House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

The great member for Kitchener Centre.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

The great member for Kitchener Centre. I forgot to mention that.

Part of the Dominion Coal Blocks are of huge value, and they are centred in a great area. Right now, as we speak, Teck Resources has five coal mine operations in the Elk Valley. I would like to provide an understanding of what that means to Canada from the perspective of economics and job creation.

In the Elk Valley, a small community of 15,000 people, about 5,000 people are employed in the coal mines, all open pit. From that, there is a contract with CP Rail, the single largest contract with CP Rail in Canada. Thirty per cent of its gross comes from the Elk Valley. There are 15 dedicated coal trains that send coal from the Elk Valley to Roberts Bank in Vancouver, of which five go in and five come out every day. Each train is worth $2,295,000, which is equal to $11,475,000 a day for each of the five trains that are exiting the Elk Valley. With the Dominion Coal Blocks, it will only mean more for the small communities of the Elk Valley, but what it contributes to Canada and the province of British Columbia is vitally important not only for health care but for schooling and many other of the provincial responsibilities the federal government gives money to.

It is interesting to hear colleagues in British Columbia sometimes call coal the four-letter dirty word. The reality is that dirty word, as I said, is about 1% of the national GDP.

Aside from that, I want to explain that with specific regard to the Dominion Coal Blocks, first nations have been at the table right from the get-go. The Ktunaxa first nations have been there right from the get-go. They will be involved with the entire process and will have jobs in the coal industry, as they do now.

It is very important to understand that first nations are vitally important in my area of British Columbia. I believe they hold a strong, important value to the economic growth of the communities. I would like to applaud the Ktunaxa nation for being able to involve itself from the get-go.

One of the final things I want to say is that all resource development projects in British Columbia undergo a thorough environmental assessment process and face a high degree of regulatory oversight in order to manage and mitigate the environmental impacts. While the sale of the Dominion Coal Blocks would not be subject to an environmental assessment, any future development proposals would be subject to such an assessment.

I cannot say enough about the federal government divesting itself of the Dominion Coal Blocks. For the Elk Valley, it means 20, 30, or maybe even 100 more years of employment for the coal industry. Until we find a replacement for carbon, we will require metallurgical coal.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Kootenay—Columbia for his speech on what this omnibus bill means for the coal blocks. I had the pleasure of working with him on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I hold him in pretty high esteem.

However, I would like to talk to him about the omnibus nature of the bill and the fact that the Standing Committee on Finance, of which I am a member, will be left to do all the work. The committee will have to examine this part of the omnibus bill and many others.

Since this is such an important and delicate issue, I would like to know if my colleague believes that it would have been better to separate this part of the bill and allow members of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources to examine it directly.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Dominion Coal Blocks, from the perspective of natural resources, have been studied since the 1940s, not only by the federal government but by the provincial government. The reality of the situation for the finance committee is that this will bring great value not only to the Government of Canada but to all Canadians and British Columbians. I believe that it is well suited within the bill.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are starting to learn a bit more about what is in the minds of the Conservatives in the budget. With regard to infrastructure, in the budget in the spring they mentioned all these billions of dollars that were going to be spent over 10 years. That said, in Cape Breton we have the CBRM, the municipality, and it puts forward a report with all the infrastructure needs it has. It is all costed and includes timelines.

With great fanfare, we are hearing some announcements on infrastructure, such as the Toronto subway. When can a place like Cape Breton, or CBRM, sit down with the federal government and get some commitment for the infrastructure dollars it needs for the upcoming year? When are the other areas going to get what they need from this infrastructure budget?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the former mayor of Sparwood, B.C., for six years, I know one thing, and that is that we rely on the federal and provincial governments for money, but the reality is that the municipalities had better be shovel-ready when these announcements are made. We promised $2.7 billion in the budget this year for the community improvement fund, which will be rolled out in due course. I strongly suspect that as long as they have projects that are shovel-ready, small communities in Canada will have ample opportunity to ensure that they can move forward with them, so I would encourage the member to tell his people to have shovel-ready projects ready.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in this proposal. I am glad to have the opportunity to pose a question directly to the member in whose riding the Dominion Coal Blocks are found.

I think a lot of people were relieved to hear that the federal government was paying attention to the ecological sensitivity of these lands in announcing earlier this fall that not all of the Dominion Coal Blocks would be put up for sale. Those who paid attention will know that this is an area of unique ecological importance and of transboundary importance. In fact, the United Nations has spoken of the critical importance of restricting mining in the area because of any threat to the waters in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which at this point is the longest remaining wildlife corridor on the continent.

My question for the hon. member is this: of the 20,000 hectares in the Dominion Coal Blocks, how much will the federal government set aside to ensure ecological integrity, and not sell to metallurgical coal development?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of what is referred to as parcel 82 is subdivided and will be guaranteed to have no mining extraction from it. The part that flows into the Elk River drainage will be open for mineral extraction; the part that flows into the Flathead drainage will be protected from any mining at all. Lot 73, which falls north of parcel 82, will be open for bidding.

The member brings up a very valuable response. It is important for Canadians to understand that in this very interesting part of the country, heavy industry works very well with the environment. We have learned how to play well in the sandbox. We have some of the best ecological areas in all of North America and we are working side by side with heavy industry. It is in things like this, as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, that we can agree that there are certain areas that we just cannot touch. We have come to understand that in the Elk Valley, and we are very proud of it.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

October 24th, 2013 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of budget implementation act No. 2. This act would ensure that important provisions in budget 2013 would be implemented.

Before discussing the highlights of the bill, I want to mention the government's plan for balancing the budget and I also want to mention Canada's economic success. This government has an effective plan to balance the budget by 2015. It is a challenging task, but achievable. As with budget 2013, the bill would help the government to achieve financial sustainability.

World leaders, of course, are very interested in Canada as a result of our government's example and our economic success. Canada leads the G7 in job creation, in income growth and in keeping debt levels low. Canada is among the few countries in the world with an AAA credit rating.

The government's continued sound fiscal management will generate continued respect, but despite our strong financial performance, there are still challenges that we must face. The United States is experiencing ongoing difficulties. The European Union is continuing its long upward climb.

Last week's historic trade deal between Canada and the European Union shows our government's determination to seize international opportunities for Canada. The government must reduce its deficit so Canadians will be encouraged to do the same. We must practise what we preach.

The deficit was a justified response to the 2008-09 economic recession, but it must be temporary. By 2015, the government will balance the budget and will introduce legislation to encourage balanced budgets in the future. This will ensure that in normal economic times there will be concrete guidelines for returning to balance after any economic crisis.

With an aggressive debt to GDP target of 25% by the year 2021 and a plan in place, this government is on the right track. I am proud that the government, during and after the world's worst economic recession in almost 80 years, remains recognized around the world as an example for others to follow. I am very proud of the leadership of our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance.

The bill will deliver real solutions for Canadians and it reflects the goals of reducing the country's deficit and returning to balanced budgets. I want to highlight three aspects of the bill that I am particularly pleased with. I will elaborate on how the bill would support job creators, close tax loopholes and also respect taxpayer dollars.

Job creation is especially important to me as the representative for Kitchener Centre. BlackBerry, based in Kitchener—Waterloo, has suffered losses over the past couple of years and some of my constituents are on the hunt for jobs that match their highly talented skills. We enjoy some business incubators which support start-up companies and these include the renowned Communitech and also programs at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, world-class leading centres of education.

As Canada's small business week wraps up tomorrow, I am grateful to say that this bill would extend the hiring credit for small business. This would benefit 560,000 job creators across Canada, and hundreds of those job creators are in my region of Kitchener—Waterloo. With over one million jobs created since the depth of the global recession, this hiring credit would create even more places for the bright minds of Canada's future.

The bill would also freeze employment insurance rates for three years, leaving $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone. EI costs employees and employers hard-earned money. When I look at small businesses employing just two, three or four individuals, I see that this freeze will help owners to balance their books just as the government is balancing its books.

The government will also help the environment through the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance to include investments in clean energy generation. I was very pleased to see this. It adds to the government's existing investment for small business which is given through a small business financing program offered by Industry Canada and by loans offered by the Business Development Bank and by grants from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Achieving clean energy solutions is a priority. The challenge business owners face is to secure initial capital to develop those long-term solutions. Finding cost-efficient clean energy solutions is critically important for our future and developing those solutions takes extensive research.

As a long-time member of the environment committee, I am always looking for ways to ensure a sustainable future. Job creators will be encouraged to continue looking for clean energy generation through the accelerated capital cost allowance measure in this bill.

I am confident that Bill C-4 will benefit small businesses, start-ups and job creators in Kitchener Centre over the next number of years based on these new initiatives.

A second focus within this bill is closing tax loopholes and combatting tax evasion. I want to highlight the importance of these measures.

Hard-working taxpayers can be confident that the bill would ensure that everyone would pay their fair share of taxes. When everyone is paying their fair share, it keeps taxes low for Canadian families and creates incentives to invest in Canada.

The government will introduce new administrative monetary penalties and offences to deter the use, possession, sale and development of software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.

Although this government will always keep taxes low, we insist that all citizens pay all of their required taxes. Heavier penalties will force wrongdoers to use proper software and pay what they owe.

The government will also close more tax loopholes related to money transfers to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. It has already introduced rules to prevent foreign affiliates from converting otherwise taxable surplus income into the form of loans. There is also an information reporting regime for tax avoidance transactions.

Finally, the government will extend in certain circumstances the time for the Canada Revenue Agency to reassess taxpayers who fail to report income from foreign property.

The third point that I will highlight are measures to respect taxpayer dollars through initiatives introduced in March, scheduled to be rolled out upon budget approval. For example, by modernizing the Canada student loans program with digital communication, the government will deliver efficient ways for students to pay down their debt quickly and to apply for loan approvals or extensions sooner.

Another timely measure in economic action plan 2013 are steps to prevent abuse of the temporary foreign worker program, abuses which concern my constituents. The program was created to fill acute labour needs when Canadians were not available. It was never intended to bring in temporary foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. The reforms brought forward in the spring budget stem from the government's ongoing review of this program.

The budget would increase the government's ability to revoke work permits, enabling immediate action against employers who did not comply with the rules. These changes would also require that employers using the temporary foreign workers program pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage for a job. These are common sense changes made to the program to remove unintended incentives to hire foreign workers. These reforms would ensure that Canadians would always be at the front of the hiring line.

Other measures will deliver important savings for Canadians. The fact is that many products needed to support families are consistently priced higher in Canada than in the United States. By removing tariffs on imported baby clothing and sports equipment, budget 2013 will ensure that difference is reduced.

We can all be pleased that budget implementation bill No. 2 delivers a solid plan for creating jobs and economic growth, all while keeping taxes low and still balancing the budget by 2015.

This bill is great news for my constituents in Kitchener Centre. I invite all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth and long-term economic prosperity. I ask that members vote yes to this bill.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague across the way for his speech.

A little earlier today, the President of the Treasury Board had a hard time answering one of the questions asked by my hon. colleague from Pontiac regarding how the Conservatives are changing the designation of essential services for Canadians in Bill C-4.

The definition of essential services will no longer be decided on jointly by workers and the government. Instead, the government will unilaterally decide which services are essential.

My question to my colleague opposite is simple: what services will the government designate as essential?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find the member's preamble really quite surprising. I have known and watched the President of the Treasury Board for many years and I find him to be not only very articulate but, as with all of the ministers on this side of the House, very hard working and very dedicated to the best interests of all Canadians. I look forward to working with him for many more years to come.

The reality is that everything a government does is subject to law, to judicial interpretation and to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although I have some experience in law, I do not pretend to be an expert, not nearly as much of an expert as my colleague opposite is on labour unions and their rights. I suspect she is an expert.

The courts pretty well jealously look after charter guarantees, freedom of association and that labour rights are protected accordingly. I expect that any decision made by the government to designate an essential public service will be based on real need and quite justifiable to the courts or anyone else.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we noticed that the government has these logos or terms that it likes to talk a lot about, such as the economic action plan, job growth and long-term security.

The government takes the slogans it develops and literally spends millions and millions of dollars, in excess of half a billion dollars, in advertising, trying to get Canadians to think that these are wonderful times.

The most popular petition I have been tabling is one that affects seniors. It is on the government's decision to increase the age of retirement from 65 to 67. If the economy is doing so well, why is the government so determined to make the change by increasing the age of retirement for seniors?

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to say, considering the question came from a member of the Liberal Party, that there is nothing that can compare to the $1 billion the Ontario Liberal Party wasted on moving gas plants. That member and his party have nothing to complain about when it comes to the question of government expenditures.

On the question of changing the age of retirement, it may have escaped the member's notice, but when the original OAS scheme was introduced in the 1960s, the average life expectancy was around 72 or 73 years. Consequently retiring at age 65 meant something entirely different than it means today when the average life expectancy is more like 83 or 85 years.

The costs of supporting someone through a longer retirement are just an economic reality. As much as the third party and the NDP might wish to ignore economic realities, a responsible government cannot. Also, the demographics have changed. People living longer and healthier lives means that there are more seniors who need to be supported by fewer people still participating in the working economy.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, before beginning, I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my charming colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

It is my privilege today to be able to speak to Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures. I am not privileged because of the quality of the bill, which still leaves something to be desired. I am privileged because so few parliamentarians will be able to debate this bill.

Just this morning, in fact, in the hours following its introduction in the House, the government imposed time allocation on Bill C-4.

After forcing us to wait a whole month before resuming work by proroguing Parliament, the Conservatives decided to bring in a time allocation motion that prevents members of Parliament from speaking to this omnibus bill. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons decided to move time allocation on the bill in order to fast-track the debate. However, this bill is not just a simple legislative bill.

By means of Bill C-4, the Conservatives are trying for the fourth time in two years to escape the scrutiny of parliamentarians and the public. They are trying to get major changes through Parliament without sufficient study by Parliament, despite the fact that some of the amendments in Bill C-4 are meant to correct mistakes they made in their big rush to pass the last omnibus bill.

I will be voting against Bill C-4 both because of its content and because of the process used, which I feel is wrong. The New Democratic Party will not support the Conservatives in their attempt to avoid parliamentary oversight. The bill contains many extremely complicated measures that deserve to be studied a great deal more attentively.

The government before us today is worn out and negligent. The NDP refuses to play the Conservatives’ game. We must take Parliament and our institutions seriously and act accordingly.

Taking advantage of the introduction of Bill C-4 to amend through the back door a number of measures that are not even related to the budget shows a total lack of consideration for Canadians. The government is trying to make major changes secretly and without consulting those who will be affected by those changes.

I realize that the Conservatives are not really crusaders for consultation, but they should take the time to listen to what Canadians are saying. Canadians are giving serious consideration to what is currently happening on Parliament Hill. They are losing confidence in the political class, and the Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing to help them regain that confidence quickly. I am highly critical of the government’s lack of study and I am deeply worried about the consequences it may have for our country. It greatly undermines action by Parliament.

I would like to highlight a few examples to clarify my point, and I would like to start with the frontal attack on the rights of workers. For the President of the Treasury Board, it must be absurd for the government to have to negotiate and deal with workers in good faith. Please let me explain.

First, the designation of essential services to Canadians would change with Bill C-4. At present, workers and the government decide in tandem what an essential service is and what it is not. Now the government wants to make the decision about essential services on its own.

How does this affect workers? Well, it is a direct attack on the right to strike. Essential services are services that must be made available to Canadians during a strike. The repercussions of this decision are extremely serious.

With the proposed changes, unions cannot call a strike if public servants designated as essential by the government are involved. Who is designated as essential, though? This question has gone unanswered. I even tried to get an answer from my Conservative colleague opposite who just spoke, and he was very good at being evasive.

My colleague from Pontiac tried to ask the President of the Treasury Board about this in question period earlier today. He refused to answer. We heard absolutely nothing.

Another major change to workers' rights is the change in the definition of the word “danger”. A worker who does not feel safe in his workplace can inform a health and safety officer of his concerns. Bill C-4 changes the definition to imminent danger or serious danger. What do these new changes mean? What tangible effect will this have on our workers? These are valid questions.

Furthermore, workers will no longer contact their health and safety officers about these problems. Instead they will contact the minister's office. Will he work 24/7 to respond to workers in danger? Will it be more difficult for them to exercise their rights? Will there be more accidents in our workplaces? The official opposition is truly worried about the health and safety of Canadian workers.

What worries me the most is that these measures that I just spoke about, which affect the rights of workers, have absolutely nothing to do with a budget implementation bill. What are the Conservatives playing at?

In conclusion, I would like to briefly mention the direct attack that the Conservatives made on francophones throughout Canada. Once again, I will provide some explanation.

I would like to quote an article by Marie Vastel that was published in the October 24 issue of Le Devoir. It says:

When the government introduces any major legislation, it holds a briefing for MPs, senators and their assistants in order to explain that legislation. Usually, simultaneous translation is provided and officials then answer questions in both official languages. However, such was not the case on Tuesday, when the briefing on the budget implementation bill that was introduced that same morning began in English only.

The government was giving a presentation on a bill that is over 300 pages long, the fourth mammoth bill that the Conservative government has introduced, and there was no simultaneous translation from English into French. It was an NDP member whose mother tongue is French who stood up during the government's briefing and asked for the French translation, saying that the bill was extremely complex, that it was over 300 pages long and that she did not understand the details. After she spoke up, there was some commotion. In the end, another English MP spoke up and said that someone would have to translate so that the member could understand. People left the room in protest and the government finally decided to postpone the briefing to Wednesday, which was yesterday. The briefing therefore began after Bill C-4 was introduced in the House.

The opposite never would have happened. There never would have been a briefing in French without simultaneous translation into English. That would never happen. Honestly, I am a bit surprised that it took so long for them to react. I cannot believe that this happened. Some MPs speak English, others speak French. Those are our two official languages, and this demonstrates a lack of respect, not only for the Quebec nation, but also for francophones across the country. I am extremely disappointed in the way Bill C-4 treats Canadians.

This bill touches on many areas; we could go on for days. This bill affects more than just workers' rights. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is given new powers, and I have yet to find the link between that and a budget implementation bill. It affects unions' venture capital funds. It addresses the mistake of increasing taxes on credit unions and so on. There are even changes to the Supreme Court. It makes no sense.

I want to say, once again, that I am extremely disappointed in how the Conservatives opposite are treating Canadians. I look forward to seeing how the voters will treat them in 2015.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comments. However, I take issue with the fact that she is making the statement that this is not fair to people across Canada, including Quebec.

There are 800,000 persons with disabilities in this country who are ready, willing and able to go to work. In this budget we are funding the program that will assist those people in finding jobs and match them to jobs. Is this something in her mind that is fair to the people who have disabilities in this country, especially persons in Quebec who have disabilities?