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 Specifically, the excise tax exemptions for renewable fuels, including ethanol and bio-diesel, are repealed, effective April 1, 2008.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.

Jobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders

November 29th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the Conservatives' latest omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-45, at report stage.

I will focus my remarks today on: one, how the New Democrats worked closely with and supported, helped, aided and abetted the Conservatives in their ramming of this omnibus bill through committee; two, a very dangerous precedent that was set at finance committee during the study of Bill C-45; and, three, some of the flaws in Bill C-45 that were identified by Canadians during the committee's study.

As members know, Bill C-45 is a mammoth bill. It is over 400 pages long and would amend over 60 different laws. It includes a large number of provisions that simply do not belong in a budget bill: rewriting the laws protecting Canada's waterways; redefining aboriginal fisheries, without even consulting first nations peoples; and eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. These are just a few examples of what is in Bill C-45 and examples of measures that would really have nothing to do with the fiscal situation of the country.

Canadians overwhelmingly disapprove of the Conservatives' use of omnibus budget bills to ram a large number of unrelated measures through Parliament without sufficient study or debate. A recent poll by Forum Research shows that 64% of Canadians oppose the Conservatives' omnibus legislative approach. Even a majority of Conservative supporters oppose the Conservatives' use, overuse and abuse of omnibus bills.

The Prime Minister once opposed the use of omnibus bills, but under his watch we have seen a clear trend toward the use of omnibus legislation. In fact, Bill C-13 in 2006 was 198 pages; Bill C-28 in 2007 was 378 pages; Bill C-10 in 2009 was 552 pages; Bill C-9 in 2010 was 904 pages; Bill C-13 in 2011 was 658 pages; and Bill C-38 earlier this year was 452 pages.

To put this in context, the largest Liberal budget bill was Bill C-28 in 2003, which was 144 pages in length, and it focused on fiscal measures, not on unrelated measures.

I will also speak about the NDP in this case. The NDP actually helped the Conservatives in passing Bill C-45 as quickly as possible through committee. The New Democrats say that they oppose Bill C-45 and they say that they oppose closure. However, their actions speak louder than their words. While they talk the talk, they do not walk the walk when it comes to actually standing up to the Conservatives and their abuse of Parliament. Instead of standing up to the Conservatives and providing any real opposition to Bill C-45, the New Democrats have actually been helping the Conservatives.

Here are a few examples. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to impose time allocation to limit the debate on Bill C-45 at committee. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to overrule the finance committee chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, a chair who is respected by all members of the House for his judgment. To have him rebuked by his own colleagues was bad and it was terrible to see the New Democrats gang up with the Conservatives against the member for Edmonton—Leduc. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to throw out the rules at committee and to shut down opposition to Bill C-45. The New Democrats then gave up one of their votes at finance committee and worked out a schedule with the Conservatives so the finance committee could get through Bill C-45 as quickly as possible. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives almost 2,000 times at the finance committee to oppose measures that could have delayed certain parts of Bill C-45.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

October 22nd, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 9, 2009, by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to disallow further amendments and subamendments at the second reading stage of Bill C-23, Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

I want to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. Minister of State and Chief Government Whip for their comments.

The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel argued that the motion of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, having been moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, should be ruled out of order since it does not fall within the definition of a routine motion as prescribed in that Standing Order. Instead, he argued that the Standing Order was used to limit debate, in the same fashion as moving the previous question.

In addition to agreeing with the arguments raised by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the member for Vancouver East expressed concern about the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 and the “creeping, sort of incremental change” accompanying this, which then led her to question the appropriateness of its use in this case. She added that there are other mechanisms available to the government to manage the amount of time allocated to debate on Bill C-23.

The chief government whip contended that the government was applying Standing Order 56.1 correctly and that there had been previous instances where the Standing Order was used in this fashion.

For the benefit of members, the motion adopted on October 9, 2009, reads as follows:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, the second reading stage of Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, shall not be subject to any further amendments or sub-amendments.

As mentioned by the member for Vancouver East, similar concerns over the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 were raised in 2001 when it was used for the disposition of a bill at various stages. When I ruled on that point of order on September 18, 2001 in the Debates at pages 5256 to 5258, I expressed reservations about the trend toward using that Standing Order for purposes other than for motions of a routine nature. My predecessor had already urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the use of Standing Order 56.1, and I reiterated this need for the committee to do so at the earliest opportunity.

In the absence of such feedback, on May 13, 2005 in the Debates at pages 5973 to 5974, I allowed a motion that provided for the completion of the second reading stage of two bills to be moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1. Again, I highlighted the fact that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs still had not undertaken a study of Standing Order 56.1, and as such, I was not in a position to rule definitively on the appropriateness of that Standing Order's use and I stated the following on that occasion.

I believe having had nothing back [from the committee] I can only allow this one to proceed at this time, particularly so when the time allocated here is much more generous than would be the case under closure or under time allocation…Accordingly the motion appears to be in order.

Similarly, on October 3, 2006, I allowed a motion moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 which in part disallowed further amendments or subamendments to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. Another motion with such provisions was allowed to proceed on December 12, 2007, in reference 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.

As was the case in those two most recent examples, even though the current motion disallows further amendments and subamendments, it still allows members who have not yet done so to speak to the amendment and the main motion. Furthermore, as I then stated in my ruling in the Debates on October 3, 2006 at page 3571:

The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure...There is a significant difference.

This does not, however, negate the concerns expressed by members over time about the need for a clearer and agreed upon understanding of this Standing Order. The following quote from my 2006 ruling still applies in this case:

My predecessor and I have both encouraged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of the Standing Order. To date I am not aware of any report by that committee on this question.

Should the House feel the need to change the parameters pertaining to the use of Standing Order 56.1, I would suggest once more that members bring their concerns to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Since the committee has not yet offered clear direction on the definition of Standing Order 56.1, and since motions disallowing amendments and subamendments have been ruled admissible in the past, I rule that the motion moved by the Government House Leader on October 9, 2009 is in order.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to move the standard motion that can be made only today. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Monday, June 9, 2008, and concluding on Thursday, June 19, 2008, the House shall continue to sit until 11:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week in answer to the Thursday statement, this is we have work to do week. To kick off the week, we are introducing the customary motion to extend the daily sitting hours of the House for the final two weeks of the spring session. This is a motion which is so significant there is actually a specific Standing Order contemplating it, because it is the normal practice of this House, come this point in the parliamentary cycle, that we work additional hours and sit late to conduct business.

In fact, since 1982, when the House adopted a fixed calendar, such a motion has never been defeated. I underline that since a fixed calendar was adopted, such a motion has never been defeated. As a consequence, we know that today when we deal with this motion, we will discover whether the opposition parties are interested in doing the work that they have been sent here to do, or whether they are simply here to collect paycheques, take it easy and head off on a three month vacation.

On 11 of those occasions, sitting hours were extended using this motion. On six other occasions, the House used a different motion to extend the sitting hours in June. This includes the last three years of minority government.

This is not surprising. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard to advance their priorities. They would not look kindly on any party that was too lazy to work a few extra hours to get as much done as possible before the three month summer break. There is a lot to get done.

In the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we laid out our legislative agenda. It set out an agenda of clear goals focusing on five priorities to: rigorously defend Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthen the federation and modernize our democratic institutions; provide effective, competitive economic leadership to maintain a competitive economy; tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians; and improve the environment and the health of Canadians. In the subsequent months, we made substantial progress on these priorities.

We passed the Speech from the Throne which laid out our legislative agenda including our environmental policy. Parliament passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make our streets and communities safer by tackling violent crime. Parliament passed Bill C-28, which implemented the 2007 economic statement. That bill reduced taxes for all Canadians, including reductions in personal income and business taxes, and the reduction of the GST to 5%.

I would like to point out that since coming into office, this government has reduced the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $190 billion, bringing taxes to their lowest level in 50 years.

We have moved forward on our food and consumer safety action plan by introducing a new Canada consumer product safety act and amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We have taken important steps to improve the living conditions of first nations. For example, first nations will hopefully soon have long overdue protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Bill C-30 has been passed by the House to accelerate the resolution of specific land claims.

Parliament also passed the 2008 budget. This was a balanced, focused and prudent budget to strengthen Canada amid global economic uncertainty. Budget 2008 continues to reduce debt, focuses government spending and provides additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

As well, the House adopted a motion to endorse the extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, with a renewed focus on reconstruction and development to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

These are significant achievements and they illustrate a record of real results. All parliamentarians should be proud of the work we have accomplished so far in this session. However, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

As I have stated in previous weekly statements, our top priority is to secure passage of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much-needed changes to the immigration system.

These measures will help keep our economy competitive.

Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians.

These priorities include: $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $100 million for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

These investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass before the summer. That is why I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House later today.

The budget bill is not our only priority. Today the House completed debate at report stage on Bill C-29, which would create a modern, transparent, accountable process for the reporting of political loans. We will vote on this bill tomorrow and debate at third reading will begin shortly thereafter.

We also wish to pass Bill C-55, which implements our free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

Given that the international trade committee endorsed the agreement earlier this year, I am optimistic that the House will be able to pass this bill before we adjourn.

On Friday we introduced Bill C-60, which responds to recent decisions relating to courts martial. That is an important bill that must be passed on a time line. Quick passage is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of our military justice system.

Last week the aboriginal affairs committee reported Bill C-34, which implements the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. This bill has all-party support in the House. Passage of the bill this week would complement our other achievements for first nations, including the apology on Wednesday to the survivors of residential schools.

These are important bills that we think should be given an opportunity to pass. That is why we need to continue to work hard, as our rules contemplate.

The government would also like to take advantage of extended hours to advance important crime and security measures. Important justice measures are still before the House, such as: Bill S-3, the anti-terrorism act; Bill C-53, the auto theft bill; Bill C-45 to modernize the military justice system; and Bill C-60, which responds to recent court martial decisions.

There are a number of other bills that we would like to see advanced in order to improve the management of the economy. There are other economic bills we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability, Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39, to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-57, to modernize the election process for the Canadian Wheat Board, Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector.

If time permits, there are numerous other bills that we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers, Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins, Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to 8 years from a current maximum of 45, and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

It is clear a lot of work remains before the House. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been delayed by the opposition through hoist amendments. Given these delays, it is only fair that the House extend its sitting hours to complete the bills on the order paper. As I have indicated, we still have to deal with a lot of bills.

We have seen a pattern in this Parliament where the opposition parties have decided to tie up committees to prevent the work of the people being done. They have done delay and obstruction as they did most dramatically on our crime agenda. They do not bother to come and vote one-third of time in the House of Commons. Their voting records has shown that. All of this is part of a pattern of people who are reluctant to work hard.

The government is prepared to work hard and the rules contemplate that it work hard. In fact, on every occasion, when permission has been sought at this point in the parliamentary calendar to sit extended hours, the House has granted permission, including in minority Parliaments.

If that does not happen, it will be clear to Canadians that the opposition parties do not want to work hard and are not interested in debating the important policy issues facing our country. Is it any wonder that we have had a question period dominated not by public policy questions, but dominated entirely by trivia and issues that do not matter to ordinary Canadians.

The government has been working hard to advance its agenda, to advance the agenda that we talked about with Canadians in the last election, to work on the priorities that matter to ordinary Canadians, and we are seeking the consent of the House to do this.

Before concluding, I point out, once again, that extending the daily sitting hours for the last two weeks of June is a common practice. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 346, state this is:

—a long-standing practice whereby, prior to the prorogation of the Parliament or the start of the summer recess, the House would arrange for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance its business.

As I stated earlier, it was first formalized in the Standing Orders in 1982 when the House adopted a fixed calendar. Before then, the House often met on the weekend or continued its sittings into July to complete its work. Since 1982, the House has agreed on 11 occasions to extend the hours of sitting in the last two weeks of June.

Therefore, the motion is a routine motion designed to facilitate the business of the House and I expect it will be supported by all members. We are sent here to engage in very important business for the people of Canada. Frankly, the members in the House are paid very generously to do that work. Canadians expect them to do that work and expect them to put in the time that the rules contemplate.

All member of the House, if they seek that privilege from Canadian voters, should be prepared to do the work the rules contemplate. They should be prepared to come here to vote, to come here to debate the issues, to come here for the hours that the rules contemplate. If they are not prepared to do that work, they should step aside and turnover their obligations to people who are willing to do that work.

There is important work to be done on the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours, so we can complete work on our priorities before we adjourn for the summer. This will allow members to demonstrate results to Canadians when we return to our constituencies in two weeks.

Not very many Canadians have the privilege of the time that we have at home in our ridings, away from our work. People do not begrudge us those privileges. They think it is important for us to connect with them. However, what they expect in return is for us to work hard. They expect us to put in the hours. They expect us to carry on business in a professional fashion. The motion is all about that. It is about doing what the rules have contemplated, what has always been authorized by the House any time it has been asked, since the rule was instituted in 1982. That is why I would ask the House to support the motion to extend the hours.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

December 14th, 2007 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Honour the Deputy to Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber His Honour was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Canada-United States Tax Convention Act, 1984--Chapter 32;

Bill C-15, An Act respecting the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and employment in or in connection with the operation of a mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block, and to make a consequential amendment to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act--Chapter 33;

Bill C-35, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 34;

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--Chapter 35;

Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005--Chapter 36;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (verification of residence)--Chapter 37.

It being 1:20 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 28, at 11:00 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:20 p.m.)

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 13th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 1 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-28.

Call in the members.

Canada-United States Tax Convention Act, 1984Government Orders

December 13th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful, in the spirit of Christmas, how things are moving along quickly here today. We know that all hon. members want to get home to their families to celebrate Christmas. It is wonderful to see everyone working together here this morning.

We do have some business to finish up, so I rise today to speak to Bill S-2 at third reading. The passing of this bill, once it receives royal assent, completes Canada's role in the ratification of an agreement to update major elements of the Canada-U.S. tax treaty.

The U.S., for its part, must also ratify this agreement before it comes into effect.

As the House may know, Canada and the U.S. have had a tax treaty in place since 1980. Since that time, there have been four updates or protocols to this treaty. This is to ensure that our respective tax systems evolve to reflect economic and social changes.

Bill S-2 represents the fifth update to the treaty. Canada has numerous tax treaties with other countries as well. However, given the unique relationship we have with the Americans, the Canada-U.S. tax treaty is generally viewed as the one of most importance.

This treaty is part and parcel of the government's plan to create a tax advantage for Canada and we have a long term economic plan for Canada's future called “Advantage Canada”. This plan was designed to improve our quality of life and to make Canada a world leader for today and for future generations.

“Advantage Canada” promotes five competitive economic advantages we need to succeed in today's global economy: a fiscal advantage, a tax advantage, a knowledge advantage, an entrepreneurial advantage and an infrastructure advantage. Each of those advantages does not stand alone. Rather, they stand interconnected with each other. In other words, we are creating a Canadian advantage on those five fronts.

Given that we are talking about a tax treaty today, it is creating a tax advantage that I would like to highlight today. A Canadian tax advantage will help individuals, families and businesses to get ahead and stay ahead. Moreover, it will reward initiative and make Canada the global investment destination of choice. A tax advantage starts with reducing taxes for Canadians. Of course, taxes pay for Canada's important public services but high taxes limit Canadians' opportunities and choices.

With a more focused government, we can both lower taxes to create better incentives for Canadians to succeed and provide significant funding for priorities.

A tax advantage is about reducing taxes in all areas to stimulate investment and economic growth. This includes reducing personal income taxes to improve rewards from working, from saving and investing in new knowledge and skills. It includes creating a business tax advantage that will encourage businesses to invest in Canada. In turn, this will spur innovation and growth leading to more jobs and higher wages for Canadian workers.

The government also continues its commitment to restoring tax fairness. Canadians deserve to know that everyone will pay their fair share of taxes. That is what tax fairness is all about.

Indeed, tax fairness is key to the “Advantage Canada” plan. This plan will make our tax system simpler, fairer and more competitive. This will help us to compete in the global marketplace. We have taken significant action in that direction.

Most recently, this fall's economic statement proposed broad based tax relief of almost $60 billion for individuals, families and businesses over this and the next five fiscal years.

Combined with previous relief provided by the government, total tax relief over the same period is almost $190 billion. These dramatic tax reductions and initiatives will benefit families with children, workers, seniors, persons with disabilities and others.

They will also strengthen our tax advantage to help all Canadian businesses compete and succeed in the global marketplace. These important initiatives will help attract investment to Canada. Moreover, this action will increase productivity and economic growth and create more and better jobs for Canadians.

What, one may ask, does this have to do with tax treaties? Tax treaties and tax fairness are inextricably linked. Our tax treaties help contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy, particularly by encouraging trade. This is principally important because exports account for more than 40% of Canada's annual GDP.

In addition, tax treaties help attract investment in Canada. This investment means inflows of capital, technology and information, all of which contribute to Canada's economic growth, job creation and the well-being of our citizens.

In short, our government must ensure that Canada's system of international taxation is competitive. We have worked to ensure that our network of bilateral tax treaties is up to date in order to help Canadian companies and investors to prosper and succeed.

One important function of tax treaties to keep in mind when considering this bill is that they help eliminate double taxation. I trust that hon. members would agree that there is little that can have more of a negative impact on the expansion of our trade and the movement of capital and labour between countries than double taxation.

The potential for double taxation comes about when a taxpayer resides in one country and earns income in another. Without a tax treaty in place, both countries can claim tax on that same income.

One of the goals for Canada, therefore, in negotiating its tax treaties, is to remove the potential for double taxation. This not only helps provide incentives for investment, it promotes fairness in our tax system. That is why one of the proposals in Bill S-2 would allow taxpayers to demand that otherwise insoluble tax issues be settled through arbitration, thus ensuring that there is no double taxation of immigrants' gains.

Given the special relationship that Canada has with the U.S., it makes sense that our tax treaty would also be special. Indeed, Canada's income tax treaty with the United States is vital. It helps to ensure the efficient flow of trade between our two countries. These changes to the treaty, signed in September, will stimulate further trade and investment and make our tax systems more efficient.

Canadians and Canadian businesses will benefit from this treaty update in a number of ways. They will see reduced borrowing costs and a more competitive lending market with the elimination of withholding tax on interest paid on all arm's length debt.

Since treaty benefits will be extended to limited liability companies, the protocol in Bill S-2 would provide better access to U.S. capital. With further harmonization of the tax treatment of pension contributions in the two countries and new rules to clarify the treatment of stock options, this proposed legislation would also provide more mobility for Canadians working in the U.S.

Furthermore, these changes would, among other benefits, reduce the cost of cross-border financing and would have a positive effect on investment and, above all, simplify the tax system. All of these benefits, in turn, support the competitiveness of Canada's multinational enterprises. These are important considerations that we need to keep in mind when debating this bill.

One of the most important aspects of the Canada-U.S. tax treaty is the proposal respecting withholding tax. Reaction from taxpayers to this measure has been particularly positive.

Following the signing of the treaty, the director of the C.D. Howe Institute said:

And our research suggests that the bilateral elimination of withholding taxes will substantially improve the efficiency of capital markets, attract foreign direct investment to the country, and help Canadians penetrate the North American market on a more competitive basis.

Reaction from the other side of the border has been equally supportive. Treasury Secretary Paulson, at the signing of the agreement in September, said that updating our treaty enables us “to move even more swiftly in the global economy”.

Canadians will particularly benefit from easier cross-border investment as the withholding tax is removed from interest paid between non-arm's length persons between Canada and the U.S.

I will explain why this is a good thing for Canadians. Canada and most other countries levy a withholding tax on passive forms of income earned by non-residents. This fifth protocol will eliminate the source country tax on cross-border interest paid between unrelated persons and will gradually eliminate the maximum withholding rate for interest payments between related persons.

For unrelated party interests, the withholding tax is zero as soon as the protocol becomes ratified. An example would be in the interest that banks pay to a depositor. For related party or non-arm's length interest, the tax will be eliminated in three stages: from 10% to 7%, then to 4% and finally to zero after three years. This could be, for example, between a Canadian company and its subsidiary in the U.S.

With these important tax reductions for payments to and from the United States, the government is in a position to remove the withholding tax on all arm's length interest payments to non-residents, regardless of where they reside.

This initiative announced in budget 2007 represents a major step forward in Canada's international tax policy. The legislation to implement this measure contained in Bill C-28 is currently going through the parliamentary process, as we have watched in the last few days. Once passed, this measure will increase access to foreign capital markets. It will reduce costs for Canadians and Canadian businesses that borrow from foreign lenders.

It is important to point out here that the government had originally planned to tie the effective date of this general tax reduction to the Canada-U.S. tax treaty protocol. However, given the uncertainty of when the protocol will be ratified on both sides of the border, the government proposes to give the domestic rule a fixed start date of January 1, 2008. This will provide certainty for Canadian investors so that after 2007 they will no longer need to withhold interest on tax paid to arm's length persons in any country.

Summing up, this tax treaty bill, like others that preceded it, is directly related to international trade and investment. These bills have a significant and a direct benefit to the Canadian economy. This is no small consideration in a world where Canadian exports, as I said earlier, account for more than 40% of our annual GDP.

Furthermore, direct foreign investment, as well as inflows of information, capital and technology, represent the lifeblood of Canada's economic wealth. As a result, eliminating tax impediments in these areas, as this bill proposes to do, is of utmost importance, and that is why passing this bill is also of utmost importance.

I, therefore, encourage the hon. members from all parties to pass this bill into law quickly.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 8 p.m.
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Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments about Bill C-28. As usual, my comments will focus on how this affects the people of my riding.

Practical items that concern me the most for the people in my region have to do with the lack of serious speeches and measures from the Conservative government on Bill C-28.

I am thinking about an economic sector that is vital in my region, in particular, but also in a number of regions in Quebec and Canada, and that is the forestry sector. This sector is going through a crisis and its workers are affected by it more so than workers in other sectors. Unfortunately, there is a crisis in many other manufacturing sectors as well.

We all know that circumstantial factors contributed to making an already difficult situation even worse. In light of these circumstances and this crisis, we expected the government, which has the means to provide informed and dynamic governance, to help the people. After all, the role of government is to redistribute wealth and to be fair to all its citizens, whom it is meant to serve.

While we expected measures to help these sectors, both businesses and workers, we have seen in official documents just a small sentence, as though this were not as important—the Leader of the New Democratic Party was just talking about this a few minutes ago—as the oil sectors, the banks and high finance. Nonetheless, when it comes to sectors that are vital to the people in our regions, there are just a few words that leave a whole lot to be desired in the economic statement.

I am not speaking only about workers and what could be very legitimate expectations regarding employment insurance. I am speaking of course for workers who have been laid off, in particular. I am thinking of employability measures that will keep our forestry workers on the job, as well as our businesses.

We all know that in our various communities, our towns, municipalities and regions, thousands of jobs are being lost. We now know that, in many cases, there have been temporary closures in the forestry sector, but we also know that, quite often, they will unfortunately not be temporary. Some closures could be permanent. Given the lack of timely support and vision, municipalities and towns are being put at risk of devitalization, for which the people will pay the price.

While firm action was needed to allow these businesses in the forestry sector, among others, to reposition themselves, modernize, diversify and become more competitive, absolutely nothing has been done. This is unacceptable for everyone involved, since the possibilities were and are significant.

What is the government doing? As I said earlier, with one short sentence, it thinks it will console someone or that perhaps no one will even see it. The Conservative government—and this has already been clearly and eloquently stated—is nevertheless offering considerable tax cuts for businesses that are already thriving.

Clearly, in the provinces and sectors affected by this measure—let us be honest, there are more of them in the west than in the east—businesses and employees will benefit from it.

This is an easy solution. It is certainly not a sign of a government possessed of the vision and the will to use the means available to it to provide enlightened governance by demonstrating that it is concerned about all sectors of the economy, does not play favourites, is not in league with anyone and is fair to everyone. What I find striking, as I just said, is the degree to which these tax cuts will benefit companies that are doing well and making a profit, including, above all, oil companies.

To switch gears, I would like to talk about something I care deeply about, as do many of my colleagues, I am sure. The government failed to take the opportunity to help thousands of people who make up an entire demographic: our seniors. Unfortunately, I am talking about poor seniors. I am talking about seniors who are on fixed incomes because for various reasons, they were unable to put any money aside for retirement even though they worked hard. These people live on their old age pension and their guaranteed income supplement. They receive about $1,100 a month, which places them well below the poverty line.

Here is one example from my riding. Given the cost of living and the poverty line in the Rimouski region, our seniors' annual income is about $4,000 or $5,000 below the poverty line. To add insult to injury, they found out too late, because they were not informed, that they were entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement. To top it off, the previous government, the party that is now the official opposition, granted them just 11 months of retroactivity.

The new government—the adjective “new” has been used for some time by the other side of the House—had the chance to do something, to make an important decision for our seniors everywhere in Canada. There is nothing partisan or sovereignist about it—I am bringing this forward on behalf of everyone. This government had the opportunity to do something. However, once again, absolutely nothing was done.

In February, I will have the opportunity to table a motion in this House. I hope that this will spur a large number of my colleagues to reflect on the appalling situation of our mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, in short, our seniors. They are the ones who built this society and who are largely responsible for who we are and what we have today. At the very least, out of respect for them, we could provide an income that is above the poverty line.

I see that some colleagues have such an interest in this matter that they have been overcome by laughter.

Before I conclude, I would like to suggest to my colleagues in this House that they read a few pages from a very revealing book. It may prove to be a way of learning French but it is also a way to broaden almost everyone's horizons. This book was written by the well known author, Riccardo Petrella. He has just written a new book, Pour une nouvelle narration du monde. Just before these holidays, I believe that the members of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the other parties, as well as the three independents, would benefit from broadening their horizons and realizing that we can look at our world from a different perspective. We can believe in solidarity and sharing, and not just in globalization, competition and in market forces that are completely out of control.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 7:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I think that our colleague, the leader of the NDP, should not mislead the House and should clearly say that the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-28. If he wants to find—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to comment very briefly and then ask the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley a question on Bill C-28.

I want to commend him not only on his consistent principled position in standing up for the Atlantic accord, but also for him making it very clear that standing up for the Atlantic accord requires voting against Bill C-28. I commend him for taking that position.

My colleague gave an excellent summation of the spectacular betrayal and flip-flop and double-crossing that goes on whenever we deal with this issue. Nothing could be clearer than what the then leader of the official opposition said on the campaign trail in Halifax, the city I am privileged to represent. He then did a complete and total reversal after he found himself in power.

In that sense, it is starting to look a lot like the more familiar pattern of Liberals who run on a progressive platform and then when in government, govern on the right. They are meanspirited and are quite prepared to throw Atlantic Canada overboard, which they have consistently done. When the Liberals were government, they threw Atlantic Canada overboard in the period between 1993 and 1997. That resulted in the 11 sitting Liberals in Nova Scotia being defeated. They were unceremoniously thrown out of office, which brings me to my two brief questions.

My first concerns the position of the premier. A very accurate summation was given of the premier's initial outrage at the fact that the Atlantic accord had been trashed. He pleaded with every Nova Scotian at considerable public expense. He put out what we would call a householder to every Nova Scotian, asking for them to petition the government to reinstate the Atlantic accord. So far so good.

More recent, the premier sent out a second householder in which he made a number of claims that turned out to be simply untrue. He made a number of claims about how Bill C-28 would fix the problem and that it justified his decision to abandon the fight for the Atlantic accord. The benefits that were promised are not delivered in Bill C-28. As far as he is concerned, he is off the hook. Many of the claims he has made in that document are simply not accurate. They are not substantiated.

What does the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley make of the premier's betrayal of his own commitment to fight to ensure the full reinstatement of the Atlantic accord?

What does he make of the Liberals from Atlantic Canada, who are cozying up to him when it comes to the full vote on Bill C-28, and then he is completely abandoned, thrown overboard, by every other member of that party with no intentions of supporting Bill C-28 changes, which would reinstate the Atlantic accord?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 7:15 p.m.
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Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, when I finished my first 10 minutes I was going through the contradictions in the ongoing discussions about the Atlantic accords and the different things that came up that confused Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders about the approach that the government has about the Atlantic accords and the fact that it just took them away.

In case there is any question about the accords being taken away, I would like to read from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, an independent think tank, that said:

The new program also reverses a pre-election commitment to exclude natural resource revenues, and includes 50% of these revenues.

It goes on to say:

The protection provided by the Accords is undermined.... In the authors’ view, this violates both the letter and the spirit of the Accord.

Just today the Premier of Newfoundland said:

Essentially, we are being railroaded into an untenable situation whereby we are forced to choose the O’Brien formula....

In the mail-out that he sent around to every Nova Scotian, Premier MacDonald said:

That budget effectively ripped up our Offshore Accord and all of the opportunities it is expected to bring to Nova Scotians.

Also in the mail-out, Premier MacDonald called on all Nova Scotians to join him and sign a petition “demanding that Ottawa honour the Offshore Accord and all agreements it signs with any province or territory”.

We would not think we would need to have a petition to get the Government of Canada to honour a signed agreement with anyone, whether it is a province, another country, a business person or a single person. However, the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia felt compelled to call on Canadians, and Nova Scotians in particular, to sign a petition demanding that the government honour signed agreements.

We now have an agreement with Nova Scotia but it is not the Atlantic accord as requested in the petition that the Premier of Nova Scotia asked for.

I want to go on to another bit of confusion. I want to point out that when the Prime Minister came to Nova Scotia in 2005 he was very supportive of the Atlantic accords. I want to read a couple of things he said. In the Halifax Sunday Herald of February 6, he said:

...it was Mr. Hamm's leadership that brought home the agreement, which he described as the best opportunity Nova Scotia had in 138 years.

Why would he say that and then take it away? That is confusing to a lot of people.

The Prime Minister went on to say that the accords were “courageous and visionary”. I do not understand how he could say that and now the government refers to the accords as double-dipping, cherry-picking and double-stacking.

I do not know how one goes from courageous and visionary to double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking, but somehow the exact same agreements, which were at one time, in the Prime Minister's view, courageous and visionary, are now double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking.

It is confusing for the people of Nova Scotia to wonder how the Prime Minister and the government could zig and zag on this very issue.

When the government decided to break the Atlantic accord, it gave two reasons. One was that it wanted to have a single, principled base equalization formula for the whole country. It has done exactly the opposite with Bill C-28.

In Bill C-28, the government established an equalization formula for two provinces and a different one for eight provinces. Two provinces have a 3.5% escalator clause until 2020. Eight do not have that escalator clause. Two provinces have an agreement that goes to 2020. Eight provinces have an agreement that goes to 2013. The government has created exactly what the Prime Minister said he would not do.

I want to again read part 11 in Bill C-28, which states:

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.

Previously the Atlantic accord was not an equalization payment. It was an offset payment, but now the government has established a different equalization formula, which seems to me to totally contradict the goal of the Prime Minister in establishing one equalization formula because now we do have two formulas. The ironic thing is that when we had the Atlantic accord and the O'Brien formula we had one equalization formula, which is exactly what he said he wanted.

The other goal was to eliminate any side deals. I do not know how we would describe the side deals in Bill C-28, but it is full of side deals as far as the accord goes. One is that two provinces would get the 3.5% escalator until 2020 and the other one is that at the end of each year the federal government may pay Nova Scotia an amount of money each year if the parallel calculation is more than the O'Brien formula. Each one of those is a side deal for each year.

That is the reason I will be voting against Bill C-28. I voted against it before and I will be voting against it again.

I am not arguing that the province of Nova Scotia has negotiated a new deal, and it may be a good deal, but we do not know because we have never seen the projections. Senators, members of Parliament and the media have asked for the projections to confirm what the government says when it says that the new deal is good for Nova Scotia.

We had the provincial projections but we have never had the federal projections. If any of the Conservative members do stand up I hope they will table the projections so we will know whether it is a good deal for Nova Scotia, not based on the federal government.

Officials have told us that they have done their projections. They have done the best case scenario and the worst case scenario, but as yet we have not been able to get them to share those projections with us so we can share their enthusiasm for this program if it is accurate. However, we do not know because we do not have the projections.

I will close my remarks with that but I will say that the Atlantic accord is still in effect. It is a two-page agreement and it is still there. It is just that the government has chosen not to honour or respect it and it has chosen to take a different route. It is a shame. It is a two-page agreement, nine paragraphs long and the Conservatives have decided to break the deal and not honour it. They have tried to come up three alternatives now, none of which are the Atlantic accord. That is why I will be voting against Bill C-28.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we were last debating Bill C-28, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley still had 10 minutes and he now has the floor.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I would like to add my own thoughts about what just happened in the vote.

I am an independent member and there are a number of independent members here. We were not given any advance notice about the vote. I was in the lobby and I remember the clock showing that there were 11 minutes and 40 seconds left before the vote. However, when I walked into the chamber the vote was under way.

All I can say is that there are tools that we can use and one of the tools is unanimous consent. If that is the way the game is to be played, that is the way we will play it too. We are a part of this. We were elected and we are entitled to vote. It was just a rotten piece of business the way the vote was conducted.

I want to add my remarks to Bill C-28, the budget implementation bill, and I want to focus on an issue that is very important to Atlantic Canada, and that is the Atlantic accord. Bill C-28 does impact the Atlantic accord, which is a very important part of it.

First I want to say that the Atlantic accords originally were a number of agreements that were not all called Atlantic accords but are assumed now to be called Atlantic accords. Everybody has adopted the term “Atlantic accords” for a number of agreements that took place over a period of time.

Basically, the accords guaranteed that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would receive 100% of the revenue from their offshore oil resources. The last agreement was signed on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2005, with Nova Scotia and negotiated and signed by Dr. John Hamm and the former prime minister of Canada. that agreement was very specific that the Atlantic accord arrangement and the Atlantic accord payment would be based on the equalization formula that existed at the time that the calculation was made.

It is ironic that the original agreement that I just mentioned, signed on February 14, is two pages long and nine paragraphs long and yet there are 24 pages of amendments in Bill C-28 to amend that two page document.

It is not as simple as that, I understand, but that is what has happened with the Atlantic accord issue. It has gone from a very simple, straightforward agreement, to a very complicated, convoluted agreement that is now subject to interpretation and manipulation.

The government said that the Atlantic accords have been honoured and respected. Now it is saying that it has made them whole with the agreement in Bill C-28. With all due respect, that is not true. The government broke the Atlantic accords and everybody in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland knows it. They have been broken. They are not respected. They are not honoured and they have not been made whole. The only way they can made whole is if this little agreement, this nine paragraph agreement, is honoured.

None of the other alternatives that the government has come up, its different interpretations or manipulations, will satisfy the people in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding this and I want to go through some of the confusing issues, because it has been confusing for everybody involved with this arrangement, and why the deal was broken.

The province of Nova Scotia put out a brochure telling every Nova Scotian that:

That budget [in March 2007] effectively ripped up our Offshore Accord and all of the opportunities it is expected to bring to Nova Scotians.

The province of Nova Scotia even started an online petition demanding that Ottawa honour the offshore accord and all agreements it signs with any province or territory.

To me, that is a simple concept, a simple principle that all governments should honour. They should honour signed contracts with the province or territory with which they are made or with an individual, a company or another country.

It is unbelievable that the Government of Canada would break a signed contract. I refer again to the Atlantic accord, which is two pages long. It was signed by a minister of the federal government and a minister of the provincial government. It was a signed contract and the government just decided to disregard that contract, to rip it up in the March 19 budget.

A few things are confusing. It is confusing that a lot of the people who came to the House from Alberta and the western provinces were very upset about the national energy program that was foisted on Alberta in the eighties. It redirected revenue from the gas and oil business in Alberta to the federal government and they were very upset about that. It almost caused a revolution in western Canada. However, those same people turned around and did the same thing to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They imposed changes on the gas and oil regime to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland that took away our share of the revenue or reduced our share in the same way that the NEP took away from Alberta.

I do not understand why they can be so upset about the Alberta experience but then turn around and not hesitate to do it to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

I find it confusing that the government has representatives in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland but none of them were asked for advice, given any consultation or given an opportunity to represent their constituents through this whole exercise of bringing forth these amendments to the Atlantic accord.

Even more amazing, the government has ministers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and neither one of them were informed. They were blind-sided as much as everyone else.

When the budget came down on March 19, everyone was surprised. No politician east of Ontario was consulted on these changes even though they severely impacted Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and I do not understand that.

I do not understand why the government would not consult with the provincial people, the province of Nova Scotia and the province of Newfoundland, if it were going to make profound changes to this signed contract, but again it did not.

I refer to a statement that Premier Danny Williams made today. He said, “Essentially, we are being railroaded into an untenable situation whereby we are forced to choose the O’Brien formula” and the traditional formula.

The province is being railroaded. That is not the way to run a government and have intergovernmental relations if it wants to succeed.

I do not understand this one. The Prime Minister said that the government essentially broke the accords because it wanted to have one equalization formula in the country and it thought that by doing this that would do it.

However, in the summary of Bill C-28, part 11 states:

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.

Therefore, two provinces now have one equalization formula and the other eight provinces have a different one. It is good for Nova Scotia and for Newfoundland and Labrador but it is contrary to what the Prime Minister said. He said that he wanted to have one equalization formula but right here it says that additional fiscal equalization payments will be paid to two provinces but not the others. That does not make sense to me.

Another thing that does not make sense to me, again in the same light that the Prime Minister said that he wanted to have one equalization formula, is that now two provinces under Bill C-28 have the opportunity to calculate an equalization formula, use that formula and take advantage of it, which has a 3.5% escalator clause for every year until 2020. Two provinces have it and eight do not. Again, we have a different equalization program.

The ironic thing is that when we had the Atlantic accord and equalization, we did have a uniform equalization program across the country, plus the Atlantic accord. However, now the government has actually enshrined two different equalization programs in the country, which seems to go against everything the Prime Minister said that he wanted to do and every justification he had for breaking the accords in the first place.

Another issue that confuses me is what the Minister of Finance wrote in the Halifax Herald on June 9. He said, “There will be no side deals on this equalization business”.

This is the ultimate side deal. Every year the province of Nova Scotia and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, if they choose to take it, will be able to calculate a parallel equalization formula and then at the end of the year, if that parallel calculation is more than the O'Brien formula, the Government of Canada writes a cheque to the province of Nova Scotia. If that is not a side deal that is renewed every year, I do not know what is.

Another thing is, if I understand this correctly, and I think I do, the O'Brien formula goes to 2013. Eight provinces have a commitment on equalization to 2013. Bill C-28 makes a commitment to 2020 for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland that they would get the old amended formula of equalization. Essentially, there is one deal for two provinces to go to 2020 and one deal for the other eight provinces that goes to 2013.

Again, the whole basis for breaking the accords in the first place, based on the government's statement, was to have one principle based equalization formula.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to give us his views on an issue that affects many of us: the situation of our seniors. This situation is very disturbing, because we know that thousands of seniors are living well below the poverty line. Earlier, the member made comments about democracy. He just made other comments about the surplus.

I would like to know whether he believes, as many of us do, that the government should be focusing on rectifying the lack of action, the fundamental lack of concern about increasing the guaranteed income supplement and making decent retroactive payments to those people who were shortchanged. Bill C-28 does not address this issue.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised by the intervention by my colleague from Wild Rose, who I know is a democrat and who I know believes in the democratic process. I believe the member for Wild Rose worked just as hard as I did to get here and earn his seat in the House of Commons so that he could vote in a democratic way.

We should all be outraged when two parties conspire to deny the right to vote to the third and the fourth parties in this House.

Everyone here knows that the rule you read, Mr. Speaker, says that by agreement of the government and the opposition whips they may agree to curtail the bells and come and vote. It does not say that the government and the official opposition whips can come together to deny the vote of any other minority party in this House. This really, really bugs me. It is not even that important a vote.

Let me reverse, then, with what little time I have, to talk about why we are opposing Bill C-28, which clearly is the irritant that motivated the government and the Liberals to conspire against democracy today and deny me my privilege, my right to vote in the House of Commons. That is because we oppose Bill C-28. We oppose the fall 2007 economic update for a number of very good reasons.

First of all, it simply takes Canada further in the wrong direction in terms of economic policy for this country. It is not a balanced approach. It is weighted heavily on the side of this ideological vision of the Conservatives that all of our social ills, all of our economic ills and all of our problems with the manufacturing sector can be solved by deeper and deeper corporate tax cuts. That ideology has been disproved any number of times.

I point out that we are the victims of a kind of game of chicken, a race between the Conservatives and the Liberals as to who can cut corporate taxes faster. The Minister of Finance, when he was first crafting this economic update, was saying that he would reduce corporate taxes from 22% to 19.5% to 18%.

The Liberals then said they would do it even faster and deeper if they were in power, so the Minister of Finance said that if the Liberals wanted it deeper, here was deeper. Then he decided to move it to 16.5% in 2011 and to just 15% in 2012. This is literally a reckless, irresponsible game of chicken, which results in the squandering of the fiscal capacity of this government and future governments to meet the social deficit and all the other necessary spending that we promised Canadians.

Fair taxation policy is an economic instrument for the redistribution of wealth. It is a way that we can all benefit in the bounty of this great nation by investing in public services so that people from all income strata can benefit. Those guys over there are completely and 110° in the wrong direction.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 12th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will use my four minutes to address Bill C-28, but I will preface my remarks by stating how I can barely give my speech on Bill C-28 because I am so angry. My blood is boiling over the way the Liberals and the Conservatives conspired to deny me my right to vote.

I am serving notice right now that I will be raising a question of privilege at a later time. I will be filing a formal complaint in that vein because these guys and you, Mr. Speaker, have been cobbled into this compact between the Liberals and the Conservatives to deny us our democratic right to vote.

I think you have been used by these guys, Mr. Speaker, and I draw your attention to the fact that the very chapter and verse that you cited said--

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
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Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and speak to this motion. I should say at the outset that I fear this motion is more about not getting back to the debate on Bill C-28 than it is about the Fisheries Act, but whether that is the case or not, I always appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of a new, modernized Fisheries Act which is what Bill C-32 is about.

Today's motion though is about whether we should send the bill directly to committee. In reality we are wasting valuable time debating this motion when we should be able to get up in the second reading debate and talk about the merits of Bill C-32 and get it on the record. That is what we would like to do as the government.

Bill C-32 is good legislation. It will make a significant and positive difference to the future of fish and fish habitat in this country, to fishing and the fisheries and to those who rely on it for their livelihood. Therefore, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I will read the motion to the House and it will be translated for the hon. member. She can listen to the translation channel to hear it in the other official language. The motion is that the government House leader, seconded by the member for Prince George—Peace River, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1(1)(a), moved:

That, in relation to the third reading stage of Bill C-28, Bill C-28 shall not be subject to any amendments; and that, on any day that Bill C-28 is under consideration at third reading, the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed except pursuant to a motion to adjourn proposed by a Minister of the Crown.

Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places?

And fewer than 25 members having risen:

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if the government House leader or the Speaker would make it clear to all members of the House what the standing order is that the government House leader is trying to introduce at this point. It would be helpful to all members if he would explain what he is trying to do in terms of this procedure.

We know that Conservatives are trying to prevent debate and put closure on Bill C-28, but we would appreciate, first of all, seeing a copy of the motion. I believe all members of the House should have a copy of the motion in both official languages. I would ask the government House leader or the Speaker to make clear what motion is being put before the House at this time.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, I move:

That, in relation to the third reading stage of Bill C-28, Bill C-28 shall not be subject to any amendments; and that, on any day that Bill C-28 is under consideration at third reading, the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed except pursuant to a motion to adjourn proposed by a Minister of the Crown.

Statutes Repeal ActRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move: That, in relation to the third reading stage of Bill C-28, Bill C-28 shall not be subject to any amendments; and that, on any day that Bill C-28 is under consideration at third reading, the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed except pursuant to a motion to adjourn proposed by a Minister of the Crown.

FinanceOral Questions

December 12th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-28 there are several very important initiatives for vulnerable Canadians and low income Canadians. One is the working income tax benefit, which can come into force January 1, just a couple of weeks from now, to help Canadians get over the welfare wall, to help them get to work. The other is the registered disability savings plan, which can also come into force January 1, to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society and their financial security in the future.

The NDP is talking the bill out. It is time for action. I encourage them to act in the true Christmas spirit.

FinanceOral Questions

December 12th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we approach Christmas, the NDP is saying, “Bah, humbug” to Canadians. While it likes to pretend it is the party of Bob Cratchit, the NDP really acts like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Can the Minister of Finance tell Canadians what is being delayed by the NDP's foot dragging on Bill C-28? Why the NDP lump of coal in Canadians' Christmas stockings?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

As my colleague says, other people will get hurt in this game of chicken. It is like two teenagers on a road race down a dark country road, hell-bent and determined to get more reckless and careless than the other. However, there is a lot of collateral damage with that kind of irresponsible behaviour.

Clearly the Conservatives are trying to impress corporate Canada. One thing we should keep in mind is the Conservatives do not have to deliver wheelbarrows of guilt to corporate Canada any more. We have changed the election financing laws. There is no reciprocity any more. Corporate Canada cannot buy the government. It does not have to be bought. The Conservative government can break this pattern. It can cast off the shackles of its obligations to corporate Canada. Corporate Canada can no longer sponsor the Conservative Party, not legally at least.

What is frustrating for me is the irresponsible recklessness that is embodied in Bill C-28. The government has undermined and left behind the fiscal capacity to do anything to build Canada. Cutting, hacking and slashing will not build a great nation. That seemed to be the ideology throughout the 1990s and creeping into this decade as well.

We cannot build a great nation by letting our infrastructure suffer, by letting our social infrastructure deteriorate to the point where education and housing and all those basic fundamentals are falling by the wayside. It is more apparent in areas of low income and poverty. I know members are well aware of the inner city of Winnipeg. In my riding 47% of the families live below the poverty line, 52% of all children.

When economic and social policy ignore these basic needs, it is felt more acutely by those who are already at the margins and, by negligence, if they are already struggling, they are pushed over the edge into abject poverty.

This is not unique to the Conservative budgets that we have seen to date. I have been here since 1997. This pattern developed since 1993 when the Liberals took over. Most of the years I have been here, I have been under the Liberal regime. I really cannot blame the Conservatives for the social conditions in my riding. They have not had time to undermine and destroy anything in my riding yet, although they seem hell-bent and determined to match the Liberals in their record.

When the Liberals took over, they embarked on the most neo-Conservative, right wing agenda that our country had ever seen, possibly in the world. Their fiscal policy was completely in keeping with the Thatcherism, the Reaganism and the neo-Conservatism that the country had just rejected. It was an outdated ideology that bordered on cruelty, when we look at how it manifested itself in my riding of Winnipeg Centre.

I once heard the Reverend Jesse Jackson speak. He told an audience of trade unionists that if there were five children but only three pork chops, the solution would not be to kill two of the children. He went on to say that neither was the solution to carve those three pork chops into five equal pieces because then all the children would go to bed hungry and no one would get everything they needed.

The social democratic or trade union point of view to that scenario is to challenge the whole notion that there are only three pork chops, to challenge the absolute lie that we do not have the wealth in this country to provide the basic needs for a family to survive. Those who are saying that are lying. We live in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world.

He said not to ever let anybody say that we cannot afford to provide the basic needs for a family to survive, and not just survive, but to flourish, to prosper and to develop themselves to their true potential, instead of the terrible loss of human potential we see when 52% of children in my riding live below the poverty line. That is the urgent need that we bring to the House. That is the message that we bring.

My colleague from Sault Ste. Marie has tirelessly tried to remind Canadians that, yes, we are in a bubble of economic prosperity, and yes, it is a boom time for Canada, that regionally we are doing very well and productivity and profits are way up, but we are leaving so many people behind. Among those are kids who are living in poverty and not realizing their true potential. There are so many stories to be told and opportunities that might be told.

The only real measurement of how we are doing as MPs, as elected representatives, is to ask whether we are showing any tangible benefits in terms of elevating the standard of living of the people we represent. Surely that is why people send us here. They say to me, “You are one of us. Go to Ottawa and do your best to make my life better”. That is summing it up in very simple terms. That is our goal and objective.

One of the most effective economic policy instruments we have to redistribute wealth in an equitable way, if that is still one of our goals as a nation, is a fair taxation policy. Fair taxation is a way of levelling the playing field. We encourage good behaviour by the way we tax businesses and we discourage bad behaviour by making sure that individual Canadians are not overtaxed and that taxes are used to provide public services so that everyone has access to them equally. That is one of the basic tenets on which our country was founded and built.

We can measure that by something put out by Statistics Canada from time to time, the income quintile distribution. It divides the economic spectrum into earnings, average family income, the bottom quintile 20% to the top 20%. I argue that this might be the only meaningful statistical measurement that we need to pay any attention to. The results are shocking.

We have lived through 10 or 11 surplus budgets now and we have set records every time. There have been billions and billions of dollars in surplus, which I remind everyone came from our pockets. That is our money. Rather than put it toward the needs that we have identified, in a very reckless and spend free way, first the Liberals and then the Conservatives decided that the best use for that money was not to address the pressing social deficit but to provide more and more tax breaks for their buddies on Bay Street.

The income quintiles that I am talking about are in a chart, which I would be happy to table for the edification of any members who may not be able to see this far away at this end of the House. The bottom quintile, the lowest earning Canadian families, in the period of 1985 to 2005, in constant 2005 dollars actually went down 11%. In a period of unprecedented economic growth and fabulous economic opportunities for the top quintile, the highest earners in the country, it rose 16%. That is a 27% spread between the lowest earners and the highest earners.

Surely it would be our goal through a fair taxation policy to elevate the standards of the lowest to perhaps get into the medium. Their average family earning actually dropped in 2005 constant dollars by 11%.

For the second quintile, usually working families making around $30,000 a year, their actual earnings dropped by 4%. We are not making this stuff up; this is Statistics Canada information. For the third quintile, probably tradespeople, nurses, teachers, bus drivers around the $45,000 a year average family income, their real purchasing power dropped by 2%. Then when we get up to the top quintile, families making $118,000 to $147,000 per year, they rose 16%.

The rich are doing a lot better. The poor will have slipped even further behind. It is a tired cliché that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. People get tired of hearing that, but in Canada it is true.

In spite of having a Liberal government, a government that ran from the left and governed from the right, after 13 years of Liberal government, the Liberals will not even stand and oppose this bill now. They sit on their hands even though they claim they are ideologically opposed to this bill.

Coming from the core area of Winnipeg, some of the social policies that the Liberals made, the cutting and hacking and slashing that they did on every social policy by which we define ourselves as Canadians had a profound impact on the quality of life of the people I represent, in fact a deleterious impact. We went backward in that period of time. There were surplus budgets, but relentless constant cutbacks to social programs. Let me give one example.

The former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, was very proud that he announced $100 billion in tax cuts. Again the Liberals were in some kind of a competition with the Conservatives as to who could cut and hack and slash taxes more deeply. Where did he get that $100 billion?

Well, $30 billion came from the surplus in the EI fund, of all places, taking it--my colleague used the term “steal”, but I do not know if I can get away with that--but certainly that is like another tax on working people. If we deduct something from people's paycheques and promise them a benefit if they become unemployed and then deny them that benefit, that is not the government's money, it is an insurance fund and it should have gone to benefit the unemployed. That is where $30 billion came from.

Another $30 billion of the $100 billion the Liberals gave away in tax cuts came from the surplus in the public service pension plan. People forget that. Marcel Masse's last move as the president of the Treasury Board before retiring was to change the law so that any surplus in the public service pension plan is not the property of the employees. It is not even to be shared between management and labour. It is the exclusive property of management. They scooped $30 billion out of the benefits from public service pensioners, most of whom are women and whose average pension is $9,000 a year. The Liberals could have doubled the average pension of those seniors living in poverty who had worked their whole career, instead of giving it to their friends.

The third $30 billion out of that $100 billion the Liberals gave away to their corporate buddies was from cuts and hacks and slashing to the Canada health and social transfer, the social programs.

That is where the Liberals scooped up $100 billion to give away. That is their idea of redistributing wealth. They take it from low income seniors through the pension plan, from unemployed people through the EI fund and from cuts and hacks to social spending. That was their idea. They were the most right-wing ideological neo-conservatives this country has ever seen. The current government has a long way to go before it ever gets as right-wing as the Liberals were because we have never seen a finance minister like that and certainly not a prime minister like that.

Let me get to the Conservatives. These guys are about to squander wastefully $190 billion of fiscal capacity. That is a Conservative trait I have come to know on the Prairies because I watched the Saskatchewan government experience. I have seen waste by Conservatives the likes of which no one will ever see again. People would not believe how wasteful and irresponsible they are.

Somehow they try to sell themselves as fiscally responsible, that because they are from the business community they are businesslike and responsible. Since Enron, nobody thinks that being businesslike is being responsible. The two do not go hand in hand.

We watched the Blakeney government with nine or ten years of balanced budgets. Before that, there was the Tommy Douglas government in Saskatchewan with 17 years of balanced budgets and responsible social program development. Then the Grant Devine government came in and eight years in a row--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I am pleased to join in the debate on the fall 2007 economic statement, or Bill C-28 as it is called.

I know the public and our colleagues in the House have not heard much of the NDPs opinion on the bill. Therefore, I am glad to enlighten them somewhat as to our objections with it and why we do not support the government in its economic statement, especially as it pertains to its ideological zeal or orthodoxy that all of Canada's social, economic and infrastructure ills can be solved by even deeper corporate tax cuts.

We have to challenge that very premise. We have to challenge the very theme or motif that seems to make the government tick. The Conservatives have been raised on the orthodoxy that all the country needs is lower corporate tax cuts. In that ideology, the Conservatives are in competition with the Liberals, who also believe it. They are playing some reckless game of chicken with our budgets and with the tax dollars of Canadians.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, when members rise and speak to this bill, the immediate thing that has to come to mind is the missed opportunity, the missed opportunity for us as a country to invest in our country, to make our economy stronger, and to create greater benefits for all citizens of our country. This mini-budget fails on all counts. It lacks vision; it lacks a plan.

It is like listening to the Conservatives over and over again say their mantra that tax breaks are going to solve all the problems of the world. We know that just does not work. We look in particular at what happened with the corporate tax breaks and the vast majority of the dollars which will go to the large corporations.

Let us do a quick history. In February-March of this year the government brought forth the budget. In that budget there were substantial tax cuts for the corporate sector. That would have had the effect over the period of 2007 through to 2011 of reducing the effective corporate tax rate in this country, which is at this point actually lower than the corporate tax rate United States, which is a point the Conservatives constantly forget, but the Conservatives were going to reduce it from 22% down to 18.5% by 2011.

That budget passed with the assistance of the Bloc Québécois at that time. We then come forward through the summer and the Liberal Party is collapsing around itself and its new leader. We see the government, because it really did not have a plan, finally decide to prorogue Parliament and come back with a new throne speech.

In the new throne speech there are a number of provisions of an economic nature, but there is no particular mention of any further substantial reductions in the corporate tax rate.

As we just heard from my colleague from Outremont, lo and behold, shortly after the throne speech, the leader of the official opposition is up proclaiming that not only do the Liberals support the corporate tax breaks that have already been granted but that if they were in power they would give even greater tax breaks.

Within a day, if not the same day, the Minister of Finance is publicly proclaiming that in fact we are going to get greater corporate tax breaks. Within a month an economic statement came down which is encompassed to some significant degree in Bill C-28 in this mini-budget, and now what have the Conservatives done?

They are going to take that 22%, which is dropping already because of the earlier budget of 2007 and they are going to further reduce it. Now by 2012, the corporate tax rate in this country is going to fall to 15%; 22% this year. In five years or less it is going to be 15%, a full third of the corporate tax is no longer going to be required.

Inevitably, what do Canadians say about this? We have two political parties which have no substantial difference in how they deal with the revenue coming into the coffers of the government. We have to say, let us take a look at where these corporate tax breaks are going to go. We have done the analysis and this has not been contested by the government.

A full one-third of those two corporate tax breaks is going to go to the big banks in this country, the same big banks that in 2006 made $19 billion in pre-tax profit and are on line so far in 2007 to at least make that and probably break over the $20 billion mark. These are companies that we can see are poverty stricken, that are in absolute need of assistance from a government that feels compelled out of a sense of deep compassion to give them a tax break.

Where else is the money going? The next big chunk goes to the oil and gas industry. Natural resources is a bit broader, but primarily to the oil and gas industry. It pays because of its huge pre-tax profits due to all the oil and gas Canada is exporting to the world and contributes quite dramatically to environmental consequences in the form of global warming and climate change.

Those companies are making huge amounts of profit. One-sixth, in fact, of all the pre-tax corporate profits will be in the oil and gas sector, as it was in 2006. Chances are that those profits will be somewhat higher in 2007. Those companies will be picking up a huge chunk. In total, between those two sectors of the economy, they will be getting almost half of all these tax breaks, billions and billions of dollars.

If the government had not given this tax break, where could average, hard-working Canadians and their families have benefited? We have heard over and over again about the ongoing problems with waiting lists in our hospitals and in our medical system. More money could have been put there to deal directly with those waiting lists so that people do not have to wait six months, a year or 18 months just to be diagnosed and then many more months, if not years, beyond that to have surgery.

It could have built a national housing program. We heard from our colleague in question period today of some of the deaths that have occurred across the country as a result of homelessness.

We could have begun to create some child care spaces, one of the promises in the last election that the government likes to conveniently forget about. We are still waiting for the 125,000 or 150,000 new spaces. The government has abandoned that completely. Rather than use some of this revenue to assist in creating child care spaces for young families that need that assistance, what do we see? We see corporate tax breaks, revenue not coming in because the big banks and oil and gas companies need assistance.

Given the problems we are confronted with on the environment, we could have dramatically expanded the funds in many retrofit programs, both in the private sector and the government sector. However, we did not do any of that. We have the mantra that corporate tax breaks and tax breaks generally will solve all the problems. It is obvious, because of the problems we are faced with, whether it is waiting lists, lack of a housing program, homelessness or problems with the environment, that tax breaks are not the be all and the end all.

I want to step back, and this is really hard, and pretend for a minute that I am a Conservative. This is probably more creative than I usually am able to be, but let me pretend to do that for a minute and say that I do not really care about housing, the environment, unemployment and health services. All I really care about is helping big corporations, and that is where my--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Yukon must face up to a small problem of logic. He rises in this House to ask the NDP if we think that Bill C-28, which has to do with budgetary issues, is flawed. I have good news for him. The NDP does in fact believe that Bill C-28 is full of flaws.

I have only a brief question for the member in return. Why does he not vote against this bill? Why does he want to keep the Conservatives in power? If he believes at all in what he is telling us, why can he not find an ounce of courage to represent the people who elected him, instead of sitting on his hands like the rest of his colleagues every time one of these important questions is raised here in the House?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. In putting all of its emphasis on tax reductions for large corporations, the government has failed to realize that a lot of people are going to be left out.

It is not a figure of speech to talk about a prosperity gap in Canada. If we look at the most recent statistics published by the most neutral source available in this country, Statistics Canada, and we divide income into five brackets, those are called quintiles, we will notice that it is the middle quintiles, literally the middle class, that has been the hardest hit in the past 20 years.

Contrary to what we might hope because Canada is a prosperous country, the people who are working hard in this country, the middle class, are actually taking home less than they were in 1989. That is not an opinion. That is a matter of documented statistical fact.

The people at the highest end of the earning spectrum are earning up to 25% more than they were in 1989, but if individuals are in the middle quintiles, the third, the fourth or the fifth, chances are they are among Canadians who are actually earning 4% to 5% less even though they are working harder.

More and more families have two breadwinners. That does not take away from the fact that modern families are having more and more difficulty making ends meet. That is the way things are in my province of Quebec and that is the way things are in a lot of other places in Canada. It is a crying shame that the Conservative government does not understand that.

What is equally scandalous is that the posers from the Liberal Party of Canada, who love to talk about the role of food banks and community groups and things of that nature, have been sitting on their hands. They are in fact backing the Conservative Party. They are maintaining the Conservatives in power. We find that scandalous.

Canadians have a right to know that the Conservatives are being kept in power because of weak leadership in the Liberal Party of Canada and that party's incapability of coming to any real decision. The Liberals keep voting for all of the government's bills, including this one.

It would be interesting to see, after all his posturing and posing and chest thumping, the leader of the Liberal Party, when he gets back from his Christmas holidays, become Mr. Tough Guy when it comes to the Conservatives. It will be really funny to see what he is going to do with Bill C-28 if it is carried over until after the holidays. I think I know. He will do what he has done with every other Conservative bill, sit on his hands.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, this debate gives us a golden opportunity to remind Canadians of the disastrous effects the Conservative government's policies are having on the economy.

Bill C-28 is barely getting any reaction from the Liberal Party of Canada, but that is nothing new. I must admit that as a new member in this House, it is a wonder to me to see how—and my colleague from Toronto just talked about this—some people who are close to the Liberal Party of Canada have managed to pass themselves off as being concerned about poverty and food banks. In fact, the Conservative government is currently granting tax reductions and giving big gifts to the oil companies and the banks. But Liberal members are doing nothing.

If the current government manages to force the passage of Bill C-28 before Christmas by virtue of its seat count, then we will miss out on quite the show. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada has publicly said that he wants to make sure Canadians understand that, after the holidays, the fun will be over, that he will prove the skeptics wrong, that we will have to hold him back or he might hurt the Conservative Party. What we have seen instead this fall is a Liberal Party of Canada that is keeping the Conservatives in power.

I would like to say a few words about what that means. Before becoming a minister in Quebec for a number of years, I was part of the opposition for nine years. I know what it is like to be in the opposition. The job of the opposition is to do two things: make the government accountable, in other words, be the public's conscience and ask the right questions, but at the same, hope that our policies will one day lead us to power. In other words, it is our job to be a government in waiting.

In the NDP, we have clear policies and we are absolutely ready to be in power. Just look at the depth of talent on the NDP benches in this House. We are a political party with a great number of people who have extensive experience in public administration. It is absolutely extraordinary to see the Liberal members sitting on their hands when they could be defeating the Conservative government if they voted just once with us. But they will not. Why? I guess they must be happy enough with the Conservatives' policies or they would be helping us defeat them.

Day after day, they criticize Conservative policies during question period, and at the end of the day, when the time comes to vote against the Conservatives, the Liberal Party drops the ball. It does not have the political courage to stand up and vote. Last night, we witnessed an unprecedented spectacle in this House during the vote on Bill C-28, which is now before us. This is the Conservatives' Christmas bill, their $14 billion gift to oil companies and banks. Some Liberal members showed up to vote against it because the infamous Atlantic accord was part of this bill.

How many of them showed up? Ten or so. Not even enough to form a party in Parliament. The so-called official opposition can no longer call itself a recognized party in Parliament because the members of the official opposition no longer even show up to vote. They are afraid they might defeat the government on what might be considered a matter of confidence.

People who made the mistake of voting for the Liberal Party of Canada are really questioning that decision. The members of the NDP are telling people to take a good look at our policies and who we are. When I look at my colleagues who were once ministers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario or, in my case, Quebec, people with a great deal of experience in education, industry, their churches and their communities, I realize that the NDP possesses the kind of wealth and social vision to do a good job of running a government that would renew Canada's reputation as a peacekeeper, international cooperator and environmental steward.

What do we have instead? We have a Conservative government that is embarrassing Canada internationally and that drew us into the quagmire of war in southern Afghanistan. Only the NDP has adopted a clear position against the war in Afghanistan, in favour of the withdrawal of our troops and a comprehensive, stable process for the development and maintenance of lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The Conservatives are embarrassing Canada on the world stage by not trying to achieve an objective that is supposedly shared by all political parties, that is, committing 0.7% of our gross domestic product to foreign aid. In that regard, they are the worst government in the history of Canada since the 0.7% objective was adopted. We are farther than ever from that objective, which is so crucial if we want to help our fellow human beings around the globe.

We need look no further than the conference currently under way in Bali, Indonesia, to understand just how much the Conservatives are embarrassing us. We sent our pitiful Minister of the Environment there to embarrass us. It is bad enough to have to watch his buffoonery here every day when he gets up and talks about a file on which he clearly has not done the least bit of work. He reads quotations and spews nonsense of that nature, when what Canadians really want to know is what will be done to fulfill our obligations to future generations.

Those who have the opportunity should go to McGill University to meet the extraordinary people who work at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. These people understand that sustainable development is not just a slogan invented over the past few decades. Sustainable development is a legal obligation we have towards future generations.

Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol five years ago, even though this protocol is celebrating its 10th anniversary today. Because Canada ratified it five years ago, it is part of Canada's domestic law. The Kyoto protocol is an international obligation, but it is an integral part of our law, which means that it is a legal obligation.

The Conservative government prides itself on respecting law and order. Yet this law and order government is becoming irresponsible and even an international outlaw because of its disrespectful behaviour toward future generations. It is casting a shadow over a generation of Canadians who have worked hard to earn our country the utmost respect of the international community when it comes to the environment.

I know that whenever the Kyoto protocol comes up, the Conservatives inevitably point to the seats opposite them and say it is the Liberals' fault, because they did nothing for 13 years. We agree, and we will always agree that the Liberals did nothing. On the contrary, instead of meeting the Kyoto target, which is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 6% compared to 1990 levels, the Liberals saw emissions increase by 33% in the 13 years they were in power. This is shameful, and it is the worst performance in the world.

Eddie Goldenberg, the former Prime Minister 's chief of staff, was kind enough to remind us, during a recent presentation to the London Chamber of Commerce in Ontario, that when the Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol, it was purely because of public opinion. He said that it was to galvanize public opinion. Eddie Goldenberg is admitting that, as was the case with the Kelowna Accord and all other Liberal measures, their actions were exercises in public relations.

This is why the NDP now has such support in Quebec and the other provinces. Citizens realize that the Liberal Party of Canada is but an empty shell, a creature of the 1960s designed to keep Quebec in its place and now being superseded by political parties that understand that what is truly important in life is to look after our neighbours and our society, and that we have to look after our planet.

That is the NDP vision. Unlike the Liberals who have never looked after these interests, unlike the Conservatives who do not wish to do so, and unlike the Bloc who cannot, the NDP is the only political party with representation throughout Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, that speaks to Canadians about real issues.

One of the nicest compliments I received in the recent byelection in Outremont was from someone living at Father Dowd Memorial Home. After my presentation, a severely handicapped gentleman beckoned to me and said something that touched me deeply. He said that it was the first time that a federal candidate had come there and spoken about human beings rather than about the Constitution, or disputes, or differences that too often are the subject of debate in Quebec.

Like those voting in the Outremont byelection, many Quebeckers have realized that the NDP is the only credible party in the House of Commons speaking for peace, the only credible party speaking out against war in Afghanistan, and the only party standing up for the environment. Our leader has a great deal of experience in environmental issues. This very afternoon, he is introducing an important bill that has received support not only from David Suzuki, but also from the Pembina Institute. This bill would put us on the path toward real greenhouse gas reductions so that we can respect the right of future generations to experience the same standard of living, the same quality of life and the same living environment we have experienced. That is what the NDP is all about. We are a political organization that puts people first, unlike the Conservatives.

This brings me back to Bill C-28, which is before us today. The primary goal of this bill is to use State moneys for their intended purpose, that is, to help people, to help with infrastructure, and to help create programs for people. We want to give that money to people. Who do the Conservatives want to give that money to? They want to give it to big oil companies and banks.

The outcome of all this is bizarre because the overheated oil industry pushed the value of the loonie up. Such a high Canadian dollar is making it very hard to export products. As a result, people across Canada are losing their jobs. Many people in New Brunswick and Quebec who work for Shermag have recently lost their jobs. This is not because the company is badly managed. In fact, it is an outstanding company that makes quality products. The Conservative government does not seem to understand that. It has destabilized Canada's relatively stable economy made up of primary resource sectors, processing sectors, a manufacturing sector and, of course, an oil sector based mainly in the west. There was wealth, but there was also balance.

The Conservatives are in the process of killing the manufacturing sector, getting rid of not just workers, which is bad enough. Because of this, many families will have to do without come Christmastime. This is primarily because the Conservatives could not care less about people's lives. They are not interested in helping people. Their only motivation is an economic dogma that has convinced them, even if they are wrong, that the last thing a government should do is get involved in the economy. But by proposing tax cuts, regardless of the size of the business or profits, they are, in fact, getting involved in the economy. Some oil companies in the west would get $40, $50 or even $60 million presents all at once.

These businesses, in western Canada, will earn even more in the oil sector. This will create a greater imbalance in our economy and will destabilize us even more. It will push the dollar even higher, which will cause an even greater drain on the manufactured goods sector of the economy, the industrial sector, particularly in the east, in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

These are good jobs being lost, and the Conservative government does not care at all. It does not care because it does not believe that the government should get involved, any more than it believes the government should get involved in the environment. There are important things to be done with a little vision.

There was a press conference today with the leader of the NDP and Daniel Breton, who is the president of the Coalition Québeckyoto. Daniel Breton is a visionary.

Today, he drew a comparison to what Quebec managed to do in the 1960s, when it decided to be the master of its own destiny. This operation in Quebec, which was called, “Maîtres chez nous”, was decried, castigated and criticized. Some predicted the worst, that this would fail. Some 40 years later, where are we now? We have Hydro-Québec, a government corporation that is a world model of good management. Quebec will be able to produce 4,000 megawatts—or 4,000 times a million watts—thanks to wind energy, now that these projects are being built or have been approved and are going through.

This is clean and renewable energy. With a little vision, a little self-confidence, we could do the same across Canada. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have absolutely no self-confidence and they certainly have no vision. They do not believe for an instant that the government can play a role in this.

This makes me think that if the Conservatives had been in power in Europe during the planning of the high-speed trains, which now crisscross Europe at 300 km an hour, they never would have been built. This required vision and confidence in the fact that government has a role to play and can be a driving force in achieving these big projects.

If our government here in Ottawa had just a bit of vision, Canada could become a world leader in clean and renewable energy. In remote villages the woods were cut a long time ago, but a tremendous amount of forest biomass was left behind. In fact, tens of millions of tonnes of forest biomass was left to slowly release carbon. Instead of allowing that to continue, imagine using infrastructure already in place, namely the roads and bridges that are already built, to transport this forest biomass to what would become a methanol production plant.

We can use ethanol, we can produce wind energy, we can use hydraulic power and wind power to produce hydrogen. We could become a world leader in hydrogen energy, which is clean energy and is renewable for future generations. But no, we are digging up the oil sands. We are in the process of using relatively clean fossil energy, namely natural gas, to melt the sand and extract, at a high environmental cost, the bitumen contained in the oil sands of western Canada. It is outrageous. It is the antithesis of sustainable development. It is absolutely not sustainable. This cannot last long, but such is the Conservative government: it does not believe in the future.

We in the NDP have a vision for the future, a vision that takes into account our primary, unending and inescapable responsibility towards future generations. And we will do everything we can to meet those expectations. We will oppose this government and its far right plans. We will oppose the war in Afghanistan and we are the only ones who oppose it.

Indeed, the Bloc Québécois supports the Conservative government regarding the war in southern Afghanistan until 2009. Its members are still unable to explain why it will suddenly be a bad war in 2009, yet it is not a bad war right now. The Bloc Québécois owes an explanation to voters. Bloc members had a very hard time explaining this in Outremont.

The Liberals are responsible for the debacle in Afghanistan and they are also responsible for the worst performance in the world when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. They too have some explaining to do to voters.The Conservatives, on the other hand, who incessantly hide behind Liberal negligence and incompetence, will have to explain themselves to future generations.

They must stop hiding behind the Liberals to make excuses. They must stop hiding behind the United States, China, India and Brazil and trying to justify the unjustifiable regarding how the oil sands are being developed in the west. It is starting to have a destabilizing effect on our economy and even on the planet. And this government is the primary driving force. We, on the other hand, will do all we can to propose a vision of the future, a vision of hope, a vision that takes into account our obligations towards future generations.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons we have such a crisis in the manufacturing sector is because of the high dollar. Why do we have a high dollar? One of the major causes is the fact that we are increasingly a commodities dollar, a petro-dollar.

What happens when we give across the board tax cuts, as we are debating in Bill C-28, is that we reward the oil and gas sector and the large banks and insurance companies, which are already making multi-billion dollar profits, and we further threaten the manufacturing sector, which is the most value added, most beneficial sector of our economy in terms of the spin-off jobs and the overall value.

The handling of the manufacturing crisis and the boom in the commodity sector is just exacerbating this situation. It is jeopardizing our manufacturing sector. I do not know whether it is from a bias toward the polluting industries, the oil and gas sector, or a lack of experience with the manufacturing sector, but we could do permanent damage to our valuable manufacturing sector and, frankly, we will see the impact of the current high dollar, not tomorrow, not next month but in two or three years to come. We have not seen the worst of this yet.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-28 and to express my opposition to it.

It is a fundamentally wrong direction for Canada. It is explicable that the Conservatives, who tend to take us in the wrong direction, could present an economic statement of this manner to the people of Canada and therefore bring in this bill, but it is impossible for me to understand how the opposition could de facto support this direction, which is absolutely the wrong one for Canada. I want to elaborate on my concerns about this statement and why I believe it is the wrong direction.

As I said earlier, one of my major concerns is around the tax cuts and what they mean in terms of eroding the resources that we need collectively to build this country. If we want to not only maintain our standard of living, maintain our industrial sector, maintain a level of civil society, but also to improve all of those things, and improve the environment and improve our social climate, and deal with the major issues facing us today, and improve our economic standing in the world, then gutting our fiscal capacity to act is not the way to do it. I want to address the very serious issue of tax cuts.

This statement continues not only the present government's but also the previous Liberal government's mistaken path of huge corporate tax cuts and other tax cuts. It takes us down the wrong path for Canada. Over the next five years the revenue that pays for the things Canadians say they want, the programs and services, and all of the things we tell each other we want, will drop by $60 billion based just on this economic statement.

I remember when there was a huge debate because the previous government failed to bring in a national child care program that was going to cost us $2 billion. What a terrible shame that with all of these resources we have failed to invest in our children.

There are cuts to the GST, to personal income taxes and to corporate income taxes. The latter, which by 2012 will drop to 15% from 21% today, is really an outrageous corporate giveaway. This notion of having to attract investment, cut taxes lower and lower and do away with more and more for the people of our country is nothing but a race to the bottom. It really is quite unworthy of a developed country such as Canada.

As I said earlier in the House, this latest economic statement really is the continuation of a 20 year race to the bottom in terms of trying to cut our way to prosperity which clearly has not worked. It diminishes our country.

There has been a conscious plan by the current Conservative government and previous Liberal governments over the last 20 years. They were supposed to have been looking out for the interests of our country and yet they have cut $250 billion out of the fiscal capacity of this country, out of the revenue we need to act on behalf of Canadians and in fact build our country.

I ask Canadians to think about the difference this revenue would have made in our country and the kinds of things Canadians say they want. Canadians are repeatedly frustrated that their politicians are not acting on the things that we have forgone because of these tax cuts. I want to list some of them.

One of them is a national child care program to invest in our children, a program that invests the money where it counts most, in the very early years of our children's lives.

Another is a national pharmacare program. Yes, we have a medicare program thanks to Tommy Douglas and the NDP, but no one's health should be jeopardized because they lack the funds to pay for the pharmaceutical drugs they need.

Yet another is a home care program. Whether it be disability, illness, age, whatever the cause, people are best cared for in their own home. They should have the care they need to be able to stay in their home. It is more economical for society. It is better for the person to be able to stay in familiar surroundings. It is the best kind of care we can deliver for people who want and need to stay in their home. We have failed in this area.

Another is social housing. I have spoken many times in this House about people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park who have fallen through the cracks because of the high cost of housing in the city of Toronto. There are many people who work below the poverty level. People who work for less than $10 an hour simply cannot afford the level of private rental housing that is available in the city of Toronto.

I am very proud that in our community as a result of a community initiative a very small housing facility just opened last weekend, thanks to the help of the United Church. We are so far from being able to address the needs of Canadians when it comes to affordable housing. It is quite shocking. In my city over 75,000 families are on the waiting list for affordable housing. These families are not going away. Their lives are not improving. They are not getting off the list. The list just keeps getting longer and longer. Even those families who are not on the list for affordable housing are often paying a greater and greater amount of their income for their housing needs. Many working and middle class families are getting dangerously deep in debt. They are very concerned about what any change in interest rates could mean for their finances. There is a huge stress on families today because of the lack of affordable housing.

Add to that the challenge of tuition fees for young people who start out in life with tens of thousands of dollars in debt heaped on their backs. What a way for young people to start out , to look at building their career. It is a time when they want to take chances, to travel, to try new things, to learn new things. Instead they are saddled with phenomenal debt because of the lack of investment in post-secondary education by a government that would prefer to give it away to very profitable corporations.

I must speak to the staggering infrastructure deficit in our country. It is huge. It is getting bigger, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. We are falling further and further behind each and every year because of the lack of investment by the Conservative government and previous Liberal governments to maintain, improve and grow our infrastructure. Whether we are talking about water and sewage, roadways, transit, social and community infrastructure, the lack of investment means that our cities are in very poor shape.

We have seen bridges fall down in Quebec. We have seen drains break in the middle of winter in downtown Toronto, which have to be repaired on a case by case basis, at a huge extra cost. We see gridlock on the streets of our major cities. Someone has to explain to me how this is good for business. How does this gridlock in our crumbling infrastructure make Canada a more competitive country? How is that good for business? It is not.

Whether it is the board of trade or other business organizations, right across the country everyone knows it is bad for business. It is a drag on our competitiveness as well as being a terrible drag and a terrible burden for people who live in our communities who are trying to go about their daily lives.

The lack of transit infrastructure means that people spend hours stuck in traffic. People are moving further and further afield from the centre of our major cities which means they have longer commutes. They get stuck in rush hour traffic. It is a vicious cycle which the current government is doing nothing to help, and the Liberals when they had the chance with many surplus budgets did nothing to help. We have to address the issue of infrastructure in our cities.

It is tragic that we have had the opportunity because of surplus budgets to make these investments but have not done so. I see a lot of back patting by the Conservative government and by previous governments about how deficits and debt have been reduced. What I see is that the debt and deficits have been pushed off the plate of the government and on to the back of individuals.

I see people with more and more personal debt. I see people in my community going to payday lenders and rolling over debts week after week. They are spiralling further into debt. I see that anxiety about how to make ends meet being shuffled off to the individual. It is the least efficient way to deal with collective needs.

I cannot go out and buy my own piece of subway or road. I guess I could buy my own personal swimming pool, but I would rather invest in our community facilities, our community swimming pools, our community child care centres and schools. These are the things that we build together. When we put our tax dollars together we can build so much more than if we each take our own little piece and try to scratch and scramble and invest it ourselves.

We see so many people who believe the advertising of the investment companies and they put their money into mutual funds. People throw their lot in with the market and then find that when they need the money it is not there for them, that the money is lost because it has been gambled away. What we really need are secure retirement incomes. There is no better system than the Canada pension plan, where we all pool our money together so that everyone's money is secure and it is there for seniors when they need it.

If we want to take some of the $250 billion that the government has forgone through tax cuts, why not invest more of that money and make life better for seniors? Why not give more of that back to seniors?

By the way, the billion dollars that the federal government has shortchanged seniors by miscalculating the cost of living could be given back to seniors too. That is another billion dollars that seniors would be very glad to have.

The argument for cutting taxes is that it will make companies more competitive. I think it is important that we do well in the economy and that businesses be competitive and do well in the world, but I would argue that even on the basic grounds of making Canada more competitive, I do not think this tax cut agenda is doing it.

In 1999, the year before the previous prime minister, the member for LaSalle--Émard, introduced his huge tax cuts, Canada was fifth in the world in competitiveness and--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously Bill C-28 is an important bill because of what it does not do.

It does not address the crisis in homelessness and poverty.

It also does not address the crisis in our employment insurance program. As the member quite rightly pointed out, it was gutted by the previous Liberal government to the point where in my own city of Toronto I know that almost 80% of unemployed workers do not get employment insurance. That is where we are today. It used to be that about 80% of unemployed workers got EI.

Could the hon. member comment on the failure of both the current and the previous government to address the crisis of poverty but also on the contribution that the devastating changes to the employment insurance system have made to that crisis?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

I will not respond to that. It is beneath contempt.

I will take a few moments to comment on the remarks that came from the Conservative member for Macleod this morning. He spoke to the positives he saw in Bill C-28. I understand his perspective. It is the government perspective and the benefits as he sees them. He advised the House, as we heard again in question period, of 388,000 jobs, mostly full time he said, created in the country this year.

To me that begged the question. In which sectors was there this exciting job growth and could the people in the companies of the manufacturing sector expect a plan from the government to protect the existing jobs and to help create new ones in one of the core sectors of Canada's economy? To the present time, I have not been informed as to where these jobs have been created and in which sectors. I look forward to hearing that news at some point.

However, during the remarks by the member for Macleod, he offered the words to the effect that the Conservative government had taken a decision not to favour one sector over another to provide tax relief to address growth in all of Canada.

I nearly jumped out of my chair at those words. The manufacturing sector in Canada, particularly in my community, is in crisis. We are being told that they are not being favoured. We never asked to be favoured. We have asked for a plan for a strategy from the government to address the needs of this core sector of our economy to assist them and their companies.

In this modern age we often hear the words “a holistic approach to issues and problems”. Quite often that refers to health, but I suggest this is what is needed relative to dealing with our manufacturing crisis today.

The Conservative government simply has to get with the times. If it believes it can deal with our economy solely by tax cuts and then let the chips fall, Reaganomics, or the economics of trickle down, has been discredited and has been branded a failure worldwide. The government must step back from this simplistic approach to economics, step back from the tax cuts for the rich corporations, hoping something trickles down to the ordinary hard-working Canadian.

The government must move to a place where it begins to operate with that holistic view of running the country, an approach which ensures everyone benefits together, not the rich first and something else for the rest at another time, but to where everyone together benefits from the great wealth of the country.

Twenty per cent of my community live in abject poverty. They want to work but do not have a job and cannot even begin to find one. They know the bill does not one thing for them. The question is this. Who are these favoured companies and favoured corporations referred to by the member for Macleod. Without reading a single word of this statement, without a single economics course, because they have been well trained by previous Liberal governments, Canadians can tell us that it is the banks and big oil and gas companies that will reap the benefits immediately from Bill C-28, just like they did for years under the Liberals.

The member for Macleod also talked about the NDP mended Liberal budget of 2005. I did say mended, not amended. That is because we mended it by taking $4 billion plus from the corporate tax cuts and forced the Liberals to put these saved dollars, saved fiscal capacity, into transit, and I see this in Hamilton today with new ecobuses on the street, into education and into housing, the same housing we heard the Conservatives taking credit for just earlier today in the House.

Now the Liberals, who are finally seeing the dollars put together in the budget for their corporate friends, are going to sit on their hands. They are not going to stop this.

The needs today are pressing and will worsen in the future. What is missed by so many here, or they are at least hiding from it, is the lost fiscal capacity of the country. What I found interesting was seeing the government members spend so much time this spring taking credit for the dollars flowing from that NDP modified budget. Again, we heard that repeated in the House earlier today.

With Bill C-28, as with the previous Liberal government, the Conservatives are continuing their corporate welfare program, with large corporate tax breaks very similar to the ones proposed in 2005 by the Liberals. It is estimated that these corporate tax breaks will reduce tax income for our country by $14 billion a year.

This obvious concern should arise for the Liberals. As I said, what about the lost fiscal capacity of the federal government in years to come? We know and members will have heard repeatedly throughout this debate that Canadian cities are facing a huge infrastructure problem.

I want to reiterate that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities demonstrated in its recent report that there is an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion. I have not heard one word in the House to refute that report. Nobody is saying that it is inaccurate. Nobody is saying that it is not true. In fact, it is almost like it does not exist. I cannot understand how the Conservatives can ignore it. How can the Liberals let them? This is beyond belief.

I am going to take a moment to offer a suggestion to the government. I have already spoken about the common sense of Canadians and how a number of them in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek have been quick to point out to me their surprise when they see that the Conservative government, with its surpluses, is not prepared to invest in my community's needs and community needs across the country.

The government is not prepared, in the words of my constituents, to use common sense to prepare for our future and to repair some of the infrastructure from our past. The people of my riding understand the need to pay down debt, but they cannot begin to understand why such huge payments are being budgeted when there is already so much need in the country.

There is the need to address the infrastructure problem. There is a need for affordable housing. We heard the member for Sault Ste. Marie talk of the tragedy of homelessness across the country. We have heard that 42 people died last year as a result of homelessness. There is also a need for a national drug program.

However, the embarrassing level of poverty in the country is the one piece that should be the catalyst for anybody and any government to act. I have offered that small piece of advice to the government.

Another small piece that I would offer is the need to deal immediately with the $500 per year mistake. Senior are owed that. I think it would be incumbent upon the government to act on that immediately and pay seniors what they are owed.

If there is any reason to redirect the wealth of the country into new programs aimed at eliminating poverty for thousands of men, women and children, I would have to say that this is the reason I stand in the House repeatedly on Bill C-28. In many cases, I am repeating many of the words I have said before, but they have to be repeated over and over again until the shame of poverty in Canada is eliminated.

I had breakfast today with the High Commissioner of India. Many Canadians have a view of India as a desperately poor country, but that country has a strategy such that it is setting about the elimination of poverty in India by the year 2020. Whether it succeeds or not, the very fact that India has that concerted effort is an example that this country must follow.

We had the grand vision of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. We need another grand vision for Canada. We need leadership from the government and we need it to address poverty now.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-28 one more time and I do so because of the significance of the implications for my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. Clearly Hamilton East—Stoney Creek and the entire community of Hamilton have a lot vested in the budget document, more because of what it does not do than what it does do.

Before I comment directly on Bill C-28, I will like to take a few moments in response to—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know members of the NDP are trying to filibuster and are running out of things to say, but they have to stay on topic.

We are talking about Bill C-28, at third reading. Every comment made has to be about the substance of the bill. They cannot go on one tangent or another about what they do with money. They have to talk about the issues of Bill C-28. I would ask that you bring them to order.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to be only NDPers in the House who are asking the intelligent questions about Bill C-28. The member's question is a very valid one.

We saw gutting of the health care system under the Liberals continued under the Conservatives. There are the recent cutbacks that I just cited in terms of the overall cutbacks to government departments. Rather than making sure the money is being adequately invested and ensuring that our health care program is adequately funded, the Conservatives are taking exactly the same approach as the Liberals.

The member for Sault Ste. Marie has raised an important question. It is important to note that health care is a major part of the competitive advantage for Canadian companies. Study after study has shown that Canadian companies are far more competitive because they do not have to pay health care benefits as they do in the United States. We have a major competitive advantage.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have ever attempted to match corporate tax rates to that effective competitive advantage that companies get through the health care system. They just keep slashing corporate tax rates down to the bone without taking into consideration that the support for the health care system is a major competitive advantage.

If the government wants to help the corporate sector, why does it not invest in health care? Why does it not invest in a pharmacare program that would allow corporations to have an even more effective competitive advantage without slashing the federal government's ability to help ordinary Canadians?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the Conservatives are awake in the House now. Hopefully, they will actually read the bill and exercise their due diligence by voting against it.

It is important for Canadians to know where these tax gifts are going. I do not think any Conservative member would be opposed to that because they believe in accountability.

The EnCana Corporation saw $6.4 billion in profit in 2006 and the Conservatives want to give it more. Shell Canada saw $1.7 billion in profit. Suncor Energy saw $2.9 billion in profit. Husky Energy had $2.7 billion in profit. Talisman saw $2 billion in profit. That is the list of Conservative beneficence and generosity. The Conservatives just shovel it out of the back of a truck to the corporate sector.

Bill C-28 contains nothing for poor Canadians, nothing to deal with the housing crisis or the income crisis, and nothing to deal with the post-secondary education crisis and the crisis on aboriginal reserves. It contains nothing to deal with the crisis among Canadians with disabilities. We simply see no reference to any of that. Why? The Conservative government is so profoundly out of touch that it thinks the greatest priority for Canadians right now is to shovel tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector.

The government does not take care of veterans or aboriginal people. It does not take care of poor working families that have been working their fingers to the bone over the last 20 years and average over 200 hours more of work as commuting times increase and as the overall quality of services deteriorates given how irresponsible the Liberals were when they were in government. The Conservatives are not addressing any of that.

They will say that Bill C-28 has a slight adjustment in the lower levels for income tax payers. However, it is important for Canadians to know that there is one thing that will help them in terms of income tax and that is a net benefit of $15 a month for average families earning less than $30,000 a year. The government is giving tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector but it is giving families $15 a month.

I come from British Columbia and I have seen this kind of hocus-pocus with tax cuts under the Gordon Campbell government. It did the same thing. It gave massive gifts to its buddies in the corporate sector while lower income families were given $15 or $20 a month. It turns out that all families earning less than $80,000 a year, which is the vast majority of Canadian families, actually ended up paying more user fees than they received from that small tax break.

As I mentioned earlier, the massive cuts that the Conservative government is making in all the services I just mentioned from the Library of Parliament documentation, essentially gives poor working families $15 a month to adjust for the user fees or the deterioration of services that they will see right across the spectrum of federal government services.

That is not what Canadians want. Canadians want an effective federal government. They want an activist federal government that will use money wisely but put it where it counts the most. They do not want a government that fritters away, in this appalling irresponsible way, tens of billions of dollars to the corporate sector.

The government had a choice. It could have taken a different direction from the failed, corrupt Liberal government but it chose to take exactly the same route, which is why we oppose Bill C-28.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 11th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would again ask the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster to try to keep his remarks as closely as possible to the third reading stage of Bill C-28.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

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

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The theme is the giveaway. The giveaway that happened last Thursday is similar to the giveaway we see in Bill C-28. I know the hon. member does not like to hear that, but the reality is such that he has to understand that shovelling billions of dollars out the door to the corporate sector, which is what is contained in Bill C-28, is entirely inappropriate.

Why? Because of the current economic situation that most Canadians are living through.

When the finance minister rose to give the supplementary budget update, he was talking to Canadians, two-thirds of whom have seen a decline in their real income since 1989. Two-thirds of them have seen their real income fall. The middle class, the lower middle class and the poorest of Canadians have seen their real incomes fall, in most cases catastrophically, yet what we have seen over the past 20 years of economic policy is essentially a giveaway to corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers.

Bill C-28 continues in that theme. We saw it under the former Liberal government and it is continued under the current Conservative government. Is that in Canada's interests? Not at all.

The fact that most Canadian families have seen their debt load double over that same period, the last 20 years, begs the question: what should have been in the economic update? It is a very simple question.

What we have is corporate giveaways on a massive scale to the most profitable companies in Canada. That is the priority of this so-called new government. It certainly mirrors the priorities of the old Liberal government. We see the same old same old. We see the same economic approaches.

What could have happened? We should have seen investments in our industrial sector to protect manufacturing jobs. We have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past few years. We have had closures of factories in British Columbia, where I come from, and massive job loss in the softwood industry. As a result of the softwood sellout, in the past year we have lost 10,000 jobs in the softwood industry alone. That has devastated and gutted softwood communities from coast to coast.

Essentially we have seen the gutting of the manufacturing sector and the gutting of the softwood industry. We have seen case after case. I know that Conservative members do not want to hear reality. They prefer to hear from corporate lobbyists, but my goodness, it is about time that Conservatives started to listen to main street rather than Bay Street all the time.

We saw that under the Liberal government. The Conservatives said they would be different. We see it with the economic update, this Bill C-28 that we are discussing. It is the same old giveaway of Canada's public resources. There is no attempt to put in place an industrial sector. There is no attempt to actually address what Canadians are living through. Instead, the government just said, “Let us give this money away”.

The Conservatives say they have a surplus, but it is a myth of a surplus. I will point out just one of the key facts that the Conservatives seem to have completely forgotten in this entire debate. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities came forward after years of Liberal cutbacks and has estimated the infrastructure deficit at about $125 billion. What is worse, that deficit increases by nearly $20 billion each and every year.

What is the transportation and infrastructure deficit? It means that our highways become more dangerous, including the highway overpasses. We saw the collapse in Minnesota because appropriate attention was not given to updating the highway overpasses. Many fear that could happen in Canada.

We are seeing the lack of an ability to access fresh water. We have seen that in places such as Walkerton and North Battleford, yet there has been no investment by the federal government to actually improve our access to fresh water across the country.

Let us talk about waste management, with a city such as Victoria continuing to spew raw sewage out into the Juan de Fuca Strait. The Liberals did nothing on it. The Conservatives said they would be different. Instead, it is the same old same old for waste management.

As well, it is the same for the whole range of public transit. We have seen a substantial underfunding of our public transit facilities across the country, which means that Canadians have fewer options in terms of getting to work. We know that commuting times are increasing at the same time as overtime is increasing. People are working harder and longer weeks, yet they are getting less take-home pay.

Bill C-28, the budgetary update, deals with absolutely none of those issues. Instead, the Conservative government has made cutbacks to the justice system, to the environment, to agriculture, to fisheries and oceans, to public security, to Indian affairs, to the health care system, to international trade and industry, and to human resources and skills development.

It is the same old, same old. We went through it all with the Liberals and now, with Bill C-28, we are seeing the fiscal irresponsibility of the Conservative government. It is cutting the essentials. It cuts back on the basics and then says that it has a surplus so it should give it away to the corporate sector.

That reminds me of the little boy who took $3 from his mother and went to the store. He was supposed to buy essentials for his family, for his brothers and sisters, bread and milk, and then to bring those essentials home. Instead, he spent three-quarters of the money on candy and then came back and told his mom that he had a surplus, that he had not bought any of the essentials and that he had frittered the money away.

What we are seeing from the government is that it is frittering the money away on corporate tax cuts on an ongoing basis and not taking care of the essentials, whether we are talking about our basic infrastructure, what our cities and towns need to ensure there is a decent quality of life for citizens, or whether there is an industrial strategy in place that actually provides good, family sustaining jobs. We are not seeing that.

The government says that people can work at Wal-Mart because that is all it will give them as an industrial strategy. After people are laid off from good, family sustaining jobs, because the Conservatives and Liberals have done nothing about this over the last 20 years, they are taking part time and temporary service jobs that pay much less and do not allow them to sustain their families, which is why, for two-thirds of Canadian families, their incomes have declined.

If that is not an income crisis, I do not know what is. However, we will not hear a word about that from the Conservatives, like we did not hear a word about it from the Liberals either. There is just a consistent negation of everything that is happening on the main streets of our country, including, as the member for Sault Ste. Marie mentioned, the fact that tonight, 300,000 Canadians will be sleeping in parks and homeless shelters across the country in the middle of winter. If that is not a source of national shame, I do not know what is.

The Liberals did nothing. They eliminated the housing programs, so they provoked the crisis. All the Conservatives have done is take the NDP money from the NDP budget and told everyone that it had put $1 billion aside. That was NDP money for housing, but it was only a start. We recognize that we are dealing with a housing crisis and that we need more than $1 billion to actually deal with 300,000 Canadians sleeping on the streets of our country tonight, and hundreds of thousands of Canadian families that are just a paycheque or an action away from losing their homes.

We knew that money was only a start in the investments needed, but for the Conservative government that is all it is willing to give. It is just taking the moneys that were put aside by the NDP and that is it.

None of the essentials are taken care of. The NDP has been saying that Bill C-28 should contain a national pharmacare program so that families, that are going into debt and seeing their incomes eroded by escalating drug costs, will actually have some supports.

The NDP is the only party in this House talking about that, in the same way that Tommy Douglas, the greatest Canadian and former NDP leader, put in place a health care program. We are saying that Bill C-28 should have had a national pharmacare program, but it does not.

It has no industrial strategy and no support for post-secondary students who are facing massive debt loads and lower incomes once they get out of university, and, since most jobs created today, the Wal-Mart jobs, do not come with pensions or any sort of supports, we are talking about a life of what is essentially indebtedness.

We take these kids, who worked their way through university, and have them start out life with a $30,000 debt load. As Statistics Canada tells us, they start with lower salaries and then, when they get the jobs that they can get with the laissez-faire government, the same as the Liberals who did not seem to give a darn about the middle class or poorer working Canadians, students simply end up, once they have finally paid off their student loans, facing a life where there are no pensions beyond what is contained in the CPP and the GIS.

We know the government has done nothing to address the underfunding of the GIS, this rip-off of seniors. Nothing in Bill C-28 deals with the fact that the cost of living has gone up faster than the GIS, which means that seniors are being ripped off by the Conservative government, as they were ripped off by the former Liberal government.

Nothing in Bill C-28 addresses any of those concerns. It contains nothing about the farm crisis and agricultural incomes, and nothing about the poverty that first nations are living under, the deplorable state on reserves across the country. It contains nothing to deal with the fact that five million Canadians with disabilities are the poorest of the poor Canadians. Half of the homeless are Canadians with disabilities and 40% of those need to stand in long lineups at the food banks for food, which we never see the Liberals and Conservatives actually addressing. The lineups at the food banks are becoming increasingly longer and 40% of the people who need those food banks just to survive until the end of the month are people with disabilities. Nothing in Bill C-28 addresses that either.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

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

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are in third reading of Bill C-28, not Bill S-2. The member is talking about a completely unrelated piece of legislation. This is third reading, where the member needs to be very focused. I know it is tough for that particular member to be focused, but we do ask that he debate the bill that is before the House at third reading, and its details.

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--

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion that is before us today seeks to provide a simple amendment to Bill C-28. It would remove a clause that the Conservatives intend to use to reduce the corporate tax rate.

I have been listening to several of the interventions from some of the Conservative members in the House. It has been very interesting. The argument goes something like this: we have to become more competitive with what exists elsewhere in the world.

One of the problems we have in Canada right now is that we have built, over the past century, a very balanced economy that includes a very strong resource sector. Of course, mining and forestry have always been the backbone of the Canadian economy, but we also have, especially since the second world war, built a very strong industrial base, especially in the central and eastern parts of Canada.

Because of the increase in the Canadian dollar's value, especially in the past year, the Canadian manufacturing sector has been under a lot of stress and strain. The same thing applies in particular to the forestry sector. Whether it be in Ontario or Quebec, we have seen a lot of companies closing. We see companies like Baronet, which is a wonderful Quebec company that has been manufacturing furniture since the 1940s, simply unable to compete with the current value of the Canadian dollar.

Instead of recognizing that in a country the size and the breadth of Canada that the government has to play a role in shaping the economy and maintaining it when there are these types of ups and downs that we have been going through, what have we got from the Conservatives? They have thrown themselves headlong into a race to see how quickly they could reduce the corporate tax rate.

What is the result of that? It is quite simple. In the forestry sector, companies have not made any profit in the past year simply because the Canadian dollar is so high and exports have become that more difficult for those companies. As a result, those companies will not benefit in any way, shape or form from this purported help that the Conservatives are providing. It is the same thing in the manufacturing sector, where very few companies have actually made a profit in the last year.

Who will get the $14 billion that the Tories are putting on the table and that they keep snapping their suspenders about? The companies that have made the biggest profits and that have been throwing the economy out of kilter, precisely the oil and gas sector, especially in the west, in Alberta to name it, where the companies have made huge profits in the past year.

Several companies will get cheques back from the government for $50 million, $60 million or $70 million because of the fact that we are reducing the corporate tax rate. It will benefit those companies that have made the most profit and therefore they should be paying the most taxes.

The banks are also in for a windfall. We all had the benefit of watching our current Finance Minister go cap in hand to the banks last year and ask them to do something about reducing the fees at ATMs, the automated teller machines. What happened? They told him to take a hike. He thinks they are his boss. He does not realize that he is in charge of regulating the banks in the public interest. They told him to get lost and he did. He came back to Ottawa, reported duly to the House, and said, “Sorry, they will not move”, and that is where it stayed.

It was the same thing earlier this year when he talked to the retail sector and asked them if they really found that it was fair that a product had two prices on it, one in Canadian dollars and one in U.S. dollars, and that the Canadian price was 35% higher than the U.S. price, given the fact that generally speaking in the past year our dollars have been pretty close to par. There was no problem there either. The retail sector told him he did not understand anything about inventories and sent him packing.

What is interesting is that when we look at the oil sector, no one ever argues that the existing inventories were bought at a lower rate. The minute there is an increase in the per barrel price of oil around the world, somehow the company that is pumping the oil into the tank in our basement, if we have oil-fired hot air at home, increases the rate overnight to go along with that worldwide increase. Anyhow, the argument of the companies works sometimes and not at other times.

The amendment before us would remove the tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives in their so-called mini-budget.

It is worth noting the following for everyone watching today: the Liberal Party of Canada is supporting the Conservative Party on these cuts for companies, for big corporations, such as the oil and gas companies and the banks. This is interesting, since the economy in Quebec is destabilized because of the massive increase in the production of oil and gas, which has caused the economy in the west to overheat. Instead of trying to alleviate the negative impact of this overheating in the west, what do the Conservatives propose? They would like to issue $50 or $60 million cheques in tax refunds to the oil companies.

What does that do for the manufacturers in Quebec and Ontario? What does that do for forestry companies in Quebec and Ontario that are in the process of shutting down, putting hundreds or thousands of families out on the street without a job? The Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing because they strongly believe that it is a mistake for the government to take care of the economy. They do not think that the government, even in a country as large as Canada, has a role to play. It means nothing to the Conservatives that this manufacturing sector has been built up over 60 years a mari usque ad mare. They are prepared to destroy this sector.

It is interesting to note that the Liberals tend to preach in major cities such as Toronto and to speak in favour of food banks. We forget that it would be worthwhile asking, when speaking to the managers of food banks and those working in this sector, what was the Liberal Party of Canada doing when the Conservatives were handing over a nice gift to the big oil companies? I will tell you what the Liberals were doing. They were sitting on their hands, as they have been doing since the beginning of this parliamentary session. Why are they doing nothing? Because they believe in nothing. They do not believe, not for one second, in the people who need help in our society. They do not at all believe that the government has a role to play in a modern and diversified economy such as that of Canada. The Liberal Party of Canada has a great deal of explaining to do.

Right now, the only political party that has the courage to stand up in this House, and to tell the public that we must help the manufacturing and the forestry sectors, is the New Democratic Party. The only political party with representation from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and a real chance to form the next government is the NDP. The people of Quebec and Ontario who believe that the government must play a more active role will vote for the New Democratic Party in the next election.

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the question asked of my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst with regard to future debt and how ordinary workers would have to pay for that debt if we did not accept the budget as is. Ordinary Canadians are already paying that debt as a result of lost services. I will talk about some of the things ordinary folks, the people who really need those services, do not get and the reasons why.

I am pleased my colleague from Ottawa Centre moved the amendment that would take away corporate tax cuts. The budget was not balanced. It favours large corporations with enormous tax breaks. Everyone else may get a few tax credits, and that is good, but ordinary Canadians have to spend that money first to get it back. A lot of people cannot afford to do that, so there will be no tax credit or savings for them. If we allow Bill C-28 to pass unamended, it would make everything in our ridings harder to achieve.

People in my riding who are responsible for administering a lot of services tell me that the greatest need is housing. I live in a rural area and we do not see people on the street like we would see in greater centres. They do not congregate on the streets as they do in big cities. They live in campsites and in their cars. People do not realize this because our homeless do not live downtown where everyone can see them. We only realize this when we look to the service providers and find out that people are in dire need. These are not unemployed people. A lot of them are underemployed or they work part time. Some are young families with children.

We are doing everything we can to help them in our communities, but we are doing it with scarce dollars. This could have been addressed in the budget. Some money should have been put into a national housing program like the one called for by the NDP for many years. The program was eliminated, but we would like to see it resurrected so people can get into affordable housing.

The situation with respect to housing on reserves is very sad. Sometimes 18 to 24 people live in a house that was only designed for a family of four. They are living in very crowded conditions. Because the houses were not built to a very good standard, they are mouldy, or leaking or falling apart.

Money needs to be invested in these communities to ensure aboriginal people have the housing they deserve, which would give them the ability to live in dignity. It is quite shameful that we are forcing first nations to live in Third World conditions on reserves. I cannot say in strong enough words how shameful it is on Canada's part.

The $14 billion going toward large corporate tax cuts could have been invested in a child care program. Hopefully, my colleague's amendment will pass in the House and we will have a national child care program in the country very soon. All parents have been calling for a child care program. It is sorely needed and it would help ease the debt burden for a lot of working families. I fully support that. I look forward to the day when parents do not need to have bake sales to raise money to fund child care centres. It is important for all our communities.

There are other things that we do not see in my riding, especially where I live on coast. A lot of our communities used to be dependent on fishing resources. We have lost a lot of that. What we have lost is habitat protection and part of that is because there is not enough money in the system. We need huge dollars invested in our habitat protection on the coast so we can ensure we have a viable fishery for the future, but we have not seen that. It is sad. There seems to be enough money for so many things, especially for corporate tax cuts. We would like to see some of that money flow to our communities to protect our streams, rivers and lakes. We would like people there to protect those areas so we can have fish in the future.

My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst also talked about forestry, which is another area of concern in my riding. Because of the softwood lumber sellout, we now see the increase of raw log exports from all our forestry communities across the country. That is causing mills to close. I know the government has said that it will make some investment into mills and resources in Quebec, but I did not hear anything about the west.

I remember the finance minister saying in his budget speech that his Canada was from the Atlantic to the Rockies. I live on the other side of those Rockies. I remind him there is a whole province out there with a huge forest industry, which is in big trouble. We need an investment in our value added manufacturing. We want to see our communities stay alive. Instead we are seeing all our raw logs being shipped out of the country and being processed elsewhere. It is having a devastating impact on our communities and something has to be done about it. The government had an opportunity with billions of dollars in surplus to do that.

At the beginning of my remarks I mentioned that workers were paying for the debt. They pay for that by a lack of jobs. We have seen a loss of jobs in our forest sector and our fishing industry. There is the lack of child care and housing. People pay huge amounts of money out of their own pockets to the detriment of being able to pay rent, or mortgages or even living decently in a community. That money is being stolen out of their pockets and their tax dollars with nothing given back to them. It is shameful.

Education and training is another area where the government could have made a real difference for our young people. It could have invested in our colleges, universities and other institutions. It could have ensured that education was more affordable for our young people so they would not have to pay such high tuition fees to get an education, to further their skill building and to get a better career. A few million dollars into the education sector could have gone a long way to help young people reduce their debts, which would help them start their working lives on a more even footing, not having to start off with thousands and thousands of dollars of debt. Some of that debt is probably why they have to live in their cars and campsites rather than in a home. It is another shame on the part of the government.

One group I have not talked about is seniors. A seniors charter was passed in the House, but has never been enacted. The government could have invested in some of the things in that such as home care program and long term care for our seniors who really need it. This would help them and the system save money because they would not end up in hospital. They could stay home and be looked after with dignity. It think we would all like to see that for our aging parents.

Prescription drugs should have been made much more affordable, if not free for seniors, as well as dental care. These things were in the seniors charter, which has never been enacted by the government. Again, that is a shame

For all these reasons, I support my colleague's amendment to Bill C-28.

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about the proposed amendment—to delete clause 181—to Bill C-28, on the budget.

We listen to the Conservatives as they try to tell us that the only way for a business to survive is for it to receive a tax cut, failing which it will go bankrupt.

I wonder where the governments were in the last five years, during the softwood lumber crisis, for example. What causes these companies to go bankrupt? It is a lack of support from the governments—and that applies as much to the previous Liberal government—during the softwood lumber crisis—as to the current government. The industry needed help in the form of money and programs then, and not now, when the businesses in that sector have shut down.

It is all well and good to say that there will be a tax cut, but who benefits? The companies that are already successful and that are friends with the Conservatives, such as the big oil companies. They are the ones who benefit from tax cuts.

What has the government done for companies that have recently shut down? Did it make an effort to look for some way to help keep these businesses open?

I can provide examples. The UPM Miramichi mill shut down for nine to twelve months. All the people of Miramichi were scared that the mill would not reopen.

The Smurfit-Stone plant in Bathurst closed two years ago, after the arrival of this U.S. company. What is the government doing ahead of time to determine whether these companies should be allowed to set up here? That U.S. company comes here, buys a Canadian company, Consolidated-Bathurst, and then all of a sudden it turns around and closes its doors. This is a paper plant and its owners plan to sell it only to a non-competitor. Now there is no chance of this plant reopening in Bathurst, in northeastern New Brunswick, after being bought by just any old buyer. That plant was a major employer.

Two weeks ago, AbitibiBowater announced it was closing its pulp and paper mill in Restigouche, which employed 450 people. Those were well paying jobs that created many indirect jobs. That plant is closing its doors and the government has not said a word about it.

The government announced a $14 billion tax reduction for the rich oil companies or large companies that are making money. Those who are not making money should get a deductible. They are not benefiting from this tax reduction because they are not paying taxes.

Almost a month ago, the Fils Fins Atlantique Inc. plants in Atholville and Pokemouche, which employed some 300 people, closed their doors.

The government is saying that jobs in Canada have reached a record number and that there are a ton of jobs. However, often—I think many people can identify with this—people have to take on two or three jobs just to get by.

Instead of giving this $14 billion to big companies that are already making money—since, as I was saying, those who are not making money will not benefit from the tax reduction since they are not paying taxes—why not invest this money in municipal infrastructure? The municipalities are struggling with a deficit caused by federal government cuts. Those cuts started at the federal level and trickled down through the provinces to the municipalities.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was here two weeks ago asking the federal government to invest in infrastructure. The government says that it will invest some money. It is all well and good to establish programs where the federal and provincial governments invest one third of the money each; however, if the municipality does not have money, it cannot participate in the program. Municipalities need money for water and sewer systems. In some regions, they need an airport to ensure economic development.

There is the issue of public transit, which is so important today to cities for environmental reasons. Rather than investing money in this area, they decided to give it to their Bay Street friends. Things will be better now because almost all the action will be on Bay Street given that the Toronto Stock Exchange has now combined with the Montreal Stock Exchange. They will give money to their friends to ensure they are happy when they go to the bank at night.

In 2006 and 2007, the employment insurance fund had a surplus of $3.3 or $3.6 billion. It is not true that the Conservative government said that it would put money into improving the employment insurance system for needy regions where many seasonal jobs were lost in the fishery and in blueberry or Christmas tree operations. The Conservatives said they would give money to these people. However, what they said was not true. These people are not important to them, they are just voters. They only vote and put them in power. They are not important. The Conservatives prefer to give money to the big oil companies. Why? We are still wondering about that. The Conservatives do not respect taxpayers and the voters who pay every day and who work to build this country.

When it comes to money that could be invested in infrastructure, roads are also an issue. In past years, people started talking about a two-tier hospital system. We have a pretty mixed-up system now because someone wants a service, that individual has to pay for it. Sooner or later, they will say that because they did not invest in highway infrastructure, individual citizens will have to pay for roads. They will set up toll roads. People will keep paying and paying. They cut taxes for big business and then they fool citizens into believing that they are paying less tax and have more money in their pockets. Then, when they go to the hospital, they will have to pay for care themselves. When they want to use the roads, they will have to pay. The citizens will pay, but the government will keep saying that it has put more money in their pockets. For example, the government is now giving people money directly for children and child care, but in the end, there will not be any child care centres.

How much money has been transferred to the provinces? We do not spend enough time in this House talking about people who receive social assistance, people in need. How can a person on welfare live on $500 when that person is disabled? How is that person supposed to live on $500 a month? That person did not ask to be on welfare, to be sick, to have an accident or to be disabled. Nobody asks for that. Every human being on the planet is willing and wants to work and do their part. These people did not ask to end up like this.

Instead of giving $14 billion to large corporations that are already making a ton of money and reducing their taxes, could they not give some money to the citizens who really need it? Why not give to homeless people who are on the street because they have nowhere to live? Why not invest money in building houses and putting a roof over the heads of people forced to live in the streets? Why do something like that and help these people? The budget contains nothing to help them. They were completely ignored . Why not allocate some money for older people who need to buy lots of prescription drugs that cost them an arm and a leg? They have to pay for electricity, the cost of which has gone up, as well as their rent. Why not help our older people, our parents who worked hard and are now retired? Some people do not have retirement savings because not everyone had the opportunity to contribute to a pension fund. Why not help these people? We live in a world with an aging population. Baby boomers are retiring, but there is nothing for them in the fat sum of $14 billion that is going to big business.

That is what the Conservative government is doing. We should be asking ourselves some questions about this. This was not a good budget or a good mini-budget, which is why we will vote against it.

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this discussion of Bill C-28, which implements the budget tabled on March 19 by the finance minister. It also implements the provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, which is what we refer to as a mini-budget.

We know that Bill C-28 is a confidence bill and that if it is defeated we will be into a general election in Canada. I am sure that Canadians do not want to have a general election right now. We do not need one. I certainly do not want one either.

Having said that, I think that this bill, in implementing these measures of the budget and the mini-budget, falls far short of what Canadians deserve. I would like to cite a few examples, first of all on reducing the GST from 6% to 5%. We all know, as economists worldwide and certainly in Canada have commented, that this is bad economic policy. It is better to reduce income taxes or invest in programs and services that Canadians need. Reducing the GST is not a very good economic measure.

I know that the Conservatives committed to this in their platform, wrongly I think, as they realize now, but there is a better use for that money, that $5.5 billion which reducing the GST from 6% to 5% is going to cost annually in perpetuity. We have already lost roughly $5.5 billion per year by reducing the GST from 7% to 6%, so cumulatively this is $11 billion taken out of the federal treasury from now until forever. It is not a very good use of taxpayers' money.

I would rather see an investment in our national infrastructure. Let us take that $5.5 billion and, instead of reducing the GST from 6% to 5%, collaborate with the provinces and the municipalities and start dealing with our national infrastructure deficit. Some have estimated that the infrastructure deficit is in the range of $120 billion to $130 billion, but whatever the number is we know it is significant, and we know anecdotally about some of the pressures on our infrastructure. All we have to do is look at the bridge that collapsed in Montreal. There are many other examples.

If we do not deal with our infrastructure, we will create a number of problems. We are creating safety issues for Canadians. We are also becoming less competitive as a nation. If our roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and harbours are not up to snuff, we are not going to be competitive as a nation, especially in this global economy.

I, for one, would support not cutting the GST from 6% to 5%. I would support taking that $5.5 billion, working with the provinces, leveraging some provincial money, leveraging some municipal money, and starting an infrastructure program, initially a five year to ten year program, maybe, and extending it from there. We would start to make a very big dent in our infrastructure deficit.

There are mayors such as Hazel McCallion, a very respected and reasonable mayor of the City of Mississauga, who is saying that the federal government is being hugely negligent by not investing in infrastructure and, because of that, the municipality of Mississauga is going to have to increase its property taxes. If we had this infrastructure program, I am sure that mayors such as Hazel McCallion would not implement this property tax increase and would use the money to invest in infrastructure. That is just one example.

The budget and the mini-budget are deficient in a number of other ways, particularly in regard to their lack of emphasis on innovation and research and development. Our Liberal government started to reinvest in research and innovation after we started to deal with the deficit and paying down federal debt. We made large investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, in establishing research chairs across Canada, and in putting money forward for research overheads, which are needed to implement these research programs.

As a result, what we have seen in Canada is the brain gain. We had been losing a lot of researchers and scientists who were leaving Canada because of the poor research environment. Because of the measures of our government, we created the brain gain. In fact, I met some of them at the University of Toronto recently. They are U.S. researchers who had come up to Canada as research chairs and spoke very positively about how our government had dealt with this positive research environment.

However, this is now in jeopardy. It is in jeopardy because the Conservative government is not making those investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or the Canada Foundation for Innovation and also has very cumbersome and unwieldy processes.

A lot of those researchers were saying that while the environment is still not bad, it is on a decline. I think it would be a horrible thing to happen to Canada if we reverted to the brain drain, because we had undertaken so much effort to create this very positive research environment.

What does that research environment do? It allows us to be competitive in the global economy. It allows us to develop products and services that add value and that create high value jobs in this country. All we have to do is look around and we can see the impact of our global economy. There is a lot of material to read. I would recommend The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century as a starter.

Recently I have been doing some work on the diamond industry. It is well acknowledged that Canada is now the third largest diamond producer in the world, and we have more diamond production coming in from northern Ontario, but guess what? Ninety-nine per cent of the diamonds leave this country in an uncut, unpolished and no value added form.

I have been working with various stakeholders to see what we can do to deal with this. We could perhaps establish a diamond bourse or a diamond exchange here in Canada. From there, the value added activities, the cutting and polishing and other jewellery businesses, would grow. That is the experience worldwide. In fact, we know that it cannot all be done up in the Northwest Territories and in Yukon. We have to centre some of it in some of the major metropolitan centres. Of course, as a member of Parliament from the Toronto area, I am trying to centre some of that activity in Toronto.

We have a great opportunity with retail diamonds in Canada. They can be and are being differentiated in the marketplace and are a great attraction, but one of the bottlenecks I am running into is that the cutting and polishing of diamonds is increasingly happening in India and China.

We could repeat that scenario over many different sectors. We cannot fight that. It is the new reality, but if we are going to compete in this world economy, we have to seek the higher value added initiatives. We have to be innovative. We have to invest in research and in adding value to our products.

I could go on in regard to the manufacturing sector. Another colleague commented about it. Our businesses need to invest in new technologies now to increase our productivity. That is why the accelerated capital cost allowance measures that the Conservative government brought in need to be extended, but we need to give business a longer planning horizon. Businesses do not make decisions like these over two years. They need to have the accelerated capital cost allowances extended for five to 10 years.

We have job shortages looming. What was in the budget about that?

What was in the budget about investing in carbon capture and sequestration and in technologies that will help us recycle water in areas like the oil sands?

What was in the budget about dealing with intellectual property rights or fighting counterfeit goods? I did not see a thing.

What was in the budget about protecting small investors? What was in there about the brokers who are using investors' money and churning their accounts? There is no accountability. There is no responsibility. The integrated market enforcement teams, which are supposed to deal with this type of fraud, are not effective. They are ineffectual. What was in the budget to deal with that?

What was in the budget to deal with backlogs in immigration processing?

What was in the budget for literacy or for women's programs?

I could go on, but I am going to end here. I will probably vote for this because I do not want an election, like most people in this House, but I think this is seriously flawed.

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is before us today is not just Bill C-28, but specifically, a motion to amend Bill C-28 and to delete clause 181, the enormous tax giveaways to large corporations in this country. We are attempting to put some rationality into our budgetary process.

This year, as last year and so many years before, because of poor planning and because of the abandonment of our responsibility to a number of sectors of our society, there are substantial surpluses in the budget. If people are on the right wing ideological bent, they would think that Canadians are being over-taxed because of all the money left over at the end of the year. That was a constant complaint from the Conservatives when they were the official opposition.

In spite of their rhetoric, when they became government, they showed substantial surpluses for two years in a row. They have also done the same things as the Liberals and over-taxed Canadians. From our perspective, it is a question of not properly allocating the revenues that are derived from taxpayers across this country and from other revenue in the form of fees and services.

We are looking this year again at a very substantial surplus primarily because of how well the resource industry is doing and even more specifically, how well the oil and gas industry is doing in exporting its product, mainly to the United States but generally around the globe.

We have a very large surplus which reflects, on a smaller scale, very large profit levels in a number of sectors of the economy, primarily in the financial services sector and the oil and gas sector, and to a lesser degree in the mining and natural resources sector as well.

Clause 181 in the present legislation substantially lowers the corporate tax rate. In fact, a double lowering because in the budget earlier in 2007, the corporate tax rate would be lowered from 22% to 18% by 2011. In clause 181 of this piece of legislation, the corporate tax rate would be lowered even more to 15% by 2012. In both cases, these tax breaks would provide a substantial benefit to large corporations, particularly the banking sector, the finance sector in general, and the oil and gas sector.

These sectors were given a substantial break earlier this year with the budget and now that break is coupling with an even more substantial tax break. Something in the range of 50% or 60% of these tax breaks will end up in the pockets of large banks, large financial corporations, and the oil and gas industry.

Does this make sense? Is this a good budgeting process? Is this good public policy? The NDP says it is not. What would the alternative be if we did not have this? The surplus would be larger if this tax break were not given. That surplus could be used to simply pay down our national debt. The tax breaks in clause 181, if Bill C-28 is passed in the House, could be used in this year's budget for any number of social programs. I would argue today that in fact it should be used in the sector of the economy that is in crisis and that is the manufacturing sector.

I come from Windsor, Ontario. The unemployment rates came out on Friday. In spite of the fact that the unemployment rate went down marginally in Windsor, we continue to lead the country with the highest unemployment rate of any substantial city of our size, which is over 50,000 people. That is because my community, both the city and the county that surrounds it, is primarily based on the automotive sector as the engine that drives our share of the economy and to a great extent drives the economy across the country, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

Therefore, we continue to have the highest unemployment rate. As an aside, because I did a lot of work on this over my career in trying to help deal with unemployment circumstances during the major recessions we had back in the early eighties and again a minor one in the early nineties. On each occasion, and it has happened again now, the unemployment rate calculation substantially underestimates the real unemployment rate.

Because of the methodology that StatsCan uses to calculate the unemployment rate, the real unemployment rate in Windsor is probably approaching 15% at this point. The trauma that families and individuals are going through reflects that reality.

We have heard that these corporate tax rates are going to benefit the economy. As I have said earlier, that is true only to the extent of parts of the economy, in particular the financial sector, the oil and gas sector and natural resources sector.

These corporate tax breaks will do absolutely nothing to assist the manufacturing sector. There are all sorts of manufacturers, not just in the auto sector but in any number of other sectors, that have no profit. In fact, they are in a situation where they are suffering losses. They are suffering deficits on their balance sheets this year and in a number of cases for several years before that.

To give them a corporate tax break is absolutely useless in terms of it having any impact on helping them deal with the crisis that we are faced with in the manufacturing sector.

If the government were really serious about aiding that sector of the economy, it would be looking at other programs. In particular, we have seen both the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec step forward to provide direct assistance to not just the auto but the manufacturing sector generally.

They both established large fairly substantial funds, pools of money, to provide a methodology where the manufacturers who need to update their equipment, update technological endeavours within their sector, would have the ability to tap into these pools of funds from the governments and make them more competitive. Hopefully, as they are doing that, we would see unemployment rates begin to drop and people get back to work in that sector. Both of those two provinces have provide those pools of funds.

They have also called on the federal government to play its part, to get involved, and to establish a similar pool. If we were to actually do the calculations on the tax break for just those two sectors, finance and natural resources, oil and gas in particular, if the government were to not grant that tax break in this bill and made enough funds available to establish that pool of money, it would cost anywhere from $.5 billion to $1 billion which is what is needed for our manufacturing sector to get back on its feet.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, an interesting occurrence happened about an hour ago. I made a call to a friend in Hamilton and he asked me why my party was literally hammering the Conservatives on this budget update. He had not been watching the headlines closely, but he had seen from time to time various members of the NDP caucus on their feet, particularly from Hamilton and today from Ottawa, who talked about our major concerns with the economic update.

Simply put, and as I expressed to my friend, the update is taking us in the wrong direction. It is not balanced. We have an unprecedented opportunity to make some changes for the good of our country.

As we know, we have a manufacturing crisis. More people are living in poverty than ever before. As a result of that, looking at the update statement, Bill C-28, it is abundantly clear that there is nothing for ordinary, hard-working Canadians, nothing at all.

The Conservatives have been following a well set pattern, a pattern set by the Liberal Party, of corporate welfare giveaways. We all know that in 2005 the leader of the NDP Party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, was able to get the Liberal Party to set aside some corporate tax cuts, but we are still in a position where there is almost a fond reverence for offering tax cuts to corporations by both sides in this place. These breaks will reduce our budget by over $12 billion, and those are moneys crucial to Canada.

In fact, I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for the amendment he has proposed today, which would completely remove clause 181 from the agreement. We hear from Canadians across our country. They are very concerned with the loss of fiscal capacity contained in the budgets brought forward with huge corporate tax breaks in quick succession.

Different members in the House have on many occasions expressed there concerns about the huge infrastructure problems facing Canada. Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities were in town recently. The report they released, which has been referred to repeatedly here, and justifiably so, tells us there is a shortfall of $123 billion, putting our fiscal capacity at risk. They have said that those moneys need to be invested now and if they are not, then the situation will clearly worsen.

Within that document, there were $40 billion for communities and recreation. Being the sports critic, I have a particular awareness of that part of the report. Communities like Hamilton, where I am from and am pleased to represent, have been forced year after year to turn to the province of Ontario for assistance with their municipal budgets. They usually face a shortfall in the area of $20 million and that is just to contend with day to day operations.

A lot of that came about in the 1990s when the Liberal government of the day started offloading responsibilities to the provinces, along with tax collection. Under Mike Harris, the who does what committee, if I recall the name appropriately, said that his government should keep social services and leave education funding within the mandate of municipalities. What did it do? It reversed that.

Education is predictable and allows us to plan ahead. We know how many children are born and when they are born. When it comes to social concerns and downturns, we do not know how many people will lose their jobs. In fact, 11,000 jobs were lost last year in Hamilton. Everyone will hear me say that later. Because of that unpredictability, it made those moves to protect itself at the provincial level.

There was another more insidious thing at work, which was offloading from income, where people could afford to pay property taxes and many on fixed incomes could not afford the adjustments necessary to deal with such things. The province of Ontario has also made it clear to Hamilton that it cannot sustain the $20 million transfer and it will have to go back to the province regularly.

I also expect, from what I am hearing, that many major cities across the country have significant infrastructure problems similar to Hamilton.

Hamilton has to renew its sewer system soon. This is one of the older cities in Canada and every year a significant number of water mains break and other failures of infrastructure are very evident. We have unique challenges in Hamilton.

As the House knows new immigrants who come to this country travel to Vancouver first, or Toronto or Montreal. They find, after being there a short period of time, that they are unable to afford the cost of living. Many of them choose Hamilton as their second destination, but federal dollars go to those first communities where the immigrants arrive. So, there is a particular burden that befalls our city and I am sure other ones across Canada as well as a result of the fact that federal dollars are not spread as evenly as they could be.

Clearly, much could have been done by the Conservative government in its update before cutting taxes. I spoke in the House about the fact that Canadians are a people with a lot of common sense. I have also advised the House of the significant concerns I am hearing back in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

My constituents are quick to point out to me their surprise that a government with the massive surplus in the tens of billions of dollars does not seem, in their eyes anyway, to be approaching its fiscal management with the same common sense that ordinary Canadians apply in their day to day living.

Canadians are quick to say that they know when one is doing well, it is time to invest. They will invest their money in repairs and upgrades to their homes. Canada needs to repair its home, its infrastructure.

Canadians will also put a little money aside for an eventual downturn which we well know follows in quick succession. I would argue that is happening at the present time and if we have surplus monies this is the time to address those needs.

Also, when ordinary Canadians do have good times, they do not head off to the bank to pay off their mortgage. They would not do that because they understand that keeping a reasonable debt is fiscally responsible in order to sustain their cashflow.

Canadians know that if their house foundation is rotten, that soon that house will fall. The foundations of Canadian cities are literally rotting across this country.

The other evening when I spoke about this fiscal update, I pointed to the fact that in conversations with my constituents at our local Timmy's, and that is our gathering point, there is a lot of sage advice given in those places.

I also found in the last couple of visits that the seniors who were there were very angry. They have come to know that due to an error by the federal government that they were underpaid some $500 a year in their old age security. They are patiently waiting for the taxman to send them their money. I should add their patience is wearing thin.

I strongly advise the Conservative government to get on with the job and send Canadians the monies that they are owed.

The seniors are busily swapping opinions on the matter and most are quick to point to their personal experience. They have had experiences with the taxman over the years where they have owed some money and guess what, the letter comes with the demand for money or at times there might even be someone knocking on their door.

The House has heard from Hamilton members over and over of the terrible situation in our manufacturing sector. That is another area where we have to have a strategic plan. We have to invest. It is not just corporate taxes and not just a trickle down that is going to fix that problem.

The House has heard from the Hamilton members as well as the rest of our caucus that Hamilton is one of the hardest hit in the manufacturing crisis that is happening. I use that word “crisis” very clearly.

As I have said before repeatedly, 11,000 of my friends and neighbours have lost their jobs in Hamilton in the last year. Those taxpayers who have lost their jobs should rightfully expect changes to EI to help them adjust to their loss.

Turning to a damaged EI system, gutted by the former Liberal government, is not going to be that helpful when in fact the national average for accessing EI is only 40% and in urban areas 22% to 30%, which would include Hamilton.

In the eyes of many Canadians the EI fund, instead of being an insurance against job layoffs, has become nothing but a pool for the government. I would say to the government that it should choose Canadians over corporate Canada. It has chosen corporate Canada over Canadians in crisis. That is something that we all regret.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member opposite. I know he has done a lot of work and supported disability issues in the past. He says that he cannot support Bill C-28.

I want to ensure that the member is aware of the registered disability savings plan in Bill C-28. It is a new plan. It will allow funds to be invested tax free until withdrawal. It is intended to help parents and others to save for the long term financial security of a child with a disability.

The plan's structure is similar to a registered education savings plan. Contributions to it will be eligible for the new Canada disability savings grant and there is also a new Canada disability savings bond for individuals with lower family net incomes.

There are all these things for the disability plan, but we have also had some very positive quotes from people who work in the industry. The Canadian Association for Community Living:

—congratulates the Government of Canada on introducing a Registered Disability Savings Plan...to provide families greater opportunity to save for the future financial security of a child with a severe disability.

The Vancouver Province in an editorial said:

—the [finance] minister is to be congratulated for adopting a plan that is comparatively uncomplicated and...accessible at all income levels....the great good it will do is beyond calculation in mere dollars and cents.

Given the fact that the member opposite has done so much great work in the past on this issue, how can he not support Bill C-28?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to point out during the debate on Bill C-28 some of the failings of the budget, failings that were not corrected in the fall financial update. Given the tone of the throne speech, I do not see that there is much intention to correct those failings going forward.

Ultimately, the general overarching problem that I have with the direction of the government in this regard is that, having been given the opportunity to significantly affect a variety of areas and challenges that face Canada, it has chosen instead to basically withdraw. The government is talking about withdrawing in its relationship with provincial governments, withdrawing in its relationship with municipalities.

Given the magnitude of the surplus, the opportunity was presented to the government to deal with universities. The reality is that since 1993 as soon as the fiscal situation was improved, the first thing the former Liberal government did as a national government was to invest heavily in research. The research chairs program, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the indirect costs program, all of these things were investments by the Government of Canada in Canada, in Canadians to generate prosperity, because prosperity going forward is going to find its way where there is investment in knowledge.

That is just one example of the opportunity that was squandered by the Conservative government as it has chosen rather to simply make itself smaller, driven by an ideological agenda that simply does not believe that government can be an instrument for good. I do not hold that view.

Having said that, I also wish to say that I was very disappointed in the spring and most recently that the government still has not honoured the vote that it cast in favour of a motion calling for a national autism strategy, including a financial component. The government had the opportunity to do that and it did not.

Today what I would like to bring to the attention of the House and to Canadians is the nature of the change in the formula as it relates to transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education, social services and health.

In the 1960s and early 1970s the provinces were lobbying the national government, quite justifiably I think, for the government to adjust the taxation system because the provinces were carrying much of the costs of the most recent cost drivers, such as, education, health and social services. The tax system reflected an earlier time when most of these costs were federal.

In 1977 the Government of Canada responded to that request by offering the provinces 13.5% of personal income tax and 1% of corporate tax. It was attempting to do the right thing, but the problem with that remedy is that 1% of personal income tax per capita is not the same across the provinces. The problem is that in a rich province 1% of personal income tax per capita is worth significantly more than 1% of personal income tax per capita in a poorer province.

In an effort at the time by the Government of Canada to mitigate the fact that it was about to make a decision that would bring less equity to the country, which certainly was not in anyone's interest, it included a cash component in the transfer, which was worth at the time $2.7 billion. Last year it was worth $20.5 billion, so it is no small amount of money.

At the time the federal government then introduced a cash component that it would transfer to the provinces. Inside the cash component was an equity seeking provision which allowed that there would be mitigation for the damage that was done to the equilibrium in the country when it used taxes as a way of giving more money to the provinces. In other words, if the tax changes benefited Alberta significantly more than Newfoundland and Labrador, which they did, then the amount that would go to cash would reflect that and Newfoundland and Labrador would get more.

That was the way the decision was taken in 1977. This remedy, to a structural problem in Canada, which everybody recognized, would not hurt the smaller, poorer provinces. In one fell swoop, with that 1977 decision to mitigate the inequality, perpetrated on Canada by the Government of Canada, was eliminated.

As a result, from this year to next, the post-secondary education and social services transfer will increase in Alberta by $102 a person, in Ontario by $40 a person and in my province of New Brunswick by $7 a person. That will have incredible impacts on the provinces receiving equalization. I think it was a decision that was taken by the government without a clear understanding. The way it was referenced was equalization through the back door. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is it was not done to equalize Canada. It was done to ensure that the tax point transfer did not make Canada less equal. That was the purpose. It was recognized as such. Members can go back to Hansard and read the debates in the seventies and eighties around this.

The truth is the effect of this decision has impacted the smaller provinces in the areas of post-secondary education and social services, areas where we are struggling constantly to keep up. I accept that we receive equalization in our provinces. However, if we do not invest in universities, in knowledge and in research, and the provincial governments will have a hard time doing this given how much less money the small provinces have relative to the rich provinces as a result of this decision, then consequently the future holds more equalization.

In our province Premier Graham has boldly set out on self-sufficiency agenda so we will not find ourselves at the whim of these kinds of decisions. I have not decided whether I think that this was done deliberately or just unknowingly, but the bottom line is this. Try to explain to me and to Canadians where the justice is in increasing the amount of money available to the province of Alberta for post-secondary education and social services by $102 a person and the amount of money available in Newfoundland and Labrador or New Brunswick to $7 a person. How can that be just?

If that is not bad enough, by 2014, when the health accord expires because it is a 10 year agreement that was reached in September 2004, they will apply exactly the same forward to that. All the transfers that come to our provinces, the provinces that would suffer from this decision, all those provinces will be in a lesser position to provide those fundamental services in the area of health, in this case, and social services, but also the kinds of investments that would allow us to be more self-sufficient, to use Premier Graham's term. It will make it very difficult. It makes it all the more imperative to do this.

At the end of the day it is obvious, when we are as dependent on these transfers as we are, that we are at the whim of political decisions, whether taken out of malice or simply lack of forethought, and the effect on our province and our entire region will be disastrous.

It has not had a lot of attention. Members can check. It is on page 369 in the budget document and it is very clear. The increase in Alberta will be $102 a person. The increase in New Brunswick will be $7 a person. How can that be fair? How can that be just? How can we expect to build the Atlantic region when we are treated in a way that simply will not allow us to make the same kinds of investments that are made in provinces that have more of their own resources to invest?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:20 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 the amendment proposed by the member for Ottawa Centre to delete a portion of part 17 specifically dealing with corporate taxes.

In the recent economic statement and the throne speech, and in view of the substantial surpluses it has, the Conservative government had an opportunity to correct the direction it has been taking. Instead, it has continued in the wrong direction. It has continued to ignore the very serious prosperity gap that is growing in Canada for many of our working and middle class families. The government has failed to target tax relief to people that it would help the most.

The Canadian Labour Congress made a submission to the House of Commons finance committee during its prebudget consultations. The paper is dated August 2007 and contains an analysis on corporate income tax. It talks about the fact that despite increasing cuts to corporate income tax, what we have seen is an unprecedented lack of investment in companies, in the bricks and mortar, in training and re-education within companies, things that would actually make a difference to working and middle class families. The following is a quote from that paper:

Pre-tax profits have soared to record heights and after-tax profits have grown even faster. There has been no comparable increase in corporate investment. Simply adding $15 billion to the 2000 investment level would have increased total investment to nearly 13% of GDP in 2006.

Further on it states:

Business leaders are using this huge surplus to become net lenders to households, stockpile liquid assets, acquire other enterprises, and buy back stock. While these actions may be viable business strategies, it is not clear why the public should subsidize them through further corporate-tax cuts.

That is a very good analysis in terms of why we would support business decisions on where they are going to put their profits.

I mentioned in a question to a Liberal member that in the economic statement the Conservative government acknowledged the difficult times that manufacturing and forestry are in for a number of reasons, yet it simply failed to follow up on what it acknowledged is a very serious problem.

In the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, sawmills are laying off shifts of workers. A pulp and paper mill has filed for bankruptcy protection. There simply is not the national leadership around the forestry sector.

I have argued in this House previously and I will reiterate that forestry in British Columbia is not a sunset industry. It is a viable part of who we are as a province. We have the resources. We need to demonstrate national leadership around reinvestment in the industry, retooling where necessary and providing education and training for workers who need to transition into other jobs within the forestry sector.

The government had an opportunity in the economic statement and Bill C-28 to demonstrate that, but the government failed to do it.

There is a crisis in British Columbia caused by pine beetles. Although some money has been allocated, where is the long term, strategic planning for what will happen to those communities in five to ten years when all of the dead wood has been cut? Those communities are facing serious transitions and yet the government is failing to demonstrate the leadership that is required to make sure that those communities maintain their viability.

In addition to the challenges in our forestry and manufacturing sectors, we also are seeing the growing prosperity gap. Working and middle class families continue to struggle to make ends meet.

Many of us have been activists in our communities for a number of years. When food banks opened well over 20 years ago, many of us thought they were a temporary measure and that as our economy recovered, the food banks would close because they would no longer be needed. It is a very sad fact that there are more food banks rather than fewer.

In “HungerCount 2007” put out by the Canadian Association of Food Banks, there are a couple of startling figures. It says that the number of people assisted by a food bank in March 2007 was 720,231. There have been changes in food bank use. There is 91% more usage of food banks since 1989. There are 673 food banks in Canada with 2,867 affiliated agencies. The number of provinces and territories without a food bank is zero. It has been 26 years since Canada's first food bank opened in Edmonton. Seventy-three per cent of Canadians believe that hunger is a problem in Canada. Fifty-seven per cent believe that the government should take responsibility for solving the problems.

There are some very stark figures in that report which speak to the fact that there are men, women and children in this country who simply do not have enough to eat. I want to end the part on the food banks by saying that of the food bank clients, 38.7% are children. The percentage of households containing at least one child was 50.6% . It has been 18 years since the federal government promised to eliminate child poverty.

That leads me to the Campaign 2000 report that just came out entitled, “It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: Time for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy”. In 1989 the House unanimously passed Ed Broadbent's motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. Here we are in 2007 and it has not happened. Still there are children and their families, because of course there are no poor children without poor families, who continue to be the poorest of the poor in this country. The child poverty rate of 11.7% is exactly the same as it was in 1989. Forty-one per cent of children living in poverty live in families with at least one income earner working full time all year.

In my own province, despite a growing economy, British Columbia continues to report the highest provincial child poverty rate, which is 15.2%. In aboriginal and immigrant communities, the story is even worse. In aboriginal communities one in four children is poor, which means their families are poor. Aboriginal children and their families are living in substandard housing unable to access adequate drinking water, unable to access adequate medical care.

I recently put forward a private member's bill called Jordan's principle which talks about putting children first. It is a very good example that children on reserve often do not have access to adequate medical care. In Jordan's case his family had to surrender him to the province, put him in foster care in order for him to get the care he needed. Consequently, the federal and provincial governments fought over which one should pay for his care. The child ended up in hospital for four years. In the last two years of his life he could have been in a special foster home, but neither the federal government nor the provincial government would step up to the plate and pay for his care. He died in hospital instead of going to a foster home. That is a stain on Canada's reputation as being a caring and compassionate country.

Lest we only talk about problems, I want to talk about solutions because there are solutions. The winter 2007 report of the National Council of Welfare states that there are some real things that can be done. The report talks about childhood development care, access to education and training for adults so that they can better participate in the labour market, better jobs, income, social security for people who are not in the labour force, access to health care and other services, and affordable housing. The report states that in the absence of any leadership from the Conservative government on a national anti-poverty strategy, some of the provinces are taking some leadership around that, notably Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. Those provinces are developing action plans. In Newfoundland and Labrador there is a cross-ministry initiative to develop an action plan with some real meaningful targets.

In this wealthy country of ours, the surplus was an opportunity to invest in Canadians. People talk about the rising tide lifting all boats, but it is not happening. We should have taken this opportunity to invest in child education, housing and other initiatives that would make a difference to families and which would close the very serious prosperity gap.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Mississauga—Brampton South, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-28.

I do have some fundamental problems and concerns with the bill because it revolves around the economic policies and concerns that I have with the Conservative government.

When I recollect last year during the budget discussion, I was reminded by many of my constituents, who I know very closely watched the debate, of how shocked they were to hear one of the worst tax policies to come out of Ottawa in 35 years, which was the interest deductibility measure. That is just one example.

I want to speak to two key themes today regarding the bill. One is that it is a reflection of the government's lack of understanding of creating a plan, of setting forth an agenda that looks at promoting prosperity and productivity. The government's ideas, strategies and policies are driven by polls and, as we have seen, it has spent a lot of money on polls.

The second issue I will be discussing is missed opportunities and what this particular bill misses and the opportunity on which it could have capitalized.

First, before I get into the specifics, if we look at where we are today as a country and look at our fiscal capacity at the federal level, it is a reflection of sound Liberal management over the course of many years, as they recite, over 13 years of hard work to turn around this country's fiscal position. We were in huge deficits, which created huge debts and put a tremendous burden on our future generations.

However, through sound Liberal management, sound government policy and the hard work of many Canadians, we were able to eliminate the deficit and ultimately start to reduce our debt.

Today we have surpluses, as we have had for many years now, and that is a reflection of hard work and good management. It is so important that we recognize how we want to spend this money.

It is unfortunate for the government, for example, when it comes to two particular issues in the bill.

First, I want to thank the Conservatives for reinstating the personal income tax reduction that we put in place when we were in government and that they reversed. I also want to applaud them for their efforts of copying our corporate tax policy. Those are two specific examples that stand out.

However, if we look at the bill we see that it pits province against province. We have seen what the Conservatives have done with the Atlantic accord. Just recently, if we take into account what they have done with respect to Bill C-22, they attacked the Premier of Ontario by calling him the small man of Confederation. They insulted not only premiers and put provinces against one another, but they also attacked mayors. We do not run a country by calling our mayors grumpy.

My mayor has served proudly for many years and is one of the most well respected mayors, not only in Canada, but across the world. She has received numerous awards for achievements, hard work, fiscal management and running a good city.

The bill also reminds us of a legacy of a government of broken promises. The one that stands out, which was mentioned in a petition just a few minutes ago, is the income trusts.

Many hard-working Canadians, many seniors who have worked really hard, invested their money in income trusts because they were led to believe by the current government, in a commitment it made in its platform, that it would not change the rules to income trusts. What did the Conservatives do when they came to power? They broke that promise. That cost seniors and many other Canadians millions, if not billions, of dollars of investment opportunities and it has really hurt their fiscal and financial situation.

As I said before, I do have concerns with regard to the prosperity and productivity agenda laid out by the government. The GST example is a clear indication of where it is driven by polls and by gimmicks as opposed to trying to promote this prosperity and productivity agenda.

If we look, for example, at my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South, it has many manufacturing jobs. We have the Pearson International Airport, which has become a hub of economic activity, but we need to ensure we remain competitive and, in order to do that, we need the government to show leadership and put in place a regime, an environment and policies that will ensure we are not only competitive in Canada, but we can also compete with the world. That is something this particular bill lacks.

I want to speak to missed opportunities, which is something I can speak to from my personal experience of living in my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South. My constituency has a $123 billion infrastructure deficit, which is a substantial amount. The mayors and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have mentioned this on numerous occasions. They had a protest here and mentioned that their deficits needed to be addressed.

What bothers me is that in March, the Prime Minister and his entourage came to the GTA and made an announcement about rapid transit funding for not only my constituency, but for surrounding regions as well. The announcement was made in March and yet we have not received the cheque. The province has put forward the money and the mayor and our councillors have the money there, but the federal government has not written a cheque.

That is something that is profoundly disturbing because these announcements are made and it is a missed opportunity. The longer the delay in this funding, the more gridlock continues to grow in that region.

I was very fortunate to become the father of a baby girl about eight weeks ago and I understand now, as a new father, the importance of spending time with one's family. However, if individuals are driving to and from work and are spending an additional 20, 30, 40 or 50 minutes in traffic because of gridlock, that is less time with their families.

If the government professes to care about families, why is it not giving us a cheque for our city? Why is it not helping us with our huge deficit? It is not the fact that it is not contributing more money. It is the money that was committed in the past that it is not honouring.

As I indicated, it was a missed opportunity, not only when it comes to the cities agenda, but manufacturing is a key area for the constituents of my riding, for my province of Ontario and for my neighbouring provinces. This is the economic hub that drives our country's economic wealth. It is unfortunate that high value jobs are being lost.

I can cite a quick example from a question I was asking in question period with regard to the forestry sector. The jobs in the forestry sector in northern Ontario and even the spin-off jobs in my riding are directly impacted by the fact that the government cannot do anything because it signed a flawed softwood lumber agreement that prevents it from actually playing a role with industry. I am talking about provincial governments because, in the absence of federal leadership, the provincial governments had to play a role. However, any time the federal or provincial governments play a role, they will be sued by the United States because of the flawed softwood lumber agreement signed by the federal Conservative government.

That is an example of how there is not only a lack of initial investments when it comes to this bill that has prevented assistance for manufacturing, but it further compounds it by preventing other levels of government to play a meaningful role.

We saw the latest census a few days ago and it showed a tremendous amount of immigration to this country in the past five or six years. Immigration is another key area where we need to find a way of integrating new Canadians and allow them to utilize their skills to ensure they are able to perform and reach their potential that not only benefits them, but it benefits our communities and our economies. Again, the government has made no substantive investment there, which is another missed opportunity.

The leader of the Liberal Party has demonstrated our position on poverty. When we look at the poisonous debate on reasonable accommodation in Quebec, it is a reflection of the fact that people's fears are perpetuated by fear and ignorance and they assume that certain ghettos are created. Those ghettos or those concentrations of people is a reflection of communities being segregated because of lack of opportunity, low income earners and people who lack opportunity. We need a strong poverty agenda to ensure all Canadians have equal opportunities to succeed and we need to stop segregating people based on income.

Another concern in my riding is health wait times. We could have invested much more money in this area. We could have invested money to reduce wait times. Every day I hear of instances in waiting rooms and the problems it is causing.

Going back to the first point I made on prosperity and productivity, education is another lost opportunity. If we want to build a productive society and a society that is prosperous, we need to invest in education.

I have fundamental problems with the government's economic policies. These are lost opportunities, wasted opportunities and missed opportunities. With such a large surplus, the Conservatives could have done so much more.

December 7th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Munir Suleman Vice-President, Canadian Affairs, Tax Executives Institute, Inc.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning to all. My name is Munir Suleman. I am the senior vice-president, Scotiabank, but I'm here today on behalf of Tax Executives Institute in my capacity as TEI's vice-president for Canadian affairs.

TEI is the pre-eminent association of business tax professionals. We have 7,000 members who work for 3,200 of the largest companies in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Our Canadian members contend daily with the provisions of the Income and Excise Tax Act, and with chapters in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, make up approximately 10% of TEI's membership. Although my comments today reflect the views of the institute as a whole, those views are guided by TEI's Canadian members and other members whose firms have significant operations in the U.S. and in Canada.

TEI has several recommendations for the committee's consideration for tax policy and administrative changes that will foster economic growth and job creation.

The budget package introduced November 21 built upon the trend of incrementally reducing the corporate income tax rate and eliminating burdensome tax rates such as the federal capital tax and corporate surtax. TEI agrees with Minister Flaherty's corporate tax reduction proposal to strengthen the Canadian economy and promote job creation. We urge the government to stay the course or even accelerate proposed corporate income tax reductions. By 2012 Canada's corporate income tax rate will be the lowest among major industrialized nations. The standing committee should ensure that other countries do not leapfrog the Canadian timetable.

The federal government has undertaken initiatives to encourage provinces to promote Canada's competitiveness and improve the administrative efficiency of the provincial tax systems. We commend the federal government for doing so. We also commend the recent agreement whereby Ontario will conform its corporate income tax base to the federal base, eliminate its capital tax, and the federal government will administer Ontario's corporate income tax system. To maintain the momentum of provincial changes, we urge the standing committee to consider providing additional incentives to the provinces in order to eliminate or accelerate the elimination of capital taxes.

TEI is also supporting harmonization of provincial-federal sales tax systems. Substituting a value-added tax system for the current provincial retail tax systems would eliminate the cascading effect of retail sales taxes on most business inputs and promote a neutral and competitive business environment. In order to be fully effective, harmonization of the federal and provincial sales tax systems would require that financial services and services provided for financial services be treated as zero-rated supplies by the provinces, just as they are treated under the Quebec sales tax regime. To achieve harmonization, TEI would be pleased to consult further with the committee, the Department of Finance, and the provincial governments about crafting a workable system.

Bill C-28, the Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, will eliminate withholding tax on all outbound interest payments on arm's-length debt, effective January 1, 2008. In addition, a recently announced protocol to the Canada-U.S. Income Tax Treaty will reduce withholding tax on non-arm's-length interest payments to nil over the next three years. Again, TEI applauds the measures undertaken by the government. Elimination of withholding taxes on interest paid on arm's-length and non-arm's-length debt will ensure that Canadian businesses have access to global capital debt markets at the lowest possible cost. We recommend, however, that the goal be to eliminate all withholding taxes, especially on the payment of dividends to related group companies.

Since 2003, the United States has negotiated a nil withholding tax rate for dividends to group companies with a number of other countries. TEI believes steps should be taken to accord Canadian residents benefits similar to those enjoyed by residents of other U.S. treaty partners, so they can effectively compete for increased capital investments, exports, and jobs.

In line with the government's intention of having the lowest effective tax rate among the G7 group, we urge the committee to recommend to the Department of Finance to consider negotiating the elimination of withholding taxes on dividends to related group companies equal to a most beneficial rate negotiated with other major trading partners.

Bill C-28 incorporates draft provisions to restrict interest deductibility on certain outbound investments for periods after 2011. The bill will make significant revisions to foreign affiliate regimes and functional currency rules. TEI commends the government for acknowledging the excessive breadth of the March 2007 proposal curbing the deductibility of interest for investment in foreign affiliates. Regrettably, Bill C-28 resurrects many features of the March proposal and afforded taxpayers and their advisers very little time to comment on the draft legislation. The significance of these provisions to Canadian business and their far-reaching effects warrant more than the circumscribed three-week consultation period. As important, the current rules governing treatment of interest expense and earnings of foreign affiliates have been the cornerstone of the Canadian system for many years and have been crucial in promoting the global expansion and competitiveness of Canadian companies.

Any proposal to restrict the deduction of interest must be narrowly crafted to target the perceived abuse or unfairness. We urge the committee to recommend that interest deductibility proposals be removed and considered separately, to give taxpayers more time to study its effects and to give the government an opportunity to weigh taxpayer concerns about the proposed rules.

In conclusion, TEI commends the committee for holding pre-budget consultations again this year. On behalf of TEI, we thank you for the opportunity to participate.

I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have during question period.

Thank you.

Motions in AmendmentBudget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I repeat and I will continue repeating that he must take off his rose coloured glasses. He is like the Conservatives, who show no sensitivity. The member would have us believe that Bill C-28 would be fine if the tax reductions were removed. Bill C-28 is a bad bill all around. The economic statement is not good. Furthermore, how the NDP views this is not good, either. We must resolve the crisis.

With respect to tax reductions, I am very happy for any businesses that are turning a profit, but the Conservatives should have been able to support refundable tax credits to help the industry directly.

Motions in AmendmentBudget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the NDP's amendment to Bill C-28, which is about the Conservative government's economic statement.

At the outset, I would like to make it clear to my NDP colleagues that the Bloc Québécois opposed Bill C-28 and the economic statement. We will also oppose the NDP's amendment for one simple, good reason. The reason we are opposed to the economic statement is that it does nothing to address the most serious crisis currently facing Quebec's regions: the crises in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. Once again, the NDP must be seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, because it has not put forward anything to solve the real problem: the crises in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.

My colleagues here in the House will confirm what I am saying. The member from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord will tell you that the Saguenay region has been hit hard by the forestry crisis, and my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé will tell you that Mauricie has been feeling the pinch because of the crises in the forestry and manufacturing industries. The time for looking at what the Conservative government could do through rose-coloured glasses has passed. Once again, it is time to see things as they really are.

It is clear that the Conservative Party has decided not to do anything about the forestry and manufacturing crises in its economic statement. The party's philosophy is to let businesses die, to let the free market do what it wants, to believe that big companies will survive and should be allowed to destroy small companies every day. Right now, the problem in the manufacturing and forestry sectors is that the big companies are destroying each other. Even they cannot survive. That is the reality of the situation.

The government is offering tax cuts to businesses, and that is fine for businesses that are making a profit. But right now, Quebec's forestry sector and much of its manufacturing sector are having problems. The softwood lumber crisis was never resolved. Businesses were never given the help they needed. Then the Canadian dollar rose to dizzying heights. Even in the economic statement, the picture painted by the Minister of Finance is one of economic recession in the manufacturing sector. Oil companies will not be affected.

Obviously, in granting tax reductions, the Conservative Party wanted mainly to please its friends, the oil companies. That was the purpose of the economic statement and that is the problem I have today with the NDP motion. Once again, it does not address the real problem. The idea behind the motion is to remove tax credits, which is fine, but the NDP is not addressing and does not want to address the real problem, which is the crisis in forestry and manufacturing. The NDP, with its rose-coloured glasses, is as bad as the Conservative Party, except that the two parties are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

I am glad to be a member of the Bloc Québécois. It is the only party in this House that is in touch with the grassroots, close to the people, and that can clearly say what impact the higher Canadian dollar and the softwood lumber crisis, which the Conservative government never solved, are having today. Jobs are being lost in most regions of Quebec.

Companies are closing on the other side of the river in Gatineau. Everyone will say that it is a large city, but Domtar has closed and Bowater has shut down one machine. Once again, the forestry crisis is affecting the cities in Quebec. Imagine the impact it is having in the regions. That is the hard reality and the impact of the Conservatives' free-market approach.

In the manufacturing and forestry sectors, the government should look at its own data, its own figures, which clearly show that there have been successive job losses since 2005, totalling 125,000, including 65,000 jobs lost in Quebec since the Conservatives came to power. The economic statement solves nothing, absolutely nothing. The member from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and the Minister of Labour are telling us to wait for the next budget. That means there is nothing in the economic statement, absolutely nothing.

That is why, once again, we will vote against Bill C-28 and against the NDP amendment. It was a flawed economic statement, a flawed bill for the forestry and manufacturing industries. We will take a stand for Quebeckers in the regions and in the urban centres who are being hard hit.

Shawinigan was hit hard last week and so was the City of Gatineau and insecurity reigns. Large companies such as Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated have merged. That was the first phase of a shutdown that will be followed by a second phase. The companies, the industry and the owners are no longer hiding the fact that there will be a second phase.

The Conservative government is being consistent in its Conservative philosophy. It will wait as long as possible until as many businesses have closed as possible. In the end it will come to the rescue of one company that has only half its labour force left.

On one hand we have the Minister of Labour's attitude and on the other hand we have the Economic Development Agency of Canada, which is trying to revive the regions through diversification. At worst, we will end up with the Minister of Labour's approach. In my opinion, the member for Jonquière—Alma is an embarrassment to his region. He is saying that many jobs are being created in Alberta and that 55 year old unemployed workers should go there for work. That is his message. It is terrible coming from a minister from Quebec, especially from Jonquière—Alma, a region that has worked hard to build the Quebec of today and part of Canada.

Finally, if it were not for the primary resources sector, the forestry and mining sectors, Quebec and Canada would not be what they are today. The people in those sectors are living day to day.

The Conservatives think that since the oil industry is doing well we should all fall all over ourselves and make oil. Society is more complex than that. We realize every day that the Conservatives want nothing to do with Quebec's problems. The Conservatives say so and prove it every day. In any event, they have shown it in Bill C-28, in their economic statement. The New Democratic Party is doing the same thing by showing its flagrant lack of interest in the problems Quebeckers in the regions are experiencing in the forestry and manufacturing crisis. They must be able to sense that in the rest of Canada, but with their rose coloured glasses, instead of making amendments and proposing things that would solve the industry's problems, they want to lower corporate taxes.

The Quebec association of manufacturers and exporters is in favour of the tax cuts. In fact, the day these industries start making money, they will be happy to have more competitive taxation. But they are saying that this is not enough, because the crisis in the forestry and manufacturing industries must be addressed now. It is serious and will take some serious money. We must find a way to revive these sectors and implement everything the Bloc Québécois has called for in this House. We are telling the government that cuts and credits alone are not enough, that tax credits must be made refundable. This means that if a company is not making money, instead of it being deducted from profits, the company will receive a cheque, because it did not in fact turn a profit in a given year. With that money, the company would be able to purchase new machines and upgrade.

We are trying to make them understand that the solution is simple, and they know it. The problem is that they do not want to do it. Once again, the Conservative free market philosophy is that things should fix themselves. But things will not fix themselves in the forestry and manufacturing sectors for the simple reason that the Canadian dollar will not stop rising.

Obviously, the brilliant Conservatives had not counted on the dollar rising. Now this is happening and jobs are lost every week across Quebec. The Bloc Québécois will never accept this situation and will never stop rising in this House to speak out against what the Conservatives are doing and what the NDP is in the process of doing: ignoring the real problems, which leads to massive job losses in the forestry and manufacturing sectors.

These Quebeckers who have worked hard their entire lives to support this society deserve to be taken care of now. They deserve a good chunk of the $11.6 billion surplus to revive the forestry and manufacturing industries and not to create something new. That is what they deserve.

Motions in AmendmentBudget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I speak today to Bill C-28, the budget implementation bill.

First, good governments make good, long term choices. They do not focus their policies on short term polls or on next week's polls. In fact, they focus on the challenges and opportunities in the coming century, which is why the Conservative government has made such a remarkable mistake in moving forward and cutting a consumption tax, the GST.

Cutting 1% on the GST represents a $6.5 billion loss to the federal treasury per year, and 2%, of course, is $13 billion per year, which is a lot of fiscal capacity that could have been used to invest in the priorities of Canadians, to invest in the social infrastructure of Canadians and to address the infrastructure deficit that is so critical in Canada today. It is also a lot of money that could have been used to reduce personal income taxes and help Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money, to reduce business taxes, to build a more competitive corporate tax environment and, ultimately, to build a richer, fairer and greener Canada.

Except for perhaps the Prime Minister, I do not think there is an economist in Canada who believes that cutting the GST is a good idea. In fact, if economists were a licensed body, the Prime Minister would probably lose his licence over the decision to cut the GST because it is such a bad economic policy.

Just 1% of the GST, that $6.5 billion per year, in terms of needed infrastructure, would mean approximately $20 million in every federal riding in Canada. Let us consider what that could mean in terms of green infrastructure, water and sewage treatment and recreational infrastructure across Canada, whether we are talking about arenas, pools or libraries, a great infrastructure deficit is going on.

When we look at it, there were two waves of federal government investment in infrastructure. One was the memorial infrastructure with memorial community centres across Canada, built, I believe, after the second world war. Further to that, there were the centennial projects after the great year of 1967, which was the year I was born. My mother was at Expo 67. I was there but I had not been born yet.

Beyond that, the fact that the government has made no investment in those kinds of infrastructure in a significant way ignores the facts. The facts are that Canadians need to live in healthy communities with up to date water and sewage treatment. They need investments in public transit, in green transit infrastructure. We recognize now the imperative of green investment in infrastructure. Canadians also need to live healthier lives and they cannot do that if they do not have recreational infrastructure for their children.

I will give some examples from my own riding of the kinds of infrastructure I am speaking of. The East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz, Hants county, which was built decades ago, has served the community well during its time. However, Lantz and Elmsdale, that whole area of East Hants, has doubled in population over the last 10 years. Its recreational infrastructures are strained and require significant investment.

When our government was in power, the Liberal government, those were the kinds of investment we made. In my riding, we invested in indoor soccer facilities, libraries, pools and community infrastructure, which can make a difference. Those kinds of infrastructures can make the lives of families better and can ensure we have healthier Canadians. In the long term, it would reduce the cost to the taxpayer by reducing the costs to the health care system over the long term.

We invested in transportation infrastructure, whether we are talking about the twinning of Highway 101 in my riding to the Annapolis Valley or we are talking about investments being made in conjunction with the provincial government at the time.

We invested in infrastructure on a community basis because we were part of a government that recognized the important role that municipal leaders have in building their communities. The fact is that municipal leaders have limited capacity to raise money. They have property taxes, which is a very blunt instrument.

The government of Jean Chrétien and the government of Paul Martin were the first Governments of Canada to recognize--

Motions in AmendmentBudget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-28 be amended by deleting Clause 181.

Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to speak to the amendment that I put have forward. I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Hamilton for seconding the motion.

In fact, it is a very short amendment to Bill C-28. It asks that we delete clause 181. I say that because Bill C-28 is quite a document. It is in fact a document that is hundreds of pages long and this one particular amendment to delete clause 181 would do something extremely important. It would delete the corporate tax cuts that are in this package.

Notwithstanding the brevity of the amendment, the impacts I think would be substantive and positive.

We have seen in this country unprecedented growth. We have seen prosperity for some, but not spread out and achieved by all.

It is my belief that when we are dealing with tax policy, it is important to look at the many and not just the few. In this case, clause 181 looks at the few; in other words, those who would benefit from corporate tax cuts.

Some would say that is well and good, that it actually would be a good tax policy because it would increase investment in the country.

It sounds good, in theory. However, we have to strike a balance in this country. When we have Canadians sitting around their kitchen tables, as we speak, looking at how they are going to make ends meet, they would not see the same benefits in Bill C-28 that are proposed for corporations. They would see less benefits, if we were to do a cost benefit analysis.

In fact, in the last number of years, we have seen a widening prosperity gap, and our party has been very clear on this issue. In fact, the affordability of things is increasing for many Canadians, such as health care, which I know, Mr. Speaker, has been a concern of yours in the past and remains a concern of yours.

In 1980, 80% of our health care system was publicly financed. We are at the level now where 70% of our health care system is publicly financed which means that 30% is financed through the private sector.

I say that because many Canadians cannot afford the drugs they need. Many Canadians are on waiting lists and are having to seek other forms of help in terms of getting health care when they need it.

There is nothing in this package that would help them. There is no affordable drug plan in this package. There is nothing that would help everyday Canadians who need affordable education. There is nothing in this package that would deal with the housing crisis. There is nothing in this package that would give hope to people who need help right now.

This amendment would eliminate the corporate tax giveaway. In fact, David Lewis once famously said it is corporate welfare.

I see it as corporate welfare because the party in power right now never ever campaigned on this corporate tax cut. Members will remember the Conservatives famously ran on five things. I can guarantee that corporate tax cuts was not in those five issues. They talked about the GST, certainly, but they did not talk about corporate tax cuts.

So, this is about holding the government to account. It is about equity. It is about the importance of investing to make our country more productive. In fact, a representative who spoke to committee on another bill recently said:

Investors will keep investing in Canada. Why? Because we have an educated, efficient workforce. We're marvellously endowed in resources. We have a good, though perhaps somewhat neglected, infrastructure.

He went on to say that corporate cuts are not what brings an educated and efficient workforce, it is not what protects our environment and natural resources, and it does not rebuild and strengthen our neglected infrastructure.

The point that we are endowed with resources and have a good, though perhaps somewhat neglected, infrastructure is key because when we look at the way these corporate tax cuts will be handed over, it is basically like throwing money into the wind and hoping it lands in the right place.

By the way, the person who I am quoting was actually a representative from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. From my perspective certainly not someone who the government would usually ignore. However, in doing this act, in providing these kinds of corporate tax cuts, in fact it is.

I want to take a moment to speak to the opposition parties, both the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party. Recently, the leader of the Liberal Party spoke to his party's vision on economics and fair taxes. He said that the previous Liberal government reduced the federal corporate tax rate to 19% from 28% and that the Conservatives will reduce it to 18.5% by 2011. He said that he would go deeper than that and then went on to tell us why.

I would plead with the Liberal Party to take a look at where our corporate taxes are. The fact is that it gave the green light to this government with this speech in saying that it should go further. Indeed, it did.

Many have said that once the Conservatives heard that the Liberals were going to go deeper in corporate tax cuts, they raced to 15% when they were going to stay at 17%. I hope the Liberal Party takes a look at who benefits from these corporate tax cuts, particularly in the way they are ascribed.

I do not believe that at this point in our economy, when students have record debt, when we have an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion, and when people cannot afford the medicines they need, that we need to give corporations welfare.

This is a very simple, sanguine, smart amendment to a policy that is wrong. Further corporate tax cuts were never debated during the election. I have quoted spokespersons from the Chamber of Commerce who have said that the key thing to invest in is infrastructure.

There is absolutely no guarantee, when corporate tax cuts and gifts are handed over to corporations, that they will invest. We hope they would, but where is the guarantee? Indeed, where is the accountability?

It is interesting to note that we see on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen today that the government was able to forgive huge tax bills for a select few Canadians, 35 of them, that had been burned during the boom and bust of the high tech industry. It is sad for those people and I guess terrific for those few who are going to benefit, but where is the tax fairness for other Canadians?

Where is the fairness in this bill? This amendment would actually balance things off. It says now is not the time for deeper tax cuts for corporations. Now is the time for key strategic investments in people. That is what has been missing from the government. Where is the human face in its economic plan?

It throws out the idea that there is a GST cut. When we compare that to the deep cuts in corporate taxes and the minuscule crumbs that are being handed over to everyday people, there is a balance problem.

When we take a look at certain people being rewarded because of successfully lobbying the government for investments they made and were burned on in the case of JDS Uniphase, we have to wonder who the government is listening to.

The government is not listening to seniors. Recently, my colleague from Hamilton pointed out that seniors have been burned. Their pensions were not properly indexed. Is the government helping them out? No.

In summary, I hope that my friends from the Liberal Party will support this measure, will not stay with this corporate tax cut craze, and that my friends from the Bloc will support this amendment.

Indeed, I urge the government to look at this as a progressive thing that will help people and their communities. It will allow us to invest in people, our communities, our infrastructure, and cut off the corporate welfare that seems to exist today.

Speaker's RulingBudget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

With respect to Bill C-28, I would like to inform the House that there is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-28. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

December 6th, 2007 / 10:35 a.m.
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Senior Chief, Personal Income Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Sean Keenan

With respect to the tax credit, the expert panel recommended that where activities don't involve supervision, these not be covered by the credit, because their recommendation was that supervision was required to encourage active participation, and also for a safety reason, that essentially organized activities would require an adult. Therefore they recommended that self-directed activities not be eligible for the credit.

I should note that Bill C-28, which is currently before Parliament, implements the changes for DTC-eligible children that were announced by the Minister of Finance last December, where essentially the fitness tax credit is being enhanced. For children with disabilities, it in fact provides an additional credit equal to up to $500 where a DTC-eligible child has enrolled in a program that costs at least $100 and the equipment that is required for those DTC-eligible children would also be covered by the fitness tax credit.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2007 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee of Finance in relation 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. The committee has had due consideration on this and is presenting it without amendment.

December 5th, 2007 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

We'll call the meeting to order.

The first order of business of the committee is to recognize the first report of the subcommittee on Bill C-28. You have it there. It's a great report. You have the report in front of you, so I have presented it to you.

Shall the report be adopted?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 4th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-28.

Call in the members.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-28, referred to as the budget bill, that is shocking in many respects in terms of its consequence.

We need to put this in the proper context and I will spend most of my time addressing the corporate tax cuts.

It is important to look back as recently as the budget of 2007 when the government came forward with a series of substantial corporate tax cuts over the next four years. In that period of time, the corporate tax rate would have dropped from 22%, which is where it was at the time, down to 18.5% by the 2011 budgetary period.

We then jump forward to the October-November period with the throne speech and to, what in the common parlance is being referred to as the mini-budget, the economic update statement.

What do we see? First we see in the throne speech that the Conservative government will reduce the corporate tax rate. However, when we jump forward to the mini-budget, all of a sudden that drop has become accentuated. It has become accentuated because in between the throne speech and the finance minister standing in the House, although I am not sure he actually stood in the House or did it some place else, he told the country that he would introduce even greater corporate tax cuts. Now we have the corporate tax rate by 2012 going to 15% as opposed to just six or eight months ago the proposal that by 2011 would have been fixed at 18%.

What happened in that couple of weeks, maybe a month, between the throne speech by the government and the mini-budget? We heard the opposition leader and a number of other members of the Liberal Party saying that we needed bigger corporate tax breaks. What we had was the government of the day and the official opposition taking the same position.

What I find it most shocking is when I look at where the bulk of those corporate tax breaks will go. They will go to sectors of the economy that, quite frankly, do not need them: the oil and gas sector and the banking sector. A full 50% of every one of those tax dollar breaks will go to those two sectors.

In the figures that came out showing the profit levels of those two corporate sectors, banks were the highest. They made over $19 billion in profit last year and they will break $20 billion at the rate they are going this year, perhaps up to $21 billion or $22 billion. They will be getting a huge tax break because of the size of their profits.

We see similar figures, because of the international demand for oil and gas and the export rates at which we are selling it, that the oil and gas sector will get huge corporate tax breaks from this change that was very rapid. It was in less than nine months.

I come from a region of the country that has as its primary economic base the auto sector. In that same period of time, we saw thousands and thousands of jobs disappear from that sector and a substantial number of closings. We saw it again in some of the news reports this weekend, going through regions in southern Ontario, seeing auto parts supplier companies shutting down in large numbers.

It is estimated that over the last two and a half years--and this took place not just during the 22 months of the Conservative regime but a good number of the months when the Liberals were still in power, 250,000 to 300,000 jobs have disappeared in that sector and it is not finished.

When we look at these corporate tax breaks, 50¢ on the dollar will go to the banks and the oil and gas sector. What is happening in the auto sector? Actually, nothing is happening because there is very little profit. Even for the large manufacturers, the full-blown, primary manufacturers, particularly in the auto parts sector, there is very low profit, if any at all, because so many of them are going bankrupt or at least going out of business before they go bankrupt.

Those corporate tax breaks will do nothing for the auto manufacturing sector, whether in the parts sector or in the primary manufacturers.

In roughly that same period of time, when we jumped from giving the substantial corporate tax breaks to, in the latter part of the year, even more substantial corporate tax breaks, we see in just six months a 7% drop in the auto parts sectors in terms of its productivity. Those are the exports going out of the country.

In the same period of time we wonder what the government has done. We constantly hear the Finance Minister say that he is giving a tax break. It has already been shown that those are useless. He says that he has accelerated the ability to take write-offs on machinery. If we are not making any money and have no profit to write these off against, those write-offs are useless also.

This is not anything new being heard by the government. Both the manufacturers and the auto parts sector have told it repeatedly what is happening.

What do we need? We need those corporate tax cuts reduced dramatically and that revenue, which would have come in, used to help the auto parts sector get through this. We are hearing that it needs $400 million immediately in the form of loans. It would be in that form, not a tax break because that would not do any good, and not with write-offs because that would not do any good. The sector needs loan guarantees and outright loans to allow the auto parts sector to purchase equipment that will allow it to be more productive, more competitive and be able to put people back to work.

Are we seeing that? Absolutely not. The Conservative government has refused to do anything in that regard. We have seen the province of Ontario step in and the province of Quebec step in with direct assistance because manufacturers are in a crisis. This is not something where we can talk long term policy. For example, if we do this, that will happen eventually. We are away beyond that. By the time that happens we may have lost the auto sector in this country.

I say that advisedly. I have lived in the community of Windsor all my life and, for the first time in the last two and a half to three years, I have become convinced that at the rate we are going with our trade policies and with the kind of economic policies we have seen, both from the Liberals when they were in power and now from the Conservatives, which have policies that are almost identical, we are at serious risk of completely losing, by eyesight 20:20, our entire auto sector.

That is a shock because the auto sector, and nobody can debate this, is the sector that drives the entire economy in this country. By and large, in comparison with any other sector, it is the major driver, and both those political parties are prepared to sacrifice that because of their belief in free trade agreements, which do not work in that sector, and by economic policies that have no benefit to the auto sector whatsoever.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to add my comments on Bill C-28, the budget and economic statement implementation act, 2007.

It certainly was a statement worth discussing with our constituents. We had the opportunity to meet with them at home in our constituencies to get their views and opinions. We also had the opportunity to get the views of the city councillors and our provincial representatives. Today I would like to bring some of those comments to the attention of this House.

In the Liberals' last budget, moneys were allocated for the cities. The cities need funds to take care of sewers, to take care of roads--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

We will now have statements by members under Standing Order 31. When we return to the study of Bill C-28 after question period, there will be eight minutes left for the hon. member for Scarborough--Guildwood.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 3rd, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will call this 10 minute speech opportunities completely lost.

We have billions and billions of dollars in surpluses, a lot of it coming from the federal superannuation pension plan as well as the EI fund, but most of it coming from Canadian taxpayers and businesses across this country. I have always advocated the one-third approach: one-third on debt relief, one-third on strategic tax incentives and relief and one-third on reinvestment. What do we get? We get $14 billion toward the entire debt.

We can argue whether that is good or bad, but the reality is--I would like those handclappers to stand in their places and tell families what they are prepared to do to help children with autism, what they are prepared to do to help families in the shipbuilding industry and what they are prepared to do to help widows of veterans who cannot get assistance because the government says that it does not have the money. What will they tell students? What will they tell all kinds of folks? Giving somebody on minimum income, under $15,000 a year, a GST break is like giving a diet pill to a hungry man. It simply does not make any economic sense.

The Conservatives talked about lowering the income tax rate but all they did was reintroduce what the Liberals did in their budget. It is like the Seinfeld show of regifting. They are not fooling anyone. Every economist said very clearly that if the government wants to give breaks to citizens, it should do it on the income tax roll, which is where we in the NDP believe it should happen.

We cannot sit here like Uncle Scrooge on our pile of cash and tell the people who require homes, education and a better environment that we will not do anything for them.

I just completed a tour of Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay and Iqaluit in the far north. Those people did not ask for a GST cut. They asked for an increase to their northern allowance, which has not increased in 20 years.

The Prime Minister showed up in Resolute Bay. He did not even tell the local citizens he was coming. He informed them, without prior discussion with the Nunavut government and the local government in Resolute, that the government would be putting a 100 man army base there. One of the questions asked concerned the cost but there was no answer.

He then dropped by Nanisivik, again without telling the local people until the last second, and said that the government would be putting a deep water port there. The first question the Inuit asked the government was whether it did an environmental assessment on increased traffic up Lancaster Sound. The answer, of course, was no.

In Iqaluit there is a desperate need for housing. These families are crowded into their homes now. What is the answer? It is no.

Speaking of autism, a motion was passed by all parties in the House, including the Conservatives, to have a national strategy working with the provinces and territories. What do we get? We get cancelled meetings and nothing else.

In the previous election, the government promised to get rid of the VRAB, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and replace it with people of medical and military backgrounds. Twenty-two months later VRAB is still there. If we ask any veteran or family member of a veteran who has had dealings with the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, it is nauseating at best.

Last Friday we asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs a question on what he said the government would do, which was to increase the VIP services to all widows and all veterans of World War II and Korea immediately. The Conservatives said that they would do that immediately upon forming government. They have done absolutely nothing.

The Conservatives said that they would look after and compensate all those people from defoliant spraying in Gagetown from 1956 to 1984 and that they would call for a public inquiry. What do we get? No public inquiry and only those people from 1966 and 1967.

Ironically, that is what the previous Liberals were going to offer. The member for New Brunswick Southwest, who is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs, went all over Gagetown and said that the Liberals were allowing his people to perish because they did not have any heart to care for his people. He is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs and he has the power to honour his own commitment and that of the Prime Minister. What do we get? Absolutely nothing.

We have the Atlantic accords in Atlantic Canada, in particular, in Nova Scotia. We have the soon to be former premier, Rodney MacDonald, in Nova Scotia, and that provincial election cannot come soon enough. Premier MacDonald tells us that life is good but let us do a little history on that.

First, when the budget was before us, Premier MacDonald told all the federal members from Nova Scotia to vote for the budget. We told him quite clearly, as did the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, that this was seriously flawed and that the Atlantic accord agreement with the previous government was broken. However, he did not believe it. How could his own Conservative brethren break their word? We have been telling him that the government does that on a regular basis.

He finally figured it out and then called everyone to tell them not to vote for the budget. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did what his premier asked him to do and did not vote for the budget. What was the member's reward? Before he even sat down in this place he was automatically removed from the Conservative Party of Canada.

In another reward for that, the premier had a press conference months later with the two members from Nova Scotia, the member for Central Nova and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, and told them how great the new deal was. Can anyone imagine how the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and his Conservative constituents felt about the betrayal of the provincial government?

Premier MacDonald said very clearly that Nova Scotia would receive an extra $229 million out of this accord, not $226 million or $230 million, but $229 million. At a briefing with finance officials and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, we asked them where Rodney MacDonald got the figure of $229 million? Their answer was that those were provincial numbers, not federal numbers.

Did Mr. MacDonald simply pick the number out of a hat? The reality is that there were no major discussions on the accord between the provincial finance department and the federal finance department. If we read Bill C-28 carefully, Nova Scotia will get screwed. It is as simple as that.

It is the politics of perjury that the Conservatives consistently practice. They say one thing while in opposition and when in government they turn around and completely abandon their morals and principles when it comes to these issues of finance.

It is unconscionable that the Conservatives admit that between 2002 and 2006 Statistics Canada made a mistake on its indexing for the Canada pension plan. The government admits that a mistake was made of well over a billion dollars. We asked, quite rightly, that the money be returned to Canadian seniors.

What answer did we get? The government said that it would not give it back. It admitted that a crown corporation of the government made a mistake but that it would absolutely not give it back to the seniors and their families.

I will admit that the mistake has now been corrected but there is still a four and a half year gap that has not been paid for. I can assure members that the people listening to this know that if they owe Revenue Canada any money at all, Revenue Canada will sick the hound dogs on them and it will collect the money with interest and penalties. Why can the same not apply to government when it owes the citizens of this country money?

This is an opportunity lost. The government had an opportunity to fulfill the promises that it made in writing. The Minister of National Defence says that they have letters on the accord that signify a contract.

Joyce Carter of Cape Breton had a letter and it said that the government would immediately extend the VIP. It has not happened yet. We simply cannot trust the federal Conservatives to do what they say. How can we trust the government with anything else it says? Tommy Douglas once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on us”. Shame on the Conservative government.

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.
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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.
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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.
See context

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.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East and represent them in this debate of Bill C-28, an omnibus bill that would implement certain portions of budget 2007 and the recent economic statement.

In particular, the bill covers personal income tax rates, corporate tax rates, interest deductibility, and the GST. Therefore, I would like to begin with the so-called personal income tax cuts announced in the October 2007 economic statement.

These cuts are no surprise to my colleagues in the Liberal caucus because they were contained in the last Liberal budget in 2005. The Liberal budget proposed to lower the personal income tax rate for those who earned the least in society from 15.5% to 15%. The effect would be to take 20,000 low income Canadians off the tax rolls and deliver tax relief where it is needed most.

Lo and behold, when the Conservatives assumed office, their first budget eliminated these tax measures. What did the government do instead? It increased the personal income tax rate from 15% to 15.5% and claimed it was reducing income tax.

Canadians are not foolish. They understood this.

Instead of giving a personal income tax cut, the government cut the GST by 1%.

Let us look at what effect this Conservative budget had on average Canadians in 2006.

For a single-income taxpayer earning $35,000 a year, the Conservatives increased his or her personal income tax by $122, so that the same person could then save a penny on a cup of coffee by the GST cut. But the devastating impact is that if the personal tax rate is increased so that a person is paying $122 more, that person would need to earn $12,200 more in order to get the same benefit in a GST cut.

The Conservatives were making no sense. They were not helping the people that we are here to help, the very low income earners.

This GST cut makes absolutely no sense. Most economists at that time agreed that the first Conservative budget suffered from a certain lack of fiscal sense.

Now, after almost two years, the Conservatives still suffer from confused priorities. The October economic statement effectively restores the Liberal tax cuts announced in 2005, yet the finance minister again refused the advice of leading economists and once again implemented a 1% reduction in the GST.

Let us be clear on this. The reason why a personal income tax cut makes more sense than a reduction in GST is quite simple. Canadians would far prefer a larger paycheque over a minuscule cut to the GST.

The GST is a consumption tax. I have already given one example. Another is that a Canadian who earns $300,000 and buys goods valued at that amount would benefit from probably a $3,000 saving. However, a person who does not earn that amount of money and wants to have a $300 benefit from a GST cut actually would have to spend $30,000, and that does not even guarantee anything. This really impacts low income earners.

The Conservatives could have gone a lot further with personal income tax cuts, yet they have chosen to squander another opportunity. Canadians would benefit if the Conservatives reduced personal income taxes.

There have been a lot of deputations by economists, poverty groups, community groups and tax groups. They all state that the consumption tax is not a good economic strategy. As well, the GST rate reduction represents a significant loss of federal tax income, which will have an impact on our fiscal future.

Therefore, the question is very simple: why not reinvest the approximately $12 billion in lost GST revenue in municipal infrastructure?

I recently met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is warning us that our crumbling infrastructure, most of it constructed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, must be addressed now. The FCM estimates that we currently face a $123 billion infrastructure deficit across the whole country.

Without a significant federal investment, we will face a catastrophic loss of critical infrastructure at a significant cost to the taxpayer. As my mother always used to say, a stitch in time saves nine, and this is why it is very important to have a strategy now rather than wait to replace the whole of our capital works.

The FCM recommends that we adopt a national strategy to address this deficit. We in the Liberal Party were in the forefront of the cities and communities agenda and we believe that cities and communities must have stable and predictable long term funding.

The cities and communities agenda put forth by the Liberal government had municipalities at the table with the federal government and the provinces in order to address this problem. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are choosing to ignore this advice at the expense of our future.

Let us now turn to corporate taxes. The previous Liberal government reduced the federal corporate tax rate from 28% to 19%. The Conservatives are now talking about taking a bold step by further reducing the tax rate to 18.5% by 2011.

It is clear that Canadian firms need a corporate advantage on the international stage. That is why the Liberals argue for significantly lower corporate tax rates in order to compete at the global level.

That therefore brings me to another curious misstep by the Conservatives with respect to interest deductibility. Budget 2007, the second Conservative budget, contained what the former chairman of the Canadian Tax Foundation, Allan Lanthier, called “the single most misguided policy” to come “out of Ottawa in 35 years”.

I am not referring to the disaster caused by the Conservatives in the income trust sector in October 2006. Rather, I am referring to the tax measure tucked away on page 242 of budget 2007 regarding interest deductibility and foreign affiliates. It would have essentially thrown a major hurdle in front of Canadian firms that want to make foreign acquisitions by removing the interest deductibility from money borrowed to carry out those transactions.

While the Conservatives may fancy themselves as the party of free enterprise, the fact is that the finance minister is no longer a welcome face on Bay Street, nor is he any longer considered a friend of industry in Canada.

Tom d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers commented that the proposed policy “may seriously undermine the competitiveness of Canada's homegrown champions--the companies that are most active and most successful in building global businesses from head offices” in Canada.

What the finance minister called a tax loophole is actually a competitive edge for Canadian firms to compete globally on an even playing field with firms enjoying similar tax measures in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Therefore, it was beyond belief why the minister was so determined to hobble the Canadian economy. According to tax specialist Neal Armstrong: “it is typical for a Canadian parent company to arrange most of its borrowing in Canada, then use the funds to invest in foreign acquisitions”.

Yet the Conservatives wanted to take this tool away from business. This policy proposal made no sense whatsoever. As Mr. Armstrong pointed out, the result is that “Canadian banks will lose the income from those loans, and the government in turn will lose the tax benefit from that income”.

Mr. Armstrong went on to say “that doesn't do us any good, because the bank in a foreign country isn't paying any [Canadian] tax”.

Tax specialist Karen Atkinson predicted that many companies would have had to “jump through hoops” to create financing structures, calling the finance minister's proposal a “make-work project” for lawyers and accountants.

Fortunately, thanks to a determined effort by the Liberal caucus, and especially the work done by my colleague, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, the finance minister was forced to flip-flop on this issue and order a full retreat last May.

The finance minister was compelled to announce that interest deductibility would be preserved for Canadian companies investing abroad and that the policy would now target so-called double-dippers, or those companies that claim the same deduction in multiple jurisdictions.

Again, this confused leadership at the Department of Finance is not appreciated by the business community in this country. This is the same minister that brought on the income trust debacle and Canadians have had enough.

In conclusion, one has to wonder why the Conservatives so desperately lack an economic vision for the country.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-28. In the view of New Democrats, this was an unprecedented opportunity to invest in Canadians. Instead we see a Conservative government that continues to take Canada in the wrong direction.

It was not a balanced approach. It could have provided targeted tax relief for those who needed it most, instead of providing billions of dollars in tax relief to the friends of the Conservatives, the oil and gas companies. It was an opportunity to close that ever increasing prosperity gap. However, as we have seen in many of the programs and legislation that comes from the Conservative government, it has not invested in working class and middle class families, in ordinary Canadians.

With regard to the wrong direction, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in a 2007 paper called “Why Inequality Matters: The Canadian Case”, talks about that growing prosperity gap. It see income distribution deteriorating.

The rich and poor gap is at a 30 year high, in after tax terms, the fastest growth in the past 10 years under economic conditions that traditionally lead to it falling. There is a far greater polarization of incomes. The bottom half has been shut out of economic gains of the last 30 years, despite working more hours. As a cohort, these families raising children are better educated and working more than those 30 years ago. On average, those families are working 200 hours more a year. That truly is a prosperity gap.

In the economic statement, the government talks about delivering broad based tax relief for individuals, families and businesses. Let us do a bit of a reality check around that.

The government's own document says that families earning between $15,000 and $30,000 will pay on average almost $180 less in tax in 2008. My question has always been this. Exactly how many child care spaces, how many child care days, does $180 in tax relief pay for?

Social Planning Cowichan recently issued a report in October. It talks about quality child care. I will read briefly from that because my community is in a crisis around child care. It says:

Quality, affordable child care is crucial to the social and economic welfare of the Cowichan Region. The successful development of our children, especially in the early years, has a long term impact on our region....

Currently, there is a critical lack of licensed child care spaces in the Cowichan Region, with enough spaces to serve only 48 percent of the estimated 4,862 children under the age of 12 who need child care. For the estimated 1,047 aged three and under who need child care, there are only 165 licensed spaces, or 16 percent of the number needed.

This situation continues to worsen due to the current labour shortage and increasing cost of housing which requires that most families need two incomes to afford a home which is resulting in an estimated 70 to 75 percent of mothers entering the workforce.

Three significant barriers to providing quality child care are consistently identified by information gathered from interviews with local informants as well as the websites of many provincial, national and international organizations involved in promoting quality, affordable child care: lack of child care spaces; funding for child care services and programs; staffing, training, recruitment and retention in birth to three year services.

The economic statement would have been an opportunity to take meaningful action around child care. The Conservatives will talk about choice in child care when they talk about the $100 a month, but that $100 a month simply does not create new child care spaces.

The New Democrats have put forward Bill C-303, which calls for meaningful attention to early learning and child care. One would hope, with the kind of support this bill has garnered, that the Conservatives would have seen fit to take the opportunity in the economic statement to invest in the creation of child care spaces and in early learning. Instead, we have seen tax relief of $180 a year for people earning between $15,000 and $30,000 a year. This kind of tax relief will not create child care spaces.

In my province of British Columbia, and I know in other provinces, many industries are facing severe labour shortages. We could have encouraged people to join the labour force by ensuring there would be affordable, quality, regulated child care. This was a missed opportunity to invest in working and middle class families. This was a missed opportunity to close that prosperity gap.

Another element that is of critical importance to Canadians, certainly to those living in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, is housing. On October 22, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, took a preliminary look at the Canadian housing situation. I will quote from his report because he says it far better than I could. He says:

Everywhere that I visited in Canada, I met people who are homeless and living in adequate and insecure housing conditions. On this mission I heard of hundreds of people who have died, as a direct result of Canada's nation-wide housing crisis. In its most recent periodic review of Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations used strong language to label housing and homelessness and inadequate housing as a “national emergency”.

This is an international overview of what is happening in Canada. People are saying that the housing situation is in a crisis.

Mr. Kothari goes on in his report to talk about why there has been a significant erosion of housing policy rights over the past two decades. Not only is the current Conservative government not taking the kind of action that is required in terms of a national housing strategy, but when the Liberals were in government, they directly contributed to the crisis that we are in today.

Mr. Kothari says:

—Even more dramatic housing cuts in the coming years as the federal government “steps out” of its financial commitments under the 1973 to 1993 national housing programme.

--Reductions in income support programs at the federal level, and in every province, that have left many Canadians with little money to pay for ever-increasing housing costs, and

--A shift in housing policy to provide support for homeownership, mainly through the tax system, while eroding support for social and rental housing.

It is clearly a failure of leadership, both under the Conservatives and under the previous Liberal government.

The Cowichan Valley fall 2006 report talks about the crisis that has emerged in Nanaimo—Cowichan. It talks about the fact that no new rental units have been built in the Cowichan region during the last 20 years, therefore the supply is scarce. Vacancy rates in private rental buildings in the city of Duncan and in North Cowichan have declined in recent years from 8.4% in October 2002 to 1.6% in October 2005.

Under rents and incomes in the same report, in 2001 more than 6% of households in the CVRD had incomes of less than $10,000, and an additional 14% had incomes of between $10,000 and $19,999 and a further additional 12.9% had incomes between $20,000 and $29,999, in total, 35% of the households. Clearly, the ability to afford rent is a significant issue for many people in the region. The proportion of households spending more than 30% of their gross income on rent was higher in the CVRD than for B.C. as a whole. Thirty-five per cent of the households in my riding are making under $30,000. The $180 tax relief is in the pockets of 35% of the households in my riding. How will $180 help someone rent an apartment when rents are rising because of the severe shortage in supply?

A national housing strategy looked at a continuum housing, from homelessness, transitional shelters, accommodation for singles and families, up to aging in place. We need a continuum. We need that national strategy. That was in the Cowichan Valley. It is no different in the city of Nanaimo.

Another report talked about the market rental and row housing vacancy. It was 3.4% in 2002 and down to 1.4% in 2005. They are turning away people from emergency shelters. Transition houses that responded cited the increasing cost of housing, both owned and rental. They also cited the increasing incidence of homelessness and raised concerns about the declining stock of rental and market housing.

A number of suggestions have been made on actions that can be taken to deal with it. It is no surprise that people in Nanaimo are calling for a range of housing types catering to different ages, family types and income levels, including smaller unit sizes to low income single adults and seniors.

Back in March, a panel, sponsored by the Nanaimo Canadian Federation of University Women, talked about the fact that there were a significant number of women in Nanaimo living on the streets. The Haven Society's Willow WAI for Women have said that 99% of homeless women generally have addiction or mental health issues, are undereducated, lack employment life skills and many commit crimes to support an addiction. They become homeless because of estrangement from their families due to violence or drug use, or marital breakdown or incarceration, or they have been evicted and lack affordable housing.

Affordable and adequate safe housing is only one part of dealing with homelessness in a community. We certainly see that very visible face of homelessness in many of our communities. The economic statement and the throne speech were an opportunity to take leadership both in Canada and internationally in a meaningful national housing strategy. It was a failure in dealing with some of these very serious issues confronting our communities.

Again, the economic statement talked about the fact that people who worked on our shop floors and assemble lines or in our forests and mills were struggling, that the manufacturing and forestry sectors were bearing the brunt of a strong Canadian dollar, that they were facing increased competition from emerging economies and that this is a difficult situation.

I argue the fact that a difficult situation is probably an understatement. In many of communities in Nanaimo—Cowichan our forestry sector reeling. Another one of the pulp and paper mills in my riding has applied for bankruptcy protection, and those are important jobs in our community. Forestry is not a sunset industry. Forestry is a vibrant and vital industry in the province of British Columbia and in other provinces across the country. We are not seeing a strategic investment and national leadership in forestry.

In my province and in my riding, raw log exports continue to be a source of aggravation. Our raw resources are being shipped elsewhere for processing as our sawmills close down. The closure of those sawmills is having repercussions for the pulp and paper mills. When the Bloc put forward a motion calling for some attention to manufacturing and forestry, the Conservatives voted against it and the Liberals abstained, instead of taking a strong stand for our forestry communities across the country.

Our critic for industry, the member for Parkdale—High Park, has compiled some good statistics. She talks about the fact that we have seen significant job loss. She said that there were job losses resulting in 8% of wood products. In British Columbia the manufacturing and forestry sector has lost 13,700 jobs. That is partly to do with the softwood lumber agreement. It did not take into consideration the downturn in the housing sector in the United States. This means the price per board foot has now dropped below that threshold, so we are now paying a 15% tax.

The economic statement acknowledged that forestry was struggling, that these were difficult times, yet there was no commitment in either the throne speech or the economic statement to develop a national strategy to ensure that our forestry sector would remain as a vibrant and vital part of our economy.

When we are talking about closing the prosperity gap, let us just turn for one moment to first nations.

First nations, Inuit and Métis across this country continue to be the poorest of the poor. One of the pillars that we know will contribute to raising people out of poverty is education. The throne speech did mention education. The minister said that there needed to be investment in skills training and development with regard to industries emerging in the north. I would argue that there needs to be a far broader plan for education in this country.

We are seeing discrepancies throughout the first nations education system from coast to coast to coast. In an article today in the Winnipeg Free Press, there is an editorial on education on reserves. The numbers here highlight the difference. On one hand, we hear the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development talking about the importance of standards and looking at provincial standards, curriculum and those kinds of things, and yet, on the other hand, he is telling first nations schools on reserve that he wants them to meet the standards but that he does not actually want to give them the same amount of money.

We have provincial standards on a per capita basis that talk about how much provincial governments say is necessary to provide an adequate education in the K to 12 system, but then we have the federal government telling first nations on reserve schools that it wants to deliver the same standards of education but that it does not want to give the money needed to do it.

Let us talk about some of these numbers. In this editorial it states:

The base funding--per student grants--from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for on-reserve schools across Canada is lower than provincial grants, and that extends to grants that cover special education. As an example, in Manitoba the Opaskwayak Education Authority receives total federal funding that works out to $6,400 per student.

Contrast that to the Wapanohk Community School in Thompson--whose student body is almost entirely aboriginal--which is under a public school board that spends an average $9,384 per student. On average, Manitoba school boards spent $8,900 per pupil. Across the western provinces, the average was $8,386, according to a report compiled by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education.

There is roughly a $3,000 difference between what the province of Manitoba is spending and what is funded for, in this case, one on reserve school. This is not atypical. This is happening in provinces across this country.

In 2004, the Auditor General said that the department did not have a good handle on the funds that were required for education and did know whether or not it was actually getting results for the money it was spending.

Right now the first nations educational renewal is up in 2008 and there is something called a band operating funding formula. Here we are, at the end of November, and there still has not been agreement on this band operating funding formula. We know there are huge discrepancies. At a meeting with the department and the minister this morning, they said that it was difficult and that there were different things happening in different provinces.

We talk about a prosperity gap. First nations are certainly in the middle of that prosperity gap. One in four first nations children live in poverty, which means their families live in poverty. We know that one of the elements to raising people out of poverty is adequate education so why are we not investing in education?

The same thing is happening with the building of schools. We have schools in Manitoba that have been on wait lists forever. We have schools in Saskatchewan where, from the department's own records, there is a serious problem with the funding. We heard from the department today that it is juggling funding around when there is an emergency.

If we truly mean that we are committed to education, we need to put the money into the education system for first nations, Métis and Inuit so they have access to an adequate education.

The economic update and the throne speech are missed opportunities to close that prosperity gap and it clearly takes Canada in the wrong direction. Therefore, we will not be supporting that.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the way discussing Bill C-28 and some other issues surrounding that and how it does not help some of the less privileged Canadians, I think were some of his words, or lower income people, especially those who may be single and raising a family.

I think the member forgot that Bill C-28 has the working income tax benefit. This is concrete action to help low income Canadians with various measures, not the least of which is WITB, as the finance minister calls it. I suppose we could say that it would be our spin that it is a good idea because it is a good idea and we are saying it is. However, there are other folks who are saying it is a good idea.

The United Way of greater Toronto has said that it is a positive change that will help improve the situation of low income families. The Rotman School of Management sings its praises. The Ontario Liberal finance minister said, “It's a positive move. I think it will help those at the lower end of the income ladder and I think the federal government has taken a good step”.

Indeed, the NDP member for Winnipeg North has said that WITB is an important program that goes in the right direction.

When the hon. member says that there is no help for lower income families, he is exaggerating profoundly the great benefits of Bill C-28. He says it is full of gimmicks. I see no gimmick when it does not take out of the pockets of the Canadian people some $190 billion over the next five years and brings taxes to their lowest levels in about 50 years. There is some great amount of exaggeration going on here.

If I could enlighten those folks who might be listening, the member said the GST reduction to a family of limited income does not do anything. When this family goes to the grocery store, or the young mother who has young children, they are buying products that have a tax on them. The young mother may not even be paying any income tax. People who do not pay any income tax at all are receiving a tax break through the GST rebate.

I ask the hon. member: Has he really read Bill C-28? Has he really thought through all the comments he has made?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when talking about budget bills, a ways and means motion is something I think all of us have a real interest in. When we have an opportunity, whether it is a last minute opportunity or not, to stand and speak in the House on things that matter to us, I am glad to have that opportunity.

Bill C-28, which we are talking about today, is not something with which we are 100% happy but, at the same time, do Canadians want an election? No. We have had plenty of them. The next election will be my fifth in eight years and I am not anxious to go on the hustings again. In fact, the $500 million that an election costs, which is the last number that I heard, I would much rather see it being invested in our children, our seniors or helping to lower the tax rates, a variety of things.

A far better idea for us is to keep the government going and move it forward for all of us.

As my colleague said, we are supportive of a variety of things in the bill but there are other issues that we are not. The economic policies of the current Conservative government are different in some ways from the policies of the Liberals. They are much more designed to be focused on the next election, which the Conservatives have been most anxious to have. I am not sure they are as anxious today to have it as they were previously, but they were quite anxious to have one. Our party and our leader were quite clear in not taking the bait and falling into that trap of going back into an election that, at this particular time, is unwarranted and could quite possibly bring us back into the same situation, except we could be on the other side of the House rather than on the opposition side.

However, I for one am not interested in going down that road at this particularly moment. I want to go down that road when we have clear, decisive issues on which the public can make a decision.

Even though we support some of the measures in Bill C-28, the idea of reinstating our Liberal personal income tax cuts was quite interesting. We had reduced it to 15% but in the Conservatives' very first budget, which, to me, indicates who they really care about, they increased the very lowest rate up to 15.5%. That rate is not one that the corporations or the rich worry about but it is certainly one that affects thousands of low income Canadians.

Again, that, as with many other issues, has indicated to me where the Conservatives' priorities lie and they do not lie with many people in Canada who need that helping hand up, which many of us support.

We also oppose the Conservatives' economic vision. I do not think they have one. I think they have a vision strictly on the next election and on how to get there and how to get a majority government, which is not why Canadians sent us here. They sent us here to effect a positive Parliament and to work on behalf of all Canadians, not to have an eye on how soon we can have an election campaign so we can get a majority. Our job is to come here every day and to work in the best interest of Canadians, period, for those who are rich and well off and for those who are not as wealthy as they might like to be.

The GST cut is ridiculous. I know it was a political move by the government but I look at all of the things in which we could be investing that $5 billion GST cut, whether we are talking about investing it in our seniors, in child care or in learning opportunities. We could be doing so much with that $5 billion.

I am sure the Canadian public could think of what we should do with the $5 billion rather than cutting the GST. We only need to look at our cities and the campaign in Toronto, which is the city I represent, for the 1¢ now out of the GST. We could take that $5 billion and reinvest it in our communities or even target it to our major cities.

This week, campaign 2000 released a huge report about how much poverty there is in Canada. A lot of people like to think that the poverty level is quite low. It has been a very difficult issue to deal with and as much as we try to move forward and reduce it, we are reducing it very slowly.

Far more investment needs to be made in education so we can ensure people get an education because, as far as I am concerned, education is the key to ending poverty. A good education reduces poverty because education opens the door to many opportunities. However, education for some people is way beyond their means. Refocusing some of the $5 billion on those opportunities would have been a good thing to do.

Early learning and child care would probably have been this century's newest and best social program. It would have provided help for a lot of struggling single parents. One area in my riding is quite affluent but I also have areas that are very high need areas. Many women in my riding who are single moms went back to school to get a job but now they cannot afford to put their children into child care where it is safe for their children or the waiting list for subsidies is huge.

As much as we say that we want to get people into a healthy economic stream, if we do not provide learning opportunities for them and safe environments for their children, then we are wasting our time. We can spin our wheels as much as we want talking about how we will end poverty, but if we are not providing the opportunities for those people who are at the minimal level, then we will never succeed.

The Liberal Party made a commitment to early learning and child care, although it did take us a while to get it because when we came into government in 1993 we had a $43 billion deficit. Canada was almost at the point of bankruptcy. It took six or seven years for us to deal with that issue and to get the country's finances in order. From that point, we were able to start reinvesting and working on achieving the goals that we all wanted to see go forward.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. We did not end up with the support of the NDP and the government was defeated. I expect that it will be a very long time before there will be a desire to have that new social program here in Canada again.

It took a long time to get the provinces on board and to do all of the work that is required for these kinds of agreements. They do not happen overnight. A lot of great work was done by my colleague and it is unfortunate that we were not able to see that program come to fruition. It was just one more casualty, but I do not think the people who voted thought that would happen.

Politics being what it is, governments come and governments go, as the Conservative government will. We will continue to ensure we move rapidly forward so that when an election does come, we will have plenty of opportunity to lay out our platform showing where we will go to ensure we have a richer, fairer, greener Canada.

If we want to have enough money to invest in our children, in low income seniors and so on and so forth, we need to ensure we also have a strong economy. Our manufacturing sector and our auto industry are suffering tremendously as a result of the rising loonie and we need to deal with that issue. We need to find a way to protect jobs.

When we talk about jobs we are not talking about $7 an hour jobs. For people to feed their family and pay the mortgage, they need to earn more than $7 an hour. The comment about how the number of jobs has increased is not a valid comment. As a result of various issues, we are losing the good quality jobs that Canadians had but we do not hear the Conservative government telling us how it will offset this problem.

An important issue for all of us is to ensure that Canadians are employed. We do not want our country to go into a recession. Many of us remember how difficult that was for many people. We want to have a strong Canada and we need to ensure we are moving forward in a positive way.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have to say in listening to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca that one has the sense he and his party are still fighting the last election instead of addressing this issue, the current bill that is before us, Bill C-28, which effectively combines the budget in the spring with the mini budget that was brought in this fall. I am not sure how that serves Canadians.

I listened very carefully when he conducted what was a fairly vicious attack, actually, on my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, around the issue of balance. His criticism of her speech on the budget before us, and also on the NDP's decision to oppose this budget, was that budgets need to be about balance.

Speaking of balance, I am sure the member is well aware that the government's corporate tax cuts alone will cost $50.5 billion, phased in over six years, and will keep costing the treasury $14.8 billion every year. If this member has done his homework, and he usually does, then he will also know that this budget actually will benefit the average hard-working Canadian by about $1.50 a day.

I want to ask the member whether this is his idea of balance. If it is not, why is it that not only this member but his entire caucus have decided that instead of taking a stand against the lack of balance contained in this budget, they are actually going to sit in their seats, as they have already done, and are not prepared to commit themselves or vote one way or the other?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague from the NDP and her comments about Bill C-28.

It is difficult to understand how the hon. member can say that there is nothing in all of these tax measures. We have reduced personal income taxes. All the supportive measures, in what has been lauded by many Canadians as a very forward thinking and positive move, have been wrapped into one in the second implementation act of our budget.

The economic statement was filed by the finance minister in the House, but because of the NDP members, he was unable to speak to it. They refused to allow the finance minister to make a public statement in the House about the fall economic update. I am still amazed that they refused to allow him to speak in the House of Commons. He could have told Canadians that we were giving back some of their hard-earned tax money.

It is interesting that the hon. member suggests the Liberals may abstain. The NDP will vote against this. This morning the Bloc said that it would vote against it. I have more respect for the Liberals abstaining and not blocking this than I have for some other members of the House, who will deny benefits of $190 billion over 22 months. That is what we have provided in the economic statement, when it all comes together, in reduced taxes for Canadians. The NDP is going to vote against that.

I wish the hon. member luck when she goes back to her riding and says that she opposed $12 billion in cuts to GST. How will she face her constituents when she tells them that she does not think they are worthy of a cut in taxes?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of sound and fury in the House this morning signifying not a whole lot. Why? Because ordinary Canadians cannot count on the official opposition, the grand Liberal Party of Canada, to actually do anything about the mini-budget. The Liberals will sit on their hands and not participate at all in the vote that will come after the debate.

The bill before us has 14 parts. None of the 14 parts really contributes much to ordinary Canadians and their communities. It continues the grand Liberal tradition of giving large corporate tax cuts to the most profitable organizations in Canada.

From 2001 to 2007 Canada has lost over $53 billion in revenue that we could have had. Imagine what that money could have done in terms of investing in communities. It does not surprise me that in the upcoming vote in the House, members of the official opposition will sit on their hands and not vote because the mini-budget before us continues the Liberal tradition.

Part 14 of the bill reduces the general corporate income tax rate much further, from the original 2001 tax rate of 28% to 21%. Now it will take it down to 15%, because 18% is not low enough. The government will forgo at least $14 billion per year because of corporate tax cuts.

What does that mean? When the bill passes, all the massive tax cuts in the mini-budget will mean close to $190 billion in lost revenue, a complete gutting. That is really unfortunate, because there will not be much money left to invest in ordinary Canadian communities.

Big urban centres and small communities across Canada are suffering a great deal. Every one of them is struggling to balance the budget, as they have to do. There are massive property tax increases all across Canada because the municipalities cannot handle the kind of debt load they have. They are looking to cut vital services in local communities.

In my area the library just up the street from where I live has always been open seven days a week. However, this coming month the library will not be open on Sundays. Why? Because it has no money to open on Sundays. The city of Toronto does not have the kind of funding to continue to keep that library open on Sundays. That is really unfortunate, because a lot of families and children count on the library to be open on a Sunday so they can do their homework, read, borrow books or videos. It is a place where a lot of the community gathers.

Speaking about gathering places, community centres are the lifeline in local areas, especially for the at risk youth. They have no other place to go other than the local community centre. However, the community centres are also facing trimming because there is just not enough funding.

Because of smog a lot of people suffer asthma attacks. We would think that the budget would have invested in public transit in a massive way. It does not. In municipalities all across Canada there is hardly any funding for public transit. We are seeing fare increases, service cuts or the inability to increase the service. People are standing out in the cold waiting for buses to come. The subways are jam-packed. More people want to leave their cars at home but unfortunately that is not possible because there is not enough investment in public transit across Canada.

We are looking also at a massive deficit in infrastructure funding. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that there is a $123 billion deficit in infrastructure. This budget has not increased funding in infrastructure for different cities. Whether it is highways, housing or potholes, none of that work is going to be done because there is no investment for it.

Because there is no investment in communities, cities and municipalities, many municipalities are having difficulty investing in their water treatment plants and sewage plants. In Toronto, for example, the water rate is going up because the capacity is just not there to retrofit the pipes, which needs to be done because the pipes are very old.

There is really nothing to support immigrant families in the mini-budget. We have recently found out that the user fees that are being charged by the immigration department in fact are going into the general revenue stream. The department actually makes $100 million per year from immigrants who apply to bring their families, fathers and mothers into the country. Refugees have to pay hefty fees to bring their families to Canada. None of that money, the $100 million in application fees, is invested in dealing with the backlog which is now at 800,000 people. If one is sponsoring a family, it might take three, five, eight years. In fact we have heard of cases where the parents of immigrants have died waiting to come to Canada to be reunited with their families.

There is no investment, whether it is the $100 million or new investment, in terms of settlement services. We recently heard that a lot of agencies are waiting for immigrant services funding from ISAP, the immigration settlement and adaptation program. They have not received their funding so they are beginning to give out notices to many of their agencies. That means many new immigrants will not get the services that they desperately need.

In Ontario the minister recently sent out a notice saying that Ontario is missing $100 million that was promised by the federal government to the province of Ontario for settlement services. That money has not arrived.

While there is a lot of funding for tax cuts from the surplus, there is nothing for cities, for communities and for ordinary Canadians.

We have noticed that as greenhouse gas emissions rise, the ecoEnergy program is renewed in the mini-budget but there is no expansion of the criteria. Affordable housing is not included. Seniors who barely can afford to pay rent now have to pay hefty hydro bills. Some of them I have heard are not turning up their heat this winter because they cannot afford to pay their hydro bills. We would think that the government would immediately invest in retrofitting affordable housing buildings so that the buildings would be the most efficient and state of the art so that the tenants would use less hydro and therefore pay less on their hydro bills.

Unfortunately, the ecoEnergy program that is mentioned in the bill does not include affordable housing. The $100 million program which the NDP pushed the former Liberal government into establishing is also gone.

On top of that, the ecoEnergy program does not include condominiums. In my riding, there are condominium owners who would love to retrofit their buildings. They would like to find some way to make the buildings green and energy efficient, but they cannot receive $1 from the ecoEnergy program.

This legislation is not fair for people who are earning very low income. Neither is it fair for people who are living in multi-residential buildings such as condominiums.

There is nothing in this bill for unemployed people who are seeking to get some money from employment insurance. A recent United Way report said very clearly that one of the reasons people remain poor is that they cannot access employment insurance. The national average in terms of the number of workers who can access their own employment insurance funding is only 40%. In big urban centres sometimes only 22% or 30% of workers who find themselves unemployed can access their own funding through the employment insurance program. No wonder they are stuck in a cycle of poverty.

A few days ago Campaign 2000 said that we must deal with the tragedy of child poverty. Eighteen years ago, on November 24, 1989 in this House, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent said that we have to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Here it is 18 years later, in 2007, and there has been no improvement in the number of kids who lead a life of poverty.

There is really not a lot of funding in this legislation. There is no increase in the child tax benefit which means that there are children who go to school who cannot afford to pay $1 to buy a hot dog or a slice of pizza. They will be excluded. Because kids' feet grow fast, families do not have the money to buy their kids new running shoes and those kids will be excluded from gym classes. The cycle of poverty will continue. That is a national shame. There is funding for the biggest, most profitable oil companies and the biggest, most profitable banks, and yet there is no funding available to help kids in Canada.

Bill C-28 also breaks the Atlantic accord. It betrays the people who live in the Atlantic provinces. No doubt my colleague, the member of Parliament for Halifax, will address this in detail later on.

The bill in front of us does not do anything for aboriginal people. One-third of aboriginal communities do not have safe drinking water. For the second straight year the Conservatives have announced that they will ensure there is safe drinking water but there is no money included in this budget to accomplish this.

There is hardly any money in this legislation to support the arts. There is no new funding for the CBC, the Canada Council, or to promote our artists. This unfortunately is a missed opportunity.

There is no increased funding in Bill C-28 for foreign aid even though the House has continually said that we have to increase foreign aid to .7% of our GDP. The mini-budget actually decreased our foreign aid as a percentage of our GDP from .34% to .31%. It is hard for Canada to talk about our international relationships and our standing in the world when we do not contribute much to foreign aid.

December 1 is World AIDS Day, and we have seen a 30% cut in funding to community groups that assist groups that deal with the prevention of AIDS. In fact, organizations in my riding have come to me and have said that they are laying off staff. All the good work they do will stop because of cuts in their funding.

There is no funding for a national home care program. Many seniors desperately need a home care program so they can stay at home. It is more economic if there is affordable, high quality home care for our seniors, which allows them to live in dignity. There is nothing in the bill for pharmacare, home care or long term care, nothing new for our seniors.

Again, there is no new funding for housing. We have a national housing crisis. When the cold weather arrives, people will still be on the streets. There are no new co-ops being built. Housing does not seem to be a priority whatsoever.

The bill mentions nothing about student loans or student debt. We know the average price of tuition for Canadian undergraduate students has tripled since 1991. The minister's mini budget does not make post-secondary education any more affordable. The provinces are not accountable for the funds transferred to them. Therefore, we do not know how those transfers will be used.

Sadly, when we talk about seniors, not only do they not get the kind of home care or nursing care hey desperately need, they also do not get an increase in their guaranteed income supplement. This means many seniors will continue to live in poverty. We already know that 25% of seniors live in poverty. For women, that figure climbs to 36%. We know there is $14 billion for the most powerful companies, but nothing for seniors.

There is hardly any mention about the minimum wage. Nor is there any commitment by the government to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

There is also hardly anything for the Status of Women. I know our critic and advocate for women has been saying that we need $100 million a year. The mini budget gives $10 million a year for two years. That is hardly enough funding for the women's organizations that are struggling.

Unfortunately, the budget does not invest in our communities. It does not make our country a better place to live. In fact, if we look at this, there is a photo accompanying the economic statement recently released by the government. In the photo we see a little child looking out into the world. If we look closely at the picture, the child is standing on high ground and it looks as though this child could fall off the cliff. We are doing nothing to invest in our children and our young people. This is truly a missed opportunity for Canada.

We should be following other countries such as Ireland. It has mapped out a plan to invest in children and to reduce child poverty. It is delivering on and meeting its targets. However, Canada does not have a commissioner for children. It has no plan for children and no targets have been set to reduce child poverty. Yet there is money for very big companies. This is a sad statement on how we deal with our communities.

Sadly, the Liberals, when we finish the debate, will abstain from the vote. They will not make a statement. They will do nothing to say no to this terrible plan, and that is a missed opportunity.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

November 29th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us now is very odd. The adoption of a budget is typically accompanied by a budget implementation bill. If the measures in the bill match those announced in the budget, those who voted in favour of the budget generally support the bill. That is the logic that parliamentarians apply—logic that the Bloc Québécois was prepared to apply.

However, the Conservatives made a truly partisan decision to co