House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prorogation.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Prorogation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Prorogation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Prorogation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(18), the division stands deferred until later this day.

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, we will now proceed to main estimates.

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

moved:

That the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, less the amounts voted in interim supply, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I thank members on this side of the House and on the other side. This is an important issue that we need to deal with regarding the appropriation of moneys so that the government can do the things it has committed to do.

As the House is aware, we are on track with our budget this year to see our deficit eliminated. We are moving toward a balanced budget in the year 2014 and, obviously, to carry out the plans we have in place right now, these appropriations have to come forward.

We are doing a number of things this year. We have announced that about a third of all government departments and agencies will undergo each year what is called a strategic review, and, in that review, we will look for savings of 5% from each of those departments and agencies. Our estimation is that savings will yield this year about $1.7 billion. We can say that with some confidence because last year, when we went through a similar exercise with departments and agencies, we actually wound up with savings of about $287 million. This year the group of departments and agencies that will go through this exercise are considerably larger and, therefore, we will see a larger return on that 5%.

We also want to continue with our economic action plan, but we have indicated that this being the second year of the plan, this would be the last year of the plan for the stimulus spending.

We said at the beginning of the global downturn that the stimulus spending that we would introduce would help our economy through this time of global downturn, and we knew we would take on a deficit to do that, but we were also very clear in saying that this would be temporary. Members will see the $19 billion that will go into the stimulus spending for this year, 2010-11, but that will end at the end of this fiscal year, which will help us because that will be $19 billion coming out of the deficit right there that will help us move toward a balanced budget.

We also announced, although it does not often get talked about, that we have gone into an operational freeze of all government operational spending, not just this year but for the next two years. That is three years in a row where there will not be an increase in government spending on the operational side. That also means that the salaries of members of Parliament on both sides of the House, of cabinet ministers and the salary of the Prime Minister will be frozen.

We are taking a number of steps to move us toward a balanced budget. We are also freezing all hospitality and travel at 2009 levels. So we are taking a number of steps to ensure we hit that target of a balanced budget.

We need the moneys in this appropriation, specifically in terms of dollars under these votes, one of approximately $1 billion, to address programs for vulnerable people; another of approximately $1 billion for a knowledge infrastructure program because we want to ensure that continues; and the $3 billion are to go on with issues related to our infrastructure that is still in need. We will continue infrastructure spending in a planned way over the time ahead, even though we plan to eliminate the $19 billion at the end of this year. The approximately $5.4 billion that we are asking for today in appropriations will be for the EI payments.

When we really look at it, about 45% of what we will be doing is related to these programs and spending on social programs, spending on programs for people.

One of the very distinct differences between our method of getting to a balanced budget as opposed to the former Liberal government, which achieved a balanced budget in the mid-nineties, its main reductions and cuts per se were in transfers to provinces and the virtually overnight slashing in health care spending by 30%. We are not doing that. We are looking at our own government spending. We think that is the responsible way to do this, which is why we are taking that particular approach.

About $259 billion is the actual expenditure that we are looking at in these appropriations. The full amount will be $261.2 billion but there will be a decrease of $2.2 billion in non-budgetary expenses that are related to certain loans and investments.

We want to see this achieved because we need this money to continue to run the affairs of government and take care of programs for people.

The finance committee of the Senate has also looked at these expenditures. Officials have reported there on that particular part of the program.

Some people might ask what the purpose is of bringing in restraint measures and having a balanced budget. We are still on a program to reduce our taxes right through to the year 2012 on the corporate side. We laid out a long term plan for that over two years ago.

We have sent a signal, not just to Canadians but to those around the world that we are reducing debt. We have the lowest debt to GDP ratio of all the developed nations. We are reducing deficit. We have the lowest deficit to GDP ratio of all developed nations. We have the lowest and most competitive tax on the business side, small, medium and large businesses, among the G8 countries. We sent the message out that we are holding the line on spending.

What is the result of that? The result is that around the world, where we know there are large pools of capital twitching, looking to where they should be investing, they are looking for places of confidence, places of fiscal predictability and places where the government has things under control.

We can talk about that here and we know that here but when we say it, it gets very little response, especially from across the way, even when it is good news. However, where it gives credibility is when we get the evaluations from agencies, organizations and individuals outside of the country.

The Economist Intelligence Unit says that we are an economic star among other countries. The OECD says that Canada's economy shines among all other countries. The International Monetary Fund says that Canada is best positioned coming out of this particular downturn.

We have seen close to 310,000 new jobs since last July. Even as I say this, some in the opposition are shaking their head, in contempt I guess because we are in such good shape. However, I want to add a couple of warnings. This is a fragile global recovery. Canada is doing well but it is fragile and we must continue to take care. That is why we are resisting so many of the requests for wild increases in spending that come from the opposition and why we are resisting the Liberals and the NDP when they say that we should move to a 45-day work year, that we should allow Canadians to work for 45 days and then get EI benefits for the rest of the year.

We have to resist that kind of thinking that got countries, like Greece, into the difficulties they are in today. We are proud of the record that we have established. We are attracting attention and we are seeing the investment from other countries come to Canada.

Last year's investment from China alone, foreign direct investment into Canada, was $8.8 billion. That is almost a 70% increase from the year before. The head of the largest investment bond fund in the world just recently said that he was advising his institutional investors and clients to look to Canada as the place of stability to invest.

It was only a few weeks ago that Russia announced that to shore up its own currency it would be buying Canadian dollars.

One after another, the endorsements from outside of our country continue to come in that we are on the right track, that Canadians can have some sense of security about that and that Canada is the place to be, which is what these appropriations are all about tonight.

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the estimates, but I would also like to speak to what the minister had to say during his speech.

First, the fact that we have the lowest debt to GDP ratio is thanks to the Liberal government and the hard work it did during the 1990s and 2000. I would like to remind the minister that the increases we are seeing now in the debt to GDP ratio is actually increasing under his watch.

I would also remind him that the best banking system in the world, the most secure, is due to the fact that the Liberal government of the day made sure we had the proper regulations. The minister well realizes and recognizes that it was his party that actually wanted to deregulate the banking system, which would have caused havoc, but thankfully the Liberal government at the time did not do so.

I would remind the minister that he indeed has the highest spending government in the record of our country. The highest deficit that this country has ever seen in a budget came from the Conservative government.

Let me get back to the estimates. The estimates is a process by which Parliament approves the overall numbers and the general purpose for the funds. The actual spending of that money is up to cabinet ministers who represent the Government of Canada and taxpayers. The government has shown time and time again that waste, mismanagement and overspending is its creed.

The worst example is the money spent by the government on the G8 and G20 summits. It is simply staggering. Both the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer have said they are going to investigate the spending, both the large amount of money being spent and how it is being spent.

The costs for this three-day summit, 72 hours, are higher than the costs of security for the entire 2010 Vancouver Olympics, at which there were hundreds upon hundreds of athletes and weeks upon weeks of events, and still for a 72-hour meeting, the government is still spending more money.

It is almost six times the approximate $190 million spent for the two-day G8 summit in Alberta in 2002. This summer Canadians are watching the World Cup in South Africa. FIFA, the organizer of the World Cup, is spending roughly the same amount of money for a month-long tournament that the government is spending and it provides significantly tourism revenue to South Africa. The same amount of money for a month is being spent for 72 hours. It is almost more than 20 times the total reported cost for the April 2009 G20 summit in London, not that long ago, which is astounding, and much higher than the security costs at any previous summit.

The Gleneagles G8 summit in Scotland in 2005, for example, was reported to have spent $110 million on security, while the estimate for the 2008 G8 gathering in Japan was $381 million. That is a long way away from the $1 billion plus, the loonie boondoggle, as The Economist magazine calls it.

In particular, when looking at specific expenditures, it seems the Minister of Industry has led the charge in the Conservative cabinet. This minister and this government spent $.25 million building a toilet 20 kilometres away from the meeting site. He built a gazebo at a cost of over $100,000, more than an hour's drive away from the meetings.

He spent nearly $400,000 refurbishing a steamboat that world leaders will not see because it will not be ready until weeks after the leaders have left. It is not just a steamboat that will not be ready. Close to $7 million of G8 projects, and counting, are not even complete.

What about the spending in the city of Toronto, site of the G20 meeting? The $1.9 million fake lake has clearly outraged Canadians and with good reason. Lake Ontario is a mere 850 metres away and the government chose to spend money recreating Muskoka in downtown Toronto rather than any number of investments.

Another example, one which really gets my blood boiling, is the money that was spent on a fake wooden lighthouse. It is part of a tree stump and it is part of the G8-G20 spending. At the same time, the current government has announced plans to sell off or scrap lighthouses across Canada, close to 1,000 in all.

The Cape Spear Lighthouse is in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. Cape Spear is a symbol of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a marker of the most easterly point in North America, an iconic welcoming beacon to North America. The people of St. John's South--Mount Pearl are clearly concerned that the government would threaten the Cape Spear Lighthouse. Instead of focusing on maintaining such important symbols of our country, the government has spent money building a fake version for world leaders some 40 kilometres away from the summit site.

I cannot go on without mentioning the massive inconvenience to the residents of Toronto because of summit-related disruptions. By moving the G20 into downtown Toronto, the government not only massively increased the cost to taxpayers of hosting these summits to the tune of $400 million, but also caused many businesses to have to close up shop. Bay Street has been disrupted. Productions in the theatre district have been cancelled. The Toronto Blue Jays had to leave town.

All of these disruptions will have a significant economic impact on businesses in Toronto and are added costs to the summit. Allow me to go on and elaborate on this because it is so detrimental to Toronto, not only from a life perspective but from a tourism perspective. We now learn that the government of the United States has put out a travel advisory to the city of Toronto because of the G8 and G20.

With all this money going out the door for questionable items the government's plan to tame the deficit seems to raise more questions than it does answers. To give an idea of the magnitude of the task at hand, the Conservatives have increased program spending from $175.2 billion to $237.8 billion in their first four budgets. That is a 26% increase. That is a lot of money. It is $62 billion. Imagine if they had spent it on things to help Canadians.

The government says it has a plan to fight the deficit it created. It can simply freeze departmental operating budgets and let public servants determine what services should be cut and reduced as inflation and population growth squeezes their bottom lines. Allow me to tell members about the Public Works and Government Services officials who came before the operations committee of which I am a member. They came before us and said the freeze will affect $8.7 million. That is a very small amount of the billions upon billions that Public Works and Government Services utilizes. When we look at the freeze, it is only a freeze on $8.7 million. It is not going to yield the kind of numbers that are required.

Now we have learned that there is a very complex process by which public servants can gain up to an additional $10,000 and get their suggestions reviewed by a complex process put forward by the public service to find savings. As I stated in the House, if the government needs some assistance in eliminating wasteful spending, it could just start with the fake lake. That will save it a lot of money and we can go on.

Conservatives have been spending a heck of a lot of money, for example, on management consultants. If they were to look at all the money they spent on the wasteful G8 and G20 projects, they would be well ahead. But, it is also important to highlight that the government continues to spend huge amounts of money on self-promotion and advertising. For example, in supplementary estimates A, the government has asked to spend an additional $30 million. This is in addition to the budget amount. This is another place government could save money and instead put it to good use for Canadians.

Allow me to give a run-up as to how much money the government has been spending in advertising. In 2004-05 the amount was $49.5 million. In 2005-06 it went down a little bit to $41 million. In 2006-07 it skyrocketed to $86.9 million and it continued to rise since then. Last year it spent $89 million. So let me go back and give those numbers again. In 2005-06, when the government came into power, it was $41.3 million. It has now gone up to $89 million.

All this at a time when Canadians have the highest debt on a per household basis according to the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. The average debt load of Canadians is $41,740 each. That is the worst among the 20 advanced countries in the OECD--

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I will have to stop the member there. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Hochelaga.

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, a budget is an important and powerful event in the life of a government. And this is my first federal budget in as a member of this House.

Of course, I have seen them prepared and defended in the National Assembly. I have also commented on budgets from both Quebec and Canada on information networks, but never here. This is my first budget and these are my first budget estimates.

We are disappointed because we did not hear the word “Quebec” mentioned in the speeches from the President of the Treasury Board and our Liberal colleague. It was not mentioned once; they are ignoring us.

I see that members on the other side appear happy with this budget. Good for them. This is their budget, not ours. A budget prepared by someone else does not interest us. The Liberals and the NDP can say that they would have done it differently, improving this and deleting that. They see themselves reflected in it. Even though they have differences, they see themselves in it, but we do not. Immediately after the minister's budget speech, I made my first comment, which the minister commented on. It was about the word “rien”. He understood the translation, which was “nothing”. There was nothing for the marginalized, nothing for informal caregivers, nothing for pensioners, nothing for housing, nothing for the homeless. Volunteers got a medal with a picture of the Prime Minister on it. There were a few crumbs and there was nothing about the environment. They created a new structure to eliminate structures. That is what the government did in this budget.

I concluded by saying that we deserved better and that we did not get it.

The President of the Treasury Board has finished his work. He showed us that we did not get what we wanted. One hundred and five days after the budget speech, my sovereignist beliefs and convictions have only become stronger. Quebec would be much better off if it had full powers. The minister said that Canada's economy shines. Where? Certainly not in Hochelaga.

At the start of the 1990s, 20 years ago, some middlemen tried to get us to sign the minimum agreements at Meech Lake. Obviously, this planted the seeds of hope, and then, when hopes were dashed, despair set in. Unbelievably, these middlemen—I will say it again—missed their mark. In 1995, I was there. In the 1995 referendum, were it not for a theft—yes, I will call it that—that has been well documented since then, we would have won our independence. If the process had truly been democratic, we would have had our sovereignty, but because this is a democracy, we accepted the result of the referendum campaign without pulling out our guns.

But the Bloc Québécois does not want to be paranoid. We must look what our reality is in 2010. We can forget about seeing an offer from Canada that addresses the aspirations and needs of Quebeckers. We are being told to act like doormats and let everyone walk all over us. That's it, that's all. But we say no, never.

Seven months ago the House Clerk returned the writs from my election to Parliament and after seven months—that should be five months, since there was a two-month lockout—I have to say that by coming here, I know Canadians and their representatives better. They are fine people. Canada is not a gulag; it is not Mongolia, but it is still a country that does not belong to us.

A recent, widely-published survey by academics and the media showed that 62% of Canadians do not want to reach out to Quebec. They are not interested. And we are supposed to wait for them to extend a hand? Come on, it will never happen.

Reforming Canada is an illusion. We do not want just a special status, but they do not want to give us anything more. They do not want to give us new powers; they will even erode the powers that we have in our own jurisdictions, for example, with the securities commission. They are stealing our authority. Canada is building a country. Let them do it their way and according to their ideals, but we do not want this country.

Canada is the way it is, and we do not see ourselves in it. It is like the budget. We need to make Quebec what we want it to be. Twenty years after the Meech Lake accord, the only notable change is that we need to build Quebec the way we want to and not wait for results from the others because they do not want to give them to us. Nation building is often done through Quebec bashing, which is unacceptable to us.

Language, culture, communications, citizenship, immigration. That is what we want to control. But there are no offers from the other side, no new powers. They should at least respect what we have. I talked about the national securities commission which runs counter to the wishes of the National Assembly, corporate Quebec, other provinces and international opinion. We are told that they do not want to have the massive mobilization that is occurring in Quebec. They are digging in their heels more and more.

Given that new offers and new powers are not forthcoming, we would at least expect them to pay the bills. They are not even doing that. They refuse to pay $2.2 billion to Quebec for tax harmonization; they refuse to give Hydro-Québec the $250 million per year paid to Ontario Hydro; they refuse to put a cap on equalization, which represents $337 million; they refuse to give Quebec $238 million in equalization payments given to other provinces; they have not yet paid the $137 million case we won in 1991 in the court of appeal and the administrative tribunal.

The thinking is clear. We must take control of our destiny. We must build a country where French will truly be appreciated. We want to control our immigration and citizenship policies. We do not wish to just defend and support our culture, we want to help it develop.

Meanwhile, the Bloc is not getting these allocations. The Conservatives will stand behind their allocations. That is fine, but we will steadfastly oppose them. For their part, the Liberals do not know where they are and therefore do not know where they are going.

A certain number of items have already been discussed in this House and I will conclude by stating that they cannot walk all over us, that we are not paranoid, that Canada is not Mongolia, that we will not get out our guns, that we have said no to the middlemen and that it is time to adjourn. And all this, to a House of Commons as it rises.

But tomorrow, what will the headlines in Quebec say? Halak has been traded for two unknowns.

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

7 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the debate on Bill C-44, which would approve $260 billion of public spending.

The G20 summit has yet to begin and already downtown Torontonians are suffering. People are writing to me about how outraged they are that the government has the gall to waste $1 billion of their hard-earned tax dollars that could have been much better spent. One person wrote, “It makes me feel absolutely nauseous and furious that my tax dollars are being so callously wasted. I am a senior, on a fixed pension, who lives on a budget, and when my bank account is in deficit I would not dream of throwing huge lavish events to impress foreign friends, acquaintances, and their entourages”.

Another person wrote to me about the unfairness of the employment insurance system. I note that employment insurance is in this bill. This person used to work for CTV. After being employed full time for 20 years, he was laid off. Although he diligently paid his employment insurance premiums, his benefits are being cut off because there is a limit on the amount of time that a person can be on EI, regardless of how much the person has paid into the system. He would have been better off stashing his EI premiums under his mattress than counting on the government to be fair. In essence, although he paid into EI for 20 years, he cannot access his own money because the government needs a fake lake, multiple gazebos and toilets.

Then there is the issue of compensation. Thus far the government is refusing outright to reimburse home and business owners for property damage. It is refusing to reimburse them even though in the $260 billion budget we are debating, there is $1 billion for the G8 and G20 summits. They were told that payment would not be provided for losses and damages that are insurable under normal insurance coverage.

The government is so out of touch with the lives of ordinary Canadians. It does not understand that once a claim is submitted, the premiums skyrocket. What the government does not seem to get is that ordinary Canadians are still climbing out of the recession and cannot afford any increase in monthly expenses.

I asked the minister in question period today why the government refused to commit to providing compensation for damages suffered because of the G20. His response was that the government was not “legally bound to pay compensation”.

The government may not be legally bound to pay compensation, but how can it not believe it is morally bound to provide compensation to small business owners and condo owners, whose livelihood and homes are at stake, and for what? For little more than a glorified photo op. There is little action to tackle climate change and little action to make poverty history.

Right at the peak of Toronto's tourist season, the United States has issued a travel alert warning its citizens not to visit Toronto during the G20 summit.

Small businesses in the city depend on tourist dollars every year, but because of the summit, Toronto's major tourist attractions are being shut down. Gone are the 100,000 baseball fans expected to be downtown that weekend to see Doc Halladay's return to Toronto. Gone are the cultural tourists who wanted to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario that weekend. Gone are the visitors who would like to see a musical in Toronto's great entertainment district. Because of the summit, the show will not go on. Mamma Mia!, what is wrong with the government?

While we have been told that loss of business will be covered, people are being asked to fill out a six-page application and to submit it into a black hole. Their application will not be acknowledged for months. Then they will be forced to wait for up to seven years to find out if their application has been approved. Seven long years. Imagine that.

Business owners are also expected to provide three years' proof of revenue. What about new businesses? There are a lot of new businesses in downtown Toronto in the entertainment district.

The government should apologize to working Canadians for running off on a shopping spree with our money. It should apologize to small business owners for sinking $1 million into a fake lake but not committing a penny to compensate for property damages caused by the G20.

More important than an apology, we need a commitment from the government to take a tiny portion of the $260 billion in this bill that is about to be approved to help compensate Torontonians in a fair and timely manner.

The minister also talked about our ranking in the OECD. I want to leave a figure with the House as we adjourn for the summer. We are ranked dead last of all the OECD countries on government investment in children and in building affordable child care. That is a true fact. We are ranked last.

Not only are we ranked last according to the OECD, we are ranked last in the UNICEF report. UNICEF said that we are doing poorly in how we work with our kids, how we invest in our children, and in trying to make poverty history for children. More and more working families are waiting fruitlessly for affordable child care.

I would say to those out of touch members of Parliament who have been heckling me for the last 10 minutes that child care in downtown Toronto that is high quality costs a total of at least $13,000 to $14,000 a year. Is there one single penny in this bill that will actually go to extra dollars for affordable child care? There is none whatsoever. There is no extra money to create what is desperately needed for working families today.

That is why of the OECD countries, we are dead last. Yes, it is easy for male members of Parliament to continue to heckle. They do not understand that 70% of females in this country, working mothers, need affordable child care.

Can—

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. The member raises a good point. There are a lot of secondary conversations going on. The member for Trinity—Spadina has one minute left. If we could just allow her a little bit of quiet so that she could make her points, it would be much appreciated.

MAIN ESTIMATES, 2010-11
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are members of Parliament who are quite out of touch with the daily lives of Canadians, whether they are seniors who need more pension funds, or they are unemployed, or they are working parents who need affordable child care.

That is why we are not supporting this budget bill.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion--Prorogation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. It being 7:10 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #77

Business of Supply
Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #78