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

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree completely with my NDP colleague.

In fact, for the past several years, Saguenay has seen an exodus of its population—especially the youth population—for many reasons. Ultimately, the main reason for the exodus is employment. People are moving to urban centres like Quebec City and Montreal, which is causing a demographic imbalance in my riding.

The budget proposes changes to employment insurance. Yet seasonal workers are good workers. For instance, people who take care of snow removal cannot simply look for another job in the summer, because there is no snow. People who work in the forestry sector and those who plant trees or do landscaping cannot be guaranteed work in the winter.

In order to win more votes, the government decided to focus all its efforts on urban centres, and now the regions are paying the price. This will be terrible for Atlantic Canada. It is a slap in the face to the people of the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and rural areas across Canada.

What I would like to tell the government is simply to be reasonable and govern for all Canadians, instead of discriminating against some Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the previous question and answer was related to seasonal workers, and I agree with the member's answer.

However, there is another side to the equation, and that is the seasonal industries. In my province agriculture, tourism and fisheries are all seasonal industries. Those are our main industries, and if they do not have that seasonal supply of workers, the businesses themselves are going to be in trouble.

I wonder if the member could comment on the impact the draconian employment insurance changes in this bill will have on businesses in those regions.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree completely with the Liberal member.

As I mentioned a little earlier, my region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is a beautiful region and tourism is very important there. As my Liberal colleague mentioned, every year, the tourism industry needs workers to keep the regional economy going.

What poses a problem is the fact that these people, who periodically need to turn to employment insurance, will be penalized outside of the tourist season. They will be forced to accept a job outside the riding or the region, otherwise their EI benefits will be cut off. This will put people in a very difficult position, because they may be forced to leave the seasonal tourism industry.

Indeed, the regional tourism industry is very strong, in both winter and summer, but as we all know, two different companies will not hire the same people. Once again, we see that the Conservative budget was poorly conceived and that the government is abandoning the regions.

Clearly the height of hypocrisy, the Conservatives' slogan during the election campaign was “our region in power”.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House this evening to outline the positive impact that the implementation of budget 2012-13, our government's plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, would have on my riding of Sault Ste. Marie specifically and Canada as a whole.

First, I would be remiss if I did not rectify some of the misinformation that is coming from the opposition benches with regard to this budget. I would like to address an opposition day motion that claimed this government has failed to learn the painful lessons of Walkerton, which prove that cuts to essential government services, protecting the health and safety of Canadians, are reckless and can cause Canadians to lose their lives. This was speaking to food inspections and was an unfounded claim based on political fearmongering and not on the facts. These are the facts: 70% of all savings identified were found by increasing operational efficiency. Our government has maintained federal meat inspections and we have even hired 733 new food inspectors since 2005, 170 of whom were meat inspectors.

Our Conservative government refuses to follow in the footsteps of past governments to balance the budget by massively cutting health transfers to the provinces. Instead, we have embarked on a plan that continues to keep Canadians safe while maintaining a constant vigilance over governmental efficiencies.

It is in fact the opposition members who threaten the safety of Canadians by continually opposing our safe streets and communities act. They claim that the price is too high and that increasing spending on the justice system is not worth it. In response I can say only this: a Conservative government will not shy away from protecting Canadians from criminals.

That being said, these so-called cost increases have not occurred. The opposition erroneously claimed that we would have to build new prisons to house the sure influx of criminals at a tremendous cost to taxpayers. In fact, we have just announced the closure of two outdated prisons, and there are no new prisons planned because they are not required.

Another accusation put forward by the opposition is that while we may be working toward a balanced budget, we are doing it on the backs of Canadian seniors. Of course, they will not discuss, nor vote in favour of, all the great things the government has done for seniors, including lowering the GST twice, increasing the age credit amount by $2,000, introducing pension income splitting, doubling the pension income credit to $2,000, introducing the largest GIS increase in over 25 years, not to mention establishing the tax free savings account, which is particularly beneficial to seniors as they plan for their future.

We are also introducing the new pooled registered pension plans to better help workers save and build their retirement income. To suggest this government does not respect our seniors is preposterous. Our government has removed over 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls.

The opposition instead attacks the need to increase OAS from 65 to 67 years to ensure the sustainability of OAS for future seniors, including my children. To simply do nothing, which is exactly what the opposition wants to do, would be irresponsible. Canadians are living longer and healthier lives. This is not the 1970s when life expectancies were 69 for men and 76 for women. They are now 81 and 86 respectively. Longer lives are a blessing, but they come with the responsibility for government to ensure the pension system is available for future generations. If the OAS program stays on its present course, it will become unsustainable. Currently four people are working to support every senior at a cost to the system of $38 billion per year. Twenty years from now, two people will be working to support every senior, and the cost to support OAS at that time will be $108 billion, due to more seniors accessing OAS. This is the simple math.

The opposition parties would have none of this, though. They are more interested in political pandering than the future of Canada. They would rather buy votes with unsustainable programs than face the realities of an aging population.

I, however, have more faith in Canadians. I believe that they have looked to the future and they want a government that will take action to protect that future. We have not forced this policy on our senior citizens without adequate notice. Current seniors will not be impacted at all, nor will anybody who is now over the age of 54. The change in OAS will not begin to take effect until 2023 and will be phased in over a six year period until 2029.

This Conservative government has taken a proactive step to ensure that OAS is available to future generations. We have done it with an eye to the future to ensure the long-term prosperity of all Canadians. We are working, and will continue to work, in order to build a better future for all Canadians. This is not just a government of today but a government of and for the future.

As the representative for Sault Ste. Marie, and having travelled extensively throughout northern Ontario, one of the largest concerns is skilled labour shortages. Even with a higher than average unemployment rate, our businesses still struggle to find skilled labour. I am proud of the reforms that Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is bringing to our immigration system. These policy initiatives will allow foreign skilled workers to have streamlined access to our immigration system to help alleviate the skilled labour shortage and enable our businesses to prosper to the benefit of all Canadians.

As I campaigned in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie soliciting feedback on the next budget, the number one concern of two of my major manufacturing employers was the lack of skilled labour. I brought these concerns forward to the best Minister of Finance in the world. I am proud to say he listened. This is innovative thinking on the part of our government to deal with the problems of today. An effective immigration policy is a vital part of this government's overall plan to see the Canadian economy not only grow but thrive. If we keep on the present course, we will thrive and prosper.

Canada has weathered the storm of the economic recession better than any other G7 country with the creation of 760,000 net new jobs since 2009. We must not allow these facts to fill us with false pride. While we are strong, the world economy is still extremely fragile. In this global economy, we must continue to diversify and create wealth and stability by taking responsible steps to grow the economy without sacrificing the environment and the health and safety of Canadians. Budget 2012-13 does just that.

I am proud of the job that this government has done and is doing. I am especially proud of the fact that we will act upon constructive criticism, as demonstrated by our response to the Jenkins report in October 2011, which spoke to innovation being the wealth creator in the new economic order. I complete agree with Mr. Jenkins. Canadians live in a country rich in natural resources, but this alone will not simulate growth without innovation. It was innovation that gave Albertans, and by extension Canada, access to the wealth of the oil sands. It is innovation that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the mining sector. It will be innovation that creates wealth for future generations. With the importance of innovation being brought to light by the finding of the Jenkins report, this Conservative government took action. Within a few short months we organized a comprehensive strategy to invest $1.1 billion in research and development and made available $500 million for venture capital to leverage additional funds by the private sector.

Also in support of innovation in science and technology, our government is investing $37 million annually in Canada's granting councils, $110 million per year in the National Research Council to double support to small business through the industrial research assistance program, $95 million per year over three years and $40 million per year ongoing to make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent. There is more. There is $14 million provided to expand the industrial research and development internship program in order to place more PhD students into practical research and business.

I have seen the impact of government resources allocated to innovation in my local community. Algoma University has an entire department dedicated to the advancement and implementation of human knowledge. In Sault Ste. Marie we have made a concerted effort to invest in diversifying our economy through investment and R and D. The community, in partnership with FedNor, has supported an organization called the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. This program has attracted over $20 million to the local economy in projects, programs and investments. It has created 500 jobs in the private sector, developed research positions on health information and invasive species, and created an internationally awarded Community Geomatics Centre that now employs 20 staff and licenses technology to provide private sector companies—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The hon. member for Pontiac.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, in my riding, industries are shutting down and it is very hard for people to find good jobs in the region they grew up in.

Communities are losing their young people, and now there are employment insurance measures in Bill C-38 that will make it even harder for people to stay in their home regions and find seasonal work.

What does the member have to say to those people?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, in my community, industries are not closing. This government is investing in low corporate tax policies which are allowing our businesses to be competitive in the global environment. Believe me, two of our major employers, Essar Steel Algoma which has 3,200 employees and Tenaris Tubes which has 700 employees, are supportive of our government's low-tax policies for job creation. That is what is important. This government is focusing on job creation and innovation. That is in fact what this budget focuses on: job creation and innovation and moving this great country forward.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2012 / 9 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I believe Algoma Steel is where it is today as a result of the guy who happens to be our interim leader, whom that party over there loves to attack. In a different time, it was that individual who saved the plant.

I happened to be in Sault Ste. Marie a couple of weeks ago, and there is not satisfaction up there about Bill C-38. They are very concerned about it, and they are concerned about it in their seasonal industries.

However, the point I want to make relates to the member's comments on seniors, where he is absolutely wrong. For people who are 54 years old and saving two cents on a cup of coffee with the GST cuts so they lose their pension of $30,000 over two years, if they are in a low-income group and have to go on provincial welfare, is that doing something for future seniors? I do not think so, and the reason the government is making that—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, it is so nice to respond to the member opposite when he is not yelling at us across the room during question period. He is absolutely one of the loudest members I have ever heard.

In terms of seniors in Sault Ste. Marie, I held public consultations prior to this budget. I went throughout my riding in Goulais River, Echo Bay and Bruce Mines. I presented in front of city council in Sault Ste. Marie. I offered opportunities for all members of my riding, including seniors, to have input on the budget. That input was brought forward to the Minister of Finance and it was listened to. I am very proud of our government, and I am just so proud to be a Conservative.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for my hon. friend from Sault Ste. Marie.

We listened across the way just a short while ago about how huge this budget is and the tremendous size. The member was holding up a book and said it was bigger than a telephone book. I wonder if the member might make a comment on that.

Also, I wonder if he could tell us a bit more about the innovation centres and the tremendous investment that this government, through this budget, would make and has made in the past through research and development, the engine that will drive this economy well into the future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget we are dealing with now is, I believe, 495 pages of which I have read every page. I am a CGA by trade and I kind of like numbers. However, this is small in comparison.

Budget 2011, Bill 1, the royal assent version had 880 pages. Bill C-13 in 2011, Bill 2, the royal assent version had 644 pages. Bill C-10, budget 2009, the royal assent version—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I apologize, but I believe the record needs to be clear. I am not sure what 495-page document the member is speaking of, but the budget implementation bill has 425 pages.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am sure the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie appreciates that, but clearing the record is usually not considered a point of order.

The hon. member is out of time for questions and comments, so we will move on. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I want to express the opposition of the people of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to the Conservatives' Trojan Horse bill.

Since the budget and this bill were introduced, I have received dozens, if not hundreds, of messages opposing Bill C-38 and asking me to pass along their messages. I had the opportunity to participate in consultations organized by the official opposition in Ottawa and Regina, where I heard from many groups, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, researchers, university professors and citizens, who are opposed to both the form and substance of the bill.

Let us talk about the form of Bill C-38. This bill is supposed to be a budget implementation bill. But it includes a number of reforms that were never mentioned in the latest budget. The government is using the budget implementation as a pretext for implementing its ill-advised reforms, for which it was never elected.

Many of my colleagues have pointed out that increasing the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67 was not proposed to Canadians during the last election campaign. This government even promised not to touch pensions.

When the Minister of Finance said today that old age security and pensions are different, he was getting into semantics. Canadians did not have the opportunity to debate this issue during the election campaign, even though there were discussions between the minister and the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development before the last Parliament was dissolved. As such, this situation is an affront to democracy.

The other problem with this bill is its omnibus form. Including so many reforms that affect the environment and the fisheries and that will have such a great impact on communities without consulting those communities or experts is dangerous. Quickly throwing together an employment insurance reform is also problematic, particularly when the minister cannot name a single person or group that she consulted. These actions all constitute a significant abuse of democracy.

This bill will also affect women. The first thing that comes to mind is that women will be especially affected by the increase in the age of eligibility for old age security. Women depend on this program more than men, and this measure condemns thousands of seniors to a life of poverty.

It is estimated that this measure will triple the poverty rate among female seniors. This bill also amends the Employment Equity Act so that it no longer applies to federal contracts, which will affect a number of groups, including women. I will never understand the logic behind this measure. Do I understand correctly that profit is now more important than equality?

Such reasoning is shameful. We need to put people first. That is what motivates me to question the cuts that will have an impact on food safety. This bill will make a number of changes, including decreasing the number of food inspector positions to the same level as before the listeriosis crisis in 2008. What is more, this bill also amends the Seeds Act to give the president of the Canada Food Inspection Agency the power to issue licences to persons authorizing them to perform activities related to controlling or assuring the quality of seeds or seed crops.

Again, this part of the bill is problematic.

These changes were made without any studies and without any serious consultation. Food inspection and food safety for Canadians should be a sector where public interest comes first.

The statistics and the many witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health are clear: countless diseases and deaths are linked to food. Sometimes, they result from direct poisoning—salmonella, for example—but it is mostly because of what the food contains.

Bill C-38 also includes changes whereby the nutritional value listed on the labels will no longer be verified. The government is not giving Canadians the tools and ability to make informed choices in terms of health.

Health is another theme of this bill. One of the aspects of the budget that has people talking—and that also shocked the provincial and territorial governments—is the unilateral decision by the federal government to reduce health transfers starting in 2016. The Prime Minister himself had promised, during the leaders debate, not to reduce health transfers below the current 6% level.

After 50 years of public health insurance, our system is facing a number of challenges. Now we have to deal with an epidemic of chronic illnesses and conditions that require follow-up. We have to ensure that our health care system meets the public's needs today.

The government's decision is equivalent to eliminating the deficit at the expense of the provinces and depriving them of $31 billion, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

What is more, this government is being inconsistent. On one hand, it is saying that we have to control health costs. On the other hand, it is refusing to legislate to reduce the level of sodium and trans fats in food and it is cutting food inspection and monitoring. Those are decisions that are going to cost our health care system billions of dollars in the long run.

Let us be serious and let us be consistent. We do not have to penalize the public and the patients in order to reduce health care expenses. Let us work on prevention. Let us regulate the amount of sodium and trans fats in food, in order to make it easier for people to get healthy food. Let us work with the provincial and territorial governments to make home care available and to make prescription drugs accessible for everyone. If we want to control health care costs, we must also ensure that the money is well managed and well spent.

That is why I am surprised that this government has decided that the Auditor General should no longer have the authority to audit the spending of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We collectively invest a billion dollars every year in research, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. That is a significant amount of money that the Auditor General should look at if he deems it necessary.

Lastly, increasing the age of eligibility for old age security will have consequences for health care. Dr. John Haggie, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said:

We are greatly concerned about the move to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security. Many seniors have low incomes and delaying this relatively modest payment by two years is certain to have a negative impact...Gnawing away at Canada’s social safety net will no doubt force hard choices on some of tomorrow’s seniors... the choice between whether to buy groceries or to buy their medicine...People who skip their meds, or lack a nutritious diet or enough heat in their homes, will be sicker. In the end, this will put a greater burden on our health care system.

This is a bad bill. It implements a budget that is bad for the Canadian economy and workers. It is bad for women. It is bad for democracy. It is mediocre for the health of Canadians and for the public health care system.

That is why I am going to vote against this bill. That is why it should have been split and examined more carefully.