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Conservative MP for Souris—Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 74.00% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, we have maybe not done the specific thing that the member speaks of, but we have done a number of things for apprentices. We had the apprenticeship incentive grant, the completion incentive grant, the tradesperson tools deduction, and the apprenticeship job creation tax grant. We have taken a number of initiatives in the trades and a number of initiatives for apprentices.
Can more be done? I am sure there is more that can be done, but we have had significant improvements in that area, and I know apprentices have really appreciated that.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how the member is defining the middle class.
I can say that an average family of four is saving at least $3,200 in income taxes. Not only are they saving dollars in income tax and putting more money in their pocket, but we have provided a whole range of services with respect to skills training for youth, for older people, and for those transitioning to jobs, into the millions of dollars.
We have helped students by ensuring that they have the ability to get a student loan, that they can qualify for student loans with higher incomes. We have said that while students are going to school, they can continue to work.
In fact, when we start adding up all the things we have done, we have actually enhanced the position of taxpayers exponentially compared to when we took over from the previous Liberal government in the last number of years.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House for the better part of today, and I have not seen anyone muzzled or kept from speaking.
Members have been able to speak on any aspect of the budget that they want to. In fact, many of the comments have little to do with what is in the budget.
As for saying that it is a gigantic bill, of course, anything that is affected by way of spending money or providing a service is obviously the type of activity that would be implemented in the budget. This one is no different from ones in the past. It is certainly appropriate to deal with matters that affect the economy and that affect the budget and the spending of taxpayers' dollars in a comprehensive tax implementation bill. That is how it gets done.
There is much debate in the budget itself, which sets out the parameters of what would be done. There was debate on that, as well. This is one of two budget implementation bills, and there is freedom to speak on this also.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to highlight some of the key measures in the federal budget, the economic action plan 2014. It is entitled “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”. It was recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.
Those are two very important aspects of the plan to ensure that indeed there are continuing jobs and continuing long-term prosperity in Canada.
This is the government's tenth budget since 2006. I have been here for each of the years of the budgets after that. Over that period, our country has been confronted by some unprecedented global and economic challenges from beyond our borders. We have certainly had to take action as a result.
In good time and bad times, we have never strayed from our commitment to strengthen our economy for all Canadians, with the determination to see our plan through without raising taxes—and that is an important aspect of it—while at the same time addressing of the deficit. Those are important pillars in keeping our economy strong and ensuring that we do well in the long term.
As was mentioned a number of times here today, Canada is leading the global economic recovery. The fact is that over one million net new jobs have been created in Canada, over 85% of them full time and nearly 80% in the private sector. Those areas are very important. That is where we are creating the jobs.
This has all happened since the end of the recession in July 2009. Over this period, this is the strongest job growth in the entire G7 by far.
Canadians have also enjoyed the strongest income growth in the G7. Canada is the only G7 country to have more than fully recovered business investment loss during the recession.
It is important that we keep on track for balancing the budget. Before the global recession hit, our government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
Members will remember that there was a discussion about what we should do with the extra funds that were available, and a decision was made to pay down the debt. That was in advance of the global recession that was to take place. We now find that was a very wise thing to do. That aggressive debt reduction and fiscal responsibility and good planning put Canada in the best position possible to weather the global recession.
When the global recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs. I was there when that discussion was held as well. Would we go into deficit in order to preserve our economy, in order to create jobs? The answer was that we would indeed go into deficit, fairly significantly, but in the short term and with a plan to return to balance. Those monies were not placed or spent by putting them on some big dark black hole. The money was utilized primarily to create infrastructure.
Infrastructure was indeed needed to create jobs. In fact, infrastructure is the backbone for our economy. Businesses that want to invest and expand require infrastructure to move products to the port, especially if they are in central Canada. They require electricity. They require highways. All those kinds of things are necessary. That money was invested in infrastructure and certainly helped to create jobs in the short term, but it also ensured our economic prosperity in the longer term.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada remains in a most enviable fiscal position among the G7 countries.
Our Conservative government remains on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015-16. Specifically, economic action plan 2014 announced that the deficit is expected to decline to $2.9 billion in 2014-15 and that a surplus of over $6 billion is expected in 2015-16, even after taking into account a $3 billion annual adjustment for risk.
For all intents and purposes, the budget is balanced, and we are going to announce a surplus.
At the same time, federal transfers that provide important income support to individuals, such as old age security and employment insurance, and major transfers to other levels of government, including those for social programs and health care, have continued to grow.
Budget 2014 also builds on these efforts to reduce wasteful and ineffective government spending by announcing an additional $9.1 billion in ongoing savings. It is not just a question of creating a climate by keeping taxes low to ensure that income is earned and taxes are paid; it is also important to ensure that we do not spend wastefully or operate ineffectively.
We have made public service sector wages and benefits affordable for taxpayers by ensuring that compensation is fair and in line with other public and private sector employers. We have improved the fairness of the tax system by closing tax loopholes and strengthening tax enforcement to ensure low taxes for all taxpayers, not only a select few.
In addition, we have controlled the size and cost of government by freezing departmental budgets to ensure efficiency in government operations and administration. I know it is difficult to do. Once we start doing that, there are a lot of complaints that we are starting to require more efficiency to ensure that we can operate better. It is like a culture that sets in, asking if we can do more with less. Once that starts happening, the amount that is saved ends up being a significant portion. It is not just a saving in the short term; the savings continue to accumulate as the years go forward. It is important for that to happen.
Overall, since 2010, actions that we have taken to make government more effective and efficient are saving taxpayers roughly $19 billion a year, which over a number of years amounts to a significant saving to Canadian taxpayers. At the same time, since 2006 we have increased transfers by over 50% to an all-time high of about $65 billion in 2014-15.
As I said, another important pillar in ensuring that the economy continues to do as well as it has is keeping taxes low. Unlike what some others would suggest, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and in leaving more money where it belongs: in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and Canadian families and in job-creating businesses.
Indeed, as has been mentioned here in the House before, we have cut taxes nearly 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to the lowest level it has been in 50 years. We have cut taxes in every way that government collects them, including personal tax, consumption tax, business tax, excise tax, and more. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant savings of nearly $3,400 for a typical family of four in 2014.
We cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. That was welcomed by all Canadians. We increased the amount that Canadians can earn without paying any tax at all so that low-income earners would not have to pay tax.
We introduced pension income splitting for seniors. As we all know, we reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, placing more than $1,000 back into the pockets of the average family.
We introduced and enhanced the working income tax benefit to ensure that low-income earners could earn more and keep more in their pockets. That has been well received, and the enhancement has certainly done well for lower-income earners.
We introduced the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP.
We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. We steadily lowered the general business tax rate from 21% to 15%. When someone looks to invest in Canada, whether they are a business person, a corporation, or an entrepreneur, having a good tax climate is important in deciding to either expand a business or invest in a new business.
Overall, we have also removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.
Of course, the final point I want to talk about is investing in communities and infrastructure. It is an interesting area.
Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I also would like to take this opportunity to speak to Bill C-571 and would like to begin with a statement from Equine Canada, the dedicated national voice working to serve, promote, and protect the interests of horses and Canada's equestrian community. Equine Canada has stated:
Equine Canada believes that Bill C-571, if enacted: Will not enhance or add value to existing legislation for food safety in Canada; Will not improve the humane welfare of horses in Canada; and Will cause serious implications for Canadian horse owners for moving horses inter-provincially within Canada.
These are real concerns. Also, despite the way the bill was written, it appears that it is not really about food safety and not about imports and exports at all. It really is about the humane treatment of animals. On both sides of the House, we agree that all animals should be treated humanely and I know that our government takes the issue of animal welfare very seriously. In Canada, we have strict laws and regulations in place right now to verify that effective welfare standards are in place in all establishments. Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors work hard to enforce these regulations and operational policies under the Meat Inspection Act, which sets the standards for the humane treatment and slaughter of animals in federally registered abattoirs. Horses or equines are included in these protections.
The CFIA inspectors are present on-site in federally registered slaughter facilities each day to verify that animal welfare requirements are met. I take it that most people would not know there are on-site inspectors who inspect the facilities daily. Under the authority of the Meat Inspection Act and the meat inspection regulations, CFIA inspectors are empowered to intervene when they observe non-compliance concerning human handling of horses at slaughterhouses. This is an important job because, as I said earlier, we all agree that animals should be treated humanely.
The CFIA is also providing additional training to veterinarians and inspectors who oversee human handling of animals every day on the front lines. In addition to being on the floor to verify that humane handling is taking place, CFIA authorities want to hear about problems, concerns, and incidents of alleged non-compliance with the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act. If anyone is aware of any non-compliance, of course the CFIA want to hear about it because then it can be dealt with. That is not to say that from time to time there may be violations, but that said, there is an enforcement mechanism and there is a toolbox to deal with that issue. I want to say here that it is important for anyone with concerns to raise them as soon as possible so that if there is a problem, it can be investigated immediately. The CFIA also has the authority to respond to findings with a full suite of enforcement tools, including criminal prosecutions.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill.
Ukraine February 26th, 2014
Mr. Chair, I think the government has taken significant steps to date, but with the change and transition in government I think it needs to reassess and work with its allies. Certainly I know there is a desire to take steps to punish, to sanction, or to seek a certain amount of revenge on those who have done harm, but if there were a caution I would put to those in the government in transition, it is not to become subject to the same difficulties the regime found itself in. They must be sure to proceed within the rule of law, within an impartial judiciary. They need to make laws in accordance with the constitution. They need to proceed in accordance with what is right and develop along that track.
Yes, there needs to be a singular, narrow focus on dealing with those, and maybe one or two or more, individuals who have caused the deaths of unarmed people who were no threat. They need to be punished in the course of time. But at the moment, as we speak, that is not the most important issue for Ukraine. The most important issue is to ensure that the territory is integrated, that the people can indeed function as a democracy, that they get a government in place and start putting the building blocks in place for a free and democratic society as we know it in the western world.
Ukraine February 26th, 2014
Mr. Chair, there is a lot in there. However, there is no doubt Ukraine has a lot of resources, not only in shale gas but also in very valuable land. It also has the human resources that need to be harnessed. Certainly, if it could have the rule of law operating as it should and basic economic principles and understanding, I believe there would be people who would invest in Ukraine's future. Indeed, as governments around the world invest in Ukraine to ensure it can develop, if it can develop, it can be self-sustaining. Ukraine has a great opportunity and it has the resources to make it happen.
While there is trepidation and great difficulty and struggle, there is also great hope for Ukraine. The western countries must not abandon Ukraine in its hour of need. They must be there for Ukraine. That includes business, which I think is able to invest mightily.
Ukraine February 26th, 2014
Mr. Chair, it is a privilege to speak tonight about the events occurring in Ukraine. I would first like to offer condolences to those who have lost family members at this very trying time, those who paid the ultimate price to stand for what they believe in. Many were injured. Some were kidnapped and badly beaten. Many were abused. Many were put in jail and incarcerated for doing what one would anticipate they would be legally entitled to do, which was have the freedom to associate and to express themselves in light of a government, a regime, and a president who had taken some fairly significant steps to take them away from what they hoped would be a free and democratic Ukraine. Their hopes rested in part on an association with the European Union. Their hopes rested on the fact that they would be encouraged by that association to continue with their fledgling democracy and to continue with improvements to their judiciary. They saw that slipping away, and they took to the streets to ensure that this did not mean an end to what they had tasted.
With social media and the Internet, we are able to see the events that are transpiring there live. It is an encouragement to Ukrainians to know that they are not alone, that there are people and countries who stand with them. Equally important is that with social media, they appreciate what democracies experience from time to time. Having partaken themselves in that, they were not prepared to give it up.
I recall, in my first year here, in 2004, as a young parliamentarian, when the Orange Revolution was taking place. I came to the House near midnight and spoke to encourage the Ukrainian people at that point, because it seemed that there was an opportunity for them to strive for democracy and freedom of association. That hope did not blossom as we thought it might. Those dreams and aspirations were lost for a variety of reasons, perhaps because the opportunity given to those in leadership was not taken advantage of or not proceeded with. As a consequence, we saw a reversion of what they had experienced and thought they were well on their way to accomplishing.
I should mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Pickering—Scarborough East. I want to be sure that is on the record.
It was with that hope and determination that people thought they were going forward. Then they saw it dashed, particularly when the Yanukovych regime eliminated Yulia Tymoshenko as a potential political rival by incarcerating her and preventing her from running in the election. At that point, we could see that the country was proceeding in the wrong direction and that it needed correction.
Just a few days ago, who would have thought that events would so unfold that we would see her released? One of the fundamental rights of a democracy is a judiciary that is independent and not manipulated, where someone can expect to be under the rule of law, come before a judicial system, and have it provide a judicial pronouncement without interference or manipulation. That was a fundamental part of it. To see her released through the efforts of the people and the stand they took in Maidan was remarkable.
To see that there will be elections on May 26 and there will be nominations by March, is incredible. It is breathtaking. As a country, we must support Ukraine, not only in ensuring that those elections are free and democratic, we must also help them with their economic circumstances and the fundamentals they need to succeed at this time. There are a lot of challenges and there will be a lot of struggles. I know their territorial integrity is important. We must ensure that those are maintained and that we are there to stand with them in the difficult future, just as we have to this point. It is going to be very important for that fledgling democracy to take root. We need to do everything we can to see that happen.
Ukraine February 26th, 2014
Mr. Chair, I appreciated hearing the member speak about the spirit and the people of Ukraine, and the fact that they were prepared to put themselves in harm's way, where death and bodily injury ensued.
What would the member say was the underlying point or principle that caused a nation or a group of people to be prepared to go to that degree to ensure that a certain set of events would take place?
Support for Volunteer Firefighters Act February 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-504.
The Government of Canada, of course, is committed to ensuring that workplaces are fair, safe, and productive, and that they contribute to a prosperous economy for all Canadians. However, as the previous speaker mentioned, I know of no employer who has prevented an employee under this particular circumstance from doing volunteer firefighting work.
The main objective of Bill C-504 is to provide support to volunteer firefighters who are employed in federally regulated enterprises. The bill proposes to amend the Canada Labour Code to ensure that volunteer firefighters are supported when considered for employment or when called upon to perform their duties during working hours.
We have carefully studied the bill, and we would like to assure Canadians and business owners that the bill attempts to solve a problem that does not really exist.
First and foremost, our government recognizes the sacrifice and hard work carried out by volunteer firefighters across Canada, and there is no question about that. Who can forget the disaster at Lac-Mégantic this past summer? There is no way the small community's fire department could have dealt with this tragedy without the help of its volunteer firefighters.
These volunteers are a beacon of courage for all of us. They are a shining example of the bravery shown in thousands of Canadian communities by men and women who freely give their time to keep us and our communities safe. Our government recognizes their critical role and that is why we created the volunteer firefighters tax credit, which is available to those who provide at least 200 hours of eligible service per calendar year at one or more fire departments.
In 2011, more than 37,000 volunteer firefighters took advantage of this tax credit, which is a fairly significant number. In other words, under the leadership of this government, all men and women across Canada who serve as volunteer firefighters get real action with real results.
No one doubts the hon. member's sincerity, and certainly we hear the passion displayed, in wanting to protect the estimated 4,200 volunteer firefighters who work in federally regulated industries. However, we cannot support the bill.
First, there is little evidence that federally regulated employers are unsupportive of their employees who act as volunteer firefighters. I think the previous speaker alluded to that. The truth of the matter is, that is the situation across the country.
The labour program, which is responsible for the Canada Labour Code, has not received a single complaint from a federally regulated employee who has been dismissed, suspended, laid-off, demoted, or disciplined for fulfilling their volunteer firefighting duties; not one single complaint.
Second, Bill C-504 would have a disproportionate impact on small employers, who represent 80% of all federally regulated employers.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that small employers would have to manage unpredictable absences in their organizations while not necessarily having back-up resources to complete the work left behind. The bill would mean an additional burden on employers who would have to manage additional red tape.
Let us not forget that our government has reduced red tape and regulatory burdens on Canadian businesses to provide them with the required flexibility to grow, create jobs, and strengthen the economy. The idea is to reduce red tape for businesses, not increase it. Our economic action plan measures have produced results. The last thing we want to do is to move backwards.
Finally, there is no indication that volunteer firefighter departments, or even volunteer firefighters themselves, see a need for legislation.
A survey was recently conducted by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs in which recruitment and retention was identified as a challenge by volunteer firefighter departments. However, a lack of support from employers was not identified as the main cause for this challenge. Rather, and in many parts of Canada, a lack of local employment poses the greatest challenge for fire departments in small and medium-size communities concerning the recruitment and retention of firefighters.
Although the intent of the bill is to support volunteer firefighters, it would add little to no additional support.
What the bill truly represents is another NDP attempt to create regulation for the sake of regulation, without any forethought to any consequences and when no regulation is required.
The bill is also inconsistent with other provisions provided in the Canada Labour Code. For example, it introduces the concept of good cause, which would leave room to multiple interpretations and could lead to disagreements between employers and employees, creating a situation that does not need to be created.
It also fails to define under what circumstances a volunteer firefighter would be granted leave from work. An important part of a volunteer firefighter's duties are deemed non-urgent situations, such as training and fire hall maintenance.
I am not so sure anyone here wants their communities unprotected from the ravages of fire. Of course, every one wants to be protected from the ravages of fire. However, there is little evidence that discrimination against employees who act as volunteer firefighters actually exists.
As I mentioned earlier, the bill would have a negative impact upon small and medium-sized employers, while adding no additional protection to those who serve as volunteers.
For all these reasons, the government cannot support the bill and will be voting against it.
Not to be misunderstood, to be sure, our government is committed to ensuring that each and every workplace in Canada remains fair, safe, and productive. That is what is guiding each and every one of our decisions now and going forward.
It seems to me that, so far, the relationship between employers and employees has been excellent and that volunteer firefighters have been able to attend and protect citizens from fire whenever it was required. It does not appear to be a problem. It has not been identified as a problem. Why would we need this legislation at this particular time to legislate a situation or to try to cure a situation that does not exist—a problem that employers and employees have been able to work out on their own terms?
In fact, many employers themselves are volunteer firefighters, and when there is a call and a need by the community or society that needs protection, they are first to go. They see it as a community effort, a duty to the community, and they work that out amongst themselves.
It is our view that this legislation is not necessary, certainly not in a federally regulated sphere.