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

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak on the budget implementation bill, Bill C-38, on behalf of my constituents in Vancouver Kingsway and on behalf of all Canadians who want to see democracy, accountability and sound fiscal planning for a fair and prosperous Canada.

I stood in the House three weeks ago and presented what the people of Vancouver Kingsway told me are the priorities they would like to see in a federal budget. Those priorities were things like housing. We know that the government of Brian Mulroney removed CMHC's participation in affordable housing in 1992, leaving only CMHC's role in insuring mortgages to this day. We also know that the Liberal Party promised in three successive elections to restore the federal government's role in housing and never actually delivered on that. It leaves Canada as one of the only G8 countries that does not have a national housing policy.

The people of Vancouver Kingsway said that they needed childcare. Working parents, single parents in particular, have said time and time again to politicians that they need an affordable, accessible, quality childcare system that will not only help them raise their children and make sure they have a good start in life, but also return an economic benefit that has been estimated at between $5 and $7 for every $1 of investment. We know that childcare is one way to unleash the full economic potential of millions of Canadian families so that they can participate in the workforce.

The people of Vancouver Kingsway told me that they wanted to see meaningful and immediate action on the environment. They know that there is no dichotomy between the economy and the environment. People who are thoughtful in our country know that the environment is the basis for all economic activity in the country. Only the most short-term, blinded people would think that not taking care of our environment is some way to develop our economy.

The people of Vancouver Kingsway told me that they wanted to see a meaningful jobs strategy in the country, not jobs that are part-time, or service sector, or temporary, but jobs that one can actually raise a family on. They told me they wanted to see a budget that would take care of our seniors.

Bill C-38 is a bill that, I am sorry to say, fails in every one of those aspects. There is no national housing plan in the budget. There is no national childcare plan in the budget. Far from taking care of our environment, as I will talk about in a few minutes, the budget bill contains one of the most destructive programs of anti-environment policy that this country has witnessed.

Not only does the budget not provide any meaningful program for jobs, but it is going to see some 19,000 public servants lose their jobs. This is a job destroyer.

What did the seniors of the country see? They saw the government introduce a provision that will see seniors, starting in 2023, have to wait two years longer to receive their old age security. This puts in jeopardy the retirement of millions of Canadians, including any Canadian under the age of 54 right now.

We see a massive 421 page bill, which not only contains implementation of the 2012 budget, but that has many provisions on traditional, non-budgetary matters. Those are buried in the bill. We see fully one-third of the budget bill is dedicated to environmental deregulation. A major narrative in the bill removes powers of the Auditor General and removes many staff. I think what Canadians are seeing in the budget is a reduction in the accountability and transparency of their federal government.

Another major narrative in the bill surrounds the creation of a more secretive and non-transparent government through the removal and closure of oversight powers and bodies and a concentration of many powers in the hands of cabinet ministers who make decisions at cabinet, behind closed doors.

I would argue that, far from being a budget bill that is aimed at jobs and prosperity, as the government members assert, it is actually a budget bill that could be more properly characterized as one of destruction and an attack on democracy, accountability and our environment.

Let us see what is actually in the bill with regard to the environment. This bill would gut the federal environmental assessment regime to speed up major projects, notably pipelines. It would delegate environmental assessments to other authorities, including provinces. It would make sure that projects outside Canada are not held to account under Canadian laws, presumably targeting mining companies.

The division in the budget makes related amendments to the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and consequential amendments to other acts and repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act entirely. This bill would give cabinet authority to make decisions regarding major pipelines and would allow the National Energy Board authority over permits related to pipelines and power lines over navigable waters, overriding tribunals that would find those projects unacceptable.

It would change the rules around fish habitat protection and the deposit of deleterious substances in fish-bearing waters. The bill would give sweeping powers to the minister to transfer authorities to other bodies to allow fisheries management. Many have questioned the constitutionality of that provision. It would weaken rules for disposal at sea. It would allow the government to issue longer-term permits under the Species at Risk Act and allow the National Energy Board to issue permits for development when such developments may affect the species listed.

It would change the definition of interested parties to weaken public participation in environmental decision making and exclude anyone not “directly affected” by a project. It would repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, meaning government would no longer be required to report on its emissions under the act. I note that a report of one of the parliamentary officers responsible for environmental regulation is now saying that the government will not even meet its weak environmental targets by 2020. This act would give cabinet the ability to ignore the National Energy Board and any environmental tribunal and approve a project that had been turned down.

Those are not rhetorical comments, those are provisions of this bill. How anybody could read those provisions and not find that this budget bill is a frontal attack on environmental regulation and sustainability in this country is beyond me.

Let us turn to old age security. Conservative members stand in the House weekly and say they received a strong mandate from the Canadian people to govern. In some cases I think they are right. There are things the government campaigned on and delivered what it said. However, during the campaign the Conservatives did not mention one word ever about raising the old age security requirements.

They claim that this is required because of the demographic trend. The demographic trend in this country did not sneak up on them. The baby boom generation and the demographic trend in this country have been known by everybody for years and years. One is left with only one conclusion: the Conservatives did not mention their plan to raise old age security and put it before the Canadian people during the last election because they knew it would be unpopular and that the Canadian people would not give them a mandate to take that step.

Not only is there no mandate for raising the eligibility age for old age security but there is no evidence to support it, there is no need for it and there is no fiscal prudence in doing so. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been clear. He studied this issue very carefully and found that the old age security program is fully sustainable the way it is. That only stands to reason. The demographic reality is that retirees will peak with the 1964 cohort and then start declining. Since we fund old age security out of general revenues, it is simply a question of policy. If a government wants to fund old age security, it can do that.

What has the current government done? It has cut somewhere between $25 billion and $50 billion of revenue very year over the last five years by reducing the GST two points and reducing corporate income tax. Now the government says there is not enough money to pay for old age security. The government is financing corporate tax cuts today on the backs of our seniors tomorrow. That is irresponsible and unfair.

In terms of the Auditor General, Canadians want to see their government scrutinized. It is what makes us a democracy. We are not a dictatorship. By removing a dozen bodies from scrutiny by the Auditor General, Canadians know what they see, and what they see is a government that is afraid of having its activities scrutinized by the Auditor General, and that is undemocratic.

This budget is unaccountable. It does not reflect the priorities of Canadians. It is undemocratic, and I am proud to vote against it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, I have heard this member and several other members from the official opposition and the third party make comments along the line that they simply do not have enough time to debate the bill. It is such a big bill that they just cannot deal with it for some reason or other. I would like to remind the member and others that it is their job to do some work on legislation like this. They have to spend some time. They have to work on it. If they do their job, then they could handle this much better.

Members opposite talk about not having enough time to debate. Yet one NDP member stood in this House for 11 hours. With ten-minute speeches and five-minute question and comment periods, which is the common speaking time, 44 NDP members could have spoken in the time that one member spoke, so they are really speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

I suggest they change their ways, start to view these things in a more positive fashion and show some support just once. They have never supported a budget bill of this government. Yet around the world, our budgets are looked to as exemplary.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I would say to my hon. colleague that what we are talking about here is the proper way to present a budget in the British parliamentary system. That traditionally has been to present the budget, not to present a 421-page omnibus bill that contains measures on environmental regulation, veterans affairs, cutting centres of excellence for women's health and removing fish habitat protection from the Fisheries Act. Those are areas that this member knows full well are not properly contained within the confines of a budget,

His own Prime Minister knows that, because the Prime Minister stood up in this House when he was the leader of the Conservative opposition and railed against the Liberals when they brought in omnibus legislation and decried it as undemocratic and improper. My, how things change when the Conservatives are in opposition and then they are in government. All we are talking about is having proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Every member of the House was sent here to do the same job, which is to properly scrutinize government spending and properly study government legislation. When a government puts in legislation on 25 other areas outside of the budget, which should go to committees for proper study with Canadians and stakeholders coming to those committees to have proper input, but instead is put into the budget that will go to one committee, and then invokes closure on it, that is undemocratic, it is improper and it should be decried by every member of this House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I have been in opposition when there were Progressive Conservative governments, here nationally when we have a Conservative government and even when provincial governments were NDP. I have seen governments of all political stripes introduce ominous...

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Omnibus.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

...omnibus bills, but the difference is the length of this particular bill and the number of pieces of legislation that the bill would impact.

We in the Liberal Party believe it is not a question of having the bill broken down and sent to different committees, even though we would prefer to see that than it just going to one committee. Our first preference would be for the government to recognize that it is an anti-democratic bill and that it should take back the bill and bring forward other pieces—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway a minute to respond.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I full agree with my hon. colleague when he says that the bill is ominous. It certainly is.

I would point out as well that one of the greatest myths in Canadian politics is that the Conservatives are good money managers. Under the government when the Conservatives took office, the annual debt was $460 billion. It is $570 billion six years later.

The biggest deficit in Canadian history is that of the Minister of Finance, second only to the deficit of Michael Wilson, a previous Conservative finance minister. Yet the Conservatives talk about how they are careful managers of the public purse. They have put us over $110 billion into debt and they have put us into deficit. To get themselves out of that, they cut core services to Canadians while giving irresponsible corporate tax cuts.

I ask one question. If we are in deficit and we have to say to our seniors that they have to work two years longer, what business does the government have giving corporate tax cuts to banks and oil companies that are making billions of dollars of profits a year, which all evidence shows does not result in the creation of jobs?

Madam Speaker—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I am sorry. The hon. member's time has elapsed.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, the Economy; the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, National Defence.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure today to be standing here in this great place to talk about the implementation of our sixth budget, Bill C-38, which is about jobs, growth and prosperity in the long term.

It is an interesting time. As I listen to the questions that come about in this House, basically, it is the same questions all the time. However, this is about trying to understand what this budget is about.

I am going to talk a little differently from some of the other speakers because, actually, budget 2012 is a building block that started with the foundation of Canada's economic action plan back in 2007.

The residents in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex understand what the balancing of a budget means. They understand what it means to move forward. They understand what it is to build on top of a great foundation.

Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, which is in southwestern Ontario, is an area that has incredibly robust agriculture. It is an area made up of small and medium-sized businesses that have a vision and a goal to become more successful and to build on great plans. It is a constituency that is made up of families that respect accountability and decisive action.

And so, when we go out as the Conservative Party of Canada to talk to not only the people across the country but specifically the people in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, they want to know how we got to where we are, in terms of the strength of this economy and the strength of Canada in relationship to the rest of the world. That always gives me the opportunity to talk about where we were, where we came from and how we are going to get there.

I think I am one of the most fortunate MPs in this House because I represent the people of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. They understand the significance that, when we create a deficit, we actually have to pay it down.

When we got elected in 2006, because we had to take over and fix up some of the stuff that had been done by the previous government, we actually had an economy that was moving along and we paid down over $37 billion off the deficit, off the debt.

Actually, in 2008, things went bad.

In 2007 our party could see things around the world that were not conducive to growth. So we took action. Actually, that is when we introduced the economic action plan.

I do not know if there has ever been a budget process that has started with a vision as to how we are going to come into a problem, how we are going to work our way through it and then, at the end of the day, how we are going to continue to grow and build this country not only to be the great country it is now but to continue to sustain itself, not just for the short time but also for the long time.

We believe that if we give businesses of any size in this country the opportunity to grow and we give them the opportunity to be successful, most of them would take that chance. However, we have to give them some tools.

We believe that Canada was an overtaxed country, not only in terms of people but in terms of businesses.

We believe that governments are only the stewards of taxpayers' money. We do not create the jobs, but we have an obligation to create the environment so that businesses and organizations can create the jobs.

We believe that a low-tax system and structure is one of the key elements that would allow businesses to become successful.

It would allow people to be successful and to leave money in their pockets so they can hire people. That is the whole objective of success in the economy: people have a business; they have a product that people want; if they are successful and actually make a profit, they will hire people, generating jobs, and they will pay more taxes because they have generated a larger revenue.

It is a bit of an anomaly that the people on the other side are struggling to understand. It is the complete opposite of what they believe in terms of taxes. They believe we have to tax to death. We believe in taxing to give the ability to be successful.

One of the great things in my riding is agriculture. I do not have a large urban area. My largest urban area is 14,000 people, and the next one is about 13,000. I have 65 other small hamlets and villages in between. Agriculture fills in all those gaps. Agriculture is so important, not only to Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and the people in my riding, because of the diversity of my riding, but it is important to Canada. It is important to the economic stimulus and the ability we have in Canada to be successful.

For agriculture we have opened free trade agreements. That affects not only agriculture but obviously businesses, small businesses. Whatever they are making or producing or whatever technology they have, they understand the importance of our helping them in the research and innovation part of it, so they can stay on the cutting edge, and our giving them the opportunity to open their markets, not only domestically but internationally, which is key to their growth and success.

We have done that. Canada is a unique country in that in agriculture we have wide-open free markets. The grain and livestock sectors are free markets. In Canada we also have a uniqueness that is respected and appreciated by many around the world, and that is supply management. That has been able to build the strength and the confidence of our producers across this country.

From time to time we have heard that we will lose supply management because of our free trade agreements. We have nine trade agreements signed. We are on the verge of signing another one with the EU. We have had discussions with Japan. These are incredible opportunities, not only for agriculture but also for our small businesses. I can tell members that supply management is solid in this country.

One of the things that is important is our young people. I want to tell the House about Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Olympic champions, world champion skaters. What do they do? They set a goal. They work hard every day. They practise. When they reach a goal, they continue with a vision, so that they never hang up their skates. They continue to be persistent.

This budget is a bit like that. We have spent hours planning ahead, as we did with the economic action plan. We have set our goals. We have created a vision for Canada that will continue to move us not only from yesterday to today but into the future.

Once we reach those goals, we do not want to be stagnant. We will continue to move on to the next step, so we will continue to be stronger.

Folks, the implementation bill, Bill C-38 is about jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. This is a bill that needs to be supported, and it needs to be brought to the bridges right now. It is a fair and progressive budget. We should all get behind it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 8th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell the member that I am very happy to have this opportunity to ask him a question and that I miss him very much at committee meetings.

That being said, how dare he suggest that the people in his riding who voted Conservative know what balancing the budget is all about, whereas those who voted for another party have no idea what a budget is? He is denigrating the intelligence of Canadians. This is not the place to do that. I am sorry, but every member of Parliament was elected by Canadians.

I would like the member to tell us, right here and now, that not one of his constituents has been to see him to voice opposition to the Conservative budget and the decision to raise the age of eligibility for old age security to 67.

Can the member confirm, right here and now, that all of his constituents agree with this policy?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I am still on the committee; the member left, and I miss that.

Quite honestly, I do not ask my constituents to come to me; I go to them. We hold round tables and have meetings. That is what I enjoy most about my good rural riding.

No one gets 100% of the electorate's vote, but we received enough to form a majority government. I received enough to get elected, and I thank my constituents of Lambton--Kent--Middlesex for doing that.

I talk to my constituents and I am not afraid to ask them. I get good feedback about the direction the country is going. I ask them if they agree; not everyone does, but we work on the best advice that we have, and I thank them for giving me that opportunity.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for one thing he said and to also ask him a question.

At one point in his speech, he said that governments do not create jobs, but that governments try to create an environment where businesses create jobs. He should communicate that point to the Prime Minister and the various ministers, who every day in question period get up and say that the government created 600,000 or 700,000 jobs. As the member properly said, governments do not create jobs. Perhaps he could tell the Prime Minister that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Markham—Unionville has been here for many years.

What was meant was that governments actually do not create many jobs that create economic growth. That is what businesses do, but we give them all the tools they need. What they ask is that we give them the tools by which they can provide economic growth for businesses in Canada. That is our key point. The government has to give them the tools.

We also have the option of taking the tools away. The last Liberal government jacked EI premiums so high that it became difficult for businesses to survive. Then when that party had put the premiums so high, it borrowed money out of the EI fund and forgot to pay it back. That is not what governments should do in terms of building a credibility relationship with businesses.

We have done a great job in giving the tools to our businesses. That is why Canada is in the strong economic shape that it is in today.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to share my views on Bill C-38.

This is a very important bill, but unfortunately, not in a positive sense. On the contrary, several elements of this bill are bad for Canadians and for the environment.

This bill is not a generous bill. It is not generous towards immigrants, towards small and medium-sized businesses, towards older people who want to retire, or towards the environment and our fish stocks.

I would like to focus on three main elements in my speech. First of all, Bill C-38 takes us in a direction and down a path that is undemocratic, which is reflected in the process and the content of the bill.

Second, this bill will have a devastating effect on the environment in the long term. This is very worrisome to me and to all Canadians. This bill will damage not only the environment, but also biodiversity, our fish stocks and the health and safety of Canadians who are counting on a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems for the long term. Passing this bill entails several risks.

Third, this bill should create hope, provide opportunities and be generous, since Canada is recovering from a serious recession. Instead, this bill does not help Canadians. On the contrary, this bill contains elements that are bad for small and medium-sized businesses and for Canadians employed by these businesses.

I will now address the first element in greater detail for my hon. colleagues.

While I am confident that there are some positive elements in this budget implementation bill, as there will be in any bill, unfortunately they are completely outweighed by the negative aspects of the bill. The complexity of a 420-page bill that amends some 70 other pieces of legislation makes it difficult to even assess and paint a picture of the things that concern us.

I know my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have been calling it a Trojan Horse bill, but I have a different name for it: I would call it the “infected blanket bill”. This is an infected blanket budget. I use that term very specifically because in the 1700s there are accounts that suggest that gifts by the British government to first nations in North America were knowingly infected with the smallpox virus, which then spread out in those communities and did damage.

Perhaps not immediately, but over time it was very detrimental to those populations, and this is that kind of bill. While the bill is presented as a gift to Canadians and as something positive, in fact some of the provisions, such as the changes to old age security, will inevitably fall most strongly and negatively on the poorest of Canadians, on disabled Canadians and on single elderly low-income women, with who knows what kinds of repercussions. In some case disabled persons report that they are waiting to turn 65 so that they can be lifted out of poverty by old age security and GIS. Those are the Canadians who will lose $30,000 a year with the government's changes. That is the kind of negative gift that will keep on giving.

This infected blanket budget bill will cost our environmental protection incrementally over the long term. We have developed, over perhaps 30 or 40 years, a framework of environmental protection whereby economic development can proceed in a way that mitigates environmental damage. As populations increase and our economy continues to grow based on the development of resources, those good things need to be accompanied by a strong environmental safety net for the health and safety of Canadians and for the long term of an ecosystem that can provide Canadians the services that assist our well-being.

Down the road, if the air poisons us or we have oceans without biodiversity that cannot feed some of our aboriginal communities or we have failing seafood industries that cannot feed Canadians and our export industries, it is going to be negative for Canadians. Over the long term, by gutting these environmental regulations and taking the protection of fish habitat out of the Fisheries Act, we may well see the demise of the salmon stocks on the west coast comparable to what we saw with the cod on the east coast, although I certainly hope not.

We have had the experience of ignoring conservation and environmental sustainability as a principle that must be embedded in the way we develop our economy and our day-to-day lives, and we have seen the cost of ignoring that. That is why we have environmental assessment regulations. That is why we have the species at risk law. That is why we have a Fisheries Act that protects fish habitat and fish. Those are the very things that are being undermined in this bill, which provides an override to the government for political reasons or reasons of industrial pressure. That will cost our fish, wildlife, sea life and the very fundamental importance of them to Canadians in the future.

That is why this budget is of such concern. It is not just that the future destruction is hidden in a budget implementation bill. It is not just that there is no opportunity to duly and properly give justice to these massive changes to our environmental safety net. It is not just that 300,000 people have staked their lives and futures on their hopes and dreams of coming to Canada, a group of people who have paid money, responded to requests for information and put their lives on hold to come to Canada and who are being told, “Sorry; you are history”. It is not just the content of the bill, but the fact that the government is hiding the very contentious things it is trying to in a way that is anti-democratic and takes us down a road toward dictatorship. That is not too strong an image. We are going in a direction away from accountability, away from transparency and away from long-term responsibility for the resource base that must nourish our lives and well-being into the future.