House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of Sitting
Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House stands suspended until 12:01 p.m., when we will proceed to orders of the day.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:46 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:01 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 18 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

March 22nd, 2010 / noon

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the Speech from the Throne. The speech was an excellent reflection on the accomplishments of the government in the past year and a visionary glimpse of the strong future set before us.

In the fall of 2008 the world was rocked by an economic crisis that began in the United States with a meltdown in the housing industry. The whole world looked on with nervous apprehension as banking systems throughout the world were shocked by one financial quake after another.

Canada was not immune to the crisis and suffered in its markets, especially in employment numbers. Our government was called on to act, and we did decisively with the economic action plan that followed on job retention and creation and measured financial stimulus to shore up our banking and lending institutions. Today Canada is recognized as having one of the most secure banking systems. In fact, the World Economic Forum has said that the Canadian banking system is the strongest in the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell the House the effects the economic stimulus plan has had on my riding of Chatham-Kent--Essex.

Last year we announced a combined amount from the federal and provincial governments of $50.5 million in Chatham-Kent and $17.2 million in Leamington. The projects included roads, bridges, municipal buildings, sewers and water treatment facilities which created economic activity in my riding, particularly jobs, directly and indirectly as a result. This was exactly the plan our government set out in last year's budget and continues on in this year's plan as explained in the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne addresses new training for laid-off workers. Layoffs are something I am afraid we have experienced in my riding. I would like to make a few comments about this.

A large number of people in my riding of Chatham-Kent--Essex work directly or indirectly in the auto industry. In 2009 we watched as the three major North American auto manufacturers fought bankruptcies, another casualty of the 2008 economic meltdown. It was our government, combined with the Ontario government, that came to their aid and lent General Motors $8.5 billion and Chrysler $3.75 billion. Although both companies are now recovering, many jobs were lost and many of these jobs will not come back.

The future in the auto industry has changed and we must change with it. That is why I was so glad to see our government introduce new training for laid-off workers, training for a new 21st century workforce. That is why we in Chatham-Kent--Essex were so excited about the announcement I was privileged to make at St. Clair College in Chatham for $7.7 million last year to provide the infrastructure for job training.

This leads one to ask about the government's responsibility to eventually balance the books.

I am glad that during the times of economic growth our government saw the necessity to pay down the national debt to the tune of $39 billion. In fact, before the 2008 crisis our debt to GDP ratio was approximately 27%, the lowest in decades. Today this stands at approximately 35%, still far lower than all other G8 members. As a result of our prudent fiscal management, we will continue to grow our economy and restore our fiscal balance by 2015.

We will begin immediately to lower expenditures in our own House. The Speech from the Throne stated that MPs' salaries would be frozen and members on both sides of the House were asked to freeze their budgets. I have met with my staff and we are implementing a strategy to do just that.

The Speech from the Throne talked about building jobs and industries for the future. That is why I support the vision of this government in job training to support skills development, apprenticeships and training for Canadian workers. That is why I support this government's plan to fuel the efforts of our best and brightest and bring innovative projects to the market. That is why I support the laws that protect intellectual property and copyright.

The speech also talked about continued reduction in taxes for businesses which will make Canada a place where companies want to set up shop and which will create jobs, not like the NDP plan and the Liberal plan to increase taxes. We often hear the NDP talk about taxing those in our economy who are the most profitable. I suppose the NDP thinks, as Ronald Reagan once said, and I paraphrase, that if it is profitable, tax it until it is no longer profitable and until it needs help, and then we can subsidize it.

I am thankful for the banking sector and an oil industry that are profitable. I am glad that we have a strong service sector that profits from our government commitment to free trade agreements. I am excited about a resource sector that is a world leader.

I am glad that the Speech from the Throne mentioned our government's continued commitment to free trade agreements. These result in jobs and opportunities for us, and those at the other end of the agreement as well.

The Speech from the Throne also mentioned our government's commitment to the forestry sector, fisheries management, supply management in our agricultural industry, as well as small and medium size businesses. It also mentioned our plans to grow our nation's shipbuilding industry. This has a significant interest in my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex.

The town of Wheatley in my riding has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world. In that harbour there is a shipbuilder, Hike Metal. For years the people at Hike Metal have been building boats, both large and small, from ferries to research vessels, firefighting ships and police vessels. I am glad to hear, as is Andy Stanton, the owner of Hike Metal, that our government will support the industry through a long-term approach to federal procurement.

The Speech from the Throne also mentioned our government's commitment to family. I suppose as a father of 8 and a grandfather of 20, this strikes home for my wife and me. We see firsthand the struggles that young families endure and the necessity to support them as they raise their children.

I am glad that we will strengthen the universal child care benefit of $100 per month to also assist sole-support and single-parent families. Every week when I go home to my riding, I get to experience firsthand the business of family life when the grandchildren come over to visit on Sunday mornings. It gives me a renewed incentive to get back to Ottawa every Sunday afternoon.

The past few months have witnessed two horrible earthquakes that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in Chile and more than 200,000 lives in Haiti. Canadians' hearts went out to the devastated victims and they offered generously in terms of money and aid.

Our military was there to help in reconstruction, which again demonstrated to all of us here at home what an excellent organization our armed forces is. We are so proud of the men and women in our military, their professionalism and bravery in relief efforts and in places like Afghanistan. Our government has been committed to providing them with the necessary tools.

I was so pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne that we will continue to honour these brave men and women by correcting unfair rules that restricted benefits to military families in the past.

We will also initiate a program involving private citizens, businesses and groups to build community war memorials. The throne speech also made a commitment to establish a new veterans charter and an ombudsman to look after our valiant veterans who have served us in the past.

The Speech from the Throne touched on many more areas, but unfortunately I cannot comment on them all. I have tried to elaborate on a few that have a special significance in my riding, but it is impossible to address them all.

One last thing I would like to talk about is the Speech from the Throne's important reference to our shared history. The Speech from the Throne mentioned the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812. This has significant importance to my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, for it was on the banks of the Thames River where the battle was fought between the British and the Americans, and the brave Indian chief Tecumseh died. The people of Chatham-Kent—Essex are proud of our history and would like to invite everyone to celebrate this important event in our riding.

This is a great country with a great history, and as was so well expressed in the Speech from the Throne, it is a country with a great future. Let us build it together.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one area of the member's speech touched me. I used to chair the committee on national defence and veteran affairs. One study we completed was with respect to what we do with our veterans when they return and are experiencing difficulties in their lives, for example, post traumatic stress disorder. We had some good recommendations.

Could the member be specific about what the government has done for the men and women who return to Canada and are experiencing these problems? Are there specific moneys or programs?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as was laid out in the Speech from the Throne, which I touched on briefly in my exposé of that speech, the government will introduce an ombudsman. We have many issues with our veterans.

If we look at what our government has done over the past four years for our veterans, it is an ongoing process. Oftentimes we need to stop in life, look back and see where we have come from. I am particularly proud of the many things we have done for our veterans. We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination. These brave men and women have given us so much. The freedoms we experience here in the House we can attribute to them. It is an ongoing process.

I thank the member for his question. I also would encourage members to continue to give us good advice and good ideas so we can make veterans' lives in their later years after they have served even better.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague outlining some of the benefits in the Speech from the Throne. I especially noted his comments about the family. I know he is a strong family man and he is very supportive of the universal child care benefit. I have spoken to many people in my riding who are very appreciative of this initiative.

Another thing that was included in the Speech from the Throne relates to many of the community groups in many of our ridings. Every riding has dozens and dozens of volunteer groups but many of them in the past have been somewhat hobbled in their ability to dispense funds and invest the way they would like to in their communities.

I heard from my community a strong appreciation for these initiatives in the Speech from the Throne. I wonder if my colleague could comment on the initiatives that will make it easier for charitable groups in our communities to continue doing the fantastic work that they do.

All of us know that if government needed to assume the responsibilities of these charitable groups, it would never be able to do it. If the member could comment on that I would appreciate it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, our government has played a strong role in the establishment and the continued efforts to make families, the very root and foundation of our society, stronger and enable them. One of the ways that we can do that is by encouraging groups and charitable organizations to do some of the ground work, to go out and help those areas that specifically have been struck by natural disasters. I think for instance of Haiti. We all saw the generous outpouring of Canadians.

It escapes me right now as to how many millions of dollars were collected, but the government's initial reaction to that was to allow that be done and then to match those dollars. This is an excellent way to move forward and to help in areas. I know there are communities and organizations right across the country that are so eager and excited about helping and making a contribution. This is an excellent way that governments can partner with them. The end result is that we can be that much more effective in our world relief efforts.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get into my personal remarks, I would point out that in questions and comments our time is very limited. Because our men and women in uniform play such an important role in making this country what it is today, not just within our borders but outside of them, I want to go a step further.

I am glad the hon. member spoke about our military. I asked him a specific question to obtain a specific answer but all he responded was that the government had appointed an ombudsman. That was part of the recommendation. What does an ombudsman do? He takes complaints.

I want to inform members that I chaired that committee and I saw parents and men and women come before committee in tears, reaching out, asking for help. They did not want an ombudsman. Yes, that helps but what they wanted was access to service, which takes funds. That is again where the government has failed our men and women in uniform. It has not provided funds.

As I open my participation today in this debate, I want to congratulate our Paralympic athletes who did us very proud. The Paralympic Games just closed. I believe Canada is sending a signal that we are here not just to stay but to grow.

In referring to our athletes as a whole, Paralympic and others, in the throne speech of April 4, 2006, the government, which had just been elected at that time, was kind enough to acknowledge the Liberal government's investment in the Own the Podium program. I thanked it for that. It is covered on page 3 of its first throne speech.

The other day the chief executive officer, Mr. Jackson, of the Own the Podium program was on television and acknowledged that without the funding for this program that was initially put in and continues to be put in, our athletes would not have been able to compete at the level they did which has allowed us to celebrate with them.

Dick Pound, who we all know has been associated with our Olympic initiatives most of his life, has also commented positively that this program has done well for us and it must continue. I read the other day in The StarPhoenix how Britain will now copy our Own the Podium program. I congratulate Britain. At least Canada is setting another example. We are very proud of our athletes.

Because the Prime Minister and the government, it seems, have been underestimating the intelligence and memory of Canadians, I will, in the 15 or 20 minutes I have, talk about how in the Speech from the Throne, which coincides with the budget speech, the government has misrepresented, or there are discrepancies, within the figures. The numbers just do not add up.

I will also point out how the government says one thing and does the opposite. For example, in the throne speech and in the budget it says how it will lower taxes. I will use the most recent example that occurred in this honourable chamber on Friday when my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour talked about how students who are doing their doctorates have been taxed. People can read it in Hansard. Students were not paying taxes a year ago and this year they will be. In the throne speech the government says that it will be lowering taxes, but on the other hand, students are now paying more taxes.

I will show how the government has financially damaged our seniors. This goes back to the promise that was made in the 2006 election when the then leader of the opposition, today's Prime Minister, put in writing how the Conservatives would not touch income trusts, how they scared Canadians and how they scared seniors by saying that the Liberals would damage the future and destroy pensions. However, what was one of the first things the Conservatives did? They put a 31.5% tax increase on income trusts. Shame, indeed.

Not only that, the Conservatives have weakened the ability of Canadian companies to compete on an equal footing internationally by not allowing them the interest deductibility that all other nations have. I will point out how they have done literally nothing in health care and how they have mismanaged the economy. I am surprised when they are described as good money managers because a good money manager is not one who inherits a surplus like they did in 2006 of $13.2 billion and then, a short three years later, we find ourselves in a deficit of almost $56 billion, although we do not know the exact the figure. However, if we add $56 billion and $13-something billion, we have had a turnaround of almost $70 billion in a short three and a half years. That is mind-boggling.

When the hon. member of the new Conservative Party spoke earlier, he said that we have a solid banking system and that financial institutions have carried us through this recession. He is absolutely correct, and that is thanks to Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I remember when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Industry waking up to the news that the banks had decided they would amalgamate. What did the Government of Canada do? The Liberal government did the right thing and the responsible thing and told the banks they could not do that because we realized that would have put our financial institutions in a very vulnerable position. Who criticized that policy at the time? It was the current Prime Minister who said that we should stay out of their noses and leave them alone. He said that we did not want regulations.

Today, however, when the Minister of Finance, after he did a number on Ontario in the Harris government, and the Prime Minister go out to international forums they say that we have the best banking system in Canada because of what they have done. If truth be told, we know factually who made those moves and it was the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I will talk about how the government's policies are causing us to lose jobs, not just today but jobs of the future, and how our companies, as I said earlier, are vulnerable. I will point out that it was the then Liberal government that made sure we made the right investments, not just for the jobs of today that we needed then in terms of addressing the concerns of employers with EI for example, but also the concerns of the jobs of the future and the right investments that we made between those difficult years.

The Prime Minister today has caused, I believe, and I have heard from many other people, Canadians to be concerned. It boils down to a matter of credibility which brings about trust. Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament because he said that a coalition was organizing, et cetera, and it was not elected. We all are elected democratically and we make up Parliament. This is not a presidential system like it is in the United States. This is a totally different system, a much better system, if I may say.

However, what did the Prime Minister do? We know what happened the first time around. He went to the Governor General, put a bit of pressure on her and she made the decision to grant prorogation. Forget the word “prorogation”, he shut down government, period.

We know what happened after that. Instead of coming in to the House and presenting a stimulus package of how the Conservatives were going to help get Canadians back to work, all the Prime Minister really said to the opposition was that he would take away the tools for us to run a party. That got everybody else upset, and we know the history.

Not too long ago, the Prime Minister, with just one phone call, shut down government. That is pretty scary when the first minister of the land can pick up the phone and say that he wants to shut down government.

However, I am also concerned because I think the Governor General should never have said okay. She should have thought about it and looked into it. I do find some fault with respect to the Governor General. She should not just simply grant it, especially something that happened within less than 12 months.

I would like say why this is a concern. I will quote a gentleman who said:

Well, I don't know that there's much strategy behind it. I think his problem is that the government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows that Parliament was prorogued in order to shut down the Afghan inquiry, and the trouble is that the government doesn't want to explain why that was necessary.

That is a direct quote from a gentleman by the name of Tom Flanagan. He was the Prime Minister's campaign manager, the Prime Minister's main strategist. He, too, is now questioning the Prime Minister's credibility.

I would like to read some other quotes, only because some people have asked why the Prime Minister should not do this. The reason why he should not do it is he has a tendency, as I said about the income trust, to say one thing and do the other.

On April 18, 2005, the Prime Minister said to the Canadian Press, “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent...is when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern”. In essence he today has lost the moral authority to govern, and that is what he should carry out right now.

The Prime Minister also said the following, in the Hansard of October 20, 2003:

Now is it true that the government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record?

Obviously the Prime Minister prorogued because he did not want to be held accountable for his shameful record.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

It's a flip-flop.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

It's a big flip-flop.

On January 5, the Prime Minister said on CBC The National:

The decision to prorogue, when the government has the confidence of the House, is a routine constitutional matter.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:20 p.m.

Rob Nicholson

Hear, hear.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

The justice minister said “hear, hear”. He is a good friend of mine. I agree on a lot of things he is doing. I support the justice minister with respect to some of his legislation, and he knows that. However, on some of these issues, we do not see eye to eye. The Prime Minister cannot sing and dance at the same time, or maybe he can.

Nevertheless, it is a question of a lack credibility on behalf of the Prime Minister and his government, which causes Canadians, and us as well, not to trust him and the government. The Prime Minister seems to do things according to his agenda.

I could go on and on and talk about how and what the Prime Minister said a year ago, or back in 2004 when he sent a letter to the then Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, in co-operation with the other two leaders of the opposition, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the leader of the NDP. That was okay then, when he asked the Governor General to do what in essence was being asked in 2010, but today it is not.

I read the concern of one of my constituents into the record the other day, Mr. Frandsen, and I will repeat it today. He said:

If the Prime Minister can behave and do what he is doing while having a minority government, can you imagine what he will do if he had a majority government?

That is scary.

I want to go on and talk about some of the issues. In the throne speech, he talked about health. Every election, every year that I have been here since 1993, the most important and number one issue has been health care, and we see this debate unfold in the United States. Finally, it has decided to allow the insurance companies to sell more policies. It is all about insurance policies. Not in Canada.

The number one issue by the government has been looked at with closed eyes. It has done nothing for health care. In fact, when the former health minister of Ontario moved to federal politics, he was appointed health minister. He is today's industry minister. When he was asked a question in this hon. House a couple of years ago about what he would do about health care, his answer was that the government would continue the funding. What was he referring to? It was the funding agreement that was signed by the Martin government after the recommendations of the Romanow report. Mr. Romanow went on television with Peter Mansbridge and said that the Liberals not only met the report's expectations, they exceeded them. I believe it was $58 billion over 10 years. The provinces want to start talking about this now because it ends in 2014.

The government and the Prime Minister are avoiding everything. They unfortunately have done nothing, zero on health care. That is a shame because if we do not have a healthy country, we do not have a healthy tomorrow.

One thing I am pleased to inform the House of, and I was made aware of this the other day when somebody gave me the clipping, was that Sarah Palin, the new neo-con of the United States, confirmed that she and her family received health care in Canada. Sarah Palin, of all people. This tells us that we do indeed have a good system, if anything a much better system than what the United States has.

On health care, which is a very important issue, the government has been silent. Why? I want to read a quote by an individual. This gentleman was asked, on CBC TV, about what he thought of a private, parallel health system in Canada. The response was,“Well I think it would be a good idea”. Who said that? The Prime Minister.

Another senior minister in his cabinet, the current Minister of Immigration, said to the Calgary Herald, “I do support the idea of private health care”.

The Conservatives have a minority government. We know Preston Manning and Mike Harris have had forums on private health care. God help this country. God help us all if ever they get a majority government. That is what they think of health care.

The Conservatives talk about income trusts. Aside from the damage they did to the seniors who planned for their golden days and today have to adjust downwards, they also weakened Canadian industries. They said in their budget that they would make it easier for foreign governments to invest. The difference now is that with their policy, Canadian companies can no longer, like foreign companies, use the interest deductibility factor when investing. In other words, foreign companies can borrow money, come and buy Canadian companies and write off the interest. Canadian companies that used to be able to do it can no longer do it. That puts us at a disadvantage.

I really value the words of what Mr. Frandsen said, that if the Prime Minister and the government ever had a majority government, it would be a scary thing.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a little amusing to listen to a Liberal talk about credibility. I, for one, am old enough to remember the 1993 election, when the Liberals insisted that they would not proceed with the GST. As soon as they were elected, they turned around and said that they were not really serious.

Right now Canadians know that the Conservative government has brought them through the worst recession since World War II with little or no damage, and it has a great deal of credibility. However, what I found most incredible was the hon. member's observation that the Liberal Party was responsible for Canadian banking success and borrowing practices.

I would like him to think about the fact that Canadians are known around the world as cautious, sensible, fiscally prudent people. Will he admit that the Liberal Party was not responsible for our sound banking and borrowing and that Canadians deserve credit for that?