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 tax.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Wheat Board
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

October 17th, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House to request an emergency debate on the government's refusal to hold a plebiscite pursuant to section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act before introducing legislation to kill the single desk marketing system.

Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act clearly states:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada...unless...(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and, (b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

Despite his ideological wanderings or rhetorical dissensions, the minister must let Wheat Board members decide if their sales and marketing arm should be allowed to continue to operate in its current form and protect farmers by selling the grains the board currently sells, namely wheat and barley, at the best price possible for its membership, or if it should be torn away from them without any thought to what will fill the void the government intends to create.

Rather than giving Canadian farmers the right to choose, he is telling them that while this may affect their livelihoods and small-town economies, their voice does not matter. He is telling them that he will not follow the act he is responsible for governing and that he will not protect western Canadian farmers or their rights under the act.

The institution of the Canadian Wheat Board is considered so sacrosanct as to have legislation created, such as that which exists in section 47.1 of the act, to prevent the very abuse that is being perpetrated by the minister.

Should you not allow the debate to go ahead, Mr. Speaker, any opportunity for western Canadian grain farmers to determine their own future with the single desk system will be foreclosed. You and you alone now stand between the law being followed and the law being violated.

Farmers feed Canadian families. They have earned the right to choose, and the government has not earned any sort of mandate to disenfranchise a single western Canadian grain producer by circumventing the Canada Wheat Board Act.

Given the reluctance of the minister to honour this particular provision of the act, the Canadian Wheat Board mailed 68,000 ballots to wheat and barley farmers across the prairies this summer. With a 56% participation rate, a majority of both wheat and barley farmers voted to maintain the single desk under the Canadian Wheat Board.

In 2005, an economic impact analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed the positive economic impact for Winnipeg, for western Canadian farmers and for Canadians as a whole from the continued existence of the single desk marketing system.

It is not up to me, to any member of Parliament or to the minister to decide if the board should maintain its mandate or if it should be dissolved. It is up to farmers. I understand why western Canadian farmers would want it to continue to exist. What I do not understand is why the minister would want to dismantle an organization that is of major economic benefit to western Canada without asking them their opinion, as the law requires him to do.

The notion of self-determination has been codified in other pieces of legislation in this country, whether it is aboriginal rights or the rights of employees to negotiate unfettered. When these rights are codified, it is done for very particular reasons. When granted, these rights are a clear statement by a government that these rights--the rights of farmers, of workers or of aboriginal Canadians--cannot be trodden upon without the whole engagement or consent of everyone involved.

This does not just protect the single desk system, but the right of Canadian farmers to determine their own destiny and their own livelihood.

The Prime Minister made it clear in his speech after the May 2 election that his government would be governing for all Canadians, not just Conservatives. Even Conservative farmers have approached me, concerned with the minister's Ahab-like pursuit of the destruction of the single desk.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, for the reasons set out to you in my letter this morning, I request that you find that this issue meets the requirements for an emergency debate set out in subsections 52(5) and 52(6) of the Standing Orders, and that this House do now adjourn to address the requirement under section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act for the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board to hold a plebiscite before taking any action to change the current formation of the single desk marketing and sales system.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

I do not think that this meets the test of the Standing Orders, especially given the fact that there will be ample opportunity to raise issues that he has.

If and when there is a bill presented to the House, there will be ample opportunity to discuss these issues then, so therefore I do not think it meets the requirements to have an emergency debate.

The House resumed 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

3:25 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as Canada's labour minister, I am very pleased today to take part in this important debate on keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. This act focuses on strengthening Canada's economic recovery by improving the ability of businesses and entrepreneurs to respond to emerging growth opportunities and to create jobs.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I served your office with a request for an emergency debate on the Coptic situation and I am sure you will acknowledge that.

I want to thank everybody today on both sides of the House for agreeing on a motion. I hope it is okay that I withdraw that request and want to thank everybody in the House who co-operated. We reached consensus on a motion that is affecting the plight of the Coptics and other ethnic minorities in Egypt and religious minorities around the world, and I want to thank everyone for that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt for indicating that to the House.

The hon. Minister of Labour.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

As always, this government is concerned about and is focused on what matters the most to hard-working Canadians: jobs and economic growth. The bill we are debating today includes key elements of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that worked to protect Canada from the worst of the global recession.

We have had seven straight quarters of economic growth, and since July 2009 nearly 650,000 net new jobs have been created. More importantly, over 80% of them have been full-time positions. This is great news for Canadians. We are definitely on the right track.

Canada's fiscal position is among the strongest in the world's top-performing advanced economies. However, we must be mindful that the global recovery remains fragile and that there are still too many Canadians looking for work. Too many hard-working Canadians have been affected by the economic downturn, and that is why the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act proposes such a large number of strong initiatives to promote job creation, to provide support for communities, to help families invest in education and training and to respect the taxpayer.

As the Minister of Labour, I would like to turn my attention to one of the aspects of this legislation that provides support particularly to workers who have been affected by an employer bankruptcy or receivership. In our economic action plan, we established the wage earner protection program, or WEPP, to help workers manage one of the toughest challenges that they ever face: going without hard-earned pay because an employer has gone bankrupt. As a direct result of this very important program, eligible workers who lose their jobs and who were owed money in the six months prior to their employer going bankrupt or being subject to receivership can now be compensated for unpaid wages and for vacation pay. This compensation also includes severance and termination pay, with workers receiving up to a maximum of $3,400.

The WEPP has proven itself as an important program and has provided assistance to a great many people who have been hard hit through losing their jobs out of no fault of their own. Since July 2008, over 40,000 WEPP claimants have received $89.5 million in payments.

The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act would provide additional good news workers caught in a bankruptcy or a receivership situation. We are proposing an expansion of the WEPP to cover employees who lose their jobs when their employer's attempt at restructuring takes longer than six months but is subsequently unsuccessful. This enhanced protection would provide an estimated $4.5 million annually to support workers affected by the bankruptcy of their employer. It would ensure that employees are not unfairly penalized if their employer tries to restructure in the face of financial difficulties, but fails.

The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act also announces the government's proposal to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to eliminate mandatory retirement in the federal jurisdiction. We are taking this step because we believe that forcing an employee to retire by reason of age is a form of discrimination and a form of unequal treatment. Canadians are living longer and are more active than ever before, so people should be able to choose when they retire, unless there are compelling reasons, such as health or safety reasons, that prohibit them from choosing themselves.

This piece of legislation strikes the right balance between fiscal prudence and targeted investment, and it is no surprise that there have been very many favourable reactions to proposals from the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. As a few examples, Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada welcomed this elimination of a mandatory retirement age and the role it will play in mitigating the brain drain of experienced workers.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation's national research director, Derek Fildebrandt, also commended the elimination of mandatory retirement and said:

People have a right to determine how long they work, and this is a major step towards eliminating poverty for seniors...

These are only a few among so many favourable statements that have been made in support of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

I will take a moment to describe the labour program's role in supporting economic recovery and of course in building a fair and prosperous society.

I am a big proponent that safe and productive workplaces contribute to our economic prosperity. One of the key roles of the labour program is to support occupational health and safety by carrying out workplace investigations of work-related injuries and occupational diseases. We determine causes as well as strategies for prevention and resolution because Canadians should be able to return home safe and secure after a day or night at work.

I have held national round tables across Canada to examine occupational health and safety in the workplace, some of which focused on mental health issues. Our goal was to learn from the range of stakeholders, including employers, employees, other levels of government and academics about current and emerging occupational health and safety issues and how well these are being addressed by the federal government.

Mental health in the workplace, violence prevention, and in Iqaluit northern issues on health and safety, were discussed at the round tables.

Stakeholders across the board believe that respectful workplaces and emotional intelligence need to be promoted as core values for a productive and sustainable society and economy. The National Round Tables on Occupational Health and Safety underscored the importance of our program's focus on healthy and safe workplaces.

I have also met with stakeholders to discuss important issues, such as fair wages, hours of work and women in the workforce. These discussions provided valuable knowledge and insight on issues affecting today's workplaces. They also gave me a better understanding of the challenges that employers and employees sometimes have to face.

The labour program works to ensure that employment standards are respected as well, especially regarding pay, dismissal, leave and hours of work, because employment standards set the foundation for creating productive workplaces.

These standards help protect the rights of workers. They help foster cooperative relationships between employers and workers and provide the necessary conditions for a productive economy.

I am pleased that we have successfully conciliated about 1,000 unjust dismissal complaints, partly through the use of alternative dispute resolution techniques, and have recovered $4.6 million in unpaid wages for workers in the federal sector.

As well, we continue to promote employment equity and related initiatives. Our goal is to foster inclusive and fair workplaces that take advantage of the skills and talents of all Canadians.

Finally, we continue to work in collaboration with both provincial and territorial governments, as well as our international partners, to identify and craft policies that can best support the development of enterprises and workforces, leading to strong and sustained growth.

I will also take time to talk about my constituents in Halton and how the initiatives proposed in this bill benefit them in their everyday lives.

There are a number of small businesses in the riding of Halton and a number of small business owners. Just as the CFIB has applauded the government's position and provision of a temporary hiring credit for small businesses, I know that businesses in my riding will be enthusiastic about this initiative as well.

This bill encourages additional hiring for small businesses through this temporary hiring credit and this is good news for job creation in my riding.

Also contained in the bill is a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund which provides that predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. As well, specific beneficial initiatives are: the volunteer firefighters tax credit; the new family caregiver tax credit; and, the new children's arts tax credit. There are many in here for the good people of Halton.

In conclusion, this act builds on our work to protect Canadian workers and employers and on strengthening labour management relations while playing a leadership role in intergovernmental and international labour affairs.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour regarding the workplace and in particular the current workplace in my area. She is familiar with Cape Breton. I am from central and northeastern Newfoundland.

One of the biggest elements of the workforce is the existence of seasonal labour. Earlier today I believe the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance talked about the 45-day work week.

I will provide the minister with an example that I would like her to comment on. In a place like Port Union, which earlier lost its plant for only one season, it is harder for that particular plant to maintain a workforce in the foreseeable future if a 45-day work week does not exist.

Therefore, we must look for ways to promote EI reform in areas of high unemployment. Could the minister comment on that?

I apologize if that is not particularly germane to her speech.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, tangentially on the topic that the hon. member brought up, in the first round of Canada's economic action plan the biggest challenge was dealing with single industry towns. We approached it from a number of different areas. One way was to help the community diversify and that is by putting in infrastructure. I know we did an awful lot of work on the forestry file to ensure that those communities wanting to diversify their base could do so by having new industries and creating new jobs so that people could stay in those communities. There are many benefits to having people stay in those communities, especially for those who live there.

As well, we introduced temporary measures with respect to employment insurance to ensure that older workers were able to obtain the retraining they needed.

Finally, not necessarily for the area from which the member comes but in my area in Halton we found that work sharing specifically was a very important program, one which I have been told the United States thinks was the key initiative that allowed us to recover from the recession as well as we did.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as someone who enjoyed attending law school and practised law, I always felt that a bill's title should reflect its content. In this bill on jobs and economic growth I do not see a connection to clause 181 which removes campaign financing in public form, which is not any part of economic growth, and which does not even begin to touch the largest of taxpayer support to political parties. Would the Minister of Labour comment on that?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for pointing out that the Cape Breton caucus does indeed get along outside the House, though not necessarily always inside the House. I also appreciate that she stood in defence of another member from Cape Breton at the other end of the House today.

Our government is committed to strengthening integrity and accountability both in government and political activity. We have always opposed direct taxpayer subsidies to political parties. We believe that political parties should rely primarily on their supporters for financing. That is why we are introducing legislation to gradually reduce the pay-per-vote subsidy starting April 1, 2012 until it is completely eliminated in 2015. That is also why the next phase of Canada's economic action plan is following through on the specific campaign commitment we made to defend the public interest.

We indicated that we have a duty to use taxpayer dollars wisely, especially in a time of fiscal constraint and when families are struggling to make ends meet. That is the underpinning as to why we are doing it, how we are doing it and when we are doing it.