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 Specifically, the excise tax exemptions for renewable fuels, including ethanol and bio-diesel, are repealed, effective April 1, 2008.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 3rd, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-28. The bill lumps together all the different changes that were proposed this year for the tax system. It also includes a number of other rather interesting things which have come out of the budget that I hope to have a chance to expound on a little today.

We have a problem with the direction the government is taking in the budget. It is wrong headed. The Conservatives are moving the country in the wrong direction.

The country is experiencing a great outflow of resources and energy. This has led to a very significant surplus of government revenues. That is a wonderful situation to be in, but it happens to be the cusp of the situation. What is proposed at the cusp is to cut the legs out of the government and future governments that will have to deal with Canadians' issues as they go forward by cutting revenue. Cutting $190 billion over five years will likely to lead us into a deficit situation, either financially or in the kinds of services and support that we provide to Canadians with their own money.

Canadians were not crying out for tax cuts. They were not standing in the streets waving the flag demanding tax cuts. No. The move for tax cuts has been rather different. It has been directed by the government. It follows a trend that was set by our friends to the south with the Republican government that was elected in 2000. It is completely backward. The U.S. government is in a tremendous deficit. That deficit is extraordinary and is only getting worse. Are we seeing the same pattern today? My sense is that we are.

I want to speak to the corporate tax cuts. The logic used for the corporate tax cuts is that they will do wonderful things for the economy and for workers, that they will increase workers' wages and that they will make our economy work that much better.

The Canadian economy is not the same as every economy in the world. It is like some of them. It is like that in Russia and Qatar, countries that export resources. The value in our economy comes from minerals, oil and gas, diamonds, and so on. That is where the real wealth comes from in our economy and we are exporting it.

Companies that are taking advantage of our resources, and quite rightfully so, are in a position to make great profits right now. Those profits are escaping us as Canadians. Those are the opportunities that represent for our children and grandchildren the reinvestment of the resource revenue that we are expending right now. In doing that, we are robbing the piggy banks of our children. Government revenues from those areas in the Canadian economy are extremely important. We cannot sell ourselves out. We cannot sell our children out.

I am not against corporate tax cuts if they are incentives for regions that really require the effort. We met with members of the Canadian Hydrogen Association two weeks ago. They talked about their burgeoning industry with great opportunities for innovation and development and that they needed money. We asked them if they supported the corporate tax cuts that are taking the money out of the government coffers, which means it is not available to invest in and to grow the kinds of businesses that we need to make a good future for Canada. They were silent. They need to get out there and express that in the corporate world.

I come from the north where wealth is generated from resources. Wealth flows from that region every day, yet the people who live in that region, who work in the mines and on the pipelines and in every sense are part of the explosion of the Canadian economy, are not getting the tax break they got 20 years ago. It has been degraded since then with nothing added to it. The cost of living has gone up tremendously for us.

The deal that was struck 20 years ago by the previous Progressive Conservative government has evaporated due to inflation. The current government is not talking about putting it back into place for those people who are making this economy work. I do not think that is fair. There is talk about the capital gains exemption in this budget and how we need to make that fair by raising it 50% to bring it up from where it was 20 years ago, but when it comes to northerners and our tax breaks, the government is remarkably silent. It is a sad fact.

Something that I am finding difficult with Bill C-28 is that part 9 talks about amending the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. What are the reasons? They are very simple reasons. It is not working quite right. Should it be included in this bill? Should it be done in the way it is being done right now? No. These changes are part of the reregulation of the north. They are directed toward the north and they are going to impact on our development of pipelines in the north for Canadians.

In the budget plan, these amendments were to be made and a consultation process was to be done. To quote the budget plan:

The Government will develop, for consultation, legislative amendments to address the discrepancy in the regulatory powers of the Board under these two Acts.

That is a great idea. Let us have some consultation. Are we having consultation here? No, we are getting this rammed down our throats. While amendments may be beneficial, in the context of the complexity of those amendments, can we understand simply by accepting them in a two day debate in the House of Commons? No. The government was supposed to consult on them before presenting them to the House of Commons.

Not having consultations is an anti-democratic, hollow action from the so-called accountable Harper government that was going to listen to people. Well it is not listening to people. It is not--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-28, the budget implementation act, because it is a very important piece of legislation in that it seeks to make the changes necessary to implement the government's plan for Canada.

I want to start by speaking generally about how this government goes about the budgeting process, and in fact how the previous Liberal government did it, because I have some really serious concerns about the way they do that business. It raises very serious questions about how decisions are made and how financial planning is done in Canada.

One thing we have seen in recent years is the phenomenon of surplus budgets. I think all of us welcome the fact that Canada is no longer running a deficit budget. Certainly in this corner of the House New Democrats believe strongly that we should have balanced budgets and that it is the responsible way for governments to go about their business.

In fact, overwhelmingly, that has been the record of New Democrats. A study by the Department of Finance showed that New Democratic governments were better at balancing budgets than any other party's governments in Canada over a period of time. That flies in the face of what is often thrown at us with regard to that, but from Tommy Douglas on, balancing the budget has been an important fact of life for New Democrats and New Democrat governments.

We are not saying that should change. We are not saying that we should not balance the budget. We are also not saying that we should not continue to pay down the debt, because New Democrats know that is an important step to take. New Democrats know that money should always be put toward paying down the debt, which is a burden on all of us and a burden on future generations in Canada as well. New Democrats know that we need to pay attention to the debt in Canada.

However, what we have seen is that Liberal and Conservative governments, now that they have been running surpluses, have not accurately estimated the size of those surpluses. They always have it wrong, sometimes by more than 100%. Sometimes it has been double what they have claimed the surplus was going to be in a given year. They have been very inaccurate in predicting the size of the surplus.

Predicting the size of the surplus is something that other folks have been able to do. Other economists and other agencies have been able to accurately predict the size of the federal surplus. The problem with not reflecting accurately the size of a coming surplus is that we remove the surplus from any planning process in Canada. It is removed from any financial planning process and any program planning process. Every government recently has had a special news conference and a special announcement to say, “Surprise, the surplus is much greater than we expected”. Every government always has said, “Surprise, we are going to put all that money to the debt”.

This takes all that money, those billions and billions of dollars, out of any discussion of what Canadians need, of what support Canadians need from their government and of what kinds of programs might improve the lives of Canadians and build Canada. All of that money is taken out of that process and is not part of those considerations. I do not think that is a very responsible way to do business. It certainly is not the way I would plan my own family's finances. It is not the way most successful businesses or corporations would plan their finances. To constantly say that “this is a surprise and is bigger than we thought and we are going to throw it all into this one place” is not the way to do it.

The other problem I have with the Conservative government's approach to the budget and financial planning is the massive tax cuts it has undertaken, massive corporate tax cuts, and the whole way that this is chipping away at Canada's fiscal capacity, the fiscal capacity of the federal government.

In fact, coupled with the tax measures already brought in by the Conservative government, tax revenues accruing to the Government of Canada have been decreased by almost $190 billion over a six year period. That is a huge decline in the capacity of the federal government to respond to the needs of Canadians. It is a huge gutting of the income, the revenue, of the federal government, which could be put toward necessary programs in Canada. There are so many places where that money could be spent which would better the lives of Canadians, but also, it would ultimately improve our way of life in Canada and our economy if we paid attention to some of those issues.

We see a growing prosperity gap in Canada. There is a growing gap between the rich and poor. Study after study says that poverty is not on the decline in Canada but is actually on the increase. Just last week, a major study of the situation in the city of Toronto indicated that there was a very serious problem with poverty there. We have seen studies that have indicated the difficulties of the poverty faced by new immigrants in Canada. We have seen the devastating effect of poverty in aboriginal communities as well.

None of that can be addressed if we keep chipping away at the fiscal capacity of government and if we keep taking surpluses out of any discussion of what we can do better in Canada and how we can assist Canadians better.

There are so many things that we could be doing. There should be targeted tax relief. A measure that is long overdue is an increase to the child tax benefit. The child tax benefit should be up around $4,600, if not higher, to more truly reflect the situation of Canadian families. We know that this measure would go a significant way toward assisting low income families and their children. It is something that we should be doing. It is the kind of targeted tax measure that New Democrats would call for, not further corporate tax reductions to big oil and gas companies and the banks, because we know there is no significant benefit for Canadians from that kind of tax reduction measure.

We need programs that deal with housing. On my desk, I have a stack almost a foot tall of housing reports from the last two months. In those reports, Canadians from all across this country, including the north and the major cities in Canada, have shown that housing is a crucial need in their communities. The reports show that homelessness is on the rise in many of our communities. Far too many Canadians are without a home. Also, far too many Canadians are paying more than they can reasonably afford for housing, yet the government has no significant plan to deal with this problem.

The government has trust money. That is the money the NDP fought for when we got the Liberals to cancel their last round of corporate tax cuts. We ensured that some of that money went into housing. The government needs to spend that money and actually build new housing.

Canada needs a housing agency that actually does creative work on affordable housing and on building housing. CMHC used to have an excellent reputation around the world for that creative kind of work in the co-op program and other programs, but we do not have that any more. We need to restore that feature of CMHC.

We need to spend more money on post-secondary education to make sure that people get the education they need.

We need to spend money on the environment. We know that many important programs are necessary to help us meet the challenges of climate change. Canada is not going down that road effectively at this point. We need to do that.

Infrastructure is also another key issue that is not dealt with effectively by the government in these economic and budget plans.

In my own community, there is an important project at Burnaby Lake, an urban lake that is gradually silting in and will eventually turn into a mud flat. There is a very strong economic argument for making sure that we maintain Burnaby Lake as an open water lake. We have not been able to secure funding to assist in that project. The provincial government and the city have stepped up and have made their contributions. The federal government continues to ignore the situation at Burnaby Lake.

The city of Burnaby also wanted an immigration hub, but there is no federal infrastructure money to help with this kind of facility which in our city is crucial because we receive such a high percentage of immigrants and refugees in British Columbia.

There is also a serious problem with recreation infrastructure. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently pointed out that the infrastructure deficit in Canada is $123 billion. There has been a huge increase in the last couple of years. It is a very serious problem all across Canada.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities pointed out the recreation infrastructure deficit in particular. Many of our recreation facilities were built during our centennial year of 1967 and are now aging and need repairs. Many of these facilities have closed because communities have not been able to maintain them appropriately. That is a huge deficit. It will have serious effects on the well-being and the health of Canadians if we allow that recreation infrastructure to deteriorate and disappear.

There are huge needs that are not being addressed by the budgets and the economic statements that have come from the government. These are very serious issues that we need to pay attention to, but sadly none of that is evident here.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / noon
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we last debated Bill C-28, I informed the hon. member for Mississauga South that there would be four and a half minutes left, and he has the floor.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 30th, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we next return to the study of Bill C-28, there will be four and a half minutes left for the hon. member for Mississauga South.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 30th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to 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

First of all, I would like to reiterate my colleagues' comments that this bill does not address the Bloc's five priorities, which we all know are as follows: complete elimination of the federal spending power, tax measures for regions affected by the forestry crisis, maintaining in full the supply management system for agriculture, withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan in 2009, and full respect for the Kyoto protocol and Quebec's interests.

In this bill, the rich continue to have the biggest piece of the pie. Oil companies benefit the most from corporate tax reductions. Because Quebec manufacturing companies make no profits, this bill does nothing for them.

The bill does not include any measures to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors, which are in crisis. Yesterday, in response to a question, my colleague from Trois-Rivières said that it would take shock treatment. The Conservatives are not here to provide that sort of treatment.

This bill also has nothing for seniors. Since this is an issue I feel strongly about, I am going to talk about it.

The bill does not provide for indexing the guaranteed income supplement or for fully retroactive benefits for seniors who were cheated for years. It does not include an assistance program for older workers who have lost their jobs and cannot find work. This bill enhances a side deal benefiting Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, which cuts the heart out of the equalization program, and Quebec is paying the price.

That is why we are opposed to this bill. Whether we are talking about tax credits or the decrease in the GST, the people who are benefiting from these measures are still the richest members of our society, while the others are continuing to sink deeper and deeper into poverty. Yet these are the people who need help.

I have been sitting in this House as a Bloc Québécois member for a year now. When I look at how the government operates, I sometimes get the feeling that we are the only ones who are defending the poor.

With regard to the 1% cut in the GST, which will cost the federal government $6 billion and the Government of Quebec $100 million, we wonder who really benefits. I talked to other people about this, and the example I was given is totally absurd. I was told that someone who buys a $300,000 house will benefit from the 1% decrease in the GST. I wonder who can afford a $300,000 house. Are most people in Canada and Quebec buying $300,000 houses? I doubt it very much. Surely not. Who benefits from the decrease in the GST?

I would like to talk further about seniors who are living in dreadful conditions and whose income puts them, in large part, below the poverty line.

I toured Quebec in the spring and I saw to what extent certain seniors live in extreme poverty. In 2004, a study established the low income cutoff at $14,794. That was in 2004 for a single person. In 2007, even with the $18 increase from the Conservatives, the maximum income under the guaranteed income supplement was $13,514. That means that a poor senior who receives the maximum guaranteed income supplement is living below the poverty line. That person is $1,280 a year, or $106 a month, shy of reaching the low income cutoff.

There is something scandalous about that. Once we know about it, then we have a moral and human obligation to do something. The government is up to its neck in surpluses: $11.6 billion this year and $14.5 billion next year. The government should be doing something for the least fortunate in our society, but it is not.

What is more, we know that in Quebec, and even in Canada, a good number of seniors are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement even though they are entitled to it, quite simply because they are not receiving the necessary information. Seniors are not aware of this program and the government is not doing anything to reach them. In Quebec alone, an estimated 40,000 seniors are poor—and therefore eligible for the guaranteed income supplement—but are not receiving the supplement for lack of information.

A few years ago, an MP from the Bloc Québécois, Mr. Gagnon, did an extraordinary job of finding these seniors. He reached thousands of them, but unfortunately many more remain.

A few weeks ago, we all saw the story on Radio-Canada television of the woman in Toronto, Mrs. Bolduc, 78, who was living on $7,000 a year. She was entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but did not know it. A social worker took up her case. Once again, we would have liked Mrs. Bolduc to receive five years of retroactivity after being cheated by the government for years. However, she was granted just 11 months of retroactivity even though five years of retroactivity would have amounted to just $12,000. The reporter asked her what she would do with $12,000. She said she would buy winter clothes, because winter was coming.

I called Mrs. Bolduc the day before yesterday, and I spoke to her for an hour. She was just leaving the hospital after breaking her arm last Friday when she fell in a Toronto subway station. I asked her if I could talk about her today, and she gave me her blessing. As I priest, that was all the encouragement I needed. I am usually the one giving people blessings, but in this case she gave me her blessing.

Mrs. Bolduc said something to me that I would like to share with the House. She said that in a country as rich as ours, it is shameful to deprive seniors of a decent income. I think this bears repeating so that the Conservatives will really hear it. The worst of it is that the government knows about the situation but is not doing anything to fix it. The government would rather spend its surplus on the debt than enable our to seniors live with dignity. I find that scandalous and immoral.

It is indecent to be treating our seniors like this. They are the people who built this country. They are not asking for handouts. They are just asking for their due. We know that seniors are getting poorer and poorer. We know that there is not enough housing and that much of it is inadequate. We know that suicide rates among seniors are climbing. It is scandalous that nothing is being done to help them.

Members of the Bloc Québécois cannot support this bill because it perpetuates gross injustices upon older workers, the manufacturing sector and seniors. It is important to speak out against it.

I have two minutes left, so I would like to share some lines that Georges Lalande, the president of the Quebec seniors council, included in a document that was sent to Quebec seniors. He quoted Victor Hugo to illustrate how important seniors are in a society like ours. Here is what Hugo wrote:

All things found upon this earth
Rich tradition gave them birth
All things blessed by heav'n on high
All thoughts human or divine
These things, if rooted in the past
Bear leaves that will forever last.

I think this means that seniors are important because they represent where we came from and help us to see where we are going.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 30th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-28, in which I take a great interest. First of all, I should point out that this bill introduced by the Conservative government was drafted for purely partisan reasons.

By drafting a single bill to implement the provisions of the March 2007 federal budget, the provisions of the October 2007 economic statement and the side deal with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia on equalization, the government has introduced legislation that may be designed to provoke an early federal election.

The Conservatives could simply have introduced a separate bill for each part of Bill C-28.

But no. It is important to remind this House that even though the Bloc Québécois voted for the March 2007 federal budget, we have always opposed side deals on equalization.

Now, Nova Scotia is getting new benefits under an accord that the Bloc Québécois has always denounced. We also opposed the economic statement because it did not address the Bloc Québécois' five priorities.

For example, the measures in the economic statement do not meet the urgent needs in the manufacturing and forestry sectors and do not include an older worker assistance program, even though the Conservative government could afford one, given the $11.6 billion surplus it announced in the economic statement.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois, as a responsible party that defends Quebec's interests, will vote against this bill.

As for the economic statement, this government has demonstrated that it is completely indifferent to the problems facing workers in the manufacturing and forestry sectors and the communities that depend on those sectors.

The Conservatives have demonstrated once again their total disdain for the lot of these thousands of workers who have been so greatly affected. This attitude appears all the more disdainful when we realize that the federal government has huge financial means with which to provide them with assistance.

The Conservative government had the means to help the manufacturing sector by providing loans for new production equipment and for massive investments in innovation.

It could have helped older workers as well. We estimate that it would cost $60 million to set up an income support program for older workers, something that we have been demanding for a very long time and that Quebec has also been calling for since the POWA was terminated.

Despite its vast surpluses, the government could not even come up with a hundred dollars a month to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors and ensure that the poorest of them have enough income to keep them above the poverty line.

There is nothing here for our manufacturing and forestry sectors, nothing for older workers who lose their jobs, and nothing to help seniors. Yet the Conservatives did not hesitate to cut taxes. What ridiculous propaganda. Who will benefit from these tax cuts? Rich oil companies in western Canada. The Conservative Party's only goal is to help the oil industry and, of course, scuttle the Kyoto accord.

These tax cuts will not do forestry companies and manufacturers one bit of good because these businesses are in crisis and are not making a profit.

All told, this government has presented measures that are completely out of touch with Quebec's priorities but that are great for their friends, the rich oil companies.

Once again, this proves that Quebec ministers in the current federal government have been sidelined. They have no real power, they cannot defend Quebec's interests, and they are just there to promote Alberta's oil industry.

The Conservative government's shameful indifference to the problems facing the manufacturing sector and the powerlessness of Conservative government members from Quebec are jeopardizing key economic sectors in Quebec.

Take job losses in Quebec's manufacturing sector: 135,000 manufacturing jobs—one in five—have been lost in Quebec since December 31, 2002, and 65,000 of those since the Conservative Party came to power. Nearly half of the 275,000 jobs lost in Canada during that period were lost in Quebec. The Conservative Party says that it is acting in the best interest of all Canadians, but it is certainly not acting in the best interest of Quebeckers.

Unfortunately, we have not seen the end of this yet. Yesterday, AbitibiBowater announced the permanent closure of several locations, including the Belgo mill in Shawinigan. Between now and March 2008, over 500 jobs will be lost. This is an economic disaster for Mauricie because closing this mill means losing $30 million in salaries and $60 million in economic spinoffs for the Shawinigan region. This is an economic disaster.

What is the government waiting for?

One thousand Quebeckers who work for AbitibiBowater will lose their jobs. This is a tragedy for these workers and their families, and it is dreadful news to be receiving just before Christmas.

The Conservative government needs to take a long hard look at how it has managed the forestry and manufacturing crisis. Everyone has been begging for help for years now, but the government just ignores those pleas, or promises measures that, for now, do not amount to anything.

Forestry workers have to know that this government is refusing to help them. That is unacceptable. The government has to help these workers who are going through the worst crisis in their history, a crisis that is made worse by the government's mismanagement.

In my riding of Berthier—Maskinongé, which I have the honour of representing, the furniture sector is quite important. In Berthier—Maskinongé, we have a number of innovative and dynamic companies and skilled and creative workers who, in the past, like everywhere else in Quebec, have shown that they can face the new challenges of international competition.

Now, in light of this new trade reality we are experiencing, this industry needs the government's support to help it adapt.

Let us not forget that this furniture industry has seen a 22% decrease in its labour force. It is currently generating roughly 24,000 jobs, while in 2000 it generated roughly 30,500. Employment is decreasing in the furniture industry and the federal government, with its huge surplus, is not doing anything about it.

In December 2006, I tabled a notice of motion calling on the federal government to implement an aid package to support the furniture industry as it adjusts to the rising Canadian dollar. I also asked for support to help the industry cope with fierce competition from emerging countries. Unfortunately, the federal government chose not to present any aid package or research support program to help this industry adapt.

As I have indicated, the Conservative government had the means to help the manufacturing sector by providing loans for new production equipment and for massive investments in innovation.

What more can I say? The federal government is only working on defending the oil industry and abolishing any form of intervention to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. It is only working for western Canada.

It presented an economic statement that is out of touch and does not meet our needs. In this statement, the government chose to help western Canadian oil companies and left the manufacturing sector to fend for itself at a time when it is experiencing the worst situation in years.

The Bloc Québécois cannot accept that the government is standing idly by as Quebec's manufacturing and forestry sectors crumble and fall.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River will be interested to know that when we return to the study of Bill C-28 there will be seven minutes left for questions and comments further to his earlier presentation.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we discuss Bill C-28, and as we go down through the number of things that have come forward in this bill let me remind members that in regard to the GST, we have taken it from 7% down to 5%. We have raised the basic personal exemption from $9,600 to $10,100 by 2009. We have lowered the personal income tax to 15%. We have introduced the real, true child care program of $1,200 per year. There is some indication that the Liberal Party would remove that and take it away.

We also want to make sure that we always talk about businesses because those are family businesses mainly where we reduced the tax. In our government, one of our key issues was the reduction of the GST. Earlier we listened to members from the Liberal Party talk about the GST and it was interesting as the Liberal leader said that his party would raise it back up to 7%. The Liberal leader said in June that he would raise the GST back to 7%, that he would scrap the 1% cut in the GST and use that $5 billion a year to expand the national child benefit program which is a bit of a bureaucratic institution. That is what he would take that money to do.

The member for Markham—Unionville said that “It's an option. All I can say is that it is consistent with our approach”. I wonder if the member has some comments on that.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we have an opportunity to discuss Bill C-28, which has three important parts: the implementation of last spring's budget, the economic statement issued a few weeks ago, which is commonly referred to as the mini-budget, and the Atlantic accord.

For the members of the New Democratic Party, it is also an opportunity to take stock of the differences between the various parties here in the House of Commons.

If there is one observation we can make in light of the most recent budget statement, it is that the Conservative Party, which is now in power, simply does not believe in the role of government in the economy. That is a purely ideological stance, and it prevents the Conservatives from seeing that, in an economy as diversified as Canada's, the government absolutely must be aware that it has to rebalance things when they get out of balance.

What caused the current economic imbalance? The overheated oil economy in western Canada, which affected the value of our dollar. In turn, the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar led to higher export prices, naturally. What sector has been affected? The manufacturing and farming sectors have been particularly hard hit, as the member for Charlottetown just said. It would be a bit easier to believe the Liberals' hand-wringing over these sectors if they had had the courage to vote against the government's budget. Still, we believe the member was talking in good faith when he said he wanted to do something for farmers.

The third sector that is feeling the effects of the rising Canadian dollar is forestry. Mill and plant closures in Quebec and the rest of Canada are the direct result of our loonie, our Canadian dollar, increasing in value by over 50% over the past five years. Despite extraordinary gains in productivity, plants that have been around for ages have been closing one after the other in Quebec, particularly in regions such as Montmagny and Beauce. Around Sherbrooke, we were all very sad when Baronet, a high quality furniture maker that has been around for over 60 years, closed its doors. It is one thing to say that a factory has closed its doors—that is kind of cold and unemotional. It is another thing to watch very skilled workers lose their pride and their ability to support their families.

How does the Minister of Finance respond when we tell him about these things? He stands up and says that according to them, they are cutting taxes for businesses, which is good news for productivity. Our poor unfortunate Minister of Finance does not seem to understand a thing even though, apparently, he is an educated man. It is hard to believe that he can be so completely unaware of how ridiculous his position is. He needs to understand that if a company, such as a sawmill on the lower North Shore in Quebec or a furniture factory in Beauce, did not make a profit last year, it cannot benefit one iota from a so-called tax cut because it did not pay any taxes last year.

Now for a rhetorical question: which companies did rake in huge profits last year? Oil companies in western Canada. Who will get the lion's share of these tax cuts? Oil companies. Who else recorded huge profits? The banks, which cleared $18 billion.

Let us examine what is going on in these two sectors so that we can better understand our Conservative government's priorities—or lack thereof.

It is primarily the Liberals who are to blame with the oil sector, since they did nothing for 10 years, although they were supposed to reduce greenhouse gases. They had the largest increase in greenhouse gases out of all the Kyoto signatories. It is a disgrace. The Liberals are responsible for this.

Now that the Conservatives are in power, what have they done? They have made it worse. They are busy denouncing the Kyoto protocol. They have no intention of respecting it. They have no regard for future generations. Their political base is in oil sands country, which is responsible for producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases. They have no intention of finding a solution to the problem.

Furthermore, they are giving bonuses for environmental misconduct in the form of tax cuts, without the slightest effort being made—in terms of sustainable development—to internalize the cost of adding these greenhouse gases to our atmosphere.

Now let us look at our Minister of Finance's absolutely classic bad track record with banks. Many people have their paycheques deposited automatically at the bank. It is not even their choice. Why should a worker whose pay is automatically deposited have to give a tip to the bank president to have access to his own money? Our tireless Minister of Finance, cap in hand, visited the bank presidents last year and was told to get lost. He got nothing at all, but that is no big deal. At least he made an effort.

Then, at Halloween, he decided to give the banks a little present. He gave them more tax cuts and benefits, with the result that the banks, which are already raking in huge profits and do nothing to reduce ATM fees, will get even more money. There is absolutely no vision.

Let us take a look at what is happening in the manufacturing sector, in Ontario and in Quebec, in the industrial heartland built up after the second world war, part of a balanced economy. Yes, we do have a lot of natural resources, yes, we need a manufacturing sector; yes, we need a resource sector like the one out west; and yes, we need a service sector. However, we are sacrificing our manufacturing sector on the altar of dogma, of far right ideology, which states that governments play no role in the economy. This is the narrow-minded vision that has taken hold of Canada.

Next week, Mark Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. He will eventually take over for David Dodge who, unfortunately, remains in his position as somewhat of a lame duck. In fact, his successor was announced more than one month ago, and since then the value of the loonie has swung wildly, as never before.

Some companies have benefited a great deal, particularly companies such as Goldman Sachs, Mark Carney's previous employer. We can hardly wait until next week to ask Mr. Carney some questions about his work at Goldman Sachs because many economies in the world today are guided by former Goldman Sachs employees. It will be interesting to hear the vision of Mark Carney, the man who sold the public's share in Petro-Canada. Is that the best way to go about things? He was the one who pointed out the tax leakage arising from income trusts. I will quickly add right away that we never supported income trusts, but unlike the Conservatives, we would never have lied.

The outcome of all this is quite interesting. Certain companies that paid taxes in Canada now no longer pay any because they are registered elsewhere in the world. Is that the vision that Mark Carney will present to the Conservative government if he becomes the Governor of the Bank of Canada for seven years? These are some of the very interesting questions that Mr. Carney will be asked next week by a parliamentary committee.

It is because of the New Democratic Party that Mr. Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. I suggested it to my colleagues and they unanimously passed a resolution to that effect.

This discussion around Bill C-28 is an appropriate opportunity to look at, analyze, and compare the different philosophies that exist in this House.

Just as in the matter of greenhouse gas production, Canadians now realize that they have a choice amongst a government that refuses to act, a Liberal official opposition that never did anything when it could act, and the Bloc Québécois that will never be in a position to do anything because it cannot act. The only real option right now on these issues is the New Democratic Party of Canada. We are the ones who are leading the charge on these important issues, such as greenhouse gas production.

When we look at the differences between our different parties, there is nothing clearer than the fact that for ideological and dogmatic reasons, the Conservatives are completely destroying the manufacturing sector of our economy. They are sacrificing it on the altar of their dogma and their ideology. They simply do not believe that governments can play a role in the economy. They have this idealism that somehow there is a pristine free market that works out the best solutions.

We have, geographically speaking, the second largest country in the world populated by fewer than 35 million people. We have, especially since the second world war, built a modern, solid and balanced economy.

Our country's beginnings were in the resource sector and it remains an important part of our economy. But we have also built hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure in manufacturing that is now being ruined by the Conservatives' inability to comprehend that the government can and should be acting on behalf of those sectors that are suffering from the sudden flight of our loonie.

What has been driving that increase in the value of the Canadian dollar? A very strong petroleum sector in the west that, of course, is producing greenhouse gases that the government refuses to understand is driving global warming. But that sector is also warming up the Canadian economy and destabilizing what was a relatively balanced economy.

As the Canadian dollar increases of course, it becomes more and more difficult for manufacturing and forestry firms to export their products because, the Canadian dollar being worth more, those exports cost more for people in other countries to buy. So it has been having a serious effect on them.

Instead of intervening in those sectors of the economy and trying to help maintain a balanced economy in Canada, the Conservative government announces with great fanfare, in the documents that are before us, that it is providing across the board tax decreases for all businesses.

What does that mean for a manufacturing company that made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company paid no taxes. What does it mean for a forestry firm that is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company did not pay any taxes.

Who is getting the lion's share of these supposed tax decreases? Lo and behold, it is the energy sector out west because it is making huge profits. It is also the banks that are making huge profits. Anybody who looks at these things understands that a solid banking structure is indeed the backbone of a sound economy. But is it necessary to have strong banks in Canada to gouge the little guy? What about someone whose paycheque is deposited directly in a bank? Why should that person have to give a $3 tip to the bank president to have access to his own money?

Our Minister of Finance went cap in hand last year to the banks and was sent packing. He received nothing except their contempt. He came back here to the House and said he had at least tried. He does not seem to understand that he is the Minister of Finance and the banks answer to him, not the other way around. But then again he is a Conservative so he cannot understand that. He thinks that all these structures are the boss and he is the underling.

We in the NDP understand that the government can and should play a constructive role in helping manage a modern economy like Canada's economy. We know that if in Europe people had the same approach as the Conservatives, they would never have something like the train à grande vitesse that now criss-crosses Europe at 300 kilometres an hour. It took vision. It took government involvement. It took the best brains. It took long term planning, something the Conservatives simply do not understand because they do not believe in it. They do not think that governments can play that sort of proactive role. That is why they are always coming up short on Kyoto. They are always embarrassing us internationally on climate change.

Canada once had a proud reputation around the world as being an environmental leader. After 12 years of inaction by the Liberals, and now the embarrassment of the Conservatives, we have lost a lot of that credibility. We can hardly look anyone in the eye internationally any more on these environmental issues, and it is a tragedy.

It is the same thing for the profound changes that we have undergone in Canada's role as a peacekeeper. We were once a proud country, with a role that goes back 60 years. The rest of the world has looked us and said that we are the country they can count on to help build peace when the time comes. If we look at what John de Chastelain did to build peace in Northern Ireland, we will see the archetype of what Canada can do when it works at its best.

What is the worst example? Our current involvement in a combat mission in southern Afghanistan, which has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our traditional role in the world as a peacekeeper and a peace builder.

That is the Tory record. That is the tragedy of the current Tory government.

However, there is one saving grace in all of this. The Conservatives have decided to move forward and make it increasingly clear that is their agenda, that is who they are. As we say in French, “Le chat sort du sac”. It is becoming increasingly clear, and more and more Canadians are seeing the Conservatives in their true face.

They are great emulators of the George W. Bush White House. They are more comfortable with American foreign policy. They are like the current American administration, tragically, blissfully unaware of the right of future generations to have us think about the effect on them of the decisions we take today. That is the essence of sustainable development. It is the obligation of every government in every action that it takes to weigh and to consider the effect on future generations.

I love it when I see senior members of the Conservative government, including the Prime Minister, pose with young people, the future generation, during campaign ads. It would really be nice to see them actually do something for those future generations instead of just posing with them during their campaign ads. One of the favourite things is to pose with kids skating. Pretty soon there will be no outdoor skating left in southern Canada for one good and simple reason. There will not be enough winter.

Some people might not lament the fact that our temperatures are starting to rise. However, we have to realize that it will have a profound effect not only on our future, but on the future of the planet. This is why it is such a tragedy to listen to the bumbling facile answers of our Minister of the Environment as he continues to embarrass us and goes off to Bali to spout the same animismes that come out of his mouth every day here in the House of Commons.

On our side, the New Democratic Party firmly believes the government can and should play an active role in maintaining a stable and balanced economy. We should look out for the interests of average Canadians in their daily lives. Modern families require a government that understands its obligations toward future generations and it obligations toward them on issues like day care, housing and overtaxation.

We understand the average family needs a break from government, but what we also believe firmly is governments have to play a role in the modern economy. That is something the Conservatives have completely let down. That is why the forestry, the agriculture and the manufacturing sectors are in such a dire crisis right now, and the fault for that rests squarely on the shoulders of the Conservatives. They are going to be judged very severely for it in the next general election.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to say a few words on Bill C-28, an act respecting the March budget and the October economic update. I want to say a few things about the general direction of both these documents, or I should say, the lack of direction and the lack of vision.

We have heard a lot of talk in the House over the last number of weeks and from any group that comes to Ottawa, and any questions that are put to the Minister of Finance. Basically it is talk about tax cuts and some numbers. I want to point out to the House and to all Canadians, that I do not represent numbers. I represent people, real people who have real jobs and real families, and those people do not like what is coming out of the government.

There were certain tax cuts in the last economic statement. They should be part of what I would classify as a productivity agenda but we do not hear anything about that. The right tax cuts are very much a vital part of this productivity agenda, as is skills training, as is funding for post-secondary education, as are initiatives that reduce any constraints on the mobility of capital, labour or goods, as are innovation, science and technology. The tax cuts can be put into four classifications.

We had the corporate tax cuts, and in my opinion these were good tax cuts. The minister is to be congratulated. These tax cuts will be beneficial to Canadian companies and will help the productivity of this nation.

On the individual tax cuts there was an increase in the basic personal exemption. In my opinion, that was a good move. The $10,000 which was announced originally by the Liberal government was decreased and now it is gradually going back up. It is a step in the right direction. This move certainly benefits lower income families as opposed to higher income families.

The individual tax rate cut from 15.5% to 15% was basically a removal of a tax increase which occurred one year ago when the tax rate was increased from 15% to 15.5%. Now it is being decreased from 15.5% to 15%, so really, it is an insignificant event.

Most of the money in the tax cuts came from cuts to the GST. I believe that every living, breathing economist in Canada would suggest that this is absolutely the wrong direction. It does absolutely nothing for productivity. It is inflationary. It is certainly geared toward the higher income Canadian. Again, it is something I do not think should have happened at all and I believe history will bear me out.

People expect more from a federal government. The situation in Canada is the agenda of the government of the day is to allow each of the 13 provincial or territorial jurisdictions to erect a firewall or a moat around their particular jurisdiction and have their programs and policies geared to the particular ideology of the government of the day. As such, the federal government has no role, other than in aboriginal affairs, fisheries and immigration. It has no role in the lives of Canadians. That is not my vision of Canada at all. That is not the vision of the people that I represent.

Over the last three or four weeks, we MPs have met a lot of people visiting Ottawa. A lot of sectors have come to Ottawa to meet with us, to talk to us and to plead with us for more assistance.

The manufacturing sector has been to Ottawa. We have lost 90,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector this year alone as a result of the Canadian dollar and the movement of jobs to other jurisdictions. The answer we get from the Minister of Finance is that we have tax cuts.

Well tax cuts just do not cut it for those 90,000 people who have lost their jobs, or for those who think they may lose their jobs, or a mayor or city councillor who represents a city or town that has lost a lot of jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Last week many representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities were here. This is a very important component of Canadian society, especially the large capital regions. They actually drive the economy. They are looking for assistance in immigrant settlement, in skills training, in research, in post-secondary education, in early childhood development. Most important though, they are looking for assistance in infrastructure. We have heard their pleas. There is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit.

I am pleased to be part of a previous government that did respond. It was not a total response to the plight of cities and municipalities, but it was a very good response with the gas tax rebate, the GST rebate, the municipal and rural infrastructure program and the strategic infrastructure program. These were starting to make a big difference.

There is a new package coming out. I call it re-gifting. The government has taken the bundle and put it in a much smaller box and put a big bow on it. Instead of being over three years it is over seven years, and it is approximately 50% of the previous programs.

No one should think that the mayors and city councillors are being fooled as a result of this announcement. These people have to go back to their constituents and they have to get re-elected. They know exactly what is going on.

These people were in Ottawa last week and they met with the Minister of Finance. They were told three things. The first thing they were told was that the government is not in the pothole business. The second thing they were told is that they should stop their whining. The third thing they were told is that they should go home. They are going home, but I do not think they are going to be quiet.

Over the last three weeks we have met with two separate pan-Canadian organizations representing students at our post-secondary institutions. They pleaded with politicians to do something about their plight. A country is only as strong as its educational system. We know the debt crisis that some of these students are facing. They did meet with the politicians and they did meet with the government, but they went home empty-handed. They were told about these tax cuts.

The week before last, several of the agricultural sectors were in Ottawa. Not in all, but in certain sectors, farmers across Canada are having a very difficult time, especially the beef and pork producers. In fact, in my career here, I have never seen the pork industry in worse shape. It is facing a perfect storm. There is the high Canadian dollar, feed costs are going through the roof, and other import costs are increasing dramatically. Also, the price of their final product is at an all time low. The primary producers are shutting down in record numbers.

I want to quote one of the leading producers from my province, Mr. Eddie Dykerman, a Prince Edward Island farmer from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture:

At a time when the federal government is basically embarrassed by its surplus...it's a big disappointment that something couldn't be done for agriculture when people are actually walking off their farms and losing their houses and their way of living and everything else...

A lot of farmers who are closing their farms, especially in the pork sector, have been third, fourth and fifth generation farmers. They are very efficient farmers but they are caught in this perfect storm, and again, we have a government that is doing absolutely nothing.

I recall three or four years ago, when the Conservatives were in opposition they were talking about agriculture. Now that they are in government, we are seeing absolutely nothing. I, like most Canadians, especially the Canadians in these sectors, am extremely disappointed.

The list goes on and on. What did the aboriginal people see in Bill C-28? What did they see in the previous budget? Did the people who are concerned about climate change and about the environment see anything in either of these two documents? Students and poor people saw nothing. The list goes on and on.

That is the direction in which we are heading. The Prime Minister announced that he intends to introduce legislation in the House putting constraints on the federal government's spending power. This power was used by successive governments of various political stripes to develop, to maintain and to enhance social programs, such as medicare, employment insurance, the Canada pension plan, the child tax credit, the old age pension, the old age security, et cetera. Those programs responded to the needs, the hopes and the dreams of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

However, we have a government now that is prepared to put a moat or a wall around each jurisdiction and that is prepared to introduce legislation in the House that would restrict the power of any future government to develop any programs like medicare, like the Canada pension plan and like old age security. Let me say right here and now that is not my vision of a strong federal government.

In Canada, we need a federal government that speaks for every Canadian, regardless of where they live or in which sector they are involved, but as a pan-Canadian vision. I do not see that in the policies, the programs and the initiatives that are coming forward in either Bill C-28 or in any other legislation that has been introduced in the House.

I will get questions at the end of my speech and I hope I do because it will give me an opportunity to expand on some of the points I raised.

In the House, the Prime Minister issues talking points and the Conservatives will be talking about 13 years. I will address that right here and now.

I was a member of Parliament on that side of the House for the last five years of that government and that government has a tremendous record. When it came to power, the annual deficit was $43 billion.

We had a Conservative government in power for nine years. Interest rates were at 12% and unemployment was at 11%. The debt to GDP ratio was at 73%. The world monetary bank had an active file monitoring this country. We were basically under active engagement with that world organization. We were down to days before this country would have been broke. I say that the country would have been broke, not the prime minister, Mr. Brian Mulroney. He was not going broke, according to the media reports and what I am hearing in the House right now. It was the country. We need to make that distinction before we go any further. It was not Brian Mulroney.

We did respond to the needs of Canadians. We developed a lot of assistance for the cities, the towns and the communities. We had the gas tax agreement, the municipal rural infrastructure program, the strategic program and other programs that assisted the cities, because there was in Canada a real imbalance developing between the cities, that level of government, and the other levels of government.

There were dramatic increases in the amount of research moneys going to not only post-secondary institutions but other foundations. We developed a program of early childhood development. We substantially increased maternity benefits for families. We developed the child tax benefit, which, in my opinion, was probably one of the greatest social programs ever developed in this country. We also increased the guaranteed income supplement.

I could go on and on. However, I do want to clarify that the Liberal government did have problems at first. When we were left with a $43 billion deficit from the Mulroney years, we had to make tough decisions. Yes, we made tough decisions but we did respond to the needs of Canadians. That will answer any questions that members on the opposite side have.

We also introduced $100 billion in tax cuts that again responded to the productivity agenda of this country.

I am disappointed in the direction the government is taking.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, on 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. Other economic statements have also been included in this bill.

I will explain the Bloc Québécois position. But I will start by saying that this bill implements the economic statement tabled in October 2007, which does not meet the five priorities of the Bloc Québécois. That is why we will vote against Bill C-28. As the House will recall, the Bloc Québécois strongly defended the interests of Quebeckers and expected that, with the 2007 budget, the federal government would eliminate the federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions. We were expecting direct assistance to resolve the manufacturing crisis, and that was not announced. We also wanted to see the necessary investments to help the most disadvantaged. Once again, there was nothing in this regard.

What we saw in the economic statement was that the oil companies obtained the lion's share and benefited from corporate tax reductions included in the bill, while Quebec manufacturing firms, which are not turning a profit, did not. It is quite something to see the Conservative members, even those from Quebec, rise in this House to say that they have helped the manufacturing and forestry industries by lowering taxes. To take advantage of tax cuts, you have to make a profit. When you do not make money there are no tax reductions and you do not benefit from the measures announced by the government.

The government often claims that it is creating conditions that are favourable to the development of industry. In the manufacturing and forestry sectors, whatever favourable conditions that the federal government may create will never be able to stem the crisis, which has been catastrophic for Quebec as well as Ontario, among others. There is a good reason why the premiers of Quebec and Ontario asked to meet with the Prime Minister, which they did yesterday.

Once again, the Conservative government is trying to buy time for there to be more closures and consolidations, so that when it comes time to help businesses, the government will have to help as few businesses as possible. This Conservative approach to governing, giving the market free rein, is killing a big part of Quebec's economy in the forestry and manufacturing sectors, among others.

This bill does not include any measures to help the manufacturing sector, which is in full crisis, as I was saying, nor the forestry sector. Furthermore, it abandons the least fortunate seniors and does not include any provisions for full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement. It is unbelievable. As hon. members know, to receive the guaranteed income supplement, seniors have to apply for it. It is not automatic. Even though the government has our tax return and is aware of all our income and of our financial situation, it still has not understood that those who do not reach a certain level of income should automatically receive the guaranteed income supplement. Again, why require seniors to apply for it? Because some of them do not even realize it exists. They are being kept in the dark. In Quebec, there are still 40,000 people who are entitled to it who did not receive it because they did not apply.

Year after year, the Bloc Québécois has been working hard to try to make members of the government understand that. All they have to do is listen. There is nothing hard about it. It is time for them to stop saying they have the power. It is time for them to use that power.

I am very glad I am part of a political party that will never be in power in this House. That way I can defend the interests of my constituents without having to defend the interests of my party. Such is the reality for Bloc Québécois members of Parliament. We are here to defend the interests of the people of Quebec. I stand up every day in this House knowing that I am defending the interests of Quebeckers, which is not the case for my colleagues in the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party or the NDP.

They have to defend the interest of their party because they are in power or might be some day, because they are hoping to join cabinet some day or because they are look forward to getting a position and pursuing a career in politics. Therein lies the problem. That is why they do not listen to their constituents.

That is why, once again, in this House, they failed or refused to understand that there is simply no need to have seniors fill out forms to get the guaranteed income supplement. Anyone 65 and over who files an income tax return and whose income is lower than the prescribed level should automatically qualify for the guaranteed income supplement. Then, we would not have to denounce the fact that 40,000 Quebeckers are still not receiving it.

There is worse. The Bloc Québécois launched an operation to locate those who were entitled to the GIS but were not receiving it. More than half of them have been located. That is one of the efforts made by the Bloc Québécois for all these people among the most disadvantaged. When they apply for the supplement, retroactive payment is limited to 12 months. That is the harsh reality.

Cases have come to our attention. For example, CBC/Radio-Canada reported the case of a Toronto woman who explained that, having reached a ripe old age, she should have been receiving the guaranteed income supplement for a number of years. Had full retroactivity been applied, she would have received $12,000. Unfortunately, she did not get it. She only got what was allowed by law. But whenever the federal government is owed money, we can be certain that it will go back much farther, all the way back to the origin of the debt, and will not limit itself to a 12 month period. There is a double standard. If the government owes us money, it goes back 12 months, but if we owe the government money, it will go back to the day when we made a mistake. That is the Conservatives' policy.

What is surprising is that when the Conservative Party was in opposition and aspiring to power, it supported a Bloc Québécois motion calling for full retroactivity. When it came to power, however, it decided to do the opposite. That is hard. I hope that the Quebeckers who are watching understand that there is a difference between a member who wants to take action and a member who takes action. We in the Bloc Québécois always act in the interests of Quebeckers, every time we rise in this House.

In addition, Bill C-28 does not include any measures or any older worker assistance program like the famous POWA, for those who remember it. In 1996, the Liberal government put an end to that program. This was also when the government decided that the employment insurance fund would be made up solely of employer and employee contributions. Consequently, in 1996, after the Liberals put an end to the POWA and other programs, a major decision was made in this House that employers and employees would pay the whole shot when it came to employment insurance and that the government would contribute nothing.

Since that decision was made, the federal government has pocketed $54 billion. That is what actually happened. The government decided that the employment insurance fund did not exist, but was part of the government's consolidated revenue fund. The government decided that surplus employer and employee contributions, which have amounted to $54 billion since 1996, would be applied to other expenses. The government has paid down the debt and done lots of things, except reinvest this money where workers need it. Once again, this is the way the Liberals and Conservatives govern: they take money from the poor so that they can give tax credits and tax breaks to big businesses like the oil companies, as they have done in this budget. That is how things work.

The program for older worker adjustment targeted men and women over 55 who were losing their jobs and gave them a decent income until they reached retirement age.

It is a program that might have cost about $700 million, that had been evaluated and that could have been paid for from the employment insurance fund; a fund that year in and year out has a surplus of between $1.5 and $2 billion. The Conservative government lowered premiums and got themselves some good press with that. Every week, every two weeks or month, they give back pennies, peanuts, on the salaries of workers. No employee has even noticed this reduction in employment insurance premiums announced by the Conservatives.

However, one thing is certain. The people who lost their jobs in the forestry and manufacturing sectors, and who were 55 or older, know how much a support program for older workers could have helped them toward a decent retirement. They devoted 25, 30, or 35 years of their lives to the companies that were forced to close their doors.

The rise of the Canadian dollar is a support program or a nuisance program that nobody ever asked for. The workers are suffering from it and, once again, the government talks about the free market. Well, the free market is causing the loss of jobs in Quebec—a great many jobs in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. The government could have helped workers who are 55 or older and who lost their jobs. They could have benefited from a support program until age 65 but the government said “No.” Even though surpluses are piling up in the employment insurance fund, they tell us there are none. People are making profits because the Conservatives understand profit and loss better. The Conservatives give assistance to companies that are making profits and they take the profits from the employment insurance fund to pay down the national debt; but they do not help those who need help most. That is the outcome of Bill C-28 and it is another reason why we are against it.

What is more, the bill enhances a special agreement that unfairly benefits Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. That agreement cuts the heart out of the equalization program and puts Quebec at a disadvantage. The Quebeckers, and even the Canadians, who are listening to us must understand that this program had been promised to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in relation to oil royalties. Because of the Hibernia project, the Liberal government had promised an amount of money in compensation related to oil production. That compensation should never have existed at the time when that was decided. Once again, it was a matter of election promises.

What do people do to get into power? They do things that they should never do; because the Hibernia debt was not paid off. It should never be forgotten, and I could tell the whole story, but the fact is that Hibernia was paid for with money from Quebeckers and Canadians. More or less, Quebeckers paid 25% of the total cost of Hibernia. That is the reality.

On the other hand, in Quebec, the cost of developing hydroelectricity was paid for in full by Quebeckers through the various taxes, income tax and royalties and charges paid to Hydro-Québec. Yet, there has never been any compensation for Quebec. It is always a double standard when it comes to Quebec, and not just once. That is one reason why many people see Quebec sovereignty as the solution. However, as long as we are still in this country, we must all play by the rules.

Equalization is guaranteed under their Canadian Constitution and takes into account the provinces' relative wealth and poverty. Under the accord with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, oil revenues will not be counted as wealth and will not be part of the equalization formula. This bill would implement the accord, thereby letting provinces that benefited from federal investment—25% of which came from Quebec—benefit from Hibernia as well. They want to have their cake and eat it too, and they want it à la mode to boot.

Not taking oil revenues into account skews the numbers used to determine equalization payments, restore fiscal balance and calculate the amount of money that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland will collect. These provinces are considered to be less wealthy than they really are, which results in lower equalization payments for those provinces that are poor. The very nature of the federal government means that Quebec benefits from equalization.

When I witnessed the closing of the only automobile assembly plant in Boisbriand, Quebec, I understood.

Because of our hydroelectric development—which, I repeat, was paid for entirely by Quebeckers—Quebec is one of the world's largest producers of aluminum and magnesium. About 65% of these resources are used in automobile manufacturing. Yet despite the fact that Quebec is a major mineral producer, there are no automobile manufacturing plants in the province. Everything is concentrated in Ontario. That is the reality of the situation.

When I entered politics in 2000, I was in Mirabel and Prime Minister Chrétien was in power. During the election campaign, he said that Ontario had the auto industry and Quebec had the aerospace industry. When I came to Parliament, Quebec had 60% of Canada's aerospace industry. This year, just 51% of Canada's aerospace manufacturing happened in Quebec.

The Conservatives are always trying to make Quebec smaller. It is even more surprising to see MPs from Quebec take part in these decisions. They do it unknowingly and innocently, but they nonetheless participate every day in these decisions to try to chip away at Quebec. We see that in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Help? Conservatives do not help. Conservatives allow the free market to reign. They allow companies to merge. They allow plants to close in our villages. That is what Conservative MPs do every day in this House. Now they are politely asking the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Finance if there will be an aid program. The Minister of Industry then stands up in this House and says they have just provided one and that they created the economic environment that will make industry flourish in Canada.

The dollar has never been so high. It has never been so difficult for our exporters to sell abroad. The softwood lumber crisis still has not been resolved. We end up with this forestry crisis on the heels of the softwood lumber crisis that affects the two biggest provinces in Canada, Quebec and Ontario. Again, according to the Conservatives, we should let the market reign, let our constituents lose their jobs in their regions and we should definitely not create an aid program for older workers or help them get to retirement with dignity. That is the Conservative philosophy.

Is that how MPs from Quebec get elected under the Conservative banner? I am not here to judge what they do and how they do it. They probably want to advance their careers and that is up to them. But that is not the choice I made. I could have made a career in a party in power, but that is not what I was interested in. I was interested in standing up in this House every day to defend the interests of my constituents. That is the only goal of every Bloc Québécois MP in this House, to stand up every day to defend the interests of Quebeckers.

That is why since 1993 there has been a Bloc Québécois majority of members in this House. Quebeckers have understood. In the next election campaign, the same thing will happen again. Everyone is trying to understand why. It is because Quebec is probably the only province that understands they have to elect members to stand up for their interests, and not members to defend their party’s interests to the public. This reflects how Quebec has developed, having always been in the forefront in Canada when it comes to everything having to do with assistance programs or anything else.

Quebec is the place in North America that does the best job of sharing the wealth among the people who live there. We are happy about that, we are proud of it, but we are not proud to see what the rest of Canada is doing in many areas. We are even less proud that there are Quebec members who belong to the Conservative Party and who rise to vote against Bloc Québécois proposals, when all the Bloc Québécois wants to do, every day, is help their fellow citizens. Obvious examples can be seen here in this House. We have never shied away from this work.

That is why we oppose Bill C-28. As long as the bills introduced by the Conservative government are of no benefit to people who are unemployed and workers in the forestry and manufacturing industries, we will oppose them.