House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the job situation in Newfoundland. He also mentioned the job situation in his own riding and said that access to labour is a major issue.

I would like to get the member's comments on the impending changes to the Employment Insurance Act requiring people either to work in certain areas or having to give up their benefits at that time.

There is a plant in Port Union in my riding. It will take some time to get a new buyer for this plant if a new buyer does decide to buy the plant. Here is the issue. If the impending changes force people to move in that particular area, the issue of accessing labour becomes moot. It becomes less of a selling point for that particular plant.

I understand the original hypothesis as to why the government would want to do this, but in the end, for places like Port Union or Newfoundland outports, it could work against it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question very much. I obviously do not know the specific situation as well as the member does, but I am happy to talk with him about it and see if there is anything I can do with respect to that particular situation.

In general, I would say that this government recognizes that. In fact, the work-sharing program that was introduced by this government was designed to do exactly that. I recognize the problem. Once workers leave a company or an area like Nisku, it is very hard to bring them back. Once they have moved on to another area or another company, it is very difficult to bring them back, which is why we introduced the work-sharing program. It covered part of the cost so that the company did not have to cover all of the cost in terms of that worker during that tough period. That is exactly what that program was designed to do.

Obviously, in terms of the facility itself, management should be looking at the accelerated depreciation if they want to invest further in their facility to upgrade or modernize it if it is closed.

However, in terms of the workers themselves, I am happy to look at whether there are work-sharing programs or other types of programs like that for that specific situation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my comments are directed toward my colleague's comments on research and development.

I have the honour to serve as the deputy critic for science and technology on the NDP side, so my comments are with respect to the failure to renew funding for Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which succeeded in leveraging significant private capital and received praise from the expert review panel on R and D for the successful commercialization of Canadian green technology.

We know that in the current federal budget there is no new investment in green research, so we are missing out on an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the trillion-dollar global green tech market.

I would like to know my colleague's comments on that. Why are there no new investments in green research?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to her critic role.

In terms of investments into SDTC, she is absolutely right in saying it is an excellent organization, and I support it very strongly. I have done so on both the industry committee and the finance committee. It is an organization that will continue, as she well knows. It is also an organization we should perhaps look at—and this is something I have talked to the folks at SDTC about—in terms of moving to a model like an EDC, a model they would actually like us to look at, whereby they would bring in some funding and return some dividends to the government.

In terms of research and development in general, obviously a lot of initiatives here go toward what we would call green energy research. One of them is for clean energy generation. There is accelerated capital depreciation for large projects doing clean energy generation, which I would encourage the hydro sector in her province and other sectors to look at as well.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question will be short.

I want to thank the chair of the finance committee for his excellent speech this morning.

I have young people in my own family. My daughter is 21 and looking toward her future. What does this budget do for the future of young people in terms of job opportunities, not just in Ontario but across the country? Why is it important that we invest in innovation and research to allow for future employment opportunities for them across this country?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer as quickly as I can.

I thank my colleague from Burlington. We do miss him on the finance committee. He was an outstanding member of our committee for many years. I know his daughters are very talented and very bright.

It goes back to my quote from the letter of the president of the University of Alberta in terms of continuing to invest in post-secondary education, in research and development and in the granting councils, so that they can work at basic research or in innovation commercialization and will have a number of job opportunities once they graduate from school.

However, looking beyond that in terms of lifelong learning, we have to move into an area where they may be going to school, going into the workforce, and then going back to school to upgrade their skills or upgrading their skills in the workforce. That is exactly what this budget is looking at doing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here once again. After closing in on eight years of being in the House, I am standing to talk once again about how to deal with another budget and how we had hoped at some point to decipher this particular document and see how we can elevate debate within the House of Commons.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Edmonton—Leduc, who did a fine job speaking to the bill. I do not necessarily agree with everything he said, but nonetheless he presented very well and always has.

In 2005 the Government of Canada signed new offshore agreements with two provinces regarding three pieces of legislation: the Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic accord and accords with the province of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government had worked out an agreement between the provinces to the satisfaction of both Premier John Hamm and Premier Danny Williams. The government proposed something on the order of a large payment up front and beyond that new calculations within the formula regarding equalization. The point was that as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were getting back on their feet, the clawbacks were really putting them back to where they were before, and the provinces wanted to be the principal beneficiaries of their resources.

In 2005 those agreements were included in a document similar to this, the budget of Prime Minister Paul Martin. I was sitting across the way, just behind the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, and I remember my colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador and the member for South Shore--St. Margaret's vehemently arguing for the Atlantic accord agreements to be taken out of the budget. They said they did not belong there. It was an omnibus bill, and they said it was trickery, tomfoolery. They said the government should not be doing this and that the agreements should be discussed in the House by themselves.

Let us fast-forward to 2012 and look at this budget document. It is a big document, and it contains a lot. One-third of it is about making fundamental changes to environmental assessments.

We can also talk about the fact that this document fundamentally changes many aspects of the governance of this country, including old age security and even the Fisheries Act, which is important to the area I come from because it has major fishing industries.

We are talking about making a unilateral change to the funding of Canadian health care. We are talking about tearing up 100,000 immigration applications that have been worked on for years. We are talking about sweeping changes to employment insurance. All of this is contained in this one document.

People across this country are crying for some of this to be taken out and debated in the House separately. Not only are academics, experts, provincial politicians, provincial bureaucrats and former federal bureaucrats asking for some of this to be taken out of the budget: some Conservatives have said it themselves. It is funny how time tends to change things in the House.

Rather than lecturing the Conservatives about practising what they used to preach, let us talk about Bill C-38 and some of the concerns about it. I will admit that I would entertain some of the stuff in the bill. I look at some of the things as being positive moves forward, but the problem is I only have one vote.

Any time members want to ask me about some of the positive provisions in the bill, I am willing to talk about them. Unfortunately I only get 10 minutes and I have far less time to talk about the negative stuff, but I just cannot help myself, as members can gauge from the laughter across the House. They too are waiting for me to move on to the negative stuff.

The government is talking about moving the old age security benchmark from 65 years of age to 67. The OECD, Canada's chief actuarial officer, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and even the government's own experts agree that the change is not necessary because Canada's OAS program is already sustainable.

I get very many calls from people in my riding on this particular issue, telling me the response they get is only, “Well, don't worry; it's not going to affect you in the short term. It's just going to affect your children or grandchildren, that's all. No need to worry.”

We also want to talk about the departmental cuts that were announced and the layoff of 19,200 federal public servants. On the surface, people might say it is a good cost-cutting measure to cut the number of public servants so that the government can put us in line to control the deficit.

However, here is the issue. The Conservatives are going about it in a way that is not smart and that is certainly not achieving good government services.

In the smallest communities of this country, people are asking, “Where is the Government of Canada? It just doesn't exist anymore.” The only thing that exists is a flag flying above the post office, a crown corporation.

Service Canada cuts in my riding are going to be severe. Processing jobs in smaller communities are now being moved to larger communities. Where is the sense in that? These are jobs that can be done from anywhere.

Granted, the Conservatives want to get inefficiencies out of the system, and I appreciate that. However, this is not an efficient way of providing government services to our smallest communities. The government prides itself on providing good benefits to rural Canada, but the services are just not there. We are going in the opposite direction.

Just today a rally started in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, probably about 25 minutes ago, to save the marine rescue sub-centre, a centre that the government is closing. We never received any indication that it was a duplicate service or that this service could be covered by what is going on in Nova Scotia at the JRCC complex there. Now we find ourselves putting safety at risk up there. I personally think public safety is at risk.

The calls to reverse the decision have gone unanswered and were actually turned down, in the case of the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly the MP for Labrador.

It raises the question of quick decisions that were not thought through, yet when evidence is put forward that the decision was not a right one and that perhaps we should reflect upon that decision, it is met with absolute denial. It is met with indifference when we say to the government that there are a lot of sections in this bill that should be brought out, discussed and put through the appropriate committee, especially the environmental stuff, as my colleague, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, will attest.

It is unbelievable. The preamble summaries describe something different from what is contained within the text of this particular legislation.

The environmental assessment that we discuss in here, through the fisheries department especially, should be brought through the environmental committee and vetted through that. One-third of this document pertains to that aspect.

I am sure the question will arise, and I have no issue with achieving economic development beneficial to people who have the skills and knowledge to do this type of work, whether it be pipelines, oil and gas, or in the mining industry. However, due diligence is called for. In this particular case, it is sadly missing.

Now, as time closes in, I want to talk about the final part, which is the employment insurance part of it.

Some of the positive aspects include the maintaining of the best weeks part this program, in this case variable best weeks, and the pilot project extended from 2005.

The problem is that the government is trying to get more work generated by this new committee. The government now will have the ability to force people into a situation of having to move halfway across the country, or at least that is what we assume is going to happen.

Unfortunately, the government will not hear of juxtaposing EI with economic development, but in certain cases, in order for smaller communities to reopen a closed plant, this approach does not work.

We have to look at this and realize and get the right information as to why the smallest of communities would suffer from this type of change.

I want to thank the House for allowing me this small opportunity to discuss this in the House. I wish we had more time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it sounds as if my hon. colleague is holding out a bit of an olive branch to the government side, and he sees many things he may support in this document.

However, I want to double back to something that is a recurring theme in this Parliament and that is the use of time allocation to discuss and debate vitally important issues that affect all Canadians. In the past and in this Parliament, the government has said we have already debated these things, that we debated them in the last Parliament so why would we need to go through the process again, which underlines the Conservatives' anti-democratic inclinations.

I wonder if the member could speak to this issue and whether he thinks it is appropriate for the government to impose time allocation on this massive document that has not 100% to do with the budget it is supposed to be referencing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Davenport for bringing that forward. I did not get to that part of my speech about the time allocation part. The member touched upon the key component of that, which is to say that the Conservatives argue that a lot of this was debated in the past. At what point in the eight years I have been here did we have a serious discussion about raising the age of OAS eligibility from 65 to 67?

It did not happen. I do not recall evidence being brought forward in this House or any committee that shows this is a necessary action to, in their words, save the system.

The Conservatives talk about downloading to the provinces. Moving the age from 65 to 67 is going to download a huge amount of money to the provinces, but of course, as they say, we are not to worry as it does not affect us. However, they forget to say that this affects our children.

The time allocation part is a sad mistake because of the very essence of this particular document that pertains to, as the member said, so many things that to call it “omnibus” is an understatement. Not only did the Conservatives do that, but they also invoked time allocation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor only had 10 minutes and he decided to look at what he thought were some of the negative aspects of the budget. When I have my time, I will talk about what I see as the entire positive budget we have brought forward.

However, I have a question on process, and the hon. member did not quite get time enough to finish it. The fact is that the NDP decided it would take all the time to speak to the budget and not give the Liberal Party of Canada any time to speak to the budget. I have been in this House for 15 years and I have never seen that happen, so I would like some comments on that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, yes, that was not very nice.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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12:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel this discussion of time allocation particularly keenly as the leader of the federal Green Party with a lot of background as a former environmental lawyer, having worked for much of my life on creating the bills that are now being destroyed. When I worked in the Mulroney government, I charted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act through the machinery of government at the Privy Council Office to get permission to legislate. I have worked on this legislation for more than 25 years and I am watching it being destroyed, and I may never get a chance to speak in this House. With time allocation, it does not look like I will get to speak now and I certainly did not get to speak on the budget itself.

What does the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor do, as a parliamentarian, when items that were never part of a budget are in a budget implementation bill? The destruction of the federal Fisheries Act was not even hinted at in that budget. How does the Conservative Party get away with sticking it in an omnibus bill when it was not even mentioned in the budget itself?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I find her situation in the House very similar to the Conservative party, and this is the only comparison I draw between the Green party and the Conservative party in the House; they are both a party of one.

However, in this particular situation, she is right because so much of this material was not even brought up as a preliminary discussion in the beginning. Let us go back to the Fisheries Act. The Conservatives attempted to bring in a brand new Fisheries Act years ago, under Loyola Hearn. What is in there now was not even discussed then, when they had a chance to bring in a new act, let alone now.

It is ridiculous.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I will take my time to talk about budget 2012 and the positive changes it will bring to Canada. I will also take a bit of my time to correct the record on some of the things that my hon. colleague across the way from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had to say.

I will go back to the beginning of his speech when he talked a bit about the 2005 budget and the Atlantic accord. The changes that came forward under our government to the Atlantic accord ended up with Nova Scotia getting a better agreement. Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador was no longer a have-not province and did not reap the benefits of Atlantic accord. Every province in Canada should have that problem. Good for it; I applaud it for that reason. Some of the environmental changes the hon. member talked about in this budget will actually improve the process for oil and gas operations on the east coast of Canada, including of course the very rich oil fields on offshore Newfoundland.

It is worth taking a look at what we are discussing. Budget 2012 is called coming back to balance. We are going to do that in a way that will bring budgetary balance and will also streamline some of the processes we have in this country, be they environmental, banking or employment insurance related, not to be negative but to assist our country to get back to a balanced budget.

It also important to note that nothing in this budget is going to bring in a new Fisheries Act. Since the hon. member is from Newfoundland, I hope he would understand the importance of some government in the House some day bringing in a new Fisheries Act. If he does not, then I am left shaking my head.

I come from a part of the world that is dependent on the fishery. In the southwestern end of Nova Scotia, there are 1,688 boats fishing in the most affluent fishery in Canada, without question. I can say that they are hobbled by a Fisheries Act that dates from 1867. They are absolutely handcuffed by archaic legislation and it is time we moved that 1867 act into the modern era. That does not mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It does not mean that all the changes that have come forth regarding the fishery get put into the act. I would hope that in this day and age, in 2012, we can look back at that act, say let us move it forward, modernize the fishery and keep all the good things that we have brought into the fishery along the way.

I would like to speak directly to the budget bill and how it affects my home province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has always been a trading province, from the days of the clipper ships to the days of the schooners. It was the part of Canada where Champlain first stepped ashore in 1604. We have consistently made a living off the land and off the sea and have traded our resources around the globe. That is the only way Canada can survive and excel today. We have tremendous resources and a great workforce, and we have to trade those resources around the world in a global economy. We are absolutely capable of doing that.

I am chagrined when the union membership across the country stands and says that we should put up protectionist walls and barriers. It would be the end of society as we know it. It cannot be done. We need to trade and we meed to trade on an equal footing. That means insisting that our trading partners have rules-based trading and that they respect our rules and we respect their rules. It is not complicated.

Both of the hon. members before me, as well as the member for Edmonton—Leduc, talked about the major projects initiative. The economic action plan 2012 proposes $54 million over 2 years to continue to support effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative, which has helped to transform the approvals process from major natural resource projects by shortening the average review times from 4 years to 22 months.

I think just about everybody in this place would agree that if they had a large project ready to go forward, with investors on the hook for billions of dollars from all over the planet, they would expect to get that passed sooner than four years. Surely it needs a good environmental review and proper inspections nut surely that can occur in 22 months without duplication by the province and the feds. The average approval process, as I said before, is 4 years and, if we go to 22 months, I do not think there can be any disagreement from the opposition side of the House.

Consultation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would propose that $13.6 million over two years to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency to support consultations with aboriginal peoples related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that their rights and interests are respected and that they benefit from economic development opportunities. I think that is called consultation. There is nothing wrong with that. We need to bring the players to the table but it must be done in a timely fashion.

We will strengthen pipeline safety. Every Canadian would support strengthening pipeline safety. I have a colleague who has the sour gas pipeline that goes behind his house. It is safe. Nobody is in danger from that. However, we know it is safe because of a regular inspection system. Again, this is not rocket science. This is good, common sense stuff.

The reality will be that oil pipelines and gas pipelines inspections will increase from 100 to 150 inspections. I am sure that is something that everyone in this House would support.

This is extremely important to the offshore industry in Nova Scotia and the offshore oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Offshore oil and gas developments create jobs and support economic growth in Canada's communities. Continued exploration activity is required to bring new projects to communities and sustain these economic benefits over the long term and depends on modern reliable seismic technology and data.

To advance exploration for new developments, economic action plan 2012 proposes to amend the Coasting Trade Act to facilitate access to Canadian waters for the global fleet of vessels that undertake seismic surveys. This would ensure that private sector companies have the information they require to identify potential resource development opportunities.

In Nova Scotia alone, this budget will mean a lot more dollars for Nova Scotia. It will be almost $2.5 billion when we look at the increase in transfer dollars, the increase in the health transfer, the increase in the social transfer and the increase in the training opportunities that will be made available. This is a good budget for Canada and a great budget for Nova Scotia.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague talk about how consultations about the environment are all well and good, but that they have to happen in a timely manner and not take too long.

How can he talk about beneficial consultation when the government is imposing a time limit on the study of its omnibus bill? Those of us who like parts of the bill are forced to support the whole thing.