House of Commons Hansard #107 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
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2010 / 1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was asked a question and I had to respond.

The first coalition in Canadian government was that of the NDP agreeing with the Conservatives to overthrow the government.

Now I will get back to this. That is why we had the NDP amendment, the budget, which allocated almost $1.-something billion to housing, to post-secondary education, to seniors, et cetera.

What can I say?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Scarborough Centre for his comments. In fact. if I were to thank him in his own language. I would say:

[Member spoke in Greek].

[English]

My hon. colleague from Scarborough Centre said that he would not talk about the unkept promises of the government. I can understand why. It is because we only have 20 minutes for a speech at this stage of debate on this bill and It would require unlimited time to go through that list.

I will talk for a minute about what the finance minister has been doing. He has been going around the country bragging about Canada's record, economically, and the situation, fiscally, and about our strong banks.

I am sure my hon. colleagues know that the Conservative government came into office with a surplus of $13 billion that it inherited from the previous Liberal government and, within three years, it had increased spending by 17.8%, far beyond the rate of inflation.

Of course, we also know that the Conservatives were in favour of changes to regulations that govern banks that would have put us in a much worse situation in the crisis that we have had in the last couple of years with this recession and in the crisis that led to this recession.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on the finance minister's bragging as he goes about the country, and whether he believes that is justified.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of my hon. friend, English was my first language when I grew up in downtown Toronto on Walton Street and Greek became my second language later.

The member is right. The Conservatives are revisionists. They do brag. However, by using their own statistics I will point out how wrong they are.

The Conservatives did make an investment in debt retirement when they first took over. They plunked the surplus down on debt reduction. They inherited a $501 billion debt from us and they brought it down to $460 billion. According to their own graft, by 2014-15 that debt will have grown to $622.1 billion. It will actually be higher with the most recent figures. In other words, the Conservatives will have added $120 billion to the debt in a short period of time. That is unheard of. They are burdening not just today's youth but tomorrow's future as well. I point to our House of Commons pages because this debt will be on their backs more so than on ours.

I just pointed out that the Conservatives inherited balanced books. However, as of next year, we will have a $100 billion deficit, and amount unheard of. What can the Conservatives be proud of? They have nothing to be proud of.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would caution the member against scaring our pages.

However, he is absolutely correct in his assessment of the government's lack of spending in R and D. The government seems to be reluctant to accept best practices in a lot of areas around the world. It only has to look at Germany as an example of solar power and wind power development. Canada has missed many opportunities right here in Canada.

A company in Canada called ARISE Technologies Corporation was forced to move to Germany because the Canadian government showed no interest in developing solar panels here in Canada. This company is now so successful in Germany that it has to build another plant because it is operating at full capacity. It is being subsidized and supported strongly by the German government. This is another example.

The member used China as an example of the largest green energy investor at $34.5 billion in low carbon energy technologies.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on not only the Chinese experience but also the German experience. They are showing the way but the Conservative government does not seem able to understand or accept it.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that before China, Germany, the U.K. and other countries showed the light, the Liberal government made record investments in R and D. Genome is one example but there are many others.

I remember discussing the aerospace act in the House when John Manley was the parliamentary secretary. We made the right investments. We invested in the Canadarm, and the list goes on. We were ahead of the game.

I gave examples in my speech of China, Australia and the United States. The United States, although burdened with high debt and deficits, made those investments but not the Conservative government, as was pointed out by professionals. I quoted a gentleman who said that all this does is keep the lights on. We have failed in this area. When other nations are investing in new jobs and jobs of the future, they are doing the right thing and we should look to them as examples.

I do not use scare tactics. I am only talking to the pages simply because it is their future and their country, but--

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak to what is a budget implementation bill but very clearly another failure in the Conservative government's very sad history of financial measures taken over the last few years. Nobody votes Conservative because they want a better health care system, or they want an accessible education system or they think that public services will improve. People vote Conservative for only two reasons, because up until now there has been the Conservatives' pretence of trying to manage public affairs adequately, and then there are the crime issues.

What we have seen over the last few months is that the Conservatives have lost all credibility on crime. Number one, they gutted the crime prevention programs that are actually a way of reducing the crime rate in this country. After they gutted crime prevention measures, many Canadians are now asking what credibility Conservatives can have on crime when they actually seem to be trying to stoke the crime rate by eliminating crime prevention programs that keep Canadians safe.

I will not even go into the other aspects, for example their refusal to provide compensation for the families of police officers or firefighters who have lost their lives saving those of others. We have had an NDP motion that was passed in a previous Parliament, which Conservatives have steadfastly refused to put into place, now for five years. So they have shown real disrespect for our police officers and our firefighters. The fact that the Conservatives would cut crime prevention and the fact that they want to spend billions of dollars building jails for unreported crime has pretty well eliminated any credibility they had on the crime front.

Let us talk about finances, because that was the only other issue that a person would want to vote Conservative on. We certainly have not had in past history any real track record of financial propriety from Conservative governments.

The Minister of Finance produces every year, and has for the last 20 years, an annual compendium of all governments, whether they be Conservative, New Democrat, Liberal or other. What that annual document has shown year after year is that NDP governments are the best at balancing budgets, paying down debt and maintaining public services. That does not come from an NDP source. It comes from the Department of Finance, which is now a Conservative ministry of finance. For 20 years, New Democrat governments have managed money better than Conservative governments. Now the current Conservative government has broken all records for an inability to manage finances wisely. I just need to mention a few of the Conservative boondoggles we have had from the most recent Conservative government.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

A lot of them. It could take hours.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Absolutely. I could spend my 20 minutes just talking about the boondoggles, the incredible cost overruns and misallocation of expenses. These are hard-working taxpayers putting forward their money to make sure the collective good is taken care of, and what we have seen is a clear abuse of taxpayers' money from the Conservatives.

I am going to come back to the HST because that is one of the boondoggles. In British Columbia, we have certainly seen the reaction from British Columbians and that is why the Conservative government is running very scared and continues to refuse to call a by-election in Prince George—Peace River. Today we are asking it, yet again, to show respect for the people there, call that by-election now and let us have that referendum on the HST in British Columbia.

I will go into just a few of the other boondoggles that the Conservatives have concocted over the last few months. We have $130 million shovelled out the door to AbitibiBowater, even though the press gallery did not really pick up on that boondoggle. That is money paid in compensation to AbitibiBowater for having broken its agreement with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The legislature in Newfoundland and Labrador quite rightly took back the timber rights and water rights that belonged to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. AbitibiBowater, having not respected its agreement, said it would file one of these chapter 11 SLAPP suits that are the Liberals' gift to corporate rights in this country.

The Conservatives simply turned around and paid out $130 million of taxpayers' money in compensation to that company. That is one boondoggle.

The second is the fact that we did not go to tender on the F-35 fighter jets. The most recent figures are now showing cost overruns, and we have seen a number of countries moving back from that purchase.

We are looking at about $30 billion that the Conservatives want to put forward to buy these fighter jets. Yes, they are the Cadillac of fighter jets; there is no doubt about, but this is at a time when we have many seniors living in poverty. It is at a time when we have hundreds of thousands of Canadians without even a roof over their heads.

This is at a time when we have seen our gutted manufacturing capacity collapsing, with half a million jobs lost in value-added manufacturing, which has led to a lowering of the standard of living for the vast majority of Canadians. The only ones who are really doing well are the lobbyists who Conservatives and Liberals love to talk to. The top 10% of income earners now take most of the Canadian income pie. Everybody else, middle class and poor Canadians together, has seen a pushing down of their living standards. Instead seeing an industrial strategy put in place with that $30 billion, we are seeing those people hung out to dry as well.

I could talk about aboriginal poverty. I could talk about record levels of student debt. The reality is that Tory times are tough times, because the Conservatives continue to listen to a few key lobbyists and a few wealthy Canadians at the expense of everybody else. There is $30 billion that the Conservatives want to put forward for 65 fighter jets rather than deal with the fundamental issues Canadians are having to deal with, with no help from the Conservative government.

I can keep going, with the $60 billion in corporate tax cuts that the government has put in place. The government is very proud that it has given money to the bankers and big businessmen. Corporate CEOs are laughing all the way to the bank. Again, that comes at the expense of the community economy. That is why middle class Canadians are earning less under the Conservatives, even less than they were 20 years ago. It is because we have a misdirection of what should be the economic priorities of this country. That $60 billion in corporate tax cuts is not for job creation, not to stimulate the economy; it is just handed out, just shovelled out the back of a truck. It is an irresponsible, inappropriate boondoggle.

A few months ago, we saw an even clearer example of the types of boondoggle this Conservative government is giving out. It held a 72-hour meeting. According to many Conservatives it was a very important meeting, addressing many important things. The government filled in one lake and created another fake lake. It had to buy a lot of baubles and things to hand out for this very important meeting. When all the figures are added up, we are talking about $1 billion that the government doled out in the space of 72 hours.

What is so outrageous about that is that we have been saying in this corner of the House for years, and seniors' organizations have been saying for years, that for the relatively paltry sum of $700 million in guaranteed income supplements, we could lift all seniors out of poverty in this country. However, the Conservative government has continued to say, “no, seniors are not important”, and it does not care about them.

The government does not want to allocate any money to lift seniors out of poverty. Yet, the government was willing to fork over $1 billion for a meeting that only lasted a few hours. It built these fake lakes and majestic temporary accommodations to ensure that brief meeting was, according to the way only a Conservative could evaluate it, a success.

The cost is that thousands upon thousands of Canadian seniors have to continue to live in poverty. The government said it was more important to have that brief meeting and that fake lake than it was to treat our seniors with respect and give them the kind of support they deserve and warrant for their long-time contributions to this country.

Outrageous, scandalous, absolutely, but that is what Conservatives choose. They always choose lobbyists over the needs of ordinary Canadians.

I could go on. We have seen an advertising budget that has more than doubled. The government loves to advertise itself. The Prime Minister loves to see himself on TV. The government has increased the advertising budget substantially right across the country.

We have examples of these beautiful signs that it purchased, often offshore, often in foreign jurisdictions. I guess it does not believe Canadian workers can do the job, but in this corner of the House we believe that Canadian workers do a fantastic job.

So there would be a small government subsidy to change a door knob with a $1,000 sign right outside, paid for by Canadian taxpayers, with the bright lights and everything else. That is again absolutely inappropriate but that is what the Conservative government loves to do. When it comes to managing money it is just as bad as the Liberals.

One of the other boondoggles is the one that does not really have a cost estimate because the Conservatives do not really know how much it is going to cost. They want to build a bunch of prisons across the country.

When the President of the Treasury Board was asked, given that the crime rate is actually coming down, why he would want to build these additional prisons, the response from the President of the Treasury Board was, “We are going to build these prisons so that we can put people in prison for unreported crime”.

This left people shaking their heads right across the country. On main streets from Vancouver Island right through to Newfoundland and Labrador, right up to the Western Arctic and the Northwest Territories, people have said, “This is absolutely ridiculous that we would want to spend billions of dollars to fill the prisons with people who have committed unreported crime”. That is absolutely absurd.

As the member for Burnaby—Douglas pointed out a little while ago, I could keep going for hours on the boondoggles of the Conservative government. I did not even get into the West Block renovations. I saw Mike Holmes over there evaluating what has gone into this. It is clearly a botched renovation if ever we saw one. I could go on and on.

However the important point to mention is this. Conservatives manage money worse than New Democrats. They do manage money better than Liberals but they manage it worse than the NDP.

That is the Department of Finance that tells us this, not after one year, two years, five years or ten years, but over a twenty-year period NDP governments managed money best.

The important point to mention is why New Democrat governments manage money better than Conservatives and far better than Liberals. It is because our party is a party of ordinary Canadians. Ordinary Canadians manage their money best. They are not high flyers; they are not jet-setters. They go to work every day. They work very hard, working longer and longer hours as we have seen over the last 20 years, for less and less pay, because of how badly botched the economic policies of both the Conservatives and Liberals have been.

They put in a hard day's work, and at the end when they get their paycheque they make sure it goes to essentials first. They make sure their family is housed. They make sure their children are clothed. If there are additional expenses for health care because of the erosion of our health care system under both Conservatives and Liberals, they make sure those health care expenses are paid for.

Then and only then, if they have money left over, Canadians will then perhaps indulge in a little bit of luxury, but that is when they have taken care of essentials first.

The lesson of how badly Conservatives manage money, just as badly as the Liberals before them, is that Conservatives and Liberals spend on the luxury first, completely contradictory to what they promise in election campaigns and completely flying in the face of what are basic Canadians values.

They love those fighter jets. They want to spend $30 billion. A couple of lobbyists come and see them and say, “Let us get those corporate tax cuts”, and they say, “Sure, $60 billion; how much do you want? We will write you out a Canadian taxpayer's cheque today. Do you want a billion bucks to take to the Cayman Islands? That is fine. Corporate tax cuts are great”, they say.

They say, “Let us buy the fancy baubles. We have a 72-hour meeting; let us throw a billion bucks at it. Let us build a fake lake. That will be just a great idea”.

The Conservatives love those luxury items. That is why they increased their advertising budget. That is why they love to spend on themselves and their fancy baubles, but the problem is that once they have spent on all those luxury items there is nothing left for essentials. That is the fundamental problem with how Conservatives mismanage money. They want to spend on the luxuries first and then, if there is any money left over, maybe they will look at the housing crisis. Maybe they will look at record levels of student debt. Maybe they will look at record levels of seniors living in poverty. Maybe they will look at those veterans programs that they have gutted and at how despicably, how horribly, they have treated the veterans of our country over the last few years with their cutbacks in veterans programs.

Only after they have taken care of the luxuries do they think to look at the essentials, and that is the fundamental problem with how Conservatives manage money and this kind of Conservative budget. They want to spend on the baubles, on the corporate tax cuts, on the fake lakes, on the fancy meetings, on all those high-priced things, and then there is nothing left for ordinary, hard-working Canadians who are often just looking for a helping hand and a safety net when they fall into difficulty.

That is where we differ fundamentally from Conservatives and Liberals. We believe in taking care of the essentials first. That is why the ministry of finance has given us the top marks over the last 20 years for managing money in this country. The federal ministry of finance says that the NDP manages money best. We balance our budgets more often. We pay down debt. We make sure essentials are taken care of. That is why we have a key role in this House in criticizing these kinds of budgets.

I have a few minutes left and I would like to go specifically to the British Columbia component of this budget, because two elements within the budget itself are ones that provoke a great reaction in British Columbia, such a great reaction that the Conservatives actually are scared to call a byelection in Prince George--Peace River. They called the other ones. They are refusing to call Prince George--Peace River because they know darn well there is going to be a reaction from the Peace River country and there is going to be a reaction from Prince George on their incredibly irresponsible actions in concocting the HST.

The HST was concocted federally. It was pushed on the province by a premier who was acting irresponsibly, working in conjunction with the federal Conservatives, and we have certainly seen what happened to that premier. He has had to resign. What is going to happen next is that British Columbians are going to have their opportunity to say a few words on the HST, and that will come when there is a federal election or when there is a byelection.

What we are saying is that to show respect to the people of Prince George--Peace River the government should call that byelection now, and we will let British Columbians judge about this HST, this tax shift that gives a massive tax break to British Columbia's wealthiest corporations and forces ordinary families to pay about $2,000 in extra expenses, and of course forces small businesses in the province of British Columbia to pick up the tab. There is not a small businessman whom I have seen in Burnaby or New Westminster who has told me that the HST is a good thing. They all see it as a bad thing.

The final point I wanted to raise was on softwood lumber. In this corner of the House, we were the only party to oppose the softwood lumber agreement. We said that the softwood lumber deal, the softwood lumber sellout, would cost tens of thousands of jobs. We have been absolutely right. We also said that it would lead to longstanding fines and the taxpayers having to continually pay, and we see in this budget taxpayers having to cough up another $68 million. We were right there too.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend talk a little bit about the budget and probably the centre of what we are focusing on today, but I have just a very simple question for him.

He talks about luxury items that the government has bought. He talks about what I would consider to be the essential equipment that our armed forces need, be it military, be it the soldiers, be it the pilots.

I had the opportunity and the pleasure to visit Cold Lake recently; I toured the facility and actually got to sit in an F-18. It was explained to me that if these planes are not replaced in the timely fashion that we are suggesting, basically they will be grounded in a couple of years and they will simply become a playground for international flyers to come in and do their routines.

Does the member believe that providing essential equipment to our armed forces is a luxury? Is it not absolutely the least we can do for our armed forces? The very least we can do is provide them with the equipment that they need to represent Canada, to represent our vision of the world, to bring peace to other countries? Does he not accept that as being an essential tool as opposed to a luxury?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, the member for Brandon—Souris did not listen to a single word I said. What we have been saying all along is that it is absolutely essential that the veterans of this country be treated with respect, and it is absolutely despicable that this Conservative government has cut back on the veterans programs that should be supporting the veterans of this country. The Conservatives should be talking to some of the veterans, as I did on Remembrance Day at some of the rallies where veterans were speaking out against the despicable and disrespectful treatment of this government.

And how about the disrespectful treatment of seniors? The Conservatives are willing to spend more on building a fake lake for a 72-hour summit than it would take to lift every single senior in this country out of poverty. How about that for disrespect of our seniors?

Those are essential items, and what I have been saying is that this Conservative government should stop spending its money on fake lakes and corporate tax cuts and start putting money forward to support the ordinary people who built this country.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The Speaker would appreciate it if only one member asks a question at a time and if only one member answered that question at a time. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hear.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

He is an angry man, Mr. Speaker, probably because there are many issues that he has concerns with.

One of the issues he spoke to before is this issue, the issue of pensions. What I find lacking in the House on the pensions issue is that we have not had a fulsome debate on where we go from here, because we are facing, I will not say a completely different set of circumstances, but certainly circumstances that have changed, such that the pension system will receive quite a bit of pressure that it has not before, undue pressure. A large population is now drifting through to its senior years, and therefore is calling upon the younger generations of proportionately lesser numbers to support them.

We talked about the raise in the CPP. We talked about supplementary CPP as well. But there does not seem to be any depth to the discussion of pensions in all the budget bills that have come forward in the House, and certainly for the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act in this particular situation. I would like the hon. member to talk about that.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am passionate, as I think all New Democrats are, because we are out in our ridings every weekend and we see the reaction from Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

These Canadians ask why we are spending money on fake lakes, why we are spending money on massive corporate tax cuts, why we are handing $130 million to AbitibiBowater, and why is there always with the Conservatives money they like to shovel off the back of a truck when the essential needs of Canadians are not being taken care of?

That is the essential question Canadians are asking more and more and the Conservatives can laugh at veterans, laugh at seniors and laugh all they want, but the reality is that there is an election coming and Canadians will have the ability to sit down and say that they are sick and tired of this mean-spirited Conservative agenda, which gives lots of money to lobbyists, lots of money for corporate tax cuts and lots of money for fake lakes. Any time a lobbyist just wags their finger they get millions of dollars, but what about the essential needs, as the member mentioned, on pensions? What about record levels of student debt? What about access to education? What about all of those issues and health care, which Canadians are talking about every day? Conservatives have no answers for any of those things. What they like to do is shovel money out to lobbyists.

What Canadians are seeing is that disconnect between what Conservatives are talking about and the kind of walk that they are making--