House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, actually on this matter that has just been raised, first of all I do have to say that that was the longest Thursday question and response that I have ever heard. This has now turned more into a debate which historically it has not been.

Since the government House leader raised the question of the main estimates and referenced the NDP, I do want to make it clear that we have been clear in our meetings that the government has to deal with the consequences of prorogation. It should have thought of these procedural matters and important questions like the main estimates when it made the decision to prorogue.

If the government House leader chooses, he can bring forward a motion to the House and there can be a debate. That is something that is entirely parliamentary.

Our position has been very clear and the government House leader knows that.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, since it appears that I am prompted to rise in debate on that point, first of all I would consider it completely irresponsible for the NDP potentially to hold up this much-needed assistance and the payment of cheques to people all across the land, public servants included, because those members seem to have their nose out of joint about the use of prorogation.

To use that in an irresponsible manner, I would suggest, is completely unwarranted. I referred the hon. member to the appropriate pages of O'Brien and Bosc. I suggest that she take that to heart, that she read those sections, and realize this is a normal course of events.

Furthermore, as to the member's point about bringing forward a motion, I would certainly be open to that. However, I would refer Canadians back to what the NDP was doing with the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement last fall and realize the futility of a minority government bringing forward a motion like that if it cannot get acceptance from all parties.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think that concludes the discussion about House business for the time being. If hon. members want to have a debate, I would suggest they bring in a motion on the subject, perhaps on one of the opposition days, and have a long discussion about House business.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been consultations with all parties, and I hope you would find consent for the following motion: “That this House condemns Israeli Apartheid Week for seeking to delegitimize the State of Israel by equating it with the racist South African apartheid regime, and that this House continues to support a peaceful resolution through a negotiated two-state solution that respects Israel's right to exist”.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to seek the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion:

That this House denounce the use of the word apartheid to describe the Israeli policy on Palestinians and the word anti-Semitic to describe any criticism against Israel, and that this House reaffirm its support for Israel's right to live in peace and security within sound, established borders, and reaffirm its support for the right of the Palestinian people to have its own state within sound borders and to live there in peace and security.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech From The Throne

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in the debate on the throne speech.

The throne speech reveals the full extent of the Conservative ideology and makes it clear that Canada will never meet the expectations and needs of Quebeckers.

The speech leaves one with the feeling that there are the privileged, the protected, the favourites and the untouchables.

Who are the privileged? They are the wealthiest banks and oil companies. In my prebudget tour, I met with many groups, individuals and voters. Everyone understands that choices have to be made. They realize the economic situation is not easy. But no one understands why the government is protecting the privileged in such difficult economic times.

It seems to me that those who earn between $150,000 and $250,000 in taxable income should pay a surtax of 2% and that those earning over $250,000 in taxable income should pay a 3% surtax, which would produce $4.8 billion for the government.

It also seems to me that the western oil companies, which enjoy a generous tax arrangement, should sit out this time, along with the banks which benefit from not paying tax. This tax avoidance kept $821 million in tax dollars from the government in 2009.

The government is laying it on a bit thick by saying in the throne speech that it wants to sign a free trade agreement with Panama, a notorious tax haven. This is beyond me.

We must not forget energy and the money invested in nuclear power, a Conservative obsession. Huge amounts spent on this industry have been wasted in the past. Think of the MAPLE reactors, in which millions of dollars were invested for nothing. Canadian and Quebec taxpayers' money is going to fund major projects of benefit primarily to the oil industry in the west, among others.

The government had to make choices, but it has made bad choices for Quebec.

Since the start of the week, the news has been piling up. The day before yesterday, we learned that the government, to give itself good press, cut 245 positions, 90% of which were unoccupied. They even said that one or two of the positions had been vacant for 14 years. The people in my riding tell me that the government takes people for dipsticks.

The day before yesterday, in an interview in which four parliamentarians debated the matter, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse had no argument or responses to offer. Short of arguments, he told me that his grandmother would say that a penny saved was a penny earned. I dare not tell him what my grandmother would say to him, because it would be unparliamentary. This sort of argument is totally crazy. In order to make the headlines, they get people to think they are saving when in reality they are cutting empty positions.

In the same breath, the government adds bureaucratic structures, which surprised me. They cut what is empty and add bureaucracy, which will cost a lot. In the 2007-08 budget, the government set up the major projects management office, to which it allocated $30 million over five years.

This time it is setting up a commission to cut administrative red tape, which will cost $4 million between now and 2012. This is somewhat over the top. They cut vacant positions and add structure, not to mention the spending involved in setting up the national securities commission.

All in all, the administrative bodies and the establishment of the commission will cost the government about $165 million.

I cannot understand that, though I can understand the citizens who say they cannot understand what in the world this government is doing.

The bad news keeps piling up for this government. Yesterday we heard about the brazen waste in the way Public Works and Government Services Canada maintained one of its buildings. Many invoices show that every time maintenance costs were billed, there were management fees as well. It is impossible, though, to say how much the work itself cost and how much was billed for management. This information is confidential and has been censored. It is impossible for people to know what the real nature was of these maintenance management costs.

That is a real doozy. We can certainly agree with constituents who fail to understand why everyone is being asked to tighten their belts when the government is doing the opposite. It generously signs contracts that seem to me to be totally unacceptable and incomprehensible.

We saw this morning in the newspapers that the Prime Minister will not have to tighten his belt very much because his budget is going to increase by 21.9%, nearly 22%. From $61 million in 2009-10, the amounted appropriated to support the Prime Minister and the ministers with portfolio will rise to $74.5 million and the budget of the Privy Council Office will rise from $128 million to $144 million.

That is astonishing. They talk about cutting, paying attention and reviewing programs. When doing their review, they will certainly take advantage of it to eliminate programs that annoy the government, that are not in keeping with its ideology. On the other hand, they merrily pour it on for themselves, increasing the budgets of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The budgets of all government departments will be frozen except those of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of National Defence.

At first we thought the defence department budget was going to be cut. But no, just its growth rate will be reduced. The defence department budget will not be frozen or cut. They are simply going to cut its growth rate. It is important to understand this distinction. When people first read a headline in the paper, they might think that the defence department budget has been cut. But that is totally wrong. I think people should know that the budget of the Department of National Defence has not been cut or frozen. They are just reducing its growth rate.

I want to talk about the environment now. I think that a member’s job is to be close to the people. Members represent the voters. I am a member who spends a lot of time in her constituency. I meet a lot of people and participate in many events. I am very close to community groups and environmental groups that are concerned about their area and their community.

These groups often perform miracles with virtually nothing. When they read or hear about government waste and how the government is not setting a good example, they get frustrated and cannot understand it.

Let me give some examples. Sometimes when we are speaking, people need to have an image in their minds or hear specific examples, so here is one:

Priority intervention zone committees, which have existed for about 15 years or so—there are 16 in Quebec—are groups of municipalities, businesses, people in the business community, and ordinary citizens who are concerned about the St. Lawrence River. The health of the St. Lawrence River has improved since these committees were created.

I remember leading a fight two years ago against the current Minister of Transport, who was the environment minister at the time, asking him why he was putting off signing memorandums of understanding with the priority intervention zone committees. These groups were getting results and no money was being wasted on anything. What they were doing in their communities for the environment was astonishing and was having a ripple effect. I wanted to know why he refused to renew their agreement. Finally, just a few days before the agreement was to expire, the minister announced a one-year renewal.

As of today, March 11, these committees have yet to receive a positive response from the government regarding the renewal of their $75,000 a year funding agreement.

It is shameful to see the amount of waste that happens on that side, when these environmental groups risk seeing their grants frozen or cancelled altogether.

In closing, since I do not have much time, I would like to point out that this throne speech and this budget in no way correspond to the aspirations of Quebec.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech From The Throne

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member covered a couple of the things that her colleague, who spoke just before her, covered, particularly on the issues related to climate change. It is a shame that the throne speech and the government's budget initiatives flowing from the throne speech have basically ignored some of the significant issues that will present the greatest risk to our country and, in fact, to the planet.

The government has a history. When it became government, it basically cancelled all initiatives. It also said that signing the Kyoto accord was wrong and that climate change was just a socialist plot. I do not believe it can ever change.

The problem is that the focus of the throne speech and the budget seems to be on fiscal matters and balancing a budget that is at odds with the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The government has not made an ongoing commitment to address the dangers of climate change. I would like the member to add a little bit more to her concerns on these matters.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech From The Throne

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. In fact, we both believe that the government's priority is not really the environment. That was made abundantly clear in Copenhagen, and in the throne speech and the budget.

We need only think of the cuts to funding for climatology research foundations. The government is jeopardizing 20 years of environmental expertise and climatology research, and that is completely unacceptable.

Others have been forgotten, such as the growers who produce the fruits and vegetables we eat. I did not see any initiative in the throne speech to help them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech From The Throne

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, having sat with my colleague on the natural resources committee in the previous Parliament, I know of her concern about the environment. I enjoy very much her dedication in that direction.

When it comes to the throne speech and the budget, the Conservatives have been greatly lacking in new policy on climate change. It may be because of the failures of some of the climate change ideas they came up with in the past. We could speak to the ethanol and biofuels policy that was put in place which has turned out to be a complete and utter waste of time and effort.

We have seen the failure of the cellulosic ethanol proposal and the fact that these things are just not working. We can then move on to the carbon sequestration process. Once again, the Conservatives put forward huge dollars in this process but nobody wants to take it up because it is not working. It is not going to be effective.

Could one of the major reasons why the Conservative government has not brought forward anything on climate change this time around is that its bad ideas have run out and it does not have any new bad ideas to give us?