income splitting for seniors. We have doubled the age credit amount for seniors. We have raised the age for converting RRSPs to RRIFs from 69 to 71 years of age, which is a huge benefit to seniors who can now defer having to pay taxes for another two years. We have also introduced the tax free savings account and almost five million Canadians have already opened accounts. We are taking action to help those who are underprivileged in our society.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, a rosy picture of the economy is counter to what is happening out there. Reuters just posted an interesting story stating, “Canada record-high current account gap spurs worry”. It goes on to say:

Canada entered the club of countries with oversized current account deficits in the third quarter, posting the biggest shortfall on record as its worsening trade profile heralded a further slowdown in economic growth.

This is the eighth consecutive deficit and this one is $13 billion. Doug Porter, the deputy chief economist at the BMO Capital Market, said:

Canada suddenly finds its broadest trade deficit in the company of countries that have typically been cited as extravagant over-spenders/under-savers.

Part of the problem is that our trade deficit with the United States is growing. That is part and parcel because we have a government with a petro-dollar philosophy that has pushed the Canadian dollar significantly up and is destroying manufacturing across this country. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary about that.

How long will the government continue to fuel an artificial dollar up when it is clearly affecting so many value-added jobs in Canada, which is different than the jobs that have been added?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague that this government believes strongly in expanding the markets for Canadian goods. That is why our Prime Minsiter made record-breaking trips to Asia last year and went to India and China. He was able to get approved destination status for Canada, something that, after 13 years, Liberal governments were unable to achieve. This will result in hundreds of millions of dollars coming to Canada through increased tourism and trade with those two rapidly growing important nations.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, in the world today we see economic turmoil in many countries. Ireland has just recently had a major bailout in the eurozone. We see economies collapsing all over the world. However, we see Canada's economy growing, jobs increasing and a banking system that is the envy of the world. In fact, I understand the Finance Minister is ranked the best finance minister in the world.

I wonder if the member could speak a little more to why the budget has been so positive for Canadians, especially in light of the very bad suggestions that come from members across the aisle.