House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

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The House resumed from June 3 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. 2.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor. He has seven minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for perhaps the last time on Bill C-9. The bill, as we have pointed out numerous times, is 880 pages long, which is quite excessive even for the government.

Governments in the past have resorted to omnibus bills to bring in measures that are largely unpopular. Measures they cannot get through any other way, they have stuck them in omnibus bills in the past, but this one will probably never be beaten because I have never seen one of this size, 880 pages. The government has thrown in all sorts of measures that it cannot get through.

The best example of that would be the issue of the post office remailers. The government has tried to get the bill through as Bill C-14. It failed. It tried Bill C-44. It failed again.

Now that it sees a weakness in the Liberal official opposition, it has decided to go for broke and throw everything into this vegetable soup essentially and bury the remailer issue in there, which is going to be the beginning of a deregulation process of Canada Post.

To combat this attempt by the government, we have tried to delete a number of the objectionable parts of the bill. As such, the amendments have been grouped into two different groupings.

We have so far dealt with Group No. 1, which is the air travellers security charges, environmental assessment, and EI funding. Now we are now dealing with the Canada Post issue, which I just spoke about, and the fire sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in Group No. 2.

In terms of the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL, it is the largest crown corporation. This in itself, as I think everyone would agree, would merit a separate bill because this particular crown corporation has had over $22 billion put into building the company. There is a critical mass of expertise.

The government is bent, we believe, on selling and privatizing AECL probably to an American firm, and just at a time when the nuclear industry is starting to become popular again. In some parts of the world there are over 100 reactors being initiated on a global basis. This industry in Canada is well known as a world leader in this area.

As much as I do not condone the expansion of nuclear development because of all the associated problems with it and the timeline to get it up and running, we have Ontario interested in nuclear as well as Saskatchewan and I believe Alberta. Is the timing not perfect for a free enterprise Conservative government to take a company that we have put $22 billion into and basically sell it off at fire sale prices to the private sector? That is just typical of the way the Conservative government operates.

We have spoken at length about the remailers at Canada Post and where the government is headed with Canada Post.

The government announced last year that it was going to do an inventory of government assets. It was going to look at selling some of the assets, particularly looking at the deficit of $56 billion.

This is a perfect opportunity for the Conservatives to start assessing the asset base of the government and selling off buildings, the CBC, and other assets that the government owns.

We are really looking at neo-Reaganites and Thatcherites in reality. The Minister of Immigration claps at that. This is what a minority Conservative government is doing. Imagine what would happen if these guys had a majority government. They would not even have fire sales, they would just give the assets away, maybe even pay their friends to take the assets.

However, we find it very disturbing that in an environment where we had a worldwide recession on our hands, the banks of this country still managed to post a $15.9 billion profit. What does the government do? It rewards them with a reduction in corporate taxes trying to race to the bottom, trying to get down to 15%, so they will be at least 10 points below the United States.

The bank presidents are still at the trough. The president of the Royal Bank is earning $10.4 million a year and what do the Conservatives give to Canadians? They raise the air travellers tax by 50%, making it the highest in the world. This at a time when the Americans are charging a $5 tax. So we are going to be sending our travellers over to American airlines. Is that smart economics? But that is the Conservative government.

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10:10 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have to refer to a wonderful quote that our hon. transport minister has been using and that speech I will suggest was pretty much fact free. All sorts of insinuations, accusations, fearmongering about things that have not even been talked about--

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

And a lot of dreaming in Technicolor.

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

And even as the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George says, dreaming in Technicolor. The member should be in the theatre rather than in the House of Commons delivering those sort of comments.

He spent a fair bit of time talking about AECL. We all know that has been a very difficult and challenging file for all governments to deal with. There is a future for nuclear. As much as I am surprised that the NDP members even comment on it because they usually run as fast as they can from any way of using nuclear energy to produce power in this country. Now they are suggesting that we should not do anything rational with it.

However, let me read one quick quote and I would like a comment. This is from Neil Alexander of the Organization of CANDU Industries, who should be a very knowledgeable individual. He says:

OCI has been a long-time and consistent supporter of the restructuring of AECL to achieve the objectives that are very clearly defined in Rothschild's investment summary. We agree that CANDU technology has to be properly capitalized to be successful, that the management team of AECL does need a significant injection of commercial capability, and that the sales team at AECL does need a much greater international outreach.

That is what we are trying to provide. Why will the member not support that?

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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we want a public discussion and we want to debate that issue here in Parliament. We do not want it stuck and buried in an 880-page omnibus bill, which is what the Conservatives are doing. Not only that, but they bring in a closure motion. When they were Reform Party members a number of years ago, they were outraged at the Liberals bringing in closure in the House. They said they would never do it. So we see their principles are absolutely gone. They are bringing in closure when they said they would not.

They are sneaking this privatization of AECL through Bill C-9. They do not even have the courage to introduce it as a separate bill. They are not sharing this information with Parliament. They are not willing to have debate here in Parliament on that issue. This is just typical and another example of how the government operates in an environment of secrecy.

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the Canada Post Act there is a provision which refers to the exclusive privilege of Canada Post.

Bill C-9 introduces an amendment which says that the exclusive privilege would not apply to letters intended for delivery to an address outside of Canada. This is commonly referred to as the remailer issue that the member talked about.

Although there is a moratorium on rural post office closures, moratoriums are at the discretion of the government, and I believe that rural post offices would be at risk because of this change. I also believe that because of the contracting, the contracting of even urban postal outlets would further impair Canada Post.

I wonder if the member believes that this change would in fact impair, not help, Canada Post.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga South is very wise on this issue. He is absolutely correct. This is basically the thin edge of the wedge.

We are looking, as I said before, at a government here that is operating or thinking that it is a majority government when it is not. If the Conservatives end up with a majority government after the next election, watch out. In short order, we are going to see all of the things happen that we are suggesting are going to happen if a majority government ever does materialize over there.

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10:15 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to stand in strong support of the jobs and economic growth act, as well as in support of Canada's continued economic recovery.

Like my Conservative colleagues, I completely oppose the NDP's attempt to delay and threaten the jobs and economic growth act, which is a key component of Canada's economic action plan.

As demonstrated again this morning, Canada's economic action plan is working. Canada's economy is getting stronger. Each month, more and more Canadians, who only a year ago spent restless nights worrying about finding jobs, are now findings jobs and waking up to brighter mornings and, indeed, brighter futures after hearing the great words, “You got the job”.

I know the NDP likes to talk down the Canadian economy, businesses and workers as it preaches its doom and gloom economic defeatism, but the NDP needs to open its collective eyes. We have seen over a quarter of a million net new jobs created in this last year. We have seen job gains every month this year. Canada had record job growth in April. We saw Canada's economy, in the first quarter of 2010, roar ahead with 6.1% growth, the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade, as well as in the G7.

Both the OECD and the IMF are predicting our economic growth will lead all G7 countries both this year and next. Hope has replaced fear, the fear that we saw a year ago. Optimism has replaced pessimism. Canada is on the right track. If members of the NDP do not want to believe me, they should listen to what the OECD had to say about our country's economy. It stated, “I think Canada looks good - it shines, actually, Canada could even be considered a safe haven”.

Nevertheless, the global recovery is fragile and that is why Parliament's overriding priority must be fully implementing Canada's economic action plan, a blueprint to help create jobs, lower taxes and foster growth for an even brighter tomorrow. We cannot stop moving forward. We cannot delay Canada's economic action plan any longer, but the NDP's procedural delaying tactics would do just that.

We have debated the jobs and economic growth act in Parliament for nearly three months. We have heard over 50 speeches to date. We heard from over 50 witnesses in the finance committee. In that time, we heard some wild allegations. We heard some members criticize the act as far as being too ambitious as an 880-page document.

What is clear is that those members complaining about the size of the act have actually not even looked at it. If they had, they would soon realize that the action to make Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturing makes up over one-half of the entire document, or 52% of the pages in this act, due to technical and legal requirements.

I know the protectionist NDP members voted against making Canada a tariff-free zone for our manufacturers and it irritates them that we are eliminating so many job-killing tariffs, but I am proud our Conservative government is making Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturers in the G20. This will cut costs and paperwork for our manufacturers. This will make Canadian-made products more competitive here and abroad. This will create jobs for Canadians for years to come.

While the NDP may not like it, I am proud to stand behind the over 450 pages in this act that delete the tariffs exclusively dedicated to supporting manufacturers and the Canadians that they employ.

We have also heard some members, spurred by biased special interest groups, complain about a provision in the act that would literally save small businesses and the thousands of people they employ. These are the ones involved in the remailing industry across Canada.

I want to now take a moment to set the record straight so there are no misunderstandings. It is nonsense to suggest that this is about privatizing Canada Post. That is not this government's intention. If the NDP members do not believe me, they should listen to Canada Post CEO, Moya Greene, herself. She recently told a parliamentary committee:

However, I want to make it clear that the bill does not take away the exclusive privilege. It applies only to a tiny segment of the mail.

Private sector remailers, mainly small businesses, have been operating and competing with Canada Post for decades. Due to legal wrangling and recent court decisions, these small businesses are now threatened without quick passage of this act.

This is about saving small businesses and saving thousands of jobs, and nothing more.

We had the honour at the finance committee of hearing from Barry Sikora. Mr. Sikora is one of those small businessmen who have been involved in the international mail industry for decades. He has been employing people for decades and his business has been contributing to local communities for decades. He had a simple plea:

...my company employed 31 people. We're not a huge corporation; we're an average business in the printing industry. Now, because of this situation, we're down to 17 employees. Many of our customers have left us, and they have not gone to Canada Post for their foreign mail delivery needs; they have taken their business to another country. They have forced our industry to lay off long-time employees, and that's not a pleasant thing to do.

If this doesn't pass [the jobs and economic growth act], I'm out of business.

The NDP can wail, heckle and yell all they want over there but those are the Canadians for whom we are trying to protect their jobs. I do not care if the NDP members are not in touch with Canadians or with small businesses in this country but the least they can do is keep their mouths shut while we try to support them.

For those members who talk about delaying and defeating this act, I want them to go to classicimpressions.ca and click on the “about us” tab. They should look at the faces of those people who Mr. Sikora employs and whose jobs are at risk. Their futures demand that the NDP comes to its senses.

What is more, I will put in perspective what else is at risk in this act if it is not passed or if it is delayed: $500 million in transfer protection payments to the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; $75 million to Genome Canada; $20 million for Pathways to Education to support disadvantaged youth; $13.5 million for the Rick Hansen Foundation; legislation to enforce debit and credit card industry code of conduct, vital for retailers and small businesses, again, in Canada; key income tax changes to attract foreign investment into Canada's venture capital and private equity industry; key reforms to federally regulated pension plans in Canada, such as requiring an employer to fully fund pension benefits if a pension plan is terminated; and many more.

The NDP delaying tactic would put at risk all of those measures, measures urgently needed to ensure that Canada's economic recovery continues. Canadians do not want that to happen. The risks are too high.

We need to work together as parliamentarians to ensure this act is adopted and adopted quickly for the benefit of our economy and the jobs of Canadians.

I therefore urge all members to support Bill C-9 and oppose the NDP's tactics to delay this passage.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the parliamentary secretary's speech and I heard two elements in it that were so ridiculous that I must come back to them. He talked about tariff reductions. I certainly hope he has read the bill, because the Conservatives have a tendency not to read the bills that are before the House and it is the NDP that catches them on it.

The Conservatives have imposed a softwood lumber tariff, a self-imposed tax, on softwood communities across the country. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost as a result of their irresponsible and incompetent softwood lumber sell-out. I just want to ask him how much of an increase that will be. We know the answer in this corner of the House, which is about a 10% increase, but I would like to hear it from his own mouth.

My second question concerns the HST, to which British Columbia has said no. We have had a massive petition campaign. Eighty-five provincial ridings have all said no to it. A referendum was held which the Conservatives have refused to recognize. They refuse to say on the record that it will withdraw the hated HST imposed on British Columbia.

Since Bill C-9 also has an increase and spreads the HST, could the parliamentary secretary reply to this question for once and for all: Will Conservatives respect the will of the people of British Columbia and say no to the HST?

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the gentleman is in the right House to be asking half of those questions. He should be in the B.C. legislature asking his premier.

I listened to that hon. gentleman filibuster for hours at the trade committee almost two years ago. When we finally came up with legislation that would settle the softwood lumber challenge that would give $5 billion back to the Canadian softwood lumber industry, an industry that was suffering, that hon. member fought tooth and nail, including reading from the dictionary, to stop us from putting the agreement in place, an agreement that would finally settle years of lawyers getting richer and loggers getting poorer.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague along the HST line.

My riding is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The HST that is going to go through will result in winners and losers. Oftentimes, the situation in B.C. is conflated with the Maritimes where an HST did go through but under an entirely different circumstance.

The government has a $1.6 billion incentive on the table but the provincial government can only have 5% flexibility in providing tax breaks. Would the member ask his government to allow the $1.6 billion to stay on the table for another year and allow the provincial government to expand that flexibility to provide tax breaks for those of modest means and for the four major sectors in my province, tourism, the service sector, home building and restaurant service associations? These sectors will be hit very hard, particularly at this time when the economy is under dire straits. People will lose their jobs because of entirely preventable situation.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I might remind all hon. members that we are actually here to debate Bill C-9. The HST for any province is not referred to in this bill.

We treat all provinces equally. The previous government offered some provinces several years back the opportunity to harmonize their sales tax. They knew it was good for business, so they accepted that offer. The offer has remained open because this government respects provincial jurisdiction and it respects treating every province the same. Those questions are for the Premier of British Columbia and I would encourage that hon. member to address those questions to him.

We have heard many comments in this House about pensions. It is critical and time sensitive that we get this legislation passed because we have made improvements to the federally regulated private pension plans in the bill. We need this done by valuation day at the end of June. We need to have this bill passed to protect people's pensions.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable interest, but also considerable concern that I rise once again today to speak to Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures. This enormous 880-page bill, with its more than 2,200 clauses, contains many different measures. I wonder if anyone has actually read this entire document, which has a lot to hide from the people. That is what I intend to speak out against during my remarks today.

Some might think that this bill contains only budget-related measures, but that is not the case. The Conservatives introduced a bill that is a catch-all for various measures and legislative actions that will make major changes to other laws, many of which have nothing to do with the budget. This will affect all Quebeckers.

It is important for Quebeckers to be aware that the Conservatives have the support of the Liberals despite the fact that I urged them to vote against this budget so we could rescue things like the Canada Post Corporation and recover the $57 billion in workers' and unemployed workers' money that has been misappropriated. That money will simply disappear if this bill is passed. I do not believe that the Liberals really intend to stand up and vote against this bill. Once again, true to form, they will act against the interests of working men and women, of Quebeckers and of society's poorest by supporting the Conservatives.

I believe that some Liberal members will vote against the bill, but there will not be enough of them to really register their dissatisfaction with Bill C-9. They tell the House that they are against this bill. They take part in the debates and ask questions, but when voting time comes, they do not show up. That is unfortunate because they know that this omnibus budget, Bill C-9, includes measures that will really affect the quality of life of Quebeckers and all Canadians.

The Conservatives know this. When I first came to the House, I noticed that, after a speech by an NDP member, they were laughing. This bill will privatize certain areas of Canada Post's activities and they are not taking seriously the harm that this will cause. We often say that the government is giving the profits to the private sector and the losses to the public sector. With this bill, that is what will happen to Canada Post, as well as to the unemployed, to our workers and to people who pay into employment insurance. Both workers and employers—who have been swindled, or robbed, of over $57 billion over the past few years—could see this practice continue if the bill passes.

Bill C-9 will permit letter exporters to collect letters in Canada and transport and deliver them abroad.

I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance tell us about Moya Greene, who, he says, supported the initiative proposed in Bill C-9.

However, when that Canada Post representative testified before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, she said that Canada Post has already lost $80 million so far because of that particular kind of privatization. If this bill passes, it is estimated that another $50 million in revenues will be lost if international remailing is allowed. That is a lot of money for Canada Post to lose.

What happens when Canada Post loses revenue? Inevitably, if Canada Post starts losing revenue, it will have to cut services.

So how will it cut services? My riding of Berthier—Maskinongé is mainly rural and when revenues decrease, Canada Post services are cut. It is usually rural areas where services are cut first.

And how are they cut? When the Liberals were in power, several post offices in my riding were closed. There is now a moratorium on post office closures, but several were closed then, including the offices in Saint-Édouard and Saint-Sévère. Those are some of the municipalities in my riding where post offices were closed.

At the time, people organized and demanded that their post offices be kept open, but the Liberals just said they could not afford to meet those needs and had to cut services. So Canada Post services were cut in these rural communities.

If Canada Post's revenue is reduced by $50 million, then postal service in rural communities will be cut again, unfortunately. Major urban centres receive far more mail and, according to a Canada Post study, urban postal service is often more profitable. This means that it often does not pay for Canada Post to deliver mail door to door in rural areas.

Yet rural residents pay tax and contribute to society, and they need services just like urban dwellers. The people of Quebec are very worried that this bill will mean the loss of rural mail delivery.

Maureen Green clearly stated that the corporation had already lost $80 million in revenue in recent years and would lose a further $50 million with this bill. That will mean the gradual privatization of Canada Post. It will be increasingly difficult for people to get their mail. They will have to make a considerable effort or go to another town, sometimes 15 or 20 kilometres away, to pick up a parcel. The government is going to do this to people who are 80, 85 and 90 years old.

I would like to come back to the issue of this bill and the employment insurance fund. The government took money from the unemployed and, with this bill, it is wiping out the $57 billion debt it owes them.

At the same time, even though it has a $57 billion surplus and is forecasting surpluses of $15 billion to $20 billion in the near future, this government has the nerve to vote against measures to improve employment insurance in general and eliminate the waiting period. It is continuing to build up a surplus in the employment insurance fund while reducing access to EI benefits.

It is shameful.

In closing, I would like to say a word about environmental assessment. How will the government be able to provide nuclear oversight if it further privatizes Atomic Energy of Canada Limited? The stakes are very high. If the companies the government creates become political party backers, how can they really provide more oversight and control over nuclear operations?

Those are my concerns. I would add that it is shameful, and to sit here and watch as this bill—