House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

National Tree Day
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that you seek consent to see the clock at 6:30 p.m.

National Tree Day
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

National Tree Day
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year we will be noting an incredible anniversary, the 120th year since the first arrival of Ukrainian Canadian pioneers on the shores of this great nation of ours, Canada.

As they arrived, they got on to trains and headed west to Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. In fact, Saskatchewan and Alberta were not provinces at that time. They transformed what was the bush of the Northwest Territories and of Manitoba into the golden wheat fields of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

It is an incredible history of perseverance and nation building. In fact, I have said this in meetings out in western Canada. When we talk about the tremendous contribution those pioneers made in building Canada, the Ukrainian Canadian community, those hearty pioneers that began arriving in waves 120 years ago, are in fact one of the founding peoples of our great country.

There was a labour of love that was worked on and built in Edmonton. It is called the Ukrainian Canadian Archives & Museum of Alberta. It was first open to the public in 1974. It includes over 2,000 artifacts, 40,000 books, 5,000 photographs, 400 pieces of art, 300 maps and a collection of 320 newspaper titles from 17 countries, archival documents that tell a story of those pioneers.

I have had the incredible opportunity to look at some of those documents. I have read letters written by young women who arrived and had to basically burrow in crates to get through the harsh prairie winter that first year. They wrote back home and talked of how they had lost their children during that first winter and the hardships that they went through in those first years.

We have a beautiful outdoor architectural museum in Alberta, where we see those original thatched huts and some of the churches those pioneers built after establishing themselves. However, there is nothing that actually has wide public access which talks about and documents the story of what took place.

This is the role of the archives museum in Edmonton. People there have been waiting for years for the federal government to step forward. The municipal government of Edmonton and the provincial government each came forward with $3 million. The community came forward with large amounts. The Chwyl Family Foundation put in $750,000. They were looking for a contribution of $6 million from the federal government to match the funds. In the fall, the government announced $6.25 million in a press announcement, which everyone took at face value. That meant this archival museum would finally open and the documents would not be lost. It turns out that this included the provincial funding of $3 million.

Why has the government not come forward with the funding required for this museum?

5:45 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, our government believes that museums have an important role to play in communities across the country, and that is why we have taken a number of steps that will strengthen our museums.

As was noted in the House last week, we created not one but two national museums during our mandate: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. These are the first new national museums to be created in Canada in 40 years.

Our support for museums does not end with the creation of these two new crown corporations. It has taken many forms and has been demonstrated through our actions. For instance, we have taken steps to stimulate more individual and corporate investment in our cultural institutions. In budgets 2006 and 2007, the government eliminated the capital gains tax for listed securities donated to charities, including museums. Museums report that these measures have stimulated new donations.

In budget 2007, we announced $5 million in new funding for summer internships specifically targeted at small and medium museums. Budget 2009 committed an additional $60 million in a two year fund through the Canada cultural spaces fund to support infrastructure related costs for local and community cultural and heritage institutions.

In April 2010, the government announced $15 million in additional funding for this fiscal year to assist four national museums in meeting their operational costs during a difficult financial period.

Taken together, these measures represent a significant investment in museums across the country, and our support continues.

I would like to turn the House's attention specifically to the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum, the organization on which our hon. colleague's question is based. The federal government is a partner in this museum project. Recently, the Minister of State for Transport announced joint federal-provincial funding of $6.25 million toward the relocation of the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum.

The Government of Canada is proud to support this important cultural infrastructure initiative that showcases the unique contributions of Ukrainian culture in our country's history. With this support, the museum will relocate to a new home that will allow for the improved display of its artifacts, permanent interpretive exhibit space and a library and archives as well.

Through sound investments in our museums, we are ensuring that Canadians will have access to our rich heritage today and in the future.

March 1st, 2011 / 5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the announcement was not enough.

The reason that this is so important was illustrated in literature put out by the member for Edmonton East which said that the present UCAM building does not provide the proper environment to house the extensive ethnographic or tribal and library collections of the museum. Without such an environment, there is a risk of damage to many unique artifacts that are an important part of Canadian cultural history. In fact, this past summer many documents were water damaged because they are improperly housed.

Why has the government shortchanged the commitment it made as far back as two years ago? Why is it not providing the full amount necessary to move this museum into the new facility that is there and waiting to be opened up to the public?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, national museums, including the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Pier 21, are federal crown corporations established under the Museums Act.

Our government has created two new national museums in the term of our mandate, representing a significant capital and operational investment.

Major investments in non-federal museum building projects are made through the building Canada infrastructure program. There is no designation of status associated with such support, which is an important distinction to keep in mind.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow up on a question that I asked in the House some time ago. The question came about on the day that the food banks of Canada released their hunger count for 2010 showing that food bank usage in Canada was up 9%, which meant that over two years food bank usage was up by 28% overall. We are closing in on a million Canadians who use the food bank on a regular basis.

When I asked the question, I used a comparison because governments make choices. The comparison I used was that the government had very little interest or motivation to help those most in need. For example, it spent $8,704 on a power cord for the G8 summit, as part of the billion dollar boondoggle for the meeting that happened in June of last year. Those are the kind of choices that offend and insult Canadians.

Poverty has been increasing. This was evidenced not only by the hunger count that came out last November, and which comes out ever year, but also by a report from the Citizens for Public Justice and their partners, World Vision, which showed that in the last two years poverty in Canada has been on a steady increase. In fact, poverty has gone up from around 9.5% to 12% and child poverty has gone up from 9.7% to 12%. These are startling figures. This means that many Canadians, our neighbours, people that we see, are not making it and they are not enjoying the wealth that is Canada. The tragedy is that they received no benefit from the stimulus package.

It is a double whammy for the poorest people, for those who are in poverty and for those who are near poverty because not only did they get no benefit from the stimulus, but we can be sure as shootin' guaranteed that they will be the ones who will be victimized by the cuts to pay for the Conservative mismanagement of the economy.

I will give another comparison and a particularly startling one. Yesterday we had a report about some 80 members of the government caucus doing a blitz on Canada's economic action plan. This was a $6.5 million media campaign, paid for by the taxpayer, to promote the action plan on radio and TV. This was $6.5 million in a very short period of time to promote an action plan that was totally out of action but it could not find $7 million to fund KAIROS over five years. These are the kinds of things that offend Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

KAIROS is made up of Canada's leading church organizations, supported by radicals like Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mennonites and Evangelical Fellowship. It is ridiculous that the Conservatives make these choices and do nothing for those most in need but can at the same time spend money on those things that benefit them. That is not a good deal for Canadians and it does nothing for those who are the poorest. I would suggest that it is unconscionable and offensive.

My colleague who will answer this question is on the human resources committee. We have just completed a major study on poverty. We know the things we need to do to reduce poverty. We need to invest in early learning and child care in order to give every child an opportunity to learn. We need to invest in programs that will give people the opportunity to go on to post-secondary education.

However, whenever we raise these questions, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development insults Canadians by suggesting that any plan that calls for early learning and child care forces Canadians to have other people raise their children, ignoring the fact that some 70% of Canadians are two income families. She insults Canadians on the issue of employment insurance as well.

There is a growing movement in this country of people who are interested in fighting poverty. It includes everybody from faith groups to business organizations to labour organizations to provincial governments, six of which already have anti-poverty plans. What it does not include is the federal Government of Canada which has refused to have an anti-poverty plan and which told the United Nations, when it told Canada specifically that it should have an anti-poverty plan, no, that it was not its problem.

There are people who are falling behind, people who are way behind and people who need help. I think Canadians, by and large, want to help those who need assistance, and instead the government turns a blind eye. We need to have some assistance for those living in poverty and the government is standing by and doing nothing.

5:55 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this important issue.

I hear some of the things the member has been saying with respect to poverty and that is why we have taken a significant number of steps to address this issue. There are a number of projects across the country, over 22,000, creating jobs. Our Conservative government believes that the best way to fight poverty is to get Canadians working and, thanks to the actions we have taken, that is exactly what is happening. In fact, since July 2009 we have created over 460,000 new jobs. In fact, 260,000 initial jobs were saved through job sharing. If the member and his party had their way, there would be a loss of 400,000 jobs.

We have made unprecedented investments in skills training which last year alone helped over 1.2 million Canadians transition to new jobs. We have introduced the working income tax benefit to make work pay for Canadians. We are trying to get over the welfare wall. In the first year alone, one million low-income Canadians benefited. In fact, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour himself praised the government for introducing the working income tax benefit. We have introduced historic registered disability savings plans to help Canadians save for the long term financial security of a child with a disability. We continue to pursue our low tax plans so that Canadians have more money in their pockets to spend on what is important to them and their families. We have improved social transfers to the provinces so they now have access to predictable and growing funding.

Those are just a few examples. Time does not permit going through the long list of initiatives we have taken and introduced to help low-income Canadians and their families.

Our record is one of action, whereas the Liberals' record is one of empty talk and failure. They had 13 years to do it and failed to do anything or address any of the issues that the member raises. They are best known for their decision to slash social transfers to the provinces by a whopping $25 billion. That meant drastically less funding for health care, post-secondary education and programs to help low-income Canadians. What does the member have to say to that?

The Liberal member for Markham—Unionville admitted that these cuts had a devastating impact. He said:

I think, in hindsight, the Chretien government--even though I'm a Liberal--cut perhaps too deeply, too much offloading, with the benefit of hindsight. And there were some negative effects

Of course there were.

The Liberal finance critic, the member for Kings—Hants, echoed the sentiment when he said that the Liberal government made the wrong choices and slashed transfers to provinces. He went on to say, “The provinces are still scrambling to catch up on the lost Martin years of inadequate funding”.

Now the self-proclaimed tax-and-spend Liberal leader is pursuing a campaign to raise taxes on Canadians and job creators. Independent experts have stated that the LIberal plan will kill an estimated 400,000 jobs. This is not the way to proceed.

I will quote the Liberal member for Kings—Hants, who very nicely summed up the devastating impact the Liberal tax hike plan would have on low-income Canadians. He stated:

--we cannot increase corporate taxes without losing corporate investment. If we lose corporate investment, we have a less productive economy. That means lower paying jobs. That means fewer jobs. That means more poverty.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour should listen to his finance critic and abandon the Liberal plan to raise taxes. He should speak to his leader. He should instead support our government's plans that are getting Canadians working and putting more money into the pockets of Canadians so they can address the issue of poverty. He should get behind these plans and convince his leader to drop his plan to hike taxes that would cost an estimated 400,000 jobs.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hallmark of Liberal governments is that we clean up Conservative messes and turn them around. In fact, it was under the Liberals that poverty was reduced very significantly from the mid to late 1990s to the point that it had gone down to 9.5% both for child poverty and for poverty. Now it is back up to 12%. That is the legacy of this government so far. It has absolutely no concern for those Canadians most in need.

Every organization that has looked at this knows this. We can name them: Campaign 2000, Citizens for Public Justice, Make Poverty History, Canada Without Poverty. In my own area there are the Faces of Poverty, the housing coalitions, the people who are working at the ground level on poverty. They know what we need. Not one of them would say that what we need to do is further reduce corporate taxes when corporate taxes are already 25% below the United States. They would say that we should invest in people, in families, in early learning and in helping our parents when they are aging. They would say that, for heaven's sake, we should at the very least stand up as a responsible government in a country as traditionally generous as Canada and accept that as the federal government we have a responsibility to help those most in need.

People just need help. We will figure out those details. There are all kinds of things the government can do but it needs to stand up and do something for the people in Canada who need help. That is what they deserve.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I cannot imagine the hon. member saying that when he knows the record is that in the 1990s the Liberals slashed $25 billion in provincial transfers that affected health care, education and programs for low income Canadians. They took $50 billion from the EI fund and used it for their own pet political projects.

He says that we should be doing something for those who find themselves with low incomes. In fact, we have invested funds in that. We have made sure that transfers are not cut to the provinces. It is interesting that the Liberals had 13 years to do something about that and they did not.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour himself admitted the Liberals failed to help low income Canadians. He stated, “We didn't get to where we need to get”. His Liberal colleague from York Centre agreed, and when speaking about the Liberal record on poverty stated, “We didn't do as well as we would have wanted to do”. In fact, they did not get it done in 13 years. It was always if they might have done it, had they had another term. The fact is they did not do it.

The provinces are just now starting to recover from the infrastructure losses they experienced because of the cut in transfer payments.

6 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to raise a question put to the Minister of Finance. The question was put on November 1, 2 and 4. Why did I raise this question three times? I raised it three times and am raising it again today because I have been hearing complaints from my constituents that the government has chosen to impose the HST on the citizens of Alberta. That is taxation without representation.

The government claims that it is the party of the people, that of grassroots democracy. Yet not one single member of Parliament in the Conservative Party across the way has stood to defend Albertans against the imposition of this unfair tax on which they have not even been consulted.

I took the time today to again contact the office of the former minister of finance of Alberta. Why is that? I did it because apparently the former minister of finance of Alberta, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature, had continually written to the government, demanding an answer to why the HST was being imposed on the residents of Alberta. His office advised me that just before he stepped down from that position, there had still been no reply from the government as to why it had allowed the imposition of the HST on the citizens of Alberta when there has not been one iota of consultation with them.

I previously raised examples in the House of where this tax was being imposed. I heard from Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in my riding, which was absolutely outraged to discover that it was being forced to pay HST when shipping unsold books back to Ontario. The Minister of Finance suggested to me that nothing had changed. Yet in going through its invoices, it was very clear that previously the company only paid the GST and is now having to pay a greater fee because it is paying the HST. Essentially, the federal government is being a broker in allowing Ontario to tax Albertans when there is no specific benefit to Albertans from the imposition of this tax.

This was a huge issue in British Columbia. The premier of British Columbia fell from his position because of the imposition of the HST. There was great consternation. People spoke against it. In Alberta it did not occur to anybody to speak against the HST because there was no thought that the tax was going to be imposed there. Albertans are very proud of the fact that they do not have a sales tax. A lot of Albertans have woken up to realize that the federal government has nefariously worked out a deal with Ontario to impose the HST on Albertans.

I want to share with the House an email that I received yesterday from a constituent who said: “I hope you folks can continue the pressure for a change of application of the HST. It really upsets those of us in non-HST provinces, particularly Alberta, to find we are paying HST on some of the most expensive items in our family budget, investments and insurance”.

I might add that the government, in its wisdom, has now backtracked on its undertaking that it would consider increases in the CPP and, instead, wants to invent yet another private investment scheme. Albertans can look forward to paying HST on that plan as well.

This person further said: “I know there are other retailers who charge HST simply because they are headquartered in Toronto. Is it not asking too much that the federal tax laws be changed so that tax be applied to anything of the province of residence, not the province of the headquarters? In the age of computers, this is so simple. Why has this not been changed by now? What was an oversight is now a ripoff benefiting Ontario primarily”.

I stand in the House again to raise this question on behalf of the people of Alberta. Why on earth is the Government of Canada allowing the imposition of the HST in Alberta?

6:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate having the opportunity to respond to the NDP on this question.

First, we need to be clear, very clear, that provincial taxes are a provincial responsibility. That includes decisions about harmonized sales taxes. As former premier of Ontario and the current Liberal MP for Toronto Centre recently remarked, “It's up to the provinces to decide whether they want to proceed with a harmonized tax. It's a decision for them, not us”.

Provinces have full independence to make decisions on sales tax matters. These are exclusive decisions of provincial governments, not the federal government. Recently, certain provincial governments made changes to their provincial tax system. A couple of them decided to replace their sales tax system with another.

The recently elected NDP Nova Scotia government decided to increase its sales tax. As the Chronicle Herald reported last year: “Nova Scotia sales tax is going up to 15% in July. The increase of two percentage points in the harmonized sales tax in the NDP's first full year budget breaks Premier Darrell Dexter's campaign promise that the NDP wouldn't raise taxes”.

I would add the NDP tax hike in Nova Scotia is an important lesson for any Canadian looking at the NDP here in Ottawa.

Again, these were all provincial decisions, not federal decisions. There was no revenue impact at the federal level.

Nevertheless, as a result of recent provincial decisions, questions have come up in provinces, like Alberta, about changes in cost on mail and courier services. Again, nothing has changed at the federal level. For mail and courier services, sales tax has always been applied on the basis of where the consumption takes place.

If the NDP members have an issue with a provincial tax decision, they need to talk to a provincial government to have that debate not a previous provincial representative but the provincial government.

This is a federal Parliament, so let us talk about federal taxes, specifically lowering them. Unlike the NDP, our Conservative government believes leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians is the right thing to do. Unlike the NDP, we have the record to prove it.

Since coming to office in 2006 we cut over 100 taxes, reducing taxes in every way government collects them. We removed over one million low income Canadians completely from the tax roll. We reduced the overall tax burden to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. We cut taxes for all Canadians, even those who do not earn enough to pay personal income tax. That is when we cut the GST to 5%.

Shockingly, the NDP has voted against every tax cut we introduced. I ask the NDP a very simple question, why did it oppose lowering the GST for Canadian families and why does it continue to oppose every incentive to lower taxes for Canadians, including Albertans?

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the parliamentary secretary standing up and saying that the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia and everybody else should speak for taxation of Albertans.

I am standing up on behalf of Albertans. I am the only one in the House standing up on behalf of Albertans who were not consulted in HST initiatives, initiated by the government.

Yes, some provinces bought in to the proposal, but this whole harmonized sales tax was initiated by the government. Alberta has not opted into this process and Albertans have to pay the tax. It is completely unfair. Albertans should have been informed of the implications of the negotiation of these terms with other provinces.

That concern has been raised repeatedly by ministers of finance in Alberta. I am simply repeating that concern through this House.

Yes, I am proud to stand up and say that I voted—