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 budget.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are particularly unusual in that there is one portion of the budget, as opposed to being in Bill C-38, where funds will be provided to a number of agencies to deal with the results of Weatherill report, which dealt with listeriosis at the Maple Leaf plant, whereas the Canadian Food Inspection Agency bears the whole brunt of a $50 million cut. At the same time, the budget says that we will take food labels off some food products and tell consumers that they can look on the Internet for information. Coincidentally, the Conservatives are also cutting access to the Internet, the CAP sites in rural areas.

As one mom speaking to another mom, could the member tell me what consumers or moms are supposed to do when the information they might want can be found on the Internet but not on the product?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my rural riding, having access to the Internet does not always happen. It is very expensive. I heard that it is about $150 in some places and it is not even high speed. To say that Canadians have to go online to check what is in their foods is absolutely absurd. It is not right. It is 2012 but we are not there yet. It seems to have a snowball effect. We will have another tragedy and lives will be lost. What is it going to take? How many lives have to be lost?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my NDP colleague a question.

As the mother of a young boy, what does she think of the fact that there is a children's fitness tax credit, but that it is non-refundable?

The way I see the problem, middle-class, upper-class and wealthy families can afford equipment for their kids so that they can participate in a physical activity, but poorer parents will not benefit from this.

What does she think of that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2012 / 11:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

As a single parent, I know that it is really hard to make ends meet. I had my son when I was 17, and it is not easy. At times, I had two jobs. Sometimes paying for sports and music lessons is just not possible. When people have to choose whether to pay for housing, electricity or food, it costs too much. Tax credits for sports and activities are of no use to people with little money.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:05 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, it is a delight to be able to participate in this debate on Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. Like my colleague, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I want to address the changes proposed in Bill C-38 to the Fisheries Act, in particular.

Let me begin by telling the House how I approach legislation, and not just this legislation but all legislation that I see. I ask myself a couple of key questions. The first one is, “What problem is this legislation attempting to solve?” Of course a related question is, “Is there a problem at all, or are we happy enough with the status quo?” I think that is a key question to ask. The second key question is, “Does this legislation solve that problem in the best way possible?” In the end, my comments about these changes to the Fisheries Act are going to answer those questions.

The focus of the original Fisheries Act was to regulate fishing and activities that directly impact fishing. However, over the years the Fisheries Act has grown to include powers and authorities aimed at conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat. On its own, that may not have been a bad thing.

The problem is due to direction, some of it coming from the courts. We now no longer effectively discriminate how we regulate small-scale impacts and low-value fisheries, like stream crossings on farmland, and projects that are larger scale with those large impacts and more valuable fisheries, like a hydroelectric development or sockeye salmon.

The government has been talking with stakeholders over a number of years. I have been connected to Fisheries and Oceans now for several years and have been part of this. We know that people care about fisheries protection and proponents that undertake development activities in and around fisheries waters. They talk to us about their challenges.

Based on their knowledge and the issues they have raised, we have determined that we need to do at least three things to solve this problem. We need to streamline our process and reduce overlap and duplication. Second, we need to reinforce our commitment to protect Canada's commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries. We need to be more discriminating as to where and how we apply our mandate to protect fisheries.

We could add a fourth, and that is that we need to create an enabling environment to be able to partner with others, whether they be provinces or conservation groups and others.

In a nutshell, I think we need to move the federal government out of the business of reviewing every activity on every body of water, regardless of the impact, to focusing on activities that pose a significant threat to the sustainability and productivity of commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries.

We want to adopt a common sense approach to managing real and significant threats to fisheries and the habitat that supports them while minimizing the restrictions on routine, everyday activities that have little or no impact on the productivity of Canada's fisheries.

We recognize the importance of Canada's fisheries across the country, and our government is introducing changes that would focus our fish and fish habitat protection measures on Canada's commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries.

The new changes would protect the productivity of Canada's fisheries while providing much-needed clarity to Canadians by, first of all, focusing the government's protection efforts on those three fisheries; second, drawing a distinction between vital waterways that support Canada's fisheries and unproductive bodies of water, like man-made reservoirs, drainage ditches in some cases and irrigation channels; and third, identifying and managing real threats to the fisheries, including direct impacts to fish, habitat destruction and aquatic invasive species.

To help focus limited resources on projects and areas that are significant in scope and in impact, the act would enable the exemption of certain types of lower risk and routine activities or waters, like digging farm ditches or draining flooded fields, from the prohibition.

Under the revised Fisheries Act, the government would be able to enter into productive partnerships with provinces, industry and conservation groups to enable them to use their expertise to protect, monitor and conserve Canada's fisheries. This would allow the federal government to maximize its ability to collaborate with agencies and organizations that care about protecting fisheries. Enhanced partnering opportunities with organizations would help support the conservation of fisheries. Collaboration would also be streamlined by enhanced abilities to enter into legal agreements for the effective protection of fisheries.

Better partnerships with other government agencies are also key to reducing duplication and overlap. We are proposing to achieve this through new authorities that would allow other federal departments, such as the National Energy Board or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, for example, or provinces, to issue authorizations under the Fisheries Act.

The new act would also give the minister the authority to declare that, if a provincial regulation made under the Fisheries Act meets or beats the federal government standards, only the provincial regulation would need apply. If the province has strong protection in place, the federal government would not need to intervene.

Let me say this, because this has been the subject of some question. There is a new prohibition in the act, a new section 35. This new section would replace text that had become outdated and no longer reflected today's reality. The prohibition states that it is prohibited for any person to undertake any works, undertakings or activities that result in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery or a fish that supports these fisheries. It also defines in the act what that serious harm is. It is the death of fish or permanent alteration to or destruction of fish habitat. Fish habitat is defined in the act as spawning grounds and any other areas, including nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.

The amended Fisheries Act also includes tools to enable greater protection of ecologically significant areas such as spawning grounds for sockeye salmon, which is important of course in British Columbia where I come from. These amendments would make it easier to clearly identify and therefore to better protect these zones. Other tools to protect fisheries include enhanced compliance and enforcement tools, such as enforceable conditions, the obligation for proponents to notify government officials in the event of serious harm to fisheries, and penalties that are aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act.

The amendments to the Fisheries Act would also provide for greater transparency in decision-making. Under the existing law the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans does not have to take any specific factors into consideration when he is making decisions. In the new Fisheries Act, factors that the minister would need to take into account when making certain decisions and exercising certain powers would add clarity and transparency to decisions. The minister would have to show that he has considered key factors before he can make regulatory decisions related to, for example, the new prohibition, regulations and authorizations. The minister would also need to consider these factors when he is exercising powers related to fish passage, exclusions and authorizations and designating ecologically significant areas, just to name a few. They are listed in the act, and I encourage my colleagues to go and look at them in more detail.

In addition, the minister would prepare and present to Parliament a report on the administration of agreements and equivalency, if any agreements are entered into with the provinces, and enforcement of the provisions relating to fisheries protection and pollution protection after the end of each fiscal year.

The new act would recognize that this is where protection is needed, not in farmers' fields, not in irrigation ditches, not where there are no fisheries; it would recognize that we cannot do this alone and allow us to effectively partner with the provinces and territories, aboriginal groups, conservation organizations and other stakeholders for the protection of Canada's fisheries.

Now I will get back to those questions. Is there a problem? I think there is, and I think many Canadians do as well.

Does this legislation address these problems in an effective way? I think it does. It is not perfect; no legislation is, but it goes a long way to addressing these problems. We are going to have sustainability and productivity of commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries for future generations of Canadians, and that is what we need.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just love it when government members answer their own questions, in the affirmative of course. We have some more questions to ask as well. There are many issues in the budget implementation bill, too many to raise, unfortunately. A few of them have been raised tonight.

One issue that I have been focusing on is why there is nothing in the bill to deal with the crisis that faces many Canadians around affordable housing. In my community of Metro Vancouver, we are now facing a difficult situation where thousands of households are paying 40%, 50%, 60% of their income in rent.

I would like the hon. member to explain why his government has been completely oblivious to this issue. Why has it not dealt with it in the budget? The government has not invested a single cent for affordable housing in the budget or the budget implementation bill. I do not know if it is an issue in that member's local community, but it certainly is elsewhere in Canada. Why has the government ignored this problem so it is now of crisis proportion?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member is implying that, because a particular measure is not included in this particular budget, we have somehow quit funding housing and affordable housing, then she is mistaken. She should know better than that. On an ongoing basis, that has shown up in previous budgets. We have put billions of dollars into affordable housing and various programs and we will continue to do that.

We acknowledge that this budget is a complex document. It is about jobs and growth and long-term prosperity. It provides a template; it provides a way forward in order to achieve that. That is the focus of this. If the member waits for future budgets, perhaps she will see something else along the lines she is looking for.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of working for a number of years on the fisheries and oceans committee with the parliamentary secretary. I know him to be an honest and honourable member of Parliament, and I will ask him this question knowing that full well.

While the current Minister of Fisheries was at ACOA there were some questionable hirings and those hirings are now under investigation by the Public Service Commission. Defeated Tory candidates were being put into the public service. That is the longest running investigation ever undertaken by the Public Service Commission.

Now employees are being transferred from St. John's, which was always the regional fishing financial hub of Atlantic Canada, to Fredericton, while the government had long-term leases in St. John's. The government has to acquire new lease space in Fredericton, a city that does not have a wharf. That city just happens to be in the minister's constituency. Employees are being moved from Moncton as well, where the government owns a building with two empty floors.

Does my colleague see that as a good financial move without any politics involved at all? Does he see that as a wise financial investment?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really hope my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso is not questioning the integrity of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans because that would be really beneath him.

We have responded to this in the House a number of times. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has six locations now where it undertakes administrative tasks, largely accounting and procurement tasks. It does not make sense to us to have that happen in six places. It makes reporting relationships more difficult. We think that should be in one place. I could be wrong about this, but my understanding is that an individual does not need a view of the water to be able to do those functions.

It would be helpful if we could find a place with low overhead values, four universities, a highly trained workforce and a lot of bilingual speakers. That is the place we are looking for. That is the place where we are moving this centre of excellence.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:20 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to condemn the Conservatives' mammoth bill, which some have called a Trojan Horse.

When preparing my speech today, I did not know where to begin. That is exactly the problem. The government is giving Canadians a 425-page bill so that they get discouraged and decide not to read it because it is not worth the trouble. In short, this bill is too long.

That has been the government's goal all along. It wants Canadians and Quebeckers to get so discouraged about democracy that they stop participating. That is the message the government is sending, and I am very worried about it.

We have tried to split this bill so that Canadians have a chance to study each part individually. We tried to be reasonable with the government, but unfortunately, it rejected our request to split the bill. Despite all that, the government says that we are the ones delaying the process.

I am sorry, but 425 pages amending over 70 different acts deserve a lot more time for debate. The government is refusing to let the House study this bill the right way, and that is why we are trying to have this debate.

I want to point something else out as well. This government says that it is very important to pass this bill quickly, because it is a job creation plan. Excuse me, but there is no job creation plan in this budget.

The Conservatives are too concerned about giving gifts to their friends and making the most vulnerable suffer, including seniors by increasing the OAS eligibility age from 65 to 67.

The government is attacking seasonal workers who need employment insurance. Whether we like it or not, here in Canada we have seasons. We have winter. Agricultural workers cannot work in the winter. I do not know why this government does not understand the climate in which we live.

The government is far too concerned about these things to create any jobs. This bill includes amendments, such as that to old age security, which will not be in effect until 2023. Why can we not debate this bill a few hours longer, especially when we know that these changes will not come into effect until 2023?

I hope that we will be in power in 2023 and that these changes will not take place. Nonetheless, in the meantime we could debate the matter a little longer.

We know that this bill has no job creation plan and has more cuts than investments. That is a problem. We know what is not in this bill. However, I would like to talk about what is in this bill.

As the NDP critic for digital issues, I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to a change, found in two or three of the 425 pages of this bill, that will allow foreign telecommunications companies to do business in Canada for the first time. This is found within these 425 pages.

I am sure that the majority of Canadians are not even aware that such a change is on the books because it is hidden. The government is trying to push this bill through quickly in the hope that Canadians will forget about this change, but this change will have real repercussions on the viability of telecommunications companies in Canada. We have to weigh this change and its repercussions and take the necessary time to study it.

What is more, the voices of scientists and academics here in Canada will no longer be heard. They will be completely muzzled.

I participated in the budget consultations that were held across Canada. One scientist in particular told us that she was afraid of working in the environmental field. She said that she was afraid of losing her job because she speaks her mind and she speaks out for science. I am really shocked by these comments. Things are in a bad way when a scientist says that they are afraid to voice their opinion. I believe that is a problem. However, it seems that this government could not care less about scientists. The opinion of Conservative ministers is much more important.

The government will also be eliminating environmental assessments. It will muzzle the people who have a real interest in these matters and who are worried about having a pipeline in their riding or close to their homes and who are worried about environmental hazards. We have seen that environmentally significant sites may be destroyed as a result of what has happened in Alberta. There are people, such as scientists, who are right to have questions and who should be allowed to participate in public consultations. Unfortunately, they will no longer be able to do so. Once again, it does not appear to warrant debate.

As the digital issues critic, I would once again like to speak about cuts to the community access program. At the same time, huge cuts have been made to public services and the public sector. These are direct services to citizens. What are people told to do? They are told to check the Internet, where all the services they need are available. Except there is a problem in rural areas. There are small communities and some people may not have enough money to pay for Internet access at home. They used to go to the library to use the Internet services, but that program has been cut.

These people, who now have less access to social services because of cuts to the public sector, many not even have access to the Internet at the library. These cuts really are illogical and irresponsible and they have been made without any consultation.

I would also like to talk a bit about the fact that we have withdrawn from the Kyoto protocol, which has embarrassed us internationally. That is really something.

The Conservatives claim to be the advocates for job creation and of the economy. However, I would like to say that there is a company in Boisbriand, which is not in my riding but in the neighbouring riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, that lost a contract because Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol. The purchaser did not want to deal with a country that is not responsible and does not think about the environment; it did not want to have anything to do with a country like that. That is significant.

So, when the Conservatives say that the economy is the most important thing, they need to realize that the economy and the environment go together. How can we invest in long-term prosperity, as it says in the title of this budget, when we do not have an acceptable environment? We are leaving a huge ecological debt for future generations, and that is something of great concern to me. I hope that all the Conservatives are concerned about it too.

Since I do not have much time left, I would like to close with a quote from our former leader, Ed Broadbent, who said, “This federal budget should provoke a public debate about the kind of Canada we want.”

Not only do I not want that kind of Canada, but we did not even have the opportunity to have the debate.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the very interesting speech.

I will be very brief as I know time is running out on this debate.

Today, over 120 environmental lawyers from across Canada issued a statement warning that the destruction of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act through Bill C-38 would cause more delays, more uncertainty, and more court challenges.

I want to draw the attention of members to what good environmental assessment has done over the years. The fact is it is a tool for planning.

If it had not been for an environmental assessment that allowed the cumulative effects of the Honshu Paper-Mitsubishi plant in northern Alberta called Alpac to be studied, that huge multinational factory would not have decided on its own to offer to improve its environmental regime during the process. The same thing happened with Louisiana Pacific in Saskatchewan with its oriented strandboard plant.

With this current bill, we will have more pollution, more environmental devastation. We will lack the tools to plan and prepare for projects that mitigate their environmental effects.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

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

When it comes right down to it, yes, we need this information, this knowledge and these data. How are we supposed to plan and make responsible decisions when we do not have any data or expertise in the field? If we want to plan for the future, if we want to have a prosperous economy in the future, we need such expertise and data.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

She spoke about something we often hear in the House. The government often tells people that they just have to use the Internet. She mentioned that a lot of people do not have access to Internet, but there is something else that she did not have time to mention: some people are not comfortable on the Internet. We all have constituents who come to our offices asking us to do Service Canada's job because they do not understand. When they call, they do not get an answer, and when they go online, things are not always clear.

I would like my colleague to tell us to what extent, in her day-to-day work, she can see how reductions in services and cuts to Service Canada are having a direct impact on the public.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the impact of the cuts is clear.

In my riding office, before December, there were just two files involving constituents dealing with employment insurance problems. Now everyone who walks into my office comes for that reason. These people have nothing. They have absolutely nothing left and they have to wait for months and months, three or even four months in some cases. That is not even a remotely reasonable wait time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, in relation to the comment from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I do not doubt that environmental lawyers are upset because when we are streamlining processes, that is a direct hit at their incomes. It is obvious why they are protesting.

In terms of the economic illiteracy displayed by the NDP, if our country went in the direction the NDP wanted us to go, we would end up like Greece and the other failing economies of Europe. This government, this party, simply will not go there.

Does my hon. friend have a clue how jobs are created and wealth is created in our country? Jobs and wealth are the first things required before we can spend money on social programs.