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 years.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I do not imagine it would be very many. I imagine that only a few of the people using the program have iPhones.

I talked to the people who run the program. In places where the program is available, many people are poor. They typically use computers and the Internet to access government programs so they can look for jobs and do various other things.

I find the decision appalling.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2012 to be implemented through today's legislation, Bill C-38, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

This is a positive plan that would ensure Canada's economy continues to emerge from the global economic recession better than nearly all other industrialized countries. Indeed, Canada has seen nearly 700,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, the strongest job growth among all G7 countries. Even better news is that 90% of those jobs have been full-time jobs.

What is more, both the independent IMF and the OECD are forecasting that Canada will be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead.

Clearly, those are all positive signs that we are on the right track for Canada's economy and for Canadian families. It is little wonder that a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal praised Canada's economic leadership saying that “Canada is focused on private economic growth”, and also pointing out our “sound policies as a model for the world to follow”.

However, our Conservative government recognizes that we still have considerable global economic turbulence, especially in Europe where we see that continues, and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why economic action plan 2012 takes responsible action to support the economy now and over the long term while also keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets in the medium term.

Despite what the NDP and others would have us believe, economic action plan 2012 has been warmly greeted throughout Canada, especially in my region and riding of Kitchener—Waterloo.

I would like to share with the House and Canadians who are watching some of the positive feedback that has come from my region.

First, from the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, it says:

We are pleased that [the Minister of Finance] has extended the program that allows small businesses to receive a credit of up to $1,000 against employment insurance...premium increases. ...this extension will provide an incentive for additional hiring. ... The Chamber strongly supports measures proposed to restrain government spending and return the federal budget to a balanced position by 2015-16. Other positive measures include no tax increases or cuts in transfers to the provinces, which are critical for health care and other social services.

Overall, the government wants the private sector to step forward, create jobs, and compete on global markets.

Iain Klugman, the chief executive officer of Communitech, a local technology association, said:

I'm really encouraged to see the focus on job creation, innovation. I see a real acknowledgement of the importance of business commercialization.

I could not agree with Iain more.

Kitchener mayor, Carl Zehr, stated:

We're encouraged by the fact they [the federal government] have yet again confirmed a commitment to have an infrastructure plan in place when the Building Canada Fund expires in March 2014.

As one last example, this is what a Waterloo Region Record editorial declared. It said that economic action plan 2012 was:

...an intelligent and visionary plan to preserve a progressive, prosperous Canada in a global landscape filled with both upheaval and promise. And for this reason it is the most ambitious and important federal budget in a generation. Underlying it all is an astute recognition of how this nation and the world around it are changing.

...the budget envisions a scaled-back government that leaves people free to do more in their lives and with more of their own money. But it will still be an active government that aims to grow Canada’s economy with generous venture financing and research and development funding for businesses.

It is clear that economic action plan 2012 sets out a comprehensive agenda to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address the important economic challenges confronting the economy over the long term.

I am pleased to have the opportunity today to spotlight a handful of the measures in today's bill that would accomplish that and play a significant role in securing the well-being of Canadians today and in the future.

The first area I will focus on is targeted reforms to the employment insurance program, or EI. EI, as we know, is Canada's single largest labour market program, providing income replacement to help individuals and their families, as well as training and other labour market support to help Canadians return to employment.

Today's bill would make a number of targeted changes that would make EI a more efficient program, one that would promote job creation and quickly connect people to jobs that would improve the quality of life and Canada's economy.

Our Conservative government recognizes that Canadians want sustainable EI premium rates and a transparent rate-setting mechanism. That is why we will ensure predictability and stability with the EI premium rate.

Over the next few years, we will limit annual rate increases to 5¢ until the EI operating account is balanced. Once the account has returned to balance, the EI premium rate will be set annually, on a seven year break-even rate to ensure that EI premiums are no higher than needed to pay for the EI program itself. After the seven year rate is set, annual adjustments to the rate will be limited to 5¢.

Along with sustainability, matching workers with available jobs is critical to supporting economic growth and productivity. In the words of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB, which plotted our reform in this area, “There was some major progress on employment insurance”. It went on to say:

There was...early action on changing the EI rate-setting process. Any future increases will be capped at 5¢ for employees and 7¢ for employers, which will provide a great deal more certainty to job-creating small businesses.

Also, EI rates will be allowed to break-even on a seven year basis, which will help keep rates smooth and avoid the creation of large surpluses.

However, there is more in economic action plan 2012, including a $21 million investment to connect EI claimants with the necessary skills with available jobs in the same local area, including through targeted information and compliance sessions. Along with providing relevant and timely job information, the government will strengthen and clarify what is required of claimants who are receiving regular EI benefits and who are looking for work.

Through our measures, our government is helping Canadians who are looking for work, but we realize that true success only occurs when they can find work with minimal delay. The evidence backs that up. EI claimants who stay active in the labour market find permanent jobs faster than those who do not stay active. That is why our government will invest $74 million in a new national EI pilot project to ensure claimants are not discouraged from accepting work while receiving EI benefits. This new pilot project will cut the current earnings clawback rate in half, to 50% of earnings, and apply to all earnings while on claim.

Those three amendments would keep our economy strong. I am sure the opposition, if it is predictable, will perhaps vote against it yet again, after all, that is what it has done in the past. Every time our government moves to protect jobs, the NDP and the Liberals oppose it, as they opposed extending the EI hiring credit to help over 500,000 employers defray the cost of new hiring.

In that spirit, I urge all members to vote in favour of today's bill, which would help Canadian families, businesses and the Canadian economy grow and help fuel more job creation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about EI and the way it would fundamentally change by moving people who are on EI into that permanent workforce. I would like to paint for him a scenario and perhaps he can respond with yes or no on how this would work.

Let us assume for a moment that we have a seasonal worker, say in Newfoundland and Labrador, who claims EI for part of the year but the other part of the year works at a fish plant making a wage of between $15 and $20 per hour. The person has been doing this seasonal work for about 20 or 25 years and this fish plant is the mainstay of this particular community. Will that person be forced to work at a local retail outlet in a job that pays half the wage but is full-time not seasonal? Would that person be pushed, encouraged or forced to go from that fish plant to the retail outlet?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on the career change and the conversion that came to him some years ago.

As I explained, we are proposing to make changes to the EI program because we want EI to be an incentive to work, not an incentive to not work. We also want to ensure that workers who are finding themselves unemployed are better matched because of their skills with available jobs and occupations. At the end of the day, this is about ensuring that Canadians can have the fulfillment of employment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, my neighbour in the Waterloo region, for the great speech and for specifically outlining the improvements to the EI system. These are crucial, have been a long time coming and certainly will be welcomed by Canadians from sea to sea.

I wonder if my colleague would care to highlight some of the initiatives that our government has taken in terms of research and development. He has the honour of having two post-secondary education institutions in his riding, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, and I have Conestoga College. We have seen many examples of partnerships between industry and these post-secondary education institutions as it relates to research and development and then specifically to the commercialization of that research and development.

Could he comment on the forward-looking aspect of this in terms of future jobs and growth for the graduates of our post-secondary education institutions?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the riding next door to my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga for that stunningly excellent question. Both he and I are very proud to represent the Waterloo region, which is the centre of innovation in Canada.

Economic action plan 2012 contains numerous excellent initiatives that will support science, technology, research and development, the knowledge economy of the future. In fact, it is a major theme of economic action plan 2012. Over $1 billion will be dedicated from the budget to advance research, science and technology. For example, there is a doubling of IRAP. I hear consistently from SMEs and high-tech companies in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo that IRAP is a particularly valuable program. We heard what they had to say, we listened and we are acting. There is $400 million to help the venture capital industry in this country to create the next Research in Motion down the road.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our Conservative government's economic action plan 2012, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

In March, the Minister of Finance introduced our government's pragmatic and prudent vision for the future of Canadians, one that looks forward to not only the next few years but also to the next generation.

Since 2006, our government has worked to build a strong economic foundation for Canadians. While the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 were felt in homes and businesses across the country, it was the steady leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, as well as the rest of our Conservative government, that ensured the Canadian economy emerged from the recession well ahead of every major developed economy in the world.

We have delivered for Canadians, and our strong record speaks for itself: the creation of more than 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009; a 3.9% increase in a year-over-year growth in manufacturing output; a reduction for personal income taxes and cuts to the GST; income splitting for seniors' pensions; the creation of the landmark tax free savings account; and lower taxes on Canadian businesses, with Canadians having the lowest tax rate on new business investments among major advanced economies.

Our banking system is regarded as the most stable in the world. Our net to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7. The OECD and IMF predict Canada's economy will be one of the international leaders over the coming years.

When we sift through the partisan rhetoric and inaccurate numbers and figures thrown about by my opposition colleagues, our government's strong economic record is laid bare.

While there is work to be done going forward, Canadians voiced confidence in the direction we have taken when they voted for a strong, stable Conservative majority government in May 2011, ultimately providing us with the mandate to continue our pragmatic economic agenda.

During the election, we committed to remain focused on job creation and economic growth, and with economic action plan 2012 we are doing just that.

We are continuing our job creation agenda and we are focused on the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy, for all Canadians.

As a country, however, we must remain cognizant of the many challenges and uncertainties that are still confronting the Canadian economy. The recovery is not complete, and too many Canadians are still looking for work.

One only needs to look to the recent elections in Europe to recognize that the global economy still remains fragile. Canada does not want to become the next Greece or Ireland.

Canadian businesses face increasing competition from countries with emerging fast-growth economies, and our aging population will put pressures on public finances and social programs.

Economic action plan 2012 takes important steps to highlight these structural challenges in ensuring that the changing demographics do not harm Canada's public finances and social programs for the future.

My constituents in Simcoe—Grey elected me to be a strong voice here in Ottawa for them, to ensure that I work to bring jobs to our riding; to ensure that our government creates a climate where businesses can thrive without the burden of bureaucratic red tape; to ensure that our seniors are taken care of so they can receive the respect they have earned through their decades of contribution to our country; to ensure that our agricultural sector is supported in the manner that allows it to grow and be profitable; and to ensure that our health care system is protected by continuing our government's stable health care funding to the provinces.

My constituents do not want government handouts or a government that throws money to the creation of more bureaucracy. They want a government that will lower taxes and create a pro-business environment, while continuing to support Canadians by maintaining transfers for health care, education and social programs to the provinces. This is the surest way to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, and these represent the fundamentals of our Conservative economic approach. This is what our government campaigned on. This is the economic agenda I promoted in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. This is what our Conservative government has delivered on in economic action plan 2012.

Our government is committed to sustainable social programs and a secure retirement for all Canadians now and for future generations.

The facts on OAS are clear. The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from 4.7 million to 9.3 million over the next 20 years. The OAS program was built when Canadians were not living the longer, healthier lives they are today.

Consequently, the cost of OAS would increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030. Meanwhile at 2030, the number of taxpayers for every senior will be down to two, down from seven in the 1970s and from four in 2010. In order to ensure the sustainability of OAS, the age of eligibility will gradually be raised to 67 starting in 2023 and fully implemented in 2029.

We have ensured that the changes that are being made have substantial notice and an adjustment period. These changes would not affect current retirees and those close to retirement. It would give people plenty of time to adjust to the changes and plan for their own retirement. Our changes would ensure OAS is put on a sustainable path so it is there when Canadians need it in the future.

Economic action plan 2012 takes action to create jobs now and provide more opportunities to Canadians. To create jobs, we will extend our one-year hiring credit for small businesses, a practical, proven measure that encourages businesses to hire more workers. For example, Rick and Susan Lloyd, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, can utilize this program for their small business, Smart's Flowers, and continue to grow their business.

We will make new investments in local infrastructure through the community infrastructure improvement fund. Already our government has made significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, where mayors like Mayor Linda Collins and Mayor Sandra Cooper in Collingwood have praised our government for helping create opportunities in their municipalities, and for our constituents in Simcoe—Grey.

Moreover, we will provide more opportunities to Canadians. We will continue to help older workers transition to new jobs and new opportunities. One way we are going to achieve this is through the government support of the ThirdQuarter project, an innovative approach to help employers find experienced workers who are over the age of 50 and who want to utilize their skills in the workforce.

We are increasing funding for skills training and career experiences for young Canadians and for Canadians with disabilities. This is building on investments our government has made already in my riding. For example, most recently, I made an almost $0.5 million announcement for Tracks Employment in Collingwood, where more than 40 students will benefit from an initiative to provide them the skills they need in order to enter into the workforce, supported by the government's youth employment strategy.

Our government is also making improvements to the EI program to ensure it is fair, continues to meet the needs of Canadians and is responsive to local labour market demands, both now and in the future. Our focus is on the long-term prosperity of Canadians.

As we face unprecedented labour shortages, it will be critical that we work directly to help Canadians find available jobs more quickly. We are providing support to Canadians to help them find those jobs through more timely and relevant labour market information, as well as earlier access to skills training and job searches.

With our government's focus on jobs and economic growth, we will also introduce changes on how to calculate EI benefits to better align them with local labour market conditions. Canadians want to return to work. We are enhancing the tools to support them in doing so.

Budget 2012 presents itself as a historical opportunity for Canadians. It allows us to position our country in a way that will protect and strengthen the Canadian economy and continue our job creation agenda. Economic action plan 2012 will help create high-value, good-paying jobs by investing in entrepreneurship, innovation and world-class research. It supports jobs and growth through responsible resource development.

It invests in training, infrastructure and opportunities to create jobs while providing new opportunities to young Canadians, seniors, new immigrants and Canadians with disabilities. These are the types of initiatives our country needs, and they will continue to ensure the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy.

I am proud to be part of a government that has delivered for Canadians. I would like to commend the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for tabling this historic budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague her thoughts on the performance of the Minister of Finance in the fall of 2008, at a time when the government was in deficit. It had inherited a surplus of $13 billion back in 2006, and it had put Canada in deficit by the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year.

As we all know, the recession started in the fall of 2008. By September or October it was pretty clear we were in it. However, in November, when it was very clear, the Minister of Finance brought forward a fiscal budget update, suggesting that nothing was wrong, that there was no need for any stimulus measures and no need to react to this global recession that was developing.

What sort of a finance minister fails to recognize a problem and has to be forced into taking the measures for which he now claims so much credit?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance did such a fabulous job that, in 2009, he was voted the best finance minister in the world.

His decisions and those of the Prime Minister were to inject $63 billion of targeted stimulus money through Canada's economic action plan to protect Canada during the worst global recession since the 1930s.

What did that do? It put Canada on a footing such that, in the last number of months, we have had a record number of net new jobs, more than 690,000 net new jobs.

Canada has been number one with the strongest fiscal position in the G7, reported by Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard and Poor's. This government has been focused on jobs and the economy and the long-term prosperity of this country.

The Minister of Finance of this government has been the leadership to make that happen.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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5:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite amusing that the basis by which the Minister of Finance received this award was because of things like a strong banking system, good fiscal structures and that sort of thing, set down prior to when he arrived, which was certainly around the time of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien.

To say that the current Minister of Finance is the best finance minister is like Milli Vanilli winning a Grammy, for goodness sake. That too was based on someone else's work.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not really sure if there was a question in that, but that is perfectly fine. It gives me a great opportunity to reiterate what I said before.

It was not just the Conservatives on this side of the House who stated that the Minister of Finance was the best finance minister in the world. This was an award provided to him by the international community.

That was because this government, our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance moved forward quickly and effectively to make sure the Canadian economy was protected in 2009, and they have continued to do so.

In economic action plan 2012, we have moved forward even more initiatives to protect and grow the jobs market in this country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Simcoe—Grey for an excellent speech. I know she has been very supportive of our jobs and growth strategy, particularly with our manufacturing sector. She lives in Ontario, as I do, and she has automotive interests, as I do.

We are getting hit with a double whammy in Ontario. First, we have the radical Liberal government that put in an energy program with the feed-in tariff. People actually have solar panels and they are paying, I believe, 80¢ per kilowatt hour, and when there is excess, they are selling it for 5¢ per kilowatt hour. How the Liberal government came up with the business plan or how that works, I am not sure, but how it is affecting me is serious.

Our manufacturers, our business community, are really concerned about doing business in Ontario because of the cost of energy, and now we have the NDP wanting to bring forth a program with a carbon tax added to the price of energy.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could contrast our sensible strategy for jobs and growth with the radical plan that the NDP and the left in this country have, and how it affects her in Ontario and the fears—

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. parliamentary secretary, give a short answer, please.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question of my colleague from Oshawa gives me an opportunity to speak to the manufacturing industry in our country and what the Conservative government has done to support it.

Since 2006, the Conservative government has proudly supported manufacturing across this country, so whether that be lowering business taxes to 15% or eliminating the job-killing corporate surtax, this government has been focused on aiding the manufacturing companies, unlike our opposition colleagues, who only want to raise taxes.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Resuming debate. The hon. Minister of State for Science and Technology and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario has two minutes remaining in government orders today.