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 budget.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, it is because I respect my colleague opposite that I must respond with questions of my own.

The member represents a party that wants to drive up taxes. Surely the incentive for our wonderful thriving middle-class in Canada is that taxes have been reduced and that there is hope in the future because of the free trade that is being encouraged by this government.

The type of environmental processes that we have been talking about throughout this debate would encourage good stewardship of the environment while we produce jobs. We have created 600,000 going on 700,000 jobs since July 2009 and they all reflect a commitment to the economy and to the hope of future Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Madam Speaker, I wonder if my hon. colleague could explain how this budget will help natural resource development in his own province.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

The minister is one of the hardest working MPs in the House, so I am delighted to go shoulder to shoulder with him. He is aware of how British Columbia depends upon the responsible extraction of natural resources for our economy and, therefore, we are proud stewards of our wonderful environment.

I come from the most beautiful place on earth. We care about our environment but we also want to ensure that the provincial and federal arms are working together so that we do not repeat unnecessary steps in the approval of resource projects. We are ensuring that provincial and federal regulators are working together. That is a big thrust in the bill. I am proud to believe that hundreds of thousands of new jobs will result.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, today I will not address the budget's assault on environmental protection, including water monitoring; the weakening of food inspection; the government's puzzling decision, in light of its professed monopoly on loyalty to our military, to reduce the number of medical professionals involved in suicide prevention and PTSD monitoring; and its targeting of the CBC, a vehicle for holding all governments, regardless of political stripe, to account through world-class reporting and for facilitating homegrown cultural expression that reflects and strengthens Canadian values and identity. Rather, I will focus on the budget's impact on younger Canadians.

I would not go so far as to say that the budget is an attack on younger Canadians. I will not use that kind of intemperate language. However, I will say that the budget is neglectful of younger Canadians. It fails to consider their legitimate needs and, as a result, it fails to build for the country's future.

Canada needs to excel as a knowledge economy if we wish to prosper in the world of the 21st century. However, the budget does nothing specific to encourage young people to pursue a post-secondary education or otherwise to reduce the financial barriers that prevent some from pursuing such an education.

There is nothing in this budget, like Paul Martin's highly successful cash grant, for those who invest in a registered education savings plan for their children's post-secondary education. As we know, the federal government today contributes $2 for every $10 Canadians invest in their children's RESP. Nor do we see the budget introduce a version of the Canadian learning passport.

The Canadian learning passport was an idea in the 2011 Liberal election platform. It was based on the principle that, “if you gets the grades, you get to go”. The idea of the passport was to offer all high school students intending to go on to college or university $1,000 in trust for each year of anticipated post-secondary education up to a maximum of $4,000 and $1,500 per year up to a maximum of $6,000 for students from low-income families.

Now that is smart public policy that would achieve a triple objective: first, supplying our economy with the skilled labour it needs for the 21st century; second, preparing our youth for the jobs of tomorrow; and third, achieving an important measure of social justice by removing barriers to education for all youth, including those from low-income families.

On another matter of importance to Canada's future, we must not ignore the relationship between university scientific research and the education and career success of today's young people. University research produces concrete benefits for student researchers. It provides students with an important practical avenue of intellectual development so they can later make a meaningful contribution to a science-based economy. I noticed in this regard that the budget eliminates a very financially modest but highly successful program in the area of science and engineering research: the research tools and infrastructure program, known as RTI.

RTI provides funding for the purchase and repair of lab equipment of a value of up to $150,000. This amount is way below the threshold for CFI funding that targets multi-million dollar multi-applicant projects. It is not an exaggeration to say that the RTI program is the lifeblood of most NSERC-funded university research because it provides researchers with a reasonable chance of obtaining the equipment they need to do their work.

As my colleague from Kingston said last week in a question he asked in this House, for research scientists, eliminating the RTI is like sending a carpenter to work without a hammer. Furthermore, a well-known university researcher in Montreal has written to me to say that by the government nixing the RTI, “We will lose staff, we will lose students, we will lose knowledge”. I do not know why the government made such a short-sighted decision.

Speaking of opportunities for young people, we must not forget the brutal cancellation of Katimavik. Katimavik provides a unique experience for young people seeking to discover their strengths, skills and independence at a difficult crossroads in their life.

After the announcement of Katimavik's demise, Katie Wheatley, a constituent of mine and a Katimavik alumni, wrote to me with the following testimonial, “Coming out of the Katimavik program has left me with complete bilingualism, invaluable work experience, an incredible sense of accomplishment and empowerment, and a brighter future”. What more is there to say?

What leads us to question the government's objectivity in its decision to terminate Katimavik is the fact that the decision is retroactive. It has left candidates already accepted for next year's edition of the program flat-footed, deeply deflated and scrambling to make new plans. One could even say that the decision is, if not legally then morally, tantamount to a breach of contract. This breach of contract carries an air of vindictiveness. It is an open secret that the government pulled the plug on Katimavik mostly because the program was the brainchild of the Trudeau government.

Finally, the change to OAS eligibility will impact on younger Canadians since the change will apply to anyone born after 1958. The generations that will be hit by this change include those whose members' professional careers often took longer to launch than what was the case for previous generations. Many younger Canadians today are struggling with career and income and this change will exacerbate the challenges they face down the line.

The Liberal opposition is four-square against the budget's change to OAS eligibility for other reasons as well. First, various experts have argued convincingly that raising the age of eligibility to receive OAS is not necessary to sustain the system.

Second, the Liberals believe that many Canadians who have held physically demanding jobs may find it very difficult to work beyond age 65. Many, in fact, will be forced to retire before age 65. An example is nurses.

A constituent, Anna-May Barrett, called my office to remind the government that being a nurse is a physically demanding job, with overtime, staff shortages and increasingly longer shifts and yet the government's decision on OAS eligibility appears to ignore this reality.

Third, the OAS provides much needed financial assistance to many would be low-income seniors who would otherwise find themselves below the poverty line.

Fourth, many women who chose to stay at home may not have other pensions to draw on at 65 years of age. This new delay in receiving OAS will prejudice these Canadians and deny them a measure of economic freedom they were counting on.

I would add that I believe it is vital for a healthy democracy that Canadians be able to trust their government. Many Canadians will consider the decision to change the age of eligibility for OAS a betrayal of that trust, especially in light of the commitments made by the Prime Minister during the recent election campaign that a Conservative government would not change retirement benefits. A Liberal government would reverse the change to OAS eligibility, bringing the age at which all Canadians would be eligible to receive this benefit back to 65.

Another Liberal idea that was promoted during the last election campaign is missing from this budget, the idea of a supplemental Canada pension plan. The Canada pension plan is extremely well-managed. It is recognized internationally as a very low cost, cheap to administer program that brings higher rates of return than other large pension plans. Therefore, why not allow Canadians to invest even more in this high return pension system? Why not commit to working with the provinces to devise a pan-Canadian improvement to the CPP-QPP system that would allow Canadians who might have extra money to save for retirement to invest that money with the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board?

Those are the kinds of constructive suggestions that, if included in the budget, might allow the opposition to see things a little differently.

Since my colleague from Papineau is here, I would like to comment on a video I saw recently of the very first televised question period in the House of Commons. The question was from the hon. Joe Clark and the economic situation was quite similar at the time to today. Mr. Clark asked a respectful question of the government about its plan for economic recovery. The prime minister at the time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, stood and, instead of slamming the opposition and impugning its motives, he said that the Liberals were hoping that the opposition would provide some constructive ideas that the government could include in its plan for economic recovery. That is the kind of openness we need today in our democracy.

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11:20 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about investing in research. The Conservative government, in its somewhat narrow view, is investing almost exclusively in applied research. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the general importance of investing in basic research.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague.

Yes, we need to invest in applied research, but pure research—theoretical research—is what moves our society forward in the long term. It is that kind of research that incites the world's top researchers to come and work at our universities here in Canada. In turn, those researchers then motivate students from around the globe to come to study and work with them in Canada, and this all contributes to strengthening the research base we need in order to ensure a prosperous economy for the 21st century.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for noting a way that we can work together. We have asked the government to split the bill and to focus on many of the positives that could be in the budget.

The government has done very little when it comes to pensions. Would the hon. member elaborate a bit more on the supplementary Canada pension plan, which was part of the Liberal policies, and why it is so important for Canadians to have that opportunity?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I know my colleague has been working extremely hard and diligently on developing a policy that would properly protect Canadians in retirement.

Many constituents in my riding worked for Nortel. Also some work for Air Canada. The message I get from them all the time is that they are worried. In the case of Nortel, they have taken a major hit in their pension because of that company's bankruptcy. However, some of my constituents work for big companies that are in financial difficulty and they are worried about the future of their pensions.

These Canadians are not looking for another private pension plan in which to invest. They want to invest in something solid that is risk-diversified and that has low administrative fees. By bringing in a supplemental CPP/QPP, we would be providing those people, my constituents, with an additional opportunity. We would expand choice, and that is a good thing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I just received an official request for support from the Beauport women's resource centre, asking that the Women's Health Contribution Program be maintained. This program has existed for 16 years and provides evidence-based facts and vital information on women's health.

This organization and all women's health organizations are asking that this particular program be renewed. I would like to hear the member's thoughts on this.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, this is an important program that the government should neither neglect nor eliminate.

Our society and our economy are extremely complex. If we want progress, we need sound policies, policies based on research and data collection, so that we have a better understanding of the reality we are dealing with. Programs that support data collection and analysis make a positive contribution to society and, in this case, to the well-being of Canadian women.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour and a privilege for me to speak to this very important budget bill.

I listened to the speech of the member of the Liberal Party. One of the reasons I did not ask him a question was I thought he completely missed the intent is of the budget.

Let me just state what is most important about the budget. The budget has certain key points. One of them is to balance the budget. This is the promise we made to the electorate. We have fulfilled this promise by ensuring that our budget will be balanced by the year 2014-15.

How do we balance the budget? It is very simple. We are cutting inefficiencies in the government. That is why the government tasked the committees for the departments to come out with efficiencies so we could operate efficiently, with a reduction of 10% in their expenditures. At the same time, we are ensuring that the regime of doing business and ensuring our core services are maintained. It is very important that we have a sound, economical management of our economy.

I have many facts from economists who state that this budget looks to the future of Canada by ensuring it is on a path to prosperity.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, this gives me the very rare privilege to travel overseas on behalf of Canada at international conferences. What did I learn from that? A lot of people were asking this one very simple question. During the turmoil taking place in international markets, in the U.S.A., in Europe, everywhere, the question everybody asked was how we managed not to fall into that severe recession. They were very impressed with what was happening with Canada. Our economy is tied to the U.S.A., which is one of the largest economies going through recession. Europe is going through a recession. Yet Canada did not feel the severe effects of the recession. Why? Because the government took proactive steps to ensure that we were insulated from all the aftershocks that took place around the world.

The credit goes to both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for steering the economy during this critical time since 2008 and for creating over 700,000 jobs. In comparison with all the others, we are sitting in a position where we are not feeling the tremors of the international markets that are taking place.

If we leave that to the anti-trade NDP party, we would feel those tremors. If we leave that to the Liberal Party, we do not know where it is going. We had a debate in the House about giving pensions to self-employed. Guess what? The Liberal Party opposed that.

Clearly we need sound financial management, and this government has provided that.

Let us see what happened this weekend in Europe. The elections in Europe will have a tremendous effect because people have voted for more expenditures. The situation Greece faces today will have a national impact. In case my colleagues on the other side did not bother to watch the report on their favourite television channel, the CBC, because Greece's economy has collapsed, its great Olympic athletes will be unable to attend the Olympics.

That is why it is very important to ensure we never get into that situation taking place in Europe or in Greece. In fact, we are quite concerned with what is going on in France. Hopefully, it will address that issue.

In the Daily Telegraph, the finance minister said quite clearly, in talking about the crisis in Europe, that Canada was taking care and looking after its own house. This budget is about that. He said that there should not be an IMF bailout for the Europeans. The Europeans have the same ability as Canada to look after their house. They should be doing that and not asking for money from the International Monetary Fund, or from other countries, to bail them out because they do not have their house in order.

We should take lessons from what has gone on in Europe to ensure that those conditions do not exist in Canada. This budget is about that.

Everyone will be debating the budget. We have heard the opposition. Since we have been in government, we always expect the NDP to oppose us. I am quite happy when it does because it means we have done something right.

As for the Liberal Party, when it tried to balance the budget, it dumped all of its expenditures onto the provinces, creating a severe problem. Then it suddenly said that it had balanced the budget. This government is not going in that direction.

Our government is taking one of the strongest steps by cutting expenditures by 10%. That impacts everyone. That is the way it should go, cutting expenditures and getting our house in order so we live within our means. That is the most important thing. Then when we live within our means, we are able to fund core policies, policies that are very dear to Canadians, such as health care and the Canada pension plan. All of the policies require sound investments. That is what we will do once we move on this path.

By the year 2014-15, we will balance our budget. We will be living within our means without cutting core principal programs. Sure there have been some job losses. Everyone in the world feels a little pain with cuts. However, the economy will remain strong and everyone will be able to readjust and get those jobs back. That is the key element.

As recently as two weeks ago, when I was with my colleague in Trinidad, I talked to its finance minister. He was quite surprised that we had cut government expenditures by 10%. He told his colleagues that a G8 country was cutting expenditures so it could balance its budget and that was something they should learn. That is what Canada is doing. With sound economic management, we are sending the message to other countries around the world to bring their houses in order so the world economic situation can come back to normal and they will not feel threatened with both the uncertainty in Europe as well as the U.S.A.

It is critically important to understand what the budget will do in the long term. The readjustment is fine. At least inefficiencies are being removed. Does the opposition not think we should bring our house in order? Should we not balance the budget? Should we not live within our means and ensure we maintain that? That is the aim of this budget. I hope the opposition will wake up and see that this is the right budget for our country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member talked about a visionary budget.

What does that vision have to say about the 100,000 manufacturing jobs lost since 2008? Over 400,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector, and those were good jobs. Because of those job losses, Canada, which is a petroleum exporter, now has to import refined gasoline. That is what things have come to. What does that vision have to say about giving up on wealth creation? There is nothing in the budget about reviving the manufacturing sector, a wealth-creating sector. What does their economic vision have to say about that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I am extremely amazed at the question the gentleman asked. Since 2008, a tremendous amount of money in stimulus packages was given to the manufacturing industries in Ontario and Quebec. He can see that. There were stimulus packages that kept us out of the recession. As a matter of fact, for his information, we created 700,000 jobs. It was not for only one portion of the country; it was for the whole country. His leader just talked about the oil sands resource sector in Alberta as if it will not benefit Canada. We work for all of Canada, not just one area of Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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May 8th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary and I worked together on foreign affairs issues, and he has a long experience in these matters. In fact, I had the privilege to travel to Tanzania years ago with my hon. friend, and we went to the high school in Arusha from which he had graduated not so long ago. He is still a young man. That is why I want to ask him a question that is very important to my constituents and the people who live in rural communities across Atlantic Canada.

The issue of seasonal work is a huge problem in my constituency. People work in fish plants, forestry and agriculture, and they depend on an employment insurance system to give them some income support at times of the year when there is no work. I am very worried about some of the proposed changes in this budget around defining what, for example, the compliance elements would be for somebody receiving employment insurance and perhaps having an obligation to travel a great distance to accept employment in some other part of the country or some other part of the same region.

I suspect this is a very insidious thing that the Conservative government may be doing, and I am wondering if my colleague, who comes from Alberta, may be able to reassure the seasonal workers in New Brunswick that they will not be attacked by his government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I can tell him in no uncertain terms that we are not going to be attacking seasonal workers. We know there are four seasons in Canada, and we understand the need for seasonal workers. Therefore, seasonal workers play a very critical, important part of the economy. To ignore seasonal workers would derail our vision of long-term prosperity in this budget completely.

It was a great pleasure travelling with my hon. friend and his father, the late hon. Governor General of Canada, but I want to say that eastern Canadians should be thankful for working in the Alberta oil sands and making our country better. We are looking forward to more people from eastern Canada going to Alberta because we live in one country, Canada, while the leader of the NDP talks only about his region. Therefore, yes, we will look after seasonal workers, but we welcome workers from eastern Canada working in the oil sands, contributing to the wealth not only of Alberta but all of Canada.