House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fisheries.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, the member talked about holding people accountable and members being accountable for their actions. I am wondering when the member is going to be held accountable and table the documents which he referred to in a newspaper article on Saturday. We are still waiting for those documents. He has a chance to be accountable. When is he going to let us know when he is going to do that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, we are having a conversation about the budget, but I will answer the member's question. As I said, all of the expenditures that were incurred by my campaign and, indeed, by my association are fully reflected in all of my filings with Elections Canada. I will be providing all documentation to support that in due course.

The member has indicated that he will vote against this budget. In fact, he has not supported any of the measures that we have undertaken in support of Newfoundland and Labrador, whether it was Muskrat Falls, the new ships for Marine Atlantic, sealers or the tradition of seal hunting. People know they cannot count on the Liberal Party in Newfoundland and Labrador, but they can count on the Conservative Party of Canada to support them, as we have in the past.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the MP for Peterborough, who is one of the best MPs that Peterborough has ever had. He is hard working. He put things forward and explains the importance of the budget to his constituents.

Could he comment on the ideology about playing “silly bugger” with all of these amendments, as the Toronto Sun said? No matter what we do, the NDP will vote against it. This budget is about jobs. We are trying to create jobs. The leader of the NDP called jobs a disease. Could my colleague comment on the silliness of this and ideology behind it. Does he have any explanations for the silliness?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, since I have been elected, we have always referred to spring, which has been joyfully acknowledged by those in the press and others, as silly season. This is just an extra silly season.

I have heard members of the opposition opine about democracy. It just occurred to me that we will have an awful lot more democracy this spring than we have had in other years. We are going to vote an awful lot more. I will be here exercising my democratic right and that of my constituents, standing up for jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. I do not care how many votes there are.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, Search and Rescue; the hon. member for St. Paul's, 41st General Election.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a rather heavy heart that I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-38.

Not only do I oppose the content of this bill, but I also strongly oppose how the government has gone about getting it through the House.

I was very idealistic when I arrived in the House of Commons barely a year ago. I truly believed in the goodwill of this government, which had just been elected to do politics differently. I realize that the reality is altogether different and that the government wants to push through bills of this magnitude without consultation or consideration by committees and the House.

I oppose this bill because I believe it will have serious consequences not just on jobs, but also on growth and long-term prosperity. In fact, this government is not investing in the economy of the future, but rather in the economy of the past.

In my opinion, this bill is not in the best interest of Canadians and does not reflect the fact that the government must work for the common good.

Canada must foster economic development in a way that respects the principle of sustainable development and promotes the development of our communities and our environment.

It is with this in mind that the NDP has been calling on the government for several years now to reform and modernize the Investment Canada Act, one of the main components of our economic regulatory system. I am talking about it today because this bill includes changes to the Investment Canada Act.

Although the NDP has been calling for an overhaul of the Investment Canada Act for several years, and although a motion was unanimously adopted by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to review the Investment Canada Act—I am on that committee, so I should know—this has not been done. Instead, the government continues to hide certain changes to that act within this omnibus bill.

Thus, with so many things going on, the government is modifying the Investment Canada Act bit by bit and without really carefully studying the consequences this will have on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

The government promised to tighten up the Investment Canada Act a long time ago, but I am disappointed that it has decided to include these changes in the budget implementation bill, instead of going ahead with the consultations it had promised.

The act will now enable the government to disclose the reasons why it would oppose a foreign acquisition, but the act already sets out some exceptions. The government will first have to consult the company in question and refrain from disclosing the reasons why it opposes the purchase if it would cause prejudice to the company. The changes included in Bill C-38 will also allow a penalty in the form of a security, and not just money, to be imposed on firms found to violate a country's legislation.

The government's proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act are only minor corrections, when we consider the scope of the challenges.

The biggest amendment made to the act by the government was not made through Bill C-38 but through the regulations. So it is appropriate that I mention it in the context of this speech, given that the government continues to make amendments to the act without going through Parliament or the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, which would be the appropriate forum.

When foreign investors are buying a Canadian company, an assessment is conducted under the Investment Canada Act. The assessment threshold is currently $300 million, depending on the value of the company's assets. On May 25, 2012, the Minister of Industry announced that, in four years, the threshold would increase to $1 billion, depending on the value of the business. This new measure was based on the recommendations of a committee that submitted a report in June 2008 entitled "Compete to Win". I note that it was not the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that made these recommendations or a committee of parliamentarians, but an ad hoc committee, if I may call it that.

This announcement will have fairly significant consequences on the possibility of keeping Canadian companies, especially the medium-sized or larger companies, because there will be no review under the Investment Canada Act.

The Globe and Mail recently published an in-depth report on the disappearance of Canada's medium-sized businesses. Canada has many small businesses, but we seem to be losing more and more of our medium-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

These announcements and changes to the Investment Canada Act were made—I repeat—without MPs' approval and with no real discussion by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. They will have negative consequences on several sectors of our economy and on Canada's ability to help medium-sized businesses thrive and to keep them in our economy.

Long-term prosperity means long-term jobs. Helping our manufacturing sector to flourish, particularly medium-sized businesses in that sector, is in Canada's best interest. These industries take root in their communities and become active partners in the regions. They will provide long-term jobs, which lead to long-term growth and prosperity.

This is troubling. The government keeps talking about 750,000 new jobs. But let us take a closer look at that number. Those 750,000 jobs have been created since the lowest point of the recession following the loss of 430,000 jobs during the recession. That means we have about 320,000 net new jobs since the beginning of the recession. Yet the number of people in the job market grew by approximately 600,000 during that period. That is why our unemployment rate is still much higher than it was before the recession. It is currently 7.3%.

We are not currently creating enough jobs to keep pace with growth.

I could go on at length about how this bill will have negative consequences on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech. It seems she is so far off track about what the world needs and what Canada needs. We are trying to focus on job creation.

I would like to quote from the Toronto Sun to illustrate the point:

As Europe stands poised on the brink of a disastrous economic wildfire that could blacken the world, the [NDP leader's] hypocrisy and self-obsession is in full flame...vowing to delay the passing of [economic action plan 2012] by playing silly bugger...with amendments and procedure....This is nothing but grandstanding....This is a budget designed to create jobs and inspire economic growth, and it comes to the House of Commons at a moment that can only be described as the 11th hour of a global economic conflagration....Right now, there is only one enemy in our fight to protect Canada from the repercussions of Europe's burning. And it's...[the NDP leader]. This is inarguable.

This is an important piece of legislation to get through.

I am curious. Have any of the NDP members actually run a business before? Have any of them had to meet payroll? Can any of them actually show that they understand what job creation is? Could those members stand now? I do not see any of them standing right now.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, I am standing up to denounce that source, that media source.

But we know that the Globe and Mail did a story that points exactly to what I have said, that we are about to lose a major sector of our economy. A strong economy is based on a resource sector, a manufacturing sector, a service sector, as well as investments in the knowledge economy.

This bill denies those realities. This bill denies science. It reduces grants for fundamental scientific research. It is destroying our manufacturing sector. I have said enough.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her speech. It was very informative. It is great to hear the NDP talking about the economy and jobs, and starting to show more concern for that very area.

The government keeps talking about all of these jobs that it creates, but from all the numbers I can see certainly in the province of Ontario, a lot of those jobs are part-time jobs. When the government talks about 700,000 jobs, it is probably 700,000 part-time jobs. It is certainly not 700,000 full-time jobs. Maybe the government is only looking out west and not at the rest of Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, I think there is something very important that we need to do. We have to look to the future. We have to look ahead to tomorrow's economy. There are all sorts of new jobs that we can create in an economy that takes environmental protection into account, meaning that we can take advantage of the challenge of protecting the environment and of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to innovate and promote technologies that will make it possible to have attractive and well-paid jobs across Canada, from sea to sea. There are some very interesting and exciting opportunities.

This government is not interested in looking to the future. It is interested in looking back at the past and continuing in a flawed economy.

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

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-38.

Jobs, growth and long-term prosperity are at the heart of this bill, which comes as Canada is emerging from the global economic downturn and facing increased competition in the global marketplace. Fortunately, we are facing these challenges from a position of strength.

Our government pledged in the Speech from the Throne that we would promote a stable low-tax environment, develop a highly skilled and flexible workforce, support innovation, and expand access to markets abroad. Bill C-38 is the next step in delivering on those promises to Canadians.

The Government of Canada's priorities are also the priorities of the labour program. The labour program is cutting red tape. It is modernizing and streamlining its operations, as well as consolidating some programs and activities. The cost-saving measures within the labour portfolio will result in savings of $16.7 million. At the same time, we are continuing to fulfill our mandate to promote a fair, safe, productive workplace, and facilitate co-operative labour relations in federally regulated private industries.

I will begin by describing what Bill C-38 will mean for the federal labour portfolio. When businesses go bankrupt, many people suffer, but some of the most unfortunate are those former employees who were entitled to long-term disability pensions and indeed were receiving long-term disability pensions. Bankruptcies can lead to the reduction or even complete loss of long-term disability benefits when there are insufficient funds to cover the outstanding claims. Economic action plan 2012 proposes to require that going forward, federally regulated private sector employers insure on a go-forward basis, as I said, any long-term disability plans for employees. This will provide additional financial security to these individuals and their families when they need it most.

The new provisions for long-term disability plans complement the support our government already gives workers through the wage earner protection plan, WEPP. The WEPP was introduced in 2008 to provide timely compensation to workers in federally regulated industries for unpaid wages and vacation pay they had earned in the six months preceding their employer's bankruptcy or receivership.

We expanded the WEPP in 2009 to protect severance and termination pay, and again in 2011 to cover workers whose employers had to restructure without success. The recent expansion is estimated to provide an additional $4.5 million annually in support to workers affected by the bankruptcy or receivership of their employer. Through economic action plan 2012, we are proposing to add $1.4 million annually in operating funds to ensure that WEPP applicants receive the benefits they are entitled to when they need them.

I would also like to briefly mention some other economic action plan 2012 measures that will increase efficiency and get better value for Canadians. Among the changes, the federal contractors program will be redesigned, and that will streamline the program requirements. The initiative is part of the Government of Canada's deficit reduction action plan, and it will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and programs to ensure value for taxpayers.

The obligation for employers to meet employment equity goals will now be placed directly in the contract as a mandatory clause, and failure to meet the obligations shall constitute a breach of the contract. As such, federal contractors that wish to contract with the Government of Canada will be required to meet employment equity obligations. Modernizing the federal contractors program will reduce the administrative burden on contractors. That, of course, was a key recommendation of the Red Tape Reduction Commission.

We also propose to amend the Status of the Artist Act to transfer the function of the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, or CAPPRT, to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. The CAPPRT currently supports constructive labour relations between federally regulated producers and self-employed artists, but there has been a considerable decline in CAPPRT's case activity over the past five years. Indeed, each year since 2006-07, the tribunal has only received slightly more than one new application, and averaged fewer than one day of hearings.

As a consequence, the government has decided to transfer CAPPRT's powers, duties and functions to the CIRB. With this amendment, the existing framework for labour relations in the federal cultural sector would remain in place, with the CIRB continuing the work of the tribunal and promoting and supporting professional relations between artists and producers.

By transferring CAPPRT's powers, duties and functions to the CIRB, the government is ensuring that an experienced and competent body remains to oversee the relationship between artists and producers in the federal jurisdiction, but it would do so while generating cost savings and improvements to administrative efficiency. We fully expect that this transfer would result in both improved services and reduced delays in resolving cases, while not directly impacting the artists themselves.

We are also proposing to modify the Government Employees Compensation Act to streamline and improve administration of third party claims and to enhance efficiency in the federal public sector. Workers' benefits would be unaffected by this adjustment but the amendment would allow crown corporations to pursue third party claims under the act and that would reduce overall labour program administration costs for third party claims.

Finally, we are also planning to repeal the outdated Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which was enacted in 1935 at a time when very few regulations existed to protect workers. At one point in time, it did serve a useful purpose, but today it no longer plays a significant role in protecting workers. The reality is that federal construction contracts today account for only 2% of non-residential construction work in Canada compared to 1955 when it was 11%. As well, the provinces and territories already regulate wages and working conditions in the construction sector. In many respects, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act duplicate existing provincial labour legislation.

Today, like all other workers in Canada, construction workers are protected by comprehensive provincial and territorial employment standards. They are also protected by human rights and by occupational health and safety laws of the provinces and territories. Therefore, repealing the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act supports our commitment to create jobs and fosters economic growth by eliminating red tape and duplication. It is part of our deficit reduction action plan and we seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and programs to ensure value for the taxpayer.

With respect to temporary foreign workers, prevailing wage rates are already set by HRSDC and Service Canada, and repealing the act will not change this.

In conclusion, the Government of Canada's priorities continue to be jobs and growth, and these are also the priorities of the labour program. Through Bill C-38, our government is looking to move forward on our commitment to make effective and efficient use of our resources in ways that respond to real needs.

I urge this House to support Bill C-38.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the minister whether Canadians will really be able to share in this growth. A number of constituents in my riding are losing tens of thousands of dollars from their pension funds because of lax federal laws.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, our long-term vision within the Conservative government is exactly that, for jobs and growth. As we have heard many times today, we have posted over 760,000 new jobs and they are high-quality good jobs, not part-time jobs that the opposition alleges. I would invite the opposition members to look at the facts on this and get them straight.

We know that the economic action plans of the past have worked and we are very excited and proud of economic action plan 2012 because it takes that long-term look, which is the look that is needed for my constituents in Halton, as well as for my family.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I acknowledge with appreciation the changes in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act that would help out those who are on long-term disability. The Liberal Party asked 100 questions if not more on that very issue. I am pleased to see that the government has listened to the voices on this side of the House and made those changes.

These changes were an important part of the changes that needed to happen to better protect both those who are disabled and those working for companies that go bankrupt and leave them with no protection. I appreciate the changes that the government has put in the budget bill.

On the issue of federal contractors, and there are over 1,000 of them and, it is my understanding that they would not have ministerial accountability or oversight. A federal contractor would have a contract with its employees, but how would the government ensure that the contract is being followed?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her comments about our efforts to help the most vulnerable and those who are suffering because of a bankruptcy in a company.

With respect to the federal contractors program, the way it works right now is that federal contractors supply to the labour program a plan of action with respect to employment equity and how they intend to ensure that the employment equity standards of the government will be followed. However, there is no follow-up with the contractors as to whether they are implementing it. We rely upon a complaints based system and that would not change. We would still have a complaints based system but this time we would have real teeth because it would be about the voiding of the contract by implementing it and putting it directly in the contract. The onus would be on the contractors at that point to be aware of and understand the Employment Equity Act and we would expect them to abide by it. We also expect them to have a plan of action but we do not ask them to provide and submit plans and bog down the process. We want them to contractually oblige themselves to it and we will follow up in terms of complaints and prosecute as warranted.