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

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think my constituents are much different from the constituents of other members on both sides of the House. They are looking for stable employment, safe communities, safe streets and a good future for their children, and that is what this government is giving them and that is why we were re-elected a year ago. We are implementing responsible economic policies. This is the plan that has been working for the past five years and we will continue it for the future of our great country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with ever-increasing sadness that I rise in the House today, because every time I do so, I am left with the impression that the reasons my constituents elected me are being scorned. That said, I have 10 precious minutes to try to give an informed judgment on a document that is over 400 pages long, and this is only because I am one of the rare, lucky ones who is able to speak in this shortened debate. Understandably, then, I will not launch into a comprehensive study of the economic elements. Instead, I will try to point out what is wrong with this proposed legislation as clearly as I possibly can.

The first thing that struck me is the discrepancy that exists between the bill's short title and the objectives or intentions of the bill in question. I would add that I am often surprised by this. In this case, for instance, the short title of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, is this: the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. Ouch.

Before getting into all the contradictions and ambiguities of such a title, I want to say a few words about the bill itself. It is clearly stated that this bill concerns the budget, and that it also implements other measures. This bill therefore goes beyond implementing the budget. It introduces a series of measures that were never announced in the budget. These measures are very different in nature. I will name a few in passing: eligibility age for old age security benefits; the environmental protection and regulations system—we immediately see the link between old age security and the environment; the authority of the Auditor General—also closely linked; and then, why not throw in the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act? I will stop there because I do not have enough time.

Under the pretext of balancing the budget—in a forced march and for purely ideological reasons—the government is in fact imposing on Parliament and all Canadians a hidden agenda that will quickly change everyday life for the people in this country, and unfortunately, not for the better.

We feel that what the government is doing is contrary to parliamentary practice and procedures. A budget implementation bill should not be used as an opportunity to limit debate and push through detrimental measures designed to reduce government transparency and accountability. Let us be clear in case Canadians have not fully grasped what is happening here: Bill C-38 is actually an omnibus bill that goes far beyond the budget and unilaterally imposes the Conservatives' decisions without allowing for real debate.

I have envisioned many different political scenarios, but reality today is beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I get the feeling that within a year, there will probably be one catch-all bill a year, with seven days of debate, and the House will be on holidays for the rest of the year. I feel I am being very well paid for all the work I am not being allowed to do.

Why does Canada have a Parliament with two chambers if the government is going to use all its power and questionable tactics to limit debate, get around parliamentary rules and tune out the official opposition? Is that the Conservatives' idea of democracy? The Conservatives need to do more than just keep shouting all the time that they won a strong mandate if they want to have real legitimacy. They also need to respect this country's institutions as they govern.

Most of the major changes in Bill C-38 do not address Canadians' concerns. Canadians are telling us that they want more good-quality jobs, better environmental protection and a better health care system. Nothing in this bill reflects the real concerns of Canadians. As I was saying earlier, more careful analysis of this bill reveals the discrepancy between its short title and its real intentions.

The short title of Bill C-38 is the “Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act”. I will repeat these three components: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

In recent months, the government's decisions have led to job losses, jeopardized economic growth and put Canada on the list of slackers in both environmental protection and sustainable development.

With regard to this last point, we have reason to be especially worried about the bill's provisions. In this House, we all know that it is our responsibility to protect the environment, fight climate change and preserve the diversity of living things and our ecosystems. Our duty is to leave a healthy and viable natural environment to our children. The vast majority of developed countries are putting environmental strategies in place, making significant international commitments, and signing binding and necessary agreements to fight the destruction of our ecosystems. However, this government is once again swimming against the current.

For example, this bill changes the regulations that protect fish and govern the deposit of toxic and deleterious substances into fish habitats. More seriously still, this bill repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which shows just how little the government cares about issues that affect and will continue to affect all Canadians. This means that the government will no longer have to report its GHG emissions. That is a major step backward for our country and all of our international partners.

Canadians want us to take action to fight climate change and protect our environment, but the Conservatives are determined to dismantle environmental protection rules and attack environmental protection groups. Many of the provisions in the bill point to the fact that environmental protection has completely disappeared from this government's agenda.

The government has gutted the federal environmental assessment regime to speed up major projects, such as oil pipelines. It has delegated the environmental assessment process to other authorities. It has made sure that projects in other countries are not subject to Canadian laws.

This budget is not good for jobs and labour, either. For a few weeks now, there has been announcement after announcement, and jobs are being lost across the country. Everywhere there is talk of cuts, job losses and, inevitably, cuts to services for Canadians. The Conservatives' ideological vision will have a direct impact on the health of Canada's economy. Their approach to the budget is an accounting approach, aimed solely at reducing the deficit. In the medium term, the Conservatives' budget policy will seriously hurt this country's economic development.

I will take a specific example. In my riding, the Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site will be hard hit by the government's cuts, which will mean job losses and a shorter season for the site. These cuts are like a death sentence for this major historic site. Investments depend on the number of visitors to the site, but because the government is not investing in the site, fewer and fewer people are visiting it. Because the number of visitors is down, funding is being cut. It is like the Hygrade wiener slogan, only in reverse. It is a downward spiral.

The closing of this park will have an even more serious impact on the whole region. The money the government thinks it is saving with these budget cuts will be lost elsewhere.

One minute to condemn so many policies is simply not long enough. I am very sorry for my friends at the Vieilles Forges park. I will definitely come back to this issue during question period and I will not back down.

In closing, unfortunately, this bill represents a shift even further away from this wishful thinking. Transparency is not a strong point of the Conservatives. Bill C-38 contains many measures that will reduce transparency and limit accountability requirements.

Consider three quick examples. Section 1 of part 4 amends a number of laws to remove the Auditor General's requirement to conduct a financial audit of certain agencies and assess the performance reports of two public organizations. Section 15 of part 4 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to abolish the position of inspector general. Section 25 of part 4 dissolves the Public Appointments Commission and its secretariat.

Once again, I could go on. I will stop here and simply say that nothing in this budget will serve the Canada of the future, which we should be building today.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 7th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his inspired and inspiring speech about a disappointing government bill.

I would like to focus more on the form of the bill than on its substance. This is the 18th time the government has imposed closure, this time in order to ram a 431-page brick down members' throats with just seven days of debate. Some Conservative members are saying that this is part of a long process that has been going on since 2006, but that is baloney. I am one of about 100 new parliamentarians, and we were not in the House prior to May 2, 2011. We have the right to do our job, which is to carefully study bills. A bill that amends 69 different pieces of legislation is an elephant, a mammoth.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the Conservative government's practice of introducing huge bills and imposing closure. It is completely antidemocratic.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer would be to use the word “abject” to describe this bill.

I totally agree with my colleague. A lot changed in the last election and this government does not seem to want to take that into account. It is muzzling those who have not taken part in the debates. Canadians sent a very clear message: in the game of politics, this government ended up in power with 39% of the vote. That means that 61% of the population has to be able to express itself through the voices of the hon. members from the other parties. It would seem that the government wants to muzzle us. In fact, more than “it would seem”, it is indeed muzzling us. I think that 18 closure motions in one year is an all-time record in the history of this country's Parliament.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is right in respect of one thing. We should talk about the substance of the bill and we should talk about the content of it. It is a big bill, but we are in big times. We are in important times for the world, an economic global crisis. Of course we will respond to what Canadians need in a big bill because they need big changes.

Could the member speak about why his party, the NDP, voted against some of the things we did? For instance, we cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. We removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We increased the amount that Canadians could earn tax-free. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, which puts nearly $1,000 back in the pockets of every Canadian.

Those are things that Canadians said they wanted. Those were things that Canadians said they needed. We responded accordingly because of the time.

Why would the member and his party vote against those things about which Canadians have talked? We bring forward good measures and they vote against them. Why?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is quite simple. My eminent colleague is concerned with the substance rather than the form. However, the form is just as important as the substance.

I have been observing the following Conservative strategy for a year. Along with the few good measures that we would be prepared to support, they try to ram through 28 totally unacceptable measures on the pretext that the measures are part of a package deal that we can take or leave. One of our motions sought to divide up this bill so that the elements we find acceptable could move along more quickly. It is quite appalling that the Conservatives want to ram through so many abject measures in this way.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, since they want us to talk substance, we will talk substance.

Earlier, I was struck by my colleague's remarks on La Mauricie National Park and the Forges du Saint-Maurice.

I was wondering about the devastating impact on jobs. In my colleague's honest opinion, is the government trying to do its worst or is it just being lazy?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is both. I was particularly surprised in this case. Call me naive, but I was expecting more funding for the Forges du Saint-Maurice given that the first cannonballs for the War of 1812 were made there. I thought that great things would be happening this year. Instead, the government eliminated 26 jobs and cut the season down to two months, July and August, which is ridiculous.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured and pleased to speak to this fantastic budget that has come forward from our government. We have a global recession and Canada looks better than any other country in the world. Why? Because it is all about the policies that our government has put in place, balanced policies, ripe with job growth, entrepreneurship, innovation and research, all measures that cause a country to grow.

Our government has improved conditions for business investments with responsible resource development. So much has happened in our country. Many people want to come to Canada because this is a country where families can grow and prosper.

Unfortunately, I come from a province that has an NDP government where 40¢ on the dollar has to come from our federal government to keep Manitoba afloat. Therefore, in a time of economic fragility, when other countries are looking to Canada for the leadership it has shown, through balanced and careful strategic planning, we have been able to keep our economy very stable.

I am so pleased that my province of Manitoba will continue to receive significant support through the major federal transfers for 2012-13. It will reach an all-time high of $59 billion, $3 billion more than last year. In this time of recession, Manitoba, which gets 40¢ on the dollar from the federal government, will continue to receive more.

Why? Because there has been a job creation implementation plan that will help Manitobans get back to work. There is a revised EI plan that will cause people to want to get off EI and get jobs. In addition to this increased support, there is an extension by one year of total transfer protection to provinces to ensure that no province, such as Manitoba, experiences a decline in its combined entitlements under the CHT, CST and equalization. Therefore, for Manitoba, major transfers will total almost $3.4 billion in 2012-13. This long-term growing support helps ensure that Manitoba has the resources required to provide essential public services and contribute to shared national objectives, including health care.

I have been mystified to hear in the House, over and over again, that the government has cut the transfer payments and the health care budget. In fact, it has been increased by 6% to Manitoba. I am just astounded to hear this other kind of message go out there, but Manitobans know that this has happened.

Post-secondary education and other key components of Canada's social programs have been uplifted in Manitoba. There are almost $1.7 billion through equalization. That is an increase of $70 million since 2005-06. The rest of the globe's economies have gone down and we have stabilized and have the opportunity for families to grow.

There are almost $1.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $278 million since 2005-06 when our government came into power. Since we were able to get a strong, stable government mandate from the people of Canada, this government has not let Canadians down. It has done everything it has promised to do.

There are $429 million going to the Canada social transfer, an increase of $96 million since 2005-06. There are $201 million in total transfer protection.

Manitoba will also benefit from direct targeted support in 2012-13, including $18 million for labour market training, as part of a commitment of $500 million a year in new funding to provinces and territories, beginning in 2008-09.

There is $9 million for the wait times reduction fund as part of the 10-year plan to strengthen health care.

I am so pleased to say that there is reassurance for families. Families feel that quite honestly our government has contributed to their well-being. They can grow and prosper, even in a province like Manitoba that gets 40 cents on the dollar from the federal government.

We can see things moving in a very positive way, a very careful way, a very well thought-out way. Families are so afraid that the economy in this country will tip and go down, but they are not that afraid anymore because they are getting benefits from the government that allow them to have a lot of tax breaks, that allow that money they earn, that they spend hours earning, go back into their pockets instead of into government pockets.

We cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. Our government removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We increased the amount Canadians can earn, tax-free. More money goes in the pockets of Canadians, so they can spend their money the way they think is best, without the government telling them how to do it.

We reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pockets of an average family of four. Families know how to spend their money better than any government official, better than any member of Parliament. Canadians want to be able to retain their own hard-earned tax dollars and be able to make a better life for their families.

Others things happened that made it possible for families to increase their quality of life, for instance, the children's fitness tax credit. A lot of families were not able to send their kids to different fitness organizations, but the tax credit has helped a lot. The children's arts tax credit was also added on, and the family caregiver tax credit.

As members know, in this country, in three years, we are going to have more seniors than we have young people. The family caregiver tax credit is so beneficial when one has a critically ill loved family member and one has to make that sacrifice of being the caregiver one wants to be.

There is the first-time homebuyers tax credit, registered disability savings plans, volunteer firefighters tax credit, working income tax benefit, child tax credit and textbook tax credit. My own daughter has gone through five years of university, and we all appreciate that textbook tax credit very much. That is for Canadian families.

There is the public transit tax credit to encourage people to use the bus, the Canada employment tax credit and the deduction of the cost of tools for tradespeople.

Our government has been clear in trying to build on the benefit of families, ordinary Canadians, people who can grow and prosper in this country, not to be afraid, to be proud of what they are doing as families.

Since taking office in 2006, our government has been lowering taxes, with more than 140 tax cuts altogether. I know this helps hard-working families get ahead. Right now, today, families are paying over $3,000 less in taxes in Canada than they have ever done before.

The budget is big. It is a big document because, as a previous speaker said, there are a lot of things that have to be done in this country. However, this budget has to go through to allow all these things to take place in this country and to allow people to continue to grow and raise their families.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend from Kildonan—St. Paul who is one of the hardest working MPs and who has done so much for people in the human trafficking area.

I rarely get to ask her a question so it pains me to ask her one on this issue. Bill C-38, despite the few things I like, such as allowing recovering people to work while they are on EI, claim that and not have it all clawed back, contains some measures that are good but overall I am so very deeply aggrieved by the number of bills that are thrown into Bill C-38 that are not part of proper fiscal measures, particularly those overhauls of the Canadian Environment Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act and so on.

I would like to ask my hon. friend if she does not think there is some chance that the Minister of Finance might relent and pull out those sections that are not properly part of a budget, so they can be properly and separately debated?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is an amazing woman and has done a lot of things in this country. I respect her question. However, in a time of economic downturn, in this very fragile economy, choices have to be made and the bottom line is job growth. The bottom line is to make sure people can have jobs to feed their families. I would think that a government with true leadership would pick those priorities very carefully.

Sometimes it is painful when other things cannot be included because we want to be all things to all people. What a government does and what Canadians expect is for the government to keep them safe, to make sure they have the job opportunities and to keep this country stable. That is what we are doing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for her good speech, but I could not help noticing what could be described as a triumphalist tone near the beginning when she seemed to imply that all of the credit for Canada's better-than-average performance goes to the government. Does she believe that the Conservative government planted the oil in Alberta or the minerals across the country? Does she not understand that the reason Canada's banks are doing well is because the previous Liberal government refused to go the route of bank self-regulation, as in the U.S.? Does she not understand that the healthy fiscal position is because the government inherited a $13 billion surplus, which it proceeded to fritter away in short order? I think a more—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I admire my very esteemed colleague's hyperbole, which is great, but by the same token I want to remind the very esteemed member that the previous government cut $25 billion in social transfers to this country. That cut health care in a big way. I would invite the member to join in and vote for this budget. I know his heart is in the right place. He wants to see Canadians grow and prosper and I appreciate his doing that. I will give him credit when he does it, I promise.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member has done a tremendous amount of work to stop human smuggling around the world, especially here in Canada, and to bring it to people's attention.

I am wondering if she could comment very briefly on regulatory changes we are making. As the previous Liberal member said, there have to be some good changes and we have made some, such as one project, one review for Canadians to know with certainty what is going to take place, but also the $2.5 billion in annual tax relief for seniors and removing more than 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls, including pension income splitting, which is so popular with seniors.

Could she comment on those two things, please?