House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

During a press conference, he explained the consequences for the regions very well because he, himself, is from a region we would call "remote": the beautiful Gaspé. That is where this employment insurance reform would do harm. While this may be appropriate in an urban region, it seems that the government has in no way considered the consequences of this employment insurance reform on the maritime provinces, or on Quebec specifically.

I have been a member of Parliament for a long time, but I have rarely seen a bill that management and employees are both unanimously against. Not only does this bill destroy the economy, but it also destroys businesses built by families. For example, in the wood industry, in sawmills, workers are trained year after year. But we have winter in Canada. So, these individuals are unemployed for a few months and then they return to work at the sawmill. If the workers who are trained to work at the sawmill are moved, that means that the sawmill will have to close and, if those workers have been moved elsewhere, they might not come back.

So there is a huge danger for the regions. This is a direct attack on those regions, and the government should change its position.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns that have been raised by my colleague. If he has the statistics, the numbers, could he share them with the House?

About 28% of seasonal workers come from Atlantic Canada and close to 40% come from the province of Quebec. I know that those seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada contribute about 54% of the regional GDP, which is a significant part of the GDP of Atlantic Canada.

Could my colleague tell the House, even anecdotally or statistically, what component of the regional economy is drawn from seasonal industries because this budget would place those industries at risk?

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statistics for the remote regions of Quebec are basically the same as those for the Atlantic provinces. In fact, this is the way it is when a region relies on a single industry, such as fishing or wood. Fishing cannot necessarily be done all year long, nor can wood be cut and processed year-round.

In that respect, it is absolutely tragic for the regions to see cuts being made to employment insurance, which ensures a distribution of wealth. In fact, let us not forget that the government does not pay for employment insurance; it is the employer and the employee who pay for it to provide against these months of unemployment until the regional economy improves thereby ensuring that workers are receiving an essential minimum income. If, however, the workers are sent outside the region, the immediate region will not receive any economic spinoffs during that short period of time.

Since my time is up, once again, I hope that the government will give more thought to the situation of unemployed workers in the regions.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate this opportunity to highlight some of the very important initiatives in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act and to speak against the opposition amendments to delay this important legislation.

I listened intently this morning to a number of the speeches. I do have tremendous respect for democracy and tremendous respect for this place in which we all work. However, the suggestion by opposition members that democracy is in question here I refute completely and wholly. This is democracy. This is democracy in its finest hour because the government is defending democracy today.

My speech will address a number of things that defend democracy here today. Before I continue, as a member of the finance committee, i will acknowledge the detailed examination of this bill at committee stage. I will give all members the facts.

The finance committee and a special subcommittee, which is one of the first times we have ever seen a special subcommittee on a budget implementation bill, studied today's bill for nearly 70 hours. This is the longest consideration of budget legislation in decades. We heard from literally hundreds of individuals and organizations, from government officials, business leaders, academics, labour groups, industry associations and countless others.

The bill we are debating today positions Canada for economic prosperity, job creation and long-term fiscal health. It is designed to create a climate for private sector investment, innovation and opportunity.

It is crucial that Canada achieve its economic potential so that it can weather another period of global economic uncertainty. The economic upheaval abroad is bound to have an impact on our economy. Even though we must not underestimate the risks, Canadians can be sure that their country is in a good position to face the challenges posed by the global economic situation, as it has done in the past. To that end, we will continue to focus on measures that will keep Canada as competitive as possible during this time of economic uncertainty.

I am convinced that the bill before us today is a blueprint for a strong, prosperous Canada.

Having said all of that, I will now talk about how today's bill builds on Canada's commitment to make us more competitive in the future by removing red tape and bureaucratic obstacles.

As a trading nation, we understand how important an efficient border is to Canadians and our economy. Canada, like many other countries, provides residents returning from abroad with a personal exemption from duties and taxes for goods purchased up to a certain dollar value. Some of these exemption limits for Canadians have remained the same for many years. Given the considerable amount of travel that Canadians undertake every year, it makes sense to update these limits, as consumer groups have long requested.

Effective June 1, 2012, residents returning to Canada after being out of the country for 24 hours or more are exempt from duties and taxes on up to $200 of goods they purchase abroad. The exemption limit for those returning after at least 48 hours abroad has also been raised to $800.

These changes would reduce red tape for travellers who bring in goods within the new exemption limits and make it that much easier for Canadian residents returning home to complete the customs process. More important, these exemptions are exactly the same exemptions the Americans have when they shop here in Canada and return home. Consistency means efficiency. Our government understands how important an efficient border is to Canadians and to our economy.

These new exemption limits would expedite customs clearance for returning Canadian consumers, making cross-border business and personal travel more convenient for Canadians.

To facilitate access to Canadian tourist destinations, Bill C-38 will also eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents.

Before these changes were announced in Canada's economic action plan, foreign-registered rental vehicles that were temporarily imported by Canadian residents were usually subject at the border to GST on the full value of the vehicle, the green levy and the automobile air conditioner tax.

Until recently, this type of import was prohibited by federal vehicle safety rules, unless the vehicle in question was proven to comply with all Canadian standards.

Rental vehicles temporarily imported by foreign tourists visiting Canada are generally not subject to any taxes or similar restrictions.

In other words, the bill we are discussing today will eliminate or reduce the taxes on foreign-based rental vehicles temporarily imported by Canadian residents and, consequently, will make it easier to access Canadian tourist destinations. That is a good thing.

As households across this country understand, ensuring prosperity also means being responsible in how we treat every dollar.

Canadians know the importance of living within their means and they expect the government to do the same. For example, today's legislation would modernize Canada's current system by eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system. Over time, inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the penny and multiplied its manufacturing costs. Until penny production was halted recently, it cost taxpayers 1.6¢ every time we made a penny. For businesses, the time and cost of processing pennies has increased, taking them away from the task of growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Sweden, have made smooth transitions to a penny free economy. The government expects that businesses will apply rounding for cash transactions in a fair and transparent manner. Canadians can rest assured that they will be able to redeem pennies for full value.

As consumers and businesses begin to rely less and less on the penny in their day-to-day lives, we hope that all Canadians will consider putting their last pennies to good use by donating them to charity. Eliminating the penny from Canada's coinage system will ensure that the Canadian currency system remains efficient and responsive to the needs of consumers, businesses and the economy.

We are also proposing to simplify administrative formalities as we strengthen our immigration system.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act supports the government's commitment to better focus our immigration system on our economic objectives with the following three measures.

First, we are going to return applications to some of the applicants to the federal skilled workers program and refund as much as $130 million in fees. This will shorten the backlog in processing applications in the Canadian immigration system and will allow us to focus our efforts on responding to the real needs of the job market.

Second, we are going to work with the provinces, the territories and other stakeholders to further improve foreign credential recognition and to identify the next set of target occupations beyond 2012. This will help highly qualified new arrivals to find work in the area for which they have been trained and to contribute quickly to the Canadian economy.

Finally, we will continue to study other ways to improve the temporary foreign worker program in order to support economic growth and recovery and to make the program correspond better to the requirements of the job market.

From the countless hours of testimony we heard before the finance committee, I recall the comments of Richard Kurland, noted immigration policy analyst and attorney who told us:

I feel the government is doing the right thing. This is the right solution for a problem that has been plaguing this country for over 25 years. It is the first time it's being fixed.

The door is not shut; it's just that those are no longer the skills we need.

All of these measures would help to ensure that the Canadian economy continues to move in the right direction. We must take these actions in order to respond to the challenges of today while setting out a plan that our long-term goals demand.

I, therefore, urge all hon. members in this House to please take the work of the finance committee and the subcommittee to heart. This is a good bill that would move Canada forward. It would secure jobs, secure long-term prosperity and secure our economic growth.

I implore members from the opposite side to stop arguing about process, to look at the content, to see that it is good for Canadians and to vote in favour of moving this forward.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her remarks.

In her opening comments, she claimed that members on this side of the House do not respect democracy. I must point out to her that democracy is not about passing a bill in haste or about saying to other hon. members, “Too bad—we have a majority”.

But let us talk about the economy. They claim that Bill C-38 will help the economy. Tourism is very important where I come from. Not only will it be affected by the changes to employment insurance, but Parks Canada services are also going to be cut. That will prevent Fort Chambly from providing the same level of service that it previously provided. Fort Chambly is one of the most frequently visited Parks Canada sites in Quebec. In spite of that, services are going to be cut, and the quality of tourism services in the region is going to be lowered, which in turn will have a negative impact on the region.

How will this contribute to economic prosperity and job creation?

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. He touched on a number of issues in his question.

First, I would like to talk about the democracy he mentioned. Democracy is alive and well here in the House of Commons. But when one single NDP member took several days in the House to debate this bill when it was first introduced, leaving only a few minutes for the Liberal Party to respond and no time for other, independent members to raise any objections, I also wonder if the delay amounts to nothing more than a filibuster.

Is that what the hon. member really thinks democracy is? Frankly, the delays are a real obstacle.

In terms of tourism, I just talked about rental vehicles. For some time now, the hon. member for Yukon has talked about the challenge of bringing rental vehicles to Yukon to allow tourists to visit Yukon and the Canadian north. And now we have a provision in this bill to address that situation, a measure that will help us in the tourism sector.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 11th, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to attend the budget implementation act technical briefing. This was an opportunity for all members and their staff to ask questions with regard to all the amendments and so on that were taking place on the bill. We found that people realized that any of the major questions and concerns that were being raised were of a political nature and certainly not a technical nature.

One example had to do with the integrated cross-border law enforcement operations act, Just a few moments ago, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands indicated that she did not approve of this particular clause.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary. Who was consulted in the development of the act and why is it such an important measure?

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for the incredible work he does, not only in his riding, but in the House of Commons. He has been instrumental in helping us with the bill.

I want to address this very important clause in the bill. I was disappointed to hear the member from the Green Party say that she was not in favour. Let me list the stakeholders that were consulted. We consulted provincial attorneys general, police associations, local governments and aboriginal groups in close proximity to the border. We spoke with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police Forces, the Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, et cetera. We spent an enormous amount of time trying to ensure we got this right.

I would have thought we would have at least had support from the opposition parties when we look at legislation that would actually allow us to collaborate with our U.S. counterparts in the area of law enforcement, ensuring we restrict contraband from being smuggled into our country.

A pilot project also ran and something like 1.4 million contraband cigarettes were seized during that project. A child abduction was solved as a result of the pilot project.

Therefore, this is a good measure on which I would have anticipated support from all members. It is unfortunate that the member from the Green Party does not support it. I know her riding members certainly seem to support it.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss some of the provisions in Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and to explain why we must not let the New Democrats and the other opposition parties delay its passage.

As the Conservative government said very clearly, since 2006, our focus has been on the economy. As we have all noticed, we are on the right track in terms of jobs and growth. In many ways, Canada has done well despite the global uncertainty. For example, almost 760,000 jobs have been created since July 2009. That is the strongest job creation record in the G7.

The IMF and OECD both project that Canada will have among the strongest growth in the G7. For the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum rated our banking system the world's best. Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best place for businesses to grow and create jobs. Canada also has the best fiscal position in the G7 by far. Canada also has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.

In the words of respected financial analyst and commentator, Camilla Sutton, of Scotiabank, “the long-term story for Canada on a relative basis is still a very, very good one. There's very few other places I'd rather be than Canada...when it comes to these uncertain times, Canada holds its own and shines”.

However, we all know that global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe. That is why we are focused on jobs, the economy and implementing economic action plan 2012 through Bill C-38. As successful as our past has been, we must stay focused on the present and the future. The economy must remain at the forefront of our priorities. It is the right thing to do.

The well-being of Canadians depends on a healthy economy. The well-being of my constituents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell depends on a healthy economy.

A strong economy makes it possible for all Canadians to benefit from growth and long-term prosperity. By making sensible and responsible decisions today, we will provide everyone with a better standard of living tomorrow.

That is the goal that the Conservative government has set for itself with this bill. And that is why it is so important to move forward with this bill today, and not allow the New Democrats and the other opposition parties to delay its passage with their stalling tactics.

In my remarks today, I would like to focus on a few of the measures in Bill C-38 that would help strengthen Canada's housing sector.

The housing sector is one of the most important pieces of our economy. In my riding, certain towns like Clarence-Rockland have seen tremendous growth. Local businesses are benefiting. The local economy is benefiting. For that to continue, there is a real need for new families to choose housing in these communities. We can all agree that the housing market requires ongoing stability and close monitoring.

For most Canadian families, the biggest investment we make in our lifetimes is the purchase of a home. Families will not buy if they think the housing market is unstable. Ensuring that such an investment is secure is the responsible thing to do. That is why our government regularly monitors housing finance risks and takes action when necessary.

For example, we have adjusted the rules for government-backed insured mortgages recently on multiple occasions. In addition, in June 2011, Parliament approved legislation to formalize arrangements with private mortgage insurers and Canada Mortgage and Housing, CMHC, in an effort to better manage risks arising from the mortgage insurance sector.

Now, as part of the Conservative government's ongoing efforts to strengthen the mortgage sector, we are proposing amendments in today's bill that will reinforce supervision of CMHC and guarantee that its commercial activities are managed with a view to promoting the stability of the financial system.

Specifically, the amendments include the following: an additional objective for CMHC of ensuring that its commercial activities promote and contribute to the stability of the financial system, including the housing market; legislative and regulatory powers given to the Minister of Finance in respect of CMHC's securitization programs; powers given to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to review and monitor the safety and soundness of CMHC's commercial activities and to report to the CMHC board of directors and HRSDC; and the addition of the deputy minister of human resources and skills development and the deputy minister of finance as ex-officio members of CMHC's board of directors.

We believe these amendments would contribute to the long-term stability of the housing market and would benefit all Canadians. We have heard a great deal of positive reaction.

Louis Gagnon, a professor at Queen's University, stated:

I believe that the federal government's plan to bring CMHC under the direct supervision of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is long overdue.

OSFI is responsible for the oversight of insurance companies and it only makes sense to bring CMHC under its purview, since CMHC is the most systematically important insurance entity in the land and also the most vulnerable one.

This is what the respected Finn Poschmann, vice-president of the C.D. Howe Institute, said:

...the legislation will require at least annual inspections from OSFI, with reports to the board and the responsible ministers. Formalizing the requirement in legislation could do wonders for reporting and accountability, and will help the board and management reassure themselves that CMHC is carrying out its activities...“in a safe and sound manner … with due regard to its exposure to loss.” This is good....

Before concluding, I will turn my attention to the health sector where we are proposing changes to the tax treatment of certain health related goods and services. Health care is very important to the people of my riding, as it is to people across Canada. As a father of five children, I know very well how easily the costs add up when someone is affected by illness. The more our government can do to alleviate these costs during these stressful periods the better.

These changes will better reflect the changing nature of the health sector and will acknowledge the impact of the expenses related to health and disability that Canadians encounter for their own care or that of their loved ones.

For example, we are proposing to remove the GST from the professional services of pharmacists beyond those related to dispensing prescription drugs, which are already tax exempt.

We also propose to expand the list of health care professionals who can order certain medical and assistive devices that are zero rated under the GST. This reflects the increasing involvement of health care professionals, such as nurses, in giving orders for these devices. We also propose to expand the list of GST zero rated medical and assistive devices and the list of expenses an individual may claim for income tax purposes under the medical expense tax credit.

These measures represent a simple, thoughtful and appropriate way to ensure that our tax system remains fair and up to date.

I note that during the finance committee's study of today's act, the Canadian Medical Association voiced its support for the measures that I have just mentioned.

Today's act would accomplish a great deal for Canadians and it contains a host of other measures that deserve my colleagues' attention. As an example, today's act would take the first step toward making important improvements to the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, by allowing spouses, common-law partners and parents to establish an RDSP for adult individuals who might not be able to enter into a contract themselves.

It has been my pleasure to highlight some of the key measures recently proposed by the Conservative government to keep the country on the path to growth and prosperity.

Now it is important that we work together and continue to co-operate for the good of Canada and Canadians. The measures in today's bill are necessary and will have lasting benefits.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague represents a mostly rural riding with many farmers. I would like to know whether he has had the chance to talk to his constituents, especially those in the agricultural sector, about the changes to employment insurance.

I ask him the question because I have talked to the farmers in my riding. I can say that they are infuriated over the changes. In my riding, as in his I am sure, agriculture provides seasonal employment. The people in my riding see the employment insurance provisions as an obstacle to seasonal employment and a headache for the farmers, as businesspeople who need to retain their workforce.

Has my colleague consulted with farmers to see what they think about this?

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member for an agricultural region and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, I naturally work closely with the farmers in my riding and all across Canada. It has to be said that farmers support our efforts to strengthen the Canadian economy.

Farmers thrive in a healthy economy. They have enough challenges in front of them without also having economic instability. They see that our measures with respect to employment insurance would help Canadians find work. They are particularly concerned about this because they have problems finding help on their farms. They must go to the extraordinary measures of bringing people in from outside of Canada to work on their farms. They would much rather employ people right here within Canada on their farms. These EI measures would help in that regard.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, twice now the government has brought in a new fisheries act to change the existing Fisheries Act. Twice it has been sent back to the drawing board to come back with another act. In two throne speeches it has promised a new fisheries act but has not lived up to those commitments. It has now jammed the fisheries legislation into this bill.

Why will the government not have a separate debate on the Fisheries Act itself? Twice in its throne speeches the government was going to bring in a new fisheries act and now it has jammed it into the budget bill.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would invite my opposition colleagues to work with the mayors in small rural communities, such as mine, and in other rural communities across Canada. They would then hear feedback from the mayors who are trying to maintain the infrastructure within their ridings and yet it is far more costly, far more time demanding and requires more resources because the way in which the Fisheries Act is currently written is employed within small rural communities.

I believe the fisheries minister has his focus right, which is focusing on Canada's fish stock and fish resources and ensuring that we do whatever is possible to protect those resources without compromising what our rural municipalities are trying to achieve.

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I just got off the phone half an hour ago with one of my constituents, Doug Dobrowolski, who is a farmer, a businessman and the president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. He represents hundreds of mayors, reeves and councillors who have been asking our government, since I have been elected and before that, to change the Fisheries Act in order that it is not punitive to small towns and farmers who are trying to dig ditches and culverts.

It seems that the opposition is always ignoring the needs of rural Canada and putting its needs first. I think it is time that we all realize that we can balance the interests of rural Canadians, protect our fish habitat and do what is good for the country and good for the economy. Would my hon. colleague comment on that?

Motions in Amendment
Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to comment on that because my colleague is absolutely right. I am from a rural riding myself. My mayors for the past six years have been pressuring me on the difficulties and the challenges they face in maintaining rural infrastructure. What my colleague just said in terms of a discussion that she has had with one of her mayors, it is the same discussion I am having with my mayors. They are asking us to simply find a balance that would allow them to fulfill their responsibilities in a cost-effective and time-effective manner. I believe that this review of the Fisheries Act conducted by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is exactly what Canada needs.