House of Commons Hansard #122 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

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the budget implementation act.

I am going to focus my remarks on three main areas. I am the member of Parliament for Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island is still a province, but it has been left out of this budget. I am going to focus initially on the impact of the budget on my home province. Then I am going to spend some time talking about the impact of the budget on veterans. I am the Liberal Party critic for veterans, and this budget has targeted them quite unfairly. Then I am going to talk about old age security. As members know, last night we had a debate in the House on my private member's motion with respect to old age security, and the budget effectively kills it.

The impact of this budget on Canada's smallest and nicest province is devastating. We feel left out. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the only federal government department that has its national headquarters outside the national capital region. Its headquarters are in Prince Edward Island. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, 232 jobs will be cut, partly as a result of this budget and partly as a result of what the Department of Veterans Affairs calls its transformation agenda. I will comment more on that later. The impact of those budget cuts in a province like Prince Edward Island and in a city like Charlottetown is devastating. It affects the entire community.

Prince Edward Island does not have oil in the ground. It does not have a manufacturing sector. We have a seasonal economy. The number of well-paying jobs is not what it is in other centres and to gut the public service, as this budget does, unfairly singles out our province. However, it is worse than that. It is not bad enough to cut the jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but Prince Edward Island will now be one of only two provinces in this country where EI claims are not processed, because the government has closed the EI processing centre in Montague. Again, more well-paying civil service jobs are being lifted out of our economy. Prince Edward Island is now one of the few places in this country where, if people want to talk to someone about their immigration issues, they will be out of luck because the immigration office in Prince Edward Island will close as a result of this budget. Prince Edward Island is the only province in this country where people cannot get a passport processed. If they want to get a passport processed, they have to go to Halifax or Fredericton.

Infrastructure is very important, particularly in my riding of Charlottetown. There are two very significant infrastructure projects right now that are in dire need. One is a storm sewer separation project. The storm sewer system and the sewage system are one, so every time we get a heavy rainfall, the bypass has to come through because the volume is too great to go into the waste water treatment facility in Charlottetown. As a result, untreated sewage pours into the Charlottetown harbour every time there is a heavy rainfall. This is an $18 million problem. It is a serious problem. It desperately affects those who depend on the oyster fishery in and around Charlottetown.

The City of Charlottetown and the Province of Prince Edward Island have stepped up to solve this problem. They have kicked in. The City of Charlottetown has repeatedly made representations to the federal government to have it cost share in the project. Basically what it has been told is maybe in 2014. This is something for which there is a dire need, and it is nowhere to be found in the budget.

Also on the subject of infrastructure, we are in a situation in our city where we are using more than 90% of the available drinking water from the source that we have in the Winter River basin. We need a new source of water. It is a matter of public safety.

Prince Edward Island is one of the only provinces that is 100% dependent on groundwater for its potable water. We need to develop a new well field. One has been identified. There is a need for infrastructure funds for that. Again, it is the city and the province that have stepped up and the federal government is nowhere to be found. There is nothing for that in the budget.

We have this dearth of public services in the province, and the rationale we continually hear from the Conservatives is that they are streamlining and modernizing, doing all these things in the back office, that they need to depend more on technology, yet they have cut the community access program. They have cut the CAP sites. Those who cannot afford a computer, those who do not own a computer, are out of luck. The CAP sites will close as a result of the cuts in the budget.

Prince Edward Island has 140,000 people. Last year, CAP sites were accessed more than 80,000 times. They are necessary. They are used, but thanks to this budget, they will be gone.

Veterans Affairs and the veterans of this country once again have been shortchanged in the budget. The party line is that veterans benefits have not been touched. That is what we hear the Conservatives say, that all of the savings supposedly have been found in the back office in reducing red tape.

The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is $3.5 billion, and 90% of that budget is paid out as veterans benefits. That leaves $350 million to run the department. The cut this year is $36 million. We will hear the Conservatives say that they have spared veterans, that the cut to the department was only 1%, $36 million on $3.5 billion, when in actual fact the cost to run the department has been slashed by 10%.

Way back when, we know that every federal government department was asked to submit a 5% plan and a 10% plan. We hear the Conservatives say that veterans have been spared. Spared? In actual fact, the Conservatives could not have swung a heavier axe. Given the choice between a 5% cut and a 10% cut, they took the 10%.

Make no mistake, veterans will be affected. We cannot believe for a minute that veterans are going to receive the same service when 800 employees are being cut from the department.

I see that I am running short on time, so I will sum up by saying that Prince Edward Island is an equal partner in Confederation, but as a result of this budget, it certainly does not feel that way.

I would urge all hon. members to vote against the budget, and to urge the government to afford fair-handed treatment to all regions of the country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, Prince Edward Island is an important tourism destination, and tourism is an important part of its economy. Many small businesses welcome people from all over the world to see the great things that the island has to offer, including its wonderful environment, the ocean life and also some of the historic and cultural sites.

The Canadian Tourism Commission brings international tourists to Canada. It had its budget cut by 20%. We have now found out that visits by international tourists have declined by 15% since 2006. Under the Conservative government's watch, fewer international tourists come to Canada to spend money.

What will the effect be on Prince Edward Island of the government's policies to strangle the tourism industry with extra visas, cutting the GST rebate, cutting funding for the Canadian Tourism Commission, high airport taxes and fees, and other policies that are killing our tourism industry?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the three biggest industries in Prince Edward Island are tourism, agriculture and the fisheries. It has a population of 140,000 and gets one million visitors a year.

While civil service jobs are extremely important to our economy twelve months of the year, the engine that drives the seasonal economy is very much the tourism trade. As I indicated, basically our population goes almost ten-fold. The summer in Prince Edward Island is not really long and that is when we see the bulk of people. The cruise ship industry is one of the success stories in Prince Edward Island.

Anything in the budget that has a negative impact on tourism is yet another blow to a province that has been treated very unfairly in the budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill C-38.

I am sad because this bill is worse than any other this Parliament has debated, and that is for two reasons.

First, without consulting Canadians, the government chose to introduce sweeping changes to many laws that affect environmental, social and economic aspects of Canadian life. This approach is illegitimate and outrageous. The process is unacceptable and an offence to true democracy.

Second, beyond the process that is so offensive, the bill that purports to be a budget bill is, in substance, something quite different. The substance of the changes is equally alarming.

Laws this bad take some explanation. As I have sat through the truncated debate on this process at second reading, what we have had are presentations from the Conservative MPs providing lists of things they like in the legislation, and presentations from the opposition benches providing lists of things we do not like in the legislation. That leaves out a big piece of the puzzle.

We have also been confusing measures that are a budget measures that are not in Bill C-38, things like fighting the deficit. There are things we do not like, like killing the Centre for Plant Health in my own riding, which is necessary to protect the health of the economy, particularly in the grape growing regions and wineries, and killing jobs in national parks, again in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Gulf Islands National Park jobs in ecological work.

However, again, these are not in Bill C-38. The debate has been combatting lists. We like this and we hate this.

I want to step back and try to understand what is going on here. Why do we have this enormous package of measures, most of the substantial changes being those that unravel environmental law in our country?

I have been involved in the development of most of the laws that we now see being unravelled, particularly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. What I see behind all this is a shift in mindset.

I worked in the Mulroney government. The Progressive Conservatives understood that conserving involved conserving the environment. This is not necessarily the current mindset of the current brand of conservatism, which I find alien from the traditions and roots of people like former fisheries ministers John Fraser and Tom Siddon. Both have spoken out against the devastating changes to the protection of fish habitat in Bill C-38 and the unintended consequences that this will surely have.

This mindset reminds me most of what the former senior economist to the World Bank, Herman Daly, used to describe as “treating the earth as a business in liquidation”, an everything must go mentality and it must be done fast. He offered the opposite view. He said that we needed to understand that the economy was a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, that these things were not in conflict and that it was so wrong-headed to say that we would only get jobs if we destroyed the environment. It boggles the mind.

When we understand that this is the way this entire omnibus budget bill has been prepared, then it begins to make sense. Then we understand the narrative and then we can understand that someone in the PMO picked up the phone, called the Department of Justice or maybe just sent an email, said that it should find all those things for which the federal government is responsible for the environment and find ways to withdraw from them to the maximum extent possible without offending constitutional requirements to protect such things as migratory birds, because we have a convention with the U.S., or fisheries, because that is in the Constitution.

For example, there is no other way to understand why the Conservatives repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and put in place an entirely new act. Most of what we have heard is that they wanted to have timely assessments. I do not think there would be much debate over that.

In 2005 I proposed to the minister of the environment that in order to get a review of the proposed cleanup at the Sydney tar ponds, which itself presented risks, a timeline would be a good idea. In fact, a 12-month timeline was put in place for the joint review panel of the cleanup proposed for the Sydney tar ponds back in 2005. That could be done under the existing legislation. We do not need to repeal the act and start over.

To all these complaints, the Conservatives claim that industry was demanding this be done, I have in front of me a briefing note from the Mining Association of Canada from January of this year in which it praises the current process under Environmental Assessment Review. It says, “the amendments that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act made in 2010 were implemented quickly and competently by the agency” and it has “provided mining project proponents with relief”. It says that for the first time “provincial and federal assessments are synchronized”. This is from the Mining Association of Canada, allegedly one of the interest groups for whom the Conservative government is destroying all of our environmental laws. The Mining Association of Canada says, “our primary interest in the review of the Environmental Assessment Act is to convey support for the new system brought in...and to renew funding for the Environmental Assessment Agency”.

It is critical to understand that the government did not have to repeal the Environmental Assessment Act in order to have a process that worked for all the players. It looks as though this desperate attempt to be in a hurry is where the problem lies. What the government has done is so egregious. The Environmental Assessment Act being repealed and replaced with a whole new scheme that will never get proper review through the process we have in an omnibus project.

The Conservatives are removing what had always been a federal trigger for a proper environmental assessment, if federal money was being spent. That is no longer there. They are removing comprehensive studies. They are no longer there.

There is no real definition of what an environmental assessment would be. We have a reference in the budget document to something called a “standard environmental assessment”, but Bill C-38 has removed all definitions of what the process would look like.

Killing the comprehensive studies and creating panels that can be substituted with the province without criteria, in my view, would have the industry coming to government asking what it had done as the process had worked pretty well. In fact, the Mining Association of Canada says, “very well”. Now we will not know what project has to go to review or what project does not, when we go to the province or when we do not.

At the same time, in order to unravel the federal responsibilities that trigger an environmental assessment, the government has created a crazy scheme for fisheries. It still requires a permit to add substances “deleterious” to fish, but the protections for fish habitat have been removed.

This means, and as we all know this is a real-life example, that if one wanted to have a large-scale project, for instance, to put tailings into an existing lake, we would be better off, if the lake were in a remote area where no one fishes, to drain the whole lake, kill all the fish and destroy the habitat because that would be legal without an authorization. Whereas adding substances “deleterious” to fish into a lake currently would require authorization. This is the ultimate example of haste makes waste.

The bill has not properly contemplated the changes to the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, or the changes to the Species at Risk Act. The bill is out of control through the false notion that we will create jobs through waste and haste.

I remind people that it is now 20 years since the Westray disaster in which 26 men died. There was no environmental review at that time, as it was back in 1988 when the project was approved, but there were warnings. The experts in the department of mines said that the area was too high in methane, but no, the local politicians and some federal politicians wanted those jobs. They wanted them so badly that they overrode expert advice. They said that they had to get that Westray mine built come hell or high water, that they would do it and that they did not want to hear complaints about causes or what might happen to get in the way. Therefore, federal money flowed. We created a bomb and put men in it, and 26 men died.

Now we are creating another kind of bomb. The first speaker on the bill was not the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Natural Resources who brought forward all the reasons to change the scheme. He said that we must hurry as there was no time to waste. He quoted from the International Energy Agency on the current state of fossil fuel requirements around the world, but he never quoted the warning from the International Energy Agency that if we did not act on the climate crisis, it would soon be too late. The quote from the International Energy Agency from earlier this year is this, “Delaying action is a false economy. As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals”. We must change direction. This bill is putting pedal to the medal to go as fast as possible to a very large brick wall.

Going back to the bomb we built for the men at Westray, we are now building a climate bomb, a carbon bomb. The proposed legislation is so wrong-headed it must be withdrawn in its entirety.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past 10 minutes, I listened to my colleague as she tried to describe this omnibus bill in as much detail as possible. Providing a carefully considered opinion about a 400-page bill in just 10 minutes is practically impossible. It is an incredible tour de force.

She talked about attacks on democracy and on institutions and spoke at length about the environment. However, she did not say much about the actual budget.

I would like to ask her if she thinks that this omnibus bill introduced by the Conservative government has been deliberately designed to orient the debate away from the government's economic vision. Is the government trying to distract us with dozens of other things, all of which, unfortunately, are important? We should have a chance to focus on each of these issues individually in the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 11th, 2012 / 10:55 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my friend.

It is true that some bills are too short, such as Bill C-36, which is only four paragraphs long. It is a very serious process. It is an important bill to protect seniors, yet it is a very small bill.

In stark contrast, here we have an omnibus bill that is over 400 pages long that fundamentally changes over 70 pieces of legislation and in which everything is hidden. This is because the Prime Minister knows that it is not a good bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. There will be three minutes left for questions and comments after question period.

Right now we will move on to statements by members.

Walk So Kids Can Talk
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 6, along with hundreds of great supporters and volunteers, I attended the Walk So Kids Can Talk event in Streetsville Memorial Park supporting Kids Help Phone. This walk raised more than $150,000 in Streetsville and $2.5 million nationally.

Walk So Kids Can Talk is held in over 40 communities across Canada and helps kick off Mental Health Awareness Week, which is concluding this weekend. Kids Help Phone is Canada's leading phone and online professional counselling service for youth. For more than 23 years, professional counsellors have been available to youth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service is funded exclusively through fundraising and corporate support, such as the millions raised at last Sunday's walk. Unfortunately, one in five youth will develop mental heath struggles, but of those, only one in five will receive the support he or she needs.

I would like to congratulate the team at Kids Help Phone and thank them for being there to listen to our youth, often at times when no one else will.

Green Power
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate the owners of the Café Morgane chain in Trois-Rivières, Suzanne and Guy Marcotte, on a wonderful initiative. In partnership with Duguay properties as well as InnovaTek and GRIDbot Canada, this week Café Morgane opened the first electric car charging station in Canada, under the banner “Puissance verte” or green power.

Unsurprisingly, travel by electric car requires occasional stopovers to recharge the battery. What better time to stop and have a coffee, read a book or—why not—even plan a business meeting? The recharging station will become the cornerstone of a new way of life.

With that in mind, Puissance verte is already developing virtual tools in order to make it easier for electric car owners to plan their travels. The innovative people at Puissance verte are also working on a residential version of the charging terminal, which will be assembled here in Canada, in Mauricie.

Founded in 1992, Café Morgane now has over 120 employees working at 11 locations. The firm is one of the most credible businesses in Mauricie. I doff my hat deeply to—

Green Power
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Human Trafficking in Peel Region
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to call attention to a serious problem in the Peel region of the greater Toronto area. It is a cause for great sadness and concern among my constituents in Mississauga South, as well as other residents of Peel region, to know that human trafficking is being carried on there.

This government takes this problem very seriously. I am glad to know that in 2007 this Conservative government allocated funding to theMinister of Public Safety to combat child exploitation and trafficking. In 2009, the Minister of Public Safety established a program to increase awareness and to inform Canadians. The RCMP has a human trafficking national coordination centre to combat and disrupt human trafficking in Canada, but still it is my understanding that Canada is a primary destination for human trafficking from other parts of the world. There is still much to be done to eliminate this horrible crime.

Environmental Sensitivities
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker,I rise today to draw the attention of the House to environmental sensitivities, a health issue that affects the quality of life of over a million Canadians.

Environmental sensitivities occur when individuals become sensitive to chemicals and other substances in the air that are commonly tolerated, resulting in a multitude of often severe symptoms that can be devastating to those affected.

The Environmental Health Association of Québec does outstanding advocacy work that includes creating awareness campaigns about air quality, providing educational resources on this phenomenon and, most recently, constructing a healthy housing project, which makes available to those with severe sensitivities a living space free of toxins.

On behalf of the association, I am asking the government to support those suffering from environmental sensitivities by working to declare the month of May in Canada environmental sensitivities month and May 12 environmental sensitivities day.

Falun Gong
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, Falun Gong practitioners promote the cultivation of mind and body and encompass the universal principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. However, the Falun Gong are persecuted ruthlessly. In China, freedom of belief is non-existent, and the Falun Gong are subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, lack of medical attention and, most disturbing, live organ harvesting.

I am proud to serve as the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong, and as such I spoke at a rally on Parliament Hill on Wednesday that was attended by hundreds of Falun Gong observers. The Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong call on the Chinese government to put an end to the ongoing persecution of the Falun Gong. Falun Gong are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, and there is no excuse for the human rights violations they have endured.

As the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King said 50 years ago, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”. I am inspired by the passion, the sacrifice and the struggle exemplified by the practitioners of Falun Gong.

Events in Scarborough Southwest
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, one year later, the honour and privilege of representing the people of Scarborough Southwest, this vibrant and diverse community that my family has called home for over 80 years, is even greater than it was.

Last weekend I attended the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13's 90th anniversary in the community and thanked them again for their continued service to our veterans. It was a treat also to go to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tea, put on by the local osteoporosis society.

Over the coming months I look forward to the many wonderful local events. I look forward to the 100th anniversary of Courcelette Public School later this month. That is 100 years of teaching our kids. This summer, many weddings will take place at Rosetta McClain Gardens and many family events in Bluffers Park. There is Art in the Park, Birchmount baseball, many festivals and fairs by local schools and BIAs, and farmers' markets too.

I am very proud to be the MP for Scarborough Southwest and humbled by the continued trust of my constituents.

Events in Brantford
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is springtime in Brantford, and I am excited to tell the House that whether one is a local, a tourist, or just passing through, my riding has something exciting to offer this wonderful season.

The Brantford Red Sox kick off their 2012 season tomorrow and begin their drive for five as they seek to tie their own record and become the second team in Intercounty Baseball League history to win five consecutive championships since 1945. Soon after, we will kick off the sixth annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament, which holds the record for the largest ball hockey tournament in the world, with participants showcasing their hockey skills in a vibrant, friendly competition.

Events kick off in our beautiful downtown Harmony Square and at the breathtaking and historic Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, which will host the fifth annual Brantford International Jazz Festival later this summer.

With all of this and so much more, I invite all Canadians to come and take part. I guarantee they will have a blast.