House of Commons Hansard #188 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has displayed not only inaccuracy, but quite frankly, embarrassing partisanship. The New Democratic Party is focused in holding the government to account and raising the substantive issues about which Canadians tell us they care. The partisanship and partisanship games that the member is displaying, frankly, are not fit for the debate on this important bill.

However, I will give him another opportunity and will ask the hon. member if he could comment on the very serious changes to the research and development grant cuts that have been made in the budget. This would seriously affect jobs, research and development, innovation and productivity in Canada. Could he answer a substantive question on that?

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one could ultimately ask why she did not even stand and want to have recorded votes for her motions in committee. She should feel somewhat shameful of the NDP's behaviour because the NDP had a choice. It could have been in committee and fought with Canadians in recognizing that the bill was bizarre, it was historic and had no merit being in committee. The member, along with the New Democratic Party, caved. It was the Liberal Party that took the battle in committee. The NDP members did not do their job. That is why they might be a little sensitive on this issue right now.

I do not take any shame. We could have used the support of the New Democratic Party to oppose the legislation. It chose not to do that. You made the bed, now you have to sleep in it, is what I would suggest—

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

We will not let this degenerate into direct contact between individual members and other members in the House. I insist in this debate for the rest of the day, as are other Speakers, that you address all of your comments to the Chair. If you do not, you will be cut off.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

November 29th, 2012 / 11 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we have a substantive and factual debate when it comes to important legislation such as the federal budget, so let me change the tone from never-never land to the facts.

We are facing incredibly serious challenges in our country. We have consulted with Canadians right across the country. We have held public hearings and we have heard first-hand the serious concerns that Canadians have, concerns about the all-time record high personal debt that Canadians face.

We have heard about the unemployment levels, where more than 300,000 Canadians are still unemployed than were before the downturn in 2008, where youth unemployment is double that of the rest of the country and so many of our young people cannot get a start in life. They are facing very high student debt. They are starting out with incredible economic burdens, yet they cannot find decent jobs.

We have also heard about the growing inequality in Canada, the fourth highest growth in inequality of the OECD over the last 20 years, a global scourge is what the Economist magazine has called growing inequality around the world and, sadly, in Canada as well.

We have heard about the impact on people's health that growing inequality creates. We have heard about the reduction in life expectancy. We have heard about the impact of other social factors. We have heard about the lack of housing, the lack of investment in child care, in mental health strategies, the lack of a program for child nutrition and the lack of investment in pharmacare, the fastest growing cost in our health care system.

We heard from boards of trade and chambers of commerce about the lack of investment in infrastructure and the economic drag on our GDP to the tune of billions of dollars each and every year because of the lack of an infrastructure strategy and concrete dollars invested in infrastructure.

We have heard about the skills deficit, where young people in certain communities, like aboriginal communities, cannot get the skills they need to take advantage of job opportunities because the government is failing, failing first nations, failing young people, failing those facing inequality and unemployment.

Yet we see a budget that not only does not invest in health care, for example, but reduces health care expenditures to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in coming years.

We have, with Bill C-45, another massive omnibus budget implementation act. This spring we had a huge Trojan horse budget bill. We complained about it, protested about it and opposed it. We called for more time. What did the government do? It brought in an even bigger omnibus budget bill this fall and gave us less time and less opportunity to debate it. We want to have a substantive debate about the serious concerns that Canadians face.

The budget overall reduces the opportunity for Canadians to get old age security, increases the age from 65 to 67, which means more people will live in poverty. It reduces the investment in research and development tax credits, the SR&ED tax credit.

We heard from manufacturers, exporters and other experts. Concretely, this will take millions of dollars out of the manufacturing sector, out of economic development. It will cost jobs for Canadians at a time when we already face high unemployment. It will change and cut public sector pensions, and we heard from the public sector on this, and it guts environmental protection.

We saw the Environmental Assessment Act attacked, gutted, this spring. Now we see this fall, changes to the Navigable Waters Act that will basically remove the majority of lakes and rivers in Canada from environmental protection. Instead of Navigable Waters Protection Act, it becomes the navigation act. In other words, it is to facilitate navigation, changes, construction, pipelines perhaps, rather than protect our valuable water resources.

With the budget implementation bill this fall, we see changes to over 60 pieces of legislation. There are some changes here that we, as the New Democratic Party, support. For example, there is a completely new bill included in the act, the bridge to strengthen trade act, which would create a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit. We support that and think it would be a positive change. There is also a very small tax credit for small business hiring, which we support. There are also some minor changes around environmental tax credits that we support.

However, these changes are all bound up with many other changes that we do not support. For example, the bill would continue the give-away each and every year to the oil and gas sector to the tune of $1.3 billion, which we do not support. It would also make changes to the Fisheries Act, which we do not support.

The bottom line is that we have not had the time to adequately examine this massive omnibus bill. Rather than it going to other committees where, in some cases, there were just one-day meetings on it, the bill should have been divided up and appropriately studied by the relevant committees, which could have drawn upon the expertise of witnesses and members of Parliament for a thorough examination and debate to make the best decisions possible on behalf of Canadians.

The bill and this budget pretend to be about job creation, a point that I want to address.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is saying that this budget would directly cost Canadians some 43,000 jobs. Combined with other cuts, it would probably mean more than 100,000 jobs lost. He has said that because of the budget's austerity measures, it will be a drag on our gross domestic product.

Now we have the Minister of Finance saying that the government's projections were wrong. This year, next year, the following year and year after that, their projections will be wrong to the tune of $33 billion. They are supposed to be good economic managers, but, quite frankly, they are mismanaging what is a very serious situation for Canadians. This is costing people their jobs, and it will cost even more jobs with things like the changes to the SR and ED tax credit at the same time the government is gutting environmental protections in this country.

The budget bill once again raises serious concerns about transparency and accountability. Not only would it remove accountable commissions and boards and concentrate more power in the hands of ministers, the very act of cramming everything into this one omnibus budget bill means that we parliamentarians cannot properly hold the government to account.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer had to take the unprecedented step of taking the Conservative government to court. The Office of the PBO was created by the government, but the PBO is now having to take the government to court to get basic information that parliamentarians need to do their jobs.

I want to reassert in the strongest possible terms that we are against this omnibus budget bill and the process of cramming far too many things into one bill. We are against the fact that the Conservatives are not standing up for Canadians by investing in the programs and protections that Canadians need. They are not doing the job in terms of creating employment and job opportunities for Canadians.

We will oppose this bill in the strongest possible terms. Here in the New Democratic Party, we will stand up for Canadians. We will do the job on behalf of Canadians.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for the fine job she did as vice-chair of the committee.

In that respect, I want to give her an opportunity to respond to some of the allegations made by the Liberal member who spoke before her, just to set the record straight. It is important that the House and the people of Canada know of the important work that was done at committee and what really happened for those three nights. I wonder if she would like to respond to that, given this opportunity.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I find so difficult to grapple with is not only that we have this massive omnibus budget bill but also time allocation motions that have restricted our ability as parliamentarians to fully examine this bill. That is the most difficult aspect, whether in trying to deal with so many amendments in the finance committee or in not having adequate time for witnesses. This bill is being rammed through and dealt with far too quickly without proper examination and without sufficient information being made available to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and members of Parliament, so that we can hold the government to account and do our jobs properly. That is the biggest problem with this bill.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, one thing that astonishes me with this omnibus bill, similar to previous omnibus bills, is that with each day that we peel back more and more layers we find many hidden dimensions within this bill. It is absolutely astonishing and I believe the member alluded to that.

One of the things I have noticed is a recent trend to increase certain fees, which the government is slowly trying to put through under the table for its administration of government. One of them, of course, is in regard to the hiring credit that the CFIB and the Liberals called for, but which now includes an EI hike for many small businesses.

Could the member comment on how the Conservatives seem to be the government of lower taxes, but that fees seem to be creeping in everywhere.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, all of these user fees are in fact a tax hike on Canadians.

I want to speak specifically about EI. Both the current government and the previous Liberal government helped themselves to tens of billions of dollars in the EI fund, which meant that when there was in surplus, they took that money, and when we went into a period of high unemployment, the money was not available for the unemployed workers who had paid into the fund along with the employers.

Yes, there is a hike, but it is partly because governments helped themselves to that money, which should belong to the working people of Canada.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I visit my riding, I sometimes go to shopping centres to do some errands, and I speak to the women who work at the Zellers store, which will soon be closing. I ask them if they know what they will do after the store closes and whether they will have a job. They tell me that they have no idea. These are often immigrant women.

Big changes are being made to employment insurance. I would like my colleague to explain how these fundamental changes to EI will affect women, and more specifically immigrant women.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, increasingly we are seeing that some of the most marginal people in the workforce, including newcomers and women and young people, are simply not qualifying for employment insurance. In fact, today in Canada less than 40% of Canadians qualify for an insurance program they paid into and ought to be entitled to. It is a national disgrace that started with the Liberal government and has been perpetuated, sadly, by the current government and made even worse. It is a factor in increasing inequality in Canada.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to yet another budget omnibus bill. I suppose I should not use the word “pleased”.

I want to first make a few comments on the subject of omnibus bills and what we have seen in this one year. We essentially have seen budget 2012 used as an excuse for the tabling of 900 pages of legislation largely unrelated to the budget itself. This exercise is both illegitimate and undemocratic in combining 70 different bills in Bill C-38, allegedly related to budget 2012, and now 60 different bills in Bill C-45.

I have fewer amendments today than I had tabled for Bill C-38 and Canadians might want to know the difference. Bill C-38, while a couple of pages shorter, did far more damage to the fabric of environmental laws in Canada. Bill C-38 took an axe to our Fisheries Act, destroying habitat protections; , repealed the Environmental Assessment Act; and put in place a substitute piece of legislation that would be an embarrassment to a developing country. It was absolutely abominable.

In Bill C-38, we also saw the explicit removal of pipelines as a category of obstruction under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I would have thought that the Conservative agenda toward pipelines was satisfied with Bill C-38, but we go on to Bill C-45 and see that the attack on environmental laws includes the evisceration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

In Bill C-38, I made the case, as members may recall, to ask the Speaker for a ruling that the bill was out of order and not properly put together. I think we need to revisit the rules and to create some rules t around omnibus bills because this is clearly illegitimate.

In Bill C-45, we have proof of how appalling the process was in Bill C-38 in that some of what we are voting on this week are remedies for errors made in the drafting of Bill C-38. These were obvious errors that could have been caught if the normal legislative process had taken place.

Now we are asked, in Bill C-45, to correct drafting errors made in Bill C-38 where the English does not accord with the French, or where, under the Fisheries Act, they forgot to protect certain aspects of navigation through the fisheries corridors where there are weirs and other fishing apparatus. We also have changes to the Environmental Assessment Act because of poor drafting the last time around. Why was the drafting poor? It was because 70 different laws were put together in one piece of legislation and forced through the House without a willingness to accept, in 425 pages of legislation, a single amendment.

This is not proper parliamentary process. No previous Privy Council in the history of this country has ever equated an amendment to a bill between first reading and royal assent as some sort of political defeat that must be avoided at all costs. This is a level of parliamentary partisanship that takes leave of its senses. It is essentially a form of parliamentary insanity for the government to decide that it cannot possibly accept an amendment from first reading to royal assent and then to come back and give us this which finally provides some of the corrections.

I will speak to my amendments relatively quickly. I want to stress that neither Bill C-38 nor Bill C-45 are really about jobs, r growth or the budget. I will highlight the things in Bill C-45 that I hope to amend because they will hurt jobs.

Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill, would hurt jobs in tourism through this quite extraordinary proposal, which is not a proposal but will be passed into law unless we are able to persuade Conservative members of Parliament that they should vote for what they think is right and not how they are told, ordered and instructed to vote.

When tourism in this country is such an important part of our economy, it makes no sense to pass into law a requirement that tourists from around the world, from countries that do not currently require a visa to come to Canada, regardless of whether they have any aspersions on their character, whether they are considered to be a risk, every tourist to Canada, except those from the United States because of our agreements over a shared border security process, would need to fill out a form to find out if they are allowed to come here for a vacation. This is a terrible change and it would significantly hurt tourism.

Another terrible change is reducing the tax credit, the SR and ED, the scientific research and experimental development tax credit. This is where Canada lags. If we listen to the economists, there is tremendous concern about our competitiveness and productivity, which is directly related to research and development, and to why we need to have the scientific research and experimental development tax credit available to Canadians. We think it would be a big mistake to reduce that.

I will now talk about what I like in Bill C-45. The assumption is that every opposition member hates everything in Bill C-45. That is one of the reasons I object to omnibus bills. There are measures here that I would vote for were they not coupled together with so much destruction. I would vote for the actual budgetary measures that one finds at the beginning of Bill C-45, the tax credits to encourage investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. They are too small but I am certainly not against them. Rather, I am for them.

I would vote for the closing of some of the tax credits to encourage oil and gas development, such as the Atlantic investment tax credit for oil, gas and mining, and for the corporate mineral exploration and development tax credit. I would also vote for the closing of the loopholes in transfer pricing and foreign affiliate dumping that have been used by corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Those are the measures I would vote for.

What deeply disturbs me in this bill, in addition to the measure that I had mentioned to create a new requirement for filling out a form to come to Canada under immigration, is the elimination of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. My amendments would keep that commission in place.

As well, we could do more with the hiring credit for small business.

The changes to the Fisheries Act are largely to repair mistakes made by the Conservatives to the Fisheries Act that had weakened it. They are now fixing some of what they did not need to weaken so desperately. However, we have suggested an amendment to allow for the definition of “aboriginal fisheries”, on the basis of first nations advice, to ensure that the definition is fully respected and takes into account the constitutional and treaty rights of first nations in any definition of “aboriginal fisheries”.

Before moving on to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, I wish to speak to the Canada Grain Act. My amendments oppose a move to take away the independent bond actors in terms of looking at Canadian grains. The third party inspection that is now being proposed would create a conflict of interest between the private sector and the grain companies. We think that would be a mistake. We have certainly learned from the XL Foods beef scandal that it is important to ensure that inspections are truly independent.

The bulk of my amendments deal with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Conservatives have taken three runs at it through three different omnibus bills, the first being in 2009. The objective definition of what is “navigable” was changed to a discretionary definition wherein “navigable” would mean whatever the Minister of Transport says that it means.

In Bill C-38, just this past spring, the Conservatives took another run at the Navigable Waters Protection Act with the specific exclusion of pipelines as works or undertakings. Pipelines are no longer in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. These new amendments are certainly not about pipelines because the Conservatives took care of that in Bill C-38.

What this does is it takes an act that we have had since 1882 that directly comes from the Constitution of this country, that being the federal responsibility for navigation. The Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was brought in by Sir John A. Macdonald, has protected the rights of Canadians to put a canoe or kayak in any body of water and paddle from there to wherever they want to go. As Canadians, we have a right to navigation. This is now being superseded with the false story that there is somehow a burdensome regulatory amount of red tape that offends people in municipalities. Therefore, we need to blow apart the Navigable Waters Protection Act to say that a body of water is only navigable if it can be found in the schedule at the back of the act. Ironically, the 99.5% of Canadian waters that are not listed there are not ones near municipalities, cottages and people who want to build wharfs, but are in our wilderness areas where, without the Navigable Waters Protection Act, nothing stands in the way of obstructions to navigations for Canadians.

The government will tell us that is all right because Canadians have a common law right. If people have a couple of hundred thousand dollars and are prepared to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend their right to use a waterway that is not listed, they can do that. However, this is an egregious abdication of responsibility for a federal head of power that no other level of government has the right to step up and fill the void.

I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to give due consideration to these serious and important amendments.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a member of both the fisheries committee and the environment committee, I stand in this House and strongly defend the measures we have taken to reform and strengthen our environmental laws.

One of the things I am very curious about, however, is that the opposition parties never actually focus on the environment itself. All they focus on is protest, like environmental lawyers always do.

Let us look at what is actually happening to the environment, in our environment, on our watch: sulphur dioxide emissions are down, nitrous oxide emissions are down and carbon dioxide emissions are down. We are number two in the world in water quality based on a 2010 UNESCO report. We were in government when this report came out.

We have doubled the amount of protected areas. We have increased the number of environmental farm plans. Randle Reef in Hamilton harbour is getting fixed. I could go on and on with measurable environmental achievements. Why do the opposition parties not actually focus on measuring the environment itself?

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette that,as leader of the Green Party, I pay a lot of attention to measurable actions of the party that he represents. Those measurable actions include recklessly ignoring the worsening state of the Great Lakes; failing to appoint a commissioner to the International Joint Commission, which the Conservatives have left vacant for almost a year; the abdication of responsibility by cancelling science across this country: closing the Experimental Lakes Area; shutting down the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research labs; cancelling all research into climate science; and pretending, by throwing money at Lake Simcoe, that they are somehow dealing with water quality.

This is a big country and the reality of what the current government has done is an appalling assault of negative action for protecting our wilderness and the air and water that we need to live.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask the Green Party leader a question about the Conservative Party's intentions regarding the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in Bill C-45.

Can she tell us what she thinks is behind those changes? Personally, I think those changes are meant to speed up the pipeline approval process and ensure that there is no legislation standing in the way of that development.

Motions in amendment
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

In my view, the motivation behind the huge changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act is to eliminate the protection of most of Canada's lakes, rivers and waterways. It is not meant only for pipelines, because before Bill C-38 was passed, developers had to obtain a permit issued by Transport Canada for any pipelines that went through navigable waters. Since Bill C-38 was passed, pipelines are no longer included in the groups known as works and undertakings.

Pipelines were specifically excluded in Bill C-38.

The decision in Bill C-45 to reduce the protection of navigable waters has to do with mines, dams and all other aspects that present a danger to Canada's waterways.