House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was business.

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The House resumed from October 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13 today. I will start by taking about what Bill C-13 should be doing and what we should be doing with any budget bill in 2011. The most recent economic slowdown has made it clear that policy makers and legislators, we in this chamber, have some really important decisions to make to ensure that Canada has an economy that is healthy and responsive to not only the realities of 2011 but also beyond that. This budget is not just about today or next week; it is about Canada's economic future.

The decisions that we are about to make are, in reality, an opportunity to establish an economy of the future for Canada. It could be a green economy. It could be an innovative-based economy. It could be a knowledge-based economy. It is such a gift that we actually get the chance to think about the future and about the direction toward which we want to bring Canada.

I would like to see an economy that is based on green technologies and renewable energy, for example, not fossil fuels. I would like to see an economy where students would not come out of school graduating with crushing student debt, but would have a chance to start work right away, to contribute and invest in their local communities. I would like to see an economy of the future where older workers are supported to transition into new work as industries evolve. I would also like to see an economy where we realize that it costs less to eradicate poverty than it does to pay for the negative effects that poverty has on our system as a whole, in particular our health system and our social security system.

We need to invigorate productivity in the country and we need to promote research and development. I have been working on this in the riding of Halifax. As members probably know, Halifax is an emerging knowledge-based economy. We understand that an innovation and knowledge-based economy will give Canada the flexibility it needs to help the country weather economic ups and downs in a global economy.

I think a paper came out this weekend for the Institute for Research on Public Policy. It said that we needed a renewed research and development strategy, one that stressed the fact that innovation was a key component to the future of our economy.

A report from the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation points out that there are successful and productive systems in countries considered innovation leaders where targeted grants are used instead of just tax breaks. This makes really good sense because Canada has an innovation problem. This has been noted internationally. One way we can help our entrepreneurs, our knowledge thinkers and innovators get a leg up is by having very targeted incentives to reward innovation, to reward solid R and D plans and to reward commercialization of innovation. This is an area where we are lacking. It is not the money per se. We are doing okay when we look at other countries and when we look at what and how much the government is investing. The problem is the lack of strategy. The government is investing in blanket tax cuts and not saying in what direction we should be going.

For example, Halifax has so many PhDs in oceans research. It is really a hub of oceans research and innovation around oceans and marine technology, but we do not have a real strategy to build and develop that. Luckily, we have some incredibly innovative thinkers and civic entrepreneurs who have taken it upon themselves to bring the Bedford Institute of Oceanography together with Dalhousie, the National Research Council and Bionova and facilitate a hub development in Halifax around oceans and marine research.

A lot of that had to do with one person, the vice-president of research and development at Dalhousie, Martha Crago, who said recognized that the people were there and suggested they get together and have coffee. Believe it or not, having a cup of coffee with innovators and entrepreneurs can do a lot to come up with good ideas and strategies for the future that will catapult us toward an innovation and knowledge-based economy.

I point out that the Conservatives do not seem to want to do any of this. They are sticking to their own outdated policies, their pretty ideological policies. It is all about tax cuts. It is not about thinking strategically. This way of thinking is contrary to many of Canada's leading thinkers on this issue.

The government is also ignoring what history and current statistics have taught us; that is tax breaks do not necessarily lead to greater investment by companies in research, innovation or in capital and that improving the conditions for productivity through investment, infrastructure and research is often much more responsive and effective.

However, are we really surprised by that? If we think about recent history, in 2008 the Conservative government was dragged kicking and screaming toward the realization that we actually had an economic crisis. If it were not that the NDP and opposition parties were relentless in telling the Conservatives to wake up and recognize that we were in an economic crisis, pointing it out and showing that there was a way we could get out of this, we would not have even had the stimulus package that was brought forward. We are grateful there was some recognition that we needed a stimulus package, but it lacked that vision for critical investment. It was about policies to give tax cuts and not targeted investments.

Three years later the New Democrats are still focused on addressing the real priorities of Canadian families. We know what those are: jobs, health care, pensions and helping seniors in need. On May 2, Canadians voted for change. This budget is a fantastic opportunity to recognize that and to have that vision for change.

The government should be looking at ways to make life affordable for people. We could look at ways to do the “belt tightening”, but we could invest targeted moneys that would help us save money, for example, and I have talked about it in the House before, pharmacare. Imagine if we had a program that would take a very small amount of initial investment that would save Canadians and the government possibly billions of dollars.

We are one of the few G20 countries in the world that is not negotiating prices for drugs. We just pay whatever the drug companies want us to pay and say that is fine. That makes no sense. The Conservatives purport to be great business leaders. Why are they not at least saying that they will negotiate, because company A has a better price than company B.

Bulk purchasing is a very small step that we could take. We see it happening in individual provinces, like Nova Scotia, and they are saving buckets of money. Why would we not look at programs like pharmacare that could bring down the expenses for government and Canadians, make life more affordable and provide a framework like this?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member alluded to the fact that in the stimulus package brought in by our government there were no targeted investments.

In my community, Wilfred Laurier University had a research and academic centre built, which is very targeted toward the very things the hon. member talks about, and those are technology, innovation and being world leaders. It is extremely targeted to our community because it is a satellite campus that is growing by leaps and bounds. It gives the stimulus for more economic activity around the knowledge economy in my community.

This happened, not only in my community, but there were 13,000 projects across the country, which the member's party voted against. In her opinion was that not targeted?

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11:10 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member was listening. Yes, that is targeted when it comes to a particular community or building, but not in thinking strategically about a future in where we are going with all of this. I will give an example.

In the north we have an incredible research facility north of the Arctic Circle, just about at the North Pole. It does incredible work on climate and predicting weather patterns. It is a top-notch, state-of-the-art, beautiful facility, but no one is there. It is empty. We built it, but there are no scientists or researchers there because we are not continuing to fund the thinkers. We are not continuing to fund the innovators so they can actually use the equipment that is there and work toward a better future for Canada.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has talked a great deal on the priority of this session, which is jobs, jobs and jobs. The government has fallen short in coming up with innovative ideas that would materialize those real jobs necessary in our community.

My question for my colleague is with regard to housing programs and investing in programs that would improve our housing stocks across the country, particularly in some of our urban centres where there is a need for that. Does she see a benefit in having a home renovation program put in to place on an annual basis? I believe this would guarantee good solid jobs within an industry that is in need, especially when we look at the importance of housing across the country.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:15 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right to point out what investing in housing could do for people.

I held a press conference in an empty lot in Halifax to talk about the fact that the lot was slated for affordable housing development. I had members from the construction trade unions with me who said that these were jobs, that they were ready to build and that they had the expertise. A fantastic woman, who does home retrofits, talked about the impact of building energy efficient housing and how it could help our environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also had folks from the low-income community saying that if it was built, they would have housing.

What is the solution to the housing crisis? It is building houses. It is a win, win, win.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:15 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I have a question for her about the government's lack of vision. She said that the government's budget was lacking vision. What suggestions does my colleague have for turning our economy into a green economy, as she said?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:15 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know the Conservatives do not like the word “strategy”. I know they do not like the word “plan”. However, that is what we need. We need a strategy and we need to think about how we move forward. I see no plan. It is just willy-nilly and it will not help us in the future.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is not about this week or next week. It is about the future of our economy and we need strategy.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to address the House on this issue. As this is the first time I have been able to formally stand in the House since my election in May, I hope the House will indulge me for a few moments for some brief comments.

First, I want to thank all those constituents who had confidence in me and voted for me to return to Ottawa as their representative to our federal government. It is an honour and a privilege to be returned to Ottawa as the member of Parliament for the great riding of Medicine Hat, and I am humbled by the opportunity and r the overwhelming support I received from constituents from Bassano to Brooks, Barnwell to Taber, Vauxhall to Scandia to Rosemary, Bow Island to Foremost, Elkwater to Irvine, Redcliff to Medicine Hat, and all those exceptional communities in between.

I especially want to recognize some individuals who volunteered and worked so hard giving their time and energy to re-elect me under the excellent direction of my campaign manager, Dan Hein and his wife Pat, and all their tireless work. Our sign coordinator, Bob DesRosiers; official agent, Dale Stein; our office staff managed by Judy and Earl Morris; and the many enthusiastic volunteers and friends without whom the campaign would have been much more difficult. I thank each and every one of them.

I also thank my children and grandchildren for their encouragement. Most of all, I thank my life partner, my wife, Micheline. Without her support I would not have been able to carry on the rigorous campaign or to continue the extremely important role as a member of Parliament. I promise that I will do my utmost to ensure that their concerns are heard here in Ottawa. They deserve nothing less. Not only did they show wise judgment and character in re-electing me, but also by helping send a strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government to Ottawa they were sending a clear message to all Canadians. The people of the Medicine Hat constituency wanted a party with a solid grip on the economy and the only party with the experience to push the agenda through. Our government has shown that it cares about communities and ridings like my own.

We are assembled here today to discuss an important bill, the budget implementation act. It would create jobs and growth, which, of course, is a key part of our plan. As members know, the heart of our plan builds on five years of work that has already been completed by our government. We will continue to deliver on our low tax agenda. We will continue to support a highly-skilled, innovative workforce, which is key to growing our economy and ensuring that we will remain in the top of the pack when it comes to job creation.

Although we have made much progress in ensuring Canada has stayed strong during the global economic downturn, we have much more to do to ensure that we are well equipped to resist future economic pressures.

it is important to note that we have had seven straight quarters of economic growth since 2009. Our government's progressive economic policies have led to the creation of at least 600,000 jobs as well.

We have made it the foundation of our government's plan to support Canadian families. We have delivered numerous tax credits to families and individuals. Families now pay, on average, $3,000 less in taxes than they did before we introduced our tax reduction in our government's economic action plan.

Our government has promised to deliver investments in education. Our plan is to invest millions of dollars in research and development.

Our plan also involves the hard-working taxpayer whose contributions allow us to make Canada a great nation. That is why we have committed to closing tax loopholes and resorting to other measures to ensure that taxpayers are getting the most bang for their bucks.

The President of the Treasury Board has also been given a mandate to find $4 billion of savings by finding inefficiencies in all federal government departments.

We have done so much to promote job creation and economic growth. Our government has expanded tax support for clean energy generation to encourage green investments.We have extended the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector.

This government has simplified customs tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for businesses. We have extended for two years the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. This will allow manufacturing processing firms in my riding of Medicine Hat to improve production efficiency and further job creation opportunities.

We have eliminated the mandatory retirement age for federal regulated employees. We have also ordered the formation of the red tape reduction committee. We are supporting unemployed workers by strengthening the EI system so that newly unemployed Canadians can use their best 14 weeks for EI claims. A new hiring credit for small business has been initiated. This is a temporary, one-time credit of up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010. The new credit will help up to 525,000 employers defray the costs of additional hiring.

We are also supporting our young entrepreneurs by investing $20 million to enable the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to continue to help young entrepreneurs succeed.

What do industry stakeholders say? Well, the Toronto Board of Trade said that it:

...welcomed new initiatives to spur small-business productivity and hiring, such as the Hiring Credit for Small Business. SMEs are the engines of job growth. Spurring productivity and employment growth among SMEs, as this Budget does, should help Canada’s economic recovery.

As I mentioned before, we will continue to support families and communities across Canada, communities like my own in the Medicine Hat constituency. We will legislate a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities.

We will introduce a volunteer firefighter tax credit of up to $3,000 for volunteer firefighters who bravely serve their communities. We will implement a new children's arts tax credit up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with arts, cultural, recreational and development activities. We will implement a new family caregiver tax credit in an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children.

Again, we have found support among industry stakeholders. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities said:

...budget [2011] delivered a vital commitment to cities and communities to develop a new, long-term federal infrastructure plan.

I will go back to our plan to support education, innovation and training. Our government has committed to forgiving debt for doctors and nurses who pledge to work in remote and underserved areas. The following is what the Canadian Medical Association had to say:

The initiative to address the shortage of primary care physicians recognizes the particular challenges of providing health care in rural and remote areas of the country.

I will now talk about the targeted initiative for older workers for which the budget adds $50 million. In particular, this program was very successful and the working in successful employment, or WISE program, has been very successful in Medicine Hat. Actually, seven out of ten individuals who took that program have already secured employment.

Some of my colleagues talked about the housing initiative. In the Medicine Hat riding, some $741,000 has gone toward funding for housing. I also want to talk very briefly about the Medalta historic site in Medicine Hat. We received about $3.4 million to help with the renovations and construction on this national historic site. That was in our budget from the historic society, as well as $3 million from the community adjustment fund.

Those are just a few examples of what has happened under Canada's economic action plan. The people of the Medicine Hat constituency live in a more prosperous and productive economic environment. Our government has continued to support the communities in the riding of Medicine Hat and other communities right across this country.

The next phase of our economic action plan, contained in budget 2011. encompasses many ways of achieving this as we deliver our great country toward prosperity. There is no doubt that budget 2011 is worthy of support.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on what my colleague from Halifax had touched on in her presentation, which is the failure of the government to recognize the innovation agenda.

What we have seen in other jurisdictions is that just going down the tax credit route for R and D actually fails. We have corporations sitting on tons of cash and they are not investing. However, when we look at other jurisdictions, and I will reference Germany, there are no tax credits for R and D. It invests in the public sector and is doing much better.

I am wondering why the government continues to go down the path of corporate taxes without any strings to get those companies to invest when the Minister of Finance acknowledges that he cannot get them to invest. He is trying to encourage them but he does not have the policy framework. R and D is not working in this country because of failed policies.

Why is the government not looking at other jurisdictions, like Germany which has successfully invested in the public sector to get things moving for R and D?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that our government has invested more money in research and development than any other previous government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:25 a.m.

An hon. member

The Grain Growers.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

In particular, I would like to read the following quote:

The Grain Growers are also pleased with the announcement of a $50 million fund for research and innovation.... Farmers from across Canada have lobbied aggressively for the Government to invest in this area, and they have heard us.

We have also heard them.

In addition to that, through our knowledge infrastructure program, millions and millions of dollars have been invested in universities and colleges right across Canada, including the Medicine Hat College in my own riding.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it may surprise the government but I agree with some of the tax credits that have been put into this budget implementation plan. In fact, the ones dealing with home caregivers and volunteer firemen were in our own platform as well. The reason we put them in and made them refundable was because we wanted to ensure that everybody had a chance to benefit from them, including low income Canadians.

Does the member believe that the government should consider making these tax credits refundable?Otherwise, low income Canadians will not be able to take advantage of them. I am sure that his government wants all Canadians to benefit from these tax credits, which are good.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
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11:30 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was in Tilley, Alberta, which is a very small community in my riding. It opened a brand new fire department and has a new fire engine. The fire chief and the volunteer firefighters were absolutely delighted with the funding that we are providing through this tax credit. They told me that without that tax credit, a lot of them would have considered not volunteering again. That tax credit spurred them on and they will continue to volunteer their services to their communities.