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 housing.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I hate to interrupt the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West. There is too much noise in the chamber. When an hon. member is speaking, we ask that other members keep their conversations low enough out of respect for the hon. member who has the floor.

The hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to expand on what it means to debate the issue of proper environmental assessment. How is this going to help increase investment in our country so that we are able to export to the rest of the world and create jobs right here in Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing right now, especially in northeastern B.C., is projects that are literally being timed out. By the time a project has been finally approved there is no longer even a desire to use that natural resource because somebody else has beaten us to the market.

What the member asked is exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to expedite those assessments so we can get to those markets in a timely fashion. We want to develop our natural resources responsibly so once again we can add to the 760,000 jobs that we already produced in Canada and make Canada a better place because people have jobs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-38. Unfortunately, not everyone in the House will have that opportunity because, once again, the Conservatives have moved a time allocation motion. This is the 18th closure motion we have had this year. It is truly scandalous and shameful of the Conservatives to prevent us from exercising our democratic right.

The incredibly massive Bill C-38 will completely change Canada's environmental laws, among others. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, of which I am a member, studied the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act quickly, without bothering to properly assess all the necessary situations or hear from the witnesses it needed to hear from in order to do this report justice. The report was rushed and clumsily written. Yet the changes in the bill are based on this report. These changes, as we see very clearly, will hinder development. My hon. colleague says it is common sense, but I beg to differ. It is dangerous. Putting all our efforts into oil, gas, industries and pipelines will not protect the environment. That makes no sense.

In his speech, my hon. colleague said that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will benefit industry. I am sorry, but an environmental assessment act is there to protect the environment, not to invest in industry. What he said earlier is far from common sense.

This bill is truly worrisome. The cornerstone of federal environmental protection will be totally shattered. It will break. This is all happening quickly without any opportunity for study.

In the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, we pleaded for the chance to study this bill that will truly change things and turn Canada on its head when it comes to environmental protection. Do you know what we were told? That this would be debated and reviewed in the Standing Committee on Finance. That is not where this work should be done. This bill should be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I know that the report on the Environmental Assessment Act has been read. The NDP presented a dissenting report. I must point out that, when the report was studied, we did not hear witnesses from the National Energy Board, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development or Parks Canada. Parks Canada was not even invited. We have learned that many jobs at Parks Canada are being eliminated. Does anyone realize that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently studying a national conservation plan? We want to protect biodiversity. Canada is the country that is doing the least to protect biodiversity.

Furthermore, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy will be shut down by this budget. We are going to abandon a forum that brought the economy and the environment together. Is that common sense? The round table will be eliminated even though the report clearly shows that marine biodiversity is endangered. We have to do something. We have signed an international agreement that says we must protect 10% of marine habitats. How many of our marine habitats are protected at present? Only 1%. We want to develop a great national conservation plan but cuts are being made to Parks Canada. That is truly shameful.

I could provide many more examples. I urge my colleagues to read the NDP's dissenting report on the Environmental Assessment Act. It clearly shows all the work that was not done and makes it clear that this bill is an attempt to hide the problem.

I really want to talk about the fact that they are also going to get rid of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. Right now, are my colleagues in this House aware of the position we are taking and what work is being done on addressing climate change and greenhouse gas emissions?

In terms of the fight against climate change, in 2009, Canada ranked eighth and last among G8 countries and 59th out of 60 major countries in the world, just ahead of Saudi Arabia. That is really bad.

Recently, Inuit representatives appeared before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. They told us that some people want development in the north and want to build pipelines, even though the north is suffering the effects of climate change and polar bears have become a threat to northern residents because the ice is melting and they do not have any place to fish.

Do people know that, right now, the permafrost is almost all gone and all the infrastructure in the north is going to have to be rebuilt? Climate change is not just something that is going to happen in 10 or 15 years; it is something that is happening right now. We absolutely must fight climate change. But this budget contains no concrete measures or efforts to do that.

In fact, the Conservative government has eliminated a great program that worked really well, the eco-energy home retrofit program, which allowed all Canadians to do their part. It was the only program that made sense; the only program that existed to fight climate change.

And what is being done in this budget to fight climate change? More industries are being created and more oil is being produced from the oil sands. They want to increase our production of oil from the oil sands, not to meet our needs here in Canada, but to meet the needs of China and Asia. Is that what Canada's natural resources plan involves? Is that our plan for a diversified economy?

The minister wrote in the budget that this is a long-term budget. No, it is not. It is a short-term budget that aims solely at making money in the short term with the oil from the oil sands, and then they will take the money and run. I am sorry, but they will not be able to go anywhere else, because the issue of global warming is a priority for the whole planet, right now.

We have a target to meet: not more than 2% of global warming over the next few years, or else we are headed for disaster.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which our dear friends the Conservatives are unfortunately going to abolish in this budget, has stated that the longer we wait to invest in the fight against climate change, the more it will cost Canadians.

The Conservatives think that sitting back and doing nothing will bring down taxes. That is not true. The Conservatives have told us many times that it is the NDP that wants to increase taxes, but the only program that is really going to increase taxes is the budget. It will lead to higher taxes for Canadians. That is what is going to happen.

If we do not start fighting climate change immediately, it will cost us more in the long run. And this is in the reports of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Unfortunately, they are going to get rid of the round table, which was fair and which brought together business people, people from industry, environmentalists and the first nations; all these groups were invited to sit at the same table to draft completely impartial reports.

How can we fight climate change and improve the environment when we are cutting back on science? That is serious now. We do not think that science is the be-all and end-all, but science makes it possible to make the right decisions.

In conclusion, I would like to urge the Conservatives to make an effort and allow the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the other appropriate committees to examine the laws that are being amended.

I have not talked about the Fisheries Act, even though dangerous changes can be foreseen in fish habitat. This is very serious and it absolutely must be studied by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, some of that absolutely defied logic.

We introduced this budget on March 29, which was five weeks ago. We had some incredible support from economists across Canada. Avery Shenfeld from CIBC World Markets, Tina Kremmidas from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Craig Alexander from TD Economics and Doug Porter from BMO Capital Markets want us to get this job done and get this budget passed.

We had a member from the opposition who stood in this House for 13 hours taking up time that would have been given to members of Parliament to debate this budget and yet the member who just stood here in the House said that there has not been enough time. I wonder if he has spoken to his colleague and asked why he used that time that was so ineffective and not give other members of the House the opportunity to debate.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can quote people too. According to a group of some 100 scientists—I said 100 scientists—the proposed repeal of habitat protection measures under the Fisheries Act would be an extremely ill-advised action that would endanger some very significant fish stocks, as well as the lakes, estuaries and rivers where they live. The weakening of habitat protection measures, consistent with the description in section 35 of the Fisheries Act, will have a highly negative impact on the quality of water resources and fisheries across the country.

It is impossible to chip away at the Fisheries Act, saying that we will protect only one fish species, but not its habitat or the ecosystem in which it feeds. That will not work.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will continue on with what my colleague on my left made reference to.

We have a substantial piece of legislation that would have a profound impact, not only on budgetary items. It talks about the fishing industry and the environment. I believe there are some 70 pieces of legislation. One could argue that this in itself is almost four years of legislation that is tied into this one bill.

I wonder if the member could provide comment as to how democracy has been served a huge blow because the Conservative government does not seem to prioritize democracy as something that is important to Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I entirely agree with his analysis. We are currently witnessing a flagrant lack of democracy. We have asked, are asking and will continue to ask the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to analyze the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As I mentioned earlier, that act is the cornerstone of environmental protection at the federal level.

Unfortunately, they want to weaken the act to the point where my Conservative colleagues claim there will be more industry and pipelines as a result of this legislation. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is supposed to protect the environment, but the Conservatives tell us it will make it possible to have more industry and more pipelines. That makes no sense.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday we learned that the president of Taseko Mines had sent the Minister of the Environment a letter requesting three things: that no aboriginals be appointed to the committee assessing his project; that the hearings not start with an aboriginal drum and prayer ceremony; and that spirituality not be considered an aboriginal right.

I would like my colleague to tell me whether the measures proposed by this government will help in meeting that kind of request.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

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

It is one of the federal government’s fundamental duties to sit down with the first nations, with the aboriginal communities, to ensure that their rights are respected. That is one of the important points in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. People must be allowed to speak and to be consulted. Their rights, which are international rights, must be respected.

Unfortunately, no one has taken the time to conduct proper consultations on all these measures, all these changes. A lot of people have not been met, and the job has unfortunately been botched. The Conservatives have botched their job.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak in the House today in support of the government’s economic action plan 2012.

It is an excellent budget that keeps taxes low, creates jobs and ensures growth and long-term prosperity. It is a solid plan that will help my constituents to benefit from a firm economic foundation for Canada and to prosper from low tax and deficit eliminating policies that will benefit our country.

What are we trying to accomplish through our budget? We are focusing on strengthening our Canadian economy, on creating jobs, on streamlining government operations and on ending wasteful spending in order to move Canada to balanced budgets, all without raising taxes and without cutting important transfers to the provinces. I simply must emphasize that we are the only party in the House that advocates for lower taxes and that defends lower taxes.

The economic action plan is important for Canadians, as it is for the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell who gave the government a clear mandate to focus on the important issues: jobs and economic growth.

I have assured the people of my constituency that our strong, stable Conservative majority government will not rest until it has led Canada onto the road to certain economic prosperity, and when that has been done, there will still be much more to do.

I therefore hope that the NDP members will join me in supporting the budget this year, a budget that, I have to say, Canadians are satisfied with.

In terms of specifics, our economic budget is one that will bring back the hiring credit for small business. I know how important that is to the business owners in my riding. This hiring credit will help them create jobs and hire new employees, skilled people who will move their businesses to increased prosperity. This and other job creation initiatives will allow businesses to take advantage of economic and market opportunities when they present themselves. Our latest budget extends this valuable hiring credit for another year.

It is also heartening to see the return of the youth employment strategy in this year's budget. This program, which enables businesses to hire skilled youth over the summer, will allow our youth access to mentorship in their own communities, and the skills they help develop within our youth will have long-lasting value.

It is clear to me that federal employment initiatives like this one produce good results in the communities and benefit both students and businesses.

The government will also make a generous $30 million investment over three years in the opportunities fund and will create a special group on job opportunities for persons with disabilities.

These are excellent employment strategies and, again, they will contribute to job creation. These strategies will ensure that persons with disabilities, who sometimes have considerable difficulty finding jobs, will not be left by the wayside.

Our economic action plan does not end here. In fact, there is more.

For example, we have studied employment insurance carefully and we are committed to improving this program so that it better serves Canadians. Our budget, therefore, includes important measures to connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs without penalizing them.

Our economic action plan 2012 proposes introducing a new national working while on claim EI pilot project. It is my hope that my colleagues within the opposition parties will have a careful look at this initiative. The proposed initiatives would remove disincentives to work by ensuring that EI claimants benefit from available work, particularly part-time employment, and are not penalized by EI as they seek a full-time position.

I would like to make a few comments on agriculture as agriculture is a crucial sector for my riding and accounts for approximately two million jobs nationwide.

Our budget continues to focus on establishing and strengthening the right conditions for farmers to succeed, and our farmers are succeeding. Agriculture contributes enormously to our country's economy, with nearly $35.5 billion in exports, which makes Canada the world's fifth largest exporter of agriculture and food products.

To be prosperous, farmers have to have access to the resources they need to remain competitive and meet the increased needs and demands placed on them. Our budget demonstrates our ongoing objective of helping farmers to penetrate foreign markets.

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the government has achieved significant victories in this regard, as witnessed by our agriculture sector, which is more vigorous and dynamic as a result of exporting top quality Canadian products around the world.

We have put in place nine free trade agreements already, and we are working on many more. In addition, we are opening markets for our Canadian beef, pork, canola, pulse crops, wheat and the list goes on. Our efforts and our successes have been well recognized by the agricultural sector, by industry and by our opposition colleagues themselves.

Our economic action plan states clearly that we will continue our work to expand market opportunities for our farmers. We will continue to work on their behalf to ensure that people in other countries have access to our high-quality Canadian food.

I would like to say a few words about food safety. Canadians know that the government takes this issue seriously and that here in Canada, food is safe. I know that my opposition colleagues are concerned about food safety. In fact, in both the House and committee, I have heard opposition members ask questions that would suggest that funding for this has been reduced.

I have good news for my opposition colleagues, news that will ensure they do indeed vote for our budget implementation act. The news is that this year's budget includes an additional $51 million for food safety initiatives. I saw some opposition eyebrows raise when I said this, but I invite opposition members to read page 168 of the budget.

I know they secretly support this great initiative, and I would say to them that even if there is not one other thing they can support in this budget, at least vote in favour of increased funding for food safety. It is the right thing to do.

I just do not know how they could possibly vote against food safety, but they will likely find a way.

I know what you are thinking, Mr. Speaker: “Do not despair, have courage; it is increased funding for food safety, which is what they have been asking for”, but let us remember that in the last budget, we increased funding for food safety by $100 million. However, the Liberal and NDP MPs all voted against it. They asked for increased funding for food safety and we gave them increased funding for food safety, but they still voted against it.

Despite this pattern, it is my hope that the opposition will indeed vote in favour of this budget.

Canadians have long awaited the tabling of our economic action plan, and since the budget was tabled it has become apparent that Canadians like our budget and that they support our budget.

Our economic action plan focuses on what is most important to Canadians in these difficult economic times: strengthening our economy, creating new jobs, reducing government expenditures, eliminating waste and eliminating our deficit, all without raising taxes.

I listen to Canadians, as do my Conservative colleagues, and we will be voting for this budget. I sincerely hope that the opposition members, and particularly the New Democrats and Liberals, will also listen to Canadians and vote for this budget, as Canadians want them to do.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. parliamentary secretary will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments when the House next returns to debate on the motion.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 28 consideration of the motion.

Housing
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the motion before the House today.

First, let me state that our government supports the motion, as it provides a great opportunity for the government to share the unprecedented federal investments that have been made and continue to be made in housing initiatives. I am sure the hon. member for Shefford would agree that important progress is being made to prevent and reduce homelessness and to ensure Canadians have access to affordable housing. Our government has already made investments to improve access to affordable housing and to address the issue of homelessness in communities across the country. We have funded more than 16,500 projects to do just that.

Motion No. 331 calls on the government to ensure that federal housing programs provide economic benefit to local housing construction businesses. I would like to focus my remarks today on this particular aspect of the motion. Specifically, I want to explain how federal housing initiatives and investments under Canada's economic action plan help create jobs for Canadians while expanding and improving the stock of social housing across the country.

As I am sure the member opposite is aware, our economic action plan invested record amounts in social housing, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs across more than 10,000 projects. Our government responded decisively in January of 2009 to the global economic crisis with a plan to stabilize the economy and put Canadians back to work. Over the past few years, we made important investments that have helped Canadians weather the global recession and provide the solutions needed to secure our long-term growth and prosperity.

Our government mobilized all its resources and engaged with all its partners to deliver a $60 billion shot in the arm to the economy, and the plan worked. Budget 2012 reported that more than 30,000 projects were completed under the stimulus phase of the economic action plan, while projects have contributed to a strong labour market recovery with more than 693,000 net new jobs created since July of 2009.

A good number of those jobs have been in the housing sector. Thanks to targeted government investments in housing and the industry's ability to quickly ramp up construction and renovation activities, housing was a source of economic strength and stability in Canada throughout the recession. This was no accident. Our government recognized that housing is a great job creator. Housing construction and renovation employs a large number of Canadians with good wages, and people were put to work quickly. We know that most of the materials used are Canadian-made, and this generates even more jobs and economic activity.

There are other good reasons to invest in housing. Benefits flow to communities all across the country. Certainly not the least of all, investments in housing provide permanent benefits in the form of improving housing and living conditions for Canadians. This is why Canada's economic action plan provided a total of $7.8 billion to build quality housing, encourage home ownership and enhance home energy efficiency. This resulted in more than 15,000 individual projects, which is truly a testament to our strong, decisive action to support Canadians during the downturn. It included everything from tax breaks for first-time homebuyers to a temporary home renovation credit that millions of families took advantage of. These investments encouraged Canadians to improve their homes, generating business for renovation contractors, building product manufacturers and retailers across the country.

Even though the party across the way voted against all of these initiatives, I am sure the hon. member will be pleased to know that we continue to invest heavily in housing. The economic action plan also included more than $2 billion over two years to renovate existing and build new social housing, which has resulted in more than 1,300 social housing projects. To ensure that these funds flowed as quickly and effectively as possible, the majority of these investments were delivered by provinces and territories through amendments to existing housing agreements.

These initiatives in social housing targeted some of the most vulnerable groups in society. Over two years, our government provided $400 million to build more housing for low-income seniors, which created 21,000 projects, and $75 million to build housing for people with disabilities, which created more than 400 projects. A further $200 million was set aside to create more than 200 projects for Canadians living in the north, and $400 million was invested in housing on reserve.

Our Conservative government also invested $1 billion to renovate and retrofit existing social housing, to help vulnerable Canadians with needed improvements to their homes.

This funding supported energy retrofits, such as upgrades to heating, electrical and ventilation systems, as well as improvements to structural elements and other building components so that these units could continue to provide safe, affordable housing for years to come.

Thanks to these economic action plan investments, budget 2012 reported that an estimated 16,500 social housing units and first nations housing projects had been completed or were under way across Canada. In addition to expanding and improving the stock of social housing, these projects created jobs and helped protect Canada's economy from the deepest global economic downturn since the 1930s.

Hon. members will recall that Canada's economic action plan also included $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure projects in new or existing residential areas. These loans were intended to help municipalities undertake a wide range of projects, everything from upgrading or expanding water, waste water or solid waste systems to building or repairing roads, bridges, sidewalks or green spaces.

As we would expect, the interest from municipalities was strong. More than 270 loans were approved under this program for the full $2 billion that was available. The municipal infrastructure lending program not only allowed municipalities to undertake needed projects earlier and at a lower cost than expected, but it also freed up municipal tax dollars for other important purposes.

What this means for Canada is communities that are better able to meet the needs of current residents and better positioned to manage growth in the future. It also meant jobs, a lot of jobs, more jobs for Canadians.

The Canadian economic recovery is under way, reflecting the extraordinary measures in our government's economic action plan and Canada's strong economic fundamentals.

Canada's economic action plan is now in its next phase, a low-tax plan for jobs and growth. Economic action plan 2012 focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills and communities.

Our government continues to invest in housing. We know from past experience that these investments will provide economic benefits to local housing construction businesses as called for in the motion by the hon. member for Shefford.

We also know that they will expand the stock of affordable rental housing. They will improve quality of life for low-income Canadians, seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups in society, and they will contribute to stronger communities and a stronger economy.

Let me again thank the hon. member for his motion. Ensuring safe, affordable housing for Canadians is a matter of interest for everyone in this House. We have no hesitation in supporting the motion by the hon. member for Shefford because we have delivered on housing initiatives for Canadians.