House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how this member and the member before him talked about Bill C-38 as a bill that has been here for hours of debate and that for that reason it should be passing. However, what the members did not point out is that the bill is fundamentally flawed.

Put simply, the fundamental flaw is that it is not a budget bill. Yes, on paper it is a budget bill, but in reality it brings in numerous changes to 60-plus pieces of legislation that the Conservative majority government is trying to sneak through the back door.

My question to the member is related to the member for Kootenay—Columbia. This Conservative member went to his constituents, sat down with them and then, after having a discussion, came up the revelation that, yes, it is a bad bill. There might be a dozen or so Conservatives who agreed with that. The problem is that the Prime Minister will not allow those members the freedom to express themselves. In fact, he implies that the backbenchers did not have a say on the bill.

My question to the member is this: did he have a say in this bill before it came to the legislature? Did he consult with his constituents? Are they like the Prime Minister's constituents or like his colleague's from British Columbia?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just read out some acts: the Auditor General Act, Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act, Broadcasting Act, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Canada Post Corporation Act, Employment Insurance Act, Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act, the Department of Human Resources Development Act, and there are many more.

What do they have in common? They were all amended in the Liberal budget of 2005.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, just because some people may say that the contents of this omnibus bill, Bill C-38, are admirable does not make the use of it any less offensive. Bill C-38 clearly is being used to slide past Parliament controversial amendments to a number of pieces of non-budgetary legislation. Equally important, if not more important, it was done to slide them past the Canadian public without allowing adequate scrutiny or due diligence. Let us be clear. The Conservatives are doing this so as to minimize the political damage to their government.

Let us consider for a moment a few items contained in Bill C-38 which on their own would have been problematic for the Conservative government.

Just one issue is the raising of the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. Had this change been given the airing it deserves, it clearly would have become a larger flashpoint with most Canadians than it had been already while neatly tucked inside Bill C-38. On that point, in my time in Parliament I have never seen such blundering and mishandling of a trial balloon as happened with the changes to OAS eligibility. It began in Davos when the PMO media notes contained a reference to a potential change to OAS. Then after the opposition questioned the minister daily for a full week, finally the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development gave indications there was some need for something to happen to OAS. Finally, after 10 days, the Minister of Finance spoke, saying something was likely to happen but not before 2020 or 2025. Of course, during the time lag before anybody from government had the decency to respond, there was a firestorm from seniors that somehow their incomes would be cut. Then of course seniors got mad, as they learned their kids would have to work two additional years.

I remind government members that OAS is not a pension. OAS is a retirement security payment to protect seniors from literally starving. One has to ask what would have become of these changes had they been given stand-alone consideration in a single bill before the human resources committee.

Equally concerning to thousands of Canadians are the changes within Bill C-38 that move to make it harder for seasonal workers to claim EI on a repeating basis as their seasonal type of work demands.

I personally believe that the Conservatives' limiting the length of time environmental reviews of major construction projects can be drawn out may well be considered wise in Conservative circles, but I ask, does anybody here truly believe that the one-third of Bill C-38 that deals with the environment should not properly be in a bill or bills of its own? Having said this, I also believe the Conservatives have significantly underestimated Canadians' commitment to the environment. Surely no one in this House of Commons believes Canadians can be fooled simply because major environmental changes are tucked inside an omnibus budget bill.

The very existence of Bill C-38 suggests that the Conservatives believe Canadians are so dumb as to not realize this is all being done solely to minimize public awareness and avoid criticism. This Herculean act of misjudgment, will certainly come back to haunt each and every Conservative who votes for Bill C-38. Just as the Conservatives drove the agenda on the gun registry for 20 years, using it over and over to raise millions of dollars, Bill C-38 has now handed their opposition the very same type of issue going forward to the 2015 election.

In a solely political sense, I would have to say that the Conservatives' use of Bill C-38 in such a comprehensive manner is an especially terrible use of an omnibus law-making bill. Bill C-38 contains in excess of 750 clauses and amends nearly 70 laws.

One area alone affected by Bill C-38 which I believe has yet to strike home with Canadians is the changes in the oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.

Bill C-38 removes the office of the Inspector General of CSIS and passes the responsibility of that office to the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the minister. Canadians, at least the ones my age, will remember when CSIS was formed in 1984. It was formed because a so-called dirty trick squad of the RCMP had crossed the line and was ultimately disbanded. When CSIS was created, the position of Inspector General was created to avoid a similar failure at the organization as the one that had happened with the RCMP.

In the shadowy world of counter-intelligence and in light of the shadow of the 9/11 tragedy, the oversight of CSIS is all the more essential. It should not be surprising to anyone in this place that a government that wants to hide its massive changes to Canada's laws on protecting the environment from Canadians in an omnibus bill just might want CSIS' secrets to remain in that secretive world.

What is amazing to watch is how so many good people across the way have allowed themselves to become party to the omnibus bill. How can they so easily set aside in their minds what is right and proper about the parliamentary system? How can they take partisanship to such a new low? They do not have to agree or even remotely accept what the opposition parties think, but they have decided that their opinion is so solid and so right, that the changes contained in Bill C-38 are so urgent that they must forgo proper committee and expert scrutiny.

The parliamentary system evolved for a single purpose and that was to protect the rights of the Canadian people, rights first enshrined by the Magna Carta nearly 1,000 years ago.

The consolidation of power within the PMO is not a new thing in this place. Pierre Trudeau used it. Mike Harris used it in Ontario. Does anybody recall the minister of education in Ontario, John Snobelen, in the mid-1990s? He was the minister who was caught on camera saying his government had to create a crisis in education in order to advance its right-wing agenda.

It is strange how those who evoked the great ideals of government accountability and transparency during the 2006 election are violating those very promises with Bill C-38.

Parliamentary language rules prevent me from declaring the Conservatives for what they have become, but I can say that Canadians are already doing just that. Of course, instead of humbly accepting well-earned criticism and withdrawing Bill C-38, we will shortly see them follow through with its passage, all the while hiding a gross abandonment of their parliamentary responsibilities to the Canadians whom they represent behind the bill's title: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That title is one of the most offensive misuses of that particular language ever seen in this place.

Even if some changes to the environmental law proposed in Bill C-38 may be warranted, that fact has not been established. Yes, it would be inconvenient for the government to deal with its proposed changes in a public session with expert witnesses. Would that be because the Conservatives cannot get experts to back their assertions, or could it be because expert scientists already clearly do not support the Conservatives' views on global warming and the degradation of our children's environment is okay because it generates enough profit?

When the official opposition puts the hard questions to this group of Conservatives, we often hear them bellow and roar a variety of responses that may in the short term relieve their stress but do little to relieve their responsibility for the travesty they are taking part in here today.

There is a mantra we hear that big government is bad, that it spends too much, that low taxes are the only way. The same people will say they always pay their bills and that they are honest citizens. They may well be, but they are wrong about a couple of things. Canadians are willing to pay for the services they receive. They simply want transparency and accountability for those costs.

Does that sound familiar? It sounds like 2006 again. It should. Governments, it has been said, are not defeated; they, in their actions, defeat themselves. Just as the gun registry bill led the Liberals to their defeat in 2006, I predict that Bill C-38 will become the turning point that leads to the end of the Conservative government in 2015.

Can any of the Conservatives across the way tell me how changing the access to EI would help Canada's unemployed? Can anyone across the way tell me how removing the Auditor General's examination of 12 agencies would somehow help Canadians? Can anyone tell me how forcing Canadians to work two years longer would help them? Can anyone across the way tell me how changing the environmental laws to reduce environmental assessments a hundredfold would somehow help Canadians?

This Conservative government, with its reckless excessive corporate tax cuts and the HST cut, has taken $30 billion a year out of the income of the federal government.

I recall when I first started my working career what was being said was “a fair day's work for a fair day's pay”. I lived my working career by that saying, and I still do.

Because I believe in health care, because I believe in a good retirement security system that protects our seniors, because I believe we are responsible for those who cannot take care of themselves, I have never once complained about paying my taxes, but I have complained about how they have been spent over the years.

Yes, I support government accountability and transparency. The question that remains to be seen is if the Conservatives in this House still do.

I will move now to a summary. Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, goes far beyond tax and monetary measures to make changes to dozens of policy areas, including the environment, natural resources and human resources.

All of the opposition parties were clear in the finance committee. We believed we should not have been asked to vote on a budget bill that grants cabinet the power to make far-reaching regulatory changes as seen within Bill C-38. Bill C-38 has 400 plus pages. I want everyone watching at home today to clearly understand that this is just the beginning. There will be yet another budget bill in the fall.

Here are a few points. First, there is a near total environmental overhaul in Bill C-38 that does not belong in a budget bill. The government wants a one project, one review environmental system so it is repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and replacing it with the Canadian environmental assessment act 2012. I want to stress that it would reduce assessments a hundredfold. That type of decision does not belong with the finance committee.

The bill also sets out limits for completion of reviews. The minister would have the power to shut down a review panel if he thought it would not finish on time. What is on time? On time is when we give the proper study to protect the environment for our children and our grandchildren. How can anyone say that this belongs in a budget bill? This particular type of decision needs the due diligence supplied by a comprehensive review by experts and by the committee that is tasked with such a review, not five minutes of questions at finance committee.

One day in finance committee when we were reviewing Bill C-38, we had witnesses. One wanted to talk about genetically modified seeds, another one the environment, another one the fisheries, and it went on. We had seven people sitting there. Each one had a serious topic. We got to ask five minutes of questions. Where do we even start with that comprehensive panel? We went through panel after panel with the same type of problem.

Consider the EI definition for suitable work. That does not belong before the finance committee. Anyone here clearly knows it should have gone before the human resources committee. Bill C-38 would remove the definition of suitable work from the Employment Insurance Act and give the federal cabinet the power to create new regulations about what constitutes suitable work and reasonable efforts to work. The bill gives no details about what the new criteria would be.

How does the decision on removing the oversight of the Auditor General belong in a finance bill? After Bill C-38, the Auditor General would no longer be required to annually audit several agencies, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Northern Pipeline Agency and the Canadian Polar Commission. These agencies would submit annual financial reports to the minister instead. I said this at committee and I will say it again here today: how does putting the fox in charge of the henhouse create jobs and prosperity?

Backlogged immigration applications would be eliminated. Among the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is a move to wipe out a backlog of 280,000 applications under the skilled worker program. Skilled workers are particularly what western Canada is screaming for. That list would be wiped out. Applications made before 2008 would be deleted. The Conservatives are gracious though, they would refund the fee. They have just taken away people's dreams of coming to Canada and being a part of and contributing to this great country.

At the finance committee, we heard a very compelling intervention on these immigration changes from the member for Newton—North Delta. She asked the committee to consider, and I will ask the people here today, “How do these changes which will destroy the dreams of people who trusted in Canada somehow create jobs and prosperity? How in the world can this be justified within a budget bill with the claim that it will improve our prosperity?”

The Fisheries Act changes contained in Bill C-38 do not belong at a finance committee. Where is our expertise at finance to deal with the fisheries? It is very clear where that belongs.

Bill C-38 would shut down several government-funded groups and agencies, including the National Council of Welfare, the Public Appointments Commission, Rights and Democracy, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada.

It would create a new social security tribunal to hear appeals on decisions made by old age security, employment insurance and other programs. It would create a Shared Services Canada department.

When we stop to consider the breadth of what is happening here, if we really pause and look at the 400-plus pages, the 700 clauses, there are areas of the bill that require expertise in given areas that are not areas of responsibility of the finance committee, areas that clearly belong with human resources, immigration and other places.

What is happening in this place is the removal of the trust that Canadians have given us, each one of us. We were all elected to come here for one purpose: to stand up and scrutinize the government, and to work with the government to provide the due diligence on governmental laws and legislation necessary to ensure that the changes being made are the best possible changes for the people.

We hear members on the other side talk about working together. In the same motion they turn around and limit debate or they come out with a bill like this. A bill like this hand-ties all members of Parliament to the place where they cannot do the due diligence that they are responsible to do. I ask the members on the other side of this House to reconsider what is being done, to stand up for Canadians they claim to support and represent, and do the due diligence.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 18th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked about the changes to EI in Bill C-38 and how they would benefit the people who are collecting employment insurance benefits. Bill C-38 would increase the ceiling at which earnings are clawed back from the benefits on EI. Someone who is on claim, officially unemployed but doing a job not quite at the level he or she was employed at previously, can still earn money and earn more money as a consequence of the bill.

How is being able to earn more money while on claim a bad thing? How is it not a benefit to the employee?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may shock the member but I actually think that is a good provision. I think there are a number of good provisions contained in Bill C-38.

However, because they are masked in the fashion they are, because they have been slid under the table where people cannot give them the scrutiny, we will never know. The provisions are not allowed to go to the appropriate committee to be looked at, for us to do due diligence. So we will never know. What is worse is that Canadians will not know until it hits them.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the issue of the ability of members to scrutinize this legislation. I thought the member's comments were well placed.

The member will be familiar with an exchange of correspondence between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Parliamentary Budget Officer asked for financial and economic data for 82 departments and agencies. He was blown off by 74 of them, and 8 responded.

Now the Parliamentary Budget Officer is having to take the government to court to fulfill the government's Bill C-2 in 2006, the accountability legislation. The ironies are resplendent. We have spent more than 24 hours voting in the last week. We were not only tired, but now we are also voting blind. How is it that members of Parliament, let alone the PBO, can scrutinize legislation, if in fact the government just blows off the Parliamentary Budget Officer?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good point. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is at arm's-length from this place. He was put there by the Conservative government to help with its accountability and transparency and it shut the door on him. He is closer to the Canadian people now than he is to the government, because he is standing on guard for the Canadian people.

When people talk about deregulation and red tape, I am reminded of my favourite country singer Kris Kristofferson who has a song entitled The Law Is for Protection of the People. It is time for the Conservative government to follow the law that it created.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his fine work in the House of Commons. I would like to ask him a question on OAS. All of us in the House know that only the poorest of the poor seniors are entitled to OAS. Even the deniers on the other side of the House know that is a fact.

Why does the hon. member think that the Prime Minister went to Davos to announce the change to the OAS and did not campaign on that issue during the last federal election?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not profess to read the mind of the Prime Minister but I do understand that the Prime Minister is somewhat of an expert on tactics.

Anybody who considers this change understands that the Canadian people would be strongly concerned by it. People now under the age of 54 would have to work two years longer. People on Ontario disability who would have received a modest boost at the age of 65 would not receive it until 67. People who, God help them, have lost their jobs and are on welfare would have to wait two more years to get it. Would the member want to raise that in Canada?

The reality is that the total, abysmal mishandling of that situation and the fear that it caused Canadians from coast to coast is reprehensible. The reality is that it took 14 days for the government to come to the House with a clear message. Seniors had two weeks. Some misunderstood the message and thought they were going to lose their pensions. That was a total disregard for their feelings.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I do not often agree but we sit on finance committee together and I certainly appreciate his work there.

I want to focus more on the NDP's argument that certain issues only belong in certain committees. If we are dealing with OAS, we have to deal with human resources committee. If we are dealing with environment, we deal with environment committee. Finance committee should not be dealing with these issues.

As my colleague knows, the budget implementation act follows the budget and the budget follows prebudget consultations, which have just started again at finance committee. When we do prebudget consultations, we hear about OAS, retirement savings, employment insurance, and we hear from all sorts of environmental groups. Does my colleague think we should restrict the prebudget consultations and not hear from any of these groups? Over 400 of them presented at finance committee. They expect their views to be reflected in the prebudget report, then in the budget and then in the budget implementation act. If they are restricted at this end in terms of which committee they should go to, is my colleague now suggesting that we change the whole gamut with respect to prebudget consultations and make them more restrictive?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that those briefs we hear at the prebudget hearings that apply to other areas, like fisheries, be shared with those committees. I would suggest that any legislation that comes out of those hearings should be the prerogative of the group within that ministry, with that minister, to put forward.

Finance committee should not be the catch-all for everything. An omnibus bill like this does not serve Canadians well. The reality is that it needs more due diligence than we can provide within the context of finance committee. Many hours of work were done but the limited focus that we could apply did not allow us to dig down in the manner we should have. Anybody can judge whether or not our questions are of good quality or low quality, but it belongs with the expertise of fisheries committee, or it belongs at HRDC committee. It does not belong in finance.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Crowfoot took the position that none of the amendments were meant to improve the act. I am picking up on a point also made by the hon. member who just spoke.

I want to make it clear that the amendments that I put forward honoured the government's intent to streamline and shorten the hearings. My amendments proposed to continue the 24 month limit on a panel review of an environment project. I added an important amendment. If the proponent is dragging out the time, the clock stops. A large oil company, for instance, could not say it did not get its environmental assessment report done on time, it took 18 months, so the rest of the intervenors have 6 months to study the project.

Much is wrong with Bill C-38. One of the most egregious things is the failure of the House of Commons, with only 12 hours of witnesses before the subcommittee that dealt with both environmental assessment and the Fisheries Act, to even scratch the surface of the damage that will be done.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am in agreement with the member on this point. There are a lot of disadvantages to sitting as one person from a party, but one of the advantages is that the member was allowed to give those kinds of proposals in the House.

We gave over 61 very focused amendments at the finance committee. Each and every one were defeated by government members. Again, if we had people who were more expert on the given topic, on the given part of the legislation, they may well have come to a different determination. We had people who were focused on putting through a particular bill, and that is their job.

However, the job of an MP goes much further. The job of an MP is to do the honest due diligence. Part of the job that we are all failing on these days is working together to make legislation better. We have to take down the walls in this place. We have to start to work together. It is not what comes out of the PMO that runs the Parliament of Canada. It has to be the work of this body.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and contribute to the debate on the third reading of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

Bill C-38 would implement the measures announced in the March budget speech. My comments this afternoon will focus on several of the themes contained in that budget, and those are the need to return to fiscal discipline, reduce the size and cost of government, reduce deficits and eventually pay off the Canadian debt which is in excess of $590 billion and counting.

Certainly the Canadian economy is the envy of the industrialized world, with healthy job growth, a manageable rate of unemployment and comparatively low levels of debt. However, this is not to state that Canadians can be complacent about either our debt or our economy. The recovery is fragile and the situation in Europe is even more so.

As countries in Europe, specifically Greece, Spain, Italy and even Great Britain, have demonstrated, growth in public sector spending in excess of growth of the economy cannot continue forever. High deficits will inevitably lead to higher interest rates and exchange rates, capital leaving the country and higher taxes in the future.

High debt mortgages our country's future and imposes higher taxes on future generations that are forced to pay for the current borrowing. This is the ultimate violation of the principle of no taxation without representation.

I forgot to mention at the outset, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

Several months ago, I attended a conference in Ottawa put on by the Manning Institute, Preston Manning's Conservative think tank. The Manning Centre has published credible research indicating that a vast majority of Canadians are becoming less dependent on government. In fact, 66% of Canadians expect less of their government, except in core areas of government services such as in public safety. Canadians are increasingly becoming more reliant on themselves, their families and volunteer organizations such as churches and as a result they are becoming less reliant on government.

Sadly, part of this is due to Canadians' perception of government's inability to actually solve any of their problems. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. Regardless, I believe that self-reliance is a positive trend.

Stimulus spending notwithstanding, the cost and size of the federal government is bloated and I would suggest bloated unnecessarily. Between 1999 and 2009, the Canadian population increased by 11%, but the federal government's civilian workforce grew by 35%. Meanwhile, public-sector compensation grew by 59% as compared to only 30% in the private sector. Canada is fortunate to have an outstanding civil service. However, if balanced budgets are to be achieved, all sustainable trends must be addressed.

Any business which has experienced human resource shortages in its own business, and we have a lot of them in Alberta, knows all too well the competition from the public sector, with attractive wages, benefits and pensions, adds to the difficulties a private business has in attracting and retaining qualified labour. We simply cannot continue to grow government in the way that we have been.

I will talk about some specific areas where the federal government must engage in cost containment to avoid a system that becomes so expensive that it will eventually collapse under its own weight. These costs would be contained by measures taken in Bill C-38.

The first is the old age security system. The old age security system is funded through tax revenues and is premised on there being enough taxpayers to support retirees. However, by 2030, the number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from today's 4.7 million to 9.3 million. Two demographic trends that exacerbate the issue are that Canadians are living longer and our fertility rates have steadily been declining. When OAS was first introduced, life expectancy for Canadians was 71. Today it is 82. Consequently, the cost of OAS will increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion by 2030. Meanwhile, by that same year, the ratio of taxpayer to retiree will be 2:1, down from its current 4:1. This trend is clearly unsustainable and must be addressed now in order to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the entire system.

Second, Canada must seriously look at many of its social safety net mechanisms, given their increased cost and ultimate unaffordability. In my view, no problem is more troubling than our current system of employment insurance.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan employers cannot fill tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and are often forced to seek expensive temporary foreign workers to fill everything from skilled jobs in the construction and pipeline industries to service jobs in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

However, in other parts of the country hundreds and thousands of Canadians are collecting employment insurance, many for parts of the year, every year, for decades. In fact, employment insurance, by its very design, incents unemployed workers to do just that: to go on and off employment insurance rather than seek out stable employment elsewhere.

In the areas of the country with the highest unemployment, the qualifying period for employment insurance is the lowest. This, in my view, represents one of the worst failures of the modern welfare state. In an attempt to reduce income equality and regional disparity, the government has actually created a system which discourages human resources for moving to parts of the economy that are operating more efficiently.

Those who can work should work. Bill C-38 makes it clear that unemployed Canadians are expected to find a job when and where it is reasonable to do so. Safety net programs such as EI were designed as temporary insulators from unemployment, not as a substitute for employment. Dignity is enhanced not diminished when reliance on EI is replaced by gainful employment.

I just want to mention a word about environmental protection because much misinformation has been proferred concerning the government's concern or alleged lack of concern for environmental protection.

Clearly, Canadians deserve the cleanest air, water and environment possible. However, Canadians also value jobs and a functioning economy. In fact, over the next 10 years, more than 500 proposed new projects, representing potentially $500 billion in new investment, will be under consideration in Canada.

Currently, developers undertaking major projects must navigate a complex often repetitive maze of regulatory requirements and processes. However, by providing predictable timelines for project approval, Bill C-38 would streamline and rationalize the environmental approval process. This is key. Canadians should not confuse quantity and length of the environmental approval process with a quality environmental approval process. Bill C-38 would prevent long delays that kill potential jobs, investment and stall economic growth for projects that would not have any negative environmental impact.

Bill C-38 fulfills the government's commitment to practise fiscal discipline and return to balanced budgets. Although short-term debt is tolerable and sometimes even necessary, excessive long-term debt is incompatible with long-term economic growth.

Currently, $30.9 billion, almost $31 billion, or 11¢ of every tax dollar, is paid on public debt charges, otherwise known as interest. Accordingly if we had no public debt, and therefore no interest charges, we would be running essentially balanced if not surplus budgets. Alternatively, for those members how are interested in program spending or social engineering, had there been no public debt, there would be an additional $31 billion available for spending on whatever programs are important to them.

Government cannot, in the long term, sustain economic growth through public spending. Canadians spending left unchecked has not led to economic growth anywhere. It is quite the opposite. Extreme public debt has led to crises in Greece, Italy and Portugal, economic downturn and political deadlock in the United States and extreme austerity measures in Great Britain.

However, some Canadians believe that we are somehow immune from such basic economic realities. Worse, there appears to be a real disconnect between government and the taxpayers who we represent.

Fiscal Conservatives understand that the government has no money except for that which it taxes from its citizens and corporations. Fiscal spendthrifts erroneously believe that the government magically like fairy dust has resources of its own and therefore can generously spend on all projects and all programs without consequence. Government does not create wealth. It merely redistributes wealth. It only spends resources taken out of the private economy.

Government programs and Public Works can and do sustain demand in the short term, but they also monopolize available resources, taking them away from private business and resulting in the eventual slowdown of our economy. Accordingly the best long-term economic stimulus is for government to reduce its spending, pay down its debt and let resources be allocated in a sustainable method through private investment.

The great Margaret Thatcher once said, “And, you know, there is no such thing as a society“. She went on to say:

There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour...people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation...

The next time a member of Parliament asks if a certain program or project is a necessity and affordable, we should ask two questions: Who is entitled? Who has the obligation to pay? We will soon learn that the answer is one and the same.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of this budget is streamlining environmental assessment. I know his riding sits at one end of a pipeline and my riding sits at the other end of a pipeline. I wonder if the member, like many of his colleagues, supports the new Kinder Morgan pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby?