House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

The House resumed from March 4 consideration of the motion.

The Economy
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my colleague, the member for Mississauga South.

The first thing I would like to say is the fact that we are having this debate really underlines the fact that prorogation was not necessary.

While of course the economy is important, this issue that we are debating now in a kind of take note debate is not something that leads anywhere. It was originally started as a fill-in between the throne speech and the budget. Now because the government apparently has nothing better to do, no legislation, no real agenda, we are continuing on this merry path.

It looks as if the government has no legislation, no ideas, and just a well rested government after three months of holiday. Otherwise we would have legislation; we would have something meaty. All this recalibration and what does it lead to? A debate that right now leads nowhere.

I do not understand why the government had to prorogue. I do not understand why this recalibration led to nothing whatsoever in terms of any new agenda.

Nevertheless, as finance critic I would not deny that the economy is important. Indeed, it is probably job one. Therefore, I am happy to discuss it even though, as I said, a government which really had recalibrated, a government that really had anything in the way of new ideas would have some legislation and something more substantial before the House at this time.

I thought I would begin, because it is timely, with the release yesterday of the report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the amazing reaction of the Minister of Finance in the House in question period yesterday.

I have the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. On the very first page he says that his budget projections are based on the same private sector economic forecasts that the budget was based on. He takes those forecasts as a given and from there devises the budget projections.

What did the finance minister say in the House yesterday? He said that this Parliamentary Budget Officer did not believe these 50 eminent economists who made their private sector forecasts, which was absolutely totally wrong because as the Parliamentary Budget Officer himself said on page 1, his forecasts of the budget were based on precisely the same private sector GDP forecasts, as the finance minister used. He attacked virulently the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but on precisely the wrong erroneous grounds.

Let me talk about the substance of this report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, not the fictitious allegation that he did not accept the private sector forecasts. He did.

This is a two-step process. In step one we take the economic forecasts, and the finance minister and the Parliamentary Budget Officer are on precisely the same page in that respect. In step two we translate those economic forecasts into the budget forecasts. There are many steps between the economic forecasts and the budget forecasts.

One of the complaints of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is that there is a lack of transparency on the part of the finance minister because he does not tell us what is inside that black box, what assumptions he makes in translating the economic forecasts into the budget forecasts. There is all sorts of room for little tricks and we do not know what he is up to.

That is one of the problems the Parliamentary Budget Officer had and that is why he asked for greater transparency on the part of the government and the Department of Finance, so that people would know how they get from the economic forecasts to the budget forecasts.

In general terms, the Parliamentary Budget Officer made three points, all of which indicate that the government looks at these matters with rose coloured spectacles.

Point number one, how many times have we heard the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance say that Canada is leading the way, Canada did much less badly than any other country? That happens not to be true. The Parliamentary Budget Officer took data from the IMF, he looked at the severity of the recession in all G7 countries, and he found that Canada was in the middle of the pack.

Canada is not leading the way. We all want Canada to lead the way, but we on this side, as well as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also want to be telling the truth. The truth is that we are not leading the way. We are in the middle of the pack and so it is time the government stopped boasting and telling things that are not true with regard to Canada's position compared to other G7 countries.

The second point the Parliamentary Budget Officer made was that it was not true that the risk was way down. He used various methods to show that the risk to the forecasts going forward remained high. The risk has not diminished immensely since some months ago. So contrary to what the government says, there is still a huge amount of risk out there and a huge amount of uncertainty with regard to the forecast for the budget.

The third way in which the government is excessively rosy according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer is that the Conservatives are being too rosy in making their deficit forecasts. Even though he accepts the same private sector forecasts as the government, the deficit after year four is not $2 billion as the government says, but is more likely to be $12 billion according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Also Don Drummond, chief economist at TD Bank, on television yesterday concurred. He said he was much closer to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's number than he was to the government's number.

In other words, according to the government's own planning, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, according to Don Drummond, the government is lowballing the deficit estimates and it is much closer to $12 billion than it is to $2 billion.

In summary, the government is exaggerating Canada's relative position in terms of doing well. The government is exaggerating the reduction and uncertainty over past months, and is lowballing the deficit according to what a prudent, rational forecaster or economist would conclude.

One should acknowledge that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has enormously more credibility on anything to do with economic forecasts than does our finance minister. We just have to go back to November 2008 when with that highly discredited economic statement by the government, we may recall that the finance minister was predicting nothing but surpluses; surpluses forever and then he went to a $25 billion, $32 billion, $56 billion deficit.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, and I must say virtually every other economist in the land, knew full well in November of 2008, when the recession had already begun, that we were heading into deficits. So the forecasting record of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is far superior to that of the Minister of Finance and therefore he should take note. He should listen to what the Parliamentary Budget Officer says rather than lashing out at him on the basis of arguments that are simply erroneous.

I would conclude by saying that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is a great asset to our country in order to ensure the government is honest in its economic prognostications. Rather than lashing out at this person, similar to the way the government lashed out at Linda Keen, the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, the way the government lashed out at Richard Colvin, the civil servant, the way the government lashes out at any public servant, any officer of Parliament who dares to disagree with it in any regard, instead of that the government should take note of the wisdom of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was quite surprised that the finance critic for the Liberals started off by chastising the government for not having something better to debate today than Canada's economy, but I was glad that he did come around to acknowledging that the economy actually is important. It is certainly important to Canadians, many of whom are looking for jobs right now and we are doing our best to help them with that.

Is the finance critic annoyed about having to debate the economy because it is Friday and he had something better to do, or is he annoyed about having to debate the economy because the Liberals have no idea how to improve the economy other than to raise taxes and spend, spend, spend?

The Economy
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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure it helps the unemployed people and those suffering from a weak economy to hear such ridiculous questions. That does not really get to the bottom of the issue.

My point was, of course, I am happy to debate the economy. I am an economist; that is my subject. It is important. But my point is that if the government had really done anything substantive in its so-called recalibration, we would not just be standing here on a Friday debating, we would be debating actual actions taken by the government, legislation.

With a three month holiday, we would think that the government would have had time to produce a plan and action that it could put before Parliament and debate rather than listening to these silly questions which will not do any good whatsoever to the economy. It would have been much better if the government really had, during this period of prorogation, developed a plan such that there were concrete measures before the House today.

The Economy
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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government maintains that the economy is strong, but try telling that to the 800,000 workers who are on EI and are about to run out of benefits. There are no jobs for those people to go to.

The government says the economy is going to grow by 2.6% this year. It has to do at least that because the working age population is growing by over 1% a year. So in fact, the budget's own unemployment projections show the jobless rates are actually going to increase this year from 8.2% to 8.5%. The government's solution is further tax cuts. The government thinks that somehow is going to grow the economy and create jobs.

I would like to ask the hon. member this. How effective does he think the tax cuts are going to be?

The Economy
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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberal members are on record as saying we would certainly not raise taxes. We believe that the current tax situation is favourable.

I would point out that the hon. member mentioned jobs. Does the hon. member know that in May 2006, just a couple of months after the government came to power, there were more private sector employee jobs than there are today, after today's job numbers? In the four years since the government has been in power, we have lost net private sector employee jobs.

I know the government is very happy because there has been a surge in public sector jobs, but we on this side of the House, and I would say most economists, think that private sector jobs are essential for the sustained growth of this economy. The government should be aware that as of today there are fewer private sector employee jobs than there were just a couple of months after it took power.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member from Markham—Unionville gave us a brilliant analysis of Canada's current economic situation, pointing out that both it and the future are much less rosy than the Conservatives would have us believe.

I generally agree with his intelligent criticism of the Conservatives' positions. I would, however, like to know where the Liberals' ideas, figures and agenda are to combat the crisis.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments.

As I told the House a number of times, we have concrete proposals and ideas. I will mention only two.

First, we proposed three measures to boost employment among young people in the manufacturing, forestry and high-tech industries. We made these proposals, but the Conservatives did not listen.

Second, we proposed three concrete policies for pensions; a supplement for the Canada Pension Plan, among other things.

I have other examples, but I do not have the time. I gave two concrete examples, namely, jobs and pensions.

We have ideas and proposals to offer.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we initially came to the House to debate the first piece of legislation the government put on the table, which it re-calibrated, the Canada-Colombia free trade bill, a bill that we will not be debating today because the government is not ready to deal with a straightforward trade bill and start talking about how we will move forward in terms of advancing the economy.

It goes to the question of whether Canadians can believe that it was necessary to prorogue Parliament so the government could renew and refresh the agenda. Apparently not because only one bill, other than the budget document, is on the table, and the budget was coming anyway. It was no surprise that this had to happen. It goes to the question of whether we can believe what the government says. Canadians were very upset about the prorogation and I do not think the government really gets it.

Accountability is a very important aspect and trait of people with honesty and integrity. Without honesty and integrity there can be no accountability. In my profession as a chartered accountant, one is accountable when one can explain or justify one's actions or decisions in a manner which is truthful and plain, as well as clear, concise and correct. If one adopts that definition of accountability, one will find that the government does not meet the test and has not met the test in so many ways.

I will give an example. On page 5 of the throne speech, which can also be found in his budget speech to Parliament, the finance minister stated:

Balancing the nation’s books will not come at the expense of pensioners...or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians.

That is kind of interesting. Just two days ago in this place, the transport minister said, “Cutting taxes creates jobs, more hope and more opportunity”. However, if the government raises taxes—

The Economy
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10:15 a.m.

Richard Harris

It kills jobs.

The Economy
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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

The member is quite right, it kills jobs.

We know what the government said. It said that it would not raise taxes or penalize pensioners, but what did it do? Starting April 1, a couple of weeks from now, employment insurance premiums for employers and employees will increase by almost 9%.

I remember being in this place when a direct question was asked about the raising of taxes and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that EI premiums were not taxes. The government does not think they are taxes. I think Canadians know that a payroll tax is a tax. They know it is money coming out of their pockets.

There will be an immediate 9% increase, 15¢ on the current $1.73 per $100 of earnings, and it will continue. In fact, cumulatively over the five years of this budget, it is projected to be about $19 billion. Can anyone imagine? That is quite a large number to suggest that it is doing wonderful things without raising taxes but it represents more than a third of the deficit that it is trying to erase.

What else did the government do? On January 1, 2011, it will be imposing a 31.5% punitive tax on income distributions to income trust holders. That decision was made after it had promised in the 2006 election not to tax income trusts. People believed and trusted the government and yet on the following October 31 the finance minister said that this 31.5% tax would be imposed, that it would be delayed somewhat but that it would happen. That is a 31.5% punitive tax on hard-working Canadians, mostly pensioners.

Do members know what that did to the value of their investments? In one short week it wiped out $35 billion of the hard-earned retirement nest egg of Canadians. What did the government say? It said that it would bring in pension income splitting and that would take care of it.

It sort of sounded like that might work, except that I did a little a homework and found out that only about 25% of seniors have defined benefit pension plans. Only those kinds of pension plans qualify for pension income splitting. However, of those 25%, if we take out those who do not have a partner to split with and take out those who already are at the lowest marginal tax rate, the percentage of seniors who actually can benefit from pension income splitting is 14.2%. Only 14.2% of seniors will be able benefit even one iota from pension income splitting.

Why was the government not honest with Canadians? Why did it not tell them the truth, that it was going to tax 2.5 million seniors, pensioners, people who have their retirement nest egg all set up and cannot take any more risk, people who do not have pensions, people for whom the income trust was a instrument to allow people to make an investment that would provide them with a monthly cash flow that would emulate a pension?

Those people have been destroyed. Fifteen percent of the income trusts have now been bought by foreign interests. It has cost us $1.5 billion in annual tax revenue because of that. Before the end of this calendar year, many more, if not all of the other income trusts, will be dissolved. That instrument disappears. This is pretty serious stuff. This has to do with integrity and accountability.

What else will the government do? It will raise the air travellers transport tax. Two days ago, the transport minister said that cutting taxes creates jobs, provides more hope and more opportunity but we are raising the taxes on travelling for Canadians.

This goes to a question of character and a question of accountability. The government says that it has a $54 billion deficit that it needs to deal with. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the government is being too rosy on its growth rates and on the performance of the labour markets. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, the government will still be short over $10 billion to balance the budget, and yet it is focused primarily on a fiscal deficit. What the government does not mention is that concurrently we have a social deficit.

One of the immediate reactions to the budget came from Alex Himelfarb, the former head of the Privy Council who ran the civil service. He was here a long time. Just to paraphrase his statements, he said that no one can be very clear about what is going to happen over the next five years with regard to eliminating the deficit and that nobody knows whether the budget will succeed over the next three, four or five years. However, what we do know, he says, is that Canada faces huge challenges, for example, the impact of an aging population, social and economic programs, health programs and the tax system. He says that those things will make the numbers really problematic. He is concerned that it will be very problematic for the government to achieve fiscal balance again, which the Conservatives squander every time they get in government. They squander surpluses that are passed on to them.

Mr. Himelfarb went on to say that smaller government and lower taxes were not the answers to meeting the challenges. He said that if we are going to meet our challenges on the environment, climate change and deepening inequities, we will need to do other things.

Will the government meet the challenges on creating a competitive economy? Apparently not. To meet those challenges, Mr. Himelfarb concludes that smaller government and lower taxes will not do it.

We could debate this all we want but the critical issue is that the government said that it would not raise taxes. It has clearly misled Canadians and Parliament because it is in fact raising income taxes on the backs of pensioners and hard-working Canadians.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy the member for Mississauga South ended on that note. He has been here as long as I have and he remembers very well what happened when former Liberal government under Prime Minister Chrétien decided to balance its budget. The first thing it did was slash $25 billion from transfers to the provinces in support of health care and social programs. The Liberals balanced their budget on the backs of the poor and the infirm, and they will never get rid of that shame. I am embarrassed that the member would stand up and act so sanctimonious after the devastating thing that his former prime minister and government did to the poor and infirm in this country. He should be ashamed of himself.

Out of the masses of people who said that this budget was a budget for our time and that it would help lead us out of the recession, it is amazing how the Liberals picked one person who opposed it, as opposed to 25 who gave us rave reviews. I am surprised those members did not use the CBC as one of their supporters.

Is the member prepared to go to the 14% of seniors who are income splitting and tell them that they do not deserve it? Is that what he is saying?

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Canadians have come to know is that every time the government gets put on its heels it tries to switch the channel.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Hey, we are doing fine.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the loudmouth member over there would simply--

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I think that statement prompted a negative reaction from the House, so I would ask the member for Mississauga South to withdraw the word that he just used to describe the member for Cariboo—Prince George.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

I withdraw the comment, Mr. Speaker, but I do have the floor and he is still talking. It is difficult for me to respond to the question that I sat and listened to that he is not allowing me to answer. I would ask him to just listen and cool his jets.

There is one element that the member forgot to mention, which the finance minister mentioned many times in this place. The debt to GDP now is very modest compared to back when the Liberals took over the $42.5 billion deficit from Brian Mulroney. The debt to GDP made us a basket case. We were the laughing stock of the world in terms of our economic position. That is the difference.

An impossible situation requires making tough decisions. We cleaned it up and we passed on big surpluses to the Conservative government.

The Economy
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talked a lot about accountability during his speech. The government should be accountable to the people of Canada but the official opposition should also be accountable to the people of Canada.

The budget will raise EI premiums. It has a transport tax and it has the HST that people in Ontario and B.C. will need to pay. The member for Markham—Unionville said that the Liberals were against these tax increases.

I would like to ask the member for Mississauga South why his party did not show up to vote against the budget. That would have nullified these tax increases. If the Liberals want the government to be accountable, how come they are not accountable?

The Economy
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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is what is in the best interests of Canadians and what is in the best interests of our economy. All of the examples that I gave in my speech go to the issue of character.

I want to quote the Leader of the Opposition in his speech yesterday to this place in response to a question asked of him. He said:

The issue that goes to character is that the Conservatives will not stand up in the House of Commons before Canadians and admit they have increased taxes. That is the issue of character. That is the issue that undermines confidence and trust in the government, and that is why we will continually oppose the Conservatives when they seek to tell Canadians things that are simply not true.

The Economy
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10:30 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, in budget 2009, we presented Canada's economic action plan to stabilize and protect our economy for the short term, while taking steps to improve Canada's long-term economic growth and prosperity. The plan was designed to boost confidence and economic growth and to support Canadians and their families during a period of severe global economic weakness. Budget 2010 builds on these goals. The measures presented in budget 2010 will contribute to Canada's recovery and sustain our economic advantage now and for the future.

Canada has weathered the global recession better than all major industrialized countries and we are returning to economic growth following the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, we do not yet have a firmly established recovery. As such, Canada's economic action plan will continue to provide unprecedented support for the Canadian economy through 2010 by going beyond the immediate crisis and building on strategic advantages set out in advantage Canada in order to create a more competitive economy.

Year two of the action plan delivers $19 billion in federal stimulus spending, augmented by $6 billion in stimulus from provinces, territories, municipalities and other partners, for a total of $25 billion. Over 90% of year two funding is committed and ready to be delivered. This includes $3.2 billion in personal income tax relief, more than $4 billion in actions to create and protect jobs, $7.7 billion to modernize infrastructure and improve housing across Canada, $1.9 billion to create the economy of tomorrow and $2.2 billion to support industries and communities.

The action plan gives Canadians more flexibility to improve their quality of life even when times are tough. Our plan leaves more money in their pockets. It makes permanent tax reductions that build a strong foundation for future economic growth and higher living standards for Canadians.

Reducing the tax burden on Canadians has been a key element of getting through the global recession while setting the foundation for future growth. Tax relief and the economic action plan benefit all taxpayers, especially lower and middle income Canadians. For example, Canada's low and middle income seniors are benefiting from an increase in the age credit amount. As a result of this increase, the amount of tax relief provided by the age credit for this year alone is up to $967. As well, the working income tax benefit has been enhanced so that it now provides tax relief of $1.1 billion annually to reduce thereby the welfare wall and strengthen work incentives for low income working Canadians.

Indeed, even before the introduction of Canada's economic action plan, Canadians were benefiting from the tax relief introduced by this government. A key example is the two percentage point reduction in the goods and services tax rate. This is a tax break for all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax.

Canadians deserve praise for their ability to persevere during this global recession. The economic situation has taken a toll on workers and their families, and Canadians need to have faith that their government is there to assist them. Through Canada's economic action plan, the government is giving Canadians the security and support they require.

The budget is helping workers and their families by strengthening benefits and enhancing the availability of training while the economy moves into recovery. Under the action plan, $1.6 billion will be available to strengthen benefits for Canadian workers in 2010-11, including up to five extra weeks of EI regular benefits, to a maximum of 50 weeks, for all eligible claimants.

The economic action plan is also providing an additional $1 billion in 2010-11 to enhance training opportunities for Canadian workers. These measures will not only assist workers in need now, but will also give them the opportunity to have more meaningful jobs in the future. Canada's economic action plan includes provincial and territorial actions, and is expected to create or maintain approximately 220,000 jobs by the end of 2010.

Traditional industries, including the forest sector and manufacturing industries, have been hit hard by declining sales in the slowing economy. The communities where these industries are located need assistance as they adjust to cyclical and structural changes in the economy.

To promote clean energy generation in the forest industry, budget 2010 creates the next generation renewable power initiative, with $100 million over the next four years to support the introduction of advanced clean energy technologies in the forest sector.

Budget 2010 also provides $135 million in funding over two years for the National Research Council's technology cluster initiatives. The clusters accelerate regional innovation by fostering research collaboration among governments, businesses and academic institutions and by promoting the development of knowledge-intensive companies in key areas.

During this time of continuing global economic uncertainty, Canadians can be assured that our government will never stand by and allow communities in Canada to suffer from threats beyond their borders. Canada's economic action plan accelerated and expanded federal investments in infrastructure. The immediate actions we took have helped Canada come out of the economic crisis with more modern and greener infrastructure. Moreover, for the 2009-10 construction seasons, the government has committed close to $5.5 billion in stimulus funding to over 7,000 projects. Of that amount, almost $4 billion is expected to be spent in 2010.

Investments have moved quickly. We have shortened the time needed to provide federal approval for major projects. We have partnered with the provinces, territories and municipalities, not only to identify ready to go projects but also to leverage their funding contributions. For example, the economic action plan included $500 million over two years for the recreational infrastructure Canada initiative. The initiative is being delivered by the regional development agencies in their respective areas to promote the construction of new community recreational facilities and to upgrade existing facilities across Canada. Investments in infrastructure are paving roads, fixing sewers, repairing bridges and creating jobs.

Provinces and territories should also be assured that they will be able to continue to count on long-term, growing support from this government. In 2010-2011, major federal transfers to provinces and territories will total an all time high of nearly $53.6 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion over 2009-10. In 2010-11, the support includes an addition $1.4 billion in the Canada health transfer, $321 million in the Canada social transfer, $187 million in equalization and $166 million in territorial formula financing. In addition, $525 million will be provided through one time payments to ensure that provinces are protected from any decline in their total transfers in 2010-11, in recognition of the short-term challenges being faced by provinces as we emerge from the global recession.

We are ensuring that all provinces receive at least as much support through major transfers this year as they did last year. The government's role in building a more competitive economy includes creating an environment that enables its visionaries to excel and that does not stand in the way of their success. Any competitive economy requires competitive taxes, and tax relief supports businesses and jobs in the short term by providing up-front stimulus, which helps businesses weather challenging economic times while creating a long-term advantage for sustained economic and employment growth.

Since 2006 the government has implemented bold tax reductions and tax changes to provide businesses with a competitive business environment that encourages new investment, growth and job creation in Canada. Canada's economic action plan introduced temporary measures to make computers, as well as machinery and equipment for manufacturing and processing, more affordable for Canadian businesses. Our economic action plan also included a permanent increase in the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal income tax rate.

This year, as a result of federal and provincial business tax changes since 2006, Canada will have the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7 and below the average of the OECD. By 2012, Canada will also have the lowest statutory corporate income tax rate in the G7.

The tax relief actions our government has taken are positioning Canadian businesses to emerge stronger and better equipped to compete globally as the economy recovers. These measures to reduce the tax burden on Canadian businesses are complemented by the elimination of remaining tariffs on machinery and equipment and inputs. This will lower operating costs for Canadian manufacturers and encourage innovation. This means that Canadian manufacturers will be able to import goods for further production in Canada without the burden of tariffs and the cost of complying with certain customs rules such as rules of origin.

Together, these will give Canadian manufacturers a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by lowering production costs, increasing competitiveness and enhancing innovation and productivity. Manufacturers have stated during consultations that such a measure will help them maintain and increase production and employment in Canada and expand their exports. Budget 2010 delivers.

A competitive advantage also requires support for the pursuit of knowledge. Our government recognizes that research and development is an important driver of long-term economic growth and that discoveries stemming from research help improve the quality of life of Canadians. Canada ranks first among the G7 countries in terms of expenditures on research and development in the higher education sector as a share of the economy.

Building on this leadership position, the economic action plan includes an unprecedented $4 billion in additional funding for research infrastructure, knowledge and commercialization. Budget 2010 continues this momentum by providing additional funding to support world class research and researchers, including $32 million per year to the federal research granting councils to sustain their overall support for researchers at Canadian universities, colleges and hospitals and to strengthen commercialization.

Budget 2010 also doubles the budget of the college and community innovation program, providing an additional $15 million per year to promote research collaboration between colleges and companies in all parts of Canada. In addition, the budget announced a new small and medium size enterprise innovation commercialization program, with $40 million over two years for federal departments and agencies to demonstrate the use of innovative prototype products and technologies developed by small and medium size businesses.

The government's plan is to ensure that our country will emerge from the recession with a stronger economic advantage than ever before. There is no question that our country has come through the global economic storm in an enviable position. As Canadians we should be proud of what we have accomplished during a time when other nations were struggling with far greater economic challenges.

That Canada endured recent global turbulence with such resilience is a testament to our economic action plan. It was one of the most comprehensive stimulus packages in the industrialized world, an approach endorsed by the G20 and the G7. As I indicated earlier, the impact of the recession on Canada's economy has been less severe than it has been on virtually all other major industrialized economies, and Canada is expected to have the strongest recovery in the G7 in 2010.

The world can learn a lot from Canada. As Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner in economics, recently said:

the quiet success stories deserve at least as much attention as the spectacular failures. We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.

As host of this summer's G20 summit, Canada can serve as an example of how to prepare for and prevent a crisis, and an example of the global contributions that must be made to overcome it. While we are seeing some signs of recovery from the serious global recession, the situation remains fragile. Thanks to our strong economic and fiscal foundation, as well as the timely implementation of our economic action plan, Canada is in relatively good shape compared with other advanced economies.

Based on this position of strength, I can assure members that our country will be a vital part of the long-term solutions, as well as a meeting place for a number of key international events this year that will help transform a world in crisis into one of unparalleled long-term stability.

The Economy
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what the hon. member said.

I know there are quite a number of urban people in the government's caucus, and there are also quite a number of rural people. One of the sad points in terms of the budget is that there is a glaring neglect in the agricultural arena.

The hon. member talked about jobs and the economy, and manufacturing and exports. The problem is that Canada, in terms of its exports in the agricultural sector, is losing its own market share in Canada because of American farm policy. It is not that our farmers cannot be competitive. Our farmers are competitive, but what they lack is competitive policy.

With the livestock industry, the hog and beef industries in terrible financial trouble, there is not one new dime in the budget for primary producers. There is a little bit of recalculation on agri-flex, but not a new dime in the budget.

I ask the hon. member, seeing as he is a member of the total caucus, what happens over there? Do farmers just not rate? Does the government just not care about the farm community in terms of its prosperity?

The Economy
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that of our 145 members, about 100 have rural constituencies, but the hon. member's party is essentially a Toronto-Vancouver-Montreal party. It has very few agricultural members. That is because our policies have been very solid as we look toward the agricultural community.

If the hon. member would check the records, he would find that we have spent more on agriculture than the previous Liberal governments did. We will continue to support the agricultural community, which we consider vital to our economy.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite interesting that we are talking about the economy and jobs. I come from a riding that has seen a phenomenal number of jobs lost in the riding, especially in regard to our resource industry.

I want to ask the hon. member about corporate tax cuts. The fact is that the former Liberal government believed that corporate tax cuts were the answer and the Conservative government has followed in its footsteps. The Liberal government started reducing the rate from 28% to 21%, and then under the Conservative government it went from 21% to 18%, and now it is going to 15%. Across the board, provincially and federally, we have seen a 36% reduction in corporate tax cuts, and yet business productivity has not increased.

Why is it that the Conservative government continues to go down the road of corporate tax cuts and increases the taxes on workers? The Conservatives are going to tell us that they are not increasing taxes on workers and families, but they are. The HST is coming in, and there will be tax increases on workers with regard to the EI increases starting in 2011, some $19 billion.

Instead of all of these big corporate tax cuts, does the hon. member not think that the government should be investing in people in general?

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I can keep track, our government has cut about $200 billion in taxes, both for individuals and corporations. We believe that the source of wealth in the economy is in the private sector.

We live in a time when economic stimulus is required by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to help the economy recover, and that causes the economy to grow because of government infusions. We are now at the transition point. We want the private economy to take over and drive this economy. We believe the best way to do that is to reduce barriers to business and reduce taxes so that more people can be employed.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's speech included the statement that balancing the nation's books will not come at the expense of pensioners or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians, but that is simply not true. There will be a 9% increase in employment insurance premiums in the first year. There is the imposition of a 31.5% punitive tax on income trust distribution, which incidentally wiped out $35 billion of the retirement nest eggs of Canadians. The Conservatives are also imposing a new air traveller's tax, notwithstanding that the Minister of Transport said just two days ago that cutting taxes creates jobs, more hope and more opportunity. It seems to be a contradiction. It goes to character. That is the issue.

How could the member stand in his place and say the Conservatives are not raising taxes when in fact they are? It undermines the confidence and trust in the government. It is a matter of accountability and integrity. Why are the Conservatives not prepared to admit that they are raising income taxes and other taxes?

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a philosophy we believe that users should pay the costs for the service. That is why when costs go up, for instance in the airline industry, we believe that people who use the airlines should pay the costs. That is not a tax; it is the cost of operating.

Also with employment insurance, that fund is supposed to remain balanced. At the moment we are putting an extra $4 billion or $5 billion into that fund to keep it afloat. There is a board in charge of that fund which sets the rates. We have frozen the rate for two years which means we have subsidized $5 billion and then $4 billion. Into the future as the economy recovers, we believe that the EI fund can take care of itself. That is not a tax; that is how the EI fund operates.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, experts say that corporate tax reductions have not had the desired effect the government thinks they should have. For example, Statistics Canada indicates that business spending on machinery and equipment has declined as a share of GDP and total business investment spending has declined as a percentage of corporate cashflow. This is the opposite of what the government is trying to achieve.

IT use by Canadian business is only half of that of the United States. That comment is attributed to Kevin Lynch, former clerk of the Privy Council. In 2007, Canadian business spending on R and D, about 1% of GDP, ranked 14th in the OECD, well below the average 1.6% and only one-third of that of Sweden, Finland and Korea. In addition, productivity growth was actually worse in the last decade.

There is a lot of evidence out there that the government's agenda of reducing corporate taxes is not having the desired effect. Why do the Conservatives insist upon doing things that do not work?

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the last two budgets we have brought in a number of initiatives to improve productivity but at the same time the world recession hit. It affected all the commercial enterprises in this country. They had to retrench. They are now starting to recover and there are signs now that this economy is coming back. With the initiatives in place and the lower taxes, we expect the productivity of this country to increase dramatically in the future.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, that was an important question that was just asked regarding corporate tax cuts and whether or not they are working. Our government's overall low tax policy has created a tax freedom day for Canadians which now comes almost three weeks earlier.

Has the hon. member heard today's jobs report? If he has, is he encouraged by this jobs report? Does he not see this as evidence that our economic action plan in fact is working and that we are witnessing a recovery taking place in Canada?

The Economy
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it was announced today that over 20,000 new jobs were created last month, and not to be greedy, I will say that in part our government is responsible for this. The actions we have taken to help restore the economy, to infuse businesses through less taxation so that they can hire and to encourage them to buy new equipment, buy new computers has helped to raise the employment rates. We are still in a delicate situation. That is why we are continuing with $19 billion in incentives over the next year. Our expectation is that by the end of this year the economy will be back on its moorings and will carry on into the future.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion we are debating today by the Minister of Finance is:

That this House take note that, while Canada is starting to recover from the global economic recession, the recovery is tentative and uncertain and the number one priority for Canadians remains jobs and economic growth, now and for the future.

Is that really the government's priority? I am confused because the government's actions seem to indicate otherwise.

It seems the number one priority of the Conservatives is to help out their CEO friends and big banks, but not Canadians who are struggling to survive these uncertain economic times.

The Prime Minister plans to cut corporate income taxes from 22.12% in 2006 to 15% by 2012, leaving Canada with the lowest corporate tax rates in the G8. By doing so, the Conservatives have also deprived the treasury of billions of dollars that could have been invested in Canadians, for example to lift seniors and children out of poverty.

Last year with the corporate rate at 19% and most Canadians trying to cope with the serious recession, Canada's big five banks had profits totalling $15.9 billion. In 2009 the Conservative tax cuts to that point, 3.12%, fattened those profits by $496 million. No wonder the banks had enough money to pay enormous bonuses to their senior executives.

The government's justification for cutting the income taxes of profitable businesses is that the cuts improve competitiveness, lead to investment, innovation and jobs. The evidence is almost entirely to the contrary.

Across the board corporate income tax cuts are a completely ineffective way to grow the economy. They are a blunt weapon of a government without vision. They result in growing inequality, declining public services and an economy that serves the market, not people.

The Conservatives believe that helping out these corporate CEOs will help create jobs. There is no proof.

If we go back a little bit, in 2000, then Liberal finance minister Paul Martin cut corporate income tax rates by one quarter, from 28% to 21%, to be phased in over five years. The Conservative government has continued with those cuts from 21% in 2007 to 18% today, and the budget confirmed that the government is ignoring the NDP's advice and will further reduce the rate to 15% by 2012.

Those cuts have taken hundreds of billions of dollars out of the revenues that pay for health care, education, infrastructure and fighting climate change.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Sudbury will have approximately 16 minutes remaining after question period to conclude his remarks.

We will now move on to statements by members.

Short Line Rail Projects
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, today there are 13 railway short lines in Ontario, transporting goods to market, supporting thousands and thousands of Ontario jobs and dozens of Ontario communities. Examples such as the Huron Central, the Ottawa Valley, the Kawartha Lakes Railway and others could all cease operations, some as early as this summer, if vital infrastructure investments are not made.

Since 2006, our government has partnered with several provinces to assist rail operators in rebuilding vital short line rail arteries and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has stated that he stands ready to support Ontario rail short line infrastructure applications.

This Parliament's all-party rail caucus, which I have been honoured to chair for the last several years, has consistently indicated its support for Ontario's short line rail and we were all heartened when MPP David Orazietti proclaimed, through a release, that the McGuinty government was officially committed to partnering with our government in support of our rail short lines.

I encourage our provincial partners to sign on to the territorial base fund and support Ontario short line infrastructure applications. The time to act is now.

Haiti
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 12, when the devastating earthquake hit the poorest country in our hemisphere, Canadians responded as Canadians do: we opened up our hearts and we opened up our wallets.

The government announced it would match dollar for dollar donations made to the Haiti earthquake relief fund following a desperate appeal for immediate help. Canadians could give to the charity of their choice with the understanding that was where the money would stay and believing that it would go to the desperate people of Haiti right away.

It turns out that is not the case. The government now admits that it will not respect Canadians' charities of choice. The government, not donors, will decide where the money will go, designating the World Bank as a charity of choice. What arrogance. When generous Canadians part with their hard-earned dollars, they have every right to choose the charity they want.

Incredibly, the government also admits CIDA has not dispersed one red cent of this money two long months after the earthquake struck. This is serious. Canadians who donated their hard-earned money want it fixed.

Olympic Athletes
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of Drummondville were excited to watch their hometown athletes perform at the Olympic Games in Vancouver.

These were the first Olympic Games for 30-year-old Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau. He came in fifth in freestyle skiing, men's moguls. The Drummondville native said that it was his best performance ever.

Jessica Dubé, who is from Saint-Cyrille de Wendover, delivered her best performance of the season and placed sixth in the pairs free skating event with her partner Bryce Davison. They are now preparing for the world championships to be held in Torino, Italy, from March 22 to 28.

Lastly, Marco Marciano, former goalie coach for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, won a gold medal with Canada's women's hockey team.

On behalf of my fellow citizens, congratulations to all of our athletes.

Harmonized Sales Tax
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal communities in Ontario strongly oppose the HST. The Union of Ontario Indians and the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin have been trying for months to meet with the Minister of Finance to discuss the loss of point of sale exemptions under the new tax. The Premier of Ontario also wants to meet with the federal government and first nations on this issue.

Chief Shining Turtle from Whitefish River First Nation has been told flat out to stop contacting the Minister of Finance's office regarding the HST. Staffers of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development called to tell him to stop sending emails. Then they had the gall to hang up on him. This is no way to treat aboriginal people, especially chiefs.

Forcing the HST on first nations infringes on their treaty and inherent rights. Since the federal government triggered changes to point of sale exemptions, it has a legal duty to consult and accommodate first nations people.

I call on the government to show respect and ask that it meet with the Union of Ontario Indians and the province to resolve this matter.

Olympic Athletes
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, Rob Pool from Standard, Alberta wrote to me, telling me that watching the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver “made his spirit soar”. He said that as a hockey fan he thought he would watch the hockey games and very little else, but as the games continued, he said:

I became captivated by the enthusiasm of what became a celebration of life...I can sympathize with a young girl from rural Quebec who spends her life from age five to age twenty, only to lose her mother on the eve of her greatest challenge in sports, this transcends sports and becomes life. When young Joannie rose above her misfortune and changed a negative into a triumph, it becomes the triumph of a nation's spirit over adversity.

My constituent asks the House to balance the challenges of difficult funding decisions and the taxpayers' agenda with the spirit of national pride created by Canadian Olympians. Therefore, during the next two years, our Conservative government is delivering to Canadian Olympians an additional $34 million on top of $11 million a year we already spend. We have renewed $10 million to help identify and develop superior athletes and another $10 million to the Canadian Paralympic committee.

We will continue to cheer. Go, Canada, go.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the House needs to take note of the continuing political and legal harassment of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister and the current leader of the opposition.

Mr. Ibrahim has long been a compelling spokesman for democracy and for human rights in his country, and despite an unjustified prison sentence continues to speak out with courage and with determination. It is important for Canada to send a consistent message on democracy and human rights.

For the record, I hope all members of the House will join me in expressing our solidarity with Mr. Anwar Ibrahim and his continuing legal struggle in Malaysia, and join me in calling on the Government of Canada to express its deep concern to the government of Malaysia about this matter.

World Kidney Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in recognition of World Kidney Day.

Kidneys are important organs that perform many functions to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. I am sure some will be shocked to know that approximately two million Canadians have kidney disease or are at risk, according to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Many of these individuals will not be aware that they suffer from kidney disease because of the lack of early warning symptoms. Common conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can lead to chronic kidney conditions. If identified early, however, kidney disease can be managed through diet, medication and exercise.

I urge all Canadians to educate themselves on the signs and symptoms that may indicate kidney disease and to remember that healthy choices can play an important role in kidney health.

22nd Quebec Intellectual Disability Week
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, events related to the 22nd Quebec Intellectual Disability Week are taking place across the province. Since March 7, hundreds of volunteers and many others have been working to raise awareness of what it is like to live with an intellectual disability.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the exceptional work of an organization in my riding, Les Amis de la déficience intellectuelle Rive-Nord.

The association includes relatives, interveners, volunteers and people with intellectual disabilities, working together to promote respect for human rights.

People with intellectual disabilities still have to confront too many stereotypes. By getting involved with this organization, many young people in my riding are working to eliminate those stereotypes and fully integrate people with intellectual disabilities into society.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, Stats Canada reported this morning that employment in Canada increased by nearly 21,000 jobs in February, lowering the unemployment rate from 8.3% to 8.2%.

Today's numbers are further proof that Canada's economic action plan is working. February marks the fifth month of job gains in the past seven months. Since July 2009, Canada has created almost 160,000 new jobs.

While Canada is weathering current global economic challenges better than nearly every other industrialized country, our recovery remains fragile. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that our government will not be satisfied until those Canadians who have lost their jobs are working again. That is why our government will fully implement year two of Canada's economic action plan and roll out the remaining job creating stimulus projects across the country.

While the opposition ignores what matters most to Canadians, jobs and economic growth remain our top priority.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House of Commons today to congratulate Marika Teakle, a distinguished Canadian citizen from my riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Ms. Teakle showed exemplary dedication for 47 years, both as a volunteer in her community, and as a public servant responsible for immigrants.

In a tribute to this amazing woman on February 26, 2010, Albert Deschamps, the Quebec regional director general of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, announced that a room used for citizenship ceremonies would be named the Marika Teakle room, in her honour, and a plaque was officially unveiled.

As her member of Parliament, I am delighted to have this opportunity to congratulate Marika. New citizens preparing to take their oath of citizenship will be reminded, as they enter the Marika Teakle room, of her long-standing service to immigrants to Canada and of her commitment to their well-being.

Congratulations.

Canada's Economic Action Plan
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian economy added approximately 21,000 jobs in February, thereby pushing the unemployment rate down.

These statistics show once again that Canada's economic action plan is producing results. Our government understands that the main concern of Quebeckers and Canadians is the economy. Thanks to our economic growth and jobs budget, we are meeting the needs of Quebeckers.

It seems the Bloc Québécois still does not grasp the importance of Canada's economic recovery, since, just this Wednesday, it voted against the budget.

The recovery does remain fragile, however, which is why our government will follow through with year two of Canada's economic action plan and carry out the other projects to create jobs across the country.

Unlike the Bloc, which claims to be in Ottawa to defend the interests of Quebeckers, our government is taking action for Quebec and Canada.

Sudbury
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the past week has been an eventful week for my constituents. The week began with the disappointing news that mediated talks between Brazilian-owned Vale Inco and its striking workers, USW Local 6500, had broken off.

This eight-month strike has taken a significant toll on the lives of the workers, who are fighting to protect fair wages and pensions. New Democrats want both sides to start talking again. The federal government needs to show real interest in ending this strike, instead of brushing off the concerns of workers and the community.

On Wednesday, Greater Sudbury welcomed, with open arms and grateful hearts, some of our fantastic Olympic athletes: Tessa Bonhomme and Rebecca Johnston, gold medallists with the Canadian women`s Olympic hockey team; Devon Kershaw of the Canadian men's cross-country skiing, who delivered the best ever Canadian finish in the men's 50 kilometre, mass start classic; and Chris Del Bosco of the Canadian men`s ski cross team, whose determination to make Canada proud is truly inspiring.

My constituents have proven that even in the most difficult of times, they can set aside their worries and put on a great welcome for our deserving athletes.

Paralympic Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the Paralympic Winter Games will begin in Vancouver and Whistler. Over 500 athletes from 43 countries have come to Canada to compete for Paralympic gold. Team Canada will be represented by 55 Canadians, who will make us all very proud in their pursuit of excellence.

I know our Paralympians are eager to show all Canadians that they are ready to win gold, much like Alexandre Bilodeau, who won Canada`s first gold medal in Canada, or Maëlle Ricker, the first Canadian woman to win gold on home soil.

Canada of course won 14 gold medals in total, setting a record for most gold medals won by a country. In every sport, there was a Canadian athlete to cheer for and to unite us all as Canadians. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their efforts.

On behalf of the good people of my riding and all Canadians, I wish our Paralympians the best of luck. Go, Canada, go.

Government Spending
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, while this government is trying to balance the budget by proposing flashy but ineffective measures, the media were reporting this week that the Department of Public Works awarded a contract worth $6 billion over 11 years to Profac for federal building maintenance.

By maintenance, they mean installing a doorbell to the tune of $1,000, purchasing two potted plants for $2,000 and installing lights for no less than $5,000. The problem is that the government refuses to provide itemized receipts for those costs. How does it intend to prove any irregularity?

It is even more distressing to see this Conservative government try to shift the blame to public officials. It was this government that extended Profac's maintenance contract. The government is responsible for this waste of public money by virtue of a basic principle that the Conservatives do not seem to grasp, and that is ministerial accountability.

The Budget
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister misled Parliament and all Canadians when he said in his budget speech, “balancing the nation's books will not come at the expense of pensioners...or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians”.

That simply is not true. Commencing during the 2010-11 budget year, employment insurance premiums for employees and employers will increase by almost 9%. The government will be imposing a 31.5% punitive tax on income trust distributions to over 2.5 million Canadians, primarily seniors, and it will be imposing a new air traveller's tax.

As the leader of the official opposition said to the House yesterday:

The issue that goes to character is that the Conservatives will not stand up in the House of Commons before Canadians and admit they have increased taxes. That is the issue of character. That is the issue that undermines confidence and trust in the government, and that is why we will continually [expose] the Conservatives when they seek to tell Canadians things that are simply not true.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning Statistics Canada confirmed that Canada's economic action plan is working.

Last month almost 21,000 new jobs were created. Five out of the past seven months have seen job gains and since last July close to 160,000 new jobs have been created.

Our low tax policies and economic action plan are fueling Canada's recovery.

Canadians should ask the Liberal leader more about his plan for the economy. How many jobs would be created by the Liberal leader's GST hike or his carbon tax on everything? How would the Liberal plan for massive and reckless new spending encourage economic growth? How would the Liberal plan for a higher deficit create the jobs of tomorrow? The answer is simple: higher taxes and reckless spending do not create jobs and they do not encourage economic growth.

Our Conservative government is dedicated to creating jobs and growth while keeping our taxes low.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence. It is now clear that not only in 2006 but even today there are widespread and well-sustained reports of the ill-treatment and indeed torture of prisoners in the Afghan prison system, including detainees from NATO forces.

Why were these reports ignored in 2006 and why are they being ignored today?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Speaking on behalf of the government, Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member is aware that these kinds of allegations are allegations that have cropped up over a number of years. They have been covered at length in terms of the debate in this place as well as investigations. That is one of the reasons why three years ago the government created a new and more robust transfer arrangement that replaced the arrangement put in place by the previous Liberal government before we came to power.

When our military and our officials have been presented with a credible--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have often thought of the Minister of National Defence as being many things, but a shrinking violet is not one of them. I am sorry he is not in a position to answer the question.

To the same minister, the Minister of Industry, who is now answering questions for the Minister of National Defence on the question of the detainees, how can he explain the following contradiction? The state department report that was issued yesterday with respect to what is happening in 2009 is a public document that can be seen on the Web.

I would like to ask the minister very--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Industry.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to answer the question from the hon. member, who is in fact acting for the leader of the official opposition. I suppose we are two peas in a pod.

Of course, some of the questions the hon. member is asking will be reviewed by Mr. Justice Iacobucci, who will be doing an independent, comprehensive and proper review of the redaction of the documents. He is a respected jurist, known by Canadians to be in the highest regard. I anticipate, or at least hope, that the hon. member--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister has raised the question of Mr. Justice Iacobucci. It has now been a week since the former judge was asked to do something by the government. We do not know exactly what he was asked to do. We do not have the terms of reference of what he was asked to do.

The other day the Prime Minister referred to it as a thorough inquiry and on the same day the Minister of Justice said that there will be no inquiry, that there would simply be a review.

I would like to ask the minister, when will we finally get the terms of reference of the work that will be done by Mr. Iacobucci?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

With the greatest of respect, Mr. Speaker, we already know what the task of Justice Iacobucci will be. He is undertaking an independent, comprehensive and proper review of the documents related to Taliban prisoners.

He is a respected jurist, as I mentioned before, and he will ensure that the proposed redactions genuinely relate to the information that would be injurious to national security, national defence or international interests, and he will be reporting to all of us.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time the government has asked Justice Iacobucci to conduct an inquiry. Last time, the government completely ignored his recommendations and shelved his report. The last time the government ordered a public inquiry, it took six months to get the process up and running.

What will happen this time? How long will it take? We want to know when the inquiry is going to begin, how long it will last, and when we can expect the results. These are simple questions, and we want answers.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it was just indicated that Justice Iacobucci, who is clearly a respected jurist in this country, will undertake a comprehensive review of documents.

By the way, this is the same type of review that is done routinely by independent public servants in examining documents. Mr. Iacobucci will do the same thing. That information will be reviewed by him. There will be a report back to the House or to a proper committee. This is very much in keeping with practices around documents such as these.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is kind of ridiculous. They made an announcement but have not provided any details.

The House has the right to know. Canadians have the right to know. What is Justice Iacobucci's mandate? What are his powers? Most importantly, will his mandate enable him to release information about the torture cases he finds in the documents? If not, then what is the point?

Why will they not answer these questions? Are they afraid? Do they already know what the judge will find?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the point of the review was to have another independent review of documents pertaining to the handling of Taliban prisoners. We have to look at this in its scope and examine that information as it might impact on operations and on information received from a foreign government.

This is the undertaking of this government. We are bringing Mr. Iacobucci into a process that already has an independent review, called the public service, that looks at redactions to determine that same said process.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, is clear: “The [Conservative] government's fiscal structure remains unsustainable over the long term.” This means that, unless the Conservatives go and get the money where it can be found, they are going to have to make drastic cuts to programs at the expense of the poor and the middle class.

Will the Minister of Finance finally take off his rose-coloured glasses and impose a surtax on people with taxable income of $150,000 or more, as well as on the enormous bonuses some people receive?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, the budget is prepared in consultation with private sector stakeholders. The economic forecasts in the budget are based on an overall average provided by private business.

Moreover, economists largely agree that this is a reasonable basis for planning our budget. I encourage Kevin Page to meet with these economists, who say that we are even being prudent in our budget estimates.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the forecasts the minister refers to, which the Minister of Finance used, are made by economists who work for the banks, whereas Kevin Page is employed by Parliament. He says that the minister's forecasts are not a prudent basis for fiscal planning. That means that there is cause for concern.

Will the minister stop protecting the banks at the expense of the common good and take steps to prevent them from using tax havens to evade their responsibilities?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, once again, when the Minister of Finance prepares his budget, he meets with the private sector experts known as economists.

The member complains about the banks. Yet yesterday he said that they were making hefty profits. Surely, these people are in a good position to advise the Minister of Finance.

I want to say again that the government bases its projections on average private sector forecasts. This is nothing new. We have been doing this since 1994. These forecasts are credible and based on expert advice.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Kevin Page has confirmed that the federal budget is not viable. In addition to taking more from the rich, the government should have recorded in its books the more than $8 billion owed to Quebec. In the last budget, there was no trace of the $800 million for education, or the $2.2 billion for harmonization of taxes, or the $1 billion in compensation for the unilateral cap on equalization payments.

How does the government explain that, according to the budget, Quebec does not seem to exist?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, when preparing the budget, we consider the needs of all the provinces and what is best for the country as a whole. I would like to remind this member and his political party, the Bloc, that Statistics Canada just announced that, in February, 21,000 jobs were created in Canada and the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 8.2%.

This government is responsible and has put in place measures that are working.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

This minister, who is a Quebecker, should know that amounts owed by the federal government to Quebec have serious consequences for the finances of the Quebec government. The noose is tightening around Quebec. While students are protesting in the streets for a better education system, $800 million is sitting in Ottawa. While the Quebec government considers another sales tax increase, $28.2 billion for the harmonization of taxes remains in Ottawa.

What is the Conservative government waiting for to pay monies owed to Quebec?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, as we know, with equalization, poorer provinces receive money from the federal government.

Quebec is one of the provinces that receives the most money. This year, Quebec's transfer payments were not cut, they were increased.

As for Quebec's demands concerning the harmonization of the GST, talks are ongoing. The parties should be allowed to conclude these discussions.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, a report yesterday from the U.S. State Department says that conditions are horrific in Afghan prisons and that torture was and is common. Beatings with scorching bars and flogging by cable were reported. Police frequently rape female detainees and prisoners.

Yet the government has repeatedly told the House there is no credible evidence of torture and it continues to hand over the detainees to the NDS.

Is it the government's position today that the U.S. State Department is not a credible source, and why is it refusing to release the documents on what is going on in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is aware, of course, there have been a number of occasions where similar reports have been raised.

All we can say is that our military and our officials, when presented with credible, substantiated evidence, have taken very appropriate action. Of course, the point is that when we had an opportunity in government, we changed the arrangement for the better.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government handed detainees over to the governor of Kandahar, a known torturer who has his own private prison.

A number of our allies have stopped transfers to Afghanistan's NDS, but this government continues to do so despite the fact that the NDS is known to use torture.

Only the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that torture is common practice in Afghan prisons.

Why do they insist on continuing to transfer detainees to the Afghan secret services?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, when there were credible witnesses, we took action in the best interests of both Canadians and Afghanis.

Three years ago, we concluded a new agreement on the transfer of detainees with the Afghan authorities. It is better than the one concluded by the previous Liberal government.

We are taking action in the best interests of both Canadians and Afghanis.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is in denial. It continues to claim this is not occurring any more, but continues to hide documents that would in fact show it continues. Ministers' offices are given preview copies of what is to be released and frequently send them back to be censored.

This is a government that still believes that what Tommy Douglas did in the 1930s is a state secret.

Will the government not at least admit today that torture, sexual abuse and killings are common in Afghan prisons, and why will the government not admit the obvious?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, since the very start of our engagement in Afghanistan we have been building the institutions of the Afghan government, including better prisons, better training for Afghan authorities and better training for the military. This part of the core of our mission and it is part of the mission that we are particularly proud of.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said he had prepared “a fiscal outlook based on the same private sector economic forecast used by the Department of Finance”.

However, in lashing out at the PBO in question period yesterday, the Minister of Finance wrongly said the opposite, that the PBO rejected the forecasts of 15 private sector economists. He did not.

Meanwhile, economists like Don Drummond said his views are similar to those of the PBO.

Why this unwarranted attack from the finance minister?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, how exciting to have a question on the economy in the House of Commons, more than a week after we tabled budget 2010.

In answer to that question, the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer was established by the Conservative government. There never was this office before, so we welcome this sort of discussion and debate on the floor of the House of Commons.

However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that these predictions were not prudent. That is in direct conflict with what 15 of Canada's top economists--

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer agreed with the economists.

Whenever any officer of Parliament or public servant questions any action of the government, the Conservatives respond viciously, as if the person were an enemy of the state. They fired Linda Keen. They smeared Richard Colvin. Now when Kevin Page dares to suggest the government is too rosy in its forecasts, the finance minister lashes out with a totally erroneous hissy fit.

Will the finance minister apologize to Kevin Page?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I see that the hon. member for Markham—Unionville is using the same talking points he used on the CBC last night, verbatim.

Let me quote an individual, and this is a reflection and a quote after the budget directly to that point, if the hon. member would care to listen. The quote is from Craig Wright from RBC. I believe the hon. member might know that group. He said, “I think we're seeing a number of factors moving in the right direction.... I would think consensus is moving higher, not lower.... I would argue that the budget forecasts were probably on the prudent side”.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, pensioners are suffering but the government will not listen.

While the Conservatives were AWOL, Liberals were working. We listened to the concerns of pensioners and we proposed well-studied ideas for pension reform, and the provinces agreed. These included a supplementary CPP, preferred status for pensioners on long-term disability, and allowing employees of bankrupt companies to grow their pensions through the CPP.

Why will the Conservatives not act now to help pensioners?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, welcome to the file. The Liberals are finally waking up to the fact that we have concerned Canadians who want answers about their pensions.

Let me remind those hon. members what this government has actually done. The finance minister intervened in two Canadian companies that were having financial problems because of their pensions. The finance minister acted quickly and probably saved hundreds of thousands of lost pensions.

The Liberals claim we have done nothing, and they have had a half-day conference.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives missed a chance to leave a legacy for pensioners in the budget last week. They ignored pension reform, attacked seniors' savings and, instead, they gave them a balloon to celebrate Seniors' Day, a day off they cannot even afford to take.

Why is the government focused on gimmicks rather than real pension reform? How long do pensioners have to wait?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, even in the Liberals' half-day conference they might have been reminded that on October 27, 2009, we put in credible changes that were required for federally regulated private pension plans. We enhanced protection for plan members, reduced funding volatility, made it easier for participants to negotiate, and improved the framework for defined benefit pension plans.

We have received nothing in the form of good suggestions from the opposition.

Securities
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the budget is clear. The government intends to move forward with its plan to create a single securities commission. The financial and political elite of Toronto have banded together to bring the headquarters of the organization to their city, which just shows that the feds have much more than an economic plan in mind. It is an attack on Montreal.

This Conservative government claims to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec. Why does it not recognize that securities fall under Quebec's jurisdiction?

Securities
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that this is not the first time this subject has come up. We talked about it during the last session of Parliament, and once again, our desire to have a single securities commission in Canada was in the throne speech.

That said, the Bloc must note that the provinces are not required to participate. If they do not want to, they will not be required. I think that we also have the right to manage this country and to offer protection to taxpayers for their securities.

Securities
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, by going all the way to the Supreme Court to dismantle the Commission des valeurs mobilières du Québec, the federal government is undermining Quebec's political and economic autonomy.

By pushing for a single securities commission in Canada, is the government not proving that the federal budget serves primarily the interests of Canada at the expense of the interests of Quebec?

Securities
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, it is also our responsibility to protect Canadians when they make investments. As former Minister of National Revenue, I saw some situations where people had gotten hurt, where they had been robbed and swindled out of their earnings.

It is time to clean things up. It is time to have a national securities commission, and I repeat, Quebec will not be required to join the commission if it chooses not to.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has always maintained that it did not know that the prisoners it was transferring to Afghan authorities might be tortured. We have learned that as early as 2006, several NATO partners, knowing the reputation of Afghan prisons, tried to assume direct responsibility for Afghan detainees specifically so they would not be tortured.

Canada was absent in these efforts with its NATO partners, and is this not proof of its indifference to the fate of the Afghan prisoners?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this reporting is not new, nor has it surprised anyone in the House that almost three years ago we acted on the advice of senior officials to put in place a new transfer arrangement that improved upon the arrangement that was lacking, and left in place by the previous government. As a result, we have invested more in Afghan prisons, in officials, in training, and mentoring and monitoring. We are trying to improve a situation that I think everyone acknowledges is very difficult, something that we have been aware of for some time.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, while other NATO partners were searching for solutions in order to respect the Geneva convention, Canada had its back turned.

The government's rush to transfer prisoners to Afghan authorities, even though it knew they risked being tortured, can only be explained one way: it wanted to be rid of difficult prisoners.

Is that not what this is all about?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is that any time we have been aware of credible evidence, we have acted. We have acted responsibly, and I think we can all say with great pride that what the members of the Canadian Forces, our diplomats, and aid workers in Afghanistan did then and continue to do now is their level best to improve the situation. We can all be proud of that. But here is what Eugene Lang, the former chief of staff to two Liberal defence ministers, had to say: “The...government improved the agreement. The concerns that Ms. Olexiuk raised and the provisions that she apparently at that time had argued for were indeed put in the agreement by the” current government.

We improved the situation.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the earthquake in January, members of Canada's Haitian community have been worried about the fate of their loved ones in Haiti.

The Government of Quebec has used its powers under the 1991 Canada-Quebec agreement on the selection and settlement of immigrants to be more flexible about sponsoring families. In fact, the Government of Quebec has decided to temporarily broaden the concept of family reunification.

The Government of Canada, however, is refusing to be more flexible.

Why?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, in fact this government has acted. Immediately after the earthquake hit Haiti, this government insisted that all of the sponsorship cases in the queue at the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration be removed from that queue and be turned into a priority, and which this government and ministry have been working on since the time of the earthquake.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member did not understand my question, but we understand that the government has no interest in being flexible.

However, does the member realize the position he is putting some people in with his lack of openness?

Many members of Ottawa's Haitian community are faced with the possibility of having to sell their homes and move to Gatineau if they want to sponsor a family member who is over 18, for example.

Does the government realize how unfair this is and the impossible situation it is putting people in?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the government is completely and fully aware of exactly what its responsibilities are, and also what its needs are in terms of delivering the service. This government has in fact gone out of its way to ensure that we were the first country to be there in Haiti, the first country to provide assistance, the first country to make sure we were there when needed. In fact there is no way we can treat one country in one circumstance differently from another country in a different circumstance. We have dealt with this issue and we continue to deal with this issue.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the parliamentary secretary just said is scandalous. I am going to take him to see the Haitian community in my riding, and we will see whether things can be done differently.

Yesterday, the cat got out of the bag. The government had promised to create a special fund to help the victims in Haiti, in addition to the money already committed. It was going to match the donations people made and spend the money quickly in the field to meet the urgent needs of Haitians. We are talking about $128 million.

But nothing has happened. Not only has the money in this fund not been spent, but it may wind up in the World Bank.

Why did the government deceive Canadians and Quebeckers, who made a huge effort and worked day and night to raise money, thinking that the government was going to do its part?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the member continues to disappoint us with that kind of question.

The fact is that the Government of Canada committed $85 million immediately for urgent relief. In addition to the $85 million, the matching funds are currently being assessed as to the most effective way that they can be distributed.

I regret that the member has decided to play politics on the back of the Haitian disaster.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, he does not know zip about Haiti and if he is disappointed it does not look like it.

The new definition of emergency is “in the near future”.

Credible, experienced NGOs in the field have been ready for weeks and have well-defined projects. They have provided everything needed to get the money out.

While the minister is telling CBC that she has not received enough project proposals, CIDA is asking NGOs to lower their expectations because there are too many. Who is telling the truth?

The minister was happy to be on the news when the earthquake happened. What is she waiting for to get the emergency relief funds out? Could it be that this money does not actually exist?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I will say it again. The Government of Canada immediately released $85 million for the urgent need at that point. President Préval of Haiti has said:

We must draw the lessons from what occurred in Haiti--the massive, spontaneous, generous help was a good response to the disaster. However, its effectiveness must be improved, because effectiveness depends on the quality of coordination.

That is exactly what we are doing.

Shame on that member for playing politics on this issue.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan is at work in all communities. It is fueling new economic growth and creating new high-paying jobs for Canadians.

Canada's economic action plan has created and maintained jobs with job creating stimulus and has saved even more through expanded work-sharing agreements. Our Conservative government is also lowering taxes to fuel job growth for tomorrow.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance update the House on the latest news on the job front?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising that question because the opposition chose not to, probably because it is such good news.

Canada created 21,000 new jobs in February, which brings us to a total of 160,000 net new jobs since last July. That is good news for Canadians. It is proof that our economic action plan is working and it is proof that the Liberals' plan to raise taxes would not work. They want to raise the GST, which. according to Informetrica, would take--

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley.

Oil and Gas Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in last week's budget, the Conservatives once again chose the old energy economy over the new. Rather than new investments in green technology, they instead gave the highly profitable oil and gas companies a massive tax giveaway. This means that by 2012 the annual giveaway to just the top three oil companies will be more than all of the money the government has committed to green and renewable energy in this budget .

The government claims to believe in green but these numbers put truth to the lie.

When will the government stop the taxpayer handouts to oil companies and fund a real green future for Canada?

Oil and Gas Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the member has his facts simply wrong. If he were to look into the matter, he would find that there is much that we can applaud in Canada, in particular our electricity system which is one of the cleanest of any major industrial democracy in the world. Seventy-five per cent of Canada's electricity system emits no carbon whatsoever.

This government has made investments, such as the green infrastructure fund of $1 billion and the green technology fund of $1 billion, continuing over several years. Those are the kinds of investments that we need to do to continue to ensure we get our electricity system in particular to 90% non-emitting or low-emitting status.

Oil and Gas Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia the sustainable development technology program is a leader in tidal energy production but it is absent from the budget, and the highly successful ecoEnergy for renewable power program has been cut altogether.

The government claims that it wants to spur innovation and yet it continues to give all the breaks to the oil economy of the past.

When will the government wake up, stop coddling the uber-profitable oil companies and invest in tomorrow's energy economy?

Oil and Gas Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, this government has invested in those very things. I would just like to go through a couple of the things that we have put money into.

We put $1.5 billion into energy for renewable power, which the member mentioned. We put $1 billion into a clean energy fund, $500 million into sustainable development technology, which she just mentioned. We put $1 billion into the pulp and paper green transformation fund.

This government is committed to renewable energy, to revitalizing energy in this country, and we will continue to work on that.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal budget does not meet Quebec's needs. The aerospace industry is a critical component of Quebec's economy, but it is receiving no targeted assistance despite soft sales and countless layoffs in the Montreal region.

The industry—especially its small and medium-sized businesses—needs targeted measures to support research, but the Conservative government is refusing to do anything.

Why is the government refusing to implement a policy to support the aerospace industry and breathe new life into the sector?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, our government has actively supported the aerospace sector since coming to power. Let us not forget that it was our government that created the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. In addition, we have already invested over $400 million in the aerospace sector. We support the sector because it represents our country's future.

Shipbuilding Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's shipbuilding industry is going through tough times. Last month, almost 1,600 workers were laid off in Lévis. Quebec's industry has to compete with foreign builders who have better support from their government. In the face of uncertainty, workers have started leaving the industry. The loss of skilled labour is the greatest threat to the industry.

Why does the government refuse to implement a real support policy for the shipbuilding industry?

Shipbuilding Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we are currently taking part in a consultation process with stakeholders from the shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding strategy will be a national strategy that will benefit thousands of individuals across Canada. We support this industry and I am convinced that this industry has a bright future in Canada.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, any green shoots of recovery will be crushed by the government's monumental $13 billion payroll tax increase, a tax predicted to kill 220,000 jobs. In fact, the Minister of Finance himself described payroll taxes as “proven job killers”.

Why has the minister suddenly flip-flopped and is now imposing a proven job killer on Canadian small businesses?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, in fact we have frozen premium rates for EI for two years, 2009-10.

It is quite hypocritical for that member and the leader of Liberal Party to suggest that there is an issue with that when they supported many of those and, in fact, proposed a $4 billion 45-day work year job-killing tax that would have added to the premiums or added to the deficit.

The Liberals cannot have it both ways. They are being hypocritical on this issue.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not only the Minister of Finance who thinks payroll taxes are a job killer. One very prominent Canadian asked that the federal government recognize the terrible effect of payroll taxes, particularly on small businesses. He further stated that an EI premium increase was a tax on jobs.

Do members know who said that? It was none other than the Minister of Transport.

Why will the government not listen to its own ministers and quash this job-killing payroll tax?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we put in an EI financing board, an arm's length organization, to ensure that the premiums charged will be equal to the benefits over time.

What we will not do is what the Liberals did in the past, which is raid the EI account to the tune of about $50 billion for pet political projects. We put this in place to ensure that the books would not be balanced on the backs of employers and workers.

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the government is slashing corporate taxes, corporations are slashing jobs. Yesterday, 550 hard-working people at the 115-year-old Hamilton Siemens turbine plant were shocked to learn that their jobs were gone, shipped south of the border.

Just days after a budget that “promised” to help Canadian workers find and keep their jobs, 550 more workers have been thrown overboard. It is now time to keep that promise.

What exactly will the government do to help keep those jobs in Hamilton?

The Budget
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, of course we were saddened to hear of this decision but it is actually contrary to what is happening on the ground in many other parts of the country. There were 21,000 new jobs in February alone.

I was in Hamilton yesterday helping to open a brand new facility that the federal government, in part, funded. It will be a great world-class facility when it comes to cardiac and stroke care. That will add new jobs in the health service field. New business will come into Hamilton. That is what we are doing for Hamilton.

Transport
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, Huron Central Railway is on its deathbed when it should be on new rail beds with long-term infrastructure. This railway is a valuable freight line for Essar Steel, Domtar and communities from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury. We can return to passenger service and grow the northern economy with rail as a key player.

Is Ottawa committing to new funding and will it convince Ontario to get on board now before it is too late?

Transport
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to this government and this government values very much northern communities, which is why we offered the provinces $175 million to fund important projects, such as water, roads and, yes, even rail.

We encourage the Government of Ontario to sign a Canada-Ontario provincial-territorial base fund agreement so that we can continue to get shovels in the ground and keep Canadians working.

We are indeed prepared to support this initiative and we recommend that we move swiftly to sign the Canada-Ontario provincial-territorial base fund agreement, which could be the source of funds for infrastructure.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has worked for years to advance free trade. Our government has opened doors to Canadian businesses by implementing free trade agreements with Peru and the European Free Trade Association.

We have also concluded free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Jordan. These agreements help to expand trade, open doors for Canadian exporters, encourage economic growth and create jobs. That is an impressive record.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade please tell the House what the NDP has been doing while our government has been hard at work?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook exactly what the NDP has been doing. It has been doing nothing. In fact, it has been doing worse than nothing because it has been obstructing every free trade agreement that we bring before the House.

Instead of standing up for Canadian workers, the NDP stands in front of Canadian workers. Instead of standing up for opportunity, it stands in front of opportunity. Enough is enough. I call on the NDP to support—

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Status of Women
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister just not get it? Bullying tactics on individuals, insults on provinces and creating havoc at airports is absolutely unacceptable behaviour for a senior cabinet minister.

His former inner circle believes it is outrageous. Kory Teneycke stated, “It speaks to a sense of entitlement and different rules applying...”. Now Tom Flanagan offers, “The minister must go. Her behaviour is not compatible with being a cabinet minister”.

Will the Prime Minister just accept his responsibility and remove the minister from cabinet?

Status of Women
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the hon. member and, indeed, all members to accept the minister's sincere apology.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is as arrogant as ever. There are worthwhile free trade agreements on the table, such as the one with Jordan, and yet the government is urging Parliament to adopt the controversial agreement with Colombia. The idea of unconditionally accelerating economic trade with a country that has an abysmal human rights record has raised the ire of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Why is the Conservative government insisting on the adoption—

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, even the Bloc Québécois should understand that this agreement is a good agreement for Canadian workers. It is a good agreement for Quebec workers. It is a good agreement for industry throughout this country from coast to coast to coast.

It will provide jobs and opportunity not just for Canadian workers, but also badly needed jobs and opportunity for Colombian workers. It will give us an edge on the competition. Other countries around the world, including the European free trade countries and Norway, have already signed free trade agreements with Colombia and we are just playing catch-up—

International Trade
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Sudbury.

Violence in Sports
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the front page of the Ottawa Citizen depicts every hockey mother's worst nightmare: her child lying on the ice and not moving. Boston Bruin Marc Savard's mother thought her son was dead.

Head hits are increasing and it is trickling down from the NHL into our local hockey leagues: Patrice Cormier on Mikael Tam, and the 17-year-old who speared Austin Hoekstra.

When will the government show leadership and strike a royal commission on violence in sports so that we can find further ways to protect our young players and our games?

Violence in Sports
Oral Questions

Noon

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I think we saw through the 2010 Olympic Games how sport can ignite and inspire the human spirit and bring us all together. Frankly, violence in sport is something that I do not think anybody wants to see.

In this regard, I want to commend the NHL general managers who recently convened a meeting. They talked about the issue of hits to the head. They have come forward and made recommendations to the NHL board of governors to deal with this.

When it comes to sport, I think that people should play to win, they should play for fun and they should respect each other.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, maintaining market access is essential for Canada's hard-working fishermen. Eighty-five per cent of our seafood products are exported abroad.

With these markets increasingly demanding certification that fish are caught from a sustainably managed fishery, could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans inform the House as to what the government is doing to ensure that our fishing industry maintains access to these essential foreign markets?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

Noon

Egmont
P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes the need to protect the livelihood of our fishing communities. Budget 2010 provided $7.2 million over two years to support a new catch certification program. Through this program, Fisheries and Oceans will issue certificates to exporters, ensuring that Canadian fish products can be traced back to their origin and back to sustainable fisheries.

The European market alone is worth approximately $500 million annually to the Canadian fish and seafood industry, so this is a very sound investment. Our Conservative government proudly supports the fishing industry—

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am afraid the time allotted for question period has now expired.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all parties, and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Monday, March 15, 2010, during Statements by Ministers pursuant to Standing Order 33, no Member may speak for more than 8 minutes provided that any Member rising to speak may indicate to the Speaker that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another member.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a series of petitions signed by students of the Université du Québec à Montréal, researchers and other citizens. They want the federal government to reinstate funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. The government refused to renew funding for the foundation in the last budget. This will have major consequences on two research centres in Quebec, the ESCER centre and the centre at the Université de Sherbrooke.

I am pleased to present this petition today on behalf of the students' association at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Air Passengers' Bill of Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition signed by dozens of Canadian citizens. The petition calls upon Parliament to adopt Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights.

Bill C-310 would provide compensation to air passengers flying with all Canadian carriers, including charters, anywhere they fly. It includes measures on compensation for overbooked flights, cancelled flights and unreasonable tarmac delays. It deals with late and misplaced baggage. It deals with all-inclusive pricing by airlines in their advertising.

The bill is inspired by European law, where overbooking has dropped significantly in the last five years. Air Canada is already operating under European laws for its flights to Europe, so why should Air Canada passengers be treated better in Europe than in Canada?

The bill ensures that passengers are kept informed of flight changes, whether there are delays or cancellations. The new rules must be posted at the airport, and airlines must inform passengers of their rights and the process to file for compensation. The bill is not meant to punish the airlines. If the airlines follow the rules, they will not have to pay any compensation at all.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to support Bill C-310, which would introduce Canada's first air passengers' bill of rights.

Assisted Suicide
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand in the House today to present two petitions from over 100 people from communities such as Limoges, Casselman and North Glengarry in my riding.

The petitioners are opposed to euthanasia and to assisted suicide. They recognize the inherent value of human life and they ask all parliamentarians to vote against any bills that would seek to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it pleases me to present this petition of dozens and dozens of pages, with hundreds of names from across my riding, places such as Noelville, Alban, Crystal Falls, Hanmer, and Azilda.

The petition states that whereas there is a scientific consensus and public acknowledgment that animals can feel pain and can suffer, all efforts should be made to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering. The petitioners request that the Government of Canada support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by almost 100 of my constituents from towns in my riding in Alberta, including Camrose, Glecian, Carseland, Strathmore, Standard, Ohaton, Drumheller, Nacmine, Oyen, Delia, Craigmyle, Coronation, Erskine, Meeting Creek, Killam and Chestermere.

These petitioners share our government's concern about the welfare of the animal kingdom. Many of these petitioners are part of the one billion people around the world who rely on animals for their livelihood. We also want animals to be a consideration in natural disasters and relief efforts.

Corporate Social Responsibility
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions on the same subject. The petitions represent about a hundred of my constituents. They strongly support Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries.

Harmonized Sales Tax
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions to present today around the subject of the much disliked HST. The petitioners come from the Burns Lake, Fraser Lake area. They implore the government to not push ahead with the HST with the province of British Columbia, thereby making the economy and the quality of life less sustainable and less viable in northwestern British Columbia.

Many dozens of petitioners have come forward from the eastern part of my riding to implore the government not to raise their taxes and to do the right thing by them.

Child Pornography
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, the issue of the Internet and its misuse comes up often and has become a serious matter for study and investigation. Accordingly, I am pleased to present this petition from a large number of petitioners from my riding of Mississauga South on the matter of child pornography and victimization.

These petitioners want to draw to the attention of the House that the creation, use and circulation of child pornography is condemned by a clear majority of Canadians, that the CRTC and Internet service providers have the responsibility for the content being transmitted to Canadians, and that anyone who uses the Internet to facilitate any sex offences involving children is committing an offence.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to stop the Internet as a medium for the distribution of child victimization or pornography.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

When question period began the hon. member for Sudbury had 16 minutes left in his speech, and I will give him the floor now so that he may finish his remarks.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe I left off where I was talking about the Conservatives and their corporate tax cuts. I was relating it to the CEOs.

Let us look at what the Prime Minister has done for his CEO friends. The Prime Minister plans to cut corporate income taxes from 22.12% in 2006 to 15% by 2012 leaving Canada with the lowest corporate tax rates in the G8. By doing so the Prime Minister also deprived the treasury of billions of dollars that could have been invested in Canadians, like lifting seniors and children out of poverty.

Last year, with the corporate rate at 19% and most Canadians trying to cope with the serious recession, Canada's big five banks had profits totalling $15.9 billion. In 2009 the government's tax cuts to that point, 3.12%, fattened those profits by $496.1 million. No wonder the banks had enough money to pay enormous bonuses to their senior executives.

The government's justification for cutting the income taxes on profitable businesses is that the cuts improve competitiveness and lead to investment, innovation and jobs. The evidence is almost entirely to the contrary.

Across the board corporate income tax cuts are a completely ineffective way to grow an economy. They are a blunt weapon of a government without vision. They result in growing inequality, declining public services, and an economy that serves the market, not people.

The Conservatives believe that helping out these corporate CEOs will help create jobs:

Lower corporate income taxes result in more business investment by both domestic and foreign firms operating in Canada, which leads to new and better jobs and increased living standards for Canadians.

That was from the Department of Finance in 2008.

Really? Let us look at the historical context. In 2000 then Liberal finance minister Paul Martin cut corporate income tax rates by one quarter, from 28% to 21%, to be phased in over five years.

The Conservative government has continued those cuts from 21% in 2007 to 18% today. The budget confirmed that the government is ignoring NDP advice and will further reduce the rate to 15% by 2012.

Those cuts have taken hundreds of billions of dollars out of the revenues that pay for things like health care, education, infrastructure and fighting climate change. Why did the government do it? It says that such cuts create jobs through investment and innovation in our future economy. But do they really?

It also argues that we need these cuts to be competitive. That is another canard. The evidence suggests these assertions are misleading and wrong-headed. Who says this? It is stated by Statistics Canada, Finance Canada, leading economists and former Privy Council clerks.

Let us talk about some facts. Corporate tax breaks have not stimulated investment. Despite a 36% drop in corporate taxes both federal and provincial in the last decade, and record profits for much of that time, business spending on machinery and equipment has declined as a share of GDP. Total business investment spending has declined as a percentage of corporate cashflow and this is sourced from StatsCanada and Finance Canada.

Corporate tax breaks have not stimulated innovation. “The intensity of IT use by Canadian businesses is only half that of the U.S” said Kevin Lynch, the former clerk of the Privy Council and cabinet secretary.

In 2007 Canadian business spending on R and D, about 1% of GDP, ranked 14th in the OECD, well below the average of 1.6% and only one-third of that of Sweden, Finland and Korea.

Corporate tax breaks have not increased productivity. Kevin Lynch said that despite Canadian corporate tax rates well below those of the United States, “business-sector productivity growth was actually worse in the decade just ended”. Low productivity growth, of course, is a sign that business has not invested in new labour saving technologies or in productivity enhancing R and D.

Canada's business sector productivity in 2007 was 75% of that of the U.S., down from 90% in the early 1980s. This, despite cuts in federal corporate income tax rates from nearly 40% to the current 18%.

Are we more competitive? In 1999, the year before Paul Martin's tax cuts, Canada was fifth in the World Economic Forum's competitiveness list. Today we are in ninth place, well behind most Nordic countries, which collect as much as 50% of their GDP in taxes each year. Clearly, the link between tax cuts and performance is a myth.

Far from tax cuts influencing business investment decisions, if anything, corporate investment performance has become weaker, even as corporate taxes have been deeply cut. In 2007, before the Conservative corporate income tax cuts began, Canada's combined federal and provincial corporate income tax rate was already below the combined state and federal rate of our chief competitor, the United States, and below the rates of all but one other G7 member, the U.K.

When the Conservative cuts are fully implemented, Canada will have the lowest rate in the G7 by far, 12 percentage points below the comparable U.S. rate. While corporate profits in Canada are on the rise, investment, innovation, and productivity continue to lag.

It is a myth that corporate tax cuts create jobs in Canada, a dangerous myth that leads to reduced support for essential programs, services, and infrastructure on which Canadians rely. It also leads to a bigger deficit, higher debt payments, and increased taxes for the rest of us.

The Conservatives are also keen to help out their friends on Bay Street who are struggling, helping those downtrodden bank executives receive even fatter pay increases. While the finance minister has told Canadians to tighten their belts, the CEOs of Canada's big five banks saw pay increases of 10% in 2009.

For example, the CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia was awarded the biggest increase, 29%, followed by the Bank of Montreal CEO at 25%. The CEO from the Bank of Nova Scotia was paid $9.7 million and $2.9 million in bonuses, including salary and equity linked compensation, while the compensation for the CEO of the BMO was $7.45 million. The highest paid CEOs in Canada were from the Royal Bank and from the Toronto Dominion Bank, who were granted about $10.4 million each. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce paid its CEO $6.2 million. This information was from Bloomberg on March 5.

The Bank of Nova Scotia became the last of the big five banks to report its profits for the first quarter of 2010. BNS posted a profit just short of $1 billion, which is not bad for three months during a recession.

In total, the big five banks, BNS, RBC, BMO, CIBC and the TD Bank earned more than $5 billion in quarter one of 2010. The 2010 tax rate on that income is 18%, 4.12 percentage points below what it was when the Conservatives introduced these cuts in 2007.

Those cuts to date mean the big five will receive a quarterly bonus of more than $200 million from other Canadian taxpayers. This is shaping up to be a year that will far surpass the excessive benefits the government bestowed on the banks last year.

Where do these banks get their profits? It is no mystery to me, but for those who have been living in a box for the past 18 months, I will explain. Credit card interest rates is one way. These interest rates have been increasing at an alarming rate. These outrageously high rates and fees have continued to pad the pockets of our nation's big banks.

Most of us do not know that credit card fees are also a huge burden on businesses, yes, businesses, a group we would think the Conservatives would stand up for. Small businesses, which make up about 70% of the workforce, are a vital part of the local economies and communities. With these rising rates and the growth in new premium cards, many of these businesses may soon close their doors forever.

Profit margins are tight in a tough economy. Keeping a business afloat is already incredibly difficult. These businesses are facing yet another challenge, this time from the credit card companies. New fees charged on transactions are taking a heavy toll on SMEs' bottom line. Some of those that are hardest hit are restaurant owners. Many are even resorting to asking for payment in cash only so not to fall victim to the creeping transaction costs charged by the big credit card companies. Many restaurants do this. They do not want to raise their prices on already hard hit consumers. Raising prices is bad for customers and their businesses.

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association estimates that the average cost of accepting payment by credit card is 2% of the bill, which is called interchange fees. This does not sound like much at all but let us remember that the food service industry typically operates at profit margins of 4%. It is outrageous. If a business owner does not want to pass on this cost to its customers, it makes life very tough.

To date the Conservative government repeatedly refuses to take action to regulate credit card fees; as always, on the side of big banks. Instead of taking real action, the Conservatives are holding on to the hope that these companies will follow a voluntary code of conduct for credit card companies, a code which even if they volunteer to follow, they can violate or ignore whenever convenient.

The government claims to be the champion of small business, but it always backs the big banks and credit card companies at the expense of people and consumers who end up paying more. It is time for the government to change its tune and impose strict regulations on credit card companies and to put consumers and Canadians first rather than corporate CEOs and bank bosses.

The most important thing to remember is that while the Conservatives say their priority is jobs and economic growth, what they plan to do is entirely different.

Corporate tax cuts, as mentioned earlier, do not create jobs. A company that is not making a profit, whether because it is losing money or just breaking even, does not pay tax. That is a fact. Therefore, when the government cuts corporate taxes, only the richest companies benefit.

Conservatives have priorities all right. Helping out their friends, not all Canadians. Whether it is with Senate appointments or secret deals with foreign companies, as happened in my riding of Sudbury, we cannot see the Investment Canada Act and we have had Xstrata lay off 686 people and at Vale Inco we have had over 3,000 people on strike for eight months.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives continue to show their true colours and their out of touch nature with the average Canadian family.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Sudbury on this fine speech. The member for Sudbury and I are neighbours in northern Ontario. In the throne speech the government wants to relax the rules for foreign investment. In our joint ridings we have two foreign companies, one that is trying to implement its third world mentality on our workers and the other one is hydrating the ore reserves in Nickel Belt and Sudbury.

Could the member tell us what the relaxation of the foreign investment rules has done to both of our communities?

The Economy
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his great work on this file relating to both Vale Inco and Xstrata.

Our community, although we are neighbours in terms of our ridings, we both live in greater Sudbury, has been devastated by foreign takeover. We understand that there needs to be foreign investment, but foreign takeover has completely changed the way these businesses are doing business within our community. Who ends up getting hurt? Small-sized and medium-sized businesses are having to shut their doors. We have steelworkers who have been on strike for eight months. The company is refusing to go back to the bargaining table.

This is actually stopping these people from going back to work and then helping our economy because they spend money in our economy. They spend money in our small-sized and medium-sized businesses. They use their credit cards. We are talking to them about using them efficiently and that is why we are fighting the credit card companies to ensure that rates are lower. But foreign investment is something that is needed, not foreign takeover. Unfortunately, we have seen that loud and clear in Sudbury.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague from the NDP. He had quite a bit to say about the Conservative government's efforts.

I want to draw to his attention that an estimated 130,000 jobs have been created or maintained to date since the economic action plan was implemented. We are aiming for 220,000 by the end of 2010. Just today we heard that 21,000 jobs were created last month. That does not take into account 225,000 jobs saved through an expanded work-sharing program.

Does my colleague agree that the people of Canada really want the government to stay the course with our stimulus efforts through this year and then they want the government to implement its deficit reduction and restraint plan laid out in the budget?

The Economy
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think what the Canadian people want the government to do is to lift them out of poverty. I think what the Canadian people want the government to do is to ensure that it can help them put food on their table.

However, by giving corporations another huge tax break, the government is giving to the organizations that are already making billions of dollars in profits, $15.9 billion last year just to the five big banks.

A small percentage of that, $700 million, is all we would need to get every senior in Canada out of poverty. That is what I think Canadians want the government to do.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, since we started to talk about the impacts of the recession, the government seems to have talked about a fiscal deficit, but it seems to have totally ignored the social deficit and the impacts of an aging society and other things.

There is another aspect, and I am not sure if the member is aware this. The last time we had a recession violent and property crimes tracked unemployment rates almost perfectly through the recession as a consequence of the recession. When people get distressed, when their EI benefits run out, when they have nowhere to turn, sometimes it forces people to do bad things.

Unfortunately, we have the situation where the policing is delivered by provinces. They are the ones that will have to pick up the tab for increased policing costs. Yet the government has not even mentioned the fact that we have to be prepared to deal with the realities in the population when we go through a severe recession.

Does the member have any other concerns about the social deficit caused by this recession?

The Economy
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many. I do not think I have enough time to talk about all the concerns that we are starting to see in social deficits.

I found it very interesting that the member brought up how crime and unemployment would go tandem in that there were demonstrations of this in the past. We see the government cutting pensions and funds for RCMP. What is that doing? It is taking officers away from wanting to go into that career. We need more officers.

When we look at all of the things in terms of social deficit, we have talked about EI, which is running out for people. The government is putting that burden onto the provinces because more people are going to have to go on welfare.

If the government is talking about not cutting transfers, unfortunately we are going to see it, when the provinces have more people on welfare rolls or many other reasons.

It is a very big concern.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all the information he was able to provide on this subject.

I want to talk about corporate tax cuts again because this is one of the big ones. There have been over $21 billion in corporate tax cuts since 2008. Yet the government will add $166.4 billion to the public debt and $60 billion more within the next 10 years.

The government says that it will not add additional taxes, but it will because it will raise the EI rates, which is a tax on workers, small businesses and business as a whole.

Could my colleague indicate what the impact on these small businesses and workers will mean, because it is to the tune of $19 billion, starting in 2011?

The Economy
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for all the great work that she does in her riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the major drivers in my community of Sudbury and I am sure in communities right across the country.

We have the world's best mining supply and services cluster that employs 17,000 people. Right now, unfortunately because of the strike, many of these places are reducing their workforce. These people are unable to then contribute to the economy. Even small businesses have to reduce. We are not seeing anything in place here to actually help small businesses, but the big five banks and the oil companies are getting all the breaks right now.

Page 176 of the budget, table 4.2.4, talks about personal income tax today are about $126 billion and corporate taxes are around $26 billion. By 2014, that number will be five times more, $150 billion for personal income taxes, with about $30 billion for corporate income taxes.

Families are paying for the government's ideology and corporations are paying less and less, making more money to give to their friends and to their CEOs.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the business of the government reducing corporate taxes and thinking that somehow that would be the solution.

The government is shifting the taxation burden from corporations to ordinary Canadians. In fact, ordinary Canadians are going to be paying four times more in personal income tax than corporation taxes. I remember maybe 20 years ago when those figures were roughly equal.

How can this move by the government be fair to working Canadians?

The Economy
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is completely unfair. That is the easy answer. We are not looking at how we could actually help everyday working families.

When families have to use their credit cards—

The Economy
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the member there and move on to the next speaker.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

The Economy
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, members will have noticed through the Olympics, post-Olympics and probably for many months still to come the multi-million dollar advertising budget the government is spending on its action plan. I am holding in my hand a summary of “Canada's Economic Action Alan Year 2”, published by the Minister of Finance.

This is supposed to be the plan by which Canada returns to a balanced budget. Unfortunately, there are those who look at the numbers as they are provided by the Minister of Finance and his department and beg to differ with the economic action plan of the government. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, as late as last month, said that the government's current fiscal structure was not sustainable over the long term.

A budget is both simple and complicated at the same time. It deals with revenues, expenditures and the economy. A fairly educated guess is made on what the expenditures will be, what the revenues will be and what the economy will look like over the period of the budget. Frankly, the further time goes on, the less reliable are the figures.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is highlighting a very important issue, that the government's current fiscal structure is not sustainable over the long term. In simple language, on the basis of the government's projections for the economy, the revenues and the expenditures all that will happen in addition to debt. He states, “under the current fiscal structure, the Government's debt relative to GDP is projected to increase on a substantial and sustained basis over the long term”. Simply put, our debt will grow, it will grow in absolute numbers and it will grow relative to our GDP.

He goes on to say, “To close the fiscal gap, permanent fiscal actions either through increased taxes”, something the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister do not want to talk about, “or reduced program spending”, also what they do not want to talk about, “or some combination of both—amounting to 1.0 and 1.9 per cent of GDP are required under the baseline and alternative scenarios respectively”. That means that somehow or another some combination of revenues, increased economic growth and reduced expenditures have to amount to 1% or 2% of GDP. We have an economy of $1.3 trillion, so it is $13 billion through to $26 billion. Somewhere or another, we have to find the numbers in order for these numbers to be realistic.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer goes on to say, “The fiscal action plan required to achieve sustainability does not need to be taken immediately”. I agree with that. “Implementing the necessary measures may be delayed until the economy has fully recovered”.

Again, that is essentially buying into the consensus of all of the economists that at this point it is not appropriate to take measures until the economy has actually recovered. It does speak to the long-term sustainability of this economic action plan and he is calling it into question.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance took the unprecedented step of essentially trash talking the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, in my experience, is a pretty responsible individual. He has come before the finance committee on quite a number of occasions and lays out the way he sees the numbers.

In his report, which apparently so upset the Minister of Finance, the first point he makes in the first sentence of his report is:

PBO’s assessment of the Budget 2010 outlook is, however, limited by the lack of detailed information and data pertaining to the Government’s assumptions that underlie the translation of the private sector economic forecast into the fiscal forecast...

He goes on to say that he is not disagreeing with the 20 or so private sector economic forecasts that were made. He basically buys it.

It is very interesting that his first point is that the department, the minister and the Prime Minister withheld information from him in order that he could make what we all need, which is an independent assessment of the statements and the viability that this plan projects. In the first sentence, he is taking issue with the availability of information.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say that he is wrong and then also say that we will not give him the information to look at. This is not the first time the Parliamentary Budget Officer has complained about the lack of information coming from the Department of Finance and this particular minister.

The report continues:

PBO believes that the private sector economic outlook, on which Budget 2010 fiscal projections are based, provides a reasonable basis for fiscal planning.

To my point, he is not disagreeing with the private sector economists but he cannot do a full bore analysis on the basis of the information that has been provided by the Minister of Finance.

The report continues:

PBO disagrees with the overall characterization of the Canadian economic situation and outlook in Budget 2010.

Essentially, he is saying that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have put a touch too rosy expectations on the performance of the economy.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

A touch.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Just a touch. As my learned and hon. friend from Malpeque will know that just a 1% error is a $13 billion swing in revenues. At the best of times, when people are all operating in good faith, there can be mistakes made both to the plus and to the minus. However, he is making the point that he thinks the Conservatives are a little over-optimistic about how the economy will perform, certainly out over the longer term.

The report continues:

PBO believes that the dispersion of private sector forecasts likely underestimates the actual magnitude of uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook.

That is economic speak. It really means that he does not think that going out over two, three or four years is anything other than pinning the tail on the donkey.

The report continues:

PBO believes that the risks to the private sector economic outlook for nominal GDP are roughly balanced but would not characterize this outlook as a ‘prudent’ basis for fiscal planning.

In other words, he does not think this is prudent. It is possibly not even conservative. Who knows?

Interestingly, if we start to break out his charts where he goes through the first two years, he is actually slightly more optimistic than the government in the first couple of years. After that, the spread between what the government believes and what the Parliamentary Budget Officer believes gets rather dramatic. There is an enormous gap between what the minister says the plan is and what the Parliamentary Budget Officer says it is.

The report continues:

PBO’s estimate of the structural deficit does not mean that the Government’s budget will not return to balance.

He is optimistic that it still could. It continues:

Rather it suggests that achieving budgetary balance would require: the economy operating significantly above its potential—

In other words, a lot more than what the rosy projections of the Minister of Finance anticipate. It continues:

—the economy operating significantly above its potential; actions to increase revenues or reduce spending relative to their projected paths; or, some combination thereof.

Either the economy has to really cook or the government has to be serious about its constraints on its expenditures or it has to utter the T-word. In fact, the government has, without uttering the T-word, actually increased taxes on a number of levels.

The government will impose a punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts by 2010. That of course is accounted for in the revenues and the government is anticipating that will be in the revenues. It has also put on a 9% increase in EI premiums, which everyone, including the Minister of Finance, has described as a punitive tax. That amount of 15¢ per $100 is accounted for in the budget and anticipated. Similarly, there is an increase in the traveller's security tax. Again, those are revenues that the government anticipates, even in its economic plan.

As I said, it is a combination of revenues, expenditures and the economy and how it will perform.

I would like to think that this is an economic action plan but it is really a non-plan. What is more disturbing is who will actually pay for this non-plan. I would direct the House's attention to page 164 of the budget, which I am sure we have all read by now, possibly even including the finance minister. It projects that there will be expected savings of $17.5 billion over five years.

What does expected savings actually mean? That is sort of like putting 50 cupcakes on the table and saying what a good boy I am because I only ate 48 of them. These expected savings are really kind of mythical moneys. These are moneys that we might have spent in another situation but we will not spend. In order to make the economic action plan work, we need to work in this $17.5 billion of expected savings.

Suppose we bought that this two-cupcake approach is in fact a viable approach. Who is actually paying for this? The first thing we notice is that there will be restraint in the growth of National Defence spending. It will contribute $2.5 billion to this $17.5 billion of expected savings. That sounds pretty good, $2.5 billion on an annual budget of roughly $20 billion, so, over the course of five years, with $100 billion for National Defence, it will contribute $2.5 billion.

The next line is foreign aid. Foreign aid, on the other hand, will contribute $4.5 billion to these expected savings. National Defence will contribute $2.5 billion, and foreign aid, on the other hand, will contribute $4.5 billion.

In absolute terms, foreign aid will contribute $2 billion more than National Defence to these expected savings. In percentage terms, however, it is quite a bit more because the budget for foreign aid is flatlined at $5 billion for the next five years. Five billion dollars over five years is $25 billion. It is contributing about $4.5 billion out of $25 billion, so roughly 20% of its budget. National Defence contributes 2% of expected savings and foreign aid contributes 20%. That is a bit of a difference in proportionality. Who is actually paying for this deficit reduction plan, this so-called action plan?

Our foreign aid goes to the most impoverished people in the world, so it would appear that it will be the most impoverished people in this world, who happen not to vote, who will be the ones who paying a disproportionate share toward these expected savings.

The next line is the $6.8 billion in administrative costs of government. I would be a big believer in that if, over the good times, that had been an administrative cost that had been constrained. However, from 2006-09, in other four budget cycles, what we have seen is a relative growth in expenditures of somewhere between 6%, 8%, and 10% on an annualized basis, which is just spending a silly amount of money over a long period of time. We do not really think this will actually happen, that there will be constraint, although there may now be a number of announcements of cancelling vacant positions so that we can have expected savings of things on which we are not actually spending money.

It is a little disturbing to ask the poor of this world to pay for our deficit spending. It is a little disturbing that we are not paying for it ourselves. That is where we are getting the expected savings.

It actually gets worse. Members will recollect that a couple of years ago this House passed a bill called the better aid bill. The better aid bill had three priorities: to focus on poverty alleviation, to take into account the perspectives of the poor, and to be consistent with international human rights standards. That is the law in this country, the law passed by this chamber but the law the government has ignored.

The government continues to set its own priorities. The minister has a new priority almost every year. In fact, over several governments, since the year 2000, there has been something in the order of 22 or 23 priorities that have existed.

The law is that this money, the official development assistance, is to go to poverty alleviation. However, when we look at how CIDA intends to profile its money going forward, it projects an 8.5% decrease to the poorest nations of the world over the next year. Not only do we expect them to pay the burden because they actually do not vote and therefore have little or no influence on what happens in this chamber, we are decreasing in absolute and relative terms the amount of money that the poorest nations of this world receive.

A further 8.5% will be cut from assistance to fragile countries and crisis affected communities. Haitians have just gone through a crisis and it was amazing how Canadians stood up and contributed significant sums of money. There was a sincere outpouring to the nation and the people of Haiti and yet here we are, simultaneously saying that we will cut back 8.5% from the assistance to poor nations. On last night's news we were told that the government's so-called matching funds of roughly $50 million may well end up at the World Bank. “It is a possibility”, admitted the minister on television last night.

We say that we are helping these fragile folks. I do not even disagree with the minister over the staging of the moneys. I think putting $100 million into an economy like Haiti is actually quite disturbing to that economy.

We have an absolute reduction, a proportionate deduction and a reprofiling. Then it gets worse. Now we are going to have a 370% increase in the advertising budget just to say what grand folks we really are. I am sure the Conservatives have already spent $300-odd million on this, but a 370% increase in the advertising budget for CIDA when it is cutting moneys from the poorest of the poor is just wrong. It makes a very bad statement about our nation. It makes a very bad statement in this chamber and to the people of Canada, and it makes a very bad statement about the people of Canada.

This is an economic inaction plan and it is funded on the backs of the poorest of the poor.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have to give the member, as a Liberal, credit for having the guts to talk about advertising. That could lead us right into the sponsorship program, which I am sure he does not want to talk about, considering he was a member of that government.

The hon. member is very selective, but he selects the wrong things. He forgets that under the former Progressive Conservative government in 1993, just before the Liberals came to power, foreign aid was about $5 billion a year.

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12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

It was $2.5 billion.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

No, it was $5 billion.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

It was $5 billion a year. In the ensuing Liberal 13-year administration, the Liberals slashed it by 50% down to $2.5 billion a year.

The hon. member might not want to admit it, but this year our foreign aid is back up to $5 billion a year, and we have untied it to make it more effective than it has ever been in the history of this Parliament.

I also find it very unsettling that the hon. member could talk about the Conservatives trying to make cuts. We are not making any cuts, and we are certainly not making them on the backs of the poor and those who can least afford it, unlike the former Chrétien Liberals. When they came to power to balance the budget, former finance minister Paul Martin slashed $25 billion from health care and social transfers to the provinces. That was done on the backs of the poor and the infirm. Does that sound familiar? He remembers that. I remember that. We will not take any lessons from that member, who was a part of that government and voted for every one of those nasty cuts that the former Liberal government introduced to balance the books on the backs of the poor and the infirm.

I would be embarrassed if I were the hon. member, standing up making the comments he did, given the record he has to stand up for, the record of slash and cut to the poor and the infirm, those who needed health care and those who needed help under the social transfers. We will take no lessons from the Liberals and that is for sure.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no one so dull who will not learn. The hon. member has given a classic demonstration of he who will not listen will not learn.

I will compliment the government on one thing: it did untie the aid. That is a good idea. It was long overdue and well done.

With respect to the foreign aid budget, however, the Martin government and the Chrétien government set in process a means by which we would get to 0.7% over time. It was an 8% increase. It was a locked in increase. It came at the point where we finally dug ourselves out from the mess of the previous administration under Mr. Mulroney.

A path was actually set in place. A commitment was made to the poor of this world and that the budget was going to be increased on an annualized basis for 8%. We had that running for three, four or five years. Here the Conservatives cut it and flatlined it for the next five years after saying what pretty fine fellows they are. There are levels of hypocrisy, and I do not know if the Conservatives have achieved the highest level of hypocrisy, but they are well on their way. They are certainly very capable in that area.

Again, I reiterate my statement that this is an economic action plan on the backs of the poor of this world.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly listen to the member every time he makes a speech in the House.

I recognize that the government claims that it has, in its opinion anyway, good economic statistics, but at the end of the day, we have to recognize that the government is basically making a virtue out of necessity. The reality is that had there been a majority Conservative government in 2006 or 2008, the government would have immediately set on a path of deregulation, following the United States. Had that happened in 2006, the Canadian economy and the Canadian banking system would have been in the same disaster that befell the United States.

In actual fact, the government should be thanking its lucky stars that the previous government had resisted deregulation. We in the NDP had certainly fought deregulation all along. In fact, it was us, collectively, who provided the rules and regulations that kept the banking industry and the investment sector strong. The Conservatives inherited a good, strong situation and they were about to deregulate and cause a disaster, but they were saved from themselves.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember coming here in 1997 and by 1998 the issue of bank mergers was on the table. The Liberal caucus had a lot of debate about bank mergers, should we or should we not. The arguments on the banks were pretty heavy. They lobbied that they had to become world-class institutions and needed to have mergers. Five were going to become three and they would therefore be able to compete on a world-wide basis.

The Liberal caucus had quite extensive hearings right across the country. We listened quite carefully to people and ultimately recommended to the finance minister that he not do it. That is exactly what happened. He did not do it. He set the ratios for capital and loans fairly vigorously so we did not ultimately end up with the mess that there is in the U.S. I do not know, frankly, how the U.S. is going to dig itself out of that big mess. It is a big mess.

We should just thank our lucky stars that the previous administration under Messrs. Martin and Chrétien did not do it. If people think that this economic action plan is a little dubious, as do I, they can imagine the amount of money we, meaning the taxpayers and the Government of Canada, would have to raise in order to float the financial banking system of this country. This would be nothing, absolutely nothing.

The Conservative government is pretty lucky it inherited a very sound fiscal situation and a very sound regulatory situation. The Conservatives go all over the world patting themselves on the back saying what good boys they are, when they had absolutely nothing to do with it in the first place.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the finance minister said in his speech on the budget that balancing the nation's books will not come at the expense of pensioners or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians. That simply is not true.

We have a situation where employment insurance premiums will be going up 9%. The chief government whip said that we have to keep the EI fund balanced.

The government is also imposing a 31.5% tax on income trusts. That is a tax, yet the government says it is not raising taxes. That will hurt pensioners.

The government is also imposing a travellers tax, which the chief government whip said today is just a user fee, not a tax. Canadians understand what a tax is. It is money out of their pockets at a time when they can least afford it.

Does the hon. member believe that the government has not demonstrated accountability and that we cannot believe what the government members say?

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1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

There is a major difference, Mr. Speaker, between what one does and what one says.

As my hon. friend has pointed out, the Conservatives are raising EI premiums, are raising security taxes, are raising taxes on income trusts, while at the same time talking this great line about how they are bringing down taxes and all the rest of the stuff. Interestingly, the so-called tax savings are a rough equivalent to the cuts to the CIDA program.

We have a very immature dialogue in this House. We cannot utter the T-word. The parliamentary secretary is about to get up and give a long speech about everything except raising taxes, because the Conservatives are not prepared to come to grips with reality. That is why this plan is a fiction plan. The Conservatives will not deal with the revenue base. They will not deal with the expenditures base. Their projections on the economy are fanciful at best.

I close with saying this plan is a non-plan, in part because the Conservatives have dug themselves into a real mess. They cannot even talk about what they should do.

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1:05 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for that fine introduction. I know he is waiting with bated breath to see how we actually reflect on this motion.

I was just reading this motion. This is a motion that was put before the House on March 4, before the budget was tabled. I will read the part of it:

....while Canada is starting to recover from the global economic recession, the recovery is tentative and uncertain and the number one priority of Canadians remains jobs and economic growth, now and for the future.

I have been listening closely to some of the speeches today and that has been left out of many of the speeches, which I find very troubling. As we all know, later that day in this very House, the budget document was tabled, and its title is “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”. That is more than just ironic; that is a reflection of what this government believes is the number one priority for Canadians. I would encourage all members to remember that.

We were elected to represent our constituents, those who have jobs, those who want to have jobs, and those who have lost their jobs. That is why we are building economic growth, to make sure that the corporations are a fundamental part of this economy. As much as the NDP talks down our businesses, our corporations, it is they that create jobs.

The government's role is not to create jobs. It never has been and never should be. The government's role is to create an environment where corporations can prosper and they create the jobs. That is the fundamental difference between this party and at least the NDP. Sometimes the Liberals actually recognize that and we appreciate that.

Let us refer to the budget document, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”. First of all, we reminded Canadians of our promise in the first year of the economic action plan, and that was to stimulate the economy. That was with taxpayers' money. We were very prudent with that money. It was spread out across this country equally to make sure that jobs were created.

As I said, that was our number one priority, to make sure that as few Canadians as possible actually lost their jobs. However, those who did would actually have a chance at being able to sustain their families until they got another job. We extended EI. We put in another very important piece in that puzzle and that was work sharing.

As the finance minister and I travelled across the country in prebudget consultations, we heard from many firms that said they were seriously considering closing doors on some of their plants until they looked at the work-sharing opportunity. They kept those plants open and people's jobs were saved. Some of those plants are now back up to speed with full employment.

February's job numbers were released this morning and there is good news. We are not out of the woods but there are 21,000 new jobs. The February figures show gains of more than 60,000 in full-time jobs. That is exactly what our economic action plan year one was meant to do.

Now we are into year two. In year two we are going to continue with what we promised in the first year, and that is $19 billion in new stimulus to provide and create jobs. The other thing that we have said we are going to do and which was laid out in the budget document is we will be providing a limited number of targeted measures, once again to build jobs.

Phase three is about planning to return to budgetary balance. My constituents were more than thrilled to hear that.

My constituents are very conservative and most of them were troubled when we had to go into a deficit, but they understood that Canadians were losing their jobs, that it was very important that we step forward and made sure that the impact was as minimal as it could be on those people who lost their jobs. Now they are asking us and pleading with us to please get back to balance so that we do not pass on a deficit to our children and grandchildren.

Budget 2010 creates and protects jobs through these proposals. As I say, our work-sharing program is very successful. To date 225,000 jobs have been maintained because it was possible to share them with other workers.

We are supporting young workers through our internship and skills development program. That is one of the few things the Liberals raised as an issue. We listened to them. The finance minister and I sat down with the finance critics of all three parties and listened intently to what they had to offer. A good suggestion from the Liberals was to not forget youth employment. Therefore, we put in place a program for youth internship and skills development.

Innovation and training, education and research and development to create the jobs of tomorrow is what our future depends on. That is what our young people in university right now need to know, that the government is there to provide incentives for innovation so there will be new jobs in the future.

Another important item that we cannot forget, and on which we find the NDP members lacking in comprehension, is how keeping taxes low benefits jobs. Low taxes encourage growth and make us more competitive.

We will see that in the small and medium enterprises across this country. We have lowered the taxation level for small and medium size businesses. Once again in our cross-country consultations, we heard back from these small corporations, the mom and pop industries that employ most Canadians, that the money we left in their pockets allowed them to reinvest in their businesses and create more jobs.

As I referred to in an earlier speech, one of the items whose value many people are underestimating is tariff elimination. We started that step in budget 2009 on a select number of tariffs. That was so successful that we have put in place a plan to eliminate all import tariffs on machinery and equipment, on the goods that will be used to manufacture further goods.

That makes this country the first tariff free zone in the G20. To me, that is ground breaking. There are many countries that have tariff free zones in cities. In this country the entire country will be a tariff free zone.

Of course, we will be winding down our extraordinary stimulus measures. That is a necessary part of our plan but we will be restraining growth of spending as well. We have special targeted measures to do that, and that is very important to Canadians.

To do that we will be launching a comprehensive review of government spending, administration and overhead. Many Canadians have had to cut back in their own lives, so it is only fair that the government, which uses taxpayers' money, does exactly the same thing and does it prudently.

As a result of that, by the end of the second year of our economic action plan, we will see our deficit cut in half. That should make Canadians proud of what their government is doing. They have asked us to do that and we have put in place a plan to do that. In year three, we will have cut that deficit by two-thirds.

The most important thing to note, as reflected in the earlier question by the member for Cariboo—Prince George to the opposition on how it had balanced the budget when it was in power as the former Liberal government, is that it did so on the backs of Canadians. It cut health transfers. It cut social transfers. It cut foreign aid.

We will not do that and I will reaffirm that we will not raise taxes.

We heard the job numbers and have reflected on them, and I believe I answered a question to that effect during question period. This puts us now at 160,000 net new jobs through the impact of our economic action plan. There were 225,000 jobs saved through work sharing. We have already committed 90% of the 2010-11 funding for specific projects, and we will see those roll out as we travel back to our ridings every weekend. As we get back into construction season, we will see the beginnings of these projects and more and more people back to work, more of the 16,000 jobs that will be created through these infrastructure projects.

Returning momentarily to tax cuts, the opposition seems to think that all of the tax reductions this government has put in place are for corporations, whereas in fact $3 billion of those tax cuts stay in people's pockets, because they are tax cuts for individual Canadians. It is very important, when people's jobs are in jeopardy, to leave more money in their own pockets. We helped families purchase and renovate their homes with $3 billion in tax relief to do that. Of course, there is also our famous and well advertised home renovation tax credit, advertised not just by government but also by the corporations that were actually receiving the benefits and the people who enjoyed them. That was a resounding success. We even had people in the House of Commons who had voted against it come back and ask us to renew it. However, this government keeps its promises. We said it was a one-year program and after one year we ended it, just like we will end the deficit, temporary and targeted.

Let us talk about how the $19 billion is divided up. There is $3.2 billion in personal income tax relief, and $4 billion directly for retraining and worker support, enhancing EI benefits and training opportunities to transition workers from their current challenges toward future prosperity. There is $7.7 billion for infrastructure to create jobs. There is that jobs word again. It is what we are focusing on, as well as modernizing infrastructure, supporting home ownership, and stimulating and improving housing all across this country.

There is also $1.9 billion for research and development. That is for the jobs of the future. Once again we are focusing on jobs, attracting talent, strengthening research capacity, improving commercialization, which is another topic we heard of in many of our cross country consultations. There is basic research development money, but we need money for commercialization to take it from the bench model to the actual product. We recognize that and are increasing funding for it.

There is also targeted support for industries and communities of $2.2 billion, helping create and maintain jobs in sectors like the forest industry. We listened to what the Bloc was concerned about. Quebec has a large forestry sector. The Bloc members asked us to put in a fuel system based on forest products. We put money in the budget specifically for that to help the industries, not just in Quebec, but it is certainly reflective of those industries in Quebec.

We are also supporting workers by investing $100 million to extend the maximum length of the work-sharing agreements, and are helping young workers, offering $100 million to support them. These are just a few of the budget items.

I want to change gears, Mr. Speaker. You listened to questions all through question period and I am sure you are also wondering about some of the questions that have come up, and some of the false accusations suggesting that we have done nothing on pensions. I have been deeply involved personally on the pension issue across this country. It is disappointing and unfortunate that the opposition has been misleading the House about what has been done. As I said today, we welcome opposition members to the file. It has been going on much longer than they recognize.

Opposition members are misleading Canadians when they refer to overall pensions as being a federal jurisdiction. If they had spent more time seriously listening to people, they would realize that only about 7% of private pension plans across this country are actually federally regulated.

The finance minister saw the concerns and the issues in unfunded, insolvent pension plans. In the one question I did get about pensions, I reflected on the fact that some corporations were in jeopardy of failing because of their unfunded or insolvent pension plans. The finance minister stepped in personally in those situations to save the pensions of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and, in fact, may have saved some Canadian corporations.

For anyone to suggest that we have not been active in the retirement income adequacy of seniors is very misguided. I would actually challenge opposition members. I will give them a little assistance here. I will repeat some of the changes that we made to the federally regulated private pension plans but I would be quite surprised if any one of them has actually taken note of what we did to protect pensions.

On October 27, we put in place a regulatory framework to enhance the protections for plan members, reduce funding volatility for defined benefit plans, make it easier for participants to negotiate changes to their pension arrangements, improve the framework for defined and negotiated contribution plans and modernize the rules for investments.

Some of these old, antiquated rules on pension funds were very much outdated. I will give one simple example. Pension funds could not issue a statement to the plan members electronically. It had to be by letter. We can imagine the cost of that today, when it is so simple to do it electronically. Those are some of the simple things that we changed.

We put in place an opportunity going forward for these large funds to, in a tax-protected position, overfund their solvency. They can have up to 125% of their immediate requirements to pay out to their plan members. This was not available before and many of our plan sponsors told me that they wanted the opportunity to tax protect a surplus so that when we get into times like we did in late 2007 and 2008, they actually stay in a solvent position much longer and they are able to meet their commitment.

The Liberals have put forward some vague ideas about improvements to retirement income and they asked us to move on these immediately. One is a suggested change to the Canada pension plan. If they had taken the time to even look at it, they would have realized that the Canada pension plan is a joint jurisdiction with the provinces.

We are communicating and working with the provinces. We held a summit with the finance ministers in Whitehorse to discuss the federally regulated private pension plans and, in going forward, how to address the issues of retirement income adequacy for all seniors.

However, the opposition would have us unilaterally interfere with provincial jurisdiction and make changes to the Canada pension plan without even communicating.

I see that I am running out of time here, which is most unfortunate. I was only getting started on the pension issue and, Mr. Speaker, I know that for you and I, with the little grey hair that we have, it will be a very serious issue soon, but I will give a bit of a summation.

We will be continuing this consultation process with the provinces, which is the appropriate way to do it, in joint jurisdiction with the provinces, and we will be hosting another summit with the finance ministers' meeting in May, the culmination of our work and the culmination of the work that the provinces are doing.

It is very important that we protect these pensions because seniors have contributed immensely to the structure of this country. We owe it to them to ensure they have a good retirement.

There are many more things I would like to talk about. I have a whole list of quotes I would really love to get on the record.

We have had some comments today about our Parliamentary Budget Office saying that our budget was not prudent. I hope that I was clear in my answer today. The Parliamentary Budget Office is not being critical of the finance minister, it is being critical of some of the top economists in Canada. Those are the economists who represent the strongest financial institutions in the world, not just in the country. The Parliamentary Budget Officer should perhaps consult a little closer with his economic colleagues in those departments. He might come back and suggest that indeed those numbers are very prudent.

The Economy
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is trying to put lipstick on a pig here. The government is running a deficit in the first three years, which will well exceed $100 billion. He is basically saying, “What a good boy am I”.

The hon. member presents his so-called economic action plan, and says it is a wonderful thing, and explains how we are going to get out of it. Of course, those who might be a little but more objective about this, such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, say that essentially the government's plan is not costed well and it has a structural deficit.

He refuses to acknowledge it and is unwilling to address the actual underlying differences between what the government projects as its expenditures and what it will receive as revenue.

Then the Conservatives compound the difficulties of their fiction plan with a $17.5 billion so-called savings measure, which on both the face of it and in the disproportionality of it seems to orient itself to saving money out of CIDA but not out of any other program. The defence department is easily Canada's largest program, and its contribution is less than $2.5 billion over the five years. Yet, CIDA's is $4.5 billion over the same five years.

I wonder if the hon. member can tell the House this. What kind of a statement does this make about the government, that its so-called expected savings are more than twice as high out of official development assistance than they are out of defence? In proportionate terms, that is a 2% contribution from defence as opposed to a 20% to 25% contribution from foreign aid. What does that say about the government?

The Economy
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood is very passionate about development. I do appreciate the pretense of his question, but his numbers are pretty bad, to be blunt.

I will refer back to a question posed to him by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, which I do not think he quite answered earlier today. It was this. Why was the hon. member criticizing a doubling of aid from $2.5 billion in 2001? We have doubled it with our contribution of $364 million in this budget. We have doubled aid, the assistance that is going throughout the world. The former Liberal government cut it almost in half.

The Progressive Conservative government, previous to that Liberal government, had official development assistance, which we refer to as ODA, at the highest level in Canadian history. Not only did it balance its books on the backs of health transfers to provinces, social transfers to provinces, but the aid transfers to the rest of the world.

The world has stepped forward and recognized that we have doubled aid to the entire world. We beat our commitment to double aid to Africa. We are doing that in a credible manner, through targeted aid.

I see you want me to stop there, Mr. Speaker. I would love to continue talking about this, but thank you for the time.

The Economy
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There are six minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments on the hon. member's speech. When the matter next comes before the House, he can enjoy the six minutes.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to my private member's Motion No. 460, which seeks the support of the House to level the playing field for Canadian agricultural producers with those they compete with around the world.

I want to thank my colleagues, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Health, as well as department officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency for their support of my motion.

I am a farmer, a profession and career I chose, and a choice I am very proud of. It is a profession that provides to all people, not just some, an essential of life. That essential is food.

As a farmer representing a rural area in a riding in southern Ontario, the riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, the issue my motion addresses is significant and an important one not just for producers in my riding but as I have researched this issue, consulted with stakeholders and groups and sought information from government agencies and departments, it concludes and confirms to me that the issue is a long outstanding one. It is one that is continually hurting the competitiveness of Canadian producers from the west to the east.

This would apply to agriculture management tools which would include: fertilizers, seeds, feeds, veterinary medicines and vaccines that are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It would also include pesticides governed by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is part of Health Canada.

To illustrate the problem, let me give an example. I will use the United States as a comparative country since our producers are most affected by it because it is the largest trading partner and where most or many manufacturers licence their products.

A manufacturer in the United States develops a new agriculture management tool. This tool is a product which will improve the health, quality, yield and competitiveness for producers in the United States, the very people that our producers in Canada must compete with for market share.

The United States has its own set of licensing and regulatory requirements, and so the company invests hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of dollars in scientific research in order to licence and register this product. The costs associated with the development of the independent science for licensing purposes is borne by the company and the decision to apply for the licensing and regulation of a product is usually made on the basis of a business case and would normally be one which justifies the expenditures.

In Canada, our producers look at this new production management tool and tell us that in order to be competitive in a global marketplace we need access to these same products. Then our producers tell this company that they want to be able to buy its product as well.

Unfortunately, in many cases our regulatory and licensing process tells the company that in order to licence and sell its product in Canada for the benefit of Canadian producers, it has to invest the same hundreds of thousands and in some cases even millions of dollars to redo the same science, collect the same data, and do the same research in Canada that it just did in the United States.

This most often results in the applicant choosing not to seek licensing in Canada. That is because the manufacturing company looks at the size of the Canadian market, which represents approximately 3% of the global market. Our market is just not large enough to make a good business case to justify the expense of duplicating the science. As a result, Canadian producers cannot get the product and they are put at a competitive disadvantage against those producers in the United States who they have to compete with in a global marketplace.

Even if a company does proceed through the licensing process, Canadian producers can still expect a very long wait for the product. In fact, our decision-making process can take up to at least 24 months which involves multiple production cycles in many cases and, as a result, significant lost income.

Ironically and most importantly, Canadians need to know that produce and commodities being imported into Canada, sitting on Canadian grocery shelves for consumption by Canadian families, most likely have been treated with these exact same products which are not licensed for the use by Canadian producers.

They have already undergone the research. They have been deemed safe by independent analysis. They have been licensed for use based on science, and as we know science does not change at the border.

I ask the House to join with me in supporting my motion which will enhance the competitiveness of Canadian producers by providing them with access to production management tools they cannot currently access and by shortening the length of time it takes for an applicant to have a product licensed in Canada.

The way my motion proposes to do this is by considering whenever and wherever possible harmonizing our regulatory and licensing processes with other jurisdictions by utilizing equivalent scientific research provided the product not only meets but in most cases exceeds Canadian standards and does not in any way compromise our Canadian standards.

Simply put, agriculture inputs are production management tools that improve the yield, the health and/or the quality of agriculture commodities. The fact that these production management tools must be regulated and licensed is a good thing and nothing in my motion diminishes that process in any way.

In particular, I want to note that the products I am referring to target the improvement of health, safety and the environment.

I have had many discussions about this issue with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency. They know and understand the concern. I believe that they have been diligent in trying to address this issue on a number of fronts, including an initiative called enhancing access to pest management tools.

The idea behind enhancing access is to build on international regulatory co-operation efforts and maximize the use of scientific assessment and data that support regulatory decisions taken in other countries to register new pesticides in Canada. That is a good idea.

One of the first efforts under that program was a series of grower-requested priority reviews, sometimes referred to as project 914. These reviews were conducted on products identified by the Canadian Horticultural Council as being high priorities for Canadian growers. These U.S. registered pesticides were assessed using primarily United States environmental protection act data, evaluation reports from recent registration or re-registration decisions. I applaud these initiatives.

I also know they have been conducting meetings with government bodies in other countries, with individual manufacturers and their representative organizations, and with Canadian stakeholder groups. Again, I commend them for all these good efforts.

However, there exists a significant technical gap where most manufacturers focus on larger international markets and not seek registration for their products in Canada. These are business decisions in part, but they are also influenced by the uncertainty resulting from perceived or actual differences between Canadian, U.S. and other country regulatory systems for pesticides.

My motion seeks to bridge this technical gap by paralleling our scientific and data evaluation for our licensing process from one that some view as arbitrary to one which provides a clear direction, as expressed by the will of the House that we should, in all relevant cases, utilize the scientific research that has already been independently conducted for these products. This process should apply to new products as well as existing ones.

As a government, I believe we have an obligation, wherever and wherever possible, to establish a framework that puts Canadians on equal footing with those we have to compete with in the marketplace.

In order to do that, my motion simply says that we should be able to use the same scientific research and data used to license a product developed in other jurisdictions in order to license a product in Canada provided we do not compromise any Canadian standards. My motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

In summary, with respect to my motion, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of Health and departmental officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency support my motion for these reasons.

First, it would not in any way change, diminish, modify or compromise Canadian standards. However, it does seek to end an unnecessary duplication in the evaluation of scientific data and thereby expedite the licensing of production management tools for Canadian farmers.

Second, it would allow Canada to develop a parallel licensing process that would be more effective and more efficient.

Third, it expresses the will of the House to federal departments and agencies that they need not reinvent the wheel by requiring the duplication of scientific research and data when considering the licensing of production management tools.

Fourth, it says to Canadian farmers that, as a Parliament, we are on their side and we want them to be able to compete on equal footing with the rest of the world in a global marketplace.

Fifth, it says to the applicant also that we can expedite the licensing of products, and this is a win-win situation not only for the applicant but for Canadian producers.

Sixth, it would not in any way affect Canada's sovereign right to make our own decisions.

I say, in all sincerity for members of the House, this is the right thing to do. I seek the support of the House to adopt my Motion No. 460.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the member put forward this motion. I agree very much with his summary.

Does the motion require any legislative changes in order to get the job done? Health Canada and two agencies, PMRA under Health Canada and CFIA under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, are involved.

Does the motion require any legislative change that would force the government to do what he wants to do? He is a backbencher in the government, and I do not trust the government. Any time the government says it will do something, it really does not do it. What is here to pressure the government to do what the member wants it to do? We know the minister has said he is putting farmers first, but he has never done it. What is here to force the government to do what the member is asking?

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Malpeque and I sit on the ag committee together. Though we do not always agree on the approach, in the end, we agree there needs to be as much done in a co-operative manner on how we can get to the end to help our farmers be productive and competitive in a world market.

This motion does not require legislative or regulatory changes from those ministries at this time. However, it would allow us to continue, with the support of Parliament, to give the support to those agencies and ministries, to move ahead at a faster rate, to help promote the process we have in place through this motion and to help address the issues I have talked about in terms of competitiveness.

Why did this come forward? Quite honestly, I have farmed all my life. It was an issue when I started farming and it is still an issue right now. We can do something about those competitive issues very quickly and easily. I appreciate the support, I hope, of my colleague from Malpeque.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex for bringing forward Motion No. 460. I know he has consulted widely on this, but can he tell us whether the Dairy Farmers of Canada support this motion at this time?

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have done consultations for almost seven or eight months now. Quite honestly, there has not been any agriculture commodity group or organization that does not support it.

I was in dairy as part of my profession. We are talking about veterinary medications. We are talking about pesticides and insecticides. All those things have been affected by our lack of ability to move through a system and still protect the Canadian standards in a way that as agriculture producers need to have. It is about the duplicating process.

This is about being able to develop a parallel system in which we can expedite and approve products that are used by our competitors and that we need to use in this country to be competitive in a world market.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and I support it. I will repeat the motion so it is on the record again:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I support the motion, but it should be understood that the motion does not really change anything. On the positive side, it might give a little more impetus to moving it a little faster to some equivalency, especially with the United States in terms of not total harmonization, because we have to protect our sovereignty as well, but to more harmonization in areas that make sense and that would allow our producers to be more competitive.

As I said, it might move it along. The motion only asks the government to do something. When the House asks the government to do something, the government does not listen very well. The record is, when the House is really strenuous, forceful and taking on a very serious issue, the Prime Minister might just close the place down. We have to recognize this is the reality of the world. This is only a motion, coming from one of the Conservatives' own backbench members, almost pleading with the government to do something, and I can understand that.

Today the chief government whip got up in the House on debate on the budget. When he was asked a question about why there was not a dime for primary producers in the budget, he bragged about there being a little over 100 rural members. That is a wonderful thing, but they are 100 rural members in the backbenches who are not listened to. When they suggest something is falling on deaf ears, that does not do anything for rural Canada. My point is this is a motion and while it is important and I support it, we really need something that will force the government's hand to actually move.

I certainly congratulate the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex for providing some leadership on this issue because leadership has been absolutely lacking from the minister. At least we are getting a little leadership from the backbench. Maybe we are getting none from the front bench, but we are getting a little leadership from the backbench and that is a good thing.

What would the motion do? The intent of the motion is to allow Canadian authorities to approve products already used in other countries if their regulatory process and their research methods to produce the data are deemed equivalent to those of the Canadian system. That is a very important point because we need that to happen.

As the member explained, and I will give a little summary of what he said, we have all kinds of instances where a Canadian producer is producing Canadian products. However, because maybe our regulatory system is slower sometimes, maybe the applications have not come in from the companies, or for whatever reason, the product, whether it is a pesticide, a herbicide a veterinarian medicine or whatever it may be, has not been approved in Canada. I believe there is a production plant in the member's riding.

Sometimes these products are even produced in Canada and may be more effective and cheaper. They are for sale in the United States but one cannot buy them as a Canadian producer and they may make that producer more competitive. Therefore, we are waiting for a regulatory system to move and approve the product but while we are waiting our producers are actually in a non-competitive position.

This is something that the government could move on very rapidly in other ways. The interesting thing is that the food, whether it is a crop or whether it is an animal product, produced with using that herbicide, pesticide or veterinarian medicine that is not allowed in Canada because it is not approved but is allowed in the United States, ends up on Canadian grocery store shelves and Canadian consumers consume them and our producers are not competitive. It just does not make sense.

That is just a summary of what this motion would really do to help Canadian farmers if the government listens to the member's motion and does something.

If the truth be known, the move toward bringing some equivalency and assisting our farmers in being competitive has been a long time coming. It started as long ago as 2002 when the global joint review was brought in by the PMRA, Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

We have had many battles, as the member knows, with PMRA at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food trying to convince it to get rid of the backlog, get products approved and through the system so that they are available to producers.

However, I will say, in fairness to Health Canada and the PMRA, that I think they are getting rid of the backlog. I do not know if it is completely gone but they have moved some distance in getting rid of that backlog. I congratulate them on that.

What really needs to be done? Pesticides, herbicides and veterinarian drugs that are available in the United States really need to be available for Canadian farmers on a competitive basis.

I do not believe the member mentioned the whole area of seeds, seed registration, fertilizers and so on. Although we like to think we are the bread basket of the world, and we are great producers and efficient producers of high quality products, when a big company is looking at producing a seed, a herbicide or a chemical, it tends to produce it where the big mass market is which is often the central and western United States. A big company is not willing to invest money in research to get into a smaller market like Canada.

What this motion would do, if the government moved on it, is put our producers at a more competitive advantage. As a result, it would not put the companies through the same huge costs in order to register a product in this country, which would be a good thing.

A number of other things could be done and I want to mention a couple beyond this motion. CFIA needs more inspectors. One of the problems that is not allowing our producers to be competitive is that the products that come in from all over the world do not meet the same requirements that Canadian producers must meet but it ends up on our grocery store shelves. The government needs to spend money to hire inspectors to ensure that products that come in here do not disadvantage Canadian producers and come in under the same standards as Canadian producers must meet.

It is the same in terms of security measures that are being imposed on our Canadian agriculture retailers. We are imposing a cost on them that is actually paid for by the Americans in terms of their fertilizer and chemical suppliers. Those costs go back down to primary producers. The government could be doing the same as the U.S. and paying those costs.

The government could be doing a number of things beyond this motion. My only problem with the motion is that there is no way of forcing the government's hand. To date, without the Conservatives' hand being forced, they have absolutely failed the farm community. It is a good motion but their failure speaks for itself.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex has introduced Motion M-460, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The Bloc Québécois does not support this motion.

The Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle underlying the motion, which aims to avoid duplication and to harmonize the registration process, which could be done without violating Canadian standards, in order to promote the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. That is the intention.

However, given that the issue has been presented in the form of a motion and we must vote strictly on its wording, the Bloc Québécois must oppose it, because compliance with Canadian standards is not explicitly mentioned in the wording of the motion, and the member refuses to amend it in order to include a guarantee that Canada will not lower its standards. Furthermore, the vocabulary used is too vague and the motion itself leaves room for interpretation.

Parliamentarians were given a briefing session yesterday to give us the opportunity to ask questions of representatives of Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

It was strange that the briefing session was held the day before our debate on the motion, especially since the member did not really provide us with adequate information to allow us to offer an informed opinion.

It was even more unusual that the representatives—there were 15 of them—from the various agencies had prepared such a session for a simple private members' motion, rather than a bill.

The problem is that the motion is very broad and offers no reassurance regarding full compliance with Canadian standards. The motion leaves room for interpretation. We wish to avoid supporting the potential misuse of a motion passed by Parliament.

The member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is motivated by the competitiveness of Canadian farmers, who must compete against foreign producers who have access to commercial agricultural products that are banned in Canada.

The member claims that this motion is the result of consultations with many farming organizations and research into scientific procedures.

The problem is that the member has not provided any information about this research or consultation to the parliamentarians who must vote on the motion. Hence, they must do their own research and trust the member's motives in order to understand the intention behind this motion.

All the documents sent to parliamentarians by the hon. member indicate that the suggested harmonization process will be undertaken while respecting Canadian standards. That is true.

In a memorandum that we received, the Library of Parliament indicated that the purpose of this motion is to improve the competitiveness of Canadian producers by allowing them to use commercial agricultural products similar to those used by producers in competing countries, while respecting Canadian standards.

The following very clear statement is found on the website of the hon. member who is moving the motion:

I am requesting through my motion that we consider using the equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes of other trading nations, provided that the results are consistent with Canadian standards.

The intention is very clearly stated on his website, but there is no mention of it in the motion.

The problem raised is that, although there is a desire to protect Canadian standards and to establish equivalent processes, this is not clearly and explicitly stated in the motion. In addition, the creation of equivalent processes consistent with Canadian standards must be better documented in order to prove that any differences in the two systems, although deemed to be equivalent, do not circumvent Canadian standards.

Approval and marketing of production management tools is a highly complex matter that involves a number of laws and a number of different sectors including international trade, the environment, agriculture, research and development, and scientific and business ethics, etc. There are quite a few aspects to study and consider.

The consequences of a motion that is too vague and open-ended could be quite serious for the long-term health of humans and animals and even for the environment. It is odd to choose to take such important steps by presenting a simple motion that, on top of everything else, contains extremely vague terms.

A number of laws would have to be changed in order to make this motion effective: the Pest Control Products Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, and many others.

If the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex were serious about his harmonization plan, he should have worked together with officials and law clerks in order to deliver a real bill that would clarify the process standards and the real consequences of his request. We could have worked with that.

The problem is that, because he is simply moving a motion, parliamentarians have to make their decision based on the information available at time the motion is moved since, unlike a bill, the motion will not be debated in committee with the expertise of witnesses. What is more, the opposition parties have no opportunity to amend the motion.

The decision has to be made based on the parliamentarians' interpretation of the motion, as they look at the original wording.

The purpose of harmonizing the standards and rules for the analysis and approval of certain agricultural inputs, what we call production management tools, is far from being something new. In fact, with the creation of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the PMRA, NAFTA set up a technical working group on pesticides in order to harmonize the regulatory process for this type of product.

In 2000, the parliamentary Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development studied the issue of pesticides, their approval and their trade. The committee's report is very interesting.

It sheds light on the positive points of harmonizing approval standards, namely, and a few have already been mentioned: greater coordination of the pesticide approval process, elimination of trade barriers, a common labelling system, and competitive access to products that are manufactured on both sides of the border or in a number of locations.

In committee, most witnesses agreed that harmonization would make the process far more efficient, thereby improving the productivity of farmers in general and our farmers in particular.

However, a number of experts told the committee that harmonization could have a negative impact by weakening standards overall.

For example, Dr. Kelly Martin of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment said:

To me harmonization has great merit. It is sharing information. Why are we re-inventing the wheel? I think harmonization in fact is pushing us in risk assessment upward. I think, in general, it probably pushes us upward... Of course Americans will always have a bigger weight. So if we think we want something greater than they have, it will take a lot of political will to do that.

Here is one last point to consider: even though many witnesses supported harmonization, most of them feared that the process could result in less rigorous Canadian standards. Some standards could even end up being eliminated. That is the Bloc Québécois' number one concern.

This is what the committee recommended:

The Committee recommends that a clause be added in the operative sections of the new Pest Control Act requiring that protection of human health and the environment according to the precautionary principle be the sole objective of any action to harmonize Canadian standards with those of other countries, and that such standards not be weakened in any way.

With the precautionary principle in mind, the Bloc Québécois will not support this motion.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words with respect to Motion No. 460 brought forward by the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. As members may or may not know, we sit on the agriculture committee together, and I know that he is a champion for farmers and agriculture.

It is no secret that Canadian farmers often experience frustration at not being able to have access to the latest technology the way their competitors do. Therefore, the intent of this motion is correct. However, in its present wording it is vague and does not underline the fact that any harmonization of production management tools must meet Canadian standards.

In speaking with the hon. member, I am assured that the intent is there. However, it is not reflected in the wording of the motion. It could potentially see products available in Canada that do not meet our standards. In other words, I believe that applying a precautionary principle here would be a prudent approach that should be taken.

As it stands today, equivalent research is already being considered in our scientific and agricultural regulatory approval processes. This does not mean, however, that such research will always satisfy all of our safety criteria. The federal government should not be given a formal blessing by Parliament to relax our economy in this regard.

According to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, CFA, there currently exists a pesticide technology gap, which has a significant impact on the competitiveness of Canadian producers. This is largely a result of one key factor: pesticide companies often do not see the economic value in registering products in the smaller Canadian market. According to the CFA, there are ways of addressing this inequality.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, must continue to harmonize its practices with other countries and encourage pesticide companies to enter into joint or multinational review processes. The PMRA must also continue to modernize the review process so it can increase the reliance of acceptable foreign reviews to make the pesticide registration process as efficient and fast as possible, while maintaining high Canadian standards for health and safety. This wording does not appear in Motion No. 460. Also, maximum residue limits need to be harmonized at a faster rate to ensure that the required pesticide products are registered and trade irritants are eliminated.

The CFA also emphasizes that in addition to the availability of products, the other issue facing farmers is the price of these products. The fact remains that producers continue to pay up to 60% more than their American competitors for pesticide products. This needs to be corrected if Canadian producers are to have a level playing field.

The PMRA is now in the process of finalizing regulations that will outline the process for registering generic pesticide products in Canada. It is important for Canadian farmers to gain access to these important pesticide products.

My understanding is that the current system needs some fine-tuning to streamline the process. For example, as of last September there were something like 55 to 60 generic product applications still under review by the PMRA. Some of these have been there for several years. There is a need to ensure that as many of these products as possible are registered in time for the 2010 growing season, which as we all know is just around the corner.

The current grower requested own use import program was developed to assist Canadian producers to access the same products as American producers. Canadian farm organizations, such as the Canadian Horticultural Council, act as a nomination committee to propose pesticide products that should enter into this program. Farmers can purchase approved products in the U.S., apply a Canadian label to them, and bring them into Canada. Unfortunately, this program has not been as successful as hoped for because the rules that restrict the eligibility of products have made it difficult to get useful and important pesticides on this list.

Motion M-460 is about recognizing as equivalent to our own the scientific research and regulatory approval processes of Canada's principal trading partners, such as the United States, for products used in the agriculture sector.

I understand that the purpose of the motion is to make Canadian farmers more competitive by giving them access to commercial agricultural products similar to those used by producers in competing countries, subject to Canadian standards. However, the motion as written does not mention that last part.

It seems to me that the purpose of the motion is to enable Canadian authorities to approve products used in other countries if the scientific research and regulatory approval processes used in those countries are deemed equivalent to Canada's.

There are already agreements enabling product promoters to submit scientific data produced for the purpose of assessment by other authorities to Canadian authorities, but the system still requires promoters to submit a request for approval in Canada, and the data have to be assessed by appropriate Canadian authorities.

Some people have suggested that Canada should automatically approve any product approved in the United States. Judging by the wording in Motion M-460, we can assume the author would support such an approach. Even though he said the opposite, that is how we can interpret the wording.

That is why I cannot support Motion M-460.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government, I would like to take a few moments today to voice the government's support for private member's Motion No. 460 advanced by my colleague from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.

This motion seeks to assist Canadian farmers in gaining access to many of the production management tools that are currently available to producers in other countries. Agricultural inputs are regulated in our country to protect Canada's animal and plant resources, our environment and the health of Canadians.

While we all agree that this measure of protection is very important, we also need to be sensitive to the agricultural sector's need to compete in the international marketplace. If the approval process for these regulated items does not keep pace with innovation and leading-edge science, our producers will suffer an economic disadvantage.

Agricultural inputs are, quite simply, production management tools or tools that improve the yield, health and quality of an agricultural product. Such tools could include: fertilizers, seeds, feeds and veterinary biologics regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They also include pesticides governed by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is part of Health Canada. Veterinary drugs are also considered production management tools and they fall under the jurisdiction of the veterinary drugs directorate of Health Canada.

The Pest Management Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada produces data and prepares submissions to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency on behalf of Canadian growers for review and approval of new and effective tools for protecting crops.

In consultations, focus groups and value chain round tables, people in the agricultural sector have said that Canada's regulatory system sometimes hampers their competitiveness. They believe that the registration process is slow and overly bureaucratic.

At the industry-government task force on livestock in 2007, representatives from both the beef and pork industry groups remarked that the approval rate of veterinary drugs was lagging in Canada. Furthermore, Agriculture Canada's Growing Forward consultations identified pre-market approval processes for agricultural inputs in Canada as being behind the rest of the world.

In its 2009 policy manual, the Grain Growers of Canada encouraged the development of a joint registration process for crop protection products in the U.S. and Canada. Also, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association website indicates that it also supports ongoing efforts to harmonize pesticide standards with the U.S. and beyond North America to ensure farmers continue to have access to the newest and safest pesticides.

It has been clearly stated by many in the agricultural sector that our regulatory framework can be an impediment to their ability to compete in international markets. One issue that is raised with some regularity is the perception that the Canadian government does not consider research and submissions conducted in foreign jurisdictions when it considers agricultural inputs for approval. The Canadian agricultural sector and the businesses that serve it wish that the regulatory approval process used in foreign countries could be leveraged to a much greater extent to expedite approvals for products here in Canada.

The motion before this House speaks to that very issue. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I would like to draw everyone's attention to the fact that the motion asks that equivalent foreign scientific research be considered. The motion does not ask, however, that a foreign approval allow any such product to be automatically used in Canada. This is an important distinction.

Canada is a sovereign nation. We have a unique environment, climate, flora and fauna. A product approved for use in South America, Europe or Asia may not be appropriate or safe to use in Canada. Our unique makeup of animal and plant resources, climate and geography must be protected. To simply allow a product to be used in Canada because a foreign regulatory authority had already approved it for use in its country would be hasty and irresponsible. However, a great deal of foreign research does have tremendous weight and relevance for our policy-makers and regulators when we evaluate products for use in Canada.

The motion moved by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex has great value for Canadians, as it should unite this House in supporting this as a formal guiding principle. It sends a clear message to the agricultural sector that we support its desire for a regulatory framework which considers foreign data and research.

This motion would lead to meaningful change. It would express the desire of the House that foreign science be equivalent to Canadian science. This would encourage regulatory agencies and departments to accept foreign science in support of regulatory submissions which would expedite approvals. It would also encourage agricultural suppliers in other countries to apply for Canadian approval through this expedited regulatory system.

Other countries' production management tools can be registered in Canada, but they must meet Canadian regulatory requirements. One of these requirements is that decisions must be based on reliable scientific data and conditions of use in Canada, as I mentioned previously.

Registration by other countries' regulatory agencies does not mean that a product will automatically be approved in Canada, but submissions or applications filed abroad are often taken into consideration in the Canadian registration process. For some tools, foreign data and scientific risk assessments can also support regulatory decisions.

Canadian regulatory agencies often encourage foreign manufacturers to submit their products to Canada for review. For example, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada look for innovative new pesticides and work with manufacturers to have their products registered in Canada. However, there needs to be more of this sort of activity.

The Veterinary Drugs Directorate, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada and the feed, seed and biologics areas of the CFIA are continually strengthening international collaboration to facilitate the introduction of foreign agricultural tools in Canada. This motion will encourage Health Canada to consider the work of other countries with equivalent standards and to use this work rather than duplicating efforts whenever possible. They can do this so long as they continue to adhere to Canadian legislative requirements.

There is also an effort to level the playing field for Canadian farmers with U.S. producers with regard to access to new or improved veterinary drugs. The Veterinary Drugs Directorate of Health Canada is working with manufacturers to promote same time filing of submissions in the U.S. and Canada. The directorate has agreed to align its review timelines with U.S. regulators for these types of submissions.

With respect to pesticides, where manufacturers once approached markets sequentially, they now routinely approach several markets at once, taking advantage of new, global joint review processes. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency at Health Canada has been a global leader in establishing the processes that enable these co-operative activities.

The CFIA is also very active in the establishment of international standards for those products that fall under its regulatory authority and mandates. A unified standard adopted by many nations is worthy of our investment and should be pursued aggressively.

The adoption of Motion No. 460 will demonstrate a commitment to supporting the agricultural sector in its desire for a more competitive landscape. The motion asks all members of the House to show their support for an important principle. We will support the motion.

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Motion No. 460, sponsored by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. I want to take a moment to read the motion. It says:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

We have heard from several speakers in the House, including the member for Malpeque, the member for Drummond and the member for British Columbia Southern Interior. They have all made some very important points about this motion. My colleague, the member for British Columbia Southern Interior, has pointed out that there is nothing in the wording that says we have to meet the Canadian standards.

I know the member for Drummond has pointed out that, while it is not in the wording, it is on the website. However, I appreciate that the member has the correct intention here. It is a lot of work. Anybody who has ever brought a private bill or motion before the House knows it is not simple. There are a lot of hoops to go through. There is a lot of consulting that has to be done. I know the member has done a lot of work.

However, there should be a better process around here. If the member was concerned about getting unanimous consent on his motion, all he would have had to do is check with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior, our party's critic for agriculture, and that would have been pointed out to him immediately. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the wording of the motion except for the fact that nothing in the wording says that we have to meet Canadian standards.

Had he done that before introducing the motion, our member would have agreed to that and the member for Drummond might be a happier man today as well. That is just a bit of advice. Hindsight is terrific. One looks in the rear-view mirror.

I also know the government has power. If this is such an important issue, why is the government not doing it? Why is it leaving it to a member in the House to bring in the motion? Clearly, it is not prepared to act. The member for Malpeque asked a question of the member—

Agriculture
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona, but I am afraid that the hour for private members' business has expired. However, there will be seven minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks when this matter next comes before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:31 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:31 p.m.)