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 jobs.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for his very insightful comments and also his knowledge about business. He himself is a very successful business person because he understands.

With regard to seniors, I would like to comment on the OAS. I talked a little earlier about making sure that there is balance and that we have the programs to sustain this country, and OAS is one of them. We would raise it to age 67 in the year 2023, but outside of that the reason why it would be done is that we want it there for all people.

I understand my time has run out, but I would be glad to answer the question at another time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just four problems with this bill: first, the fact that it increases the retirement age from 65 to 67; second, the nature of the cuts; third, the lack of transparency, and finally, the lack of democracy.

Let me please, in my time available, deal with each of these four issues.

Raising the age for old age security from 65 to 67 is undemocratic, unnecessary and unfair. It is undemocratic because the government ran in the last election without a mention of this important policy step, and it only did it once elected. It is unnecessary because every expert has said that our system is indeed sustainable. The Chief Actuary of Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD have all said it is sustainable. Yes, it will go up by .8% of GDP between now and 2030; then it will come down. But that amount is highly affordable compared with the situation other countries face.

It is undemocratic, it is unnecessary and it is unfair because it picks on the most vulnerable citizens in Canada. People like us, working largely in sedentary jobs, or not physical labour, may be able to go on working until we are 80, but people who do hard physical labour in their jobs may find their bodies are not able to continue after 65 and they would then be put on welfare. Also, those in the lower income categories eligible for GIS would not be able to collect that for a further two years, so it would cost the most vulnerable Canadians something in the order of $30,000.

If members do not agree with me and they argue that it is not sustainable, that is wrong, but let us say they do, there are other ways to limit the cost of old age security, which would not have those same negative effects on Canada's most vulnerable citizens. For example, the government could cut off the income at which OAS gets cut off to a lower level. That would save money and it would hurt the higher income people rather than the lower income people.

There are many ways to skin a cat, and the government has chosen the way that would be most hard on the most vulnerable.

Coming now to my second point, which is the cuts, Liberals are not necessarily opposed to cuts in principle, if they are necessary. After inheriting a $42 billion deficit in 1993, the government moved quickly to balance the books and paid down debt for almost 10 years. Later on, in 2004-05 we found expenditure savings or cuts of $11 billion spread over five years. We are not necessarily opposed to cuts in principle, but my beef with the Conservative government is the things it did cut and the things it should have cut but did not cut.

In the first category, the things the government did cut, which were wrong to cut, the most egregious case in my view is the fact that 50% of the employees of Statistics Canada received messages that they might be laid off. This is coming after the disastrous ending of the long form census, which means Canadians will no longer know the nature of their country, as they once did. This shows the government's tendency to cut things that are information-based policy-makers in favour of ideology-based policy. Statistics Canada cuts, as well as major cuts to environmental scientists, go to the heart of our knowledge. If the government is going to cut, that is not the place to cut.

Second, public safety is always job one for government. I am concerned that cuts to food inspectors at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency could bring on another Walkerton.

Despite the fact that Elections Canada is involved in a major electoral fraud investigation, the government chose to cut Elections Canada by $7.5 million, all in the first year.

That is enough on the cuts I do not like. I will now speak about things the government could have cut.

The government could have put the F-35 out to tender. In a book coming out today, the former ADM for materiel, Alan Williams, makes a strong case that this F-35 business has been mishandled from day one. He has also indicated that a competitive bidding process would save the taxpayer some billions of dollars. Similarly, I do not think we need to spend billions of dollars on prisons. I note that the government has had a 230% increase in its advertising budget since 2006, much of it partisan. There are many areas where the government could have found additional funding to cut. There are many things it did cut which it should not have cut. That is a second very good reason to oppose this budget.

The third problem I have with it is the lack of transparency and accountability. When we were the government in 2004-05, we found $11 billion worth of cuts over five years. Every single cut was itemized in the budget by program and department. The current government brings in cuts seven years later and nothing is itemized in the budget. We are left to hear gradually, from leaks or union leaks, which people have lost their jobs. Technology has not regressed since 2005. There is no reason the Conservatives could not have itemized all the cuts in the budget the way we did in 2005. Then Canadians would have known which programs would be affected and which people would lose their jobs. The technology is there: the Conservatives could have released this information in a timely fashion. The only reason they chose not to was because they figured out that Canadians would not like to hear the news.

I come now to my to my final point: lack of democracy. Many people have already alluded to this, but it is absolutely unacceptable in a democracy to have an omnibus bill which contains 70 different pieces of legislation and to rush this through without taking it to committees of the House of Commons other than the finance committee. It is egregious. I have not seen anything like this before. I know it is true that a majority can eventually get everything it wants through the House. That is what the Conservatives have and that is what the people of Canada chose. I do not object to that. However, there should be a process of analysis, calling of witnesses, investigation of the implications and possible amendments. Yet none of this is happening because the government is rushing through this huge piece of legislation and not taking it to the relevant committees.

In closing, as I said, there are four things I do not like about this bill. First, it is totally unfair to increase the age of retirement from 65 to 67, and it is unnecessary. Second, the nature of the cuts is no good. The bill makes cuts where it should not and does not make any where it should. Third, there is a lack of transparency and information. The government is not telling us where these cuts will be made. Finally, there is a lack of democracy. For all these reasons, the Liberals will certainly be voting against this bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the floor. I am sure if he had had more time he would have said that this Minister of Finance is the finest he has seen in the last 20 years. I know he just did not have enough time to get that out. However, I did listen to him talk about the F-35. Would he like to explain to the House and to Canadians who it was and which government it was that bought the Victoria class submarines and the process used, and who started the process on the F-35 for Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was before my time. I do not know the exact process used to buy the submarines. I do know something about the F-35 because I was defence minister in those days. I can tell the hon. member, as is detailed in Alan Williams' book that came out today, the Liberal government of the day put some money into that project for industrial benefits for this country. That paid back quite well. We had nothing to do with the choice of the plane. That was purely an American decision. There was zero commitment to buy it at that time. That is how we got into that thing. Alan Williams describes in great detail in his book a process that has been back to front. The military specified what plane it wanted first, whereas it was supposed to specify its needs and Public Works was supposed to take it from there. So it has been a total mess from 2006 onward on the F-35.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about old age security.

We have heard the Conservative members say that people will have enough time to prepare. Many people in my riding had planned to retire at 55. They had mapped out their financial affairs in order to retire at 55, based on the assumption that, at 65, they would begin receiving the old age security pension. I would like to know if someone who is currently 53 years old will be able to prepare for the change in two years.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague: it is hard to make any long-term plans, but this issue of age is not my main point. Here are my main points: first of all, it is unnecessary because the current system is not posing any problems for Canada; second, it is unfair because MPs are not the ones who will be affected by this measure, but rather more vulnerable individuals. Poor people and poor seniors will be the ones to have problems and that is therefore incredibly unfair.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments. I have heard it mentioned several times from members opposite today and I have a very simple question. Politicians like to attend openings of new facilities to cut ribbons. Would the member tell us where the newest prison in Canada has been built?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer that question, but it is clear from research that has been done that unless the Conservatives are planning to double bunk every prisoner in the country, there will be a need for new facilities over time. Estimates of the cost vary, but have typically been in the billions of dollars.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have had a lot of debate in this House about precedence in terms of the length of debate time for budget implementation bills and the length of budget implementation bills. My colleague has been here for much longer than me. Has he ever seen a budget implementation bill that covered more than 70 unrelated bills with time allocation applied?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. I have been here since 2001 and we have had budget implementation bills but nothing on the scale of 70 pieces of legislation being changed and debate being shortened in this way. This is truly an unprecedented move in Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand and enter this debate today on Bill C-38. It is a budget implementation act. I appreciate there is a lot of engagement around the House today from members opposite and members on this side of the House. As all members will recall, budget 2012 was tabled on March 29. It launches the next phase of our economic action plan.

The budget was applauded by economists from coast to coast. The member for Markham—Unionville just spoke. As he is a former economist, I was waiting for him to echo some of the economists across Canada, representing the major banks, who applauded the budget.

There is a reason that economists from across the country have applauded our measures in the budget. All over the world, nations are reeling from the chaos of a worldwide economic meltdown that struck in 2008 and worsened through 2009. Even this week, we saw major changes in two countries in Europe. With France and Greece reorganizing new governments and new leaders, political fallout is taking a toll on social stability.

By contrast, Canada has been shaken, but remains stable. The World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, Moody's and Forbes magazine have all applauded Canada's economic performance and predict we are positioned to lead world economies in the next years. The reason economists have embraced our budget is because they recognize the choices made in our economic action plan that keep Canada moving in the right direction.

Phase two of the economic action plan is a plan for jobs, for growth and for long-term prosperity. Budget 2012 takes important steps to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of a global economy while ensuring sustainable social programs and sound public finances for future generations. The budget contains reforms that are substantial. They are responsible and they are necessary. They are reforms that will ensure that across government we are focused on sustaining Canada's long-term economic growth.

Just as we did in the first phase of Canada's economic action plan, the focus of this budget is on boosting economic growth and job creation. It is on stimulating innovation, investment, education and skills. Let me just list, in broad strokes, the major initiatives in Bill C-38.

The initiatives would be making major investments of over $1 billion to support science and technology; providing $500 million to spur growth of innovative start-up companies; ensuring responsible resource development by moving to one project one review, with a clearly defined time period for major economic projects while continuing to protect the environment; opening new markets and expanding international trade, bringing Canadian goods to the world; extending the hiring credit for small business for one more year to make it more attractive for small business to grow and to hire more workers; providing $150 million over two years for the new community infrastructure improvement fund; providing $5.2 billion over 11 years to renew the Canadian Coast Guard. That is something that is going to impact communities on both coasts of this great country and in the north. It is essential, and it will serve our communities for many years to come.

We would be focusing on employment insurance and promoting job creation by removing disincentives to work and supporting unemployed Canadians by connecting them more quickly to jobs. We would be providing $275 million over three years to support first nations education and to build and renovate schools on reserve. The measures over the last couple of years, which this initiative builds on, have made a huge difference in first nations in coastal B.C.

I mentioned earlier in a question and comment about a new school in Ahousaht. Some 800 people live in that community with only boat access. The new school is a huge asset in that community and it is going to impact education, which is a priority for the national chief. The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations is from the coast of British Columbia. In addition to that on reserve, some $330 million would be going into upgrading water systems on reserve. It is extremely important for our remote, rural communities.

We would be building a fast and flexible economic immigration system to track immigrants with the skills and experience our economy needs. Our Minister of Immigration has been doing a major overhaul to make sure we attract the kinds of immigrants who are going to contribute to long-term prosperity in Canada, not only for their own families, but for our Canadian economy at the same time.

If we pause and take a look back, it is helpful to remember that after forming government in 2006, this government paid down nearly $40 billion on our national debt.

That positioned us well, inasmuch as in the ensuing recession period we had to run a deficit to provide the much-needed economic stimulus and keep people working.

The economic action plan launched a massive infrastructure investment plan. Yes, we hired more federal employees to ensure the money was well administered and went to projects that would position Canada well, creating economic opportunities that are having a positive impact right now across Canada from coast to coast.

We also launched a work-sharing program. We expanded EI benefits. We launched retraining programs for displaced workers and invested big time in education and science infrastructure. That was through the knowledge infrastructure program. All of this was to keep people working and to prepare for tomorrow's jobs.

The net result of prudent planning is that Canada has emerged as one of the top-performing industrialized countries.

Since the peak of the recession in July 2009, our economy has seen almost 700,000 new jobs, and most of those are full time. Canada is the only G7 country that has come out of the recession with more jobs than we had when we went into it.

Keeping taxes low for Canadians has been a key policy for this government. Since 2006, we have reduced the tax burden of Canadians through some 140 measures. As a result, the average Canadian family of four saves about $3,100 each and every year.

The budget contains measures to create employment. Included are a $1,000 hiring credit for small business and incentives for apprentices of up to $4,000 for tools, tuition and travel expenses. That would be for the Red Seal trades. Improvements to EI and the temporary foreign workers program would help connect Canadians with available jobs, including those seniors who are willing and able to work and who wish to continue working.

I made reference earlier to mega-investments in science, technology and innovation through granting agencies such as Genome Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. In addition, there is $105 million to fund innovation in the forestry sector, which is extremely important to generate value-added production, something that we are very interested in, in coastal British Columbia. Investments in the Coast Guard fleet and helicopter renewal valued at $5.2 billion will be of benefit to coastal communities.

There are huge investments to help improve the living conditions and opportunities for vulnerable people in remote settings. I mentioned the water systems on reserve, but there are big investments in education on reserve. That $275 million across the nation is going to make a difference.

In order to ensure the sustainability of old age security, the age of eligibility would be gradually raised to 67, starting in 2023 and fully implemented in 2029.

In two decades, the number of retirees will double and costs will triple. Meanwhile, by 2030, if the system is unchanged, the number of taxpayers for every senior will be down to two from, currently, about four. In 2010 there were four; when the program was initiated, there were seven.

We have ensured that the changes are made with substantial notice and with an adjustment period. They would not affect current retirees or those close to retirement and would give others plenty of time to adjust to the changes and plan for their retirement.

Overall, in British Columbia we would benefit from $5.6 billion in health, education and social transfers, fulfilling our promise to balance the federal budget without cutting transfers to the provinces.

The budget is focused on jobs and long-term prosperity. As with the previous phase of the economic action plan, it addresses the changing worldwide economic situation and is designed to keep Canada competitive for the benefit of all Canadians.

Let me quote from the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Berry Vrbanovic. He said:

Canada's municipal leaders welcome today's commitment by the federal government to continue working with cities and communities to rebuild the local roads, water systems, community centres and public transit that our families, business and economy depend on.

He goes on to say that:

Today's budget continues building a new infrastructure partnership that creates jobs and strengthens Canada's future economic foundations.

Of course, I know that our municipalities in coastal B.C. are very appreciative of that gas tax fund, the $2 billion fund that we increased even during tough economic times. Our great finance minister extended that gas tax fund to $2 billion to ensure municipalities have the funds to move ahead with important projects.

Business of the House
Government Orders

May 7th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), I would like at this time to designate Wednesday, May 9, for consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under National Defence in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Business of the House
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The House appreciates the notice from the government House leader.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my eminent colleague's speech, and I was surprised at how many economic issues he addressed in so short a time. It was almost like listening to a budget debate.

My question is very simple: does he not believe that it would be quite appropriate to split this omnibus bill in order to deal with various issues individually, as we should?