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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, the point is that when we compare action plan 2012 with the slash and burn of 1995, there is no comparison. What we are doing is very prudent. What that party did in 1995 was hamstring all the provinces. It back-pedaled into the provinces its problems. Here in Ontario, we had to cut down 44 hospitals. The Liberals cut health care investment from 50¢ on the dollar to 14¢ on the dollar in one fell swoop. They still have not apologized for it but the Canadian taxpayers and the Canadian voters are on to this and that is why they are over there.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in today's debate on the budget implementation bill, although I must say that 10 minutes to deal with the 425-page bill is absurdly inadequate. It is impossible to offer a comprehensive analysis if the government is intent on giving me less than one second per page of the bill to articulate the concerns of my constituents. What happened to the government's commitment to accountability?

I will, however, try to make the most of what little time I do have. This speech may not end up hanging together very well but, in the interest of hitting on all the key points, I will just jump from one to the next while keeping a close eye on the clock.

I will begin with the environment. The Conservatives have the worst track record of any recent Canadian government when it comes to environmental protection and action on climate change. In fact, the government is engaged in an all out dismantling of Canada's environmental regulation and protection system.

Canada reduced its federal environmental spending by 40% between 1993 and 1997, starting a long and continuing period of environmental backsliding. Our country's environmental ranking is now the worst in the world. The 2011 Climate change performance index ranks Canada 57 out of 60 nations.

Why are the Conservatives doing this? They are gutting Canada's long-standing environmental laws so that their friends in the oil and gas industry get what they have been asking for: fewer environmental safeguards so they can push through resource megaprojects, including pipelines, with little regard to environmental damage.

Fully one-third of the budget implementation bill deals with such environmental deregulation. It is an all out attack on the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the communities in which we live. It is outrageous. It is our children and grandchildren who will pay the price.

Although there is much more to be said, I must move on and I will move from kids to the other end of the demographic spectrum and talk about seniors.

The Conservative government is using Bill C-38 to balance its budget on the backs of Canadian seniors. The Conservatives gave $16 billion in tax cuts to profitable corporations without receiving a single job guarantee. Now, facing a revenue shortfall, they expect Canadian seniors to pay the price. It is absurd. The Conservatives have no problem spending $30 billion on their F-35 boondoggle and another $19 billion for their unpopular prisons agenda but they cannot spare $540 a month for Canada's poorest seniors. It is about time they got their priorities straight.

In fact, it was not that long ago that the Prime Minister would have agreed with me. In the thick of the 2004 election campaign, his Conservative Party sent out a REALITY CHECK entitled “Paul Martin's hidden seniors agenda”. At that time the Conservatives claimed that the Liberals were hiding a plan to raise the retirement age to 67 for the old age security. They ridiculed the idea of raising the eligibility for OAS because, “Canadians would have to work two years longer only to receive less from their public pension”.

In 2004, the Conservatives were ready to stand up for seniors but that was then and this is now.

Today, the Conservatives have absolutely no qualms about leaving seniors behind. Instead of working to lift every senior out of poverty, the Conservatives are throwing tens of thousands of seniors into poverty. In fact, without OAS-GIS for two years, almost 100,000 recently retired Canadian seniors would be made poor today. For single senior females, the poverty rate would rise from 17% to 48%.

There is absolutely no sound fiscal or policy justification for any of that. In fact, all evidence shows that the OAS is sustainable. Pension and retirement expert professor Tom Klassen of York University noted, “I haven't heard any academic argue that there's a crisis with OAS". In fact, numerous experts, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, have confirmed that the OAS is sustainable in its existing form. Even the government's own latest actuarial report indicates that the OAS-GIS will account for a smaller percentage of the GDP in 2060 than it does today.

So why punish future generations? By changing the OAS, the Conservatives are pitting one generation against the next. We have all worked hard and played by the rules. There is no reason to bankrupt the next generation of Canadians with the Conservatives' reckless cuts.

In fact, that is exactly the position taken by CARP, one of Canada's leading advocacy organizations for seniors. CARP members have stated that they:

...do not see how cutting OAS spending would help future generations. Instead, they are calling for measures that will create job opportunities for them as a better way to secure their future. Rather than selfishly guarding their own interests...CARP members and other older Canadians are defending an important part of the social safety net and do not want to see it torn up for their children and grandchildren.

If only the government were only listening.

I will keep moving along.

I was encouraged when I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance say last week, “the best way to fight poverty and deal with inequality is to ensure that Canadians have jobs”.

I was cautiously optimistic that a government bill that is entitled the “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act” might actually deal with the critical issue of jobs, and it does, but instead of dealing with job creation, it deals with job cuts. That is terrible news for communities like my hometown of Hamilton, which was built upon a thriving manufacturing sector.

Since the Conservatives came to power, Canada has lost 365,000 manufacturing jobs. There are nearly 1.4 million Canadians out of work and the employment rate remains well above the pre-recession level. Youth unemployment remains nearly double the national average at 14%.

What is the government's job strategy? It throws more people out of work.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that, in addition to the 19,200 positions being eliminated in budget 2012, there will be a further 6,300 jobs cut as a result of the government's previous strategic reviews that have yet to be implemented and a further 9,000 jobs cut as a result of the government's budget operating freeze. That would total 34,500 federal public service jobs being cut.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer suggests that the total will be even higher, at 43,000 jobs lost, since, “we're actually talking about cuts on top of cuts”.

Anyone who had hoped that the Conservatives would live up to their rhetoric of investing in jobs to alleviate poverty will be sadly disappointed. However, they will not be surprised because the government's track record on poverty is one of exacerbating the problem rather than working to eradicate it. From cutting the National Council of Welfare to eliminating key public programs and failing to invest in housing supports and child care, the Conservative government has failed to ensure that we build a Canada where no one is left behind.

As the Canadian Labour Congress rightly pointed out, budgets are all about choices. With unemployment and underemployment still at very high levels and a shrinking middle-class, the federal government could and should have laid the basis for sustained and broadly shared economic recovery.

Instead, the government introduced a number of measures that will unfairly target the unemployed, severely reduce avenues for unemployed workers to appeal the denial of benefits and reduce the standard of living for workers everywhere.

Instead of fixing a broken EI system that results in the denial of benefits to the majority of unemployed workers, the Conservatives are making it even tougher for the unemployed to receive the benefits of an insurance policy they have paid into all of their working lives.

First, the government plans to cut unemployed workers off their EI benefits if they decline “suitable employment”. The definition of “suitable employment” will be set by none other than the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. That minister, of course, is the same minister of HRSDC who laid off claims workers at Service Canada at a time when unemployment and, therefore, claims were actually going up. That minister is also the same minister of HRSDC who sat on her hands while hundreds of workers at U.S. Steel in her own riding were unable to access EI during a recent lockout. If she is not willing to stand up for her own constituents, she certainly cannot be counted on to stand up for unemployed workers in other regions of the country. Yet, the minister is assuming even more power for herself under the EI appeal system.

Whereas the almost 26,000 EI appeals used to be dealt with by regional tripartite boards of referees made up of labour, employer and government chosen representatives, the minister alone will now appoint one board of full-time members to deal with all appeals. This is a recipe for unprecedented backlogs and logistical nightmares, and that is before I even begin to comment about the outrageous replacement of fair and balanced boards of appeal with the minister's pet patronage appointments.

When we combine that with last month's announcement that changes to the temporary foreign worker program will now allow employers to pay highly skilled migrant workers 15% less than the average local wage, the government's agenda is thrown into stark relief.

The Conservatives are absolutely determined to interfere in the labour market to the detriment of not only migrant workers, but all Canadian workers by pushing down wages and, in effect, subsidizing big business.

Workers and their communities deserve better. It is time for the Conservative government to stop being preoccupied with issues of power and prestige and get to work on the bread and butter issues that really matter to Canadian families, like creating quality jobs.

Until we see that change, I will proudly vote against the budget at each and every stage.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks. She indicated that there was no crisis in the OAS system. On this side of the House, we do not wait for a crisis. We actually try to put something into place to avoid crises, unlike the NDP.

My colleague knows that in 1970 there were roughly seven workers for each senior. In 2010 there were four workers for each senior. By 2030 it is projected to be only two for each senior. Clearly we need to take action on this before we run into a crisis.

My question is much more simple than that. She commented in her opening remarks that she only had 10 minutes to provide her input on the budget. Did she ask her colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster if she could have a bit of his time when he went on for hours and hours on the budget bill? It would have been nice for him to share. If she did, what response did she get from him?

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

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I would remind my colleague of two things.

First, the NDP critic on finance, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, did a superb job laying out our concerns about the budget on behalf of all Canadians. He was not doing that to hear himself talk. He seized the opportunity to ensure that the views of Canadians were heard in the House.

Second, that was a speech on the budget. We are now dealing with the budget implementation bill. This is a bill of 425 pages in length. This bill needs to be considered with all due diligence. We do not have the opportunity to do that in the House because the government stubbornly refuses to allow sections of the bill to go to various committees so we can deal with the environmental changes, the OAS changes and the very significant changes that the government will make to the lives of everyday Canadians.

When the member suggests that Conservatives are trying to pre-empt a crisis in the old age security system, with respect, I would suggest that they are creating a crisis. Every actuary in the country says there are no financial reasons to change the old age security system. Therefore, we have to assume it is politically motivated. I do not understand a government that is politically motivated to do harm to seniors, the very seniors who built our country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's point with regard to the length of this bill, being in excess of 400 pages. My understanding is the NDP's position is that it would like this bill broken down and sent to different committees, which is quite admirable. It is a good alternative to what members of the Liberal Party believe, which is that the bill itself encompasses what should be other pieces of legislation. Ideally, the whole bill should be rewritten and reduced from the 420 pages down to a normal size budget implementation bill of less than, let us say, 30 pages.

The other components, like the 120-plus pages of environmental legislation, should be reintroduced as a brand new bill so it can be thoroughly debated. Experts from across Canada would be able to participate through witnesses at the committee stage and so forth. Would she—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain time to respond.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, we obviously share a very deep-seated concern about how the government is approaching its budgetary policy, as well as how it is treating Parliament and, by extension, Canadian citizens. This is a place for debate. It is not a place for us to debate each other and listen to our own concerns. It is about sharing the views of Canadians on very significant changes in public policy.

The way the government is ramming through its legislation in one omnibus bill, a procedure, by the way, which the government and the Prime Minister, in particular, used to object to when he was in opposition, is unprecedented in its magnitude and does not just do a disservice to members of Parliament, which it does, but, more important, therefore silences the voices of Canadians who we are here to represent. It is not about us, it is about Canadians, and the government owes Canadians an apology.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, while other countries are struggling to stay afloat, Canada remains the envy of the world.

I stand today to express my support for Canada's economic action plan 2012. I am confident in our plans. Our government and our Minister of Finance have laid a solid foundation on which budget 2012 is built. Since the global economic recession hit, the government has frustrated members opposite by simply leading the world through these troubled times.

When we first introduced Canada's economic action plan, opposition members tried to tell Canadians that our plans would ruin Canada's economy. Instead, Canada's economy led the world. Since we introduced Canada's economic action plan, Canada has enjoyed the strongest economic growth and the strongest job growth among G7 countries.

While the previous Liberal government could not even manage a program to put up flags in Quebec without losing tens of millions of dollars to its partisan cronies, this Conservative government was able to roll out the largest economic stimulus program in Canadian history, the largest infrastructure program since we built the railroad and we demonstrated to Canadians that clean and honest government was possible.

Having been proven wrong by the record, opposition members then tried to tell Canadians that our economic action success was only a coincidence. However, while Canadians heard their partisan claims, they also heard statements from non-partisan experts. They heard prestigious international publications calling our Minister of Finance the best in the world. They heard the International Monetary Fund state that Canada's economic success “owes much to the government’s rightly-sized and well-targeted macroeconomic stimulus”.

Similarly, we heard opposition members try to dismiss Canada's record of phenomenal job growth, trying to claim the jobs being created were part-time or paid poorly. Once again, the facts do not bear this out. According to Statistics Canada, almost 80% of jobs created since 2009 were in high-wage industries. More 90% of those jobs are full-time.

The challenge we now face is daunting, but not insurmountable. The stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan is now ending and it is time for the private sector to step up. This budget supports their efforts by enhancing support for business innovation and research, improving conditions for business investment and investing in training infrastructure and opportunity.

This budget gets at the very core of the economic challenges we face. Let me explain.

Once again this year I conducted a number of consultations in the lead-up to this budget. I invited the constituents I represent to share their views. I hosted round tables where community leaders shared their perspectives. I communicated what I learned with our Minister of Finance and I found myself very pleased with how closely budget 2012 aligned with the priorities of my community.

The chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, as well as the mayors of all four of the communities in Kitchener—Conestoga called for a long-term plan for infrastructure renewal. They understood that the stimulus phase ended and that a return to surplus required sacrifice. They did not expect support to continue at the levels of recent years. What they wanted was a commitment that we would not abandon the good work already begun, that their government would continue to partner with them on infrastructure beyond the expiry of the building Canada plan in 2014. They wanted to know in what direction our government would take infrastructure partnerships.

I know they were as pleased as I to see that commitment in budget 2012.

Consultations on a national infrastructure renewal are under way right now with our partners at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels. Budget 2012 states our direction clearly. We will focus on investments that support long-term economic growth and prosperity, while encouraging greater private sector involvement. This phase of Canada's economic action plan also delivers new funding to renew community-based facilities.

My home of Waterloo region is known for its entrepreneurial culture. From the old order Mennonites who still use horses for agriculture and transportation to the digital media startup companies that seem to spring forth daily, our communities value hard work and risk taking.

Let me share with the House what the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce said about this budget. Ian McLean, president of the chamber, said:

Small and medium enterprises are the engine that drive the economy, and the government appears committed to help this sector lead a recovery from the recession...Overall, the government wants the private sector to step forward, create jobs, and compete on global markets. I'm certain local businesses are ready to meet that challenge.

The chamber was especially grateful for measures in economic action plan 2012 to encourage hiring via EI premium credits, as well as our clear plan to return to budget surplus without making cuts to transfers for health and education.

In our area, with its three world-class post-secondary institutions, we understand that education is vital. We view our universities and college as economic engines. It seems that economic action plan 2012 will help these engines fire on all cylinders.

John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College, praised our government's emphasis on linkages between the private sector businesses that need innovation and the educational institutions that can provide it. He said, “These partnerships have tangible impacts, leading to the creation of high-quality jobs for Canadians, improved competitiveness for industry, and enhanced local, regional and national prosperity”.

We heard similar praise from Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo. He said that this budget was a signal, “that Canada remains a serious world leader in terms of primary research, innovation and new economic development. And it is a great vote of confidence in universities like Waterloo and the excellent pure scholarship and spin-off applications produced with crucial funding from the federal agencies”.

Dr. Hamdullahpur noted the value of spin-offs from federal investments.

The value of these spin-offs is also clear to Communitech, Waterloo Region's technology organization, that represents more than 800 high-tech companies in our area, many of whom grew out of our own local schools.

In the weeks and months leading up to the budget, Communitech made on thing very clear to me, and that was that one of the most important things our government could do to help new companies grow and succeed would be to incent new money into Canada's investment markets. In Canada we have investors who will help a new company start. More than 300 high-tech companies were founded in Waterloo Region alone during 2011.

There are many willing to buy established, profitable companies. However, we suffer unfortunately, though, from a shortage of domestic venture capital to help new companies grow into successful mid-sized companies to reach the net rung of success.

Economic action plan 2012 addresses this. Ian Klugman, president of Communitech, was very encouraged to see our emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation. He noted that “emphasis on access to risk capital is recognition of one of the key barriers to growth and success to tech companies in Canada”.

Waterloo region stands more able than ever to seize opportunities that may emerge anywhere in the world. Federal investments created competitive advantages for us in quantum computing, theoretical physics, digital media and visualization, and food processing.

I believe, along with our government, that Canadian entrepreneurs can take on the world. In Waterloo region, they already are.

Budget 2012 affirms this belief through policy statements, “Our Government understands that Canadians’ standard of living and future prosperity depend on growing trade and investment”.

Economic action plan 2012 will update the government's global commerce strategy and harmonize perimeter security and regulations with our largest trading partner. More than that, it makes clear this government's intentions to secure access for Canadian products and services in the world's fastest growing markets, markets that were ignored by the previous government, markets such as China, the E.U., India, and the trans-Pacific partnerships to name just a few.

However, we measure the health of society by more than its wealth. We measure it also by its compassion, how well we take care of our least fortunate citizens.

There can be no doubt that Canada's return to surplus will require sacrifice. I am proud to stand with a Minister of Finance who believes enough in Canada's public health system to preserve the transfers which support health care, rather than simply download our problems, a path chosen by the previous government with disastrous results for Canadian hospitals.

This government is doing more than supporting the provinces. In 2007 the government created the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which just today launched its landmark mental health strategy for Canada.

This year, on March 29, the Minister of Finance made a smaller announcement, which most media outlets did not even mention, a $5.2 million investment in mental health research.

In a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars, I understand how a relatively minor sum can be overlooked, but investment in support of the Canadian depression research and intervention network will help connect over 80 of Canada's best researchers on this subject. There will be a particular focus on suicide prevention, and federal support will help leverage other public and private sector investments.

I thank the Minister of Finance for finding new money to address this critical issue during these tough times.

Since Canada's economic action plan was first launched, Canada's economy has led the world. Canada and my home of Waterloo region now have the modern assets we need to seize every global opportunity. Economic action plan 2012 charts a prudent course for Canada's return to surplus.

It is with the best interests of Canadians, especially those in Kitchener—Conestoga whom I am so privileged to represent, that I express my unreserved support for budget 2012. I thank the Minister of Finance for his efforts.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 8th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, the extremely tight schedule we have been given to work on Bill C-38, which does not facilitate debate at all, reminds me of my childhood in Chile, where a small group of people legislated without listening to anyone else. Clearly, at the time, Chile was not a democracy. I therefore chose to live in Canada because of the strength of its democracy and the value of its parliamentary system, in which debate is of the utmost importance.

Why then are the Conservatives insisting on imposing such a tight timeline that undermines the nature of the Parliament of Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, as I indicated throughout my remarks, all members of this House hopefully took the opportunity to go back to their constituencies and ask for input as to what the next budget should contain. We did that on many different occasions across the country. That input was already solicited. However, a more important point is that when we first introduced this budget, the NDP and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster used up all of the time for so-called debate, which could have been put to good use by all members of this House on all sides, NDP, Liberal and Conservative. It was a shame that the time was not allotted to allow more members of Parliament to express their—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I am not as convinced about the input stage. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons came to my riding and did not have one public meeting. He had a couple of meetings with the councils. The one issue that was brought up predominantly got very little attention whatsoever after the debate. I will reserve that for now.

The member said in a question earlier that his government took precautions to weather the storm of the recession. Why is it that the Conservatives put this country in a deficit position before the recession came?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, many times over the past few years that I have been here in Parliament I have had to listen to this kind of question. It is always surprising that no one on that side will acknowledge that when this government took office, we paid down over $37 billion of our national debt. That put us in a position that made us the envy of the world entering the economic downturn. When we entered that downturn, we had a plan ready to address the challenges that we were facing. If my colleague will just listen for a minute, he will remember that we have created around 700,000 net new jobs, 80% high paying and 90% full time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. friend from Kitchener—Conestoga. Oh, I am making a mess of his riding name. I apologize for the pronunciation.

I am wondering about the loss of jobs because of the government's failure to invest in the green and renewable energy sector, particularly one of the rising stars in renewable energy, and the pun is intentional, which is called Arise Solar. It is out of Kitchener and Waterloo and it produces photovoltaic roofing tiles. When the company wanted to expand, the German government came and offered half the cost of a new plant. The company is now producing photovoltaic roofing tiles outside Dresden, Germany instead of in Canada because we are blind to the opportunities of investing in renewables and creating jobs. I would like to ask my hon. friend if he is aware of that loss of opportunity.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that even she, with all her power, could not mess up Kitchener—Conestoga. It is very secure, it has great representation and a great bunch of people.

There is no budget in history that has invested this heavily in innovation and research and primarily in the blending of the research with industry that is already doing the work. Industry comes to our post-secondary institutions for help in research and development and then industry works with the university to commercialize that innovation.

I am very proud of the record of the past number of years and of this budget and its implications in doubling the investment to IRAP, $1.18 billion in direct research. Along with venture capital, these are all initiatives that will put us on a path forward that will lead us into further recovery.