House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was forces.

Topics

(Return tabled)

*Question No. 190
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

*Question No. 190
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

*Question No. 190
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 26 consideration of Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Skeena-Bulkley Valley had the floor. There are seven minutes left in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately it is seven minutes. We are always in a deficit of time here, particularly when dealing with something as outrageous and undemocratic as what we have contained in these near 900 pages of Bill C-9.

I say undemocratic because within this Trojan Horse of a bill, the government has conspired to lump in just about everything it found to be too distasteful to see the light of day. Rather than have a fair debate about each of these important measures, and there are two or three that are actually laudable but the vast majority are not, the government has decided to make a Trojan Horse, an omnibus bill in which everything is crammed, and then point the gun of an election at the opposition to force a vote on something that probably many members in the official opposition, the Liberals, find distasteful as well, but will obviously cave into once the vote actually comes, because that has become a call-in response from the government almost since time immemorial. The government suggests something, the Liberal Party says that it does not like it, the government dares it to go to an election, and the Liberal Party gets out of the way as fast as it can and votes with the government again. It is a coalition by default and by any other name and function.

I will list for Canadians what is in this bill that we find so outrageous. One thing on the list is the sale of AECL. Yesterday 130 workers from AECL were here in Parliament, in the galleries watching the debate, demanding some sort of fairness. What struck me most in meeting with the workers after question period was how abandoned they felt by their government that would not even allow a fair and free democratic vote on the idea of selling their corporation. It is the largest crown corporation in Canada. It has received more money than any other crown corporation in history, some $22 billion of Canadian taxpayer dollars. The legislation says that when the government seeks to sell it, it must bring it before Parliament in a separate bill.

What did the government do? It went around the rules and the legislation and rammed it into Bill C-9 so there can be no debate about the sale of AECL. There can be no bringing of witnesses to hear whether it is a good thing for Canadians or this is in fact a fire sale of a crown asset.

The government, of course, will not get that $22 billion back. It will get far less, but maybe what is worse is that with no debate, no discussion and no evidence, the government presents nothing about the likely brain drain of the experts who work around AECL to competitors who do not support the Candu reactor system. This was expressed clearly by the workers who were here recently. What are they going to do and who will do the upkeep on the Candus that Canada currently has on the books? That is just one piece of this outrageous and offensive bill.

Another piece of the bill is the raising of airport security taxes. This is from a government that says that it is into lowering taxes while at the same time it increases them. If raising taxes for the travelling public were not enough, it is also seeking to finish off the completion of the hated HST for Ontario and British Columbia, thereby putting it on any duties or any transactions that Canadians have when dealing with brokers. Buying mutual funds will now see further taxation from the government.

Is there any debate allowed about this? Is there any free and standing vote on this particular issue? Of course not, because it is a take-it-or-leave-it bill. It is 900 pages of a threat from the government, 900 pages saying to the Parliament of Canada and the people of Canada that if we do not like the idea of selling AECL without a debate, that is too bad for us, if we do not like an increase in taxes when buying a plane ticket, that is tough for us, and if we do not like the HST in Ontario or British Columbia, that is tough.

We see that type of political arrogance even within British Columbia right now. We are finding out today that every provincial riding in British Columbia have signed up enough citizens to a petition to revoke the HST. What is the arrogant response from the government and that in British Columbia? They do not care. They simply do not care about the functioning of democracy.

We have recall legislation in British Columbia that allows citizens to stand up, and it is a very high threshold, a very high bar to achieve, and British Columbians appear to be achieving it. Now that they have gone through all that work and all the volunteers out canvassing, and I am one of them who goes out and asks people to sign on, we find out that the government does not care about something called democracy, it does not care about representation and our voice mattering because it will ram the HST through anyway with no debate, no discussion, no voice for common people.

It has often been said that the best disinfectant is sunlight and we believe that to be very true when it comes to Bill C-9. We New Democrats have a proposition. With Democrat built right into our name, we like democracy. We like the idea of debate and free votes. We have said that we should take out the parts that need to be taken out and then have a debate about them. We implore other members in this House to see the wisdom of having a fair and free discussion on the elements of this bill.

Ramming everything it could think of into 900 pages of one bill and then making an election threat is not an accountable, transparent and humble government. That is a government that says that the will of the people matters little or not at all. That is disastrous, not just for the political fortunes of its party, which concerns me not, but for the fundamentals of how this place is meant to operate, which is that when we have a debate about something, we put it in legislation and bring it before the House. The government could do that with any of these pieces that it feels so proud of that it has to hide behind in Bill C-9.

We have simply said that, whether it comes to employment insurance, environmental protections, the National Energy Board, the airport tax, the HST and all of the other things rammed into this bill, the government must do the right thing and separate them out.

My last point is around the National Energy Board.

At a time when we are seeing a disaster taking place in the gulf, the President of the United States today saying that deregulation had failed them, that companies monitoring themselves was a bad idea, we see in Bill C-9 that the government is moving in the opposite direction, moving to more deregulation. It would give the Minister of the Environment the divine powers to decide what, if any, projects in the country get an environmental assessment at all. The minister can simply, by writ, decide that there is no environmental risk posed, in his or her own fictional or imaginary world, and, therefore, no environmental assessment happens.

We have learned that we need environmental protections, not just to save the environment but also to protect the communities and the economies on which we rely. This is not an economy versus environment debate and the government needs to realize that. It should allow the breakage of this bill, allow it to be separated so we can have a true and honest discussion, with witnesses and evidence, and allow the vote to stand freely and fairly. That is what a democratic government should do and that is what the government should do.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague really laid out for people back home what is so wrong with what is happening here. It is about the abuse of Parliament, the abuse of process and contempt for the systems that have been put in place in this Parliament going back right to the beginning. What we see time and time again with the government are the actions of the schoolyard bully, which is that it is the government's way or the highway. The Prime Minister has these tantrums if he does not get his way. We saw this when we were promised that we would have someone who would actually vet the appointments but thePrime Minister did not get his buddy, so he tore it up.

Now we see with this budget bill an absolute abuse of process where the Conservatives are trying to push through stuff that will help their friends in the oil industry by ripping up environmental regulations.

What does my hon. colleague think the opposition should be doing in order to stand up for the rights of parliamentarians and the rights of due process and to ensure a full study of some of these very controversial and bizarre plans that are hidden in the budget bill? What should we be doing, as Liberals, as Bloc and as New Democrats?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the opposition members should be doing is their job. Our job, when we see irresponsibility and an unaccountable government, is to stand up and oppose that on behalf of Canadians who sent us here to do this.

We saw the Liberals at committee sneak one of their members out the back door to ensure that the vote would pass to allow Bill C-9 to come back to the House. We suspect that the same thing will happen here when the final vote on this outrageous bill comes.

We have seen this pattern of shutting down committees through the monkey-wrench manual the Conservatives produced. We saw it on the Afghan detainee documents. We saw it with the government's abuse of prorogation, shutting down the entire Parliament when questions arose that the government did not like.

Just the other day we finally had it confirmed where the Conservatives learned it from. They justified this bill, this outrageous abuse of democracy, by saying that the Liberals did it. They learned too well at the feet of the Liberals when they were in power and said that they did not like all the debate business, the discussions, the counterpoints and the views so they just rammed things through. That is not a lesson the Conservatives should have learned from the previous government and they should unlearn it quickly.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his presentation on Bill C-9, an 880 page omnibus bill, which is very rare in politics but not so rare when dealing with this particular Parliament and the present government.

While I do not agree with the nuclear option, the fact is that we have interests in nuclear development in Saskatchewan and in Ontario, and worldwide there is a big demand for nuclear power. Therefore, at a time when the future is looking rosy for the nuclear industry, why in the world would a government want to sell off the largest crown corporation in the country, a corporation in which we have invested $22 billion in subsidies in its history? In some ways it seems like a repeat almost of the Avro Arrow of the Diefenbaker years.

I would like to know what the member's comments would be on those observations.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is the mismanagement of this particular industry by the government. We are aware of 120 new nuclear builds right now around the world and zero of them are coming to Canada and zero of them are being made by Canadian operations. That is 0 out of 120.

We would imagine that the government will address this bill this afternoon but I will make a prediction that it has no rationalization because it has presented no evidence and no reason to sell AECL right now and no reason to sell it this way. I will make a prediction that this afternoon, in the parliamentary secretary's speech, the government will continue to offer nothing to Canadians, nothing to the workers and nothing to those families who will be affected by this fire sale because it does not have any evidence. It does not have a process put in place to say that now is the best time to sell AECL for these following reasons: it studied it and asked around and this is the best deal for Canadians.

The government is doing it as a matter of convenience. The entire bill is about political expediency and convenience, ramming everything that it could not get individually through, put it all in one bill, hold up the threat of an election to the opposition and watch the Liberals cave again.

This is no way to run a country. It is undemocratic. If there is nothing more fundamental than that, I beg the government to reconsider the bill, break it up and allow us to have a debate.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in this afternoon's debate on Bill C-9 concerning the government's budget.

We have amendments to part 24, which changes the Employment Insurance Act by establishing an account in the accounts of Canada to be known as the employment insurance operating account and closing the employment insurance account and removing it from the accounts of Canada. It also repeals sections 76 and 80 of that act and makes consequential amendments in relation to the creation of the new account. This part also makes technical amendments to clarify provisions of the Budget Implementation Act, 2008 and the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board Act that deal with the board.

As members will recall, in 1986, the Auditor General said that the employment insurance account should be integrated into the government's consolidated revenue fund. At the time, the government, companies and employees were contributing money to the employment insurance fund.

In 1988, after the employment insurance fund was integrated into the consolidated revenue fund, the Mulroney government started to chip away at employment insurance.

As I recall, that is when things started to change. Brian Mulroney's Conservative government was in power, and the Liberals were the official opposition. I remember that in 1989, in one of the papers—this is not the first time I have brought this up in the House—my predecessor, Doug Young, who was his party's employment insurance critic at the time, urged all New Brunswickers to fight changes to employment insurance because such changes would be disastrous for New Brunswick. That is why I said this is not the first time I have talked about this issue. I want to remind the House about the Liberals' attitude at the time.

In the spring of 1993—even at the end of winter that year—Jean Chrétien was the opposition leader. He then became prime minister. He sent a letter to a group of women in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, who were working to stop changes to employment insurance. As opposition leader, Jean Chrétien wrote that the government should not take action against victims, people and workers. He wrote that the government should focus on economic development. The country needed economic development to create jobs for people.

To everyone's great surprise, when the Liberals were elected in the fall of 1993, they continued along the same course. We cannot say they were any worse than the Conservatives because the Conservatives had begun employment insurance reform. We do not know how far they would have gone. The Liberals had taken over the ship. They had taken over the tiller and started focusing on employment insurance. They also started thinking that what was in place was not so bad. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had agreed to the Auditor General's recommendation to put the money into the consolidated revenue fund. The Liberals realized that this gave them more money and that employment insurance contributions gave them more money.

The Conservative government had increased premiums to roughly $3.08 or $3.20 for every $100 and the employer paid 1.3 or 1.5 times that amount. In other words, this represented roughly $8. It was a cash cow.

Money was coming in and cuts were being made to employment insurance. The worst cuts came in 1996: the number of hours to qualify was increased to 910; 420 hours were required in areas where the unemployment rate was greater than 13%; new entrants had to accumulate 910 hours; 700 hours were required in areas with low unemployment; 700 hours were required for a person who was sick or disabled to be granted special leave; 700 hours were required for maternity and parental leave. So much money was flowing into the employment insurance fund that it could not be ignored. The federal government was running a $565 billion deficit. It reduced the deficit by $92 billion, $57 billion of which came from the employment insurance fund.

Paul Martin, who was the finance minister at the time, told Canadians to tighten their belts to eliminate the deficit and pay down the debt. He robbed the employment insurance fund to pay down the debt and achieve a zero deficit.

At the time, the Conservatives, who make up the new Conservative government, condemned the theft from the employment insurance fund. Surprise, surprise, they returned to power in 2006 and this continued on into 2010. Now, they have presented Bill C-9, which is some 900 pages about the budget, and in which the government legalizes this theft from the employment insurance fund. That is what is going on here. By creating this new board, by creating a new fund and putting only $2 billion in it, the government is legalizing the biggest national and federal theft in the history of Canada.

I am calling it a theft, because workers pay employment insurance premiums out of their paycheques as security in case they lose their jobs. It is not meant to be used to pay down the government's debt. Now, people are in need.

We have just been through a serious economic crisis. Some people have used up their employment insurance benefits and do not have a job. We could increase the number of benefit weeks. We could base the calculation on the best 12 weeks instead of the best 14 weeks. We could eliminate the divisor of 14, which would give the best 12 weeks. We could also increase benefits from 55% to 60%. We could give these workers a chance.

In other countries, like France, for example, workers receive 75% of their income. When I brought up the idea of increasing the amount people receive, when we asked the government to increase the number of weeks, all the Conservative government could think to say was that if we were to do that, people would work 10 weeks and would receive 52 weeks of employment insurance benefits. They would work only 360 hours and would receive EI the rest of the year. The Conservatives have no faith in Canadian workers. That is the problem. They have no faith in our fellow citizens.

I asked a member of the French national assembly if paying benefits of up to 75% of wages made people want to receive employment insurance benefits rather than work. His response was altogether different. He said that he truly believes in workers and citizens, and added that they are very hard-working and that they want to work. They pay into the employment insurance program, which protects them in the event they lose their jobs. He added that if these workers want to pay themselves a wage while they are unemployed, it is good for the economy and good for everyone. It is good for the regions and it is good for small and medium-sized businesses. When a citizen receives benefits, he does not take off the next morning for a sunny spot such as Florida.

Instead, he goes grocery shopping. He buys something, or pays his bills. It is good for our economy, for our local economy.

It is unfortunate to see that the government has included all sorts of things in Bill C-9. And the first thing it will say is that we voted against it, that we voted against the huge monster it has created. We cannot support this omnibus Bill C-9.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the points raised by my colleague. He said that this 888-page bill containing close to 3,000 clauses refers to a budget almost 500 pages long. On page 176, we see all the employment insurance contributions from businesses and workers, and on page 180 we see the employment insurance benefits that will be paid out to unemployed people. Nowhere in the 500 pages of the budget, the 888 pages of the bill or the 3,000 clauses do they do the math. They will steal $19.2 billion over four years. That means that employers and employees will have contributed $19.2 billion more than the amount of benefits paid out.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this and how he would describe it. Is there a word that comes to mind to describe this move?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, only one word comes to mind: taking without asking is stealing. That is what is unfortunate. Workers, men and women who get up every morning, have built our country. They have families to support and they want to send their children to school, but poverty has reached the point where 1.4 million children in Canada are hungry. We do not need to go to Africa. Right here in Canada there are 1.4 million hungry children, while 800,000 people do not qualify for employment insurance. How can we vote for the budget this government is serving up?

What is sad is that the theft started in 1996 with the Liberals and today it will be sanctioned by the Liberals and the Conservatives. It is unfortunate to, once again, see the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberals, with its ties to Bay Street in Toronto. That is the problem.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-9 is an abuse of the public. The government is forcing through major changes without giving the public even a chance to sense what is happening. Nowhere is it clearer than with the $57 billion that is being stolen from the EI fund.

The government cannot be honest with the public and neither can the Minister of Human Resources. When we asked the minister about her plan to shut down 15 of the 18 EI processing centres across Ontario, she could not even stand in the House and give an honest answer.

However, we know that Owen Sound, Orillia, Kenora, Belleville, North Bay, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, Brantford, Etobicoke, Barrie, Peterborough, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Thunder Bay, Kitchener and Oshawa centres are being closed. Why are they being closed? Because the government is stealing the money from EI. It is running out of money because it is giving $1.7 billion in corporate tax cuts.

Why is the government unable to give an honest answer to Canadian workers? Why can is the minister not stand in the House and explain what she is doing by robbing workers of access to EI, robbing them of the kind of processing for their EI claims, which they need at this time of recession?