House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member from Barrie, who like me, represents a riding in Ontario where unemployment has been persistently high. How can he account for the fact that under the government, between 2007 and 2011, according to Statistics Canada, temporary foreign workers account for about 30% of all net new paid employment? This is before the changes that the government will bring in under the budget that will allow temporary foreign workers to be brought in on 10 days notice and be paid 15% less than the so-called going wage, which will drop as we get more and more temporary foreign workers. These workers, as we know, are not just working in agriculture or in northern Alberta, they are in workplaces across Ontario. How does he account for that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Madam Speaker, there are things we can look at in our immigration system. The focus of my speech today is on the budget. However, in terms of job creation and foreign worker permits, there are some parts of the country where there are significant human resource shortages, which is an important tool of the immigration system.

Let me talk about the creation of jobs. I think that is what the member is interested in. One thing the budget does, this economic action plan, is it takes steps to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and world-class research, with over $1.1 billion in significant investments for research and development, $500 million for venture capital, support for increased public and private research collaboration and much more. These initiatives create jobs.

Supporting industrial research pays dividends. In my own riding of Barrie, there was a partnership with Wolf Steel to create a high efficiency furnace. It was mentioned on page 62 of the budget as an example of job creation through innovation. That is the type of job creation on which we need to focus.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, I have two questions on the budget. I see two big hits. The first is in Cape Breton, where the Conservatives are cutting jobs in Parks Canada and Veterans Affairs.

The other is with CIDA. There are over $380 million in cuts. Many NGOs will be unable to help Canadians develop and deliver aid. Recently I heard about the Canadian Nurses Association that does great work around the world with CIDA, and the Conservatives have cut its funding.

Where is a good part for Cape Breton or international aid in the budget? I do not see it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Madam Speaker, Canada, on a per capita level, has been one of the largest donors toward international aid. Canada still contributes huge amounts.

In February, I had a chance to go on an all party visit to Tanzania with the good member from Newfoundland. The Canadian contributions there made incredible differences. We can see in many areas of the world where CIDA has made huge differences, and continues to do so.

When it comes to this budget, every department looked at efficiencies and more effective ways of spending.

When the last significant recession hit in the 1990s, a Liberal government was in power. The decision was to slash particularly one area, health care. It also slashed the area of education. Those were areas that Canadians could not afford to have slashed. I am happy this budget has been balanced in the medium term. We have had a prudent approach with small efficiencies in a wide variety of departments, not focusing on one area like gutting the health care system. We still face the consequences of the Liberal gutting of the health care system in the mid-1990s today. We are facing doctor shortages and hospitals at capacity because of the short-sighted decisions made during that administration.

I am happy this budget took a much more responsible and prudent approach to ensure efficiencies were found across the board in a much more even manner.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to stand in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, the key legislation to implement the economic action plan 2012.

Our Conservative government, as demonstrated through today's act, is focused on what matters to Canadians, which is keeping the economy on the right track. In that regard, the nearly 700,000 net new jobs Canada has created since July 2009, 90% of those being full-time jobs, is a positive sign we are on the right track for Canadian families.

Indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial praised Canada's economic leadership focus on private economic growth and its sound policies as a model for others to follow. As CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld recently declared:

Canada’s federal government remains the very picture of health, standing head and shoulders above many developed countries in terms of fiscal sustainability.

Nevertheless, we recognize global economic turbulences remain today and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why the economic action plan 2012, legislated through Bill C-38, takes responsible, positive action to support the economy now and over the long term, while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets.

This plan has been largely welcomed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, save the ideological NDP opposition.

For instance, the Vancouver Board of Trade, representing thousands of businesses in the Lower Mainland, assigned an overall grade of A to the economic action plan 2012, noting:

The federal government's reasonable and prudent 'game plan' continues to be the right one for British Columbia and Vancouver, and it remains the right strategy for Canada within a challenging global economic environment

For the remainder of my time today, I want to focus on the aspects of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act that deal with responsible resource development and how we have found the right balance between economic and environmental priorities.

Let me be clear. Our Conservative government is committed to being proactive in our stewardship of our national treasures, preserving them so we can pass them down to future generations. However, unlike the ideological NDP, we recognize that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Major economic projects create jobs and spur development across Canada.

In 2011 alone, the natural resource sector employed over 790,000 Canadians in communities throughout the country. It is predicted that in the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects, representing $500 billion in new investments, are planned across Canada.

Increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit. Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources once investments are made by the private sector to bring the resources to market. Currently conditions are hardly ideal for any business that wants to do so.

Canadian businesses in the resource sector that wish to undertake major economic projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements and processes. Approval processes can be long and unpredictable. Delays and red tape often plague projects despite few environmental risks. In the federal government alone, accountability for assessments rests with dozens of departments and agencies, each with its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines. This leads to duplication and the needless waste of time and resources.

The starting point of federal environment assessments can also be unpredictable, which can cause lengthy delays. This leads to delays in investment and job creation, and some plans are even abandoned because of them. Frankly, that is unacceptable.

As stated in a recent Vancouver Sun editorial:

Currently, worthwhile projects are needlessly bogged down in repetitive environmental and regulatory assessments that increase costs to industry without adding value for Canadian taxpayers.

That is why we have worked hard, since 2006, to streamline and improve regulatory processes. However, more work still needs to be done. A modern regulatory system should support progress on economically viable and significant projects and sustain Canada's reputation as an attractive place to invest, all the while contributing to better environmental outcomes.

That is why we are focusing on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects in economic action plan 2012, specifically making the review process for major projects more predictable and timely, reducing duplication and regulatory burdens, strengthening environmental protection and enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples. This modernized federal regulatory system will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication, regulatory burdens and focus resources more effectively to protect the environment.

We will achieve the goal of one project, one review, in clearly defined time periods, something long overdue, especially for my home province of British Columbia. In the words of British Columbia's finance minister Kevin Falcon:

The moving to a one-permit, one-process approach on environmental assessments is extraordinarily important for British Columbia...We have many major, major projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment. I’m really encouraged by that...

He went on to say that what they always said about the environment was that they should not measure the environmental process based on how long the process took, that it should be measured based on outcome and that was what they believed in.

Rest assured our Conservative government also understands that long-term economic prosperity and a high quality of life requires a healthy and sustainable environment. That is why protecting Canada's environment and the health of Canadians is a key priority of this government.

For instance, the safe navigation of oil tankers is very important to our government. Oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada's west coast since the 1930s. For example, 82 oil tankers arrived at Port Metro Vancouver in 2011. Nearly 200 tankers visited the ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat over the past five years. They all did this safely.

Canada's regulatory system had a lot to do with that. Oil tankers in Canada must comply with the safety and environmental protection requirements of international conventions, and while in Canadian waters, with Canada's marine safety regulatory regime.

These requirements include double hulling of ships, mandatory pilotage, regular inspections and aerial surveillance. In fact, in 2011 almost 1,100 inspections were carried out across Canada, 147 of them on oil tankers.

We have a strong system, but any responsible government must continually work to make it stronger. That is why economic action plan 2012 includes further measures to support responsible energy development, including: new regulations which will enhance existing tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements; a review of handling processes for oil products by an independent international panel of tanker experts; improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes; research to improve our scientific knowledge and understanding of risks; and to manage the impacts on marine resources habitat and users in the even of a marine pollution incident, and much more.

As I indicated in my introduction, we must be vigilant in guarding our spectacular natural treasures, but unlike the NDP, we realize that Canada's economic prosperity cannot be sustained without a healthy environment, just as environmental progress cannot be achieved without a healthy economy.

That is why I urge all hon. members to join with me in supporting Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and supporting a stronger Canadian economy.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, this is very alarming. I cannot believe that the members opposite are talking about the budget as though it is something good for the environment. Just this past Tuesday, the commissioner submitted his report, which painted a very grim picture.

Bill C-38 will dismantle several tools related to the environment, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which produces independent scientific studies on the environment. There are still 13,000 contaminated sites awaiting assessment and cleanup, and major oil development projects are on the way.

How can we trust a government that says one thing but does the complete opposite?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I assure my hon. colleague that the environment is a priority for this government and will be into the future.

At the same time, we must also look at our resource sector. We must find environmentally sustainable ways to get our products and resources to the marketplace in other parts of the world as Canada is a trading nation. Therefore, we are making the review process for major economic projects more timely and transparent while protecting the environment, and helping realize the objective of one project, one review in a clearly defined period.

This is extremely important because those companies that are interested in investing large sums of money, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars, need certainty with respect to finding out if their projects will be allowed to go forward within a specified time period.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, there are many topics that my hon. friend from North Vancouver touched upon in his speech, which I would love to probe further, but I want to focus on the tanker statements that he made.

This is a debate on Bill C-38 and nothing in Bill C-38 speaks to tankers, regulations for tankers or funding for tanker safety, so I will set that aside. That comes from other documents. There may be regulations in the future, but there is nothing in Bill C-38 on tanker safety.

I also would dispute the claim that the B.C. coast has had lots of oil tankers. There has been a moratorium against supertanker traffic on the B.C. coast, particularly the northern coastline, with the exception of Vancouver because it was grandfathered. Vancouver harbour was left out of the 1972 moratorium, which was respected by every level of federal and provincial governments since 1972. That is why there have not been tanker accidents.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I can say that from my home in North Vancouver I can see oil tankers go up Burrard Inlet on a regular basis. This has taken place since the 1930s without a single incident. It is responsible management. We have very strict regulations in place and it is because of those strict regulations that we have been able to keep our waters safe for almost 90 years.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:25 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, the fact is that eastern Canada has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, while western Canada has increased emissions. Despite the provinces' ongoing efforts, the situation is still not under control.

Why is at least one-third of Bill C-38 about environmental deregulation?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the environment is a priority for this government and we intend to continue to protect our environmental treasures for future generations. At the same time, we are looking for ways of expanding the marketplace for our resources, which will be done in a responsible manner.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-38, the first implementation bill of budget 2012, an omnibus bill that should never have been.

If we want to talk about the budget that is one thing, but when everything is thrown into this bill, it makes it impossible for Canadians to have a real handle on exactly what it is that is in this budget, which causes a problem not only for me as a member of Parliament representing the people of Random—Burin—St. George's, but, I would expect, for all MPs who take great exception to what the government has done here.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast anxiously awaited this budget as they continued to struggle to make ends meet. I know that from first-hand experience as there are difficult times in my own riding of Random—Burin—St. George's, particularly when we are talking about seasonable industries, which is another issue that we need to deal with.

With sporadic job growth in the last six months and thousands of full-time jobs being replaced with part-time jobs, Canadians expected the budget to focus on jobs. Unfortunately, the government let Canadians down once again. Rather than focusing on much-needed job creation, the government has chosen to focus on dividing Canadians.

Since 2006, the government has sought to divide Canadians. It is obvious that budget 2012 is no different. Given the damage that will be done by this budget, it is impossible for anyone concerned about the future of our country to support its implementation.

As the government irresponsibly pits generation against generation, and we see that with the OAS changes, region against region, economy against environment, and when we consider that over 120 pages of the budget deal with the environment, it is reckless. In its reckless quest to divide and conquer, the government has done all of these things.

Canadians stand united in opposition to the government's dangerous politics and policies. The Liberals have never shied away from ensuring that government is run efficiently.

As members debate the implementation of this austerity budget, it is important to remember how Canada's economy reached this stage. The last Liberal government left the Conservatives with a $13 billion surplus and the Conservatives promptly spent the Liberal surplus into a Conservative deficit well before the recession. In fact, the Conservatives have the distinction of being the highest spending, largest deficit creating government in Canadian history, and now they are trying to have Canadians take responsibility for that. The Conservatives are taking it out on the backs of Canadians.

Had the Conservatives not spent so much irresponsibly before the recession, Canada's deficit would be nowhere as high as it is today.

Bill C-38 is the first in a series that will attempt to implement the Conservative's slash-and-burn agenda and cause havoc in Atlantic Canada in particular as federal jobs and services are cut.

The Conservative government began its slash-and-burn agenda in the 2010 strategic review that saw $32 million in cuts over three years to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, with an additional $17.9 million in new permanent cuts. These new cuts in budget 2012 represent nearly 20% of ACOA's entire operating budget. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rely on ACOA to create opportunities for economic growth in their region, just as the rest of Atlantic Canada does.

Now is hardly a time to cut programs that stimulate the economy, help create jobs and increase federal tax revenue in the process.

Adding to the $6.6 million in cuts over three years to Marine Atlantic, which occurred in the last budget, budget 2012 cuts an additional $10.9 million in new permanent cuts. These cuts are especially difficult for my constituents when we consider that the Marine Atlantic ferry service is our connection to the rest of the country.

These cuts also include the closing of vitally important washing stations in Channel-Port aux Basques and Argentia. Some vehicles need to be washed off because they have picked up contaminated soil that is prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador that carries the potato wart and the potato cyst nematode infected soil. Washing the vehicles ensures that the contaminated soil is not exported to other Canadian provinces where it could do irreparable harm, particularly in P.E.I. and New Brunswick, to the multi-billion dollar potato industry in this country.

History shows even a minor infestation in a potato-producing area can have serious consequences. In 2000, when a small area, a mere 24 hectares, of Prince Edward Island soil was found to have been contaminated by the potato wart fungus, the United States moved immediately to close its borders to P.E.I. potatoes for months. This resulted in a $22 billion loss to P.E.I. potato farmers.

For a province such as Prince Edward Island where the potato industry is a major contributor to its economy, the loss of this industry would be as devastating as the cod moratorium is to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I can only explain how devastating that was when today that cod moratorium is still in existence. The cod has not returned and I can only imagine how it would be in P.E.I. if the contaminated soil were to impact the potato industry there to the extent that the cod moratorium has impacted Newfoundland and Labrador.

Of particular concern to my constituents in Random—Burin—St. George's and to the many coastal communities in Canada is the dangerous approach the government has taken to the fishery.

Last year's budget cut the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by $84.8 million over three years, while this budget goes further, permanently cutting an additional $79.3 million from the DFO budget. Worse, the government is rolling the dice when it comes to fish management strategy by cutting the financial capacity for evidence-based fish monitoring and protection of fish habitats and removing the protection of many freshwater fish species.

Even the Conservatives are upset with this attack on the fishery. Former Conservative fisheries minister, Tom Siddon, said, “This is a covert attempt to gut the Fisheries Act, and it’s appalling that they should be attempting to do this under the radar”.

In addition to the Conservatives' cuts to the fishery, they are considering sweeping changes to the fleet separation and owner operated policies, which would directly affect 30,000 jobs and destroy small rural fishing communities. If DFO were to cancel the fleet separation policy, allowing large processors to engage in the inshore fishery, the traditional harvester would eventually be squeezed out of the industry. Clearly, the Conservatives have no interest in seeing the fishery survive.

As I mentioned earlier, I also have concerns with the proposed changes to employment insurance in Bill C-38. While not all changes are negative, we know already from budget 2012 that instead of working to help create more jobs, the government is increasing a direct tax on employment by hiking the employment insurance premiums by $600 million. EI recipients must apply for suitable employee vacancies to qualify for benefits. Bill C-38 would delete the provisions that deem employment opportunities to be unsuitable whether or not the opportunity is in the claimant's usual occupation and offers a lower rate of pay or working conditions that are less favourable than the claimant has a right to expect, only something that we would all expect.

This bill also would unduly grant the minister the power to make changes to the EI Act without legislation and parliamentary approval by giving the minister the power to change the definition of “suitable employment”. What is suitable employment? There was no consultation whatsoever with either employers or employees with respect to these proposed changes to the EI. The Conservatives have yet to announce details of what they will consider suitable employment and yet they expect Parliament to grant them unrestricted power to do so. People are nervous and naturally scared not knowing what to expect.

One has to wonder if the government's end game is to force Atlantic Canadians to relocate permanently to Alberta for work or to accept jobs outside of their skill area. There is no discussion about appropriate training for people and, of course, when they get to the age of 55 or 60, particularly if they have been working in a fish plant all of their life and, in a lot of cases, in the seasonal industry in the fish plant, what are they going to retrain for? What other skill will they retrain for at that age in their life? It is a time when they would like to retire and they would like to retire at 65, as has always been the case. However, the government has seen fit to move that age of eligibility from 65 to 67, making it even more difficult on people who work in demanding environments.

In contrast to the government's attempt to implement its austerity budget is the government's shockingly expensive advertising campaign to try to convince Canadians that the government is not failing Canada, not as badly as it seems anyway.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:35 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Madam Speaker, I respect the member for the passion that she brings to her speeches.

She began her speech by saying that our government was running deficits before the global recession. That is not true. It is misleading the House to say so. Our government had balanced budgets, and she should know this well. The global recession that took place was beyond Canada's control. She should also know that Canada is doing better than any other G7 country in handling the global recession. We have created 700,000 net new jobs, three-quarters of them are in the private sector and 90% of them are full-time jobs. We are doing incredibly well.

She said that our government has driven us into deficit, and then spent the last 90% of her time saying that we have a slash and burn agenda. She has completely contradicted herself. I do not know if she is aware of how contradictory she was and how badly she failed in messaging a position on this.

She should note that the Liberal Party, her party, voted for those budgets that she says were so devastating. She stood and voted for them but she thinks they were awful. If they were so awful, perhaps she should apologize to her constituents.

Later in her speech she said that “clearly the Conservatives have no interest in seeing the fisheries survive”. Does she--

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's the opportunity to respond.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, obviously my hon. colleague is being very defensive, and rightly so, but it is impossible to defend what the government has done. The Conservative government spent a $13 billion surplus. It ran the country into the highest deficit position ever and now it is trying to take it out on the backs of Canadians. Yes, slash and burn, because the decisions the government is making are hurting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Why is the government increasing the number of seats in the House of Commons? I would like my colleague to explain that to Canadians. The government wants to increase the House of Commons by 30 additional seats. That is totally unacceptable.

Why is the government looking at spending billions on--