Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007

An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Jim Flaherty  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 implements goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures proposed in the March 19, 2007 Budget but not included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2007, which received Royal Assent on June 22, 2007. Specifically, the Excise Tax Act is amended to

(a) increase the percentage of available input tax credits for GST/HST paid on meal expenses of truck drivers from 50% to 80% over five years beginning with expenses incurred on or after March 19, 2007;

(b) increase the GST/HST annual filing threshold from $500,000 in taxable supplies to $1,500,000 and the annual remittance threshold from $1,500 to $3,000, both effective for fiscal years that begin after 2007;

(c) increase the GST/HST 48-hour travellers’ exemption from $200 to $400 effective in respect of travellers returning to Canada on or after March 20, 2007; and

(d) implement changes to the rules governing self-assessment under Division IV of Part IX of the Excise Tax Act to ensure that GST/HST applies appropriately in respect of intangible personal property acquired on a zero-rated basis and consumed in furthering domestic activities, applicable to supplies made after March 19, 2007.

Part 2 amends the non-GST portion of the Excise Tax Act to implement measures announced in the March 19, 2007 Budget. Specifically, the excise tax exemptions for renewable fuels, including ethanol and bio-diesel, are repealed, effective April 1, 2008.

Part 3 implements income tax measures proposed in the March 19, 2007 Budget but not included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2007, which received Royal Assent on June 22, 2007. In particular, it

(a) introduces a new Working Income Tax Benefit;

(b) eliminates income tax on elementary and secondary school scholarships;

(c) eliminates capital gains tax on donations of publicly-listed securities to private foundations;

(d) enhances the child fitness tax credit;

(e) expands the scope of the public transit tax credit;

(f) increases the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000;

(g) increases the deductible percentage of meal expenses for long-haul truck drivers;

(h) provides tax relief in respect of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games;

(i) allows for phased-retirement options for pension plans;

(j) extends the mineral exploration tax credit;

(k) enhances tax benefits for donations of medicine to the developing world;

(l) streamlines the process for prescribed stock exchanges;

(m) introduces an investment tax credit for child care spaces;

(n) introduces a new withholding tax exemption with respect to certain cross-border interest payments;

(o) prevents double deductions of interest expense on borrowed money used to finance foreign affiliates (the Anti-Tax-Haven Initiative);

(p) eases tax remittance and filing requirements for small business;

(q) introduces a mechanism to accommodate functional currency reporting;

(r) provides certain tobacco processors that do not manufacture tobacco products with relief from the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Surtax; and

(s) provides authority for regulations requiring the disclosure by publicly traded trusts and partnerships of information enabling investment managers to prepare the tax information slips that they are required to issue to investors on a timely basis.

Part 4 implements the disability savings measures proposed in the March 19, 2007 Budget. The measures are intended to support long-term savings through registered disability savings plans to provide for the financial security of persons with severe and prolonged impairments in physical or mental functions. Part 4 contains amendments to the Income Tax Act to allow for the creation of registered disability savings plans. It also enacts the Canada Disability Savings Act. That Act provides for the payment of Canada Disability Savings Grants in relation to contributions made to those plans. The amount of grant is increased for persons of lower and middle income. It also provides for the payment of Canada Disability Savings Bonds in respect of persons of low income.

Part 5 implements measures that provide for payments to be made to provinces as a financial incentive for them to eliminate taxes on capital under certain circumstances.

Part 6 enacts the Bank for International Settlements (Immunity) Act.

Part 7 amends the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 to permit phased retirement arrangements in federally regulated pension plans by allowing an employer to simultaneously pay a partial pension to an employee and provide further pension benefit accruals to the employee. These amendments are consistent with amendments to the Income Tax Regulations to permit phased retirement.

Part 8 authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of Canada’s contribution to the Advance Market Commitment.

Part 9 amends the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act to authorize the National Energy Board to regulate traffic, tolls and tariffs in relation to oil and gas pipelines regulated under that Act.

Part 10 amends the Farm Income Protection Act to allow financial institutions to hold contributions under a net income stabilization account program.

Part 11 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to provide for an additional fiscal equalization payment that may be paid to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. This Part also specifies the time and manner in which the calculation of fiscal equalization payments will be made and it amends that Act’s regulation-making authority. In addition, this Part makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Part 12 amends the Canada Education Savings Act to clarify the authority of the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development to collect, on behalf of the Canada Revenue Agency, any information that the Canada Revenue Agency requires for purposes of administering the registered education savings plan tax provisions.

Part 13 authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to an entity, designated by the Minister of Finance, to facilitate public-private partnership projects.

Part 14 implements tax measures proposed in the October 30, 2007 Economic Statement. With respect to income tax measures, it

(a) reduces the general corporate income tax rate;

(b) accelerates the tax reduction for small businesses;

(c) reduces the lowest personal income tax rate, which automatically reduces the rate used to calculate non-refundable tax credits and the alternative minimum tax; and

(d) increases the basic personal amount and the amount upon which the spouse or common-law partner and wholly dependent relative credits are calculated.

Part 14 also amends the Excise Tax Act to implement, effective January 1, 2008, the reduction in the goods and services tax (GST) and the federal component of the harmonized sales tax (HST) from 6% to 5%. That Act is amended to provide transitional rules for determining the GST/HST rate applicable to transactions that straddle the January 1, 2008, implementation date, including transitional rebates in respect of the sale of residential complexes where transfer of ownership and possession both take place on or after January 1, 2008, pursuant to a written agreement entered into on or before October 30, 2007. The Excise Act, 2001 is also amended to increase excise duties on tobacco products to offset the impact of the GST/HST rate reduction. The Air Travellers Security Charge Act is also amended to ensure that rates for domestic and transborder air travel reflect the impact of the GST/HST rate reduction. Those amendments generally apply as of January 1, 2008.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 13, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 10, 2007 Passed That Bill C-28, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007, be concurred in at report stage.
Dec. 10, 2007 Failed That Bill C-28 be amended by deleting Clause 181.
Dec. 4, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I see that some of the Conservative members are awakening from their afternoon slumber. That is healthy because they will actually learn a bit more about the supplementary budget, which they know full well is not at all in keeping with the interests of Canadians.

Some of the Conservatives are waking up now. That is very good, but it is important to note that in the House it is only the New Democrats who are actually practising the due diligence that is required when we talk about this massive giveaway of $190 billion, mostly to the corporate sector. I will come back to that in a moment.

It mirrors what happened in committee last Thursday with Bill S-2 which, it turns out, is giving out another half a billion dollars, mostly to the banks. We found out that Conservatives and Liberals on the committee just wanted to run it through. They did not want to call witnesses or actually examine any of the fiscal ramifications of the bill. They just wanted to push it through. We are seeing the same thing here with Bill C-28--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-28. I know that a Conservative member earlier talked about the fact that there has been sufficient debate and it is incumbent upon the House to pass the bill.

It is fortunate that New Democrats are in the House talking about some of the very serious issues that are facing Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is the New Democrats who are talking about the lack of a national child care strategy, the increasing homelessness in the country, poverty, education, and the number of children who are now living in poverty.

When New Democrats look at Bill C-28, we see a government that is simply taking Canada in the wrong direction. It is not a balanced approach because it is not addressing the prosperity gap.

The prosperity gap is talking about the fact that there are many Canadian working middle-class families who are simply working more and more hours and are not getting ahead. This was an opportunity to take the surplus which was available to the government and invest it in Canadians.

The other thing we heard Conservatives talk about is the fact that New Democrats never support tax cuts. The reality is that we are asking for targeted tax cuts, not tax cuts that benefit certain corporate sectors like banks and resource sectors.

When we talk about banks and resource sectors, the financial sector makes up one-third of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits and the oil and gas and mining sectors make up one-sixth of Canadian corporate pre-tax profits. This accounts for roughly half of corporate income.

Therefore, when we talk about targeted tax cuts, we mean tax cuts that benefit a growing green jobs economy, research and development, and supporting our manufacturing and forestry sectors. Certainly in the riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan the forestry sector is struggling.

Previously, the Bloc member spoke about that party's motion supporting the manufacturing and forestry industries. There was an opportunity for all members of the House to come to the plate and vote in favour of a motion that outlined support for manufacturing and forestry. Instead, we saw the Conservatives and the Liberals not supporting that motion.

In the forestry sector in my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan we have one pulp and paper mill that has filed for bankruptcy protection. We are seeing some of the sawmills lay off shifts. We are continuing to see raw log exports. Youbou Timberless Society continuous to raise the matter of raw log exports taking jobs from the riding, from Vancouver Island and from the province of British Columbia to somewhere else. Yet, this particular economic statement and this bill did not address that.

In the minister's own remarks, he acknowledged the fact that manufacturing and forestry were in a crisis in the country but took no action. I wonder where the leadership is when one acknowledges there is a problem but does not do anything about it. It does not magically fix itself overnight.

The other matter regarding Bill C-28 and the economic statement is the concern raised around fiscal capacity in the coming years. The estimate is that by 2012 or 2013 the annual revenue cost on full implementation will be $6.1 billion, but many progressive economists feel that the actual figure of forgone revenue will likely be around $12 billion.

When we are taking that much out of the government coffers, one wonders what programs and services will need to be cut. If we reduce the money that the government is taking in, it is very simple math. If the government decreases the money that is coming in, it has to cut somewhere. That has not entered into the debate.

We hear that personal tax cuts will mean more money in people's pockets, yet when we look at people who are making under $30,000, they will end up with $180 a year more. That will not pay for child care spaces, affordable housing, or tuition fees for post-secondary education.

If the government is not going to demonstrate some leadership in these very critical areas for the health of our economy, then who will? That is why it has been very important that New Democrats stand in the House and raise these very important issues, so that Canadians know that at least someone in the House is speaking up for middle income and working class families.

I want to come back for a moment to a couple of matters. I will start with child care. In September 2007 the Social Planning Council of Cowichan developed a report on child care in the Cowichan region. There has been much debate in the House about how important early learning and child care is and how it contributes to the overall health and well-being of families. It also has a direct economic impact as well. In the report's executive summary, it says:

Quality early education and child care is crucial to the welfare of the Cowichan region. The successful development of our children has a long term impact on the economic and social stability of our region.

The Cowichan Region, like many communities in British Columbia, and indeed most of Canada, is under stress to provide adequate, affordable, quality child care for children and their families. This situation is being exacerbated by the current labour shortage and the increasing cost of housing which requires that most families need two incomes to afford a home.

I believe that roughly 70% of women with children under the age of six work outside the home. Sometimes it is a choice to work outside the home and sometimes it is a necessity. The report goes on to talk about the economic benefits of child care. It says:

The benefits from quality early learning and child care go beyond the family: there are also social and economic benefits to the community at large. Child care is important for cohesion in rural and remote communities because it draws young families to rural areas and is essential for economic development.

The lack of available child care is being recognized as a critical issue by the business community in British Columbia, as the following quote from a resolution passed unanimously at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce convention in May 2007 demonstrates.

I will not read the full text of it, but this is the gist of it. It says:

Recent cuts from the federal government to the child care industry in B.C. are having a domino affect on the workforce in B.C. due to the lack of commitment and responsibility from the provincial government to compensate for those federal losses. B.C. has chosen not to prioritize child care. The costs of this decision are having an enormous negative impact on the ability of B.C. businesses to attract women, young families and skilled workers in general to the workforce.

With the current skills shortages, challenges to attract and retain employees are critical to business. The provincial breakdown of business shows that of the 371,000 businesses in B.C., 364,000 have fewer than 50 employees. For small business, it is difficult to attract new workers, or to retain people as larger firms are able to offer higher pay or flexible work hours.

Many younger families find the challenge of balancing family life with work. These men and women find entry and lower level wages, and the cost of child care are such that it is not in their financial interests to work. This is a limitation to the B.C. economy when a worker that desires to contribute to the GDP is forced to look at other options to working, or working for a small firm with limited access to benefit options.

When we are talking about child care, it is such an important part of our economy, yet we are not making that kind of investment. The report goes on to talk about local impacts on employers and job seekers. It says:

The inability to find child care to recognize as: a barrier to attracting employees to the Cowichan Region, a barrier to employment, contributing to work absenteeism, a reason parent-employees will leave the work force or will not take jobs, a barrier to immigrant families, particularly those with multiple children and immigrant workers seeking employment.

We can see that in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, and I know in other ridings across this country as well, quality, affordable, regulated, not for profit child care is an important aspect of making sure that our economies continue to grow.

I now wish to address homelessness. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, on October 22 released a preliminary report. He covers many aspects of what he calls the housing crisis in Canada. I want to focus specifically on homelessness at this particular time. The report says:

Homelessness is one of the most visible and most severe signs of the lack of respect for the right to adequate housing. It is even more shocking to see the number of homeless people in such a developed and wealthy country as Canada. Unfortunately the Government of Canada could not provide reliable statistics on the number of homeless in the country (something that many other countries are doing).

The National Homelessness Secretariat has suggested that there might be 150,000 homeless people, but notes that its number is not reliable. Experts and academic institutions have suggested that the actual number of homeless people may be at least double that amount.

There are 150,000 people in Canada who do not have a place to live.

A survey was done in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan a couple of years back on people who lived on the street. Roughly half the people who were surveyed and who lived on the street were women, and a significant number of those women had children.

We also know from other studies that some people living on the streets have jobs. They simply cannot find adequate affordable housing that is safe. If this is not something that should be debated in the House of Commons, then I do not know what is.

People talk about the fact that there is a $14 billion surplus. They talk about the throne speech and the economic statement. Bill C-28 does not address the crisis in homelessness and housing in our country.

Mr. Kothari says in his report:

The Federal Government needs a comprehensive and properly-funded poverty reduction strategy based on its human rights obligation, and complementary plans should be implemented in the provinces and territories—linked to a comprehensive national housing strategy.

Once again, we are on the international stage. We are being cited for what should be to all Canadians a shocking statement. A minimum of 150,000 people are homeless and that number is under dispute. It could be significantly higher, and in some parts of our country it is.

A recent report came out on women and housing in the north. It talks about the risky situations in which many women in the north find themselves, yet there is little relief for them.

While we are talking about poverty, I want to briefly touch on child and family poverty. Somebody in the House mentioned earlier that Ed Broadbent had worked on a motion in 1989, which called for the elimination of child poverty by the year 2000. An organization called Campaign 2000 recently issued a report card. It said that we wee not tackling the very serious problem of child poverty. Children are not in poverty unless families are in poverty.

Different groups are overrepresented. One in four aboriginal children is considered poor. That is 25%. Yet Bill C-28 and the economic statement do not adequately address children and families living in poverty.

UNICEF Canada issued a statement recently that said “too many children are still being left out 18 years after a children rights convention was adopted”. In its press release of November 20, it said:

Compared with other industrialized countries, our children are suffering from unacceptable rates of poverty, obesity, mental illness and violence that have persisted or increased since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.

The press release goes on to state:

Aboriginal children are one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada, facing enormous challenges. Overall, the poverty rate for Aboriginal children is close to three times that of other Canadian children. As well, children in some remote Aboriginal communities lack access to adequate housing, clean water and quality education. In addition, Aboriginal children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

That is another shocking statement, yet Canada is turning its back on what is often described as Third World conditions on many reserves across the country. We have an opportunity, again, with the surplus to do something about this. The government has failed to take meaningful action to close the poverty gap.

UNICEF Canada also talked about aboriginal children being disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. In fact, the Assembly of First Nations and other partners have filed a human rights complaint on the fact that more aboriginal children are in care now than there ever were in the residential school days. There is roughly a 22% gap between what aboriginal children on reserve are entitled to under the child welfare system versus what provinces will pay. There is also no funding in least disruptive measures.

Instead of the government seizing an opportunity to support and work with families to ensure children can stay with families, in its wisdom the government is removing the child, which is far more expensive. If it took some of the funds that it provides for children who have been removed from their families and supported them, it could probably save a lot of money in the long run, not to mention support quality of life for them. In this instance, we have found that first nations simply are not included in conversations in a meaningful way in order to address this very serious issue.

Earlier today we talked about education. Whether it is for first nations, Métis and Inuit or for other Canadians, it is an important aspect of closing a poverty gap. It is also an essential factor in our economic prosperity and efficiency.

Today the Canadian Council on Learning released its second annual report on post-secondary education. It is dated December 11 and the headline states:

The Canadian Council on Learning, with support from organizations across the country, says that without the development of a national post-secondary education strategy-such as those adopted by many other nations around the world-Canada's prosperity will be at risk and its competitive edge compromised.

In the release, the president and CEO of the council says:

By 2015, it is expected that 70% of all new jobs created in Canada will require some post-secondary education or training....For this reason, and many others, we strongly believe that national action on a PSE strategy is crucial to Canada's ongoing competitiveness in the global marketplace, and to our continued high quality of life.

A PSE strategy would offer a pragmatic approach that would promote mobility, efficiency, effectiveness and equity across the country, while providing benefits to all levels of our society.

Further on it states:

“It is both lamentable and irresponsible that Canada, among all OECD countries, has the weakest data on education and has developed neither a pan-Canadian skills agenda, nor goals and measures for post-secondary education,” Jim Knight, President of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, said on behalf of Canadian colleges across the country.

Bill C-28 and this economic statement was a chance to take some national leadership on post-secondary education. There has been a lot of conversation around skills shortages in Canada and this was an opportunity to address them.

In light of other matters that could be taken on around education, the Canadian Federation of Students in October 2007 prepared some background documentation for all parliamentarians. It talked about the importance of education and what was needed to improve our post-secondary education system. The introduction says:

One of the greatest tragedies in Canadian higher education is that there has never been a joint federal-provincial strategy for improving this critical social program.

We are starting to see a theme. The earlier report talked about the need for a national strategy. The Canadian Federation of Students has been calling for exactly the same thing. It goes on to say:

As a direct result, provinces have developed wildly different tuition fee and student financial aid policies that reflect short-term partisan or ideological priorities more than specific regional needs. On the federal side, a lack of coordinated inter-jurisdictional planning has led to circular discussions about designing a better Canada Student Loans Program...

It goes on to talk about the fact that Canada has been cited under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights about education.

There are many matters facing our country, which the economic statement could have addressed. The government could have demonstrated some leadership both on the domestic scene and the international stage. It could have reinvested in our working and middle class families, post-secondary education, housing and child care. This was a missed opportunity.

It is unfortunate because some of these decisions will play out on our economic productivity and the quality of life for Canadians. It is important that New Democrats are standing in the House to raise these very important issues and concerns so Canadians know that somebody is speaking up for working and middle class families.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / noon
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading debate of Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled by the Conservative government in March 2007 and also to implement certain provisions of the economic statement, or mini budget, tabled in October of this year.

The Conservative government has been in office now for close to two years and, apart from bringing in ideas and initiatives that were started under the Liberal government and complaining about the Liberal government in the 13 years that preceded it, it has not really brought in much in terms of a vision or a sense of direction for this great country of Canada. In fact, to coin the Conservatives' own phrase, they are just not getting the job done, and t his bill is a good example of that. It is deficient in a number of respects and I will attempt to highlight some of the concerns in a moment.

I would like first to comment on a couple of the positive elements of Bill C-28, the budget and the mini budget, and that is that the Conservatives, with this legislation, will bring back the personal income tax cuts that our government introduced in 2005, which reduces the basic rate from 15.5% to 15%. While the Conservative members opposite denied that they had actually increased personal income taxes in their budgets, they now recognize that they did increase personal income taxes and now, with Bill C-28, they will be reducing personal income taxes for Canadians.

If a federal government is going to reduce taxes for Canadians, which is laudable from time to time, getting the balance right in terms of reducing taxes and investing in our future is the careful balance that governments need to achieve. I do not think the government, frankly, is achieving that, but if it is going to reduce taxes, cutting personal income taxes is the way to proceed and not reducing the GST.

Economic advisors throughout the country have spoken of the poor economic policy that is associated with reducing consumption taxes like the GST. Of course, the Conservative Party ran on a promise to reduce the GST from 7% to 5%. It reduced it from 7% to 6% and now Bill C-28 further reduces it from 6% to 5%.

The cost of implementing that initiative for each percentage point is approximately $5.5 billion each and every year moving forward. Therefore, the combined reduction in the GST from 7% to 5% is $11 billion annually, in perpetuity, taken away from the fiscal capacity of the federal government. That would be fine if there were no needs facing Canadians that need investment, program focus and funding.

Let me start first with infrastructure. Our national infrastructure is in an enormous deficit and we need to start dealing with that. In fact, some competent bodies have estimated that our national infrastructure deficit is in the order of about $120 billion. Those are the investments needed to upgrade our sewer systems, water systems, bridges, roads, ports and airports, infrastructure that is critical to the safety of Canadians and to Canada's competitive positioning as a nation. The longer we wait, the more costly it becomes.

I, for one, think that, instead of reducing the GST from 6% to 5%, we could leverage that $5.5 billion with the provinces and municipalities and start to deal with our infrastructure deficit. That would be a far wiser decision than the one before us today in Bill C-28.

However, the reality is, and we all know it, Bill C-28 is a confidence bill. If it does not pass we will be into a federal election and, frankly, I do not think Canadians are ready for a federal election and therefore we may have to let the bill proceed.

Although the budget implementation act reflects the budget and the mini budget, the problem is that it lacks a vision or a sense of direction for Canada.

I mentioned infrastructure. What about the Kelowna accord? I do not see that financed in the budget implementation act. The needs of our aboriginal peoples in Canada are enormous. Our former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, met with aboriginal leaders and other stakeholders during our last mandate and agreed to invest in schools, in hospitals and in the basic infrastructure that is sorely behind the times for our aboriginal peoples. What has the government done? I do not see the $5 billion over a number of years to deal with our aboriginal people reflected in the budget.

I do not see the child care agreements, which were negotiated by our Liberal government, in the budget. Those agreements would have created real child care spaces in Canada so that working families could take advantage of them and work and nurture their children in an affordable and sensible way. I do not see that reflected in the budget.

I do not see anything in the budget implementation act that really deals with Canada's need to be a global competitor, to invest in research and development and to be innovative. The world is a rapidly changing place. Countries like Brazil, India, and China are expanding at an enormous pace and, hopefully, they will do that in a sustainable way. Jobs that used to be in Canada, in the United States or in Europe are now in places like Bangalore in India, in Shanghai in China or in places in Brazil.

Because labour costs are much lower in those jurisdictions, jobs are migrating. The trend is called offshoring or outsourcing and it is a trend that we cannot fight. It is a reality and we have to deal with it. The way to deal with that as a nation, in my judgment, is to start developing our workforce, which is highly trained but we can do better. We can create an even more educated and highly trained workforce and we can start pursuing the value-added opportunities that exist. Commodity type businesses will not operate so much here in Canada. They will be operating in countries like India and China.

I do not see much in the last two budgets that deals with making Canada innovative and research oriented and in terms of building a highly trained and educated workforce. I do not see much of that in Bill C-28 and that is a serious omission.

Members of my caucus met with some individuals at the University of Toronto not too long ago who are running the MaRS project. This is an organization that is an intermediary between the research that goes on in universities and the companies that actually commercialize this research and make it an economic development activity in Canada. It is a tremendous project.

We also met with some professors from the University of Toronto who had come up from the United States because of the research environment that had been created in Canada by our previous Liberal government when it invested in research chairs, in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and in the overheads that were needed to conduct this federal research.

We created the brain gain, not the brain drain that happened before us, and that took a lot of work. After we had dealt with the fiscal problems of this country, we started to reinvest significantly in research and development. Those professors spoke about the very positive research environment in Canada that attracted them to this country.

Sadly, however, under the Conservative government, investments in these initiatives have slowed down. It is creating an environment where the research environment in Canada is not as strong as it was. We are at risk of losing these scientists back to the United States and to Europe and, in fact, losing some of our own scientists who came back to Canada because of the very positive research environment that we had created.

If this were to happen, it would be a sad day for Canada, after going through all the work that was initiated and launched under the Liberal mandate. Our future is dependent on our ability to innovate, to be research oriented and to be at the leading edge of technologies in the future, which is where the future lies.

Although Canada's economy is still driven, to a large extent, by our natural resource economy, it has shifted significantly. Part of that is into areas like biotechnology, telecommunications, information technologies and the service sector. We need to recognize the importance of our natural resource economy. In fact, there is a lot of high technology embedded right in our natural resource economy. We also need to take advantage of these new and emerging economies and possibilities. The only way to do that is to invest in research, innovation and a highly trained workforce but I do not see much of that reflected in this particular budget.

As I said, we need to deal with infrastructure and build more public transit. The city in which I live and represent in a riding in the city of Toronto, we can see the effects of urban sprawl, of too many cars and of not having enough public transit. The air quality is suffering. We need to have more investments into public transit. We need to deal with urban sprawl and create the population densities that support more investments in public transit. I do not see much of that in this budget.

There are also some issues that are not really the focus of much attention by the government. A lot of market fraud is being perpetrated in our economy by people who are taking advantage of unsophisticated investors and/or who are taking advantage of our lax rules and regulatory environment with respect to the investment in securities in Canada.

Our government launched the integrated market enforcement teams that were meant to comprise a balance of law enforcement officers and lawyers to prosecute people who perpetrated stock frauds and who took advantage of investors in very sophisticated schemes. The reality is that these integrated market enforcement teams did not get off the ground. They are not doing much. The present government should be putting more resources into that initiative. Again, I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that would implement that measure.

We have many seniors in Canada who are investing through pension plans or directly. We see the effects of the stock market going up one day and down the next. I think that is as a result of many stockbrokers churning accounts, selling one day and buying the next. We have no real, independent body that can research, act and review on these particular matters. In my judgment, we need to do more to protect small investors.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security wrote a report.

In May 2007, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security produced the report “Counterfeit Goods in Canada—A Threat to Public Safety”.

This report was followed a few weeks later by a report by the Standing Committee on Industry, which also had a number of recommendations to deal with the plague of counterfeit goods and piracy in Canada. Canada has become notorious--I was going to say famous, but notorious is a much more appropriate word--in the world for piracy and counterfeit goods.

Legislation was enacted last year to deal with the pirating of motion pictures. That is when individuals go into movie theatres with a video camera to record movies and then mass produce and distribute them. Notwithstanding that law, I am sure there is still some of that going on.

The public safety committee focused on those counterfeit goods that are creating safety and health issues for Canadians. We have read in the papers about the toothpaste that came from overseas. Regrettably I have to name China. China is a big player in counterfeit goods. I have to say that. There are tubes of toothpaste that do not contain toothpaste at all; it is sawdust or something, but certainly it is not toothpaste.

There are pharmaceutical products coming in from China and I suspect other countries where the pills or tablets are filled with something other than what the tablet or pill is supposed to contain. People are relying on these pills or tablets to cure some disease or infection, but the pills or tablets are actually filled with food colouring and other compounds.

There are some electrical products coming into our country with a forged Canadian Standards Association stamp which indicates that the product meets the CSA standard, but the products are substandard. In fact, they are a safety risk to Canadians. It used to be that people could only buy them at flea markets but the reality now is that these products are penetrating other retail establishments, dollar stores, et cetera. Extension cords and various other electrical products can be a huge safety hazard. They can short out, cause fires and cause ignition. Because these products can be imported from China at very little cost, the profit margins are huge and the sanctions are low. Organized crime is engaged very aggressively with counterfeit goods and pirated goods.

The government needs to respond aggressively to the reports from the Standing Committee on Industry and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and enact the laws to toughen up the sanctions. Also, we have to give the Canada Border Services Agency the mission and mandate to search, seize, and within the laws of Canada, destroy counterfeit goods and pirated goods.

We saw a reference in the throne speech to intellectual property rights, but apart from that there has been nothing that I can see in the budget or the mini-budget and nothing that I can see in Bill C-28 to deal with these growing problems in Canada.

I see nothing in Bill C-28 that would reflect the government's recognition that it made a mistake on its decision to tax income trusts. I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that retracts from that position. It is fine to have a tough position. It is fine to say we are taking that position and sticking with it, but if it is the wrong position, that is not the right way to proceed.

We know that income trusts had to be dealt with. Certainly, I believe they had to be dealt with, because they were not meant as a tax avoidance scheme for the industrial sector. They were designed for a specific purpose, for energy companies, property development companies. However, it is the way in which the Conservatives went about dealing with income trusts after they promised they would not tax income trusts. People invested based on those undertakings, and they got hammered to the tune of $25 billion in lost market capitalization. I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that addresses that.

I do not see anything in Bill C-28 that deals with the wrong-footed decision of the government to deal with the interest deductibility of corporations. I do not have time to get into that now. We know that we need to deal with those who would deduct interest in Canada and have tax free income offshore, but we did not need the unintended consequences that that brought to us.

I think it is a flawed bill, but regrettably, it would mean a general election if it was defeated, so I rest my case.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the hon. member stand in this House and ask questions to support her constituents, so I understand her passion for this issue.

The minister has risen in this House many times in question period and talked about the support that this government has put forward for seniors and low income individuals. There were many comments in my speech about the working income tax benefit for those who are actually able to go back to work and the savings plan for disabled individuals who are unable to work. This would be a first to put this in place. We provided income splitting for seniors, in specific answer to the hon. member's question.

The tax benefits that are put forward in Bill C-28 need to get through this House as quickly as possible because Canadians are expecting them. Canadians have been promised tax savings retroactive to the full tax year 2007.

To hear the kind of comments that we are hearing from the members of the NDP who are blatantly trying to slow this legislation when many of us are wanting to get home to our families for Christmas, we all know the positions in this House that each party is going to take.

We spent hours debating this. We understand the benefits to Canadians. My suggestion to my hon. colleagues is to get on with the job that their constituents expect them to do; that is, to help them. This budget and economic statement implementation bill would do just that.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to finally be able to present Bill C-28 today at third reading.

As we conclude what has already been, and even more so this morning, an exhaustive debate on this piece of legislation, I would like to thank most hon. colleagues in this House for supporting the motion to get us back to a serious debate on the implementation of Bill C-28. It is important that we get this done as soon as possible.

The bill before the House today proposes to implement the tax measures announced in this fall's economic statement, along with the outstanding budget 2007 measures not yet legislated.

Before continuing, I would first like to comment on the remarkable state of the Canadian economy. While cognizant of certain sector specific challenges, our economy has performed incredibly well over the first half of 2007, bolstering revenue growth and the overall fiscal position of the government. More important, it has yielded impressive employment growth. According to Statistics Canada's recently released November employment numbers, Canada created 42,600 new jobs last month alone. Contrary to declarations otherwise, these were chiefly good quality, well paying jobs.

As TD Securities economist Jacqui Douglas noted on the November job data:

The bulk of the employment growth came from full-time, as opposed to part-time...and even more importantly, the private paid sector actually added a significant number of jobs.

Furthermore, year to date, an astounding 388,000 jobs have been created in Canada.

Plainly speaking, our economic and fiscal positions are solid and ready to withstand challenges on the horizon. In the words of National Bank of Canada economist Stéfane Marion, with “the employment to population ratio at a new all-time high and job creation more evenly split between regions, the Canadian domestic economy remains in great shape to absorb the incoming slowdown in the United States”.

That strong position has allowed our Conservative government to proactively tackle two important priorities for Canadians: lowering taxes and reducing debt. Indeed, our planned debt reduction is $10 billion for 2007-08 and $3 billion in each year after that. This will bring a total debt reduction since 2005-06 to over $37 billion. That is lowering the federal debt burden that we are passing on to future generations by nearly an astounding $1,600 for every Canadian.

What is more, we have followed through on our promise to provide a tax back guarantee to ensure that interest savings resulting from debt reduction will be returned to Canadians through lower personal income taxes. As a result of the additional debt payment, the total value of personal income tax relief provided under the tax back guarantee will rise to $2.5 billion in 2012-13.

Canada's strong fiscal position has also allowed us to reduce Canada's overall tax burden for individuals and businesses by $190 billion over this and the next five fiscal years, and in doing so, bringing taxes for Canadians to their lowest level in 50 years, a remarkable achievement by this Conservative government.

I would now like to outline the initiatives in the bill associated with the fall's economic statement and follow by outlining key measures in Bill C-28 related to budget 2007.

The recent economic statement introduced broad based tax cuts that delighted most Canadians. John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was overwhelmed. He remarked the economic statement “exceeded our expectations…these are measures that are going to benefit every single tax payer in the country”.

Even typically reserved economists gushed with praise. For example, Patricia Croft, an economist with investment firm Philips, Hager & North, was moved to say the following:

It’s absolutely stunning the scope of the tax cuts that were put into place…there’s something for everyone in there…it’s…Christmas, Hanukah and News Years all rolled into one. Basically anything that had a pulse today got a tax cut.

What elicited such a positive, glowing response? I will start with the one percentage point GST reduction. Not only has this fulfilled our campaign promise to lower the GST to 5%, but it will save Canadian taxpayers approximately $12 billion next year alone. This is a significant tax reduction that directly affects Canadians whenever they purchase items subject to the GST.

Here are some examples of the savings that Canadians can expect. A couple that purchases a new $300,000 home will save almost $4,000 in GST. A family that does $10,000 of home renovations will save $200 in GST. A family that spends $30,000 on a new mini-van will save $600 in GST. No wonder so many diverse organizations have embraced this announcement.

Retail BC, for instance, remarked:

The GST cut is welcome news to consumers as well as Canadian retailers who are working to make their prices more competitive with the US.

Tourism Victoria's CEO, Lorne Whyte, liked the GST cut. He said it would “be good for the domestic market for tourism in Canada”.

Even former Liberal deputy prime minister, Sheila Copps, heralded our GST cut, noting:

Most Canadians don't like the GST and want governments to reduce it. Political parties who ignore the consensus do so at their peril. It would be suicidal for any opposition party to bring down the government on the GST.

To ensure continued assistance for low to modest income Canadians, the GST credit will be maintained at its current level. This translates into more than $1 billion in benefits annually for these individuals.

The economic statement also announced additional tax relief for individuals and families by increasing the amount Canadians could earn before they start to pay income tax, up to $9,600. What is more, this measure is retroactive to January 1. Also, a further increase to $10,100 is slated for January 1, 2009. These measures alone will provide $2.5 billion in tax relief over this and the next year.

Furthermore, the economic statement proposes to reduce the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%, retroactive again to January 1, that is this tax year. As a result of the personal income tax cut and the GST reductions announced in the economic statement, a family that earns between $15,000 and $30,000 will save $180 on average in 2008. The average savings for a family that earns between $80,000 and $100,000 will be $600. It is always good news when money is put back into the pockets of taxpayers where it belongs.

Additionally, the economic statement brought forward measures to help Canadian business prosper. First, Bill C-28 proposes to reduce the general corporate income tax rate to 15% by 2012. This will start with a 1% per cent reduction in 2008, beyond the already scheduled reductions previously introduced. In addition, the bill proposes to reduce the small business income tax to 11% in 2008, one year earlier than previously scheduled.

With these tax reductions, we have put business taxes on a five year downward track to help stimulate economic growth, create even more jobs and provide business predictability for future planning. These are proactive and strong measures to allow prosperity to grow in Canada. These are the right measures for Canada at the right time.

Indeed, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lauded them as “exactly in line with what we had proposed on behalf of our members at the Canadian Chamber”.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business lauded them as well, saying, “really encouraging because it sends a strong signal to business”.

Royal Bank of Canada chief economist Craig Wright declared “positive for growth prospects which should be positive going forward for the Canadian economy ”.

Finn Poschmann of C.D. Howe Institute simply noted them as “terrific to see”.

With these reductions, we will have established the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G-7 by 2011 and the lowest corporate income tax rate among the major industrialized economies by 2012, another remarkable achievement by this Conservative government.

As I alluded to at the outset, Bill C-28 proposes to implement the numerous outstanding tax measures from budget 2007 not included in the first budget bill passed in Parliament in late spring.

While time precludes me from addressing every one of these measures, I will note Bill C-28 includes, among others, provisions to: eliminate income tax on elementary and secondary school scholarships; increase the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000 for small business owners, farmers and fishers; increase the meal expenses tax deductible for long-haul truck drivers; extend the mineral exploration tax credit; reduce the paperwork burden of small business by easing tax remittance and filing requirements; encourage businesses to create new child care spaces through an investment tax credit; waive income tax payable by non-resident athletes at the upcoming Vancouver 2012 games; and introduce the working income tax benefit and the registered disability savings plan.

It is those last two items that I will further highlight for Canadians. These are two progressive, compassionate initiatives that clearly illustrate how the Conservative government is assisting the most vulnerable Canadians while also prudently managing the economy.

To begin, let us discuss the new working income tax benefit. This initiative has been heralded by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy as a “welcome addition to Canadian social policy…fill(ing) a long-recognized gap in Canada’s income security system”.

The United Way of Greater Toronto report has celebrated it as well as a “positive changes that will help to improve the situations of low-income families”.

Why such accolades? It is because of the important contribution this initiative will make to help low income Canadians over the so-called welfare wall. The welfare wall refers to the fact that for too many low income Canadians, taking a job can mean being financially penalized.

For example, a typical single parent who takes a low income job can lose a large portion of each dollar earned to taxes and reduce income support. In addition, individuals who receive social assistance benefits could also lose in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing and prescription drugs.

The working income tax benefit will provide assistance up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families. This will reward and strengthen incentives to work for an estimated 1.2 million low income Canadians and give them a leg up to get over that welfare wall.

To continue, let us discuss the registered disability savings plan. Our Conservative government recognizes an important consideration for parents and grandparents of a child with a severe disability is how to best ensure that child's financial security when they are no longer able to provide support.

In 2006 the Minister of Finance appointed the expert panel to examine this issue and provide recommendations. The proposed measures in Bill C-28 act on the panel's recommendations by introducing a new registered disability savings plan. Based generally on the existing registered education savings plan design, the plan would help parents and others save toward the long term financial security of persons with severe disabilities.

I hope all members understand the significance of such efforts to assist disabled Canadians. I hope all members would put aside the typical partisan posturing to at least indicate support for this measure.

While to some members this might seem to be just another government program, it is much more. To those who truly understand the impact that this will have, this measure is of profound importance.

To quote a Vancouver Province editorial from earlier this year, “the great good it will do is beyond calculation in mere dollars and cents”.

Indeed, Al Etmanski of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network reflected in a radio interview that this measures announcement “actually bringing tears to my eyes...I think it was very emotional for us, not just personally, but I think we understood what this meant to people and families”.

Bill C-28 is a large and broad piece of legislation covering an assortment of issues and addressing numerous challenges, but its overarching theme is the promotion of a better, more prosperous Canada, an even better Canada to live in and to leave to our children and our grandchildren. However, to do so, we cannot afford to sit back and rest on our laurels.

To quote the English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon”.

It is time to press ahead and build on our achievements. Bill C-28 does just that. That is why I call on the House to quickly pass this proposed legislation.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 11th, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to this motion but I am quite surprised that the motion to concur in this report actually came forward in light of the fact that the aboriginal affairs committee, on which I sit with the hon. colleague from the New Democratic Party, actually brought forward this debate in the previous session. This report has already been brought forward to this chamber and was approved by the chamber.

I see this action as redundant. I do not understand why the New Democratic Party is doing this. In fact, we are working on Bill C-28 right now, which would bring so many benefits to Canadians.

However, to speak to her motion, our government has done a number of things for first nations people, aboriginal people all across the country. We have actually looked at it from two approaches. Not only is more investment needed, but systemic reform, and that is an area that the previous Liberal government did not take on. We have actually done a number of things in terms of education, specifically in British Columbia with the British Columbia first nations education jurisdiction agreement that brings that systemic reform that is so needed in the area of first nations education.

I would love to continue this debate, because it is such an important debate, but our government has a lot of important issues to bring forward. We only had a few minutes' notice on this debate and we would prefer to continue it at another time and I assure this House that we can continue this debate on another day.

We have much other business, as we have so often mentioned this morning, that we need to take care of and therefore I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 11th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to everyone's attention what exactly is going on here. The concurrence motion that the NDP has brought forward is a delaying tactic in dealing with Bill C-28, the budget implementation act. This is a very sad state. The NDP must stand for the new delaying party.

The New Democrats are trying to take away so many good things that are coming forward here right at Christmastime. I guess they must be grinches because they do not want to go forward with decreasing the GST by an additional percentage point to 5% effective January 1, 2008. They do not want to increase the basic personal tax exemption to $9,600, which is retroactive to January 1, 2007, with a further increase to $10,100 in 2009. They definitely do not want to pass on these great savings to taxpayers and Canadians across the country. They do not want to reduce the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% effective January 1, 2007. They do not want to introduce the working income tax benefit. They do not want to eliminate the income tax on elementary and secondary school scholarships.

I do not know what is wrong with the member in bringing this motion forward. There are so many good things here in the economic statement and the implementation act that we should be getting back to the business of bringing forward these great savings to Canadians and ensuring that we as government get out of their pockets so they have more money to spend, especially in light of the Christmas season.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at report stage of Bill C-28.

Call in the members.

December 10th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I do want to ask you some very specific questions, but I have to make one comment. The fact of the matter is this government has put more money into agriculture than any government in the history of this country, and the tax relief being offered through Bill C-28 is going to affect farmers and benefit farmers as well. It benefits all Canadians.

Mr. Reid, in your submission you talked about KVD. This was something about which you seemed very adamant and very strong. Could you expand a little bit about the importance to you of changes to this system, and how that would benefit our producers as well?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity, however short it is, to give voice to a growing number of people across the country who are increasingly anxious about their state in life and their ability to look after themselves and their families. More and more of them are falling into poverty.

The homeless in our communities want somebody to speak in the House on their behalf and to challenge the government in terms of its priorities and what it has set out in its budget, in the mini-budget that we saw come before the House, and in Bill C-28, the bill we are speaking about.

I will tell people what many of us were expecting, given what we are hearing, seeing and feeling across the country, with the unease and anxiety in people as they look anxiously and uneasily at their futures and as they are experiencing their abilities to look after themselves, to buy food, put it on table, pay the rent and look after their families as the economy evolves and globalization takes hold and the very foundation of our industrial sector gets shaken to its core.

There was a time in this country when people could look ahead if they worked hard, made the investment and got the education they needed. They could look ahead and expect that investment of time and energy to produce progress for them. It would put them in a place where they would be able to earn a few more dollars and afford a few more things to look after their children in a different way.

However, we are now at a time in our history when that is not the case. As we cross the country and talk to people, and I have done that over the last two years to look at the very real poverty in our communities, we find that more and more people are actually anxious about where they are. They are not so much looking ahead any more. They are now beginning to look over their shoulder to see what might be there should they slip, should the rung disappear, should they lose their jobs, should their plants close, in short, should something happen over which they have absolutely no control, something that throws them into a total tailspin.

What is there for them? What kind of social safety net exists any more, particularly when they and others and our forefathers and foremothers worked so hard to weave a social safety net in this country, which we expected would take care of us in times of difficulty and in our old age?

More and more we are beginning to see the edge of the fabric fray and people dropping into poverty. We have levels of poverty like we have never seen in our communities, our society and our country today. The poor themselves are a major challenge. We need to be doing something about that. We are disappointed over in this corner of the House that there was nothing to address that in the budget, in the mini-statement on the budget or in Bill C-28.

However, even more important or as important is what this says about the rest of society. Thomas Walkom, in a recent article in the Toronto Star, said it most eloquently in my view. He said:

--the poor are the canaries in the coal mine. The deliberate attempts to reconfigure Canada over the past 30 years--by gutting social programs, dismantling national institutions and insisting that market forces alone can solve every problem--have affected everyone. But they've hit the poor first and hardest.

We shouldn't care about poverty just to be nice. We should care about poverty because, in the end, this story isn't just about the 11 per cent or 16 per cent of the population (depending on your statistical source) officially designated as low-income. It is about the deliberate erosion of middle-class Canada. It's about us, too.

I agree with him. As I cross the country I hear more and more people becoming very alarmed. People are experiencing that reality and people are working, getting together and doing everything they can to try to provide some support, to try to knit together with scarce resources community forces and community energy in a way that will provide support, help and assistance to those who find themselves in need.

There are groups in places like St. John's, Newfoundland, where I visited last week, who are gathering to work with their government, which now has an anti-poverty strategy, to try to make sure that people have good and affordable homes to live in. There are people like those in groups in my own community who have come together to work on homelessness and put together a proposal and a plan.

Alas, what these people tell me is that the resources they need to do this good work are scarce to begin with and are running out. They now go from month to month and year to year wondering if there is going to be anything in the budget to support them in the work they do. They are getting tired. They are getting older. They are running out of resources. Unless all levels of government come to the table, they say, the job becomes harder and harder and a point will come when it actually becomes impossible.

On this side of the House, we in the New Democratic Party propose that the government step out with courage and conviction and begin to work together with the folks out there who are committed to this to put together a comprehensive national anti-poverty strategy.

What should be in that strategy? Again, the people I have spoken to and the groups that are working out there tell me that the first and most important thing is to make sure that everybody who lives in Canada, everybody who calls Canada home, everybody who has a Canadian citizenship paper in his or her pocket, should have a decent home to live in. There should be a national housing program.

We have not had a national housing program in this country since the late 1980s or early 1990s, when the Liberal government of 1993 decided, in its zeal to cut the deficit, to do away with the Canada assistance plan and to reduce by literally $7 billion or $8 billion the social transfer that went out to the provinces. We know what impact that had as provinces tried to come to terms with it and download to municipalities. We know what difficulty groups and municipalities then had in dealing with the downloading and what a very difficult challenge they had to live with.

What people are saying is that they need a roof over their heads. If they are going to get out there, get a job, look after their families, feel good about themselves and take advantage of what little opportunity there is, they need a roof over their heads. We need a national housing program.

We need a homelessness initiative with permanent funding, not the band-aid we saw from the previous government. We have groups out there with very little funding that are spending most of their time raising money through car washes and bottle drives to try to house the homeless in their communities. We need a real homelessness initiative with substantial money and core permanent funding.

They also say to me that to put food on the table for people, particularly children, they need income security. We believe that we must give all children access to healthy food. We believe that we need to have support for families during the early years. We need a national child tax supplement, income security and a national child care program.

We also need productive work for people. We need to recognize in a more meaningful way the effort that most people put in when they go to work. We need to make sure that they are making a half-decent wage so they can pay the rent themselves and buy the food they need. We need affordable child care. We need fair minimum wages. We need income security.

Do we expand the Flaherty or Goodale working income tax benefit that covers so few--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise here in the House today to speak to Bill C-28 to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament in March 2007. Some additions were also made in the economic statement of October 30, 2007. I will come back to that a little later, with some comments.

The main reason I rise here today is to have a closer look at the situation. It seems to me that my colleagues across the floor, the Conservatives, have really missed the boat when it comes to addressing the whole manufacturing and forestry crisis.

To this, we must also add the whole question of the employment insurance crisis. Upon reading the various elements of the government's budget contained in Bill C-28, one must wonder where the extra support is for workers.

For several months now—in fact, since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa in January 2006—the reality has been that more and more jobs hare being lost every day, every week and every month. In the meantime, we have a Conservative government that is doing absolutely nothing to help our workers. What does this really mean? It means the families are not being supported.

These families are in crisis. The holidays are just weeks away. For several weeks now, plants have been closing one after the other. What does that mean? Lots and lots of lost jobs. Who is suffering as a result? Families. The children of these men and women who work so hard to ensure a better future for their children.

I remember how hard I fought to get the additional five weeks of employment insurance. I practically had to get down on my knees in front of the Conservative government to make it possible for our people to benefit from supplementary assistance during very hard times, especially people who work in seasonal industries.

Let us take a look at what has happened in the past few months. Conservative members have been saying that the country is doing well, that there are lots of new jobs, that everyone is working and that there is no economic crisis. I would invite them, as I have invited the Prime Minister, to come to my riding, Madawaska—Restigouche. They should not make it a little side trip that they can cancel at the last minute. They should come to Madawaska—Restigouche and meet the people who are losing their jobs week after week. Maybe then the Prime Minister and the Conservatives will understand what a dire situation this country is in. This is not a local phenomenon. This is not just a crisis happening in one region. This is happening across the country.

I would like to list some of the companies that are in crisis and that are cutting hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche and across the country.

Here are some examples: WHK Woven Labels in Edmundston; Atlantic Yarns in Atholville; and AbitibiBowater, a pulp and paper mill in Dalhousie.

Today, a new disaster hit the manufacturing sector. Shermag in Edmundston and Saint-François de Madawaska announced it would be closing plants. This means lost jobs, and that is unacceptable.

How long have we been asking the Conservative government to take action? For a long, long time. Actually, we have been asking since they took power. We have been telling them to get ready and do something. Our workers must get help. Businesses must receive support in order to save our jobs.

However, cutting taxes is not necessarily the only way to support businesses. If a business is not paying taxes because it is experiencing financial difficulties, what good is a tax cut? It does not pay taxes. This does nothing for that business.

We must save what we have so that employees can continue to work today, tomorrow, a year from now or 10 years from now. Today, the Conservatives are showing that they would rather have a business shut down. They are saying that it is no big deal and keep telling Canadians that everything is fine.

The people in my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche have known for a while that things are not going well. As the Conservatives continue to tell people in my area that things are going well, I am looking forward to seeing what happens to them during the next federal election. The reality is that the government must help people everywhere.

It just so happens that an AbitibiBowater plant closed in Quebec as well, in Shawinigan. However, the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is unable to find one red cent to help the plant, the workers, and the region of Dalhousie. It is absolutely despicable to act that way in such situations. In the meantime, other regions where the Conservatives are perhaps trying to buy something or other, or are at least hoping to win votes, are managing to get a bit of help. If they can receive help, why is the Conservative government simply not able to help everyone in the country?

Is it perhaps because we are talking about Atlantic Canada? Hon. members will recall the Prime Minister's comments about our defeatist attitude before he became Prime Minister. Is that why the Atlantic region is currently having problems? Is that why the Conservatives are giving absolutely nothing to help the Atlantic regions and their manufacturing and forestry industries? That is how we see it.

What is more, the country is bursting with surpluses, but it is unable to help people. The surplus was $11.6 billion for the first six months of the year. The public grasps the scope of that number. In the meantime, the Conservative government cannot give one red cent to help the manufacturing and forestry industries.

All of a sudden we hear ministers, including the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Finance, telling us not to worry, that help is on the way because the budget is coming. However, here is proof that this help will come too late. Bill C-28 that we are debating today is entitled An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007. This is December; why is it that we are still dealing with matters the government has not resolved since the budget was brought down in March? Even if the next budget provides help, how long will it take before our regions, our businesses and our workers finally get the help they need? Six months, a year, two years, ten years?

This government is all talk and bluster. However, when the time comes to present concrete measures, where are they? Let the Conservatives take note that this is the proof. In December we are still discussing what the Conservatives proposed in the March budget. Our citizens need help now, not in 10 years.

This is exactly what we are going through right now. We have a Conservative government that does not want to take any kind of action, while people everywhere in my riding, in the various plants and mills that I mentioned, need help. And that does not even include all the job losses in all the other companies and those yet to come because of the Conservative's inaction. We can imagine all the other indirect jobs that will be lost. In fact, we are discussing direct jobs, more than 1,000 to date. This number can definitely be doubled when we take into account all the indirect jobs in the companies that provide services to these primary businesses.

How will we help workers in the future? For one thing, we must provide immediate assistance to workers and their families. We must ensure that existing buildings and equipment continue to be used—we call that hibernation. We need to find other solutions. The Conservatives will not do that. It will be up to us, the ordinary citizens, to find solutions while the government resists taking any kind of action.

In addition, we must ensure that the government provides assistance to communities. Look at Dalhousie, for example. Not just the city of Dalhousie, but all of Restigouche will suffer. Not just this area, but the entire Madawaska region will suffer because of the closing of the Shermag plants in Edmundston and Saint-François-de-Madawaska. We must be able to provide assistance to every community so they can get through the crisis. Had the Conservatives listened at the right time, we would not be at this point.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate again in this debate on Bill C-28, the budget and economic statement implementation act.

The first time I spoke to the bill at second reading there was a lot of discussion on what exactly the government's direction was in how it dealt with financial planning.

Colleagues today have been stressing the fact that the measures included in the bill and in the government's other economic measures are gutting the fiscal capacity of the federal government. It is gutting it by a total $190 billion over the next six years. That is money that is taken away from the government and Canadians collectively to address the problems that face our society, the needs in our communities and the important aspirations of our families.

When we do not have that money and we take that money out of the capacity of government to respond, it is very hard to get it back, if at all possible. We need to pay attention to the direction of the government when it comes to gutting the fiscal capacity of government.

We also need to pay attention to the way that surpluses have been dealt with, both by the Conservative government and by the previous Liberal government. The constant refrain of “surprise, it's bigger than we thought” and “surprise we're going to put all of that money toward the debt and the deficit”, that is not good financial planning. To take that money out of any financial planning process related to this place and to the needs of Canadians is not a responsible course of action.

We have seen it time and time again where those huge sums of money that could be helping Canadians, that could be going to meet our obligations to our neighbours and to people across the country, are taken out of that discussion and do not become part of the priorities of the government.

There is a real problem with how we set priorities for government spending, both with the present government and the previous Liberal government.

In this corner of the House, we have had some success in trying to draw back governments from making that mistake. When the Liberal government was in power, the NDP negotiated to bring an end to a corporate tax cut that was being proposed at that time. We knew that corporate tax cut would not help Canadians in the way it was proposed. We knew that it was not the way to go. We knew that it was wrong. We proposed instead that the money that would have gone to that tax cut go to important programs that would actually help Canadians: lowering student tuition fees, building affordable housing, supporting public transit projects that help the environment, and to help our neighbours around the world by ensuring that Canada was doing a little bit better in meeting its obligations on foreign aid.

We were successful in that and now the only major money that we have seen spent on social programs in recent years is the result of our action in this corner of the House turning back that last Liberal corporate tax cut in favour of spending in those very important areas.

I am proud when I walk down the street in Vancouver now and I see the new blue and grey buses that are part of the Coast Mountain bus fleet in Vancouver. I know those buses were possible because of the money that the NDP fought for and obtained in that last Liberal budget. It is making a difference in people's lives.

Unfortunately, it is not enough. More needs to be done in the area of public transit and in the area of housing. We know that money went some way to helping and it is being spent now by provinces across the country but we need more to do that. It is not dealing with the crisis in affordable housing and in homelessness that confronts our communities and our citizens every day.

We know that students still face high levels of student debt. We know that was only a beginning in what needs to be done in continuing efforts to address those important issues.

On the foreign aid issue we are still nowhere near the commitments we made years ago to dedicate a certain percentage of our gross national product to ensuring assistance to people around the world.

We have a record in this corner of the House of showing what we would do when confronted with corporate tax cuts, corporations with high levels of profit that do not need our assistance right now. We know that big oil and gas companies and the big banks do not need our assistance because they have sky-high profit rates and are doing very well. They do not need the kind of assistance that the Conservative government is putting forward.

I am pleased we are debating an amendment to Bill C-28 that would remove the corporate tax cut completely and ensure that money is available for important programs. Hopefully, the government will engage in a process that will see the ideas and needs of Canadians engaged so that money could be spent more appropriately.

What are those areas where spending needs to happen? One of the areas that I want to talk about is the need to deal with the levels of child poverty in Canada. Back in 1989, this place made a commitment to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The Conservative government and Liberal governments of the day failed miserably in even approaching that commitment. In fact, child poverty has gone up in Canada over that same period of time. That was a failed process. It did not happen because nobody in the governments of the day paid attention to that commitment. It is still an issue.

Firstcall is a cross-sectoral, non-partisan coalition in British Columbia made up of 79 provincial organizations, anti-poverty and community organizations, and 25 mobilizing communities of which I am happy to say the city of Burnaby is one. Last week, Firstcall released its annual report card dealing with the issue of child poverty. Sadly, British Columbia has the worst record on child poverty in Canada. Statistics in 2005 showed that almost 21% of B.C. children lived in poverty. That is absolutely shameful in a country as wealthy as Canada and a province as prosperous as British Columbia.

In its report card, Firstcall proposed setting targets where governments could be held accountable for reducing child poverty. We know the importance of setting those kinds of targets. We often do it in other areas but for some reason we cannot seem to bring ourselves to do it in important areas of social policy.

Firstcall is calling for a minimum 25% reduction in the child poverty rate by 2012 and a minimum 50% reduction by 2017. It has some suggestions about how that could happen and what kind of policies could deal with that. It suggested that the federal government increase the Canada child tax benefit to $5,100 per child. It said that cuts to employment insurance should be rescinded. It also said that we should be working with the provinces to provide universally accessible, affordable and high quality child care. I am proud to say that New Democrats have all of those things on our agenda.

We know that the child tax benefit needs to be increased. If the Conservative government had put that taxable $100 a month toward the child tax benefit, we would be approaching that $5,100 figure. That would have put it up into the high $4,000 range, which is where it needs to be to provide significant assistance to families and children.

The NDP has fought long and hard for that. Our colleague from Acadie--Bathurst has been the prime figure in terms of restoring EI. The NDP's bill to establish a national child care program would do exactly what Firstcall is calling for. We will continue to push for that because we know it will make a difference to children and families in communities in Canada.

As the spokesperson on cultural issues for the NDP, the government needs to pay attention to CBC service. My colleagues from Hamilton East--Stoney Creek and Hamilton Mountain will agree with me when I say that the CBC proposal to ensure local radio programming in communities all across this country needs to go ahead. It is not an expensive program, which makes me wonder why it is not in the proposals that we have before us from the government.

Eight million Canadians currently do not have access to CBC local radio programming, which is one of the most successful aspects of CBC work. Local radio programming increases the cultural life of Canada. It has brought Canadians together. It has increased the democratic participation in Canada by informing Canadians about what is happening in their communities. However, 15 communities need that kind of service, including Kitchener, London, Montreal South Shore, Barrie, Kingston, the Laurentians, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Drummondville, Red Deer, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Fort McMurray, Chiliwack, Saskatoon and Cranbrook, not to mention Hamilton. Canadians living in those places deserve to be connected in the same way that the rest of us enjoy CBC services.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the report stage amendment to Bill C-28 put forward by my colleague from Ottawa Centre, the one and only amendment. It calls upon the government and the House of Commons at this stage of debate to delete clause 181 of Bill C-28.

For those who have been following the debate over the last days in the House of Commons, clause 181 contemplates even deeper corporate tax cuts as an aspect of the economic statement.

The public should be aware that for the last decade or so, there has been a mantra, a theme, a motif, throughout the Liberal government for 13 years and now the Conservative government, that the cure to all Canada's evils is corporate tax cuts. If it is child poverty, we need corporate tax cuts. If we have potholes in our streets, we need corporate tax cuts. If we give more money to the Canadian business community, that will somehow translate into relief for health care ills, infrastructure and virtually everything of which we can think.

Those of us in the NDP have challenged that orthodoxy. We understand we need a competitive tax regime, but we believe we already have that. In fact, those of us who were asked to tighten our belts for the last 10 or 15 years through record surplus budgets have decided it is time to invest some of our hard-earned cash elsewhere. Some taxpayer dollars can go elsewhere other than its final state of repose in the deep pockets of a banker or somebody in the oil and gas industry.

We believe the deep corporate tax cuts contemplated in Bill C-28 would undermine the fiscal capacity of the government to address the many other legitimate priorities our country has. Simply put, it would take $190 billion of fiscal capacity away from the government and future governments, because God willing, the government may not last that long and perhaps another government will take its place. With a corporate tax structure, which would then be the lowest of developed nations, not in the middle of the pack, not in a competitive, on par basis, but the lowest, we believe we would lose the ability to address the many other pressing social deficits that have been created by years and years of what can only be described as an ideological crusade to eliminate taxes on business.

My father used to tell me that not long ago the tax system was structured in such a way that business tax would be about 50% of government's revenue and individual personal income tax would be approximately the other 50%. Systematically, incrementally, bit by bit, slowly over the last 20 or 30 years, that has changed dramatically. I do not know what it comes down to with these current, most recent changes, but the proportion was roughly 85% individual personal tax and 15% total revenue from corporate tax. That will be dramatically reduced even further. I can only surmise, given the relentless pressure to reduce and reduce, the ultimate goal would be corporations and businesses would pay no tax and all the tax burden would be shifted onto us.

In their race to the bottom, there has been a competition between the Liberals and the current Conservative government. The Conservative government said that it would reduce the corporate tax from 21.5% or 22% down to 18.5%. The immediate reaction from the leader of the official opposition was the Liberals would have gone even further. While that was pretty good, they could do better.

The Minister of Finance took him up on his challenge. If the Conservatives had carte blanche to cut in half and slash corporate taxes, they would take them up on that game of chicken and reduce it to 16.5% in 2011 and to 15% by 2012. That is way below the average of comparable developed nations. It is as if this in and of itself would be the answer to all the shortcomings and the social deficit and the spending that we all recognize is necessary.

There is a theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. When the economy is cooking, we all benefit. We have changed that cliché to “a rising tide raises all yachts”. It fails to lift a lot of the boats of the people I know and the boats of the people I represent.

I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for pointing this out. The only social spending that has occurred in the last 15 years, 13 years of Liberal rule and two years now of Conservative, has been when the NDP managed, through its balance of power, to stop contemplated corporate tax cuts put forward by the Liberal government of the day. We used our influence, traded our support, to the minority Liberal government in exchange for significant social spending in Bill C-48. We managed to interrupt another completely unnecessary and secretive gift to Bay Street.

The Liberals did not run on that. They certainly did not give Canadians a chance to have any say on whether another $4.8 billion would be dutifully shuffled to their friends in corporate Canada. Fortunately, we intervened and that resulted in $4.8 billion worth of social spending.

The Canadian public deserves to be made aware of this. Some of the social spending now announced by the Conservative government is money that was booked and earmarked two years ago in Bill C-48. The NDP used its balance of power in a minority government to trigger some much needed social spending in social housing, post-secondary education, transit and foreign aid, some of the shortfalls.

We were asked to tighten our belts for 10 surplus budgets in a row. The Liberals told us that the social spending we called for would come but they had to first take care of some necessary priorities, such as paying down the debt and massive corporate tax cuts to their buddies on Bay Street. It seems they always come first.

Without the NDP to provide a balance of power in a minority situation, the government will always come first. When a right wing corporate organization elects a right wing corporate government to serve its interests, it is not surprising then that budgets are crafted in such a way to benefit those right wing corporate interests and the rest of us are forgotten.

I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre, which off and on, depending on what details are used by Statistics Canada, is the poorest riding in Canada. When the Liberals ruled the day and told us that we had to tighten our belts, they cut and hacked and slashed every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians. Marginalized groups, low income groups, like in the riding I represent, suffered the most. Let me give one example.

When the Liberals cut back eligibility for UIC, or EI as it is called today, those cutbacks in my riding alone amounted to $20.8 million worth of income revenue. There was a similar amount in my colleague's riding of Winnipeg North and even more in some of the ridings in Atlantic Canada. This $20.8 million worth of income that came from the federal government into my low income community pushed more people off EI and on to welfare. That was like taking the payroll of a company with 2,000 employees out of my riding. It ripped federal government revenue out of the heart of my riding and put it into more tax cuts for corporations.

We have just about had it with this ideology. We will oppose, at every opportunity, these further gratuitous wheelbarrows full of money to corporate Canada. Every time the Conservatives are in charge of the budget, they give the money away. They squander their money.

The Conservatives are the most reckless, foolhardy, wasteful party in Canadian history, the way they shovel money to Bay Street with no expected return. It is like Jack and the Beanstalk, where Jack trades--