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 budget.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her excellent work on this file.

She may be aware that last week the World Health Organization declared diesel exhaust to be a carcinogen on the same level as asbestos and mustard gas. As she knows, that is a serious concern for the residents of her riding, my riding, Davenport and all of Toronto.

However, the Conservative government has proposed a bill that, if passed today, would remove human health from the list of things that are an effect of the environment. It would not matter whether the WHO has said that something is now dangerous, because if there were to be an environmental assessment under the proposed law, human health would not be part of the mix. Only fish, waterfowl and species at risk would be studied as a result of the changes the Conservatives are proposing to make. Human health would be in danger as a result of these changes, particularly in Toronto. I wonder if the member would like to comment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

I thank my colleague from York South—Weston for his excellent question and his diligent work on this file around the issue of diesel and the impact of diesel exhaust. He is quite right that in many of our communities in the west end of Toronto, we are facing the prospect of diesel trains rolling through neighbourhoods every seven minutes, past child care centres, schools, community centres and homes built near the tracks.

This dramatic densification of rail traffic is completely unjustifiable. We have been pushing that this train be electric so that it would be clean, efficient and without noise or vibration, like cities all around the world have.

However, without the requirement to consider human health as part of the environmental assessment, how would we ever capture this important, crucial element of the carcinogenic properties of diesel and the very dramatic, concrete impact that would have on communities in my riding and throughout the west end of Toronto?

I thank my colleague for his question and hard work on this issue. I would also call on my counterparts in government. If they want to do something to create jobs, to improve the environment, to build communities and to support our urban environment, then they should invest in clean trains, especially for the air-rail link in Toronto.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague across the way. A number of times she has insinuated that the changes regarding the environment in Bill C-38 are going to be harmful to the environment, when in fact they will be helpful to improve the environment.

Regarding the assessments, there was a legislative review of the Environmental Assessment Act in the previous fall session. A number of recommended changes came from that study. Those changes are now part of Bill C-38, and they are good changes. Those changes make environmental assessments much more effective. There were a lot of inefficiencies before.

Why would the member oppose improving the environment and mislead this Parliament and Canadians by trying to make Canadians think it is going to be harmful, when in fact it will actually be very good for the environment?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, that question makes me feel profoundly sad, because if that is the kind of approach the member wants environmental organizations to take, I can see why every major environmental organization in this country is somehow deemed radical by the government. It is because they are speaking the truth by saying that what the government is doing will harm the environment, will gut our environmental protections, will harm fish habitats and our wilderness areas.

The government is eliminating the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which was a body designed to bring together diverse viewpoints from business, environmentalists and first nations and bring people together to try to find common ground. Is that not what we should be doing here in Parliament—trying to find common ground and concrete solutions that work for Canadians—rather than demonizing environmentalists, disregarding their reports and somehow having this doublespeak that pretends what is bad for the environment is good for the environment? I do not think that is helpful.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 amends or repeals 70 different pieces of legislation. It is 425 pages of legislative text with 753 clauses.

There has been a lot of focus on the length of the bill. In fact, my party and I are more concerned with the breadth of the bill and the range of legislative changes made by Bill C-38. In fact, that is much more important than the number of words or pages. To put this in perspective, it often takes just a single clause in Bill C-38 to repeal or introduce an entire act.

Proposed in Bill C-38, we now have an entirely new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in clause 52. This one clause replaces decades of environmental protection and oversight in Canada.

Clause 441 repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.

Clause 447 increased the old age security qualification age from 65 to 67.

Clause 686 abolishes the National Council on Welfare.

Clause 699 repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Clause 711 introduces an entirely new Shared Services Canada Act.

These are just a sampling of a few of the 753 clauses contained in this legislation.

Under the Conservatives, budget bills have grown tremendously in breadth. These pieces of omnibus legislation have become more complex, affecting widely disparate subjects and putting them into a single bill. At the same time, the Conservatives are limiting Parliament's ability to examine these different topics in several ways: first, by limiting the amount of time we have to examine the legislation before rushing it through committee; second, by limiting the number of expert witnesses we can hear from at committee; and third, by limiting the debate on this legislation in Parliament.

There is another way that the government is operating at committee to try to subvert reasonable debate and quash any dissension to its views. We heard from a number of witnesses who spoke at length in opposition to parts of this legislation. National Chief Shawn Atleo spoke to our committee. Perversely, most of Mr. Atleo's testimony and the intent of his testimony were actually expunged from the report that the committee presented. Contrary to what the researchers provided, the governing members on the committee worked together to ensure that we would effectively expunge any piece of testimony that may be critical of the government's system.

The same was done with Tom Siddon, a former minister of fisheries in a Progressive Conservative government, who said that this legislation would make “Swiss cheese” out of the Fisheries Act and warned us of the remarkably harmful damage to the Fisheries Act that would be rendered by this legislation. Most of the intent of his testimony was effectively expunged from the final report.

Over 600 clauses are included in parts 1, 2 and 4 of the bill, but the finance committee had just over a week to hear from a grand total of 57 witnesses from outside of the government. Most clauses in this legislation were not properly examined by the finance committee or addressed by even a single witness. Simply put, the process to study Bill C-38 was a farce.

Unfortunately, last spring the Conservatives learned that parliamentary process does not seem at the present to matter a lot to Canadians. They also learned this in Ontario with the omnibus bills of the Harris government.

I mentioned last spring that it was this Conservative government that became the first government not only in Canada but in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system to have actually been found in contempt of Parliament by the previous Speaker and House.

Elections are about a lot of issues. Sometimes an issue will resonate with Canadians and sometimes it will not. In that election, for whatever reason, a lot of Canadians did not seem to be paying attention to the fact that we had a sitting government that had been found in contempt of Parliament.

The Harris Conservative government in Ontario repeatedly used massive omnibus legislation. It disrespected Parliament, disrespected taxpayers and got away with it.

The Conservatives have in some ways been positively reinforced for negative behaviour, but things are changing. We are increasingly hearing from Canadians. We are hearing from them through all forms of media, whether it is opinion letters in newspapers, online fora, or in person.

Last evening I was at my home in Cheverie and I took my Gator down to the end of our drive to plant some trees. A fellow on his motorbike out for a Sunday evening drive stopped to speak to me. I had not met this fellow before. He told me that he has paid a bit of attention to politics but has never been involved, but he wants to get involved now. He said this has gone too far, that the Conservative government is out of control. He said that what we are seeing in Ottawa is not a democratic government.

I hear that also from people at the farmers' market in Wolfville. They tell me that the government wants to celebrate the veterans of the Second World War who fought for our freedoms, but they want to know how the government can on the one hand celebrate the sacrifices and commitment of the veterans who fought for our democratic rights and freedoms while on the other hand attacking those same democratic rights and freedoms.

I am hearing that from people in my riding, and I am hearing from members of our caucus from across Canada that increasingly Canadians are noticing and are willing to get engaged and involved to find a better alternative.

This is not esoteric parliamentary procedure stuff that the Conservatives are trying to pretend. This strikes to the core values of respect for Parliament and democracy.

I will be speaking later about our inability to get legitimate information from the government about the legislation we are going to vote on, but suffice it to say that by limiting public debate and oversight, the Conservatives are hoping that Canadians will be too distracted by process issues to notice what they will really be doing with this legislation. The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians with the process issues, and a lot of us have focused on the process issues. The Conservatives are quite happy about that, because they do not think Canadians really care about the democratic institutions that govern us and defend our freedoms. The Conservatives are wrong. They are betting against the goodwill, the good faith and the intelligence of Canadians in the long term.

I want to talk about a couple of the changes being made that the Conservatives are largely ducking responsibility and accountability for. One is the OAS change. The Conservatives are saying that this is really not a cut. They should explain that to a low-income Canadian who is looking forward to becoming 65 to quality for OAS. Let us look at who will be affected by these changes.

Forty per cent of OAS recipients make less than $20,000 a year. Fifty-three per cent of OAS recipients make less than $25,000 a year. The Conservatives are telling Canadians that they will have 11 years to start saving a bit more money. It is pretty hard to tell people who are making $20,000 a year that they have to save more money, and that is effectively what the Conservatives are telling a lot of Canadians.

The Conservatives are telling Canadians that they are living longer, that they are healthier. Lawyers, accountants, members of Parliament or journalists can probably work, if health permits, until 75 or 80 years of age.

My father was a businessman. He worked until he was 82. However, in the case of manual labourers, working in a cold, damp fish plant on a concrete floor every day, on their feet all day; welders; physical labourers; carpenters; or pipe fitters, chances are by the age of 65 their bodies are ready for a break. There was no consideration of these people, the low-income Canadians being affected by this.

The government is quite happy that the issues around Bill C-38 have focused on parliamentary process and not on the actual issues. We have lots of time before the next election to ensure that we get back to those substantive issues with Canadians.

I am hearing from a lot of industries across Canada, and specifically in Atlantic Canada, on changes to EI, particularly from significant employers in seasonal industries, including horticulture. They tell me that these changes could wipe them out, that programs to support seasonal workers are part of the production chain of agriculture and horticulture, not just in Canada but globally. They say that any impediment to the use of seasonal workers or seasonal worker programs in the horticulture industry could wreak havoc on their capacity to be competitive with industries in other countries.

The legislation is also hurting Canada's international brand by tearing up 100,000 immigration applications. The Conservatives are imposing their unilateral decision to reduce health care transfer payment growth to the provinces and territories. They are enabling themselves to target charities with which they disagree. While they are at it, they have eliminated groups with which they disagree, including the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Rights and Democracy, and the National Council of Welfare. What do those groups have in common? Number one, they were set up decades ago. Number two, they reported to governments and would disagree with governments from time to time. Number three, their funding was continued under both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments, which could accept the principle that governments do not just fund organizations that agree with them. They have a responsibility in a functioning democracy to accept truth from experts, from people who spend their lives dealing with these issues, like the National Council of Welfare that understands the issues of poverty in Canada, or the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Most people have accepted that we cannot put in silos the economy on one side and the environment on the other, that good environmental policy can actually be good economic policy and that the jobs of the future are going to be increasingly green jobs, including areas of opportunity in cleaner conventional energy in places like the oil sands where we can develop those technologies. Why then, for goodness' sake, would the Conservatives get rid of a government council that has operated for decades dealing with this issue, just at the time when Canada has to deal with the issue of bringing the economy and the environment together?

Bill C-38 reduces the Auditor General's oversight of a number of government agencies. It reduces democratic oversight of Canada's spy agency by abolishing the office of the inspector general. It eliminates a number of the government's reporting requirements on climate change and public service jobs. It makes changes that some experts are warning us are unconstitutional, like changes to parole hearings.

However, I believe Canadians are hitting a tipping point where we will no longer accept this anti-democratic style and substance of the government. For some time the Conservatives have been starving Canadians and members of Parliament of the information we need to have informed debate and to make informed decisions.

The Conservatives treat Parliament as an enemy, one that they try to starve of information and co-operation. They refuse to provide basic information, for instance about how much legislation would cost. In the fall of 2010, I put forward a motion at the finance committee, demanding that the government provide us with information about the costs of the F-35s and of its prison agenda. My motions were adopted, but the government continued to refuse to disclose the information. I appealed to Parliament through a question of privilege. I argued that MPs have a fiduciary responsibility to Canadians. We must know how much legislation would cost before we vote on it.

This is not just a responsibility we have as opposition members of Parliament. It is very important that the members of Parliament in the government recognize that the Conservative MPs have the same job description that we do. We have the same fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and to citizens and to our electors to know the cost of the legislation we are voting on. To vote blindly, without even demanding that information, is to not do our job. That is effectively what the Conservatives are failing to do when they are complicit with a government that starves Parliament of this vital information. The Conservative MPs are failing to do their job. By denying us that information, the government is denying Canadians this information.

That is why we see today that the Parliamentary Budget Officer, appointed by the Conservatives, has been pushed to the limit where he is not being given information on legislation from the government. He asked for simple information on the impact of cuts over the future fiscal years. He received the response that the government cannot provide him with that information. A legal opinion came out this morning that the law the Conservatives are breaking is section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act. We have a government that is actually breaking the law. This law gives Parliament, through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, free and timely access to any financial or economic data. Who brought in that law? I think it was the Conservatives. It was part of their Accountability Act. So they make the law and then they break the law.

The reality is that the Conservatives, many from the Reform Party background, rode into Ottawa on this white horse of accountability, defending the interests of Parliament against the executive, defending the interests of the taxpayers against those who would not defend their interests here in Ottawa and those who would not provide them with information on legislation. Now it is the Conservatives who are quashing all that. The reality is that the Conservatives, who won an election promising openness, transparency and accountability, are the least open, least transparent and least accountable government in the history of Canada.

We have a responsibility. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has a responsibility to do his job. He takes that seriously. He has asked for information, not on his own behalf but for Parliament, so that members of Parliament can do their job. Our parliamentary system relies on hon. members to act honourably and it expects that members of Parliament's questions will be answered fully and completely. However, when MPs ask substantive questions to ministers or even to officials at committee, these questions are routinely evaded or ignored. Even order paper questions are now ignored. Shortly after budget 2012 was released, I submitted several order paper questions, seeking a government-wide breakdown of financial information in the three most recent budgets. I believe I am the only MP to have done this. The response from the government was basically “no”. In fact, it sent me a copy of the table that I referenced in my request and asked for more detailed information. It simply sent me the table, to add insult to injury.

In disrespecting Parliament and members of Parliament, the Conservative government is disrespecting the Canadians who chose the Parliament. It is in disrespecting Parliament, and not giving us the cost of legislation, that the government is disrespecting taxpayers.

We will have, in the coming years, an opportunity to debate with Canadians some of the substantive and deleterious impacts of this legislation on the lives of Canadians. It is very important that we fulfill our responsibility as MPs to defend this Parliament against a tyrannical government that no longer cares about Parliament and the democratic rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kings—Hants for his very fine statement.

I know that the people in his riding, in his region, are experiencing much the same thing as the people in my region.

In Bill C-38, there is one component that obviously affects employment insurance. In my riding, surprisingly, although seasonal workers have been vocal on the issue, they are not the ones who have been the most vocal—the employers have been. The reason is that seasonal employers train their workforce. The employment insurance reform announced in Bill C-38 could cause these employers to lose the workforce they trained, since their workforce could be forced to accept lower-paying jobs or to move in order to take a more stable job outside the region. I am sure that regions like mine or my colleague’s will be caught off guard.

I would like to hear what the member for Kings—Hants has to say about the reality of the proposed employment insurance reform and the impact it will have on his riding.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the hon. member's question.

According to business leaders in my riding, there will clearly be a negative impact on businesses and their ability to survive, particularly in the tourism and agricultural industries. I am hearing that it will be very difficult for these industries to stay in business.

When I speak with business and industry leaders in my riding and elsewhere, it is clear that there was no consultation process before these ideological changes were introduced. When the government makes decisions without consulting anyone and adopts a completely ideological mindset, it creates a lot of crises—not just for workers, but also for businesses—regarding the possibility of increasing the number of jobs in the future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is a colleague on the finance committee. We have spent quite a few hours together the last couple of weeks. We have exchanged a lot of ideas and opinions and listened to quite a few witnesses. We had 50 hours of extra committee time for this budget. That is just the finance committee. I am not talking about the 20 hours in the subcommittee. There were 70 hours of committee time committed to the budget itself. Many witnesses testified. In fact, there were so many witnesses and so much time allocated that the NDP kept asking the same questions over and over again.

I find it really interesting that he complained about the process. I think the reason opposition members are talking about process is due to the fact that the budget is such a sound and good document for the economy as a whole. The Liberals would rather talk about process because they know the budget itself is good.

My question for my colleague is with regard to environmental assessments. The premier of Saskatchewan has talked quite extensively about the one-stop shop for environmental assessments. The member must agree with this government that one-stop shop is more efficient, and that getting projects through the environmental assessment process is not only good for business but can also be done in a manner that is responsible to the environmental itself. Could he add some comments on the one-stop shop for environmental assessments?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, we shall agree to disagree as to whether the process at the finance committee was a legitimate one. Suffice to say that testimony, contrary to the government's position, was magically expunged by some invisible hand that government members were able to exert during that process.

The reality is that there are substantive problems with the budget. I mentioned a couple, including the OAS, the changes to EI, among others, and including accountability and oversight.

On the changes on environmental oversight, we have several former presidents of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, CAPP, who have said that the NEB operates well. They were saying that it has operated very well. These changes would gut that process such that the decision-making would not be at the NEB level. It would be at the minister's office level. The capacity to actually politicize the decision-making process is not good for the economy and is not good for the environment. When I say that it is not good for the economy, what I mean is that when a predictable process, which is public servants who are doing their jobs as part of that NEB approach, is taken away and it is made more political that creates some real problems.

I have no difficulty with the streamlining of environmental process and regulation. I think that can be fair and good for business and the environment at the same time. However, I do have a concern about the government's politicizing of the environmental approval process, which would be the effect of this legislation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Kings—Hants spoke of the government's denial of information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

However, there is another way the government is denying access to information and that is through the gutting of the community access program. Tens of thousands of people across Canada have, as their only means of access to information, an opportunity to go to libraries and go on a computer or on the Internet, which they could not otherwise afford at home. This happens in urban areas. In Guelph, 300 people a day use that program. It happens in rural areas that would not otherwise have access to the Internet.

The government has, in its wisdom, decided to gut the program and deny access to information and deny access to the Internet for some of the most needy people in Canada. It is one thing that my friend did not comment on and I am wondering if he would be willing to do so now.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Guelph for his hard work on this file and his hard work as an exceptional member of Parliament for the people of Guelph and the people of Canada.

I can also say that these cuts to CAPP come at a time when the government is saying that it will communicate vital information to those Canadians who are out of work on job opportunities twice a day every day.How will it do that? It will do that via the Internet even though 30% of rural Canadians do not have the capacity to access the Internet.

These CAPP sites are important. I know in my riding there are lines, in parts of the day, for people to have access to these CAPP sites. On these changes to EI, the government is saying that people should not worry about it, that it will contact people twice a day. What if people do not have access to the Internet? What if they do not have a computer? The reality is that a lot of Canadians do not own a computer or cannot afford access to the Internet. A lot of Canadians are living in poverty and it is often those people to whom the government is saying it will communicate new jobs opportunities twice a day.

There is a real inconsistency and a logic gap. On the one hand the government is saying that it will cut the CAPP programs that aid low-income Canadians in their ability to access the Internet. On the other hand, it is saying that it will communicate job opportunities to low-income Canadians twice a day through the Internet. Let us try to square that one.

That is another reason that the government is off-track when it comes to helping low-income Canadians. It is another reason that I think this whole issue of poverty and income inequality is an issue the House of Commons finance committee will be studying in great detail coming up. I am looking forward to this day, as are my Conservative colleagues I am certain. These are issues that are important to Canadians. These are issues that we will delve into as part of the House of Commons finance committee in the coming months.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my seatmate, the member for Newmarket—Aurora.

I will begin my remarks on Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, by reminding the House about the excellent progress we have seen as a result of the government's leadership on the economy in recent months.

We saw record levels of job growth in March and April. The latest figures show that we are continuing to build upon those important gains. I have to say that number because it is so important: 760,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Because we know it is an important priority of Canadians, our government remains focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. A strong economy is central to ensuring that our country continues to thrive and also allows all levels of government to provide the services that Canadians rely upon.

We also understand the importance of a fair and equitable tax system. That is why the bill includes a number of important measures to improve on certain tax credits and other issues. Overall, these measures would improve access to some important tax programs, leaving more money in Canadians' pockets so they can spend according to their needs. We think that Canadians know best and that is why we are working to support them and their families.

Some of the important tax changes from Bill C-38 are meant to improve access to medical supplies. The medical expense tax credit would be expanded to include blood coagulation monitors and their disposable peripherals so that Canadians who require these devices can access them at lower costs.

The Excise Tax Act would also be amended to expand the list of HST exempt non-prescription drugs that are used to treat life-threatening diseases. Certain pharmacists' services would also be exempted from HST in order to support Canadians in accessing these important medical supports.

As stated by its past president, Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, during the finance committee's study of the bill, the Canadian Medical Association feels that these were very positive measures. I am confident that Canadians will agree. I am happy to inform the House of these important steps to ensure the tax system better reflects the evolving nature of the health sector and, of course, health care needs of Canadians.

Recognizing the importance of savings to both individuals and to the overall economy, our government has further put in place measures to make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to access registered disability savings plans. Our Conservative government was proud to put in place this important savings tool in 2007 and committed to a thorough review last year. Based on feedback from over 200 individuals and organizations, we are now acting to ensure that the program continues to meet the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families.

The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act would introduce a temporary measure to allow certain family members to open an RDSP for an adult who is unable to enter into contracts. It is important that all disabled Canadians can access the benefits of this program. We are taking steps to ensure that those who might need the support of family members to sign up can do so.

As we heard from Vangelis Nikias of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities during his testimony at the finance committee, the RDSP has been a successful program for families. I am proud that the bill would ensure its continued success for many years to come.

Another important measure in the bill recognizes the good work done by Canada's charitable sector. One specific change would allow certain literacy organizations to claim a rebate on the GST paid on the acquisition of books that will be given away for free. Education and literacy are key to our knowledge-driven economy, so I am happy to see these measures included.

I would also like to note that some of these books affected would undoubtedly deal with financial issues. So, hopefully, this measure would build nicely on the fine work of my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, and his efforts on financial literacy with Motion No. 269.

Further measures would increase accountability and transparency for charities. We understand that charities do great work in our country and we encourage Canadians to donate generously. However, we also understand that, when Canadians donate to charities, they want to know that their donation is actually being used for its intended purpose. The measures announced in the budget would provide more education to charities to ensure they are operating within the law and more transparency for those Canadians who donate so generously. In order to protect these important donations, we have a duty to ensure that Canadian charities are operating in compliance with federal law.

As there may have been some attention to this measure, one thing should be clarified. The rules for charitable activity are long-standing and are not being changed. We are simply taking action so that Canadians can be sure that charities are using their resources appropriately.

In addition to ensuring that our tax benefits are accessible for Canadians in supporting the charitable sector, the bill also makes important improvements to support the fishing industry.

As far back as I can remember, there have been significant concerns regarding the regulatory and legislative focus that had our protection officers buried in mounds of paperwork that often had little or no impact on the protection of fish habitat. Having to arbitrate dock locations among cottagers or travel great distances to meet with municipalities regarding a drainage ditch was part of the regulatory requirements, all the while we continued to see a dwindling of salmon returns and significant concerns about this important resource. We believe that efforts should be focused on where they will be most effective.

I will give another example. Tobiano in my riding was an important development. All approvals were in place, including DFO approval, when it was determined that a minor modification to the marina location was required. The current legislation required that the entire approval process had to begin again. In this case it caused a very significant delay and likely had critical impact on the timing of the project and, ultimately, decisions by the capital investors. Again, a very minor change created a significant and undue negative impact.

The bill proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to more effectively manage those activities that pose the greatest threats to fish. The amendments provide additional clarity for the authorization of serious harm to fish and of deposits of deleterious substances. The amendments would allow the minister to enter into agreements with provinces and other bodies, provide for control and management of invasive species and, most important, clarify and expand the powers of inspectors. These are changes that would enhance our ability to focus and protect this most important resource.

In addition to the measures I have talked about already, I want to talk briefly about health care and health care transfers because this is something near and dear to my heart. Being involved in the health care sector in the nineties, I saw first-hand how much damage was done to the communities by those reckless Liberal cuts. We made a commitment that we would get back to balanced budgets without impacting transfers to the provinces. We have taken a very responsible approach. We understand that we all use the same health care system. We want a strong health care system and we want it to be there for our families when we need it.

For my province of B.C., the health transfer this year will reach over $4 billion for the first time. That represents an increase of over $1.2 billion since our government was first elected.

Across the country, health transfers have increased by over 40% since our government took office. This significant funding increase has gone a long way to help offset the damage done by the previous government. It also represents the highest level of funding the federal government has ever provided to support the provinces and territories in the delivery of health care. We are extremely proud of that accomplishment.

Going forward, our new funding formula will ensure that all provinces can continue to rely on strong and stable increases to health transfers and that these transfers will always keep pace with growth in the economy.

With so many positive measures in the budget bill, I am proud to have this opportunity to speak in support of it. I was also happy to have had the opportunity to take part in its thorough review at finance committee where we had an unprecedented amount of time to hear from expert witnesses and officials.

Whether its continued health transfer growth, support for our fisheries sector, more transparency for charities or increased access to tax benefits, I think most Canadians would agree that this bill does an excellent job of addressing their priorities. It is for this reason I will be happy to vote in support of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my constituents are very worried about a new oil pipeline that is proposed from Edmonton to Burnaby. They are worried about a number of things with this proposal by Kinder Morgan.

First, they are very concerned about oil leaks and spills, as we have seen in Abbotsford, Burnaby and, most recently, in Alberta near Red Deer.

They are also really worried about expropriation of land and how these changes in the budget would affect their input into this process.

I wonder if the member could explain how shortening the length of time constituents can input into this process and maybe even limiting it so they do not have any say at all into this project is somehow protecting the environment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk about the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which has gone through my riding for almost 50 years. I have letters from constituents who talk about what a good corporate citizen Kinder Morgan has been and how very pleased they have been as a community and as property owners.

What is most important is that we recognize Canadians are concerned with ensuring pipeline safety. Perhaps the member did not read the budget, because within this budget there are measures that not only increase the opportunity for inspections of pipelines much more regularly, but also tanker safety. There are many important measures that deal with safety. There is a critical balance that we absolutely need in terms of pipeline safety and tankers which people are concerned about.

If the member would read the budget, I am sure he would be very glad to see the important measures that deal with the concerns he just addressed.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 18th, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just heard the member talk about safety.

The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base is widely held in metro Vancouver to be a major mistake. This is the busiest port in Canada. The Kitsilano Coast Guard base responds to over 300 emergencies every year. The claims that this service can be replaced by hovercraft from Richmond have been discounted by a retiring senior Coast Guard employee in Kitsilano, who spoke with me on the weekend.

I would ask the member how closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, with the risk of loss of life that is widely believed it will cause, helps with the jobs agenda of the government.