House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The last time the debate was before the House, the hon. member for Davenport had five minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the phenomenal folks of Davenport for according me this great honour of bringing their voices, issues and stories to this House.

I would also like to acknowledge the former member for Davenport who served this House and the riding with great dignity and grace.

I would like to thank my family. This has been, and will continue to be, a family affair. I could not do this without my partner, my love, my wife Michelle and my children, Sam, Charlie and Lucy Rose, as well as our extended family.

Like other members of this House, in Davenport throughout the election and in fact for about a year before the writ dropped, we knocked on many doors. We hear so often that Canadians are disengaged, removed and cynical about politics, but in Davenport we found, and I imagine most of the members in this House found, the opposite to be true.

When at someone's door, the conversation we open ourselves up to is profound, and I daresay life-changing. It certainly changed mine. I would like to thank the people of Davenport. I would like to thank them for their time, patience, good humour, and their engagement at the door.

I know we interrupted people. We interrupted them a lot. They were having their dinner when we knocked on their door. They were housecleaning or talking on the phone or feeding the baby, sometimes doing all of those things at the same time. We interrupted people when they were renovating their homes or having birthday parties. We woke their sleeping children, which is not a great vote-getting tool.

We caught people as they were rushing out to work or rushing home from work. And since so many people in Davenport are freelancers and are self-employed, independent contractors, small shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, we also interrupted them while they were working.

We knocked on doors and found a father who was sitting in the kitchen wondering when he will ever find a decent paying job again. We knocked on doors and found seniors who no one ever visits. We knocked on doors and found refugees who were fearful of unexpected knocks at the door.

There were new immigrants struggling to get a handle on life in Toronto. We found middle-aged women looking after elderly parents and young children. We found seniors who could not afford to live in the city they helped to build. We found students graduating from college or university with a debt that in my father's day would have been called a mortgage.

We found labourers who had just put in 12 hours, working outside, exposed to the elements, exposed because they have no disability insurance, no sick leave, and no extended health benefits. We found single moms who, every day, squeezed onto the Dufferin bus, who needed better and more affordable public transit but instead got rate hikes and service cuts.

We found urban workers with no workplace pension, no benefits, no job security, and no access to EI. We found middle-class families in debt, unable to afford or even find child care. We found families that could not find a decent, affordable apartment to raise their families.

We found Torontonians just barely getting by with little or nothing in the bank at the end of the month. We see banks recording billions of dollars of profit and they are recording this profit not once a decade, not once every few years but every three months.

I was sent here to relay the voices and stories, the needs, hopes and dreams of the people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto, not to advocate on behalf of banks that have plenty of people doing that for them. I am here to tell the stories of the folks of Davenport and that is what I am going to do.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, does the member think that the Conservatives' budget protects the pension plans of workers who spent 20, 25 or 30 years working for an employer? These workers lost their pension plan after 30 years of work because their employer went bankrupt. These workers invested in their pension plans to secure their future, and they are losing their money after having worked for 30 years. Does the government not have the responsibility to protect the pensions of the workers who built this country? These people got up every single morning to go to work, and one day they wake up with nothing, even though they thought their retirement was secure. Was this budget not an opportunity for the government to protect these pension plans?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was knocking on doors during the election campaign, I met many seniors and one woman in particular stood out. She was an elderly woman who had immigrated here from Portugal. She had worked at the same factory for 23 years. She was a faithful, hard-working woman. She raised a family in Toronto and after 23 years the company closed up shop, and she was out of luck, with no pension. She is now working at Wal-Mart, one of the job-creation strategies of the government. She is having a very difficult time getting by.

I heartily concur with my hon. colleague here that, indeed, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that companies honour their commitment to workers, just as workers have honoured their commitment.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my friend from the opposite side to the House. I was listening to his speech carefully. He addressed some issues which are very near and dear to my heart as well. He talked about immigrants. He talked about elderly parents. He talked about seniors. He of course talked about students as well.

In this budget this government has come up with a plan which has been working. The plan is to support our seniors, our students, our doctors, and our family caregivers who take care of their ailing and infirm relatives at home. Specifically, this is the first time the Canadian government has introduced a firefighters tax credit.

Would the opposite member and his party support this budget?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his congratulations and congratulate him for his victory.

I am not sure if we are talking about the same seniors. When I am talking to seniors in Davenport, they are thinking that a less than $2 a day increase in their pension is simply not a poverty reduction strategy. It is not going to lift a single senior out of poverty.

Across this country, our seniors, who built this country and made it the great nation it is today, a nation for which we now have the responsibility of continuing to further that legacy, are wondering where the commitment from their government actually lies.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

At this opportunity, as this is my first speech in the new Parliament, I am pleased to thank the good voters of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for allowing me the privilege, once again, to represent their interests in the Government of Canada. I pledge to faithfully represent their interests to the best of my ability.

I congratulate the Prime Minister for the leadership role he has played in the good governance of Canada; a skill that continues to be acknowledged by thoughtful Canadians and the international community.

Allow me to take this moment to thank my family. My spouse Jamie, my daughters Chantal, Lauren, Ellyse and Amelia stood by me during the election. I thank them for their love, their support, and their patience.

I wish to thank the people who came out to my campaign during the election. I owe them a tremendous thanks from the bottom of my heart. I can assure them their generosity will be remembered.

I also wish to take this opportunity to salute the women and men of CFB Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I gratefully acknowledge the support they have given me since I was first elected in the fall of 2000 and, most recently, in the last election.

The message I received from the military electors in every election in which I have been a candidate has been clear and short, “Keep fighting for us. We need you”. I thank them for their support. I will not let them down. I have their backs.

I would also like to acknowledge the people in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who make a living off the land, be it farming or forestry. Many of the traditional sources of employment, like the working forest, are under severe stress. Unlike, when I was first elected back in 2000, when there were only two MPs from our caucus to represent all of Ontario, today we have a large, strong and vibrant Ontario caucus. I look forward to working with my many new caucus colleagues to ensure the interests of Canadians, particularly, in rural Ontario, always have a voice.

As the MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, a sprawling, rural riding in the upper Ottawa valley of eastern Ontario, I depend on valley residents and their common sense approach to life to guide me in Parliament. I am in good company when it comes to taking this approach. Valley wisdom was recognized by the most electorally successful Conservative premier of Ontario, Leslie Frost, when he would recount his favourite story about a judge in the village of Killaloe objecting to the pleas of a big city lawyer in his courtroom and said, “What you say may be in all them books, all right, but it ain't the Law of Killaloe.”

Too often today, with the rise of more government and the myriad of laws and regulations, which are the result of too much government, decisions lack the element of common sense Judge Dunlop in Killaloe was dispensing from his rural courtroom.

The budget that was re-introduced by our Conservative government, one that was approved by more voters than anything put forward by the opposition, is imbued with the same common sense. For example, we recognize the simple fact that companies do not pay taxes, people do. When we raise taxes on employers, they pass their costs on to the consumer. It is this common sense approach by our government that has resulted in the creation of 540,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

The best social program is a job. The law of Killaloe is about making difficult decisions on behalf of the people of Canada, without forgetting who we are, and where and how we live. I am pleased to share this story as the Prime Minister and his family joined valley residents near Killaloe for that great valley tradition: the farm pig roast for Canada Day.

The Prime Minister understands the average Canadian who works hard, pays their taxes, and plays by the rules. On May 2 the majority of voters in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke chose to elect a national, stable, majority Conservative government. We in the Conservative government believe that public policy should be driven by facts and evidence, not by ideology. Every step of the way, we will be introducing policies in this House supported by facts, evidence and common sense.

The federal budget has a number of important measures that will benefit the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Local employer Atomic Energy of Canada continues to benefit from having a Conservative government voice. The good news for the 2,700 employees at Chalk River Laboratories is the $405 million announced in the budget.

The Conservative Party of Canada recognizes that, in order to be an environmental world leader, we need to focus on clean air, water, land and energy, and nuclear is the key to any national emission reduction plan. I have worked very hard to keep the Canadian Neutron Facility, the CNF, and the need for a new multi-purpose research reactor on the science agenda of our country.

In the 1990s, the former government of Jean Chrétien cut the budget of AECL by 42%. AECL then made a decision that basic nuclear research should be discontinued at Chalk River Laboratories unless it supported the commercial division of AECL. The Auditor General observed that AECL could not operate properly because the Liberal government refused to approve any business plan.

The 2006 federal election of the Conservative Party was a game changer for the good of the Chalk River Laboratories of AECL and of the entire upper Ottawa valley. The revitalization of AECL is a key component of our government's strategy for Canada to be a clean energy superpower. The latest budget allocation of $405 million is evidence of our commitment to the environment and the need to provide dependable, economic sources of electricity for Canadian consumers.

Support for Canada's military announced in last year's budget does not change. Construction of a new Chinook helicopter hangar at CFB Petawawa is proceeding as planned, as outlined in our government's Canada first defence strategy, and the jobs that come with the needed expansion. Petawawa is experiencing record growth to provide the roads and sewer infrastructure to house the incoming soldiers and support personnel associated with the new helicopter squadron. The town of Petawawa, like all local municipalities, will benefit from the budget measure to legislate the annual $2 billion gas tax fund expenditure from the federal government for municipal infrastructure.

Our forestry sector will benefit from the $60 million announced in the budget to assist, innovate and tap into new opportunities abroad. Forestry has been a mainstay in the upper Ottawa valley for many generations and I am committed to working with local foresters to keep that employment base.

In addition to specific budget announcements, like AECL and the $20 million announced over two years for the eastern Ontario development program, there are a number of specific measures that will benefit individuals. Enhancing the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for low income seniors, extending the eco-energy retrofit homes program and introducing the volunteer firefighters tax credit are just some of the measures in the budget that were positively received when I was on the campaign trail. What needs to happen now is for the budget to be passed and voted into law for Canadians to realize the benefits.

Canada's prosperity cannot be taken for granted. During the election campaign, I had the chance to speak to literally thousands of people. The one thing I heard again and again at people's doors is that people want government to remain focused on the economy and jobs. I know our Prime Minister will make choices that honour our shared values to govern on behalf of all Canadians.

The message I heard from voters this past election is that they want to work and they want us to work to get results and to bring people together across rural, urban, regional and provincial lines. This budget moves in that direction by responding to the needs of Canadians with proposals to help middle-class families, proposals that millions of Canadians voted for in the election, such as hiring more family doctors and nurses, making life more affordable, securing pensions and retirement security for seniors, measures that lift all seniors up. Reducing the tax burden sparks full-time job creation.

This federal budget reaches out to families that need help with their budgets. During the election, I talked to people who have great difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month. I also spoke to individuals who have prospered in today's economy. I heard intense personal stories from people who I took into account to motivate me to work in Parliament.

People are working hard. They are working harder than ever. I have met people who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet in the absence of full-time employment. This budget is for them.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her re-election.

I noted that the member said that the government was basing its budget and its policies on facts, evidence, common sense and on the fact that it wishes to be an environmental world leader. However, the government continues to give billions in corporate tax cuts to the big fossil fuel industry and a mere $8 million over several years for all of the northern and aboriginal communities in Canada. It killed the eco-energy retrofit program last year and renewed it for only one year.

Why are we not providing a security of tenure and an incentive for the small and medium Canadian businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, to help build up their businesses and to provide well-paying futuristic employment for the young people of Canada?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was mention of the eco-energy retrofit homes fund. That program was so popular that the money was exhausted before the end of the fiscal year. Yes, we are reintroducing it once again and we are hoping that people will be gearing up for the construction season so they can take advantage of this very valuable program.

Large companies as well as small companies are benefiting from Canada's budget. Decreasing taxes make us more competitive throughout the world. Large companies, as well as small companies, employ people. Every large company across the spectrum deserves to have the same tax treatment.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke said that this was a very good budget and that the $11 billion in cuts to federal government programs and services were very much needed. In 2010, prior to the budget being tabled or even conceived of, she said that cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard were warranted. The member said that members of the marine community were far too reliant on services from the Canadian Coast Guard and that people in other parts of Canada would never dream of expecting the Canadian Coast Guard to come to their rescue should they ever be found in trouble.

Does the hon. member agree with her previous statement? Did she have any prior information back in 2010 that her government was about to make significant cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard? Or, were her statements back in 2010 simply in preparation for those cuts trying to make the case or give the illusion that the Canadian Coast Guard does not provide an essential, important service to the Maritime community, to boaters and to those who make their living from the sea? That, indeed, is the impression that is being left.

She agrees with $11 billion in cuts. One of the very first cuts to be established was to the basic safety and security to mariners. Did the member have any information back in 2010 about those cuts? Does she agree with the closure of MRSC Coast Guard station in St. John's and in Quebec City today?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the safety of mariners is foremost and always has been, but I will give some background.

Members of the defence committee travelled to the Maritimes and visited different bases because there was an issue regarding search and rescue. What we heard over and over again was that Maritimers were suffering as a consequence of the 1993 decision by the federal government, which it campaigned on, to cut the helicopter order. When that order was cancelled, it not only cancelled the Sea King replacement, it also cancelled the search and rescue choppers as well as troop movement. For troop movement, helicopters would have been very helpful in Afghanistan and may have saved a number of lives.

However, the real crux of what we were looking at with respect to the search and rescue helicopters is that after over a billion dollars in penalties and having to pay for other contracts for which we received nothing, we ended up getting the same brand scaled down for more money. As a consequence, we do not have enough helicopters to keep going. We are looking forward to correcting that error as we go on.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I again want to thank the good folks of Cypress Hills—Grasslands for allowing me to return to the House in this session of Parliament.

It has been an interesting ride over the last 10 years. When we were first elected in 2000, we had 66 members of Parliament in our caucus. In 2004, that went to 99, in 2006 to 124, in 2008 to 143 and then we came back with 166 members of Parliament in 2011.

I want to point out that it is not an accident that things have happened this way. We have had a long-term strategy and long-term leadership by the Prime Minister. The first goal was to hold the Liberals accountable in 2004. The Canadian people did that after enduring so much through the ad scam hearings and found out just how deep the rot went in the Liberal government and in the Liberal Party. The people were glad to begin to make a change in 2004.

In 2006, we were able to come to government and early on the Prime Minister's leadership showed through once again very clearly as he moved to reduce taxes right off the bat. We had GST tax reductions. We increased the personal tax exemptions so that many people were removed from the tax roles. That is the kind of leadership that led to 2008 when we were re-elected again.

When the worldwide downturn, the crash, took place, we were ready for that. Canadians were very protected by the government. I hate to think what would have happened had the third party now, the opposition at the time, come to power, because clearly it would have spent us completely into the ground.

We were able to come forward with stimulus spending with the programs Canadians really wanted to see and put them forward. Our economic action plan impacted every community throughout this country. I hear the members opposite even thanking us today for having done that for them. Everyone is glad to see those programs in place that have affected water treatment plants and highways in my riding. The RInC program also had a positive effect on many small communities in my riding. Those grants often were not big grants but they were grants that allowed communities to go ahead with projects they had thought were important for a long time.

Now we come to 2011 and once again I see an increase in the government caucus. I think that has happened because Canadians trust us. Canadians have seen good leadership and good management of the economy. We have trusted leadership and they wanted to see good results and were ready to see those.

We have come to Parliament to bring the throne speech forward and the budget. We are here today to talk about the budget. However, before I do that, I would like to talk on a couple of the key issues that were found in the throne speech that directly impact the budget and will directly impact the next year and subsequent years for Canadians. It is important to note that, as one of the news organizations pointed out, the Conservatives are sticking to their stay-the-course plan with no surprises in the throne speech which lays out their agenda for the coming parliamentary session.

What we told Canadians we wanted to do last year, we presented again this spring when we came back to Parliament. They know what we are about and what we want to bring forward.

In my riding there are a number of very important issues. The one issue that has been around the second longest and has been a real irritant to people in my riding has been the long gun registry. The people in my riding finally have a commitment from the government that the registry will be revoked. It is very good news for the people of Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

The firearms community has asked for a number of reasonable changes to the Firearms Act. In order to carry that out, a few things like licensing infractions, which have been so prevalent because of the way the Liberals set up the entire system, should be taken out of the Criminal Code. If that were done, people would not be charged under the Criminal Code just because they neglected to renew a licence. Certainly, it seems that we should be removing the reverse onus character of this whole legislation. It makes citizens into criminals without them actually doing anything. That would certainly help out as well. With regard to certification, it seems that if we could move the one form of certificate for gun owners, that would be a much simpler system than we have right now.

In terms of training, the provinces and the federal government have had different expectations and demands, and, in some places, different courses. It would certainly be good if we could put those courses together to cover the same material to avoid duplication. We have tried to avoid that in so many other areas in this government and it would be good to do that here as well.

There are some other smaller things from the past, one being that when firearms were seized, they could be returned to wildlife organizations, for example, and then be auctioned off to raise money for wildlife projects. We would like to see a return to that as well. That change only took place in the last couple of years, so there should be nothing untoward about that.

Firearms owners are more than adequately served and prefer to deal with their local RCMP. They have done that in the past and we could move toward that as well. That is one of the things in the throne speech that is important to people in my riding.

Another important issue to my constituents is the funding of political parties. As everyone knows, political parties get their funding in a number of ways. They get it through donations; they get some of their funding from the rebates for election expenses; and they have received funding through the per-voter subsidy. Our government has committed to removing that per-voter subsidy, and that is found in this legislation. People in my riding tell me that it cannot happen too soon. They think that political parties are well taken care of and should be supported by the folks who really want to support them, not by the taxpayer.

A big issue in my riding, and probably the longest term irritant to my folks, is the Canadian Wheat Board. There is a long history to the Canadian Wheat Board, going to back to 1943 when crop sales to the wheat board were made mandatory and farmers were not given any choice in the matter. When Europe needed a large supply of cheap grain, the Canadian government made a decision at the time to supply such grain to Europe and it made participation in the Canadian Wheat Board mandatory. Our farmers have been paying the cost of that ever since.

It seems there was no vote when this was imposed on farmers. There was no vote in 1998 when the Liberals changed the legislation to make it impossible for farmers to get out, and that resulted in farmers going to jail. There was no vote by farmers on whether or not they wanted their colleagues and other producers to end up in jail. The previous government was only too happy to do that.

I should note that Australia has opened up its wheat board and that grain acres are actually up there, while Canada has had a long-term decline in the amount of grain acres being seeded. Canola has passed wheat as the number one crop on the Prairies. The reason for that has to do with marketing and the ability of farmers to market their own grain.

We are looking forward to working with the entire value chain, including the Canadian Wheat Board, to bring in an open market for western Canadian grain so that our farmers have the same opportunities, the same experiences, the same things available to them that other farmers across Canada have.

We want to work with the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. We want to work with folks who want to see a wheat board exist in some form in western Canada, in order to give our farmers what they would like to see. However, we will certainly not have the single desk, and farmers will be free to market their own grain. By opening the market up, the Canadian grain industry, the farmers, producers and communities, are going to attract investment.

Finally, we will be encouraging innovation. Our new varieties of grain will not have to go to Montana so that I can drive down and watch it being grown across the border where Montana farmers benefit from western Canadian-developed grain. Certainly, value-added jobs will be created across Canada.

We want to work with everyone in the value chain to bring this transition. There is a huge opportunity here for the board and communities. We really want to see them move ahead.

I want to move from the throne speech to the budget speech, as time seems to be going by fairly quickly here.

I just want to touch quickly on the fact that folks in Cypress Hills--Grasslands have told me that there are many challenges. They appreciate what we have done and they want us to work on balancing the budget as quickly as possible, a commitment that we have made. They are encouraging us to move as fast as we can to get back to balanced budgets and then to move on from there. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to represent them.

I found a quote last night by Tony Blair about deficit budgeting that, “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It's very easy to say yes”.

We certainly want to be able to say yes to Canadians, but no to spending their money in ways they do not approve.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the first time in this new Parliament. Representing the people of the Northwest Territories is always a great pleasure.

I was hoping to rise on the budget, but I also do not mind speaking on the throne speech because we have not had a debate on it yet and there are a number of serious issues with it.

I want to compliment my colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands on his re-election as well, because I know he is a hardworking MP and will continue to be so.

He talked about the long gun registry. The Conservatives' plan to take out the long-gun registry will change the ability of provinces to institute their own registries.

Is the federal government considering making available to the provinces the information that is now available within the national long gun registry, if they wish to constitute their own long gun registries under their property rights acts or any other legislation pertaining to them? Would the government be willing to turn that information available in the national gun registry over to the provinces?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite on his re-election as well.

The question needs to be asked of the member whether he is going to work with us to revoke the long gun registry, making it much more useful to Canadians, or is he going to oppose those changes?

Certainly the wildlife and firearms communities have been responsible in their asks to government when they have come forward and made suggestions for changes they want to see made in the future.

One of the things we are going to provide funding for, and the member would probably appreciate this, is another $20.9 million to continue to waive the firearms licence renewal fees for all classes of firearms. We are going to continue to work with firearms owners and communities until we can revoke the long gun registry.