House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I am sorry, but the member's time has expired.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Joliette.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her remarks.

There is one thing I would like to know regarding the environment. Why does a third of Bill C-38 focus on environmental deregulation?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill does not provide for deregulation. It provides for a modernization of existing regulations. The bill provides a process. People will know the consistent, ongoing process for getting through the system.

The bill also provides more environmental protections as well as more checks and balances.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about tax cuts and lower taxes. It seems to me that the Conservatives believe that almost every problem can be solved with lower taxes.

Canadian mining companies up north want to hire some local skilled labour and even train the local folks to take the skilled jobs, but they cannot do it because not enough people finish secondary school. No amount of tax cuts will allow young people to get the skills and education they need to get good jobs. There is a problem. This is an example of where we cannot simply lower taxes and fix a problem.

We need to help young people get the skills and education they need so they can get good jobs and good wages. They then can pay taxes and lower the tax burden for everybody else. I do not think the Conservatives ever think about future tax burdens.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the hon. member on the opposite side. This government has lowered taxes for the average Canadian to the tune of $1,000 per family. That will put more money in their pockets for the additional credits they can do in arts and other areas.

At the same time, we have also increased transfer payments to the provinces. This is a consistent formula that the provinces can depend on and it provides an excellent framework for educational institutions, health sectors, et cetera to plan on.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the theme of the budget is about creating jobs, wealth and opportunity for all Canadians. Could the member tell us why we need to implement these changes now, so that we can provide a future for our young people?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the fragile global economy, our country needs to look toward Asia-Pacific countries to expand our markets. In doing so, there will be some historic changes in how the world's economy will be restructured.

It is so important for us to invest in skills training, education, entrepreneurship and innovation, so we can then direct these areas of the different sectors in Canada to work toward expanding our trade for a stronger economy in the future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend claims the bill would strengthen the environment. I would like her to find a single section in the bill that could be considered strengthening the environment. All I find is gutting.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I already noted in my speech that we are going to be increasing environmental protection by checking on pipelines not only 100 times but 150 times. We are also going to double the number of inspections from three to six. These are tangible, precise and specific safety features. We are also demanding the use of double-hulled oil tankers down the coast.

These are specific safety features in the bill that would strengthen environmental protection.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver South for splitting her time with me. It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in favour of our government's economic action plan. Allow me to start by quoting just one of the many positive assessments of our recent budget.

David Frum of the National Post wrote that under this Prime Minister, “...Canada can fairly claim to be the best-governed country among advanced democracies in the world” and that the recent “federal budget locks up Canada’s lead”. He explained that the world's major economies share a common economic problem. How do we nurture a fragile economic recovery while returning to a balanced budget?

In the United Kingdom we see the danger of moving too quickly: the economic recovery falters. In the United States we see the danger of moving too slowly: dangerous debt levels and the loss of the country's AAA credit rating. Canada has the pace just right. We are on track to balance the budget in the medium term. The Canadian economy continues to grow. In fact, Canada's economy has expanded in nine out of the last ten quarters. Since July 2009, the Canadian economy has created nearly 700,000 net new jobs, the strongest job growth record in the G7.

Contrary to the assertions by the members opposite, these employment gains have been in high quality jobs, with 90% in full-time positions, and over three-quarters in high-wage industries and in the private sector. For the first time in more than three decades Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the United States.

Among major industrialized countries Canada has an enviable economic record. The world has taken notice. The World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Forbes magazine ranked Canada number one in the world for business to grow and create jobs. Our economy outperforms our major trading partners. Canada is well ahead of other G7 countries in returning to balanced budgets. The International Monetary Fund projects that by 2016, Canada's total debt-to-GDP ratio will remain at about one-third of the G7 average and more than 20 percentage points below that of Germany, the G7 country with the next lowest ratio.

This afternoon I will speak to three reasons why I believe MPs should support our economic action plan.

First, the economic action plan continues our focus on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

Second, our action plan will ensure Canada's social programs are sustainable in the long term so that they will be there for future generations when we need them.

Third, we will return Canada to balanced budgets by achieving fair, balanced and moderate savings.

Our action plan proposes a number of measures to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians. I will focus on one measure, our responsible resource development initiative. Here are some important facts. In 2010, natural resource sectors employed over 760,000 workers. In the next 10 years, new investments of more than $500 billion are planned across Canada. The problem is that those who wish to invest in our country have been facing an increasingly complicated and cumbersome set of rules that add costs, delay projects and kill jobs.

In my home province of British Columbia, in the government's 2010 Speech from the Throne, it was noted that some $3 billion in provincially approved projects were “stranded in the mire of federal process and delay.” The B.C. Minister of Finance, Kevin Falcon said, “We have many projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment and revenues.”

There are numerous examples of economic opportunities missed and jobs lost due to needless bureaucratic duplication and red tape. I will provide one such example. There is a proposal to develop a 396 megawatt offshore wind energy project in Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. The proponent estimates that the project would have a capital investment of $1.6 billion and would create up to 200 construction jobs. The federal decision to approve the process came 16 months after the provincial decision.

Our action plan 2012 proposes to remove these impediments that are unnecessarily delaying responsible resource development and costing Canadians jobs.

The Conservative government would focus on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects. We would make the review process for major projects more predictable and timely, we would reduce duplication and regulatory burden, we would strengthen environmental protection, which is very important to note, and in British Columbia, as across the rest of the country, it is very important that we would enhance our consultation with first nations people.

As has already been established, Canada's financial situation, compared to other advanced democracies in the world, is enviable. Our government is not content to rest on our laurels and ignore the challenges that will face Canada in the coming decades. Our action plan is proposing necessary changes to our retirement system to ensure that it will be there for all Canadians.

Here is the challenge that we will be facing in the not too distant future. In the 1970s, there were seven workers for every one person over the age of 65 collecting old age security. Today, there are four workers for every senior collecting OAS, and in 20 years the number will be only two. In addition, in 1970 life expectancy was age 69 for men and 76 for women. Today it is 79 for men and 83 for women. At the same time, Canada's birth rate is falling. Given these demographic changes and realities, the cost of the old age security system will grow from $38 billion in 2011 to $108 billion in 2030. This program is funded out of general revenue every year and this increase is simply unsustainable.

Our action plan 2012 would put the OAS program on a sustainable path by proposing legislation to raise the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS benefits gradually. The phase-in period would begin in April 2023 and it would not be fully implemented until January 2029. Let me be very clear. These proposals would not impact those currently collecting benefits or those nearing retirement. An 11-year notification period followed by a six-year phase-in period would ensure that individuals have significant advance notification to plan their retirement and make necessary adjustments.

At least 34 other countries are increasing the age of eligibility for their programs. They all realize that they need to ensure the sustainability of those programs for future generations. Our actions would ensure that OAS remains strong and is there for future generations when they need it and is available for all seniors today who are currently receiving the benefits.

Finally, our action plan 2012 would keep Canada on track to a balanced budget over the medium term. We would not raise taxes. Doing so kills jobs. We would not cut transfers to individuals, nor would we cut transfers to other levels of government for health care, education and social services, as was done by previous governments. Our government would return to balanced budgets while continuing sustainable increases in transfers for health, education and social programs. Federal transfers to my home province of British Columbia would total over $5.6 billion in 2012-13. This represents a 23% increase, over $1 billion more, than the province received from the former Liberal government.

Canada is a very blessed country. Due to the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, our country has avoided the worst of the global economic storm and is on a sound financial footing. The measures I have discussed today—responsible resource development, long-term sustainability of our social programs and modest cost savings to return to a balanced budget—are part of our action plan that will create jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians.

I would ask all hon. members to join with our government and support economic action plan 2012.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, regarding the environment, several times today in the House, I have heard that certain organizations are to be targeted because they are a thorn in the side of the multinationals and the oil companies.

I have trouble with this concept. I would go so far as to subscribe to a conspiracy theory because I find this strange. I think that the members across the way think that way. However, as far as I know, the organizations are made up of Canadian citizens, volunteers, people involved in our communities who see the impact of the decisions made by multinationals. The multinationals and oil companies, on the other hand, are made up of people from abroad, and the majority of these companies do not necessarily care about our future.

I am trying to find a balance. I get the impression that the government tends to forget that the social contract for the power that it holds comes from Canadians. Why attack the Canadians who are identifying these problems? They are the ones we should be listening to, not the multinationals.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is standing up for Canadian citizens and for Canadian jobs, 760,000 jobs in the natural resources sector.

We know the NDP members oppose any development of the oil sands and have called for a moratorium on the development. They oppose any hydrocarbon, fossil fuel development at all. So it is no surprise that they are also opposing the Canadian jobs that result from these projects.

We have seen that they oppose Keystone XL which created over 140,000 jobs. They opposed the northern gateway pipeline, right off the top. They are also opposing the private sector unions which are clearly onside with natural resources development, and have said they support our regulatory reform because they know that these projects give good jobs and good benefits to Canadians. That is why we will continue with our responsible resource development plan.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure if I got this right from the member. He mentioned British Columbia getting more in transfers from this government than the preceding government. I think that is based on a formula which is called equalization and has been in existence for quite some time.

As a matter of fact, Newfoundland and Labrador, where I come from, is actually getting less money. No, let me correct that, we are actually getting no money from the federal government. That is because of the resources that are off Newfoundland and Labrador's coasts and because of what we have done. I would go back to the fight, what happened between Danny Williams and the Prime Minister.

I want to ask the member about one thing. He keeps talking about skills and development. Small towns across this country just lost the community access program which delivers high-speed Internet for the smallest communities. It is an issue of poverty. People making below the median income of $30,000 cannot afford these large bills for high-speed Internet. The local library decided to provide that service for all citizens, and now it is gone. It is a little disingenuous for a member from rural Canada to be talking about the fact that they are losing this essential service.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question was all over the map, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. I will try to focus on equalization and transfers to the provinces.

I do not know the hon. member's electoral history or if he was here during the time when the Liberal government cut $25 billion in transfers in health and social transfers to the provinces. Certainly, we did fix the equalization program to ensure that it was fair for all Canadians.

I also have no problem discussing the small-town impacts of our bill. I toured a local production facility, Britco in Agassiz, British Columbia. It produces housing units for natural resource development projects. The company sees a direct link between our plan to have regulatory reform and its business model. It has increased the number of its good, high-paying, high-skilled jobs, because of our program to ensure that we have responsible resource development.

I will continue to support the budget, as people in small-town Canada do.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-38 on behalf of my constituents in Mount Royal.

While my constituents might understandably assume that the bill relates to the budget, in fact this 400-plus-page omnibus bill actually has very little to do with the budget. Many of the proposals therein have particularly deleterious consequences for the environment. Accordingly, I will be splitting my time with our environment critic, the hon. member for Etobicoke North.

A related problem is that while this budget implementation bill is supposed to flow from the budget speech, which itself is not only a financial statement but a statement of values and a reflection of priorities, this budget, in its reflection of priorities, does not note or even utter the words “social justice”. It does not note or even speak of “fairness” or “equality”. It does not note or even reference the Charter whose 30th anniversary we celebrate this year, nor does it reference or note anywhere the word “humanitarian”.

While the budget speech did outline certain measures that we see legislated in Bill C-38, this budget implementation omnibus bill goes above and beyond anything we have seen and beyond any of the enabling authority of the budget itself.

In its 400-plus pages, there are amendments to more than 60 statutes. It covers everything from fisheries to nuclear safety, from territorial borrowing limits to air transport. It is an enormous hodgepodge, bundling together legislation not unlike Bill C-10 that does not allow for the necessary differentiated parliamentary discussion and debate, let alone the necessary oversight of the legislation. It imbues the executive with arbitrary authority to the exclusion of Parliament, thereby serving as a standing abuse to the canons of good governance, transparency and accountability. Indeed, this alone should be cause for its defeat.

As Andrew Coyne has put it, and I quote, “The scale and scope is on a level not previously seen, or tolerated”. He notes that this bill makes “a mockery of the confidence convention” and that there is no “common thread” or “overarching principle” between the legislative items therein, let alone its standing contempt for Parliament in matters of process and procedure.

Moreover, and again on the crucial issues of parliamentary process and procedure, which are principled concerns, while the bundling together of disparate pieces of omnibus legislation as a confidence bill is problematic enough on its own, this bill is slated to go to the finance committee in its entirety. Accordingly, the review of the environmental regulations therein, which overhaul, weaken and undermine the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and environmental protection as a whole, will thus not be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where it belongs. The provisions that abolish the First Nations Statistical Institute and make changes to the First Nations Land Management Act will not be the subject of examination and study by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, where it belongs. I can go on with numerous examples in this regard.

If circumventing proper and thorough parliamentary review in committee was not enough, the government, as we saw earlier, has invoked time allocation to limit the amount of time and discussion on this bill.

I am not suggesting that invoking time allocation, as the government has done again and again, or the use of an omnibus vehicle, as has occurred with Bill C-10, are against the legislative rules. What I am suggesting, as have many commentators, is that its use here and now on this particular omnibus bill is unnecessary, prejudicial, suprisingly undemocratic, in effect, unparliamentary and otherwise unsubstantiated and unwarranted.

Surely if Parliament had to debate something like going to war, it would be easy to see why we might time-allocate to ensure we get to the most pressing debate first, or if there were court decisions that affected many statutes, we might easily welcome an omnibus bill that would make the same change to many statues. What is so disconcerting with Bill C-38 is that the government need not be in a rush. There is no coherent or compelling theme to the omnibus proposals contained in the bill.

The opposition is not opposed to some of what is in Bill C-38. For example, the proposed changes to the custom and tariff rules sound reasonable. What we are opposed to is the take it or leave it, one size fits all omnibus approach to legislating that does not allow the necessary differentiated and deliberative oversight or review, or review by the particular and appropriate parliamentary committees. The government and the opposition can co-operate if the government would simply respect the opposition and be responsive in debate.

Again, I will remind my colleague that the government assumes that its legislation in every instance is perfect and, in so doing, believes there are no amendments that need even be tendered let alone adopted. This occurred in the case of Bill C-10 when, in response to amendments I introduced at the time, the government summarily rejected them because they came from the opposition, it seemed. It reintroduced the amendments on its own, a matter that could have been avoided, as the Speaker then noted in terms of the procedural complications that then ensued. Moreover, while I will be voting against this bill in large part because of the way it was introduced and how it is being pushed through Parliament, in terms of matters of process and its abuse, I will use my remaining time to outline some of my objections to the substance of the bill. Regrettably, time is limited and I therefore cannot address every flaw of this legislation.

First, Bill C-38 marginalizes low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS from 65 to 67. While the government claims this change is necessary, and it did so just now in debate, for the sustainability of OAS, this contradicts Canada's chief actuarial officer and the PBO, who agree that the change is unsound and unnecessary as the current situation and system is sufficiently sustainable.

Second, the government proposes to close the files of federal skilled workers who applied prior to 2008, without any chance on their part to review or appeal this decision. It is not surprising that some have announced plans to take the government to court over this as a matter of fundamental fairness and due process. Indeed, all who apply to Canada should have their applications judged on their merits, not an arbitrary deadline set by the minister and applied in a retroactive fashion.

Third, cuts are being made to various food inspection agencies. These agencies keep Canadians safe and secure while ensuring the food chain is not contaminated. The government has yet to explain how these cuts would not prejudice the health and safety of Canadians or how food safety would be maintained in the absence of complete and adequate funding.

Fourth, the true nature of public service cuts in this bill still remains unknown. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that in addition to the 19,200 positions being eliminated in budget 2012, there will be a further 6,300 jobs cut as a result of the government's previous strategic reviews that have yet to be implemented, and a further 9,000 cuts as a result of the government's budget operating freeze. That would create a total of 34,500 federal public service job cuts associated with this budget cycle alone. As well, the Parliamentary Budget Officer agrees that the government's figure of 19,200 public service jobs being cut does not represent the full number. He said, “...additional job losses will be required. ...we're actually talking about cuts on top of cuts”.

I raise this in particular to note that we are being asked to rubber-stamp the government's agenda without the necessary information, in a manner that precludes the necessary oversight and review and when it is clear that there are inconsistencies with what the government is saying and what independent experts assert. Parliamentarians must be afforded the facts and figures upon which they are being forced to pronounce, as was the case in Bill C-10. We did not receive it then and we are not receiving it now. This, in effect, amounts to a kind of standing contempt of Parliament.

Fifth, and my colleague from Etobicoke North will speak further to this in a moment, this bill rewrites Canada's laws on environmental assessment and repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, weakening our environmental regulations but with consequences far beyond this.

In an email just this morning, a constituent wrote this. Considering that when environmental damage is caused, it has a domino effect on our food and water and thus affects Canadians' health and livelihood, these issues are actually also human rights issues. We have the right to safe clean water, safe accessible food and the myriad of other essential benefits we get from a properly functioning ecosystem.

Sixth, we have the elimination of a series of libraries and archives throughout different departments as part of the latest budget cuts, including the Canadian Council of Archives, which may close as soon as this Friday. This would affect historians, researchers, the media, Parliament and the public who deserve to have information preserved in addition to access to this information.

While I do not have time to elaborate on what this bill includes, I will close with a note about what is not in this bill. This bill does not address that which must be addressed. First and foremost is job creation, not just loss of jobs. Nor does it address the issues that matter most to my constituents in terms of social justice, access to justice and the promotion and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Accordingly, and with this I close, whether it is marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing when the existing program funds are set to expire soon, this budget is simply wrong-headed, misguided, prejudicial and disconnected from the needs of Canadians and from my constituents.

In short, Bill C-38 marks a sad chapter in Canadian parliamentary history.