House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, what has become very clear with the government is this pathological pattern that it believes there is a set of rules for it and there are rules for everyone else. If anyone else breaks the rules, the government will throw the book at them. There is maximum attack on anyone who does not follow their rules. Yet there is a case where a minister doctored a document and then lied to Parliament. That is about as serious as it can get. If folks back home did that in their workplace, they would be fired. Here, this is the price of doing business.

We see that it is not just that the minister doctored the document and lied, but the Prime Minister of this country, who is supposed to represent an ethical standard, said that what she did is perfectly in line with how the government operates.

I would like to ask the hon. member what it means in this House of Commons, where the laws of this land are made, that it is considered okay as long as it is a Conservative minister to lie, doctor documents, misrepresent the facts and they will be backed up all the way up to the Prime Minister himself. What does it mean for the standard of democracy in this country where a government is willing to go to that level to misrepresent the truth and lie to people?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, sadly what the hon. gentleman has described is an aspect of the well-entrenched Conservative culture of deceit. He speaks of a double standard and indeed there is a double standard. There is one law for the Conservatives and one law for everyone else.

In this particular case the facts seem to be absolutely beyond dispute. The minister has said certain things in Parliament and in committee, and in the last number of days, most recently, she has completely contradicted herself, obviously indicating that a document was falsified, that it was done on her instructions where she had previously said that she had nothing do with it, and where she has quite literally tied herself in knots trying to evade the responsibility for that.

It is absolutely unconscionable. It is unacceptable. The House has already indicated that point of view. A committee report is now before us that indicates that point of view. It is clear that further action is required.

Either the Prime Minister must shoulder his responsibilities and relieve that minister of her duties, or Parliament will do it for him.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before I resume with questions, I would like to remind all hon. members to direct their comments to the Chair rather than to their colleagues. Second, I anticipate some intense discussion here today and I would remind all members to use parliamentary language.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the former minister of finance did so well for our country at a time when there was a need for a proactive, strong social conscience in government.

I look at the issue before us in terms of priorities. Is it fair to say that the Conservative government's priorities are wrong? There are the billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks but there are the many needs of our communities. In particular, there is the pension issue. Many pensioners are on fixed incomes with the many needs of today, but the government fails to meet those needs in favour of giving significant corporate tax breaks.

The Conservative member who spoke previously said that the Conservatives were not increasing taxes. Could the member for Wascana explain to this House the payroll tax and how the Conservative government is in fact increasing taxes? Ultimately fewer jobs would be created because of the government's increase to the payroll tax.

Could the member add to that comment?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, governing is all about making choices. None of the choices that confront governments is ever particularly easy, but when it comes to making the budget, one has to decide where the priorities lie.

The Conservative government for the last year or so has been telling us that its priority is around untendered jet aircraft, larger jails and extra corporate tax cuts. Those appear to be the main items, certainly the biggest spending items, on its agenda.

The Liberal Party suggests that as we come out of recession, as a lot of middle-class Canadian families are struggling with the highest level ever of household debt, that it is time to give those middle-income families the priority, the attention and the break. After all, the large corporate sector in the country has already had a 35% tax cut.

We would put our emphasis on issues like home care, education, family caregiving and pensions. We would try our best to control the burden of payroll taxes. As the hon. gentleman just said, a payroll tax kills jobs. While the government claims to be reducing income taxes for corporations, it is increasing the payroll tax burden for every small business in this country by a combined total over the next four years of $16.6 billion, and that will kill jobs in this country.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 17th, 2011 / 10:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this very important motion concerning, among other things, the ongoing discussions at the finance committee on the Liberals' plan to increase taxes on job-creating businesses and, consequently, on workers, consumers and families. As a mother of five children, I can say that this would hurt my family, along with many others, particularly single mothers.

Before I begin, let me be clear up front that there has been some confusion as to what we are talking about with respect to our Conservative government's low tax plan. This is not a new plan. This is a plan that was first introduced in 2007 and passed by Parliament in 2007. This is a plan that has been in law since 2007. This is a plan that has been accounted for in the government's books since 2007. Most importantly, over 110,000 businesses have been making their investment and hiring decisions based on our low tax plan since 2007.

I note that at the time the Liberals were more than supportive of lowering business taxes. Indeed, this is what the Liberal leader had to say in the fall of 2007 on the subject. He stated:

I am convinced that a further reduction in the corporate tax rate cut is the right thing to do...How, for the sake of good jobs and rising living standards, can we encourage Canadian companies to increase their investments? The answer is simple... lower the corporate tax rate--

I repeat that good jobs and rising living standards are what the Liberal leader believed are affected by lowering corporate taxes. However, under their new leader, the Liberals have shifted even more dramatically to the left and embraced the business bashing rhetoric and tax and spend philosophy of their NDP coalition partner.

The Liberals' dramatic shift to the left, along with their reckless plan to hike taxes on business, is now the centre of debate here today. The tax hike plan is really getting Canadian businesses and the people who work for them very nervous, especially as they try to climb out of the worst global recession since the 1930s in a period of tentative recovery.

I know the sponsor of today's motion is from the province of Saskatchewan, which is where I was born. I would ask him to talk to his constituents and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. I am not sure that he has done that yet. If he had, I am not sure he would be so keen on demonizing businesses in his home province and advocating for punishing tax hikes.

I would ask him to listen to what the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce wrote in an open letter. It stated:

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is extremely disappointed to see the issue of planned business tax reductions, and the ability of Canada's businesses to foster sustainable economic growth, which has become hostage to political manoeuvring...

Following through on the business tax reduction agenda is critical to moving from government- and Canadian taxpayer-funded-stimulus to a private sector-led recovery. The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce believes improving the business climate to trigger private sector investment is the most significant economic issue now confronting Canada...

The alternative to that, of course, is an increase in taxes. We do not believe raising taxes would be good for growth or employment...

...the tax reductions parliamentarians have endorsed since 2007 will free up capital to be put to work growing Canada's businesses and its economy... If parliamentarians renege on their commitment to continue with promised tax decreases, you can be certain that many businesses will not be able to pursue their plans.

I am going to suggest the people of Saskatchewan will not look too kindly on a politician who suggests that taxes be raised in their province, hurting their local businesses and costing them local jobs for their families. I am also going to suggest that the Liberal Party actually talk to small businesses. In recent weeks, shamefully, the Liberal Party has been standing up bizarrely claiming small businesses want to pay higher taxes.

To be clear, that is 100% wrong and Canadians need to know that. I know because I stood right beside Catherine Swift, the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business when she said she supports our plan.

For the record let me quote what the CFIB actually said:

I'd just like to clarify that the corporate income tax reductions are not exclusively a big business issue for a lot of different reasons. The small and medium-sized business sector is very integrated with the large business sector in Canada. Therefore, measures that benefit one also benefit the other. We also have seen, right through the economy, that our very competitive corporate tax climate, which is viewed around the world as very attractive, already brought investment to Canada, and naturally, that's a win for everyone, all businesses and also for the creation of employment. I think also...when a plan gets announced, businesses take that into account in their own planning and to change this now in the middle of the game, I think, creates a lot of very serious problems in terms of our reputation as a country on the international scene and also for our businesses here in Canada.

Having clearly heard that quote from the CFIB in its entirety, I ask once and for all that the Liberals stop distorting the views of Canadian small businesses about the Liberals' tax hike plan. In fact, the member for Kings—Hants should apologize for intentionally misquoting the CFIB.

This all goes to a larger issue. What we have here is a fundamental disagreement. Our Conservative government believes hard-working Canadians should not be paying higher taxes. We believe lower taxes help job creation and economic growth. Our low tax plan has already shown signs that it is working and making Canada an attractive place for business to invest and create jobs.

I think of one example that all Canadians could relate to, which is Tim Hortons and what transpired a few years back. Tim Hortons, that Canadian icon, actually left Canada in the 1990s like many businesses at the time because of the high tax policies of the previous Liberal government. But after Parliament passed our low tax plan in 2007, Tim Hortons recognized that Canada was once again open for business and not solely open to tax business like under the Liberals. Tim Hortons swiftly moved back to Canada as a direct result.

In the words of a Calgary Herald editorial at the time:

Talk about a double-double blessing! ...Canada's national coffee--Tim Hortons--is leaving Delaware and coming home, for all the right reasons. That is, after years during which Canadian business rightly complained of being at a tax disadvantage compared to its U.S. competitors, the pendulum has swung and Timmies now reckons it will do better north of the border.... [I]t shows Canada is doing something right. Rule one in public economics is that people respond to the incentives they're offered. That a company such as Tim Hortons is prepared to go through the upheaval of moving its head office to take advantage of a lower tax environment shows business tax cuts...are starting to work.

Clearly, a strong economy means more financially secure Canadian families.

But the Liberal opposition believes Canadians and Canadian businesses are not sending enough of their hard-earned money to Ottawa. That is why the Liberals are pushing for higher taxes, be it a GST hike, business tax hikes or an iPod tax, to help fill government coffers in Ottawa. Why would we do that to Canadians? The Liberals would use taxpayers' money to bankroll their big government schemes, like providing benefits to people after a 45-day work year.

Clearly, when it comes to taxes we have different views.

This debate has been occurring at finance committee over the past few months. Over the course of the committee's prebudget consultations, group after group and expert after expert was asked what they thought of our government's low tax plan and what they thought of the Liberals' tax hike plan.

What did the finance committee hear? The testimony was nearly unanimous in support of our Conservative government's plan to keep taxes low for job creators and against the Liberals' plan to attack them. Groups like the Mining Association of British Columbia, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and more were all united in telling the finance committee tax hikes are a bad idea for our economy and for jobs.

As the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told the committee:

The single most important or most damaging thing the government could do at this point to stall the recovery would be to cancel the planned tax reductions. Business has been planning on them. The private sector has been hiring based on them.... If suddenly those were repealed at this point, the impact would be to get business to shelve its plans for expansion and getting people back to work.

I am stunned. The Liberal-Bloc Québécois-NDP coalition recently banded together to endorse a Liberal motion to essentially harm Canada's economic growth and kill jobs, especially after all the witnesses before the committee so strongly supported our Conservative government's ambitious plan to support job creators.

Even more recently, the finance committee invited Ian Lee, the director of the Master of Business Administration program at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business. We asked Ian Lee at finance committee what he thought about the debate on business taxes. Here is what he said at length:

“I've followed the debate over the past two months and I'm just astonished at the debate. There has been no reference to the OECD, to their 10-year tax policy research branch studies. They have published dozens and dozens and dozens of studies which have concluded irrevocably without condition that corporate taxes are the most harmful type of tax for economic growth. There is no ambiguity in the research. None, none, zip, nada. So I know that's going to upset some people but that's a fact....The OECD research for 10 years, across many, many scholars, has found that income per capita goes down. Or you can put it in reverse: the lower the corporate taxes, the higher the income per person. The scholarship is very clear on that. So I'm answering your question: if corporate taxation goes up, income per capita will go down....The scholarship is unambiguous and an increase in taxes is merely a disguised tax on workers or consumers. That's all it is.... It's going to raise prices or cause wages to go down.”

That was an expert, Ian Lee, on making sure corporate tax reduction continues. Mr. Lee's findings have been supported recently by experts like the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, University of Calgary Professor Jack Mintz, and many more who have released detailed reports showing our low tax plan is crucial to keeping Canada's economy strong. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Indeed, I would like to draw the attention of Parliament, and especially of Canadian families, to one finding in particular from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' report.

We know debates like this can get a little theoretical. We know sometimes we can get lost in big and competing numbers, but let us bring it down to a more personal level. To do that, let us look at two numbers from the report of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. The report, which is available online, indicated for the final two portions alone of our low tax plan, among the many economic benefits would be an increase in personal incomes of Canadians by a whopping $30.4 billion, or an increase of 2.4%, and an increase of personal income of $880 per capita. That is $880 per person.

That might not seem like a lot of money to a Liberal leader who summers in France, but for the average Canadian family, that is a big amount. That is what this debate is all about: jobs, economic growth and how we can make Canadian families more financially secure.

I recognize there is some debate today about our government's record of transparency versus the Liberal record, but I am quite comfortable with what our government has done to better inform Canadians about how we spend their tax dollars. Indeed, we are the government that created the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We are the government that passed a law requiring all federal departments and agencies to produce detailed quarterly financial statements. We are the government that produced groundbreaking progress report after progress report on the economic action plan, something even Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, said, “really put Canada almost at the forefront in fiscal transparency and stimulus”. That is our record.

What is the Liberal record? It is spending scandal after spending scandal that had to be uncovered, everything from the sponsorship scandal to the HRSDC boondoggle, to the wasteful long gun registry, and the list goes on and on.

Today's debate is also about transparency and who will stand up for taxpayers. On that, only our Conservative government has been clear. We will not support tax increases on workers, families and businesses. We will stay committed to our low tax plan to create jobs.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke at length about Tim Hortons. I would like to ask her whether the benefit she mentioned, the return of Tim Hortons, was not simply related to Wendy's, the American parent company that held 100% of Tim Hortons. Through an IPO—initial public offering—and share dividends for its shareholders, Tim Hortons was returned to Wendy's shareholders.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question about Tim Hortons. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we are very proud of Tim Hortons, which is recognized throughout Canada and the United States as a Canadian company. It is because the Conservative government decided to lower income taxes that Tim Hortons decided to return here, to Canada.

I encourage Bloc members to celebrate Tim Hortons, a Canadian company, with us. Quebeckers enjoy their double-doubles with the rest of Canada.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, for the member for Saint Boniface, the motion reads in part, “the cost of the government's justice and public safety agenda, represents a violation of the rights of Parliament”.

We are talking about transparency. The member for Saint Boniface made specific reference to the importance of transparency.

Does the member for Saint Boniface not believe that the House of Commons, Parliament, the members inside this chamber have a right to know what the costs are of these megaprisons and the policy the government is espousing in regard to the crime and safety bills, such as the one we passed yesterday?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to hear the Liberal member for Winnipeg North talk about public safety and justice.

There is a cost to ensuring the safety and security of all the constituents in his riding where I worked for most of my police career. There is a cost to making sure they are safe. Almost all Canadians agree with our plan to ensure that we spend the money required to make them safe and secure.

I worked the streets of the north end; my mother lives in the north end. It is unfortunately one of the most violent areas of the city of Winnipeg. Unfortunately, the city of Winnipeg suffers from the label of having an excessive amount of violent crime. I challenge the member to do the right thing because the members of his community agree with me and they agree with this government to do what it takes and to spend the money to protect them from violent crime.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not even quite sure where to start.

When the member began her speech, she started talking about single mothers and corporate tax cuts. I can imagine her campaign workers wearing huge buttons that say “Single moms for corporate tax cuts”.

Then she went on about the government's tax agenda being particularly good for small businesses. She should come and talk to some of the small businesses on Hamilton Mountain in Ontario that are being devastated by the imposition of the HST.

None of those things are actually before us in the motion we are debating here today. Today's motion is about accountability. It is about transparency. It is about the government's refusal to release to members of this House and therefore, more importantly, to Canadians the cost of the Conservatives' crime agenda and the projections of the cost of their corporate tax cuts.

I want to read for the member a quote from her leader from five years ago when her leader, now the Prime Minister of Canada, said:

Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions, and incompetent or corrupt governance can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy.

Would the member not agree that her leader was right five years ago when he said that members of Parliament need to have access to information? It is the only way we as parliamentarians can make informed decisions.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will first tackle the fact that single mothers, which is what I was for three years, benefit from the government's low tax plan. We benefit from other decisions made by the government that were not supported by the NDP. I spent $1,200 a month on daycare as a single mother. I would have liked an extra $100 to decide where to put that money because I could not get my children into daycare when I worked shift work.

I would really like the member to speak to the people of Hamilton about that and a number of other things. This what the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce said about our plan:

Our members are from all sectors and collectively employ 75,000 citizens.

We are likewise of the opinion that this remains fundamentally essential to the future well being of private sector jobs and prosperity in Hamilton and Canada.

In 2007 the federal government announced a series of graduated corporate tax reductions designed to keep Canada competitive with our trading partners, many of whom have reduced corporate and payroll taxes in recent years, even through the recent recession.

Employment and investment has been predicated on the availability of funds that, if the tax changes are reversed, will no longer be available. This will have a negative impact on economic growth.

I would ask the member to listen to the people of Hamilton, whom she proposes to represent, because they agree with us, not with her.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I represent a rural riding and it may be a surprise to the opposition coalition that many of the businesses in rural Ontario today are incorporated, such as feed mills, grain elevators, large farms, dairy farms, chicken farms, pork farms and many more. They are the job creators in our communities and the opposition wants to raise taxes on the job creators that are vital to rural communities, such as rural Huron—Bruce.

Would the member for Saint Boniface explain to the House and Canadians watching how our government is helping job creators in rural Canada?

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has actually been not just a colleague but a friend to me here in the House. We were elected at the same time and we have learned an awful lot. He is working very hard for his community. I look to him quite often to hear about what is going on in his community so that we can get this right for it.

He has touched on things we are doing right for his community members. He has touched on the fact that our low tax rates will affect not only urban centres, but the rural areas have small businesses that are affected by every tax hike that the Liberals are proposing. They will have to pay higher GST because the Liberals have promised to hike GST. They will potentially be hit with a $75 iPod tax for their children, which the Liberals have proposed. Those families will have to look at potential carbon taxes, proposed and created by the Liberals and promised.

I appreciate the member sharing the information about his community members to make it better for them. He is doing the right thing and we are alongside him doing the right thing for his community members.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member said that the cost is worth it. She says that she knows the cost, so she should table the cost. What is the cost? There are a total of 24 crime bills before the House. I will not read them all since there are a lot. We have the cost of exactly zero of them. We have the head count of exactly zero of them.

The one bill we did challenge, which is Bill C-25, the minister said:

We're not exactly sure how much it will cost us. There are some low estimates, and some that would see more spent — not more than $90 million.

The only bill we ever received a number on was the amount of $90 million, but when the PBO did an eight-month report, with which they stonewalled the Bloc, the cost was $10 billion to $13 billion.

The Conservatives would understand, I would hope, that we are not just trusting them to take a Father Knows Best attitude. If the member knows the costs, she should table them.