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

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, consultations are great if they lead somewhere but if consultations are only an opportunity to obstruct and delay and there is no intent from both sides when they sit down to actually seek a common goal, then the consultations do not work.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 7th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the bill would have a very profound impact on all Canadians. For example, increasing the age for OAS from 65 to 67. We in the Liberal Party believe people should have the choice to determine if they would like to retire at age 65. The government believes differently and the budget sets, at least in part, the framework to that.

The budget itself is an issue of priorities. The government has made the decision to cut over 15,000 civil servant jobs, which will have a significant impact on services being provided to Canadians. If we put that in the perspective of what the government did earlier this year when it decided to spend tens of millions of dollars on increasing the number of politicians, not to mention the staffing that will be required for those politicians, Canadians look at it and see a government that is cutting back on the civil servants in the same year in which it is proposing to increase the number of members of Parliament.

How does the member justify that sort of an approach when it comes to priorities for Canadians? It did not need to increase the size of the House of Commons and the government knows that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the question but I am not sure if the hon. member supports the increase in the number of members in the House of Commons or if he is actually against the increase.

The number of members in the House of Commons needs to be divided up as fairly as possible across the country. We know we have constitutional obligations. However, it is about democracy and about people having representation. There is a cost to that but it is a cost as a Canadian that I am willing to pay and I think all Canadians are willing to pay.

There are a number of other questions there. One of them was on old age security. The member is absolutely right. We do not need to change old age security today. Nothing will happen tomorrow, or next year, or the year after that. However, when we get into 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, the system will collapse in on itself and no one will have old age security. Therefore, we are moving now to put a program in place to ensure we preserve old age security for future generations.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I want to give the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's an opportunity to enlarge on an issue that obviously is not apparent to the opposition. We hear lots of complaints about what is going to be a very long budget debate, about the length of the debate, without any comments on the substance of the budget, this bill.

Could the member inform the House what the benefits for all parts of Canada are of having such an attractive jurisdiction for business and job creation in the country. Whether it is lower taxes or responsible resource development, whether it is affordable social programs or budget balance, these are all benefits that will bring jobs and investment to every part of the country.

Could the member describe some of the--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

A short answer, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, a short answer will be very difficult. However, for me, the real success of the budget bill is the way it dovetails the budget in with our trade initiatives because our trade initiatives are leading to jobs and opportunities for Canadians and jobs and opportunities for workers in foreign lands to trade with Canada. This is a win-win situation for all on a planet that is not that stable and we need people to do well. First and foremost, we need Canadians to do well and we will do well because of the budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, our people are growing older and living longer. What does that mean and what should we do about it? I will start with old age security.

In 1975, there were seven taxpayers for every senior. Right now, it is four. In 20 years, there will be two taxpayers for every senior. What is more, people now collect OAS for longer.

When Canada introduced old age security in 1951, the average life expectancy was 79 and eligibility was 70, meaning that the average person did not collect old age security at all. Today, eligibility is 65 and life expectancy is 82, meaning that the average person gets 17 years of OAS.

As we project forward, life expectancy is growing by 47 days per year. Put morbidly, the average dead person this year is 47 days older than the average dead person from last year. In 2031, people will die on average at about 84 years old, which means that under the current rules they will collect OAS for almost two decades. This is a benefit, I remind members, that was expected to be collected for only a very short period of time.

Put together, these facts mean that in two decades the number of people on OAS will double, the cost will triple and the number of taxpayers supporting each retiree will fall by half. By consequence, OAS will rise from 15¢ of each dollar the federal government spends to 25¢.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute calculated, “...by 2040 Canada would face a $67 billion deficit (in today’s dollars) based on current policies and demographic change”.

We need to think of OAS as a glass of water. Retirees can only drink out of the cup in benefits what workers pour into it in taxes. If Canadians are drinking out of the cup faster than what is poured in, then someone goes thirsty. We can look to Greece and Portugal where government debts are rated at junk status to see the consequences of drinking from the cup of profligacy.

We reject that failed model and choose the Canadian way instead. Our plan lowers the cost and therefore protects the integrity of the old age security system with a gradual increase to 67 years of age over the next decade and a half without impacting anyone currently over the age of 54.

The opposition parties oppose this move. In fact, they are already promising to increase the costs associated with this program. The NDP deputy leader moved and the Liberal leader seconded bills in this House that would allow people who have only lived in Canada for three years to collect old age security. The cost to taxpayers would be another $700 million. How would the opposition make up the $67 billion gap that I described earlier and how would it further fund billions of dollars in new promised entitlements?

The oppositions' election strategy is a cunning one. They would tell voters that they will give them a lot of free stuff and make someone else pay for it, and who better than big corporations. Who are these big corporations? Perhaps they mean Canadian Natural Resources Limited, the country's largest independent oil producer with over 100,000 barrels from the oil sands every day. It makes them a perfect target for the NDP.

The NDP promises to raise taxes on that company's profits but where do these profits go now? Well, they go to the shareholders. One of the biggest shareholders is the Quebec pension plan with $576 million invested. When the company profits it pays more money to the public pension.

Based upon today's dividend, this oil company pays the Quebec pension plan $6.3 million. That is enough to pay the pensions of 1,100 Quebeckers. There is only one problem. Canadian Natural Resources can only pay Quebec pensioners after it pays taxes to the government. Business taxes up, pension benefits down.

This is not an isolated example. Over half of the CPP's assets are invested in businesses, including the Canadian Oil Sands Trust, Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil and Athabasca Oil Sands Corporation. When these businesses profit, the CPP has more money to pay out to Canadian retirees. Raise taxes on those companies and they will pay a lower return to the CPP.

Take the Canada Post pension plan. It is no different. Its top five holdings are: the Toronto Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources. Banks and oil companies, the twin villains in every left-wing storyline, pay dividends to the pension fund of these unionized postal workers. These dividends come from after-tax profits. If the business tax rate rises, the after-tax profit remaining to the pension fund drops. In that sense, the opposition's proposed business tax hike is really a tax on the pensions of unionized blue-collar workers.

What happened to solidarity? The answer is that solidarity is incompatible with the opposition's overriding sentiment: envy.

If we do not have a job, the opposition tells us it is because someone else does. If we do not have enough to retire on, it tells us it is because businesses are too profitable. If a company fails, the oppositions tells it that it is because someone else is succeeding. If we are doing badly, it says it is because someone else is doing well. In sum, the opposition suggests that “them” has too much and “us” has too little. So it will take from the “them” and give to the “us”. Yet “us and them” does not work when our destinies are intertwined.

The retired Ottawa mailman relies for his pension cheque on the earnings of an Alberta oil sands company. In order to buy the machines and hire the workers in the first place, that oil sands company must seek investment from the mailman's pension fund. In that sense, the two are symbiotic and interdependent. Millions of voluntary transactions like these connect us all. Independently of government, through the free market, we truly are all in this together. Class distinctions start to fade. Billions of everyday Canadians now own shares in the largest corporations, through their pensions, RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts.

While some try to turn workers against business owners, free enterprise turns workers into business owners. That is the Canadian way: a low-cost government, a free people, a shared destiny and a bright future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a wonder to behold when this Parliament gets an economics lesson from the government side, a government that has racked up the biggest deficit in Canadian history. This sort of nonsense is unbelievable.

The member likes to obfuscate in this House on a daily basis. In this instance, he is talking about the supposed inability of Canada to sustain its OAS. The government always compares us to the economic basket cases of Europe. The amount of GDP that Greece and Portugal spend on their public pensions is 12% and 11%, respectively. Canada spends 4%. How dare the member try to compare our expenditures on public pension with that of these members of the eurozone? It is this kind of prevarication which this side of the House rejects and which Canadians are increasingly rejecting and are angry about.

I wonder why this member insists upon bending and weaving through the real issues of the--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP's economic policy is not a matter of theory anymore. It is not a matter of promises. It is a matter of real-time existing case studies. NDP governments exist more or less in Greece, Portugal and across Europe. Nine euro currency countries follow NDP policies and they have now been downgraded. Greece and Portugal have now junk status government debt. Their government debts are 1.5 times the size of the entire economy. That is the result of NDP tax-and-spend policies.

The only criticism that the leader of the NDP has had for the eurozone debtor nations is that he believes they are not spending and borrowing enough. He said that a week ago today. We on this side of the House of Commons reject that failed model. We support the Canadian way, a low-cost government, a free people, a shared destiny and a brighter future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the point raised by my hon. colleague about the fact that people are living longer, especially since OAS was first established.

The health-adjusted lifespan of the lowest 10% of income earners has not increased. That means that when they get to about 60 or 65 years of age, life will be very difficult for them because of health issues. If the government really wanted to trim the cost of OAS, why did it not protect this most vulnerable part of our society, the lowest income earners, the lowest decile of income earners, who really need OAS and GIS?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

We are protecting old age security, Mr. Speaker, by making it affordable for the long run. That is especially important to people most in need.

We do not protect pensioners and seniors by raising taxes on the companies that pay benefits into the pension funds, RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts that Canadians rely on for their retirements. As a result, we recognize the need for a low tax plan that would create jobs, wealth and long-term prosperity so that companies across this country can pay for the retirements of the people who need it most.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 29, the Minister of Finance tabled budget 2012 in Parliament. This budget includes reckless cuts to services that Canadians depend on, such as old age security, health care, provincial transfers and environmental assessments.

The Conservatives claim that their budget focuses on job creation. However, they themselves admit that their budget will result in the loss of 19,200 public sector jobs. The fact is that it will raise the unemployment rate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that this budget will actually result in the loss of 43,000 jobs in Canada. That, combined with this government's previous cuts, brings the total number of jobs lost to 102,000.

Bill C-38 is the 2012 budget implementation bill, but it is about much more than just the budget. This massive 421-page bill includes not only the measures described in the budget, but also many changes that were not previously announced.

This bill is not like other bills. It is over 400 pages long. This bill will have a major impact on Canadians. At least one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to weakening environmental protection and rules.

Furthermore, this bill introduces a series of measures that were not previously announced and that will result in reduced transparency and greater secrecy around the government. These measures include decreasing the Auditor General's powers.

Today I wish to draw your attention to one aspect that I find extremely worrisome. It has to do with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is clear that several parts of the agency are about to be privatized. These cuts to food inspection represent a step backward. We know that the listeriosis crisis in 2008 came about because of a lack of inspectors. Would hon. members not agree that the government should take the safety of Canadians seriously and that it should be transparent when communicating with Canadians?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is one of a number of agencies that will be excluded from the Auditor General's supervision. Bill C-38 eliminates all references to the Auditor General in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. For instance, the section of the act that was previously called “accounting and audit” will henceforth be called simply “audit”. Mandatory financial and performance audits by the Auditor General have also been eliminated.

Another important and troubling fact is that Bill C-38 eliminates mandatory financial audits by the Auditor General for 12 agencies.

Bill C-38 also amends the Seeds Act to give the president of the CFIA the power to issue licences to persons authorizing them to perform activities related to controlling or assuring the quality of seeds or seed crops. This amendment opens the door to having private companies do food inspection related work. This also sends worrisome signals about the growing likelihood of privatization of some parts of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

This bill will also significantly change how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors and enforces non-health and safety food labelling regulations. In other words, when a company states that its products do not contain any traces of peanuts, for example, the consumer will have no way of knowing whether that is true or not. This government believes that it is up to the consumer to judge the trustworthiness of labels. Parents with children who have peanut allergies will not know whether they can trust what the company is saying.

If they have any doubts, they will have to go online and address their concerns to the companies and associations involved.

In essence, the government is suggesting that we wait and see whether anyone has an allergic reaction. If so, then the consumer will have to go to the company's website to tell the company that it lied. The government is not getting involved.

The government is completely withdrawing from the process and is making individuals responsible for food labelling regulations. That makes no sense. Companies will say whatever they want, in order to sell their products to as many people as possible.

These changes scare me and I know I am not the only one who is scared. A woman in my riding wrote to me to tell me how much these changes would affect her family, as her son has a nut allergy. She is very worried about him and rightfully so.

I would also like to go over some of the comments made last week by my Conservative colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, when talking about budget 2012.

He asked the opposition to at least vote for increased investments in food safety.

I would now like to explain why I am voting against them. First, the government is not giving us the opportunity to vote for individual measures because it has decided to put together a gigantic budget bill that encompasses radical changes, such as the increase in the eligibility age for old age security benefits.

So no, I will not be voting against more investments in food safety; rather, I will be voting against an enormous bill that seeks to change environmental laws, the immigration system and employment insurance, among other things.

Second, what my colleague has not mentioned are the $56.1 million in cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Let us do the math. If we add $51 million to a program and then take away $56 million, what do we have left over? A negative figure, or cuts. It leaves us with a weaker inspection program.

That is why I will be voting against the budget implementation bill.

Canadians need transparency. It is not by sneakily passing measures that will have a major impact on Canadians that the government will earn the trust of the people.

Introducing such a wide-ranging bill and allowing so little time to debate it undermines what Parliament is here to do, because members will not have the opportunity to get all the information they need about the bill's content and impact.

It is sad that the government is continuing to ignore what really matters to Canadians: environmental protection, old age security, health care and job creation.

How can we properly do our job as elected representatives of the people when the government is not giving us the time we need to get all the information we need?

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need for proper oversight. He also released a report clearly showing that the old age security program is completely sustainable as it stands now. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has even said that the program would be sustainable if benefits were increased.

Why is the government continuing to make Canadians pay? Why is it ignoring the various reports that clearly prove certain facts? Why is it so determined to fast-track a bill that includes so many cuts? Who will benefit from these measures?

Those are some of the questions I am asking myself as a mother and an MP. What sort of future do we want for future generations? For all these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-38.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member raises some valid points and I want to highlight and pose a question for the member in regard to what is encompassed in this legislation.

Normally we would talk to and have a good healthy debate and questions and answers strictly with regard to budget items. However, in this budget the government has made changes, some of which are exceptionally profound in terms of issues such as our environmental legislation. All of that has been bundled in through the back door of the budget debate. I would ultimately suggest that it should have been sectioned out. There are probably three years worth of legislation packed into the bill.

How does the member feel about the manner in which the government has limited debate on the huge legislative agenda behind the budget debate on which we are all expected to vote?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a huge bill. It is over 400 pages. It is full of information. As has been said before, the devil is in the details.

It would be a good idea if the government sent agriculture issues specifically to the agriculture committee and environmental issues to the environment committee. It is as if it is scared to have an open and informed debate on this because it knows that if it were divided, it probably would not pass. Canadians are not for this at all.