House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak for too brief a time on Bill C-13. The bill has the august title of “keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act”. It is quite a bit of fluffery, frankly, but let me move on to it.

Part of the trouble that I have with this legislation and the claims that government members are making about what it would do is that the government is the same government, with the same Minister of Finance, that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the realization that the economy was in trouble in 2008 and that the government needed to respond. Only when the Conservatives had a near-death experience did the Minister of Finance bring in a fairly significant stimulus plan that made investments in infrastructure. Opposition parties were involved in ensuring that took place.

Now we have this bill before us. It would implement the budget that was introduced back in the spring, when the economy was at a different point.

Increasingly over the past number of months, we have seen what has happened in the United States, where the economy continues to sputter along. It is not making the kind of growth and the kinds of improvements that we would like to see. We are seeing European countries having significant financial problems and threatening to default on the bailouts they received from the banks in the European community.

It causes us some concern to hear the Minister of Finance continually saying, “Steady as she goes” and that the budget introduced last spring in very different economic circumstances is still the bill that the government is going to move forward.

Bill C-13 is full of half measures. It is a budget full of half measures.

For example, some members opposite were talking about increases to the GIS. We talked about that in June. We talked about the government failing to make the kinds of investments that would lift all poor seniors out of poverty.

We were not talking about ensuring that all seniors would have a home and a two-car garage, for heaven's sake. We were talking about lifting all seniors out of poverty, but the government was not able to go that far. It went halfway. For those people who will receive the $50 a month, it will undoubtedly make some difference, but a lot of seniors will continue to suffer in silence.

That is just an example of the kind of half measures I was referring to.

We have heard government members claim ad infinitum and ad nauseam that the government has created 600,000 net new jobs. My colleagues have put some of the facts on the record to show that this is absolutely not the case. We have seen the addition of barely 200,000 new jobs since the pre-recessionary employment high point in May 2008.

As well, the labour force has grown by 450,000 since then. Those new jobs fall 250,000 short of the number needed just to hold employment steady. The government's claim of creating 600,000 new jobs is just specious. It is wrong. It does not hold water. It is not true, and the facts make that clear.

However, the most troubling thing about it is what these figures say about unemployment in the 15- to 24-year-old age group.

At the high point in May 2008, before the recession, 2,600,000 Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 had jobs. The participation rate at the time was 67.6%. The official unemployment rate was 11.9%.

In August 2011, there were only 2,400,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age employed. The participation rate had fallen three percentage points, to 64.7%. The unemployment rate was 14%.

That means that there are almost 127,000 fewer jobs for the 15- to 24-year-old group today than there were before the recession. If we take into account the lower participation rate, that is another 133,000 jobs.

What that points to is the problem faced by so many young people in this country. When I rose in the House the other day, I spoke about how young people in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour invest in their education. As a result of the lack of support from the federal government for post-secondary education, those who can afford to pull some resources together to acquire student loans go into very significant debt in order to try to increase their employability by improving their skills and qualifications. They come out and, as the statistics show, at a time like this the jobs are simply not there.

It is a remarkably discouraging situation faced by young people, who are the talent and the human resource needed to continue to build our country into the future. Unfortunately, they find themselves working at part-time jobs and trying to cobble things together. The problem is discouraging at best; it is creating desperation at worst.

There is a gaping hole in these employment numbers, and the numbers are particularly affecting young people.

As for manufacturing jobs and jobs at NewPage, the pulp mill in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, hundreds of middle-aged workers there, women and men, are laid off right now. The provincial government, with no help from the federal government, is trying to put together a transition plan so that company could perhaps be purchased and restarted in some form.

It would be nice if the federal government would recognize that there are Canadians living down in the eastern end of this country and that it should start giving support to those people and communities. However, another several hundred Nova Scotians are going to be either heading out west or staying in Port Hawkesbury and competing with one another for those significant jobs.

In conclusion, let me say that there is another area where there is a desperate need for the government to invest.

I am the international trade critic, as members know, and the government is bullish on all the trade agreements it is trying to negotiate around the world. The one thing that really concerns me, and has concerned a number of business leaders in this country, is that the government is doing this without having an industrial policy in the country, without having a policy that has identified those sectors where good jobs are going to be created. That is where it should be investing, in order to ensure that we do not lose the potential to continue to build our economy and that we do not keep going down the road that returns us to what we were in the 1960s, which was hewers of wood and drawers of water.

We need to have good manufacturing value-added jobs in order to provide the kind of economic activity in our communities, jobs for people in our families that will make our communities strong today and tomorrow.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the bill and I would like to indicate that I will not support the government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, as the member opposite well knows, there are sectors that we know have been and will continue to be key to growth in our country. One is the oil sands petroleum sector, which has brought benefits to the member's riding, as well as hundreds across the country and will continue to do so if it has the support of the House.

My question for the member is the following. Civility is based on the ability to speak the truth, to be honest with one another. Is the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour really prepared to stand in the House and say that the number of 600,000 new jobs created in the country since the end of the recession, not a number from the government side but from Statistics Canada, an organization respected and relied upon by all of us in the House, is untrue? Canadians and his constituents deserve to know.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I do not know where the member gets the 600,000 number, but the examination that the NDP has done of the numbers on the dates that I have described paint a completely different picture than the one about which the member has talked.

In the opening of his question he mentioned something about the oil industry, refinin, and that kind of thing. Let me respond to what I thought he was going to say. I thought he was going to talk about the Keystone pipeline and the fact that his government was planning to ship another raw resource to Texas. Why we cannot add value to our natural resources in our country and create hundreds and thousands of good-paying jobs for Canadians? Why can we not do that?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech and his very interesting answer.

I have already condemned in the House our growing dependence on natural resource development, which traps us by putting us at the mercy of the fluctuations in international trade, as my colleague knows full well. In the meantime, we are seeing an incredible number of jobs disappearing in the processing sector. This was clear during the recent election campaign in Ontario when Mr. Hudak criticized this state of affairs and the loss of 300,000 jobs in Ontario.

I would like to invite my colleague to elaborate on the solutions we are proposing to truly diversify our economy and protect ourselves from the adverse effects of a possible recession.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague is also a member of the international trade committee. Economists have acknowledged and supported us in our claim that now is the time for the public sector to be investing in very necessary infrastructure. Now is the time, I would suggest, for us to start focusing on our transportation links across the country. We should look at things like rail service. I have heard from the Port of Halifax about the kind of stranglehold CN has on many industries and employers that are trying to transport goods. It affects our ability to trade, either export or import. Why does the government not make the kinds of investments that are necessary so we can move goods, services and people safely and dependably from one end of the country to the other?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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 Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, International Trade; the hon. member for Avalon, National Defence.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, today I rise to address the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act introduced by the Minister of Finance on October 4. I will be sharing the allocated time with my colleague, the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

This legislation provides key elements and continues the progress of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth.

With $60 billion in targeted stimulus, Canada's economic action plan has worked. It has protected Canada from the worst of the global recession and is a testament to our country's resilience in the face of the challenging economic times that have plagued countries around the world. Our progress has not gone unnoticed.

Last month the World Economic Forum released its annual global competitiveness report naming Canada the soundest financial system in the world for the fourth year in a row. It is a rank of which our government and Canadians alike can be proud.

The praise for Canada does not end there. Just this week the prestigious financial journal, Forbes, reported that Canada was the number one country in the world to do business.

The Globe and Mail noted:

Canada has earned the highest reputation ranking in Reputation Institute's 2011 Country RepTrak. The study measures the overall Trust, Esteem, Admiration and Good Feelings the public holds towards these countries, as well as their perceptions across 16 different attributes, including a good quality of life, a safe place to live and a strong attention to their environment. Results from over 42,000 respondents worldwide showed that Canada scored well in all of these elements...

This is good news in a fragile world economy, yet global troubles remain. There are serious threats to global financial markets, continuing uncertainty and challenges around U.S. growth and unemployment, Japan's economic struggles to rebound and Europe's debt problems pose a risk to all of the world's economies.

Canada is not immune. We share the challenge of avoiding the devastating consequences of returning to global recession.

That is why completing the next phase of our economic recovery is so important. Canadians agree. Our government was given a strong mandate to stay focused on what really matters, job creation and economic growth. We will continue to make the economic recovery our number one priority.

The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act strives to protect and support Canada's economic recovery through the following measures: first, promoting job creation and economic growth; measures include providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring; expanding tax support for clean energy to encourage viable green investments; extending the 15% mineral exploration credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector; simplifying customs tariffs in order to expedite border trade and lowering the administrative burden for businesses; extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years to support the manufacturing and processing sector; and eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees in order to give older workers wishing to work the option of remaining in the workforce.

The legislation will support communities by legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities.

It introduces a volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters.

It increases the ability of Canadians to give more confidently to legitimate charities by introducing a package of integrity measures designed to help combat fraud and other forms of abuse.

The legislation will help families by introducing a 15% family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of infirm dependent relatives. It will also remove the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of financially dependent relatives.

The bill introduces a new children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's artistic, cultural, recreational, and development activities.

We will invest in education and training by forgiving loans for new doctors and nurses in underserved rural and remote areas.

It also will help apprentices in the skilled trades and workers in regulated professions by making occupational, trade and professional examination fees eligible for tuition tax credits and improve financial assistance for students.

The legislation before us today responds to and respects taxpayers in that it phases out the direct subsidy to political parties. Our government has the duty to use Canadians' tax dollars with great care and only in the public interest, especially in a time of fiscal restraint when families are struggling to make ends meet. For these reasons we have introduced legislation to gradually reduce the $2.04 per vote per year allowance starting April 1, 2012 until this taxpayer subsidy to political parties is completely eliminated. This will generate annual savings that will ramp up to $30 million by 2015-16.

This legislation will also close numerous tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

These new measures will help complement what we have already done.

Our government removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls and increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pocket of the average Canadian family.

We introduced the universal child care benefit, offering families more choice in child care by providing $1,200 a year for every child under the age of six. We introduced the child tax credit, providing personal income tax relief of up to $320 in 2011 for each child under the age of 18.

We introduced the children's fitness tax credit which promotes physical fitness among children through a tax credit of up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with physical activity.

We brought in the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs.

We introduced income splitting for couples, eliminating the marriage penalty for one-earner families by increasing the spousal amount to the same level as the basic personal amount.

We introduced the registered disability savings plan to help families of children with disabilities.

In addition, families are benefiting from other new targeted measures, such as the first-time homebuyers' tax credit, the expanded homebuyers' plan and the public transit tax credit.

Due to our strong record of tax relief, the total savings of a typical Canadian family is over $3,000 annually.

Moving forward our government will stay the course remaining focused on completing our economic recovery. We are launching strategic and operating reviews to find ways to improve government operations and programs to ensure quality and value for Canadian taxpayer dollars. By doing so, we will support our goal of returning Canada to balanced budgets by 2014-15, a year ahead of our original schedule.

As always, we will do so without raising taxes or cutting transfers to the provinces. We are staying focused on Canada's economic recovery while being mindful that the choices made by other countries can and do have an impact on us here at home.

In the words of our Minister of Finance, while we should not underestimate the risks, Canadians can be confident that our country is well positioned to face the global economic challenges ahead.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, we must strive to ease the burden of every individual struggling to recall a spouse's name, every person unable to recognize a child's face, and every family member or friend who brings them comfort and care. We must seek hope for all families struggling with Alzheimer's disease. We must renew our commitment to research that is improving treatments for this illness and which one day may prevent it entirely. We must leave no avenue unexplored.

It is fundamentally important to make sound fiscal decisions. We absolutely have the opportunity to change the course of Alzheimer's disease now. I am wondering if the hon. member thinks we should increase investment for Alzheimer's disease and dementia because it would save lives and would save money.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I know how hard the hon. member has worked on this file in the promotion of research and development and funding for Alzheimer's in Canada. Personally, I agree that we should look at this more. I know we are currently reviewing Alzheimer's disease, largely because of the member's efforts. I appreciate her efforts.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, my constituency is made up of families and a lot of small businesses. When I look at the bill, there is not much there, especially for small businesses.

I know my friends across the aisle have given big tax breaks to the big corporations, their friends, but in my constituency we need help for small businesses. We have already been hurt by the introduction of the HST, which has been repealed by the referendum in British Columbia.

What is in the bill to help small businesses? I know there is a lot for the friends of the Conservatives, such as the banks, the oil companies and corporations like that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

October 6th, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, as I was sharing my time with another member, I did not have time to get all of these great points in, but small business is one that I really wanted to talk about and I am thankful for the question.

There are so many good things in the bill for small businesses that I do not know where to begin. I just cannot get it all in with the time allotted. We have the accelerated cost allowance, which would be continuing. We have the temporary hiring credit for new hires. This is made for small businesses to assist in new hires. In any event, the general increase in the economy and helping Canadians by reducing taxes would generally provide an economic climate for small businesses in Canada compared to other countries in the world. This is a great environment for Canadians to invest and businesses to grow.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, I should advise the House that the member is not sharing his time and we have moved to speeches of 10 minutes.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I wish to reiterate the comments made by my colleague from Nova Scotia. It is with great regret that the time is now limited. The government is forcing us to make fewer comments on what we consider are great inadequacies in this budget. So, I will try, in 10 minutes, to share some of the concerns that have been raised with me about the budget document tabled here today, Bill C-13.

Canadians face an historic deficit, through no fault of those impacted by the recession, and yet those most reliant on federal programs will suffer the effects of cuts to those critical services and programs, as we have been hearing for the last couple of weeks: cuts to Service Canada, assistance, employment insurance, immigration, pension benefits. I can speak personally for my riding that people desperately need assistance. They do want a 1-800 number.

Shifts to computerize further centralized responses deeply hurts those who most need this assistance: immigrants, those who live in isolated communities, the people of the regions.

Many seniors and aboriginal peoples are challenged in gaining access to computers. Many have problems with basic literacy.

To their credit, some volunteer organizations have stepped up to the plate, including the South East Edmonton Seniors Association in my riding which, with some help from the government, is actually trying to train the seniors on how to access this kind of information on line. However, it is still very stressful for seniors.

Many immigrants are challenged by government systems and language skills, in particular, temporary foreign workers. The reference to “just go and look it up on a computer” is basically not helpful to these contributing members to our society.

The second aspect of concern to this budget, which some of my colleagues have spoken to, is innovation in the next generation economy. Most disturbing are the blinders on the government in recognizing the need to invest in the new, cleaner energy economy. Strong support has been expressed for enhanced investment in the clean energy economy from provinces, the fossil fuel sector, the energy efficiency sector and by a lot of think tanks, including the right-wing think tanks.

However, most surprising is the support for investment by the federal government in moving forward on a Canadian energy strategy so that Canadian businesses and, generally, Canadians, can benefit from the investments that have been made around the world. What is happening is that our clean energy sector, our energy efficiency sector, because of the reneging of investments by the government, are moving to other nations. We are losing in investment in securing our economy of the future.

Instead, the government is gifting billions in public dollars to a handful of energy companies to simply test technologies to deal with carbon, with no obligation in law to reduce the carbon emissions and no obligation to invest in R and D. The fossil fuel sector is known to be one of the worst sectors in the Canadian economy in investing in R and D. This is short-sighted and would put Canada at risk as a player in the new economy.

The third segment of my comments are about aboriginal Canadians. No segment of our population has suffered more under the Conservative economic strategy than aboriginal Canadians. This was clearly delineated by our former auditor general, Sheila Fraser, in her final audit this year.

Among her key messages for the 2011 audit was the failure by the current government and previous Liberal governments to take action on her 31 audit reports on aboriginal issues; 16 reports in the last decade addressing first nation and Inuit issues and 15 additional chapters dealing with issues of importance to aboriginal peoples.

As noted by the former auditor general:

It’s no secret that their living conditions are worse than elsewhere in Canada. Only 41 percent of students on reserves graduate [from high school], compared with 77 percent of students in the rest of the country. And more than half of the drinking water systems on reserves still pose a health threat.

She went on to say:

What’s truly shocking, however, is the lack of improvement. Last year, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada reported that between 2001 and 2006 there was little or no progress in the well-being of First Nations communities. In a wealthy country like Canada, this gap is simply unacceptable.

Over the past two years, the former auditor general presented 31 reports. However, despite those 31 reports and despite some federal action, some attempts by the bureaucracy, the first nations still lack, according to the auditor general, what most other Canadians take for granted. “On the surface”, she said, “it seems that the government simply needs to work harder”. She suggested that we needed to look much deeper, and that, after 10 years, she had come to believe that we needed fundamental changes and that we needed to see meaning progress in the well-being of our first nations.

The auditor general said that we could not simply turn to the same old ways of doing business, that we needed substantive changes. We need funding but we also need major legislative initiatives. We see none of that in the budget tabled.

More specifically, the auditor general pointed out that there was no action on education. First nation children still receive 2% less support than other children. As for access to quality water sources, far too many communities still do not have access to safe drinking water. As for housing shortage, there is disrepair and dangerous mould in houses. Child and family services are not being delivered. First nation children are eight times more likely to be removed from their homes. Still, there is no major commitment by the government. It wants to address crime but where is the investment in facilities to help youth come together with elders and actually avoid the gangs with which they are becoming entangled?

The government has failed to implement obligations under land claims agreement. I have heard delegation after delegation of first nations concerned both with the specific treaty process and with the overall comprehensive treaty. The government is simply not living up to the honour of the Crown.

The problems that the auditor general reported involved not just the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but also Health Canada, CMHC and Treasury Board. The auditor general, parliamentary committees and expert panels appointed by the government have all recommended deeper reforms beyond budget allocations. These include legislative regimes to govern such things as education, child and family services, health services and drinking water. They are the kinds of regimes that other Canadians benefit from.

However, the key to developing these regimes, as the auditor general recommended, as the Assembly of First Nations recommended and as many individual first nations recommended, is that they need to be consulted and accommodated. They need to be directly engaged. What the first nations do not want is one size fits all. They want to have the support of the government to provide the framework so that they, too, can be engaged, as the provincial and territorial jurisdictions are, in the delivery of their own services to the people in their communities.

The government fully endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. By endorsing the UNDRIP, Canada has committed to ending discrimination against indigenous peoples in this country and yet we see nothing specific in this budget to address the long-standing discrimination, despite unilateral federal jurisdiction and the duty to uphold the honour of the Crown.

The government has criticized aboriginal leaders who, in frustration, are taking their concerns to the courts or to the media. Where else are our aboriginal leaders to turn? I call upon the government to reconsider its spending priorities, to provide hope to young aboriginals and to show that we value their potential to contribute to society and to contribute to the economy.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Madam Speaker, I think we all recognize that Canada and Canadians generally tend to be a caring, sharing society, and that we can understand and that we can appreciate. However, we need to have the means by which to care. We need to generate the income. We need to generate the wealth. We need to create jobs. In order to create jobs, as anecdotally proven, in business practices proven and in the world proven, we need to have a low tax base to draw jobs.

I know my corporate haters across the aisle seem to think that corporations are these nasty big beasts. Well, they are mom and pop operations. They are small businesses and big businesses. A corporation consists of owners, managers and shareholders. Some of the greatest shareholders in corporations are the unions that invest and are highly supportive of the NDP. Why does she wish to continually bash the income creators in this country?

We are bringing in accelerated capital cost writeoffs. I have a company in my riding, Procter & Gamble, that is investing over $100 million, a lot of it due to accelerated capital cost writeoffs. It is jobs for everyday people who are working hard and can contribute back to our economy. What does the member have against creating jobs like this?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am imagining that the member opposite actually heard my speech where I actually called upon the government to step up to the plate and engage Canadians, engage the fossil fuel industry, engage the territorial, provincial and first nation governments, engage experts, engage the energy efficiency industry and engage the Canadians who would like to reduce their power bills. They have all called upon the government to step up to the plate and start the dialogue on a Canadian clean energy strategy.

The government committed at Cancun to deliver a low carbon energy strategy. Where is it? We are all waiting for the chance to be engaged and nobody is waiting more than our aboriginal communities. The people of the Northwest Territories are waiting for the opportunity to be engaged. They would like to look into alternative energy sources. They would like to stop burning diesel oil and turn to alternative fuel and develop technologies that they in turn could sell to others. So, yes, I and my party are fully engaged and supportive of some kind of new innovative strategy to move forward into the next century.