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

8 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, just to follow up on the question of my colleague opposite, I actually spent a better part of my career in the field of research administration. I saw first-hand the impact of government funding from the tri-council on research and development in this country.

Over the last few years and certainly in this budget, our government has increased the levels of funding to the point where the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has said that this is a wonderful thing, a great increase and that we are now a leader.

In fact, in a time of global recession, we are funding basic science at record levels. Could my colleague comment on the reality of the funding situation in R and D in Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is always a tough act to follow, but she got it. She has nailed it, absolutely.

We have made record investments in all of the areas that she has discussed. We are absolutely a leader in investing in science and technology.

I talked about some of the things we are doing with research and development and the reform of the R and D sector. This government is committed to making sure that we are moving forward with the right investments in science and the right investments in research and development so that our companies can become globally competitive.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Churchill.

This evening, I am pleased to address the House, but not the Conservatives. Actually, I would like to speak to the people at home, particularly those in my riding. I would like to speak to the people who work in plants, those who work at Miller Electric, TAC Machine Shop, Transport Papineau Internationale, Luxorama, Chalut, ICC or anywhere in Saint-Jérôme industrial park. I would also like to speak to the cashiers working at Provigo or IGA, the waitresses in restaurants, truck drivers, taxi drivers, seamstresses, hairdressers, masons, carpenters, people who work hard every day. They wake up, go to work and work hard to get a pay cheque at the end of the week—a pay cheque that barely covers their basic needs.

The savings rate in Canada is in a terrible state. First, RRSP contributions are going down year after year. Second, the average RRSP contribution is $2,900 in Quebec and about $4,000 in Canada. With $2,000 a year, retirement does not look so good.

I also want to speak to the people at Aveos, Electrolux, Mabe, Caterpillar and Daimler. In fact, I am speaking to all the workers in the companies that have closed up shop this year. I want to speak to the men and women who used to work there. I want to tell them that this government is not working on their behalf. The government says that it has no choice, but it is making choices. Other countries are dealing with the question of pensions differently. Here, the government says that, if people lose their jobs, they have to find other ones paying up to 30% less, they have to travel some way from their homes and, after all that, they have to work until they are 67.

I could have talked about other things because this bill affects 70 other laws. My concern this evening, though, is the workers of Canada. Can we imagine construction workers, masons or painters working until they are 67? From their early 50s, they have bad days, muscles work less well, things get tough. People who lose their jobs at 45, 50 or 54 years of age have extreme difficulty getting back on their feet. Once their employment insurance benefits run out, they often end up on welfare. Now those people are being told that they have to work until they are 67. Why? What reasons can there be?

I looked for the reason. I looked at the entire Canadian economy. For some people, things are going very well. The average salary among Canadian CEOs is $8 million a year. Money is not a problem, because with $8 million a year, a person can take a sabbatical or retire at 59 or 60, with lots of cash. That is an illegitimate accumulation of wealth. These people have it all. At the same time, ordinary people, who work hard day in and day out, see that their purchasing power has remained the same for 30 years. Who are these people working for?

This evening, I am not speaking to the members on the other side of the House; they do not want us talking to them, anyway, because they have cut us off 30 times now. I am speaking to the people at home watching television. Perhaps a worker, somewhere, has worked hard today and has worked hard this year, but has not been able to put much money aside, and cannot imagine how he can keep working until age 67. That is the challenge; asking people to work until they are 67. Whoever thought up that line in the bill never earned his wage by the sweat of his brow. Whoever did that considers people as mere numbers that can be added, multiplied, subtracted and pushed to the bitter end.

I am reminded of my grandfather who worked for 48 years in the Dominion Rubber factory. At the end of those years of service, he was worn out, completely used up.

The government wants to make those people work two extra years. That is unacceptable. Who do the members opposite work for? I ask the question, but I have some answers.

I was reading the headlines that announced the oil companies' record profits. Imperial Oil's profits are skyrocketing by 64% this year. That is great. Then there is the $14.6 billion in profits for Esso, which saw its number of employees in Canada drop from 14,000 in 1991 to 4,900 today. Those profits are drive essentially by ExxonMobil, in the United States, which is the main shareholder. Who do those people work for? They work for the banks, which made record profits in the second quarter of this year to the tune of $7.6 billion.

I think of the people I am talking to this evening, who are sitting at home. They are watching the situation and seeing how the Conservatives have been bragging from the start of this session about the incredible performance of Canada's economy. Canada's economy is doing well for some, but for others it is a prison and their sentence has just been increased to be served until age 67.

What do we do with a government such as this? We stand tall, denounce the lies, injustices, and biases, and we wait until we can give it the boot, because that is the only way to bring in a Canadian government that thinks about the ordinary people, workers and families. The members opposite do not work on our behalf. I am convinced that Canadians can find the proof of what I am saying all through this budget.

In addition to not working on our behalf, this government lies. On March 22, it told us that it would announce a measure to enhance the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. Tax professionals told us that not all seniors who receive the income supplement will be entitled to the $600, which amounts to $2 a day; only 42% will receive it. The Minister of Finance played a trick, a tax shell game, and only half of seniors will receive the $600.

I said it was a lie, but it was also a trick. In light of this, how can Canadians believe for one second that the Conservatives are thinking about the people when preparing the budget?

That is why we have rejected this budget. We will continue to debate it in coming months and years because it has long-term implications for the environment, poverty, unemployment and ethics. By eliminating the Auditor General's power to audit certain government agencies, the government is concealing the information so that the public no longer has access to it.

For all these reasons, I will be voting against the bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are many areas of concern with regard to this budget. A lot of it has to do with the environmental impact, as a wide variety of things in this legislation would have a negative impact on the environment.

In Manitoba there is the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area project. I have always argued that budgets are about priorities, and the government is getting rid of that particular responsibility. In essence, scientists and staff are going to be let go, and this will have a negative impact on fish habitat, quality of water and so forth. These scientists really make a difference.

I talked earlier about the budget being a Trojan Horse. Strictly from a budget perspective, because there are all sorts of other problems, could the member provide some thoughts on how this budget implementation bill acts to the detriment of our waters and environment?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

I admit that the environment is not my area of expertise, but what I have been told, and people can check the bill themselves, is that Bill C-38 will reduce the number of environmental inspections and assessments from roughly 4,000 to about 40. To me, that seems like quite a significant reduction, particularly given the fact that, according to one statistic I read, there have been 871 pipeline leaks this year alone. It seems to me that if the government stops monitoring these projects, then who knows how many such leaks will escape our notice and disappear into the environment.

I see that as a major problem because the Conservatives' economic action plan is essentially based on developing the oil sands and those notorious pipelines. The government is cutting assessments while going full speed ahead with pipeline development. We are headed for catastrophe.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech. I appreciate the fact that he began by talking about people who work hard, especially those who work physically hard, every day of their lives.

I am thinking of a constituent I met during the consultations on old age security. Sometimes people like him who work in the mines lose their jobs when they are in their late 50s or early 60s. By increasing the age of eligibility for OAS and the GIS, the government is giving those people no choice but to work longer.

I would like my colleague to expand on the government's lack of respect for those workers, who have worked so hard their whole lives.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am thinking not of today's workers necessarily, but of future generations of workers.

Here is a government, a gang of politicians who, in their great wisdom and with all their rhetoric, are telling future generations that they will have to work harder, that they are not productive enough, that they, the politicians, will not pass on the benefits that our generation had, that it is over, because they themselves used them all up.

I am glad this member was the one to ask me this question, because he is young. The people of his generation are the ones who will have to work until the age of 67.

We also do not know what the future will look like, because the economic situation is fragile. It remains fragile around the world and in Canada, despite the rhetoric spewed by the Minister of Finance. Consider Europe: it could all fall apart from one day to the next. We do not know what our future generations will inherit.

I hope the social programs that we put in place and that we have fought for over the years will still exist. We will continue to fight to maintain them.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

June 18th, 2012 / 8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, to which the concurrence of the House is desired.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House and speak to Bill C-38, a bill that fundamentally attacks the Canada of yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is an attack on who we are and what we have built together.

As a result of the bill, the government is turning the clock back on Canada's reputation, holding back our country in terms of research and innovation while lowering not only the standard of living that Canadians face today but that Canadians will face tomorrow.

The budget also speaks to the two-faced approach the government has taken. At election time, the Conservatives said one thing and now in government they do another.

I will go through the budget and see who is not a priority and who is not spoken for.

Who is not a priority in the government's budget? It is northern and aboriginal people. Many northern and aboriginal people who I represent have spoken to me about the real concerns they have vis-à-vis Bill C-38. In fact, I had the opportunity to hear from people participating at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs gathering and there is united opposition to Bill C-38. Why is there t opposition? I am sad to say that there are many reasons.

First, cuts to employment insurance will have a disproportionate impact on northern and aboriginal Canadians, particularly seasonal workers, fishers, forest firefighters, construction workers and people who work in tourism. It will impact the people who make the economies in some of the poorest communities in our country operate. For example, people may simply leave and abandon critical services like forest firefighting, something that we all depend on for public safety, as they will have no ability to look at other options. In fact, due to these cuts, people may need to turn in a much greater way to welfare. We will see increased social turmoil and a continuation of government neglect for first nations. There will be a lack of options for people to become re-educated and skilled in other areas to have the ability to move on. It is simply not be a reality in northern and aboriginal communities.

When it comes to the changes in EI, many people are worried because they simply do not know what will happen. They have been told to trust the minister but the reality is that the employment insurance money is the money of these very workers and of all Canadian workers. They must be seen as the priority and not be influenced by the ideological slant of a certain minister.

Another area the bill would have a disproportionate impact is on the changes to the EI tribunals. The elimination of a specific workers' representative would have a disproportionate impact on working people. For those who live in remote and rural Canada, the ability to connect in person to these tribunals is critical. With this streamlining, the option of using the phone or travelling to the tribunal is simply not an option for so many Canadians.

The change to the OAS would also have a disproportionate impact on northern and aboriginal people. Many already live in higher conditions of poverty than in other parts of Canada.

We have the loss of environmental assessments and environmental reviews. Many first nations, including the AFN national chief, have spoken out clearly against the rolling back of environmental legislation. They have spoken of the importance of the fiduciary obligation that the federal government has to first nations and of the importance that the federal government must place on the duty to consult, which is something that did not happen in the formulation of Bill C-38 but something that will continue to not happen in the case of environmental development that will have a direct impact on first nations and their lands.

There is the loss of the National Aboriginal Health Organization that did critical work across the country both in terms of research and advocacy when it comes to aboriginal people. As well as the loss of the First Nation Statistical Institute which provides information that we need when it comes to first nations and aboriginal peoples, some of the most marginalized people in the country. This information would no longer be at their fingertips.

There are cuts to Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and the continued inaction to deal with the shocking housing crises, the need for repairs and the building of new schools, the need to support infrastructure in the northern and first nation communities that I represent and in so many aboriginal and northern communities across the country.

This is also the further attitude by the contempt that the government showed when just a few short weeks ago the UN Special Rapporteur spoke of the extreme poverty that aboriginal people face and the fact that so many of them are unable to access healthy foods, something that there is no action on in this budget.

There are cuts to VIA Rail that connects northern aboriginal and remote communities across this country. Without the support that is needed for our national rail service and without a vision in this area, many people will be left out in the cold.

Another set of people and communities left out of this budget are rural and agricultural people and communities.

In addition to the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board, the government has compounded the insecurity faced by rural people, particularly on the Prairies, through the loss of the Shelterbelt Centre in Saskatchewan, the loss of the community pastures program and the withdrawal of commitment to the cattle enhancement program in Manitoba leaving many cattle ranchers in the lurch who were counting on a federal partnership when it came to such an important program.

There are the amendments to the Seeds Act that potentially allowed private contractors to perform something as critical to our public safety again as food inspection.

There is the closure of the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, an institution that performed world-class research.

Now we see that the government is even failing to truly stand up for supply management and continuing to not be transparent in terms of its trade negotiations on an international level.

I would also add that in my province of Manitoba there has been a particular blow in terms of immigration to the successful provincial nominee program that has built my province over the last number of years. Unfortunately, the federal government is unwilling to see a success story and support it.

Who else would be left behind through this budget? Canada's women, the 51%.

The changes to employment insurance would have a disproportionate impact on Canadian women. The changes to OAS will also have a disproportionate impact upon Canadian women because about 38% of women get more than half of their income from OAS or GIS. Then there is the loss of public service jobs. Many of these jobs are held by women. As we lose these good paying jobs, so many women and so many families will be made even more vulnerable in today's economic situation.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated, “In total, federal spending cuts could lead to the elimination of over 70,000 full-time equivalent positions”.

While others have said more.

We have the loss of the Women's Health Network, the loss of the National Council of Welfare and the amendments to the Employment Equity Act that will leave women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities in the lurch.

Who else does this budget leave out? It leaves out young people.

It lowers our standard of living through the changes to OAS. It destroys the environment through the loss of the Experimental Lakes Area which conducts such critical research on the well-being of our ecosystems and the future of our economic development. We have loss of the Kyoto agreement, the gutting of the environmental assessment regime and fish habitat protection and the loss of research by removing, privatizing, muzzling and silencing those who tell us who we are and where we are going.

Perhaps the most insidious are the changes that would be made to our history and our identity.

Whether it is the cuts to Parks Canada that lead to the de-funding of Louis Riel House or the lack of leadership shown in making a commitment to La Liberté, the francophone newspaper in my home province, trying to rewrite history by the current government also means trying to change our future for the worse.

However, in this devastation, there is hope, hope in the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have spoken out and hope in the outcry we have seen in and out of this House.

I am proud to be part a strong NDP team that is presenting a vision of a country where we are all part of it, where we are all better off and where we can be a model on the world stage in terms of the environment, equality and dignity, a vision we hope Canadians will choose to make reality in 2015.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, part of our budget and our implementation bill would help the mining sector. People have asked us to make changes so the overlap of the assessments will be less cumbersome.

Our mineral production was $45.3 million and 21% of it was accounted for by Saskatchewan. That is a significant figure. Canada is a world leader in the production of potash and uranium. We rank fifth in the world for the production of aluminum, cobalt, sulphur, nickel and platinum and third in the world with respect to diamond production. All of these rely on good policies and lots of emphasis on efficiency and to ensure there are no barriers to the production of sustainable development in gas, oil and minerals.

The member does not seem to understand how important the budget is for aboriginal people in the north. We have invested in schools and in the University College of the North. Does she not appreciate the fact that we have put education high on the agenda—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, but time is limited.

The hon. member for Churchill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the government is so convinced that it stands up for mining communities, then I would ask it to act on behalf of my home community of Thompson, a community that was bought out by a multinational corporation. All of the value-added jobs will be lost because of the agreement that the government signed with a multinational corporation. The government is selling our jobs down the river and eventually outside our country. I would like to see the government act on that because it has not. All we have heard is silence.

The member talked about the government's commitment to education. The Conservative government has not committed to the University College of the North. It was Jack Layton's amendment before the Conservatives came into power that ensured the only federal money that went to building new infrastructure of our institution.

I would like to see the government invest in education not only at the post-secondary level but also at the primary level for first nations that I represent, something we also do not see from the government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member on her speech.

She said that at least a third of Bill C-38 is devoted to environmental deregulation, while the Conservatives have the worst track record of all recent Canadian governments in terms of environmental protection and action on climate change. Not giving consideration to sustainable development on the environment is making our current situation worse and is threatening the future of our next generations.

Could the hon. member comment on that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for pointing out a major issue in this awful budget, and that is the attack on the environment, which is essentially an attack on the future of Canada and Canadians.

As Canadians, we have been proud to be world leaders. Now, countries around the world are talking about us in quite a different manner. It is clear as day for everyone that Canada is no longer a leader and that we have completely lost our way. We are going to create a future that is much worse and that is also extremely dangerous since we are making cuts to research, statistics and information. We will not even know where we are. When we do not know where we are, we certainly do not know where we are going.

That is why we have introduced amendments, that is why we are against this budget and that is why we have a vision for all of Canada that includes a sustainable environment.