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 budget.

Topics

Bill C-38--Time Allocation Motion
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #187

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion adopted.

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, as I was saying when I was interrupted, hon. members know that Canada is a world leader in a very competitive global economy. Members also know that our government is committed to protecting the environment even as we work to protect the economy and create jobs.

Across our files: climate change, both mitigation and adaptation; water quality; water monitoring, both in the area of the oil sands and right across the country; the renewal of our Great Lakes water quality treaty with the United States; the development of clean air strategies; cleaning up contaminated sites; protecting species at risk; maintaining and growing our national parks and protected spaces; stiffening the enforcement of environmental regulation; operating the chemical management plan; and improving and contemporizing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That brings us to responsible resource development and Bill C-38.

As I said yesterday, we all know that, thanks to the work of this government, Canada has received worldwide recognition for having overcome the economic crisis of the past few years.

We are taking decisive action with responsible resources development legislation in our jobs, growth and long-term prosperity bill to create a modern regulatory system for the 21st century that would help foster jobs, investment and growth.

It would also enhance environmental protection and encourage responsible development. This initiative would ensure resources are allocated where they can do the most good; that is, on those major projects that may actually pose a risk to the environment. It would also assure public participation and involvement, accountability for decisions, and stronger environmental enforcement and compliance tools. Through improved environmental protection, Canada would also be better placed to address the concerns raised by aboriginal groups.

The legislation before us introduces enforceable environmental assessment decision statements that would ensure proponents of major projects comply with required mitigation measures. It would provide federal inspectors with authority to examine whether or not conditions of a decision statement are met. It would authorize the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act.

It would provide new funding in support of improving pipeline and marine safety. It would allocate $13.5 million over two years to improve pipeline safety across Canada, by enabling the NEB to increase the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines by 50%, from about 100 to 150 inspections per year, and double from 3 to 6 the number of annual comprehensive audits in order to identify safety issues before they occur.

It would fund $35.7 million over two years to further strengthen Canada's tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response.

In short, the responsible resource development initiative is an intelligent approach to environmental protection that goes hand in hand with the resource development that creates jobs and wealth for Canadians. I am very proud of the accomplishments and the dedication of this government to the environment. We are serving Canadians every day of their lives and protecting Canada for years to come.

That is the way of doing business that our economic action plan is based on. Our approach meets the economic needs of Canadians every day in terms of jobs and growth and will enable us to build a strong economy for future generations.

If I could repeat myself, that is the path our economic action plan will follow, a path that every day serves the economic needs of Canadians for jobs and growth and that builds a strong economy for generations to come.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, it is nice to hear that the Minister of the Environment thinks this budget is pro-environment when, in fact, anybody reading this 400-page document, which includes 200 pages eviscerating 40 years of environmental law, would form an opposite conclusion.

I wonder if the minister could speak to the matter of how he rationalizes the downgrading of federal environmental laws against the commitments under Canadian trade agreements that we will not downgrade environment laws for an economic advantage.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I would answer simply that what we are doing in an appropriate legislative timeframe is addressing issues that have been very clear to all, to successive minority governments in this House.

We are improving and we are contemporizing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency as well as with regard to major pipeline projects under the jurisdiction of the National Energy Board to ensure that we address the issues that are relevant today. We are eliminating duplication even as we provide for more rigorous examination of the environmental potential for negative impact on the environment or on the people who live in proximity to these resource projects.

However, in short, I would say that rigorous environmental protection can also be timely.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the minister about the repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. Right now, the Minister of the Environment is to publish a climate change plan each year detailing measures being taken to meet Canada's commitments, including the timing and expected reductions, forecasts for emission reductions as a whole and an explanation of how any measures that were not implemented as planned will be redressed.

The independent National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is to assess each year's plan and offer constructive expert feedback but the NRT has been eliminated. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is to report regularly on Canada's progress in implementing its climate plan and achieving its target.

Repealing the act will eliminate all of the above accountability measures and I am wondering what the minister will put in place to be accountable on Canada's international climate commitments.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I anticipate that next week, when the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development presents his annual report, that members will perhaps see his acknowledgement of Canada's legal right to serve notice of our withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol and that, in this final year under the protocol, we will again appropriately report, as provided under the protocol, our greenhouse gas inventory.

With regard to the national round table, I have a number of times in this House thanked the round table that was created 25 years ago, a full quarter of a century ago, for serving Canada well. However, that organization's time has passed. There are any number of other similar bodies in academia within the NGO community who can adequately address connections between the environment and the economy.

We are moving for a post-Kyoto climate change regime that will include all of the major emitters, both in the developed and the developing world.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, introduced by the government's finance minister who was rated the best finance minister in the world by his colleagues in the G8.

I will begin by congratulating all of the members on our one year anniversary, which occurred yesterday, particularly those who were elected for the first time. I know we will work closely together to ensure that public policy decisions are made wisely and with the best interests of Canadians at heart.

I saw quite an old movie recently called The Candidate. Robert Redford, who starred in the movie, is picked to run as a democratic candidate for senate in California against a republican senator who has been around for a number of years, who is quite accomplished and who is expected to win once again. However, Robert Redford, as the democratic candidate, wins the senatorial seat. In the last scene of the movie, Robert Redford is standing in a hotel room across from his political consultant who ran his campaign and he mouths the words, “What do we do now?”.

When this government, under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, ran in the 2011 election, we knew exactly what we would do on May 3 of last year. We knew that the people had sent this government to Ottawa with a strong mandate to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We were sent here with a strong, national Conservative majority government to implement a plan. We were the only party with a plan, a workable plan, a plan that first started in 2006 when we were first elected. The first three years, we had surpluses in our budget, which we applied to bring down the debt of the government by $37 billion.

However, with the downturn in the economy in 2008-09, certain stimuli measures were required to be put in place, which we did.

Since that time, since the end of the recession in 2009, this government has created 690,000 net new jobs. We are the only government that has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession of the G8.

We have a corporate tax rate of 15%, and that is a great brand that we have around the world. What we found after we lowered the corporate tax to 15% was that investment rose but, more important, corporate tax revenues rose. We have more money in general revenues because we lowered the tax than if we had an increase in taxes.

The opposition states that we need to increase corporate taxes. What it does not understand, however, is that corporations are not people. They do not pay taxes. People pay taxes. Madam Speaker, pardon me for speaking while members are trying to interrupt, but that bird has been plucked. There are no more feathers left on that bird any more.

I need to tell members something, and they do not need to take my word for it. However, the IMF, the World Economic Forum, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Forbes magazine, Bank of Canada, everybody says that this government is on the right track, doing the right thing, bringing jobs and economic growth to Canada. That is why we are the number one performing economy in the G8 bar none.

The budget that was introduced by the Minister of Finance on March 29 is a long-term plan and the plan involves a comprehensive agenda that will exceed our time in office. This is not a Conservative plan or a Conservative budget. This is a Canadian budget that looks out, not to the next election cycle, as previous governments would have done, but to Canada's long-term interests and prosperity. This is one of the first governments that has ever thought of doing that. It is because we care about Canada and the long-term prosperity of Canada.

A number of the examples that were given in the budget and the pillars that it was built on relate to innovation. A lot of governments before had talked about innovation but products were not produced. There is no such thing as an innovative product if there are no customers to buy it. Our government will focus on innovative products where there is a demand for those products and they will be purchased. We put $400 million into a venture capital fund for this very purpose.

The next pillar that we based our budget on was regulatory reform. I know some of my colleagues on this side have talked about regulatory reform, the resource sector and the environment sector and have spoken quite eloquently about them. However, opposition members are mistaken when they believe that more government, more red tape and more regulation leads to more rigorous scientific evaluation. What it leads to is time wasted, workers who are not hired and investors who look at our regulatory regime only to say that it is not worth it and they go elsewhere. As a country, we cannot afford that. What we have done in the budget is streamline the regulatory process so that investment can be approved or not approved depending not on the merits of the project but based on rigorous science. That is what this government has proposed.

The next pillar that this budget is based on is jobs. We have created 690,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession in July 2009. That is a record that stands tall. Nobody can hold a candle to Canada when it comes to our job creation performance record. We have lowered personal income taxes for people. The average family is saving $3,000 in personal taxes. As a father raising eight-year-old twins, the money is better in my pocket than in the government's pocket because everyone who has kids knows that we are always be asked for something. Our job creation record is outstanding and we are told that by everyone around the world.

We are streamlining our immigration system to get rid of the backlog for those people who have faint hope when applying to get into this country. We will streamline the immigration process under the leadership of our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who is doing a fantastic job.

The final pillar of the budget is trade. Trade is the future of our nation. It will bring jobs and investment to this country. Since 2006, we have signed nine free trade agreements that were opposed by the NDP each and every time. We are now reaping the rewards of all of those trade agreements. Job creation is up, investment is up and exports are up. I have a number of companies in my riding of York Centre that export, such as Bombardier, Sanofi Pasteur, Estée Lauder and Planters Canada.

I will wrap up by saying that this budget is a Canadian budget and I would urge all members on that side who are interested in the long-term interests of this country to support the budget.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I note my colleague's comments about extra dollars in his pocket. I come from a territory where many people suffer with low income, not the income of parliamentarians that puts them in the top 5% of our country.

Seniors and elders in my territory have worked hard all their lives and they will now have to add another couple of years on to that. They already have low incomes. While the quality of income is reducing, the member opposite, one of the top 5% of wage earners, talks about his ability to put an extra $3,000 in his pocket. I am insulted by that.

We have to talk about equality. When we have wage inequality in the western world, the population suffers greater social and health concerns.

How would my colleague respond to all those people who are not in the top 5% of wage earners, people who work hard to make a living and are now told they will have to work an extra couple of years just to get a pension?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Quite easily, Madam Speaker. The member talks about parliamentarians being in the 5% of wage earners and says that he cares about poor people. That is very noble of him.

When we put forward a 25% increase in the GIS in last year's budget, that member and his party said no. That party forced an election on it. That was simply outrageous.

Now he has the nerve to get up and talk about what we will do. We are putting people to work. We are giving people jobs. We are creating investment. We are giving the private sector an opportunity to expand and create jobs. That is the best welfare program we can ask for.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, I was interested to hear my friend say that this is a Canadian budget. I come from Prince Edward Island, the cradle of Confederation, and I might remind the hon. member we are part of Canada but we certainly feel left out in the budget.

There are provinces where people can get their EI claims processed. Prince Edward Island is not one of them. There are provinces where people can talk to someone at Citizenship and Immigration Canada if they need its services. Prince Edward Island is not one of those places. Two hundred and thirty-two jobs were cut from the Department of Veterans Affairs. If a veteran in Prince Edward Island wants to talk to a live person, that individual is out of luck. If someone wants to talk to someone on the computer, the cap sites are being closed.

Prince Edward Island is part of Canada. Why has Prince Edward Island been left out of the budget?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, once again the opposition misses the entire point. Twenty-five per cent of this budget is for the Canadian social transfer, which has not been touched. In fact, we have guaranteed a 6% increase to 2016 on the social transfer consistent with nominal GDP.

Hon. members on the other side claim that we are not doing the right thing. I am sorry to tell them but job creation is the right thing. We are doing the right thing for Canadians. That is why they sent us here. We put a plan to them in last year's election and they sent us back with a strong mandate to implement that plan of job creation, growth and long-term prosperity.

I am really ashamed of the opposition for not standing up proudly and supporting Canadian jobs and Canadian investment.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the hon. member for York South—Weston.

Bill C-38 is a complete assault on the democratic process. The government has tabled a 421-page budget bill, the majority composed of significant policy reforms far outside budget matters, all the programs and policies that are of critical significance to Canadian families and communities.

The bill introduces reforms to long-standing policies and programs. When I say long-standing, it is 50 years of environmental, fishery, health, pension, employment equity and immigration policies and programs. All of these are significant public policy matters and legislation that normally would come before the House in separate proposed bills. They would go through full debate, go to committee review and would afford the opportunity to Canadians who are concerned and affected by these policies to be consulted. It is absolutely shameful what the government is doing in this bill, and I cannot say anything less than that.

Then the government imposes closure on the minimal debate that it has allowed us to have on behalf of our constituents, on likely the most critical bill to come before the House in decades. It is a bill that commits billions of dollars in spending, at the same time significantly eroding its constitutional mandate. So much for the Conservative government platform of open, transparent, grassroots democracy. We have closure after only a few hours of debate on a 421-page budget bill. Is that transparency, open government, participatory government? I will let Canadians decide for themselves.

The government claims its budget is all about creating jobs, yet according to the analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Officer it will actually result in the loss of 43,000 jobs.

Bill C-38 introduces pension rollbacks. It proposes major changes to Canadians' access to public pension benefits on which they have come to rely. Despite complete silence during the election, despite analysis by the PBO that the changes are financially unnecessary, the Prime Minister, post-election and from Davos, Switzerland, announced significant reductions in OAS benefits, now implemented through the bill. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of Canadians have no access to private pension plans. The effect will be that many Canadians will be denied old age security until the age of 67. There will be disproportionate impacts on women, already making up the highest percentage of Canadians living in poverty, and those surviving on minimum wage or working as physical labourers.

The government has said that there is a lot of time to save up to survive those lean years. It has said this to families that already have record personal debt, that contributed all their lives toward a pension, that are likely overwhelmed caring for elderly parents, or trying to pay off their mortgages, or university fees for their children or prescriptions. They should not look to fall back on EI. There are no special favours for seniors. Under the new laws, they can now relocate to other provinces to earn their keep.

Bill C-38 would severely reduce transparency and centralizes power in the cabinet. It would reduce the audit and reporting powers of the Auditor General. It would limit the rights of Canadians to participate in reviews of major industrial projects to those directly affected, as determined within the complete discretion of the minister. It would transfer powers from independent quasi-judicial boards to ministers to decide on assessing or approving major industrial projects. It would cut libraries. It would further cut Statistics Canada. What is next, book burnings? We already have the witch hunts against those who are assisting communities and first nations in trying to determine what the impacts of major projects might be on their health or livelihoods.

However, most important, to me and to the many Canadians who have spent decades volunteering their time intervening in multi-stakeholder processes to ensure that we develop sound, credible environmental laws in the country, laws that have been held up and marketed around the world as the model for how to do economic development and at the same time ensure sustainable development and protection of health and environment, the bill would rescind critical laws that have been in place for 40 to 50 years. It is absolutely reprehensible and contrary to the prior practices, which I used to brag about around the world, of intensive consultation with industry, the public and impacted communities.

The Conservatives are amending the federal Fisheries Act. They are strangling the unilateral federal power to protect fish and fish habitat, not just for the benefit of Canadians but for the sake of the preservation of the species. The minister formerly spoke of avoiding duplication. I have worked hand in glove with federal and provincial agencies over forty years toward removing any sense of duplication. We already have in place scenarios of review and approval of projects where the federal government is already invisible, despite its constitutional powers and its mandates under Canadian law.

In truth, the government is amending the Constitution, without consultation, by removing its exclusive power to protect our fisheries, which further erodes the Crown's duty to protect aboriginal rights and titles.

It imposes a two-year time limit on reviews. It empowers the National Energy Board to make decisions on endangered species. Heaven forbid, we actually have a federal law on the books where the government is obligated to go through a very thorough process with appropriate scientists and careful review with the public and anybody impacted. The government will short-circuit the process and give that to the National Energy Board to decide.

In essence, the bill would download mitigation and cleanup costs from the proponent of a major project to impacted Canadians and first nations. It would allow the federal government to transfer its powers and duties to provinces. We are downloading possibly unconstitutional measures.

This is mere months after the government committed to finally exercise its authority and responsibility to ensure proper monitoring of the oil sands development on the Athabasca, the Mackenzie basin. It is cutting monitoring dollars. It is cutting a 100 more scientists, while muzzling the remaining ones.

Of personal interest to my constituency, the government is shutting down all the regional emergency and oil spill response teams. That is in the wake of the largest fresh water spill in North America, where the federal government completely dropped the ball and failed to deliver on its responsibilities on emergency response to these spills. This is in addition to a major spill in Wrigley, Northwest Territories, a major spill near the Lubicon First Nation in Alberta and massive fish kill from derailments in the Cheakamus River in B.C.

What is the government's response? To save a few pennies, it is removing all capability of the federal government to exercise the responsibility. It regulates the railroads. It has a responsibility for fisheries. It has responsibility for first nations peoples. In the very least, it has responsibility for transboundary waterways. It is completely dropping the ball on its responsibilities.

Is all of this legal? Downgrading environmental laws offends the clear mandate of the Minister of the Environment under the Department of the Environment Act. Contrary to what a series of Conservative members have propounded, the minister has, under that law, a singular mandate to protect the environment, not to sacrifice it to fast-tracked energy projects fronted by foreign investors.

The government, in downgrading its environmental laws, is actually also violating its trade laws. From NAFTA to the most recent free trade agreements with Panama, Canada's trade deals forbid Canada to weaken its environmental laws and regulations for an economic advantage. In exchange for those expanded markets, Canada committed to improve, not downgrade, its environmental protection laws. Therefore, the government is not only failing to exercise its constitutional responsibility, it is not only failing to deliver on its environmental mandate, it is violating the very trade agreements about which it brags.