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

4:55 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I first want to take the opportunity to thank the minister. As she knows, I am from Oshawa. A few weeks ago she took a very courageous position in regard to the rail challenges that we faced. Manufacturing and just in time delivery is very important to my community and I am happy to say that last month, in May, we actually increased the economy with 36,400 manufacturing jobs.

We are giving a very strong signal to the economy. We just have to compare this to socialist Europe and the problems that Europe is undergoing right now.

Could the minister tells us why is it important to continue on a program of jobs and growth, cutting red tape, decreasing taxes and working co-operatively with labour so that we have strong jobs as opposed to the outdated policies that the NDP is bringing forward, such as high taxes, increased regulation--

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. minister an opportunity to respond.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as we have indicated, the economic action plan is the forward look about ensuring that we continue to grow and prosper through the creation of jobs and the growth of the economy. However, as the Conservatives and this government believe, we should put the tools in the hands of the businesses to create the jobs, which is why it is important to have that low tax environment and to have a reduction of red tape. Those are the kinds of things that we are doing within the labour program. We are also supporting productive labour relations because innovation, quite simply, happens when there is a safe, productive and healthy workplace.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with legitimate indignation that I rise today to denounce the infamous Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill.

With this bill, we get the feeling that the Conservatives decided that Parliament was an open bar and attacked social programs, government, workers and families. It is a catch-all bill, a bulldozer bill, a Trojan Horse. Finally, this is an anti-worker, anti-environment and anti-family bill that does not respect our democratic institutions, that attacks key rights, and that attacks the least fortunate and lowest-income seniors in our society.

It is a catch-all bill. We feel that the Conservatives are taking a shot at everything that works and are taking advantage of the fact that they have a majority to destroy things that have been working well in our society. Based on where they are heading, everything will go to the private sector. Assessing environmental impact is not important. As long as there is development, everything is fine, and future generations will pick up the pieces. They will have to carry this economic debt, as well as this environmental debt on their shoulders.

This is unprecedented in Canadian political history. Officially, this is a budget implementation bill, but it changes no fewer than 70 existing pieces of legislation. The Conservatives are taking a shot at everything that moves.

In addition, the Conservatives imposed a gag order—in fact, it was the 23rd or 24th gag order. Members are not even being given much time to discuss this bill. The government is refusing to split up this bill, which is creating a completely absurd situation.

The NDP proposed having five bills instead of one single mammoth, gigantic and unmanageable bill, which was reasonable. For example, since this is officially a budget implementation bill, but it changes standards for protecting fish habitats, it is the members of the Standing Committee on Finance who are required to study the changes to the regulations on protecting fish habitats. Has anyone ever heard of anything so ludicrous or absurd?

Every decision made in this bill probably deserves days of study. The list of things that the government wants to change is impressive. The bill is supposedly for implementing the budget, but it is being used to destroy and attack a bunch of things that help workers and Canadian families. I am going to try to explain why.

Bill C-38 increases the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67. We remember that the Prime Minister took advantage of a trip to Davos, Switzerland, to announce these changes in front of his billionaire friends. But one year earlier, he had not even told Canadians that he was going to attack our seniors' old age pensions.

Bill C-38 repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, weakens the environmental assessment regimes, eliminates the Auditor General's oversight authority for a certain number of agencies and amends the Employment Equity Act so that it no longer applies to federal contracts. In addition, it dissolves the Public Appointments Commission, reduces transparency with respect to the assessment of major pipeline projects and puts more power in the hands of a single minister. Bill C-38 also dissolves the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which was working well. Lastly, it eliminates the First Nations Statistical Institute.

So we can see the extent of what is in this mammoth bill, this Trojan Horse bill.

There is one more important matter that I would like to address. The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act has also been amended. That act guaranteed minimum salaries, base salaries for workers on federal construction sites. Let me give you some examples. In Vancouver, an electrician could not be paid less than $26.20 per hour; a carpenter, $25.19 per hour. In Calgary, an electrician was paid at least $30 per hour and a steel assembler $24.12 per hour. It guaranteed working conditions, and therefore acceptable living conditions, for workers on those sites. The Conservatives are taking the act, tearing it up and telling employers that, from now on, they can pay their employees what they want. There are no more base salaries, no more minimums.

This very ideological and right-leaning Conservative government is constantly making decisions that put downward pressure on salaries. How are the Conservatives going to get the economy going again? By cutting salaries. This is a race to the bottom. This is how they want to build the future, to build a society that is fairer, more just, more united and more decent, a society in which people can live a good life.

When my father bought his house, it was worth twice his annual salary, the only salary. Today, houses cost 10 or 15 times an annual salary. The purchasing power of workers has either stagnated since the late 1970s or become worse. These Conservative and neo-Liberal policies are putting pressure on the salaries of workers, who still have to pay the bills and whose standard of living is not rising.

A family today cannot live on one salary alone. How is it possible that, in a society like ours, people working for minimum wage are below the poverty line? Is that really the kind of society we want to live in? It certainly is the kind of society that the Conservatives want to live in. On the Island of Montreal alone, the number of people asking for food assistance because they lack the means to put bread on the table has increased more than 40% since 2008.

The Conservatives may laugh, but in real life, it matters. In my constituency, 2,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing. What does Bill C-38 say about social housing? Nothing. Zero. Nada. There is nothing in this budget about helping people who are having difficulty paying their rent. When rent takes 50% of people's income, we have a problem. A problem that keeps people in poverty.

It is interesting that the word poverty does not appear in the nearly 300-page budget that the Minister of Finance tabled. That is one of the Conservatives' tricks. If they do not talk about it, then it does not really exist. I am sorry, but that is not how things work. There is no magic wand that makes poverty disappear just because we do not talk about it. There is nothing in this budget, in Bill C-38, to help fight poverty, on the contrary.

I now want to address the issue of temporary foreign workers. That is another example. I have talked about the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. What is in Bill C-38 for temporary foreign workers? Under this bill, temporary foreign workers can be paid 15% less than other workers for the same work. This is just more of the same Conservative policy to put downward pressure on the incomes of Canadians and Quebeckers.

Eugénie Depatie-Pelletier, the coordinator of a branch of CERIUM, the centre for international studies and research at Université de Montréal, said:

Temporary foreign workers, whose employment contracts are already being violated because of administrative restrictions on their fundamental freedoms, will now be subject to a new discriminatory measure.

According to the administrative directive posted online on April 25, 2012, by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for temporary foreign workers in Canada with “high-skill” occupations, wages that are up to 15% below the average wage for an occupation in a specific region will be accepted. Various observers have said that this federal measure will ultimately contribute to an overall reduction in wages in Canada...

The constitutionality of this new federal Conservative measure will inevitably be challenged sooner or later in court. This measure is a concrete example of the government violating the right of a historically disadvantaged group—immigrant workers in this case—to be free from discrimination.

Furthermore, André Jacob, coordinator of the Observatoire international sur le racisme et les discriminations and an associate professor at the UQAM school of social work, said:

The argument that the local labour force does not want to do the work for which employers use foreign labour is a false premise. In fact, Canadians do not want to comply with the conditions imposed by companies that favour temporary foreign workers [because they work in horrible conditions]. Businesses want to be able to count on a low-cost workforce that is available at all times, submissive, non-unionized and [basically] without rights.

...The temporary foreign workforce is not a cargo of exotic products that can be purchased and sold with only profit in mind. These are human beings with rights. It should not be up to private businesses to protect the rights of all workers; it is the responsibility of the state.

We see the same thing with employment insurance reform. The government is pushing wages down and wants to force seasonal workers to accept jobs with wages 30% lower than what they earned before. The NDP will fight this Conservative government because we want people to be able to live with dignity.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we have expressed, time and time again over the last days and weeks, the concern we have in regard to Bill C-38 and how critically important it is that it be amended. The bill is severely flawed and it sets precedents in terms of budget bills. Many have accused it as being a Trojan Horse in terms of the manner in which the government is bringing in legislation that is completely irrelevant to the whole budget process and that we should be breaking this bill into a number of different bills and stick to the budget debate itself.

In response to the bill, the Liberal Party has brought forward a series of different amendments on which we will voting. I look to the member and I suspect the NDP will support our amendments. How does the member feel about the sheer number of pieces of legislation that this bill will have a very profound impact on, if it were to pass?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for his question.

The NDP shares his concerns. Together with our House leader, we tried to split Bill C-38 into five separate parts so that we could take the time to study them and do our work as parliamentarians in a responsible way. We also submitted hundreds of amendments. We will see whether the Conservative government is willing to listen in order to improve this bill.

However, it is difficult to improve such a gigantic catch-all bill. This bill tackles a lot of issues and important rights: working conditions, environmental protection, seasonal workers. We think this is awful. We do not want to start punishing people because their industry operates for just a few months a year.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, going back to my friend's comments about the fisheries and comments from all the members opposite, the hyperbole is simply overwhelming and one wonders if they have even read the act. Therefore, I will help them with what our new amended act would actually say.

Regarding the habitat provisions, section 35(1) says:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

Again, “serious harm”, which was not defined in the previous act is now defined as, “For the purposes of this Act, serious harm to fish is the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”.

Has the member actually read the new act and does he not—

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie an opportunity to respond.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks the Standing Committee on Finance should study changes to fish habitat protection.

The Conservatives seem to think that it is no big deal for fish to swim in oil and that there is no problem until the fish are belly-up dead. They think it is okay to have three-eyed fish swimming around.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech about the Conservatives' plan to attack the middle class, environmental standards and especially seniors' needs.

Why do the Conservatives have to put all this in a budget bill when they are attacking senior citizens?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member on his excellent French.

Indeed, people who are working today will be able to retire and receive their old age security cheques two years later. That means that people who do not have the money to invest in RRSPs and who do not have a supplemental plan will have to work two years longer.

This is yet another attack on society's poorest and lowest-paid workers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate on Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, an act that the NDP and the opposition are attempting to delay and defeat.

From the start, let me be clear. The NDP and the opposition parties want to stop today's bill because of their ideological opposition to the natural resources sector and its growth. As a western Canadian and member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, I cannot allow these attacks from the NDP go unchallenged. That is why today I would like to focus on the Conservative government's plan for responsible resource development, a critical part of our economic action plan 2012. It is a forward-looking initiative. It is an initiative that would help ensure that all Canadians would reap the benefits of our wealth of natural resources.

Our government's top priority has always been to support jobs and growth in Canada's economy and we are on the right track with Canada's economic action plan. Indeed, since July 2009, employment has increased by almost 760,000 jobs, the strongest job growth among all of the G7 countries. We all want that job growth to continue and there is no question that the resource sector will play a significant role in Canada's future job growth and prosperity.

A few countries are not as blessed with natural resources as Canada. Natural resources have helped to shape Canada's character and identity. They have been the lifeblood of communities for generations and have helped to give Canadians a quality of life that is second to none in the world. The importance of the resource sectors to Canada's economy cannot be overstated. Natural resources are driving economic growth right across the country.

Today, Canada's natural resource sectors employ nearly 800,000 Canadians and these economic engines of prosperity account for more than 10% of Canada's gross domestic product. They generate billions of dollars worth of tax revenues and royalties that help pay for government programs and services for Canadians. With over $500 billion in potential resource projects over the next 10 years, we have a tremendous opportunity to create jobs and economic growth right across the country. These jobs will be created in virtually ever sector of our economy, from manufacturing, mining, science and technology right to the services sector.

To take advantage of this opportunity and to ensure Canada's prosperity, our government is committed to making this nation of the best places in the world to invest. We have put many key ingredients in place, ingredients such as competitive taxes, new trade agreements and non-discriminatory policies.

However, we cannot take this opportunity for granted. Canada is not the only country in the world with rich mineral and energy resources and other countries have made it clear that they are ready to act and act quickly to supply emerging markets around the world. The bottom line is that Canada is competing with other resource-rich countries for these investment dollars. That is why it is so important that Canada creates the right conditions to attract global investment.

One of the ways that we are creating a favourable climate for investment is by taking the guesswork out of the review process for major development projects, and that is the idea behind our plan for responsible resource development. In a nutshell, here is what this new legislation would achieve. First, it would make project reviews more predictable and timely. Second, it would reduce duplication of project reviews. Third, it would strengthen environmental protection. Fourth, it would enhance consultations with aboriginal peoples. We want to put in place a new system of one project-one review that operates with a clearly defined time period.

In the words of the Saskatchewan Mining Association:

The federal government heard that message, and included the 'one project, one assessment' concept. If you were putting an addition on your house and needed a building permit, you don't require both a municipal and provincial permit. It is just common sense that one review that meets common objectives is sufficient.

Our new plan would also place enforceable, beginning-to-end time limits on assessments of no longer than two years, without compromising the thoroughness of the review. The plan would eliminate duplication by allowing provincial environmental assessments to replace rather than overlay assessments by the federal government, where they meet federal requirements.

Saskatchewan Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance Ken Krawetz declared, and I quote:

If...we are doing duplicate assessments in the environmental field and...there is no need to do a duplicate assessment and one assessment will suffice we are encouraged by that.

He went on to say that an improved system could “reduce government inefficiencies” and ensure that we will have continued due diligence.

Furthermore, Bill C-38 includes new mechanisms that would make consultation with aboriginal people and communities an integral part of the new review process, with additional funding to support aboriginal participation in the process. However, let me be clear: our new plan would strengthen environmental safeguards and it would raise our already high standards.

Bill C-38 would ensure that we stop reviewing projects with little or no environmental effects, and it would focus our efforts on projects that have potential for significant environmental and economic impacts. Right now we know that too many projects are getting caught in the regulatory net. We are wasting our time reviewing projects like blueberry washing facilities, parking lots and hockey rinks, projects that have little to no adverse effect on our environment. Quite frankly, it is time to stop the tangled web of rules that are wasting everyone's time and putting major development projects at risk.

Under Bill C-38, the Minister of the Environment would retain the authority to order environmental assessments on projects deemed necessary. To further protect the environment, Bill C-38 introduces enforceable environmental assessment decision statements to ensure that proponents of resource projects comply with required mitigation measures to protect the environment.

In addition, Bill C-38 proposes to provide federal inspectors under the Canadian environmental assessment act with all the authority they need to examine whether or not companies are fulfilling the conditions specified in decision statements. It introduces penalties ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 for contraventions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Our proposed changes would strengthen environmental safeguards and create greater certainty for investors.

In today's global economy, we simply cannot afford to have one hand tied behind our backs with a review process that is full of delays, jurisdictional overlaps and unpredictable timelines. Simply put, it is time to bring our review process into the 21st century. That is what responsible resource development is all about.

As the western premiers unanimously declared in a statement at the end of the recent conference, and I quote:

One project, one assessment, one decision increases timeliness and certainty, and reduces the bureaucratic overlap without compromising environmental rigour.

Clearly, today's act is about putting Canada's natural resources to work for all Canadians. I will always stand up for the natural resources sector and the Canadians it employs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, I have here in front of me a letter that was written to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from Mr. Stu Wells, mayor of Osoyoos and chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board. I will not read the whole letter, but I just want some comments on a couple of lines, if I may.

I quote:

We are concerned with Bill C-38's proposed weakening of the language for fish habitat protection and other environmental laws, with the unintended consequence of weakening the protection that they offer to healthy water, whether for fish or human drinking water.

We agree that Canada's environmental legislation needs to be updated.... However....

They are concerned about the process, and they say that the current process seems needlessly rushed.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague could comment on this letter, please.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I wonder why the mayor thinks it is needlessly rushed. There has been a lot of consultation. That is how some of the regulations have come to be part of the budget.

I am just looking at what the Premier of B.C. said:

The NDP likes to talk about how they're going to fund health care and education, they're going to expand on social programs. But then on the other hand they say, “We don't like all this economic development, we don't like all this growth.” You can't have it both ways.

The point I would like to make is this. If the member actually sat down with the mayor, I would be sure he could explain that the mayor should have no worries whatsoever. This is why we are putting this in the budget: it is to make sure there is due diligence in the process, and that there is not a lot of overlap, which is something that all levels of government will appreciate. He will find that his economy and—

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. minister, but many people are rising for questions and I would like to hear a few more. The hon. member for Malpeque.