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

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can provide an explanation for the member opposite, if he is still paying attention.

Considering the profession of the father of my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord , if these changes had taken place when he retired, he would have suffered the consequences.

I see that he is clapping. That was the clarification needed.

We have to establish the facts. The NDP looks at the facts. Contrary to what some members opposite have said, our positions and our party's platform are based on facts. I hope that this positive influence will be felt on the other side of the House also.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want thank the hon. member for her excellent speech. She seems to have a good grasp of time and space, unlike the members opposite.

For days I have been hearing about “future generations”, “long-term growth”, “our children” and “our grandchildren”. In my riding of Laurentides—Labelle, thousands of my constituents are affected by the forestry crisis and the government is doing absolutely nothing about it. I wonder whether, amongst all this rambling rhetoric and everything they stuffed into Bill C-38, there is a single concrete measure for the people living in today's reality.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think there may be some measures for the people living in the Conservatives' reality, but for the other ordinary Canadians, I am not so sure there is anything that is really going to help them.

As far as the forestry situation is concerned, I am seeing the same thing in my riding. I talked about this in my speech. In Saint-Raymond de Portneuf and other municipalities in the region, people are affected by the forestry crisis and are not receiving any help from the government. This may be due to the restrictions that the government imposed on itself with certain free trade agreements that need to be given some thought. This needs to be taken into consideration the next time this type of agreement is negotiated. The government needs to provide help for the manufacturing sector, and the forestry industry is a big part of that sector. Just because this problem is in Quebec does not mean it should be forgotten.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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 Scarborough Southwest, Employment; the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, National Defence.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Oxford.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity today to stand in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and highlight some of the key initiatives in economic action plan 2012 that would legislate.

When our Conservative government introduced Canada's economic action plan in January 2009, it was designed to fight the effects of the worst global recession since the Great Depression. It did so by providing significant stimulus to safeguard jobs and protect incomes, while making important productive investments that contribute to Canada's long-term economic prosperity. It worked, as those prudent decisions allowed Canada to emerge from the global recession in a position of strength.

Nearly 700,000 more Canadians are working today than in July 2009. This is the best job growth record in the entire G7. Last March alone, Canada's economy added 82,000 net new jobs, the single biggest monthly jump in national job creation since September 2008.

Canadians are looking to our government to build on that success and that is exactly what we will do with economic action plan 2012, a plan that has been praised by some of Canada's top economists.

This is what Avery Shenfeld, CIBC World Markets chief economist, had to say about budget 2012 and Canada's economy. He said:

—makes sense in a world economy that is still not what we would like it to be...Relative to what anybody else is doing, we still come out with flying colours.

This is what Craig Alexander, TD Economics chief economist, declared:

When combined, the various measures included in today’s budget [2012] are aimed at improving productivity and boosting private sector growth...In addition to being fiscally prudent in the medium-term, the government is taking action to pursue fiscally sound policies for the long run.

Even in southern Ontario we have heard great support for economic action plan 2012. Just listen to what Peter White of London Economic Development had to say:

—the plan includes several points of good news...including research and development dollars, venture capital dollars for public-private partnerships and job-skills training for young people.

The measures in today's bill focus on the drivers of growth, innovation, business investment and people's education and skills, as others on this side of the House will highlight.

What I would like to focus on today is how our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and responsibly managing the tax dollars of Canadians underpins all of the measures in today's bill.

Lower taxes support businesses by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money to invest, grow, undertake innovative research and hire more Canadians.

Canada's reputation for low taxes to create jobs is something in which we take great pride. Noted business magazine Forbes said recently, “Canada was the best place in the world to do business”. Today's bill builds on actions taken by our government by continuing to keep taxes low.

In order to keep taxes low, the tax system must be upheld. Canadians expect their government will take action to protect this fairness and integrity. That is why, since 2006, our Conservative government has closed over 40 tax loopholes to improve the fairness and the integrity of the tax system.

Economic action plan 2012 takes further action on this front through the introduction of a number of additional initiatives. To be clear, our Conservative government is committed to take aggressive steps to close tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to take advantage of hard-working Canadians who pay their fair share of tax. By broadening and protecting the tax base, these actions also help to keep Canadian tax rates competitive and low for all Canadians, thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest.

We understand Canadians willingly and honestly provide a portion of their hard-earned income to fund health care, social programs and other vital services, asking only in return that governments both manage their tax dollars wisely and ask no more from them than their fair share. For our government, this is a solemn responsibility and one that we take seriously. We are committed to managing the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians.

It is in the spirit of fairness that the government and the Governor General have agreed that the income tax exemption for the Governor General's salary should end and that the Governor General's salary should be subject to tax in the same manner as the salaries of other Canadians.

This historic exemption, likely unknown to most Canadians, has been in place since the introduction of income tax in Canada. It is an exception to the general rules and principles of the income tax system. As is often the case, however, traditions change over time. Recently other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have implemented legislation to make the salary of their governors general subject to income tax.

This may be a small measure in comparison to the significant tax reduction measures our government has introduced since 2006, but to us it is a principled one. In the words of the noted Winnipeg Sun columnist, Tom Brodbeck:

Governors general of Canada will no longer enjoy tax-free status on a portion of their salaries: The Queen’s representatives will have to pay taxes just like the rest of us. I didn’t even know they had tax-free status. Good.

I would be remiss if I closed without quickly mentioning one other important initiative in economic action plan 2012, the elimination of the penny. Forgotten pennies take up too much space on our dressers and far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs.

An independent study estimated the economic cost of maintaining the penny amounted to $150 million. The penny has lost its purchasing power over the years, and now most are hoarded, resulting in useless expenses for Canadian taxpayers. Taxpayers pay 1.6¢ for each new penny made now. This costs the government about $11 million a year. After hearing strong support from consumers, retailers and small business, a recent public study by a Senate committee recommended eliminating the penny.

In recent years, more and more countries, like Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and more, have removed their penny from circulation without any impact on consumers. Following these successful examples, Canada will no longer distribute pennies.

The penny's elimination will have no negative impact on consumers. Pennies can still be used indefinitely. They will continue to retain their full value for payments and can be redeemed at banks. Prices will continue being set at 1¢ increments, and payments by cheque or credit card will not change.

Our Conservative government is also actively working with and encouraging charities in communities across Canada to organize fundraising activities to benefit from the elimination of the penny. Indeed, in southern Ontario, we are already seeing local penny drives. For instance, Habitat for Humanity, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin, a great charity, is looking to collect one million pennies to help those in need.

To quote Jeff Duncan from Habitat in the area:

I know $100,000 is an awful lot of pennies...But this is a grassroots thing and Habitat was founded on a grassroots principle. We thought this was a fun way to engage kids. We need the whole community to help.

Economic action plan 2012 sets out a comprehensive agenda to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address the important challenges confronting the economy over the long term, all the while keeping taxes low and managing tax dollars responsibly.

This provides an opportunity for the government to take significant actions today that will fuel the next wave of job creation and position Canada for a secure and prosperous future. That is why I encourage the House to support the measures in today's act.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about pennies. I imagine he was talking about cuts regarding food safety, for instance. Pennies will likely be saved, but the health and safety of Canadians is being jeopardized.

Does my hon. colleague believe that a scandal like the one that happened in Walkerton a few years ago could happen again?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish my colleague across the floor really knew the story of Walkerton instead of reading something that someone has provided for him.

The Walkerton story may not be as he perceives it to be, but it was a provincial matter. In fact, when the member talks about the cuts to the food inspectors federally, that is not really true. If my colleague would spend a little time talking to my good friend, the Minister of Agriculture, he would make it clear to him that those suggestions being promoted are not accurate in any way, shape or form, that in fact we have added food inspectors to CFIA over the years and continue to do so.

I have every faith in the community of Walkerton to monitor its water supply. More important, I have every faith in the Minister of Agriculture that our food supply is safe and secure.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to ask my colleague from Oxford, just south of my riding. He does such a good job of representing that area.

He mentioned a couple of things in his speech about the tax rates being low. Members understand that currently a family of four is paying $3,500 roughly less in taxes than it was when we took office. I get a lot of appreciation for that in my area. As well, the seniors comment about pension splitting and how that benefits their bottom line.

What I took note of in my colleague's speech was when he talked about our government's research, development and innovation agenda. I have the honour of having Conestoga College in my riding, which is partnering with industry to have research done at the college so it can help the industry with the innovation and commercialization of some of its new ideas.

Would my colleague comment on the importance of the innovation, research and development? Our colleague from Cambridge, the hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology, has made some incredible investments in that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, research and development is one of the pillars of our economy as we go forward.

Conestoga College and Fanshaw College are both in my area. I am fortunate to represent a riding that has campuses for both. As my colleague said, the innovations and the money that has been flowing through from the federal government to them has been of great benefit in many respects, not only in the automotive industry, and I have two automotive plants, both Toyota and General Motors, in my riding, but that has also been well-received by the agricultural community, which is a real cornerstone of Oxford.

This government knows where the future is. It is in the future of our young people and in research and development.

That is the finest minister of science and technology we have had in the House. However, at the same time, the Minister of Finance is the finest we have had in the last 15 or 20 years.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the comment about the Minister of Finance, he is the finance minister who actually put us into a deficit before the recession.

Perhaps the member would like to comment on that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite an interesting comment coming from the Liberal side of the House. Before the worldwide recession hit, this government had paid off nearly $50 billion of debt that the former Liberal government had helped us get into.

The member has played the straight man to the question. The Minister of Finance has done a wonderful job. As we go forward and see that steady hand, it is like saying my friend is the finest weatherman we have had in the House in a long time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to rise in debate on Bill C-38. I have to agree with at least the last point made by my colleague who just spoke, which was that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor was in fact an outstanding weatherman. He is an outstanding member of Parliament as well, although members might want to talk to him sometime about some of the stories he has about some bloopers he may have experienced during his time as a weatherman. They may be on YouTube, as a matter of fact. They would have to ask.

However, when my hon. colleague praises the current Minister of Finance, I find it rather humorous and remarkable, considering that the finance minister and the government inherited a $13 billion surplus and that by April and May of 2008, six months before the recession began, the government was already in deficit.

Members may not believe that, but if they doubt it, I invite them to Google “deficit April-May 2008”; they will find CBC and Reuters stories dated June 25, 2008, pointing that out. They could probably find out more about that later. In addition, that fall there was a further deficit.

The Conservatives have been trying to claim for a while that the deficit we have today was the result of the recession and stimulus spending. The fact is that there was a deficit in that fiscal year of 2008-09. The stimulus budget that the government brought in was not even announced until the end of January 2009, and it was for the 2009-10 fiscal year. It did not start until well after the deficit was in place. If there was a deficit for the year 2008-09 and the stimulus budget was for the year 2009-10, how can Conservatives claim that the earlier deficit was caused by the later budget?

In fact, articles even in December of 2009 talked about how the stimulus money was just getting going. There are articles about municipalities complaining about how long it was taking for that stimulus spending to get started. It took a long time.

Therefore, to claim that the deficit is a result of the recession is an outrage. The claim that this was one of the greatest finance ministers has no basis. By increasing spending dramatically, at three times the rate of inflation, the minister put the country back into deficit before the recession began. That is the context we are in when we come to this budget. That is the history of this government. It is outrageous for the government to claim that this was in any way a good finance minister. It is ludicrous.

Let me talk about Bill C-38. We even have well-known Conservatives criticizing the bill. Here are some comments from Andrew Coyne. He is not exactly a Liberal voice in Canada, but he is a well-known, respected commentator. What does he say about this? He says:

The bill runs to more than 420 pages. It amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration...to telecommunications...to land codes on native reservations....

He goes on:

So this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name.

He says further:

Moreover, it utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?

How indeed, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Coyne has made some very good points about the budget, and my hon. colleagues across the way would do well to take note of the comments from this Conservative commentator about their own budget bill.

However, let us look at the budget. What do we expect from it? What are Canadians looking to the government for in the budget bill?

After Canada experienced no job growth during the last six months, I think Canadians expected this bill to have one focus: jobs, job creation and helping our economy strengthen. Instead, what does it have? It has dozens of disconnected themes that will do nothing to grow jobs or address Canada's skills shortage.

In fact, when I think of jobs, I think of the issue of what has happened with foreign investment. This bill is a complete abandonment of the industry minister's promise of a serious review of the Investment Canada Act.

The bill has so many parts. It is 425 pages long. For those who have not looked through or read it, I will just give a sense of how big this bill is. Division 28 of part 4 does authorize the minister to communicate or disclose certain information in relation to foreign investments, but it does nothing to prevent Canada from a repeat of the PotashCorp takeover fiasco that the government mishandled so badly and it provides no advance understanding of how it would handle matters like this and no explanation for its decision.

In fact, the Conservatives pledged in late 2010, after abruptly killing BHP Billiton's hostile bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, to undertake a serious review of the Investment Canada Act. In fact, the minister talked about having a committee do this, but iinstead we get a few lines in a 425-page omnibus bill. The industry committee will not even study this measure.

I would like to see that happen. I put a motion before the committee to have that happen. Of course, as we know, the government insists that everything involving a decision about what a committee will study be done in camera, behind closed doors, so that the media and the public cannot follow it. As a result, I cannot talk about what might have happened to that motion, but I can say that it is no longer before the committee. If I put forward a motion and it is no longer available to be discussed and it has not been adopted, I think people can draw their conclusions about what might have happened to it and what the Conservative government, having a majority, decided to do.

What happened to the promise to clarify the key test used to judge foreign takeovers, the so-called net benefit determination? That was a promise the Minister of Industry made, another promise relegated to the trash bin.

It is the same with the minister's public declaration in June 2011 that he would ask the House of Commons industry committee to review the Investment Canada Act. Where is it? Why is that Conservative members would not be anxious to do this, considering their own minister was talking about it nearly a year ago and asking for it to be done? Perhaps he is not so keen anymore. We do know that members on the Conservative side tend to do what they are told by the Prime Minister's Office and by the ministers.

This review has not happened, despite several attempts from opposition members to call for a review of the act by the committee. Instead, the industry minister gets new powers to disclose a little more information about takeovers without betraying commercial secrets. It is all well and good, but it is too bad that there is no such commitment to prevent ministers from betraying their own promises, such as the one made in this case.

The fact is that this country needs to modernize its foreign investment policies. It is too bad that instead of moving on significant change, we get half measures buried in a budget bill. That makes it very clear the government is more intent on maintaining its ability to insert its political bias into these decisions than it is on focusing on and doing what is best for the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, that was really good. How is that for a profound speech on an afternoon like this?

Members keep bugging me about doing the weather. For the record, I decided to leave the weather business. I got tired of lying for a living, so I got into politics. I am going to get angry emails from meteorologists; I appreciate that.

Nonetheless, we are talking about the budget. I get a lot of calls. I am inundated with calls on income security from seniors.

The pattern is very simple: it is that they are struggling to stay above the poverty line with a combination of old age security and GIS payments. A lot of them still live in larger homes that are difficult to heat. The extra money being put into the OAS program, of course, is not sufficient to cover the costs of things such as rising heat prices or gas for their cars in case they need them to get to the hospital or visit their families.

I would like my colleague to comment on two things. First, how is raising the age from 65 to 67 going to affect seniors? Second, how much of an extra burden is this change going to place on the provinces, which have to provide those social welfare services to help these people cope with extreme poverty?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, particularly for his glowing and effusive comments about my speech. He went on at such great lengths.

However, he makes a very important point about the old age supplement and the changes in this budget bill. In fact, I am looking forward to the debate later this afternoon—or this evening, for those living in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia—on Motion No. 307, which concerns the old age security program. I have more I would like to say about that.

The government's attitude to increasing the age that people would receive the OAS is similar to its attitude toward the CAP, the Canada access program, whereby people can get use of a computer.

In the other place, the Leader of the Government in the Senate was asked about this and said that people can use their iPhones. I do not know if she will be called Marjory Antoinette for that, but that comment does not really show much sensitivity to the real problem of people who are facing hardship in not having access to the Internet. People who have a need for OAS and GIS will be cut off by the government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question about the community access program. It is enough to make you cry, if you really think about it. Someone said that people just have to use their iPhones. I cannot believe we are hearing such things.

In the member's opinion, how many people who rely on the community access program are likely to have an iPhone?