House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to return the member's comments. I served with him on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. He was an outstanding vice-chair of that committee. He certainly made it work and I commend him for his work, for instance, on the report we did in 2007 which recognized that we had to do something for the manufacturing sector and thereby implemented the changes with respect to the accelerated capital cost allowance. So I certainly commend him for his work there.

I remember the promise made in the last election campaign. Obviously, that was a promise made over a full term of government which we hoped to see.

In terms of reducing fuel costs though, this government has reduced costs overall in terms of consumers and namely with respect to the goods and services tax, from 7% to 6% to 5%. That is the biggest thing that could be done, whether for someone putting gas in a car, or buying a new home. The biggest change we could make for consumers is to reduce the GST, which we have done.

In terms of the fuel excise tax, we will see what happens in the next campaign which we expect will start in the next few days. However, I appreciate the member's question and his work, and I thank him for his comments.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc on the good job he does chairing the Standing Committee on Finance.

I would like to ask him what he thinks about the fact that there is no mention in the budget of compensation for Quebec for the harmonization of the two taxes, the GST and the QST, when such compensation was given to other provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces; when the Government of Quebec has been requesting compensation for the harmonization of these taxes since 1997, as was confirmed yesterday; and when Quebec is paying its share, 25%, of the compensation being given to other provinces for tax harmonization.

Why is a settlement not even mentioned in the current budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, first I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for his work on the Standing Committee on Finance.

It is a valid question because if the sales tax with the province of Quebec were harmonized with the federal government, my expectation is there would be some form of agreement that would be modelled on the agreements that occurred between the federal government and the Atlantic provinces, British Columbia and Ontario.

However, the fact is that the sales tax is not harmonized as it is currently. That is why our finance minister and the finance minister of Quebec are working very hard to try to reach an agreement where it is harmonized. Once that agreement takes place, my expectation is that a similar model will be applied, as was applied with the Atlantic provinces and with British Columbia and Ontario.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise to say that my hon. colleague from Edmonton is far too good an MP to really believe the speaking points he was sent in here to read today.

There is only one glaring choice made in that budget that for me summarizes justification for the fact that every other party in the House rejects the government's 2011 budget. The Calgary Stampede is getting $5 million to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Grey Cup is getting $5 million to celebrate its 100th anniversary. That is $10 million, but the total amount for youth crime prevention and gang prevention is $7 million a year. How can we support—

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I will have to give the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc 35 seconds to respond.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I can assure my colleague and send him my notes to show that I, in fact, wrote the speech myself. They are my own talking points.

With respect to the funding, I believe the Grey Cup is an event of national importance and events of national importance ought to be supported by their government. The Calgary Stampede, in my view, fits that category. That is what we did with programs like the marquee tourism events program. We try to support events across the country which are of incredible national importance.

In response to the question, if he does not want to listen to me or my party, he can listen to the universities and colleges in his region, to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and even to the Canadian Labour Congress, which is advising the NDP to think seriously about this budget, look at the support for—

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of Labour.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to be here today talking about the budget. I think it is incredibly important that we have a full discussion on the important issues that are facing us today and that we also take a look at the solutions that we have presented to the people in order to make it through the next phase of the recovery from the recession.

At the very core of it, I am very proud to represent the constituency of Halton. I am the mother of two boys. They are nine and six years old. My worries, when I am home in the riding, are with regard to the economy. I am concerned about jobs for my family, for my friends, and for my neighbours. I am concerned about the rising costs in my household. I am concerned about whether or not my friends and family, and myself can make ends meet. I am also concerned that my kids are safe and healthy. So when I, in this House, take a look at the budget, first and foremost, that is how I look at it. I look at it as what we call that ordinary, typical family, that person who is worrying about those kinds of things that I just talked about.

What do I see in this budget? I see support for job creation. I see support for families. I see that support for communities. I see investment in innovation, education and training, those kinds of things that are going to help my kids to do better in the future, and my community to do better. I also see what I very much like, which is a plan to ensure that we are taking care of the expenses in government, that we are looking after taxpayers' dollars. All of these things will allow me to manage my day-to-day life.

The child arts tax credit would be incredibly beneficial for a lot of my residents in Halton. Indeed, we have already proven that we care about families, with $3,000 for the average family being saved already from the measures that we have put in place. I am very proud of these things. That is why I know that this proposed budget would make a difference for residents in Halton because I know it would make a difference in my life.

It is important to understand that this budget was built from the ground up, that it was a process that was thoughtful, and we had gone through very specific steps.

As a local member of Parliament, I consulted with municipal councillors, with businesses, with seniors, and with local families. However, as the Minister of Labour, my job is to ensure, as well, that the workplace is the most productive, healthy, innovative, and positive place that we can have people working in because it is there where the economy grows. It is there where we do the great things we need to do in order to ensure that our country continues to prosper.

I was lucky enough to go to consultations in Sydney, Nova Scotia, the place where I was brought up. I was in Thunder Bay. I was in Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver and Iqaluit. I made sure in every single case that organized labour had input. I am the daughter of a Cape Breton labour organizer and very proud of it. I respect and I want to hear that voice.

We also had experts in the fields of occupational health and safety as well as labour relations. We listened, we responded, and we heard.

So, what have we done from the labour perspective?

First and foremost, a strike or a work stoppage on the economy could be absolutely devastating. If we were to have a rail strike in this country, we would see a cost to the economy of $125 million a week. Not only that, it is the harm to the third parties, those innocent parties who are not part of the collective bargaining process, who have to live with what is happening at the table, who will feel the pain associated with the work stoppage.

Our role in Labour Canada is to ensure that the parties come to an agreement. That is why we are providing money for preventative mediation and conciliation services to ensure that work stoppages do not happen in Canada. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Never more has this been more appropriate in this case.

In consultations, we listened and we heard from employees about the importance and the dignity of continuing to work past the age of 65. People want to work past 65. There is no question about it. Indeed, on my town hall teleconference on Tuesday night with members of my community, I was told that by separate residents, that they have retired, they want to use their skills, and they want to be productive. In fact, 65 is just an artificial number in any event, that came inherited to us from the past and is truly meaningless.

However, we listened to employers as well. The importance of listening to employers is that in some cases there truly are some bona fide occupational requirements that are needed in order to ensure that there is a healthy and safe workplace at play.

Finally, in 2008, we introduced the wage earner protection program. It gave certainty to people in the event of a bankruptcy, certainty in two ways: first, they would be paid out in a timely fashion as the government steps into their shoes and assumes their claim in a bankruptcy action; and second, they knew that they would get some form of payment for lost wages, severance and termination.

Before that, they were assured of nothing but a long, protracted legal settlement that they would have to go through and pay for out of their own pocket in order to reclaim their wages. Our government stepped into their shoes. Our government recognized the importance of it. It is a lean, efficient, effective program that delivers rock solid results when workers and families are at their most vulnerable.

I have been thanked by organized labour many times in consultations for this program, but I did hear, as I was in Thunder Bay speaking with two of our candidates, Richard Harvey and Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann, about a situation for workers at the former Atikokan Forest Products where, because of the restructuring effects, they were unable to claim the wage earner protection program. We took those complaints back, and I heard them from organized labour as well, and we introduced in this budget the fix.

The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River has been, in his local media yesterday, discussing this issue too and offering to help his constituents. His complaints regarding the situation and his commiserations with the people are nothing but crocodile tears because he has an opportunity to make a difference in these people's lives. He can do it now, today. Instead, his response is to talk about what will happen after the election. It is not enough. The solution is there. It is too little, too late.

In the past 14 months I have absolutely treasured the ability to be the Minister of Labour, the role I have taken on. I have met good people and I have seen the great work they do, both domestically and internationally on the organized labour scene. I sincerely want to thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity I have had in these past few months.

We all recognize, as I have said before, that the workplace drives the economy. Organized labour recognizes that too. They understand the importance of working with dignity. They have imparted that importance on to me. I take the matter very seriously and I understand very sincerely that these are the issues that are important to them.

As a government, we have listened to organized labour. As a government, we are the ones who have taken their concerns and translated them into effective measures that we are proposing in the budget. That is exactly why Ken Georgetti of the Canada Labour Congress talked about how important it was that we had put in place the provisions for seniors and that we had put in place the provisions for all the matters respecting EI and work sharing. He is pleased with the announcements in the budget about extending work sharing programs, about EI pilot projects, support for laid off older workers, and improving wage protection for laid off workers. That is a great laundry list of items on which we have delivered.

In terms of seniors, he made it very clear that this as well is a budget that is a win for seniors. We have taken care of that matter too. We respected and we listened to the point of view of organized labour, and I am very proud that we were able to do that in this budget.

It is quite unfortunate, however, that there are different opinions in the House with respect to whether or not the point of view of organized labour should be respected in terms of the budget.

In conclusion, labour relations is a very fulfilling field. Getting to a deal at the negotiation table is incredibly satisfying when we know we have done the best we can, we have gone through the process, that we are able to get a deal that is good for our company and good for the people we represent.

Ken Georgetti from the Canada Labour Congress has over 30 years in senior roles at the table. I have great respect for his negotiating skills, and I have greater respect for his innate sense of when to close a deal. He knows how to do a deal. He knows when negotiations are at an end, and that is why, when he said the following, representing 3.2 million brothers and sisters of the organized labour movement, it meant something. He said:

I'd say to [the NDP leader] there's enough in this budget that we want to look at it seriously in the labour movement. We would think that...if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer.

Plain and simple.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the labour minister's speech. I do not think that she said very much about the funding given to the Canadian forestry industry, which amounted to a measly $60 million for the entire country.

Given that the forestry industry provides more jobs than the automotive industry, which received $10 billion from the government, how could she fail to recognize the lack of emphasis that has been put on the forestry industry in the regions?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question with respect to forestry. In my former role as minister of natural resources during the economic recession, I had a large role to play with respect to delivering for the forestry industry.

In the same way, we built the budget and the proposals from the ground up. We talked to the Forest Products Association of Canada, the labour industry and the communities that were being affected, which is why the programs we put in place were very important.

The green infrastructure fund associated with pulp and paper facilities received $1 billion. That went to help pulp and paper facilities upgrade, modernize and become more green and efficient. That was incredibly important. The community adjustment fund assisted communities to ensure they diversified so they would have something more than forestry to deal with in the future.

We also have dedicated resources to marketing. In fact, our forest companies have done a wonderful job of getting to markets in areas that we had not expected before. For example, we are doing great work in China. We were doing great work in Japan with respect to the sale of wood. I know companies do a great job and will continue to do so. Our role in government is to support what the companies want to do and support the workers and the communities.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Labour for the tremendous work she has done with the Conservative government. She has brought to this government some extraordinary talent, skill and devotion that, frankly, was lacking in previous governments.

She commented on several of the things in the budget that would help workers. I would like her to take it home a bit and tell us how this budget would actually help her community and province to ensure the people who need the things provided in the budget get them.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her friendship and kind words. We have done great work this year.

I must point out that I was reading in this week's issue of Maclean's magazine a quote from a senior Liberal adviser who stated that the Liberals needed to win back votes who are largely female, largely under 50, largely suburban and largely non-Anglo-Saxon.

In answer to the member's question, that would be a great description of my riding, quite frankly, and me, except in terms of ethnicity. However, it is clear from the position of the opposition party that the Liberals have given up on that very demographic. They have given up on seniors, young families, working-class people, volunteers, entrepreneurs and students. However, we should not be too surprised. As I said in the beginning, I am here to work for my constituents. I am here only because of my constituents and every day I think about what is better for them.

It is very clear that the coalition will be led by a Leader of the Opposition who is not in it for Canadians, like we are in it for our constituents, and is clearly in it for himself. Otherwise, the opposition would not be turning down a budget that would be very beneficial for my constituents and for people who are severely affected across the country. The leader did not come back for Canadians and that could not be more obvious than right now.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec.

Not surprisingly, I am speaking today to express my disappointment with the current government's budget, which ignores Quebec requests.

When we released our budget expectations in January, we made it clear that certain measures were crucial if the government wanted our support.

For example, one essential condition for our support was that Quebec be given $2.2 billion for tax harmonization. Unfortunately, unlike Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, which was a pioneer in harmonizing taxes—it did so 19 years ago—has been shortchanged. And that was a Conservative decision. The Bloc will propose an amendment to the Conservative budget in order to put an end to this chronic injustice.

When it comes to social issues, the Conservatives have shown that they do not care about the less fortunate. Their budget does nothing to address the well-demonstrated need for real employment insurance reform to reflect the reality faced by workers.

Instead of offering long-term solutions, the Conservative government would rather continue plundering the employment insurance fund, to the tune of $17 billion over five years, and will only commit to pilot projects. In that regard, this government is simply repeating what has always been done in the past. In the end, the employment insurance fund is the government's cash cow, to the detriment of workers.

In particular, Quebec and its regions also needed a real program to assist older workers who have lost their jobs, in order to support them until their retirement. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the Conservatives' rhetoric about the regions and what they are actually doing as a government.

Furthermore, the Quebec manufacturing sector cannot count on any substantial federal policies to help it develop. We submitted some concrete proposals, however, such as funding for research and development for all innovative companies. For example, instead of presenting a real policy for the aerospace industry, which just happens to be concentrated in Quebec, the budget proposes simply reviewing policies.

The Conservatives also continue to favour the wealthy. In order to finance our requests, the Bloc Québécois had submitted a plan that would have allowed Ottawa to increase revenues by $16 billion without dipping into the pockets of middle-class workers.

In particular, we proposed a surtax on the richest taxpayers, who could easily give a little more, the elimination of tax havens, which are liberally allowed in Canada and are costing Canadians billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, and the end of gifts to oil companies, which always benefit from tax cuts. That plan provided more than enough to pay the money owed to Quebec and to meet its most pressing needs.

In addition, the government is maintaining its centralizing agenda, which will have an impact on Quebec's economy. It must abandon its plan to create a single securities commission, a measure that goes against the interests of Quebec and infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions. I might add that it also flies in the face of a unanimous vote in the Quebec National Assembly, yet the government continues on that path, completely ignoring all requests from Quebeckers and the Quebec nation, despite having recognized that nation.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the Conservative government to back down immediately and put an end, once and for all, to its plans for a single securities commission, which is designed to do Montreal out of what it has for Toronto's benefit and which infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions.

I would now like to talk about a matter that is very important to me. I have been a member for seven years and, throughout that time, the lack of social housing in Laval has been an issue. More than 16,000 Laval households are facing a crisis. They spend more than 30% of their income on housing and represent 36.6% of all renters in Laval. What is even more serious is that 7,400 of them spend more than 50% of their income on housing.

The federal government owns a penitentiary in the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul area of my riding. It has been closed for 21 years, since 1989. Since that time, the government has been considering solutions for converting the penitentiary facilities and the grounds around the old building. Since 2006, I have been formally requesting that the government include affordable or social housing in its plans for the site. In 2007, people sent hundreds of reply cards in support of this request to the minister responsible. This is not a recent file.

In 2009, in the absence of a positive response from the government, I circulated a petition formally calling on the government to proceed with the conversion of the old penitentiary and to work with the Government of Quebec to include affordable or social housing. The petition had 2,813 signatures and was presented here on June 15, 2010. I was very surprised to hear the response of the Minister of Public Safety when Parliament resumed last fall. He unabashedly stated, “the CSC [which is under his authority] is open to the sale of the property to a third party...the development of affordable or social housing is outside the mandate of the CSC.”

I understand that it is outside his mandate, but the petition was addressed to the government, which is responsible for the facility.

And that is the point we have come to with this government. It is not meeting the needs voiced by the people. But the people of Laval will not forget. The government is showing complete disinterest in the needs of the people, but at the same time it recently announced that it would spend $40 million to incarcerate an additional 96 prisoners in the Laval Federal Training Centre, which is located near the former penitentiary. This all stems from the government's repressive ideology. This government has millions of dollars to house inmates, but it cannot find money to house needy families.

In keeping with the needs expressed by the people, the Bloc's budget expectations called for the following measures. First, the Bloc called on the federal government to gradually reinvest in social or affordable housing until it reached approximately $2 billion in additional funding per year. It also expected the government to commit to eventually allocating 1% of its revenues to social housing, a total of $2.6 billion for 2011-12, over and above current funding levels.

In addition, the Bloc wanted the government to introduce a system to manage the CMHC surplus and bring an end to the systematic accumulation of that surplus, which will reach more than $10 billion in 2011. This surplus should be used, in part, to fund the gradual reinvestment that the Bloc is proposing.

Since homelessness is often caused by a lack of social housing, the Bloc is also calling for improvements to the homelessness partnering strategy. It is appalling to see how little the 2011 budget offers in this area. No new funding was announced for construction, conversion or renovation of social housing. The Conservative government boasts that it has invested in construction, but it is the first to government that has not reinvested anything in social housing. The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain is decrying this situation. It says that a single F-35 fighter jet is the equivalent of 6,400 subsidized housing units. That proportion is astonishing.

To conclude, the Conservatives have chosen to turn a blind eye to Quebec's requests and will have to answer to the voters.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I listened to the Bloc Québécois member, and I have a hard time understanding why the Bloc is always whining when the federal and provincial governments sit down together to talk.

As we said, and as the Government of Quebec has often repeated, the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec are on the right track with tax harmonization.

The Bloc always has something to say. However, the Bloc will never be in power, will never be able to sit down with the Government of Quebec, and will never be able to sign a cheque in Parliament.

I would like to know how much money the Bloc Québécois has injected into Quebec's economy since 1993?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am shocked by the type of comments I am hearing.

Some say that the Bloc Québécois has never made any investments in government. To my knowledge, neither have the Conservative members.

In my opinion, it is the government that invests money. It is the government of the people, who are represented by all those present, that sets the priorities and spends taxpayers' money. The money does not belong to the Bloc or to any other party. It belongs to taxpayers, and we allocate it to the right places.

This government wants to spend $20 billion or $30 billion on fighter planes when other needs have not been met. I believe that the government's priorities are wrong.