House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was affordable.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham talked a bit about the history of the economic action plan, how we had to stimulate the economy and where we are going now.

Of course the focus in terms of where we are going now is on having jobs available for our workforce, having a responsible government that spends within its means and moving back toward a balanced budget.

I would ask the member this: if we were not making this very important move to return to a balanced budget, what would be the long-term future for Canada and Canadians?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. We can see what the result is if we look at other jurisdictions around the world that did not focus on the economy and on balancing their budget. We are seeing extraordinary turmoil in Europe. We are seeing the difficulties that our friends to the south are having. That is why, in this country, we have talked to Canadians, and they have told us that it is very important that we return our budget back into balance. They understand that what we had to do through economic action plan one was to stimulate the economy.

However, the hon. member is quite correct. Canadians want us to return this budget back to balance because they know that through a balanced budget we can guarantee funding for health care, for social programs and for all of those programs and services that Canadians depend on and all the things that make this country the best place in the world in which to live.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 is a rather crafty bill. It is another one of the Conservatives' strategies to ram things down Canadians' throats. It is a frontal attack on government accountability measures. As the Treasury Board critic, the thing that concerns me the most is how this bill would make our government and our democracy even less transparent and accountable.

A major theme of Bill C-38 was not even in budget 2012, namely the reduction of the Auditor General's oversight powers. This bill eliminates the requirements for a mandatory audit by the Auditor General of the financial statements of 12 agencies. It is important for Canadians to know that.

The 12 agencies are Northern Pipeline Agency Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the Exchange Fund Account established under the Currency Act, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Polar Commission, the Yukon Surface Rights Board, and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

What is more, Bill C-38 dissolves the Public Appointments Commission. Doing away with this commission will significantly reduce the transparency of the public appointment process and will open the door to more political interference.

For these reasons alone, I am against this bill, and I think that most Canadians are as well.

Democracy is a fragile thing, and it must be protected. We cannot allow a procedural strategy of this government to undermine it.

This bill contains yet more pills that are hard for Canadians to swallow. For example, Bill C-38 will also weaken reporting requirements in the area of environmental protection by limiting the scope of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and increasing the minister's discretionary power. Once again, we see the theme of concentrating authority in the offices of the minister and the Prime Minister.

Bill C-38 reduces transparency with regard to the evaluation of large pipeline projects and allows cabinet to overrule the National Energy Board's decisions about such projects. This is another measure that lacks transparency.

Bill C-38 also reduces the government's transparency with regard to fisheries and oceans. It reduces transparency with regard to the protection of fish habitats and does away with the obligation to examine the possible effects of proposed projects. The bill also attacks the health of at-risk Canadians by reducing government transparency with regard to food safety and by giving the minister the authority to ignore the Food and Drugs Act and arbitrarily exempt certain foods and drugs from the regulations designed to protect Canadians against harmful substances.

That is not all. Bill C-38 does away with the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Why? Because he has been very critical of the agency and the government.

The bill also dissolves the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, thereby reducing the available sources of independent scientific advice that can help to guide the development of government and parliamentary policies. In short, it eliminates any criticism of the government.

Bill C-38 also does away with the First Nations Statistical Institute, once again eliminating an independent source of statistics on first nations that is essential to the development of transparent and effective policies on the issues faced by the first nations of this country.

The bill increases the minister's discretionary power on immigration and refugee measures and—I repeat—it does so at the expense of an independent and transparent decision-making process.

Canadians listening today will no doubt be surprised about all of this and they would be right to wonder why all of these unrelated measures are included in this bill. Are we not talking about a budget implementation bill? Then again, they probably have not seen a budget bill like this, consisting of 420-plus pages. As they can see, Bill C-38, which is meant to implement budget 2012, actually goes much further than the budget document. This massive-paged bill not only contains measures outlined in the budget but, as I pointed out, includes many previously unannounced changes that could potentially change Canada forever. It is a full frontal assault on the principle of transparency.

A full one-third of the 420-plus pages of Bill C-38 is not even dedicated to budget implementation, but rather to gutting one regulation after another, things that are in place to protect Canadians, to inform Canadians. No doubt, my colleagues on the other side of the benches will say that this is about freedom. In addition, the bill includes a series of previously unannounced measures that would contribute to a more secretive environment and government.

Unlike Conservatives, New Democrats believe in a respectful and open Parliament. We believe that it is inappropriate to try to sneak measures through parliamentary procedures and particularly by legislation that would only make government less accountable.

It is even more regrettable, and I cannot believe I am actually saying this yet again, that the government wants to silence Parliament and the people of Canada by passing a time allocation motion on the bill. I am beginning to wonder how many democrats are still left on the other side of the benches. There may be several, but they are probably silenced by the Prime Minister and their caucus, a Prime Minister who unfortunately seems to be more and more obsessed with secrecy and control.

The different provisions affecting regulations in the bill must be debated in the House and in the committees that are responsible for their legislation. Canadians have a right to know these things are being changed. Sneaking them through a budget implementation bill is a total lack of democratic process. Canadians deserve better than secrecy and the government.

What is the solution? Separate the bills and bring out the regulations that are specifically related to the environment, food security and oceans and fisheries. Separate these elements so they can be brought to Parliament for debate. Send them to the committees so they can hear from independent experts who can tell us what effect they will have on our future and on the futures of our children.

I can stand here and take offence to the fact that these measures have been introduced in an omnibus bill, but ultimately the decision is the government's. I hope the government and my colleagues on the other side, particularly those who I know are dedicated with heart and soul to the democratic process, will change this bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's speech. When he talked about debate, was he aware that last month his colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster spent 13 hours filibustering by reading tweets in the House. It prevented literally dozens of MPs from getting in on the debate.

The truth is there is a democratically-elected government in our country and no matter what we bring forward, the NDP will be against it. It wants to put forth policies like those in Europe, where countries, whether it is Greece, Portugal or Spain. New Democrats want to bring Canada down to that level. We are trying to support jobs.

Could the member stand in the House and name any policies by the NDP that are consistent with creating jobs, because New Democrats have voted against every one that we have put forward?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly promoting a greener economy creates jobs. Every expert understands that. If we look at examples in Europe, whether it be Sweden, France or Germany, the green economy is booming and we could do the same.

On the first point the member made about a lack of debate, the reality is we are now at 18 time allocations on bills, the most in history. I do not think the member needs to be congratulating himself.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is worth repeating, as the member has pointed out, that we have consistently said throughout this debate that Canadians need to be aware and concerned about what the government is doing with this bill.

Today we are supposed to be debating a budget bill, a bill that deals with the priorities of government. We can see the priorities of the budget when we hear the government of the day saying that is going to increase the number of members of Parliament while at the same time reducing the number of civil servants.

We see a bill that incorporates legislation that would have a profound impact on issues like the environment. By incorporating the two, we are preventing people from having input into a substantial policy initiative. It should have been a stand-alone bill along with numerous other bills that are all being incorporated into this bill.

I wonder if the member might want to add further comment to that issue.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, the government's strategy is to make Canadians swallow pills that are hard to swallow by hiding certain measures like this one in omnibus bills.

The NDP is calling for a separate debate regarding the regulations that are to be modified, which could change things for Canada and for our children's future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to add my voice to that of my distinguished colleague to condemn how this budget is being passed—through force and closure. As hon. members know, this is a completely undemocratic measure, especially since this budget contains a huge number of bills that should be debated outside the budget process.

The budget bill also includes a provision to exclude banks from the application of Quebec laws.

I would like to hear more of my colleague's thoughts on this. For instance, Quebec legislation currently sets a limit on interest rates, a usurious rate, which has been established at 35% by case law, while the federal Criminal Code establishes it at 60%.

What does the member think of that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague for the question.

That is another example that illustrates how this government operates and how it likes to interfere in provincial areas of jurisdiction. The Conservatives bragged about having consulted Canadians regarding the budget and this bill. Clearly, they did not consult Quebec. The federal government has a duty to respect the measures that are in place to protect consumers and Quebeckers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

This act would take important steps toward addressing current challenges and helping to take advantage of opportunities in the global economy. At the same time, this legislation would ensure that Canada's social programs would be sustainable and our public finances would remain sound for future generations.

Indeed, with the economic action plan 2012, our government is looking ahead, not only over the next few years but for years to come. The measures presented in the bill are substantial, responsible and necessary. They will ensure that across the government we are focused on enabling and sustaining Canada's long-term economic growth.

Included within these measures is our government's plan for responsible resource development. I would like to take this time to focus on the plan and why it is so important to my riding of Prince George—Peace River and our national economy.

Canada's abundant natural resources have always been an important part of our economy. Few countries are as blessed with natural resources as we are. Canada ranks first in the production of potash, second in uranium production and third in natural gas, hydroelectricity production and proven oil reserves. We are also among the top five producers in the world of more than 10 minerals and metals, including nickel, aluminum and diamonds.

In 2010 Canada's natural resource sectors employed more than 760,000 workers across the country. In fact, the mining and energy sectors alone represent 10% of the Canadian economy and 40% of our exports. In the next 10 years, more than 500 new projects, representing over $500 billion in new investments, will be proposed for Canada. The potential for job growth is absolutely huge.

In my riding, where natural resources continue to drive the local economy, I have heard from many constituents about the need to grab on to these opportunities.

Currently, companies undertaking major projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements and processes and approval processes are long and unpredictable.

If we are to compete with other resource-rich countries for those vital job-creating investment dollars, we need to put in place a world-class regulatory system to review major projects. We need a system that ensures timely, efficient and effective reviews, a system that promotes business confidence and investment, while strengthening our world-class environmental standards.

As Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of Mining Association of Canada, said following the tabling of budget 2012:

Canada is in a global competition for mining investment and an effective and efficient regulatory regime can provide a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.

Since 2006, our government has been working to streamline the review process for major economic projects.

These efforts have made a difference without having a negative environmental impact. However, more work needs to be done.

That is why our government is taking action, in budget 2012, with our plan for responsible resource development. The plan would streamline the review process for major economic projects by providing predictable timelines for project approvals. It would prevent long delays that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth by putting value investment at risk. Most important, responsible resource development would create good, skilled and well-paying jobs in cities and communities across the country, while maintaining the highest possible standards for protecting the environment.

The plan's guiding principle is simple and straightforward. In protecting the environment, our sense of common good should be matched by our good common sense: common sense to clear up the clutter and confusion that comes with having more than 40 federal departments and agencies involved in environmental assessments; common sense in addressing the delays and unpredictability of the current system with its open-ended reviews that often require, not only several months, but several years to complete; common sense in eliminating unnecessary duplication within the federal government itself and between the federal government and the provincial governments; and common sense in making our efforts to protect the environment as effective as possible.

Common good and commons sense, the two pillars of good public policy, are front and centre in our plan to modernize the regulatory system.

As it stands now, Canada's review process has become bogged in procedures delays, jurisdictional overlaps and unpredictable timelines. Major projects are subject to long and potentially endless delays because of needlessly complex and duplicative review process. This tangled web of rules and procedures now jeopardizes the timely and responsible development of our natural resources.

In order to move toward a more efficient and effective regulatory system, we need to make changes.

The goal of responsible resource development is one project, one review, in a clearly defined period of time. That is simple. To accomplish this goal, measures introduced in Bill C-38 would focus federal assessment efforts on major projects that could have a significant effect on the environment. Under the current system, thousands of small projects that pose little or no risk to the environment still get reviewed. This bill would consolidate federal responsibilities for environmental assessments in three agencies: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It would reduce unnecessary duplication by better integrating federal and provincial requirements for major economic projects and establish fixed timelines for government activities associated with reviews. They are: 24 months for review panels under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and 18 months for projects under the National Energy Board Act.

These are just a few of the ways our government would make the system more efficient. At the same time, these proposed measures would continue to make the regulatory system more effective in protecting the environment by taking real, concrete and substantive action. We would introduce enforceable environmental assessment decision statements to ensure project proponents comply with mitigation measures, as well as new penalties for violations. We would enhance pipeline and marine safety through initiatives such as a strengthened tanker safety regime and a substantial increase in the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines. We would strengthen compliance by authorizing 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.

In co-operation with provincial governments, we would allow the greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects of projects, especially in areas experiencing large-scale developments.

Despite what some may suggest, with natural resource development we do not have to choose between the economy or the environment. The two can, and must, go together. It will, however, take a lot of hard work that would require a comprehensive approach to ensure that we are doing things right.

We Canadians have a wonderful new opportunity before us. The global economy's appetite for the kinds of resources we have is bigger than it ever has been, and it even continues to grow. There is no better time to act than right now. We have to give ourselves every chance possible to compete for the job-creating investment dollars in fast-growing markets in Asia and elsewhere.

I know that it is not only possible but absolutely necessary to develop our natural resources in a responsible way. That means maintaining, and in fact strengthening, our protection of the environment. In resource-rich regions, like that of my riding in northeastern B.C, the future of our local economies will ultimately be decided by the way in which we approach development of our natural resources. I believe in our government's approach to responsible resource development. That is why I am encouraging all members of the House to support the bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech on the budget. I did not hear him speak about raising the age of OAS eligibility from 65 to 67. Why did the government not campaign on the fact that it would raise the OAS eligibility age?

A few minutes ago, after question period, I presented a petition asking the government to eliminate poverty in Canada. It was signed by dozens and dozens of people from across my riding. Why is the government raising the age from 65 to 67, which will, unfortunately, cause more poverty for seniors in Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the member's question, even though it has little relevance to what I had just spoken about. What he needs to understand is that in order to have an affordable pension system we need to increase that age. That is the negative part. Also we need to develop our natural resources to be able to provide for social programs like that. We need to do it responsibly, but we absolutely need to do it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member will acknowledge that the budget debate and this bill are very important. The bill establishes the priorities of the Conservative government. I will stay away from how the Conservatives have bundled in other legislation that should have stood alone.

The question I would like to ask the member is in regard to priorities of expenditures. How would the member justify to his own constituents that on the one hand the Conservatives are cutting back thousands of civil servant spots while on the other hand they are increasing the number of politicians inside the House of Commons and the staff that would accompany that increase?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again it has little relevance to what I just spoke about but I will answer his question.

One of our members who just stood up in the House represents a riding of 228,000 people. I represent a riding of approximately 105,000 people. There is clearly a disparity there and something needs to be done about that. That is why our Minister of State for Democratic Reform has introduced the expansion of seats, to address that democratic deficiency.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk to my colleague more about what this budget means for the development of our resources, both in western Canada and right across this country of ours. He talked about the—