House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 7 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

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I support the 2012 budget.

I wholeheartedly support the 2012 budget because it is good for Canada and good for southern Alberta.

The budget was not simply handed down from on high. The opposition and left-wing media do not know what to make of our government, diverse in its membership and truly national in its character. They have never seen such a strong, united party. They cannot understand it.

Since they do not believe that a free group of people can willingly co-operate and believe that people must be told what to do, they assume the only way we could be so united is by means of a heavy-handed leadership. However, Conservatives are united because we believe in what we are doing.

We blindly support the budget because together we helped to develop it, and we did this by counselling with the constituents in our respective ridings because we know who put us in our seats. We know who we represent.

The overwhelming message that I received from my constituents throughout the year was, “Keep on keeping on. Your plan is working. Continue to keep taxes low. Continue to reduce redundant red tape. Continue to facilitate trade among the provinces and continue to open up new markets around the world”.

They understood the need for the economic stimulus provided in past budgets, but they also understand that the global economic crisis that still rages in the world today is in fact a debt crisis, and that no one can spend their way out of a debt crisis.

They support our commitment to eliminate the deficit and balance the budget over the medium term. They support our commitment to maintain our vital and cherished social programs and government services and they know that we can do this and still cut government spending. When it comes time to make cuts, the overwhelming message I have been hearing is to reduce government waste.

One good thing about the NDP becoming the official opposition is that it more clearly draws the line in the sand and more clearly defines to Canadians their options in getting to where we want to go.

Conservatives trust the people. We believe that Canadians are generally good, kind-hearted, hard-working, industrious and smart, while the socialist NDP believes that people left to their own devices cannot be trusted. NDP members believe people cannot be trusted to do the right thing, to take care of the poor and needy, to figure out a way to make a living, and they believe that people who do figure it out should be punished for their ingenuity and have the fruits of their labour taxed away. They believe the only people who can be trusted are the people who make up a socialist government. These people must go through some supernatural change, because somehow they become magically pure-hearted and unselfish and, of course, smarter than the collective wisdom of the people working together.

The underlying message of the budget is that we trust Canadians. We trust them, so we listen to them. We trust them, so we let them keep their own money and decide for themselves how to spend it. We trust them, so we cut back on unnecessary overregulation, open up trade with other countries around the world and create a business-friendly environment to unleash the power of Canadian entrepreneurs, who will continue to create wealth and opportunities and increase prosperity for all their fellow Canadians.

Of course, some people have criticized some of the spending reductions; every voice matters, but just because a person or group of people speaks loudly or more often does not mean they speak for all Canadians.

A lot of the complaints come from people who expect to be exempt from the government-wide modest budgetary constraints or expect to maintain more than their fair share of the public pie. It would be nice to have a budget that provides everything for everyone. Socialism promises everyone a loaf of bread, but soon no one has any bread, because the bakers are standing in line for their free loaves.

The Conservative government, along with most Canadians, understands the inescapable truth that everything eventually must be paid for. We cannot get something for nothing. It does not matter how hungry we get or how unfair it seems; if we do not plant potatoes, potatoes will not grow.

Let me turn to some third party comments about the budget. In the National Post, David Frum said this:

Under Stephen Harper, Canada can fairly claim to be the best-governed country among advanced democracies in the world. [This year's] federal budget locks up Canada's lead.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would remind the hon. member that it is not permitted to name sitting members in the House, even in a quote.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, referring to our Prime Minister and his budget, he says:

[His] budgeting is impeccable in its caution. By 2015-2016, Canada will have reduced both spending and debt to pre-recession levels. Nobody else on earth will be able to say anything like that.

The key in balancing the budget is, well, balance. When the crisis hit, the task was to provide just the right amount of economic stimulus: enough to keep the economy going, but not so much that the country's economic crisis slipped into the debt crisis that plagues the eurozone. Now the trick is to reduce the deficit, but at a rate that will not plunge the economy back into recession. This second task is especially tricky because it requires not only sound judgment but something even rarer in politics: discipline.

There is a famous experiment in which kindergarten kids are presented with a marshmallow. They can eat it right away, but if they wait just 10 minutes, they can have two marshmallows. It is amazing how many kindergarten kids are able to recognize the principle of restraint, the principle that making a small sacrifice now for a big payout later makes sense. The opposition does not seem to share that sense of foresight.

There is no avoiding the fact that if difficult decisions are not made now, even more difficult decisions will be unavoidable later, or, more accurately, they will not be decisions but inescapable consequences, and they will not just be difficult, they will be devastating.

During the several pre-budget consultations I held across my riding, the general consensus was support for this disciplined and balanced approach to managing the country's economy. People also believed that the majority of the deficit reduction savings could and should be found by eliminating waste, duplication and inefficiencies in virtually all government programs.

I am happy to say that 70% of the expected savings come from eliminating government waste, and it is not all cuts. My constituents, along with the majority of Canadians, said that we should invest in economic growth and job creation, research and innovation, infrastructure and development, education and skills. Our budget places a strong emphasis on all of these areas.

Some of our opponents criticize us for focusing so much on the economy. They say that all we care about is money, but then they follow up with a demand that we take somebody else's money to fund their favourite project.

Members may ask why the economy is our priority. It is for two main reasons: first, it is the priority of the vast majority of Canadians. It is their priority for the second reason, which is that in this day and age, things cost money.

We all love our health care system. We love our education system and our roads, libraries and parks. We want to support our veterans, seniors and those who stand in need. We want to live in safe communities and in a safe world. That is why, since we were first elected in 2006, our government has been focused on creating jobs and economic growth. That is why ultimately our goal is to ensure long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

As the Minister of Finance said:

We see a Canada, whose wealth, while immense, will be measured ultimately in the greater happiness and security of its people.

This is a good budget. Because of it and because of our budgets that have preceded it, we can see in the distance every reason to hope. We see young Canadians confident in their future, retired Canadians secure in their senior years, aboriginal Canadians realizing their vast potential and new Canadians strengthening our country as they have done in every generation. We see every region of the country more prosperous than ever in our history. We see Canadian businesses and universities coming up with things that no one has thought of before, leading to new opportunities and a better life for Canadians and for people all around the world. We see Canada for what it is and what it can be: a great, good nation on top of the world, the true north strong and free.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, since the member's speech talked about jobs and how the Conservative proposals are creating more jobs and better prosperity, I would like him to tell me why we have a record number of temporary foreign workers in Canada today.

There are over 300,000 people who have been brought to Canada, many of whom are working in very low-wage jobs in the service sector. One-fifth are in the city of Toronto, which has an unemployment rate of over 8%, and now his government is proposing that they can be paid 15% less than other Canadians. How can undermining Canadian jobs and pay levels be good for Canadian workers?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the reason there is a record number of foreign workers coming into the country is because there is a record number of available jobs.

My colleague referred to the 15% below average of what Canadians are receiving. That is not true. Foreign workers can only receive 15% lower than the average if other Canadians are receiving 15% lower than the average. A lot of people who work 20 or 25 years make a lot more throughout those years of work than someone who is starting out. That changes the average salary. As a result of market conditions, if the majority of Canadians are receiving 15% less than the average wages, then immigrants can receive that as well so that they are not paid more than Canadian workers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I take exception to the member's comments in different ways.

The Government of Canada has done nothing to preserve aerospace jobs in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario. When Air Canada was in clear violation of the act, the government did nothing to protect those important aviation jobs. The Government of Canada had a choice. It could have taken Air Canada to court in order to preserve those jobs, something that it should have done but chose not to do. Thousands of jobs have been lost. That is one issue that I take exception with when the government talks about jobs.

The second issue is in regard to why the government bundled so much legislation in an attempt to sneak it through the back door by using it in a budget debate. You, in essence, have three years--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would remind hon. members to address their comments through the Chair.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, when the Liberals were in government they voted to send those jobs from the member's province to Quebec.

We believe in the free market system. The markets will go where business is best. We will do all we can to generate thriving conditions in all the provinces with the support of the provinces and the Canadian people.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, based on where my colleague's riding is located, could he tell us the importance of Canada's energy supplies as a trading country to the long-term prosperity of Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the energy sector is not just important for Alberta, as important as it is for Alberta, but it is important for all of Canada. We need to do all that we can to support this industry, and not just support it within Canada but support different ways to export our energy to countries that need it. We need to do all that we can to prevent anything from blocking the way in a safe and responsible manner.

Whether or not we like the energy sector, we all need clean air and clean water, and we understand that fact.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House this morning to support the motion of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park, whom I would like to commend for this motion and for the clear-headed manner in which she has faced the challenges we have encountered since the tabling of this budget.

Obviously, the purpose of Bill C-38 is to implement budget 2012; however, it goes much further than the budget itself. The bill contains not only the measures described in the budget but also many changes that were never announced before. Personally, this does not really surprise me.

The biggest problem is that this bill introduces a series of measures that are not part of the election promises made by the current government and that will decrease the transparency and increase the secrecy of the government. This government is not a very good example of transparency. It has demonstrated that much over the past year, and things are only going to get worse over the next three years.

This bill contains measures that decrease the Auditor General's authority. Must I remind the House that the Auditor General is an independent and reliable source of objective, factual and, above all, non-partisan information that Parliament greatly needs to oversee government spending and activities?

Finally, any decrease in the Auditor General's powers will reduce Parliament's ability to provide oversight and hold the government to account, as mandated by all Quebeckers and Canadians. In my opinion, this is a very serious attack. The Auditor General ensures that public money is spent properly. We really have a problem with this. I just cannot understand how the government can assume this power. It is completely beyond me.

The 2012 budget makes ill-advised cuts to services on which a large number of Canadians are very dependent. Yes, I am referring to the old age security program, health care, provincial transfers, environmental assessments, and many other matters.

As I was saying earlier, yesterday, my colleague from Parkdale—High Park, seconded by my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, moved an amendment to the motion. The amendment clearly explains why the House cannot support the 2012 budget implementation bill.

The House cannot support the bill at second reading stage for various reasons. First, this bill considerably weakens the confidence Canadians have in the work of Parliament. I think that is very serious. I think that in the past year, that confidence has been undermined, and it will only diminish further. Now we know why people are cynical about politics and why young people no longer vote.

Second, the bill decreases transparency and erodes fundamental democratic institutions by systematically over-concentrating power in the hands of ministers and the government, which is not good.

Third, it shields the government from criticism about extremely controversial non-budgetary issues by bundling all those issues into an omnibus bill masquerading as a budget bill. It is hard to know where this will end.

Fourth, it also undermines the critical role played by such trusted oversight bodies as the Auditor General of Canada, the CSIS Inspector General and the National Energy Board.

Fifth, it silences institutional checks and balances to the government's ideological agenda.

Finally, something we have been talking about at length and must continue talking about in order to keep the public aware of the situation is that this budget raises the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. I do not understand this reckless approach to balancing the budget. A number of experts have said that the money is there, and they have the numbers to back their claims. The easy excuse is that the baby boomers are leaving the workforce, which means more people are retiring, but we have known that since the 1980s. We saw that coming and we are prepared for it.

This budget also includes provisions to gut the federal environmental assessment regime and to overhaul fish habitat protection, for instance, in a way that will adversely affect fragile ecosystems and Canada’s environmental sustainability for generations to come.

When I hear the Conservatives talking about the future, I do not understand. They are talking about the future, yet they are jeopardizing the health of Canadians and abandoning environmental measures. This makes no sense. This budget also calls into question Canada’s food inspection system and public health regime by removing critical oversight powers of the Auditor General, who works in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

This paves the way for opportunities to privatize a number of essential inspection functions. This will mean, on the one hand, that wealthy people will have the means to eat well and have their food inspected in order to avoid illness, while on the other hand, poor people will not be able to afford decent food and have it inspected. This is just one more aspect of this bill that is completely unacceptable.

Nor does this budget include measures to help the growing number of unemployed workers in Canada. The budget talks about job creation, but when I read the bill, I saw nothing about job creation. All I saw was job cuts. There is a disconnect between those cuts and the talk of job creation. The main thrust of this bill was not mentioned in the budget that the government tabled on March 29.

Throughout this 421-page bill, the government is trying to introduce new measures under the guise of budget implementation. Quebeckers and Canadians will not stand for that. Bill C-38 proves once again that Quebeckers and Canadians cannot trust the government. It proves once again that the government does not care about what Canadians need.

The government knows that its bill is unacceptable. That is why it has invoked closure once again. Unfortunately, this strategy is turning into a tradition in this Parliament. Still, we are starting to get used to it. It undermines the work of the House, where MPs have an important responsibility to debate bills. Once again, it proves that this government lacks transparency.

I could spend an entire day talking about this completely irresponsible bill, but Quebeckers and Canadians are much more intelligent than the government seems to think. I will now talk about the effects that this bill will have on my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, a very rural riding located close to Montreal, Quebec.

First, the attacks on the environment affect all ridings, obviously. At least a third of this bill is dedicated to environmental deregulation. The government is implementing all the measures that it announced, but it is also introducing new measures that it did not announce. Clearly, Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol is of great concern to my constituents and to all Canadians since it will result in a great deal of deregulation. I cannot emphasize this enough: this is yet another example of this government's lack of transparency when it comes to environmental assessments.

The executive director and senior counsel at West Coast Environmental Law said that, by gutting Canada’s long-standing environmental laws, the budget bill gives oil and gas companies exactly what they have been asking for—fewer environmental safeguards so they can push through resource megaprojects.

I am out of time. Nevertheless, I think I said everything I wanted to say even though, as I said before, I could talk about this bill all day.

I would be happy to answer any questions.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member opposite and at one point in her speech she said we were eliminating the environmental assessment program from the federal system.

One of the obligations we have in this House is to be forthright in the information we are giving Canadians. In reality, what we are doing is committing to a one-project-one-review system, which would give a predictable timeline to prospective projects, so people would know within a reasonable amount of time whether that project could proceed. We are not eliminating the federal system of environmental protection.

In reality, the NDP is opposed to the development of our natural resources. The NDP has called for a moratorium on the oil sands, which would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, and it is opposed to our nuclear sector, which employs more than 30,000 Canadians in high-paying jobs. It is okay for the NDP to stick to its rigid, ideological opposition to development, but it is not okay for NDP members to misinform Canadians. I would ask the member to clarify her statement that we are eliminating the federal system of environmental protection.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He may have misunderstood what I wanted to say. Once again, he could quite easily look up what I said, word for word, in the blues or on tape. I said that environmental assessment as we know it is being replaced by a new environmental assessment regime. I did not necessarily say that the process was being abolished.

However, I am worried because this new environmental assessment regime does not take into consideration the recommendations put forward by environmental groups and experts. Personally, that is what really worries me.

This is a good example of a process that does not provide Canadians with good information. The experts are not being consulted and organizations working to protect Canada's environment are not being heard.