House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a few petitions today. First, I would like to table a petition signed by a hundred or so people who are calling on the House of Commons to pass animal welfare legislation. I am not supposed to say so, but everyone knows I am in favour of this.

I would also like to table two other petitions signed by a number of people who are calling on Parliament to adopt a universal declaration on animal welfare. We unanimously adopted the motion of my colleague from Scarborough Southwest on this issue during the previous parliamentary session. I am proud that our Parliament adopted it, and we have already seen an impact in the House.

Employee Benefits and Pension Protection
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition brought to me by Melanie Johannink, a former Nortel employee.

The petition calls on the federal government to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in order to protect pensions. She asked me to point out that a number of the signatures are of people from the riding of the Minister of Industry. I strongly urge the government to take swift action to resolve this situation.

Employee Benefits and Pension Protection
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine should know, when presenting petitions members are not allowed to state their personal preference; they are merely asked to present the petition on behalf of their constituents. I would ask that perhaps the Speaker can give further instructions to all members in case they have forgotten.

Employee Benefits and Pension Protection
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Of course, the hon. parliamentary secretary is quite correct in his statement of the procedure in the House. I am afraid I was not listening to every word the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said in respect of the petition. I missed the fact that she may have said she supported it or opposed it; I have no idea which way it went. I know the hon. member will want to avoid that kind of blunder in future because, of course, we would not want to have points of order arising out of presentation of petitions on a regular basis, as we would if members were to do that.

The Chair has received two requests for emergency debates. I will call now on the member who presented the first one, the hon. member for York West.

Pensions
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sent you a letter on January 27, after the prorogation that we had not expected to happen, in regard to the pension crisis that I believe is facing this country. In the letter I asked that Parliament take swift action to deal with the pensions for hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers, whether we are talking about the forestry workers, Nortel in particular, or the hundreds of other companies that are going bankrupt.

Pensioners today are very much worried about whether they are going to have pensions and are looking to Parliament and the Government of Canada to take action to protect those pensions; hence, the reason I sent the letter asking that we have an emergency debate. We can put through some amendments to the bankruptcy act very quickly if the will of the House is to do that, which would help to secure the pensions of thousands and thousands of people across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you take it under consideration and make a ruling.

Pensions
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her submissions and for the request she sent on January 27. I have had ample time to consider the matter.

I recognize that there was certainly a crisis in respect to the bankruptcy she mentioned. I myself received much correspondence on the subject from constituents who expressed their concerns. However, I am not sure the situation that has occurred constitutes an emergency for the purposes of the Standing Order that deals with emergency debates. Accordingly, I am not going to allow the hon. member's request at this time for such a debate.

I now call on the hon. member for Toronto--Danforth who also submitted a request.

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to request an emergency debate on the recent advice of the Prime Minister to Her Excellency the Governor General, requesting that the second session of the 40th Parliament be prorogued.

To be clear, I do not make this request out of any question of the role of Her Excellency, but simply and importantly because I believe the judgment of the Prime Minister in offering such advice was deeply flawed. We need to debate it here on an urgent basis because such faulty logic could be used by the Prime Minister again on any given day going forward.

As we know, the Governor General did not really have a choice. However, the Prime Minister's serious lapse in judgment in requesting this prorogation has to be discussed. This is the second prorogation requested by the Prime Minister. The first request was made in December 2008 in order to avoid a matter of confidence that was to be debated and put to a vote.

The latest prorogation seems to have been another attempt by the Prime Minister to avoid accountability on matters that are inconvenient to the government.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, our system is one where the government exists because the Governor General decides that it has the demonstrable support of the House of Commons and it only exists under those conditions. It is therefore a fundamental character of our democracy that when a government is appointed, it is to be held directly accountable to the House of Commons, which of course can only happen when the House of Commons is sitting.

I submit that the recent advice of the Prime Minister to the Governor General to prorogue the second session raises serious questions about the Prime Minister's commitment to the House of Commons and suggests that he believes that this chamber should exist at the convenience of his government rather than the other way around.

Our democracy has a fundamental characteristic: an elected government is to be held directly accountable to the House of Commons. The use of the power to prorogue in order to shirk that responsibility is highly problematic and shows a lack of respect for Canadian democracy.

It is a fundamental breach of the Prime Minister's duty to be accountable to the elected representatives of the Canadian people and, as such, it constitutes an urgent situation, in my submission.

As the former House leader of my party, Stanley Knowles, is quoted as saying in the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, on page 677, “Debate is not a sin, a mistake, an error or something to be put up with in parliament. Debate is the essence of parliament”, and it cannot happen when it is shut down. I make this request in that spirit.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have expressed their disagreement with this prorogation, I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree to this request.

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his submissions and the correspondence on this subject. Once again I have reservations, however, about whether this constitutes an emergency within the meaning of the Standing Order in question. Clearly the prorogation took place some time ago; Parliament is now sitting again. I note that we are going to be having a debate on (a) the budget, (b) the throne speech and (c) supply days for a fair number of days, I suspect, in the month of March when all these subjects could be raised.

I suggest that in the circumstances it is not a situation where a request for an emergency debate is appropriate. Accordingly, with regret, I will deny this one also today.

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to seek unanimous consent to propose the following motion: “That in view of the fact that there is no justification for the imposition of a 31.5% tax on income trusts, the government take all necessary steps to introduce and implement the Marshall savings plan”.

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Mississauga South have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Prorogation of Second Session of 40th Parliament
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

Members will be relieved to know that because of ministerial statements, government orders will be extended by 13 minutes today.

The Economy
Government Orders

March 4th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

moved:

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 of Canadians remains jobs and economic growth, now and for the future.

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely true that the number one issue in the country is jobs and economic growth.

I had the opportunity in the last couple of weeks to travel in my riding and to take part in at least eight town hall meetings across it, a large geographic riding. Constituents explained to me just how they were feeling and what they were thinking with regard to the economic climate of the country. They recognized our first economic action plan and the importance of it and looked forward to phase two, the throne speech and the budget that will come in later today.

My constituents told me that they were very impressed with what they saw in the economic action plan. I explained that it had to be timely, we had to get the money out as quickly as we possibly could to allow us to be able to grow the economy and provide jobs during an economic downturn.

I explained that it had to be targeted at real projects, not at political pet projects but at projects that would provide an economic advantage long into the 21st century, providing good water systems, roads, highways, bridges and so on. It also had to be temporary because we could not continue to spend at this alarming rate forever.

We have to recognize that what has happened in this last year is that the world has become a much smaller place because of the massive recession that we have seen from a collapse in the economic system in the United States, including the housing market and the financial system. It spun the whole world into an economic downturn.

This has been a very severe downturn and it has hurt Canadians right across the board. That is why we have to concentrate on jobs. We have to make sure that we provide as many jobs as we possibly can and give an economic advantage to Canadians.

I would like to explain to the House just how the people in my riding and right across this country are feeling with regard to their opportunities as we move forward. The G20 decided to put 2% of its GDP into stimulus in this last year so that we could spin our way out of the protectionism that we saw in the 1930s, which led to a decade of not only recession but depression.

We leveraged the projects by targeting them well. The way we know that we are not just picking a political pet project is to make sure that other orders of government are prepared to dig into their pockets to invest a third or perhaps 50% of the money into that project. When there are two or three orders of government moving on a project together, hand-in-glove, it takes the political sting out of it because it is not based on political right or left ideology, but on the strength of the project and whether it is good for Canadians. That is what we have been able to do.

By doing that we have leveraged not 2% of GDP in this country, but 4.2% of GDP, into stimulus. That is actually more per capita than in the United States.

Speaking of the United States, we have another advantage. One of the advantages is our banking system: our banking system in Canada is rated number one. The one in the United States is rated 108th. If we think that is not too bad, the one in the United Kingdom is 128th.

It has been a good deal for Canada because we have been able to build an economic infrastructure in times when there is a recession so that we can have a competitive advantage, and the competition and the bidding process is much better. We saw competitive prices coming in 20%, 30%, 40% and, in some places, up to 80% and 100% cheaper because of what we have been doing this last year, and the year we are in compared with the previous year. This has given us an opportunity to grow the economy.

In fact, in the last quarter of 2009, we saw the GDP actually rise 5%. That is amazing. There is no guarantee it is going to be 5% in the next quarter or the quarter after that, so we have to move our way out of this economic downturn in a carefully considered way. That is what the throne speech was all about, moving us forward and creating jobs, because there will be more jobs actually created through our economic action plan in this coming year. The first part of most job creation is in engineering, the ordering of supplies and so on, and then it moves into the actual work that creates more jobs. We will see more of that in this coming year.

A lot of Canadians think the economic action plan is the biggest stimulus we have created for the country. That is not true. The greatest stimulus we have created in the country actually happened in the fall fiscal update of 2007, where we lowered taxes by $200 billion; started the rollback of the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%; lowered corporate taxes over a five year period from 22% to 15%, including small business taxes from 12% to 11.5% to 11%; and lowered personal taxes from 16% to 15%.

These give us an added advantage. In fact, tax freedom day now comes 19 days earlier because of these kinds of tax advantages. They provide more money in the pockets of ordinary Canadians, and more advantage for the private sector. It is the private sector that will lead our economic growth: the private sector will lead us out of this recession, more so than the public sector. The public sector is there to help, to come alongside and create an environment for success.

In the first three years of our government, during the time we were lowering taxes, it also has to be noted that we paid down the debt by $38 billion. That point gets lost to many people.

In the town halls that I took part in, I was also able to explain where we were going to go in phase two of the economic action plan. In the throne speech yesterday and in the budget coming this afternoon, where are we going to go from here? There are two stages. One is creating the jobs and the other is creating growth.

Growth happens when we have an economic climate to be able to move into better opportunities for the private sector, for the men and women of Canada who work so hard to be able to provide for their families.

We have done a considerable amount in that area. We have an advantage in Canada that we have never really appreciated or understood before. By the end of 2012, we will have the lowest taxes of any of the G7 countries, giving us a competitive advantage that we have never realized before.

We have more disposable income than our partners in the United States. That has never happened before in my lifetime.

We can also look at what we have done with regard to free trade and opening up markets and providing opportunities. When I talk to the agricultural people in my riding, they tell me that what they need for hogs and that hog prices have to go up if they are going to solve their business problems. When I talk to the beef people in my riding, they are telling me that the price of beef has to go up.

That is why the minister was in Russia, Hong Kong, and China opening up hog and beef markets just before Christmas and so on. That is why we are working toward freer trade with Jordan, Peru, Panama, Colombia and the EFTA countries. That is why the Prime Minister was in India and China.

When we look at India and China, we are looking at 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion people respectively, together accounting for almost half the world's population that is going from poverty to the middle class at an accelerated rate. These are opportunities that we need to capitalize on.

That is why the government has provided $2.6 billion for our ports system so that we have infrastructure to be able to get our commodities to the ports and take advantage of these growing markets.

Prince Rupert is an example. A container from China to Chicago and the mid United States can go through Prince Rupert two and a half days faster than any other port in western North America. That is an economic advantage. We need to capitalize on that advantage that we have never had or seen before. It is very important that we grow the economy.

At the same time that we grow the economy, what the throne speech is really telling us is that we have to be fiscally prudent as well and to make sure that we are responsible in government and control our spending. Therefore, spending has to be curtailed.

Remember that I said our economic action plan was targeted, timely and temporary. It is temporary because we cannot keep spending that way. We have to be fiscally prudent and we have to do it in a way that is very respectful of the Canadian purse. We cannot keep spending more than we have. No home, no business, or government can do that, and we are certainly not going to.

When it comes to this House, a lot has been made of the 22 days of recess we have seen in the last little while, but during that time period as a government we did a considerable number of things.

When I have talked to the people in my riding, they have very much appreciated the deal we made with America on the buy America clause during the recess.

They very much appreciated the protection of our younger people getting into their first time homes, making sure they do not get in over their heads, that if they do not have the ability to pay a five year fixed mortgage they will not be able to get into a home, because it will be of no benefit to them if interest rates go up and they lose their homes.

They very much appreciated what the government did for Haiti in responding to the disaster there. They very much appreciated the government accelerating the process of bringing back the orphans to Canada and the work the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has done on that.

They very much understand the importance of security. When, thank goodness, the attempted bombing of a plane that was to land in Detroit on December 25 was not successful, they understood the importance of what we had to do at our airports. We brought in two new levels of security, the millimetre scanners as well as behavioural observation. These are things that Canadians understand will help us in the long run.

We did all of this while we were in a 22-day recess from the House. Canadians understand, and certainly in my riding they do, that it is a little ridiculous the big deal made with regard to that by the opposition. It does not resonate because actions speak louder than words, and the actions of our government over that time period proved that we were on the job and working on behalf of Canadians. We are going to continue to do that.

If we want to know what we should be doing in the future, just look at what we have done in the past. We have set an environment for success in this country. This country is the greatest nation in the world. We have just come off an Olympics that proved that. Our national pride was unprecedented, and rightfully so. We do have the greatest opportunities in the world. We are going to have the lowest taxes of the industrialized world. We are investing wisely in infrastructure as we move forward, and we are promoting growth. So we are creating jobs and are promoting growth. That is what Canadians expect us to do.

The best days of Canada are yet to be realized. The best days are yet to come, and if we have the opportunity to humbly serve this country, we will take that responsibility very seriously and provide the kinds of opportunities that Canadian men and women need if they are going to provide for their future, and not risk the futures of their children and grandchildren long into the future.

The Speech from the Throne is a wonderful vision for the country of where we need to go. It gives us a tremendous opportunity as we look forward to the budget this afternoon, which will flow equally along the same theme.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to listen to my hon. colleague after having several months away from Parliament to consult with his constituents. I have also spent a lot of time consulting, as my colleagues have, both here in Ottawa and across the country. One of the biggest issues I am hearing about is people's concern about the security of their retirement plans. We know about the $25 billion that people lost in the income trusts. We hear constantly about Nortel and the forestry industry and the challenges they face with, and concerns they have about, their pension files.

I recognize the reference made to that issue in the Speech from the Throne yesterday, but talk is very easy. We all know as parliamentarians that talk is easy, but as a representative of the government, the question is what is the government going to do to help those thousands of people who are worried about their retirement and what is it going to do to protect them? They are calling for some action that the government could clearly take with the support of parliamentarians to make some changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. I would like to know what the member's plan is in the future to do something on the pension file—but in terms of action, not just words.

There has been a year and a half of consultation by the parliamentary secretary and others, and I would like to know when there is going to be some real action to protect the retirement savings of the many pensioners out there.

The Economy
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speculate on what may or may not be in a budget or the direction on that specific in the coming days of this government.

I can tell the House what we are doing to protect the jobs of all Canadians and to make sure that industry has an opportunity to grow. It is by accelerating trade with India, China, Peru, Brazil, Panama, and the EFTA countries, and so on. That gives us an opportunity not to have a single best buyer only, because the bulk of our trade has been with the United States. It used to be about 85%. It has dropped down to 70% or some, but we will always be connected to the United States.

I know my hon. colleague served with me on the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, and we worked very closely with the American Congress and Senate. Many people have told me they think America is going through some tough times and they are betting against it. I am not one of those; I would never bet against the Americans. They are going to come back and when they come back, if we accelerate our trade internationally, we will do much better than we have ever dreamt of in this country.

That is why I say that the best years are yet to come, and even for the pensioners.