House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economic.

Topics

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly of all the things that do not belong in this 880-page budget implementation bill, the smoking gun, the item that stands out the most, is the issue of the Canada Post remailers.

The fact is the government introduced that measure in Bill C-14 and in Bill C-44 over the last couple of years as stand-alone bills in the House and were rebuffed by this Parliament. It was unable to get it through.

Now the government has snuck it in under Bill C-9 in the hopes that its Liberal allies will close their eyes and vote for it or avoid the vote and allow this to pass.

How can the member, with a straight face, claim that this is a pure budget implementation act when he knows it is not?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know one thing that this 880-page document will not include, because it never has been included, is the support of the NDP. We have put budget after budget forward that have put people back to work in our country and the only thing they never have included is any type of support whatsoever from the NDP.

The 880-page document clearly outlines exactly what will happen with Canada Post and those remailers. What would it do? It would help, it would preserve and it would maintain 10,000 jobs in the sector. The NDP is going to vote against that. I would be ashamed if I had to go back to my riding and say that I cost the country 10,000 jobs.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the member for St. Catharines elaborate a little further on some of the key benefits to the credit unions?

Huron—Bruce is a rural riding and the credit unions play a key part, whether it is loaning to agriculture or to small business. They do a tremendous job. They are completely tuned into the communities.

Could the member for St. Catharines elaborate a little more so Canadians can hear what a tremendous opportunity this is to grow the credit unions?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hard-working member for Huron—Bruce, who really has done an outstanding job in his time here since being elected. He has put Huron—Bruce back on the map in our country and in Parliament. It is good to see him here today to ask a question on the credit unions, which have a huge impact on his riding and ridings like his across the country.

NDP members are crying out. They are the ones who think credit unions should be allowed more opportunity and they are ones who are voting against it.

Being able to give credit unions the opportunity to work under a federal charter is the right thing to do for our country.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in knowing what the member plans on telling unemployed people in his riding when they find out that Bill C-9, among other things that do not belong in it, would empty out the EI fund and affect the hard-working people across Canada who depend on that fund when they hit on hard times. People in my riding have seen their jobs dissipate without the government's support when it comes to the forestry industry or the issues around manufacturing?

What is he going to tell those workers in his riding who are looking for EI in those difficult days?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two things.

First, in the last two months General Motors announced in St. Catharines $480 million worth of investment at General Motors on Glendale Avenue, which will help preserve and create 800 jobs. That says something about how much manufacturing means in the riding of St. Catharines and where things are going.

When she speaks about EI, and I realize she was not here when this budget passed, let us not forget that we passed the budget that moved the whole board of EI away from the way it was being run. It is run independently and has a minimum of $2 billion to ensure that what the Liberals did with EI reform would never happen again.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Based on our rules, I believe it is inappropriate for a member to say whether or not a member was here. In fact, I am not even sure what he is referencing in terms of my absence with respect to the budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the member lets me, I will explain. It was passed in a budget when she was not elected. I would never refer to her as not being in the House. In fact, I know she is in the House a great deal of the time and does work hard. It was not a reference to her attention or membership here. It was in reference to a previous budget when she was not elected.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for clarifying that.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing the House that the Senate has passed the following bills to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, Maternal Health; the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Oil and Gas Industry; the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Windsor West.

It will not surprise members that I am speaking in opposition to the Conservatives' budget implementation bill at third reading. We in the NDP moved 62 amendments to the government's budget that would have immeasurably improved the bill by taking out the most contentious sections and allowing them to be dealt with in stand-alone bills. Sadly, with the complicity of the Liberals, all of them were defeated in this House last night. I therefore have no choice but to vote against the unamended budget bill.

It is worth reminding people at home who may be watching this debate today what is at stake in this bill and specifically what changes we tried to make.

There were six groups of amendments that dealt with Canada Post, AECL, the National Energy Board, environmental assessments, employment insurance and the air travellers security charge. The NDP amendments would essentially have deleted all sections relating to each of these categories. Frankly, these sections should never have been in the budget bill in the first place. Each piece is of such importance that all six should have been brought forward as separate bills subject to separate scrutiny by this House and in committee and subject to public hearings with affected stakeholders.

In fact, the law explicitly states that if the government is contemplating the sell-off of a Canadian asset like AECL, then it has to be brought to the House of Commons as a bill. Instead, the government buried it on page 556 of the budget. AECL is the largest crown corporation in Canada and it is completely irresponsible for the government to sell it off without any transparency and without any accountability.

We should not be giving away our nuclear crown corporation to a foreign company in a fire sale. Over the course of AECL's life, Canadian taxpayers have put $22 billion into building the company. The only public estimates of what the government might receive in a sale suggest that we would be lucky to get $300 million if we sell it now.

The process has been shrouded in secrecy since the beginning. The government commissioned a report from Rothschild on how to proceed and has never consulted Parliament on its contents. Now the Conservatives are trying to push the sale through the back door by burying the groundwork in Bill C-9, the budget bill.

Parliament and Canadians need to be consulted and involved in the process. Otherwise, if the government simply gets its way, Canadian taxpayers are going to get ripped off and high-paying jobs will be lost.

That is why we put forth our amendments in the House. It is imperative to separate out the AECL privatization measures and force the government to bring them forward in a stand-alone bill. The proposed sale of AECL must be closely studied, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that the government cannot just force it through in a budget that is being used as a Trojan horse.

The same is true for the sections dealing with environmental assessments and the National Energy Board. Here, too, the government is using omnibus budget legislation to weaken Canada's environmental protection laws. These are non-financial matters and they do not belong in the budget.

The government's approach is becoming a bit of a pattern. In last year's budget bill, the Conservative government gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This year's budget bill takes aim at the act that is most important in protecting our environment. This is not about streamlining the process. It is being gutted. These changes will undoubtedly result in damage to our environment, and Canadians will be on the hook to clean up the mess. Putting these costs on future generations is not conservative, it is unconscionable.

What is most galling is the process by which this law is being eviscerated. Parliament, in its wisdom, has prescribed that a review of the law and recommendations for reform be undertaken this year by a designated committee. This comprehensive review is already slated to come before the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has stunningly dubbed such a review as “frivolous”. So it comes as no surprise that the government has chosen instead to short-circuit the process that would hear and consider the views of interested stakeholders and other concerned parties and fast-track changes through its budget bill.

Bill C-9 transfers reviews of major energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The effect is a diminishment of public rights, including clear access to intervenor funds and lessened requirements to consider environmental factors.

Also, the Minister of the Environment will be empowered to narrow the scope of any environmental assessment with political considerations potentially influencing decisions.

Finally, one of the key triggers for federal assessment, federal spending, is significantly exorcized with almost all federal stimulus funded projects to be exempted.

Addressing long-term liabilities from unmitigated environmental or health impacts should not be shunted aside for short-term political gain from streamlined or fast-tracked project approvals. Canadians will pay the costs.

Similarly, Canadians will be paying the costs of the ill-conceived erosion of Canada Post's exclusive privilege to handle international letters. I have had the privilege of speaking at length on this issue twice before in the House, so I will try to be brief today.

At the heart of the issue is that international mailers, or remailers as they are commonly known, who collect and ship letters to other countries where the mail is processed and remailed at a lower cost. In doing so, they are siphoning off $60 million to $80 million per year in business from Canada Post. Yet Canada Post needs that revenue to provide affordable postal service to everyone no matter where they live in our huge country. In fact, one ruling of a Court of Appeal in Ontario stressed the importance of exclusive privilege in serving rural and remote communities and noted that international mailers are “not required to bear the high cost of providing services to the more remote regions of Canada”.

Canada Post won this legal challenge against the remailers all the way to the Supreme Court. What is the so-called law and order government doing in response? It is standing up for the international mailers which are currently carrying international letters in violation of the law. The Conservatives are allowing them to siphon off business from Canada Post and they snuck the enabling legislation into the budget bill. Once again, the budget is being used as a Trojan horse and the Conservatives are hoping that no one will notice. Well, New Democrats noticed and that is why we moved to delete all of the sections related to international mailers from Bill C-9.

We also noticed of course that the government is imposing a new tax on Canadians through this budget. This is a new flight tax that is expected to raise $3.3 billion over five years. Ostensibly, it is for better airport passenger screening, but only $1.5 billion of money raised will be going to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The rest appears to be going straight into government coffers. Even if people believe that the new security measures such as the 44 virtual strip search scanners are better than regular pat-downs, the bottom line is that the Canadian security charge is now the highest in the world without any commensurate increase in aviation safety. Whether it is called a user fee or a new tax, it is an ill-conceived cash grab by the government and deserves much greater scrutiny.

Finally, I want to talk about the changes to EI that are buried deep in the budget and I will cut right to chase. When the Liberals were in power the then finance minister took almost $50 billion of workers' money out of the employment insurance program and used it to cut taxes for his friends in corporate Canada. Since taking power in 2006, the Conservatives have continued to rob workers of what is rightfully theirs. Instead of seizing the opportunity to do right by hard-working Canadians in this budget and returning all of the employee and employer contributions to the EI fund, the budget bill before us does the unthinkable. It legalizes the theft of $57 billion. It takes the $57 billion and simply adds it to its general revenues. That is the biggest theft in Canadian history and it is being perpetrated in the House of Commons and the Senate.

That is not what we were elected to do here. On the contrary, for the last year and a half, our country has been battered by a tsunami of job losses and we as elected members have a responsibility to mitigate its impact on the hard-working Canadians who are the innocent victims of this recession. That was the original reason for creating EI. It was established so workers who lost their jobs would not automatically fall into poverty. EI is the single most important income support program for Canadian workers and we have a duty to protect and enhance it. So no, we cannot just let the budget implementation bill rob Canadians of hope by being complicit in emptying the entire employment insurance account. We cannot and will not let this pass with our consent. We cannot and will not support the bill that is so fundamentally at odds with the best interests of our constituents.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the air travellers security charge and pointed out that the tax will now be raised 50% by the government. It will be the highest tax in the world, even exceeding Holland's. The government is only spending part of that money on airport security. It will be using the extra money it is raising from Canadian travellers for general revenue.

The sad part of this whole exercise is that the international security charge will now be $25 whereas the one in the United States is only $5. For several years we have been losing Canadian passengers to American air carriers. The government is the new best friend of the American airline industry because while Canadians have been travelling with American carriers over the last three or four years because the taxes are lower on air fares in the United States, it is going to make it even more difficult for the Canadian carriers to stay afloat and remain competitive with the Americans.

How in the world is the government trying to be competitive when it does things like this?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood--Transcona is absolutely right. That new tax is nothing but a tax grab by the Conservative government. It has nothing to do with enhanced airport security. Therefore, it has nothing to do with traveller protection.

If the government were really serious about protecting travellers in Canada, it might want to have a look at the incredible bill that was brought forward by the member for Elmwood--Transcona. It was a passengers' bill of rights that would have made substantial improvements for people who use flights regularly or perhaps only once a year for travelling on vacation. For people who are stuck either at terminals or on the tarmac, his bill offered real protection to airplane travellers.

That bill was sadly voted down with the support of the Conservatives. The Conservatives voted against the bill. That is a disgrace. His bill merited support. The new surcharge on air travellers that the Conservatives are proposing certainly does not.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a follow-up question. The member raised the issue of Canada Post and the remailers, and I really think that this is the smoking gun in this 880-page omnibus bill. The Conservative government has tried to throw in a lot of things that do not really apply. The sale of AECL is one of them, but certainly the remailers is the most blatant example.

I say that because the government, independent of this measure, introduced the remailer issue under Bill C-14 and Bill C-44 over the last two or three years. It presented them in this House. These bills were debated in this House and they were not passed by this House. It could not get these bills through.

Seeing a weakness over on the Liberal side in the opposition, the government has thrown everything into this bill. Things that do not belong have been thrown into the bill because the government knows that the Liberals will go along with it and pass it through as law.

Would the member like to make some comments on that point?