House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lenses.

Topics

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right. The McGuinty government's green energy program has been an unqualified, unmitigated disaster, and so says the Ontario auditor general. It has caused energy prices to skyrocket in the province. It has wasted tens of billions of dollars paying 2,000% markups on the price per kilowatt hour, which has killed jobs for manufacturers and, according to the auditor general of Ontario, all of this money has been spent in order to ensure that wind and solar account for only 1.5% of the electrical energy mix in the province. In other words, it has had no impact on the environment whatsoever.

The best way to proceed is by allowing the marketplace, our entrepreneurs, investors and brilliant workers across this country to compete to provide the most reliable cleanest sources of electricity at the lowest price to consumers.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport for his sage remarks and establishing some global context for what we are trying to do in Canada with our economic action plan 2012.

Economic action plan 2012 positions Canada for economic growth, job creation and long-term fiscal health. It is based on creating a climate for private sector investment, innovation and opportunity.

With this economic strength, Canada can give families and communities all the support they need. This means developing sustainable social programs and secure retirements.

Underpinning all of this is getting the federal government's house in order by returning to balanced budgets. This enables Canada to keep taxes low and leaves more money in the pockets of Canadians. It also means Canada will not kick the fiscal can down the road and will not leave large debts for future generations.

Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. It has created over 610,000 net new jobs since July 2009, which is the strongest job growth in the entire G7.

Fitch ratings, Moody's and Standard & Poors have all renewed Canada's triple A credit rating, keeping Canada's borrowing costs manageable.

For the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business invested in the G7, which gives us a distinct competitive advantage.

The reason that venerable Canadian institution, Tim Horton's, moved its headquarters from Delaware to Ontario recently was to take advantage of our low corporate taxes.

Canada's net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far. The influential Forbes magazine ranked Canada number one in the world for business to grow and create jobs.

However, our Conservative government cannot take anything for granted. Advanced economies around the world are struggling to create jobs and to balance their books. Last week, Spain, whose economy is about the size of Canada's, announced that it would cut government spending by 23 billion euros. In addition, it would increase taxes by about four billion euros. The result has been general strikes and a chill on private sector investment.

The United States, our largest trading partner, struggles with trillion dollar deficits and legislative gridlock to fix its situation.

The global economy remains fragile, which is why our government is taking reasonable, careful measures to respond to the challenges we face. Investment and innovation are the keys to long-term prosperity.

The Government of Canada is making significant investments in scientific research, but we can and must do more to encourage private sector investments in innovation and commercialization. These activities create high value-added jobs that generate productivity and prosperity.

That is why economic action plan 2012 proposes, among other things, $400 million to help increase private sector investments and early stage risk capital; $100 million to the Business Development Bank of Canada to support its venture capital activities; $110 million per year to the National Research Council to double support to manufacturers and other entrepreneurs through the industrial research assistance program; and $95 million over three years starting in 2013 and $40 million per year thereafter to make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent and to add a military procurement component.

While I am here I would like to note the contribution of some members of the NDP and the Liberal Party who studied the question of the commercialization program, notably the member of Parliament for Louis-Hébert and the member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville. We all agree that this has been a very good program, which is why we have recommended that it be continued.

Another requirement for investment is to streamline the process for regulatory reviews. As we know, over 75% of the world's mining companies are based in Canada, with the greatest number of those based in my city of Toronto. The Canadian government is proposing legislation to realize the objective of one project one review within a clearly defined time period. That is good for jobs and good for the economy.

Via the major projects management office initiative, we have shortened the average review time for major natural resource projects from 4 years to just 22 months, while improving accountability by monitoring the performance of federal regulatory departments. These measures would create economic activity and job opportunities.

In economic action plan 2012, we propose extending the hiring credit for small business to reduce employers' EI costs by $205 million. The opposition always says that it likes small business, until they become successful and become big business, then it is against them.

Economic action plan 2012 proposes enhancing a youth employment strategy to help connect young Canadians with jobs in areas that are in high demand.

Finally, economic action plan 2012 includes enhancements to the opportunities fund to enable more Canadians with disabilities to obtain work experience with small and medium size businesses.

I would like to talk about how economic action plan 2012 helps support families and communities.

The budget contains many measures to strengthen Canadian and Ontario families. Highlights for Ontario include: ongoing support through major federal transfers, which will total more than $19 billion in 2012-13, and almost $11.4 billion of that is through the Canada health transfer, which is an increase, I should mention, of $3.7 billion since 2005-06, and $97 million of that is for the wait times reduction funds as part of the 10-year plan to strengthen health care; over $4.6 billion will be transferred to Ontario through the Canada social transfer; and $197 million will be transferred to Ontario for labour market training. I should also mention that $3.3 billion will be transferred to Ontario through equalization, which is a situation that we Ontarians hope to rectify. Hopefully, we will be transferring money to other provinces in the future.

Of particular note is the plan to provide fair compensation for employers of Canada's reservists. Economic action plan 2012 commits to providing financial support to employers of reservists to offset costs, such as the hiring and training of replacement workers or increased overtime when reservists serve their country in deployments. This is good news for reserve regiments like the Toronto Scottish Regiment, which is based in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. It has had soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

I will now talk about some of the sustainable social programs and how economic action plan 2012 provides a long-term stable retirement future for Canadians.

The budget takes action to ensure the retirement security of all Canadians now and into the future. As we all know, the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS will be gradually increased from 65 to 67 starting in the year 2023, with full implementation by 2029. This gives plenty of assurances to seniors who are about to retire that their OAS will remain intact and it gives plenty of time for those who are looking at retirement in the future to plan their retirement accordingly.

This builds on the measures our government has taken to improve the economic security of seniors. We have removed 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls. We introduced pension income splitting. We increased the age credit amount and doubled the pension income credit. We increased the age limit for RRSPs to RRIF conversion from 69 to 71. We also established the tax free savings account.

In economic action plan 2012, we are announcing measures to improve employment insurance to make it sustainable for the long term.

Notably, our government proposes to ensure stability in the EI premium rate by limiting rate increases to five cents each year until the EI operating account is balanced.

Economic action plan 2012 will invest funds to improve efforts to connect EI claimants with the necessary skills and with available jobs in their communities. The budget proposes to invest in a new national EI pilot project that will ensure claimants are not discouraged from accepting work while receiving EI benefits, by cutting the current earnings clawback rate in half.

Let me talk about balanced budgets.

Our government has reduced the tax burden on Canadians to the lowest level in nearly 50 years, that is, since the 1960s.

To get our fiscal situation on track after the global economic downturn, our government proposes to reduce spending after careful analysis and study. We have the lowest net to GDP ratio in the entire G7, and we intend to enhance our competitive situation even further.

While the NDP and Liberals want to engage in a reckless spending spree, our Conservative government is committed to getting back to balanced budgets. We are refocusing government, making it easier to deal with and streamlining back-office administration to achieve $5.2 billion in ongoing savings to taxpayers. About 70% of the savings will come from eliminating inefficiencies in the internal operations of government, making it leaner and more effective.

Unlike the NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government will not take the easy route by raising taxes, and unlike the previous Liberal government we will not slash transfers to the provinces for health care, education or support for seniors. Our Conservative government will provide the stable, responsible government that Canadians elected to protect our country's future now and for the long term.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague's comments with great interest. I have the utmost respect for him, and I am sure he certainly believes everything he was saying.

It is interesting that the member talks about reckless spending sprees. I would just like to get his thoughts on one particular spending spree his government is on right now. A lot of Canadians voted for the government on the basis of what it was calling a $2 billion boondoggle with the long gun registry.

It seems that there is now a $25 billion boondoggle. Those are not my words but words from the media, a $25 billion F-35 boondoggle. The Conservatives pretend they are good mangers of the economy. In fact, they are ideologically moving forward on a boondoggle that will certainly outdistance any other boondoggle they have ever talked about.

I wonder if my hon. friend would like to make a comment on that particular $25 billion boondoggle.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the member mention the $2 billion boondoggle that was the long gun registry, because of course he is a bit conflicted amongst his own party members about whether he should support that or attack that particular boondoggle. Thankfully the government is taking some action in that regard.

With respect to the defence of Canada and to our international obligations of working with our allies in overseas missions, the challenge of replacing fighter jets is something the NDP does not want to face. The NDP wants to deny there is a problem, and wants to postpone any acquisition of aircraft altogether. That is what the NDP's game really is.

We are looking at the strategy of how we can participate meaningfully with our allies, not just for the defence of Canada and North America but also in overseas expeditions. That is why we are looking at what is the best possible aircraft for our armed forces.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore referenced a regiment within his riding. Within my riding, a key employer is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Back when the strategic operating review was taking place, all departments were asked to submit a 5% plan and a 10% plan. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a $3.6 billion budget, 90% of which is paid to veterans. We have heard over and over again that veterans' benefits will not be affected.

That leaves $360 million to run the department. The cut in this budget in year one is $36 million, in year two it is $49 million, and in year three it is $67 million.

My question is whether this member is comfortable with the books of this country being balanced on the backs of those who serve our veterans?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing for the hon. member to make up his facts, but not a single veteran has suffered any reduction in his or her benefits. The streamlining that has been happening at Veterans Affairs has to do with the back-office administration, but in terms of benefits received by veterans, they are there. That is why veterans are 100% for our budget. They recognize that, in terms of providing a stable framework for Canada to move into the future, we need to do a lot of things, including reducing some of the bureaucracy in the back office in Ottawa and around the country.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore for his very insightful analysis of the budget.

We heard the hon. Minister of Finance in his presentation speak about Canada having one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in the world, and the projections of that look very good moving forward. I wonder if the hon. member can elaborate a bit on what the projection is for balancing our budget.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the projections are to get to balanced books. Our plans are to get there by the year 2015. Part of that is difficult to predict in terms of the shape of the overall economy. That overall economy shapes our exports and our economic activity. However, right now we are well positioned to do that. Our controllables are the things we spend money on and that is why we are taking action there.

On the revenue side, we are cautiously optimistic that the world's economy will strengthen, our exports will increase and economic activity and opportunity will increase in this country. We look forward to balancing those books and paying down our debt for future generations.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to denounce this budget. I do not even know where to begin because, in my opinion, this budget clearly demonstrates that, once again, the Conservatives are completely out of touch with the reality facing Quebeckers and all Canadians.

The budget contains spending and cuts that make no sense in areas that are extremely important to Canadians and Quebeckers. I know my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster spoke for hours and hours and, I must say, I wish I could also speak for hours and hours, because there are so many things in this budget that deserve the attention of all Canadians and Quebeckers.

I would like to begin with the decision to raise the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. I would like to say to the Conservatives that, as a member of the generation that they claim to want to protect with these cuts, personally, I do not agree with this increase. I think all young people of my generation would agree. We want this program to be there for us.

I seriously question the government's decision to attack the most vulnerable, those who did not have the chance to work full time because they might not have been able to find full-time work or because they took time off to take care of their children, something they wanted to do as mothers and fathers. I honestly question the government's budget cuts that affect those who need help the most.

Second, I want to talk about the cuts to the public service. We are talking about 19,200 jobs that will be lost. It is not just jobs, but also services such as employment insurance. A number of my constituents are already saying that they have to wait far too long to get the benefits they need to live. That is a problem. The government wants to cut where there is already a problem, and that just does not add up.

What is more, the government is cutting $115 million from Radio-Canada/CBC. These are cultural institutions, especially in Quebec. If you ask Quebeckers what television they watch in the evening, they will say Radio-Canada. If you ask them what radio station they listen to, they will say Radio-Canada. It is a cultural symbol to us. I thoroughly object to the government's choice to cut this program, this cultural institution.

The government has also not made any commitment to support infrastructure projects, which was something that cities in Quebec specifically requested from this government. Once again, the government ignored them. The government is making massive cuts at Environment Canada. At a time when we should be investing in the green economy, the Conservatives are making cuts to research. On every side, this government is making choices that do not reflect the values of Quebeckers and Canadians. I can certainly tell this government that its choices do not reflect the choices and values of the people in my riding, because they have told me so.

I would like to speak about one cut in particular because it has a major impact on my generation, my friends and my peers throughout Canada. That is the Minister of Canadian Heritage's decision to abolish the Katimavik program. Katimavik costs only $14 million. This government is prepared to spend $28 million to celebrate the War of 1812, which is not a war that is important to the people in my riding; yet, it cannot find $14 million to help young people and communities across Canada. This is a problem, and it shows that the government is not listening to Canadians and that it does not understand what is important to them and to young people.

I brought with me today testimonials I received from people who have participated in the Katimavik program, people who acted as host families for the participants and people who work for an organization that received help from Katimavik program participants. This program has provided communities with essential services. These communities will not be able to grow and prosper as well as they could have with the help of the program. I completely oppose the government's choice to abolish this program. It is also important to note that 600 young people were supposed to begin their journey in July. Now, they no longer have a plan.

It is too late to apply to post-secondary institutions. These 600 young people will lose a year. I have a letter from one of my constituents, the father of a young man who was supposed to join Katimavik in July. He says:

With the cancellation of the Katimavik program, he will lose a year of training as he was planning on improving his English. One year lost because of an unexpected budget cut.

This father lives in my riding and he is concerned about the budget cuts. I would like to point out that he said his son planned to improve his English. We should also realize that this program made it possible for young anglophones to learn French and young francophones to learn English, resulting in an cultural exchange between French Canada and English Canada. However, this is apparently not important enough for this government.

I will read another testimonial, this one from Kimberley Mackie who currently lives in Barrie, Ontario.

Being in Katimavik opened my eyes to the value of volunteering, taking care of my health and the natural environment, and helped me understand my country on a much deeper cultural level.... Katimavik means 'meeting place', and the current budget is stripping away an important meeting place for young people.

I will quote Tse Kameko, from Montreal:

By eliminating funding for Katimavik, other young people will not have the opportunity to participate in a rewarding experience, and communities across Canada will be affected—specifically, the more than 500 non-profit organizations affiliated with Katimavik.

I will also quote Jaymie Adams.

He says: “I was booked to depart with Katimavik in July 2012. I cannot express my extreme disappointment that this program has been cut. Because of this I have not made plans for the summer or school for this coming year. This budget cut has turned my life upside down and hundreds of others as well”.

Once again, she is one of the 600 people who will have nothing to do for a year and whom this government has abandoned.

I also received a message from Wayne Greenway:

He says: “A Katimavik project provides about 5,000 hours of volunteer support for local charities. The youth go home recognizing their personal responsibility in building sustainable communities and valuing active participation in the community. Many participants carry on their community leadership skills through their lifetime”.

These are people who will do volunteer work for the rest of their lives, people who will continue to invest in their communities. These are the leaders of tomorrow.

I would like to ask this question: what is this government's plan for youth development? The government is cutting programs that build strong young people and teach them community and civic values. We want to encourage this generation to vote, but opportunities to show them what civic engagement really means are being taken away.

I would like to read another testimonial, this one from Yoan Manny, who says:

This program gave me the opportunity to feel like a Canadian for the first time in my life and to be proud of it. I am sad to think that no other young people will have the same opportunity that I did. I am also sad to see the partner organizations lose the thousands of hours of volunteer work they obtained through this program.

Here is another testimonial from Julie Mannering from Montreal, Quebec.

An opportunity to learn to speak another language, work alongside representatives of different provinces and cultures, become aware of a community's challenges, take initiatives, promote eco-citizenship and much more...

She learned to take care of the environment. However, given the cuts at Environment Canada, we see that this government does not even want to take care of the environment. So, it is not surprising that things like this are not important to the Conservatives.

Here is another testimonial, this one from Krista Boniface.

She says: “I have never felt so needed and respected in volunteerism like in Katimavik. Your involvement keeps non-profits afloat and enriches communities, supporting so many people that a household of youth.... This program has meant so much to me and I am furious that an experience such as mine may not be a possibility for future generations”.

I will stop there. I think I have provided a good idea of who these extremely disappointed people are. This is not even about the entire budget. I only read testimonials from people who are disappointed with one decision this government chose to make. In my opinion, the government has turned its back on youth, seniors and Quebec's cities. It did not listen to them in this budget.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, Firearms Registry; and the hon. member for Beaches—East York, National Defence.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

April 4th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks and I have one comment to make and one very short question to ask.

She said that commemorating the War of 1812 was not important to her constituents. However, it was fairly important to the Quebeckers of the day in 1812 who fought alongside the rest of Canada to save their country. I would say it is a shame that she does not seem to appreciate the history of her country, Canada.

I would like to ask her one simple question. She was not elected at the time, but we were criticized roundly for making government bigger. Now that we are becoming more efficient and cutting out red tape, we are being criticized for making government smaller. What would she like, that we make it bigger or smaller?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not a matter of making the government bigger or smaller. It is a matter of giving Canadians the services they deserve and that they should have. It is a matter of serving Canadians well and ensuring that Service Canada delivers employment insurance benefits on time, benefits to which the claimants are entitled.

I fully respect our country's history, but I think that spending $28 million to commemorate this war is not the best way to spend our money. I would like to point out that Katimavik teaches young people about Canada's culture and heritage.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member brought up a wonderful program, one that Pierre Elliott Trudeau actually brought in during the 1970s. It has stood the test of time. Literally tens of thousands of youth from across Canada have had the opportunity to get engaged in many different non-profit organizations through the years. It is a program that is worth fighting for. It is important to note that it survived Progressive Conservative governments but it cannot survive the Conservatives or this Reform-Conservative Party.

My question for the member is this. Does she believe, as the Liberals do, that because of the benefits of this particular program for tens of thousands of youth across this land that this is indeed a program worth fighting for and that the government should reconsider it decision on this valuable program, which has stood the test of time and survived Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments in the past? It is a good Trudeau initiative, I must say.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reply to the Liberal member that yes, we must fight for this program, but we also need to consider the people affected—the 30,000 young people who have participated in the program and all of the communities and non-profit organizations that depend on this program to provide essential services to Canadians. We must consider the full impact of this program. Yes, this program is definitely worth fighting for.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my friend from Terrebonne—Blainville. I agree with her completely regarding the War of 1812.

I agree with her completely that spending $28 million on celebrating the War of 1812 is excessive at a time when we are supposed to be practising austerity. I would also say that spending over $1 billion on fossil fuel subsidies and a further $165 million in this budget for pipelines, tankers and offshore drilling is a threat. I want to ask her as a Quebec MP how she feels about the government's new priority for drilling in the sensitive Gulf of St. Lawrence.