Budget Implementation Act, 2009

An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

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 income tax measures proposed in the January 27, 2009 Budget. In particular, it

(a) increases by 7.5% above their 2008 levels the basic personal amount and the upper limits for the two lowest personal income tax brackets, thereby also increasing the income levels at which income testing begins for the base benefit under the Canada Child Tax Credit and the National Child Benefit supplement;

(b) increases by $1,000 the amount on which the Age Credit is calculated;

(c) increases to $25,000 the maximum amount eligible for withdrawal under the Home Buyers’ Plan;

(d) introduces amendments to the rules related to Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Registered Retirement Income Funds to allow for recognition of losses in accounts between the time of the annuitant’s death and final distribution of property from the account;

(e) repeals the interest deductibility constraints in section 18.2 of the Income Tax Act;

(f) extends the mineral exploration tax credit for one year;

(g) increases to $500,000 the annual amount of active business income eligible for the 11% small business income tax rate and makes related amendments;

(h) clarifies rules relating to timing of acquisition of control of a corporation; and

(i) creates cost savings through electronic filing of tax information.

In addition, Part 1 implements income tax measures that were referenced in the January 27, 2009 Budget and that were originally proposed in the February 26, 2008 Budget but not included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2008. In particular, it

(a) clarifies the application of the excess corporate holdings rules for private foundations;

(b) increases the amount that corporations will be able to pay as “eligible dividends”;

(c) enacts several regulatory amendments that complement and complete measures enacted in the Budget Implementation Act, 2008;

(d) introduces minor adjustments to the Tax-Free Savings Account rules and the scientific research and experimental development investment tax credit rules included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2008;

(e) implements rules in respect of donations of medicines; and

(f) reduces the paper burden on businesses by allowing a larger number of government entities to share Business Number-related information in connection with government programs and services.

Part 1 also implements other income tax measures referred to in the January 27, 2009 Budget that either were themselves previously announced or flow directly from previously announced measures. In particular, it

(a) implements technical changes relating to specified investment flow-through trusts and partnerships and new tax rules to facilitate the conversion of these entities into corporations;

(b) contains amendments to take into account financial institution accounting changes;

(c) extends the general treatment of capital gains and losses on an acquisition of control of a corporation to gains and losses that result from fluctuations in foreign exchange rates in respect of debt denominated in foreign currency;

(d) enhances the carry-forward for investment tax credits;

(e) implements amendments relating to the computation of income, gains and losses of a foreign affiliate;

(f) implements amendments to the functional currency tax reporting rules;

(g) implements minor tax amendments relating to interprovincial allocation of corporate taxable income, the Wage Earner Protection Program and the Canada-United States tax treaty’s rules for cross-border pensions;

(h) provides for an extension of time for income tax assessments that are consequential to provincial reassessments;

(i) ensures the appropriate application of the Income Tax Act’s trust rules to certain arrangements and institutions under Quebec civil law;

(j) enacts regulatory amendments relating to prescribed amounts for automobile expenses and benefits, eligible medical expenses, and the tax treatment of foreign affiliate active business income earned in a jurisdiction with which Canada has concluded a tax information exchange agreement;

(k) introduces rules to reduce the required minimum amount that must be withdrawn from a Registered Retirement Income Fund or from a variable benefit money purchase pension plan by 25% for 2008, and allows related re-contributions;

(l) extends the deadline for Registered Disability Savings Plan contributions; and

(m) modifies the provisions relating to amateur athletic trusts.

Part 2 amends the Excise Act, 2001 and the Excise Tax Act to implement measures to reduce the paper burden on businesses by allowing a larger number of government entities to share Business Number-related information in connection with government programs and services.

Part 3 amends the Customs Tariff to implement measures announced in the January 27, 2009 Budget to

(a) reduce Most-Favoured-Nation rates of duty and, if applicable, rates of duty under other tariff treatments on a number of tariff items relating to machinery and equipment imported on or after January 28, 2009;

(b) divide tariff item 9801.10.00 into two separate tariff items pertaining to conveyances and containers, respectively, and make two technical corrections, effective January 28, 2009; and

(c) modify the tariff treatment of milk protein substances, effective September 8, 2008.

Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act until September 11, 2010 to extend regular benefit entitlements by five weeks. It also provides that a pilot project ceases to have effect. In addition, it amends that Act to provide that the cost of benefit enhancement measures under that Act, provided for in the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009, are not to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account. Finally, it sets the premium rate provided for under that Act for the years 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Division 1 of Part 5 amends the Financial Administration Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to take, subject to certain conditions, a number of measures intended to promote the stability or maintain the efficiency of the financial system, including financial markets, in Canada.

Division 2 of Part 5 amends the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to provide the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation with greater flexibility to enhance its ability to safeguard financial stability in Canada. The Division also adds Tax-Free Saving Accounts as a distinct category for the purposes of deposit insurance. It also makes consequential amendments to other acts.

Division 3 of Part 5 amends the Export Development Act to, among other things, expand the Export Development Corporation’s mandate to include the support and development of domestic trade and business opportunities for a period of two years. The period may be extended by the Governor in Council. Division 3 also increases the Corporation’s authorized capital.

Division 4 of Part 5 amends the Business Development Bank of Canada Act to increase the maximum amount of the paid-in capital of the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Division 5 of Part 5 amends the Canada Small Business Financing Act to increase the maximum outstanding loan amount in relation to a borrower. It also increases individual lenders’ cap on claims. These amendments will apply to new loans made after March 31, 2009.

Division 6 of Part 5 amends a number of Acts governing federal financial institutions to improve access to credit and strengthen the financial system in Canada, including amendments that will

(a) provide new authority for further safeguards to promote the stability of the financial system;

(b) enhance consumer protection by establishing new measures to help consumers of financial products; and

(c) implement other technical measures to strengthen the financial sector framework in Canada.

Division 7 of Part 5 provides for payments to be made to provinces and territories, provides authority to the Minister of Finance to enter into agreements respecting securities regulation with provinces and territories and enacts the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office Act.

Part 6 authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for various purposes, including infrastructure and housing.

Part 7 amends Part I of the Navigable Waters Protection Act to create a tiered approval process for works in order to streamline the approval process and to exclude certain classes of works and works on certain classes of navigable waters from the approval process. This Part further amends Part I of the Act to clarify the scope of the application of that Part to works owned or previously owned by the Crown, to provide for the application of the Act to bridges over the St. Lawrence River and to add certain regulation-making powers.

Part 7 also amends the Act to clarify the provisions related to obstacles and obstructions to navigation. The Act is also amended by adding administration and enforcement powers, consolidating all offence provisions, increasing fines and requiring a review of the Act within five years of the amendments coming into force.

Division 1 of Part 8 amends the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and the Wage Earner Protection Program Regulations to provide that unpaid wages for which an individual may receive payment under the Wage Earner Protection Program include unpaid severance pay and termination pay.

Division 2 of Part 8 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to, among other things,

(a) require the Chief Actuary of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to report on financial assistance provided under that Act; and

(b) authorize the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to suspend or deny financial assistance to all those who are qualifying students in respect of a designated educational institution.

Division 2 of Part 8 also amends both the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act and the Canada Student Loans Act to, among other things,

(a) terminate all obligations of a borrower with respect to risk-shared loans and guaranteed loans if the borrower dies;

(b) authorize the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to require any person who has received financial assistance or a guaranteed student loan to provide that Minister with documents or information for the purpose of verifying compliance with those Acts; and

(c) authorize that Minister to terminate or deny financial assistance in certain circumstances.

Division 3 of Part 8 amends the Financial Administration Act to provide express authority for agent Crown corporations to lease their property, restrict the appointment of employees of a Crown corporation to its board of directors, require Crown corporations to hold annual public meetings, clarify Treasury Board’s duties to indemnify Crown corporation directors and officers, permit more flexibility in the frequency of special examinations of Crown corporations, and require the reports of special examinations to be submitted to the appropriate Minister and Treasury Board and made public. This Division also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Part 9 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to set out the amount of the fiscal equalization payments to the provinces for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2009 and amends the method by which fiscal equalization payments will be calculated for subsequent fiscal years. It also amends the method by which the Canada Health Transfer is calculated for each fiscal year in the period beginning on April 1, 2009 and ending on March 31, 2014.

Part 10 enacts the Expenditure Restraint Act. The purpose of that Act is to put in place a reasonable and an affordable approach to compensation across the federal public sector in support of responsible fiscal management in a difficult economic environment.

It sets out rules governing economic increases to the rates of pay of unionized and non-unionized employees for periods that begin during the period that begins on April 1, 2006 and ends on March 31, 2011. It also continues certain other terms and conditions at their current levels. It preserves the right of collective bargaining with regard to other matters and it does not affect the right to strike.

The Act does not preclude the continued development of workplace improvements by employers and employees’ bargaining agents through the National Joint Council or other bodies that they may agree on. It also permits bargaining agents and employers to agree to the amendment of certain terms and conditions of collective agreements or arbitral awards.

Part 11 enacts the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and makes consequential amendments to other Acts. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that proactive measures are taken to provide employees in female predominant job groups with equitable compensation.

It requires public sector employers that have non-unionized employees to determine periodically whether any equitable compensation matters exist in the workplace and, if so, to prepare a plan to resolve them. With respect to public sector employers that have unionized employees, the employers and the bargaining agents are to resolve those matters through the collective bargaining process.

It sets out the procedure for informing employees as to whether an equitable compensation assessment was required to be conducted and, if so, how it was conducted, and how any equitable compensation matters were resolved. It also establishes a recourse process for employees if the Act is not complied with.

Finally, since the Act puts in place a comprehensive equitable compensation scheme for public sector employees, this Part amends the Canadian Human Rights Act so that the provisions of that Act dealing with gender-based wage discrimination no longer apply to public sector employers. It extends the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations Board to allow it to hear equitable compensation complaints and to provide other services related to equitable compensation in the public sector.

Part 12 amends the Competition Act. The amendments include

(a) introducing a dual-track approach to agreements between competitors, with a limited criminal anti-cartel provision and a civil provision to address other agreements that substantially lessen or prevent competition;

(b) providing that bid-rigging includes agreements or arrangements to withdraw bids or tenders;

(c) repealing the provisions dealing with price discrimination and predatory pricing, replacing the criminal resale price maintenance provision with a new civil provision to address price maintenance practices that have an adverse effect on competition, and repealing all provisions dealing specifically with the airline industry;

(d) introducing an administrative monetary penalty for cases of abuse of dominant position, increasing the maximum amount of administrative monetary penalties for deceptive marketing cases, and increasing the maximum fines or terms of imprisonment, or both, for agreements or arrangements between competitors, bid-rigging, criminal false or misleading representations, deceptive telemarketing, deceptive notice of winning a prize, obstruction of Competition Bureau investigations and failure to comply with prohibition orders or production orders;

(e) clarifying that, in proceedings under section 52, 74.01 or 74.02, it is not necessary to establish that false or misleading representations are made to the public in Canada or are made in a place to which the public has access, and clarifying that the “general impression test” applies to all deceptive marketing practices in sections 74.01 and 74.02;

(f) providing that the court may make an order in respect of cases of false or misleading representations to require the person who engaged in the conduct to compensate persons affected by the conduct, and may issue an interim injunction to freeze assets if the Commissioner of Competition intends to ask for such a compensation order; and

(g) introducing a two-stage merger review process for notifiable transactions, increased merger pre-notification thresholds and a reduced merger review limitation period.

Part 13 amends the Investment Canada Act so that the review of an investment will be applied only to the more significant investments. It also amends the Act to allow more information to be made public. This Part also provides for the review of foreign investments in Canada that could threaten national security and allows the Governor in Council to take any measures that the Governor in Council considers advisable to protect national security, such as prohibiting a non-Canadian from implementing an investment.

Part 14 amends the Canada Transportation Act to provide the Governor in Council with flexibility to increase the foreign ownership limit from the existing levels to a maximum of 49%.

Part 15 amends the Air Canada Public Participation Act in relation to the mandatory provisions in the articles of Air Canada regarding constraints imposed on the issue, transfer and ownership of shares. It provides for the repeal of the provisions requiring that the articles of Air Canada contain provisions imposing limits on non-resident share ownership and the repeal of the provisions requiring that the articles of Air Canada contain provisions respecting the enforcement of these constraints.

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

March 4, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
March 4, 2009 Passed That this question be now put.
March 3, 2009 Passed That Bill C-10, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 394.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 383.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 358.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 317.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 445.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 295.
March 3, 2009 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 6.
Feb. 12, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
Feb. 12, 2009 Passed That this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this stage of the budget.

To say that I support the budget would be a bit of a stretch, but we have decided we will let the budget pass. We believe there are some measures in the budget that are of benefit to Canadians and we have to let the it pass. However, we also have very serious concerns, which have been outlined in our amendment, and we want to ensure that the government is kept on a tight leash. It is about time, too.

We have heard in the last few days about how the $3 billion of infrastructure spending has to be rushed out the door, that there is a special need to get it out there and it is urgent. It is about time the government took action. When the economic storm clouds were gathering in late summer, rather than do something about it, the government called an election.

When President Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in the November election, he was already talking about a massive stimulus package. People in Canada were also talking about the need for the same kind of thing. Instead of doing something then, the government came forward with an economic update that had nothing in it in the form of stimulus.

In December when Barack Obama's plan was already working its way through the United States system and people were getting excited about some of the things they were hearing, Canadians were talking about what we could do in the form of stimulus. Instead of bringing something in then, the government decided prorogue Parliament.

Finally at the end of January, the government decided to do something about it and put something together. I must admit some parts of the budget are better than what we saw in November, but some serious concerns remain. Personally the most serious of those concerns relates to the protection of those who are most vulnerable, so I will address that first.

We have literacy organizations across the country, and we do not hear as much about literacy in the House as we should. Literacy organizations, like Literacy Nova Scotia in my province, were among the first victims of the meanness of the government back in the fall of 2006 when it cut $17.7 million cut from literacy as part of the famous $2 billion cuts that it came out with.

Literacy organizations do not know where the money is. If we talk to the minister, we get one story. If we talk to officials, we get a different story. However, literacy organizations across the country need help so we can be a more productive nation, so we can educate our citizens and so we can provide support for people.

One of the saddest stories I have heard as a member of Parliament is about a person who was offered a promotion. He came to my office. He was employed and doing okay. By some people's standards, he was not doing that well, but he had a job and he was productive. He then was offered a promotion. The problem was he had to take a literacy test. He knew he could not pass it so he had to turn the promotion down. That person is asking for help.

We have literacy organizations across Canada, like the Dartmouth Literacy Network or the literacy organizations in the Annapolis Valley, that do such good work. When we talk to a learner, somebody whose life has been changed by having access to that kind of education, it is amazing we do not do more to support them.

I want to talk about employment insurance, which I have spoken to at other stages of the bill. Five weeks at the end of EI is helpful, but it is a very small measure. There is some money for training, and I give the government credit for that. However, when we think of what the government could have done for EI, it is a shame. There are all kinds of measures. The government could eliminate the waiting period. It could make EI benefits a bit higher percentage of previous earnings. It could equalize access, both regionally and across income groups.

One of the real weaknesses of our EI system is that a lot of low-income part-time workers, who tend to be women, cannot access EI. This is the perfect time to speed that up.

EI is a very positive way to provide stimulus into the economy. In fact, some studies note there is payback on EI. Ian Lee from the Sprott School of Business indicates that EI has a multiplier effect of 1.61%. For every dollar we spend on EI, it goes out and multiplies in the economy, which is higher than infrastructure and dramatically higher than tax cuts.

The tax cuts in the budget are unfair. The tax cuts help me, but in my view I am not the kind of person, nor are any other members of the House, who should be a priority for the government.

The government should have increased the GST rebate. It should have increased the child tax benefit. It should have put money into the pockets of people who most need it. It helps us all because they spend it, not because they want to spend it, but because they have to spend it. That is where the stimulus should be.

I want to talk about another issue that we have started to hear about in the last few days. This week The Chronicle Herald had an editorial with the headline, “Laid-off workers stuck in EI limbo”, and stated, “Thousands of recently laid-off Atlantic Canadian workers are paying the price”, and that is the EI wait lists.

On the weekend I was delighted to see that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was in Nova Scotia for the annual general meeting along with the next premier of Nova Scotia, Steve McNeil, the leader of the Liberal Party spoke about EI very strongly. The headline in the paper the next night was, “Late EI payments to Atlantic Canadians unacceptable”--the Leader of the Opposition--“says”.

This is a very important issue. People are waiting. I have letters from people from across the country who have been waiting for EI. The government says that 80% of EI claims are processed within 28 days. That is not the case and it is not just in the last few days. In December I wrote a letter to the Minister of Human Resources saying that people are waiting for EI. People told me that they are being told that they have to wait the standard 40 days. That is not the worst case scenario; that is the standard processing time. The standard processing time has gone from 28 days to 40 days.

I wrote a letter to the Minister of Human Resources in the middle of December. The mail must be pretty slow, because I have not had a response yet.

I received an email from somebody in my riding on January 27 which states:

Tomorrow, on day 50, I'm supposed to call back and get another update as to what is going on with my claim. When it finally does get processed, I'll drop you a line just to let you know how long it finally took.

I got an email from the same lady a few days later saying:

Thank you so much!! I did get a phone call late this afternoon actually saying my claim had been processed and approved which was a surprise because I got a voicemail when I got home last night saying there may be more delays.

She went on to say:

I just thought you might like to know that it may have been [the member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour], not Conservative promises, who helped this first nations person get their cheque.

We have received emails in my office from across the country. We have one from the riding of the member for Halifax West, saying:

I am a resident of your riding and wanted to be sure that you were aware of the current situation in obtaining EI benefits. It is virtually impossible to reach an agent on the phone.... On several instances I waited on hold over two hours only to be cut off without reaching an agent.

I want to be very clear. I do not blame the people at Service Canada. They are working very hard. They have had to take on more responsibilities in the last few years. I do not have any problem with the people who work at Service Canada. I do have a problem with the political masters who are not recognizing that more and more people are being laid off, and if they are among the lucky ones who actually manage to qualify for EI even though they have paid into it, they have the right to get EI when they need it.

A person from Vancouver wrote:

Ceased to work at the end of November. Applied for EI January 8, 2009. It has now been 54 days. Still no final decision.”

Here is one from Prince Edward Island:

I have applied for EI sick benefits and have been told it will be eight to ten weeks to process my application and receive benefits.

I have one here from the city of St. Johns in Newfoundland and Labrador saying that our riding office has been helping many constituents who have been waiting six weeks or more in the processing of EI claims. Across the country people are waiting for their EI cheques. Even though they are entitled to get their EI, they are having a very difficult time getting it.

My colleague from Don Valley East asked a question on this in the House, if I am not mistaken. I think my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso asked a question in the House on this, about a constituent of his whose name I cannot recall, but I think it might have been Norma Peck, who was waiting and waiting.

Thank heavens that people have members of Parliament like the member for Don Valley East and my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso, who stand up. My colleague from Madawaska—Restigouche spoke in this House on behalf of somebody who was waiting, I think it was 47 days. Thank heavens there are some members providing leadership for those who actually need help the most.

On employment insurance, there is a great deal more the government could be doing to help people. I expect we will talk about that tomorrow.

I want to talk about child care. Canada is, and I want to be generous, a laggard on child care. In the last few years we have gotten worse. A survey was released in December by the United Nations and of the OECD nations, Canada ranked last out of 25 countries on 10 benchmarks dealing with early learning and child care. We were last.

I would expect that some of the Scandinavian nations that are very progressive in this area would be ahead of us, but many other nations were as well. I believe we only went halfway on one benchmark. The province of Quebec had six out of the ten benchmarks because it has an early learning and child care plan, and I commend that province for that. We need to do more.

The Leader of the Opposition came to a meeting in Halifax on Saturday. We met with about 20 child care advocates. Somebody said that child care does not stop at six either, referring to the measly $100 a month. And education does not start at six. Education has to start at age zero. Education needs to be accessible to all. If any one of us knew of somebody with a child who was six or seven years old and that child was denied access to elementary school, there would be an outcry, and rightly so. Yet every single day in every community in Canada children are being denied access to early learning and child care. That is a shame. That affects our productivity in a huge way.

I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that when the Liberals form the government, and I hope and expect that will be after the next election, he will bring back an early learning and child care plan similar to the one brought forward by my colleague from York Centre, the former goalie who was minister of human resources and skills development. It was a wonderful plan for child care. He actually implemented it but it was thrown out on the scrap heap to the consternation, dismay and the agony of people across this country to whom $100 does not mean anything. People at our session on Sunday said that the $100 does not help when child care costs $800 to $1,000 a month, but more important, they cannot find a child care space. Child care cannot be delivered in the mail.

I want to talk about a specific organization which does some great work in this country. It is called the Canadian Council on Learning, CCL. This organization is set up to measure how we are doing on education in relation to other countries and the standards that we should have in Canada. This organization has been operating for five years. It has some concerns. It is not a political organization at all. Dr. Paul Cappon heads it up. He is universally respected. He is not a Liberal, nor a New Democrat, nor a Conservative. He is just a guy who cares about education and helping us understand where we are in educating our citizens. This organization was told that its funding was not going to be renewed past the end of March or April of this year. That does not make any sense.

At committee a couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was asked by the chair of our committee, a very good chair in spite of his Conservative label, if the funding for CCL would be extended and what the status of it was. The minister said, “The funding for that has been extended to the end of next year. There will be discussions about the future”.

Two days later her officials came to committee and I raised the issue of CCL. My question was, “I want to ask about the Canadian Council on Learning. On Tuesday the minister indicated that their funding would be extended for another year. My understanding was it was going to run out at the end of March. Our chair asked the question. Is that the fact, that they have another year of funding that will take them to 2010?”

The assistant deputy minister said, “That's correct”. I said, “It is not just that they are using the money they were given before for an extra year, but they have an extra year of funding”, which is what the minister said. The answer was “My understanding is their original funding was reprofiled to extend into 2010”. That is a quizzical thing. I pursued that and said, “Reprofiled under certain governments means different things. Does that mean stretched or does that mean added?” The answer was, “It means there was no increase in the funding they received”.

On Tuesday the minister told us the funding had been extended until the end of next year, yet two days later we found out that was not the case at all. This is an organization like the Centre for Social Development and many others that are doing great work but it seems they have to fight for their funding every year.

I work in the area of human resources, and there are a number of issues that are of great concern to me.

What is happening on the research side is scandalous. The CAUT, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, went to see the Secretary of State and its members were told to shut up. They were told that they have burned their bridges. I can see shock on the faces of members opposite that one of their own would say that to somebody.

As ministers or MPs, there is a certain tone and level of respect that we have for people who are advocating when they come to see us, whether we agree or disagree. I know the people who went to see the minister. I know Jim Turk. He is the head of CAUT. I know the two people who were in that meeting. These are reasonable people. They came to see me while I was on the government side and they have come to see me in opposition. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I disagree, but I would never question their motives or suggest that anybody would use that tone of language in dealing with people who are advocating for issues like education.

I have concerns about the budget and the tone of the government. I have an awful lot of concerns about the direction of the country. My colleagues from the NDP will say that since I have all these issues, maybe I should vote against this budget. I can say with great sincerity that I support the position our leader has taken. There are some measures in this budget, such as the five weeks of EI and some of the infrastructure money if it gets out the door, that could be very positive for Canadians.

We are not supporting this budget so much as we are letting it pass. We are going to keep a close eye on it. This country is headed into difficult times. We may be there now. I can recall two or three times in the last couple of months when I have talked to people who said that they did not think it would get this worse. We hear about further losses with each passing day and week. Yesterday, we heard about the job losses in Hamilton. In my own area, we have lost the Moirs plant, which employed over 500 people. We are all going to be hurt.

We are in this together. This is Canada. We are a rich nation, but we are hurting. However, the strength of this country is that we have a social infrastructure and we believe in it. We believe in national health service. We believe in employment insurance. We believe in social supports that provide assistance to those in need, like the GIS and the child tax benefit.

I think that in a difficult time it is important that we as Canadians focus on those people who are hurting the most. We need to provide support to people who need help. We need to invest in their health, education and the social supports that make their lives livable, whether it is EI, health care, or education for aboriginal Canadians, low-income families and persons with disabilities. These are the people who need our help. Those are the measures we are going to be watching as this budget unfolds. That is how we will be holding the government to account. For now, it is a pass, but it is pretty close.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour says that he is reluctant to follow the government's agenda. He also says that he is concerned about job losses and the fact that people cannot get employment insurance, many of them because this budget does not provide for about half the workers who lose their employment insurance benefits.

I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on both of those comments that he has made. However, the next item on the government's agenda is the European Free Trade Association agreement. That is coming forward to the House. The shipbuilding industry, including his constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour who work at the Halifax shipyards, is unanimous in saying that there has to be a carve-out on EFTA. If there is not, they will lose their jobs. That will mean that they will be subject to the very meanspirited employment insurance provisions that are contained within this budget.

I would like to ask the member a very clear question. There is a carve-out, an amendment that we proposed in the House. Is he prepared to vote for that amendment that is supported by his constituents in the Halifax shipyards in order to carve shipbuilding out of EFTA, ensuring that more of his constituents will not be subjected to the punitive provisions of EI that are in this budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit in on the committee last week where EFTA was discussed. The Minister of Industry came to that committee.

The member is right that shipbuilding is an important part of my community. In fact, in Nova Scotia, shipbuilding is a long and honourable tradition. I do not think that this country has done enough to support shipbuilding. The EFTA deal will take us into a deal with four countries, including Norway, who have a very strong, robust and subsidized shipbuilding industry.

Canada needs not to close its eyes to what is happening in the rest of the world but to look at Norway and ask what it did and whether we should do that here. We need a strong shipbuilding policy. Less than an hour ago, I met with members of the CAW, who were here to meet with us and people in our leader's office to talk about the shipbuilding policy we need. Whether it is putting together the SFF and the ACCA or whether it is a national procurement policy that includes direct allocation and continuous procurement, there are solutions. The shipbuilding industry, including those who own the companies, those who manage the companies as well as the workers, is aligned on this issue.

I was very disappointed that there was not more stimulus in the budget. The Minister of National Defence had indicated in December that shipbuilding would specifically be part of a stimulus plan and then we were very disappointed by the budget. In my view, we need a national shipbuilding policy that emulates countries like Norway because we have the people, the technology, and the ability to do it here ourselves.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I finally get a chance to ask my hon. colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a question.

My colleague has been a passionate proponent of social justice. As we heard from his speech, he talked about the early learning and childhood strategies. I have heard him speak about student loans, helping the poor and helping communities in distress.

I know the budget is difficult for a lot of us because it is such a mixture of good and bad. Could the member give some indication on what he thinks of some of the other measures the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance put in, the hodge-podge things like the Competition Act, pay equity, Navigable Waters Protection Act and probably EFTA? Is the Conservative government really serious about a stimulus package or is it really playing games on the backs of ordinary Canadians?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is one of the most impressive and passionate members of the House. It is easy for us to be critical, because I know there are many good members on the other side of the House, but I believe the government has been very punitive and is gratuitous in what it put in the budget, particularly on things like pay equity.

If the government were really serious about stimulus, it should remember that we can stimulate an economy, not just through bricks and mortar, but through flesh and bone by investing in people and in the social supports that provide the safety net in this country. That money would not only go to the people who need it, but it would go right back into the economy because they would spend the money.

I think that spending in areas of social need should be the priority of any government in a difficult time.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will to go back to my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour because he did not answer the question.

The member was asked by workers from the Halifax shipyards just an hour ago, and he knows his constituents are impacted by this, to vote for the carve-out to save shipbuilding jobs in his constituency. Is he prepared to vote for the carve-out and, if not, why not?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is because it was ruled out of order. However, I will tell the House, because t I do not have any secrets on this issue, that it is my intention to support the free trade deal with the EFTA countries, but, on top of that, working with my colleagues from Kings—Hants, Halifax West and others in the House.

In the discussions I had today with members of the CAW there was no mention of EFTA. The discussions were about procurement and national shipbuilding. That does not mean that it is not an important issue to them, it is, but they also recognize that after the next election one of two parties will form the Government of Canada. One of them will have a real shipbuilding policy and one of them will not. We will.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's constituents have been very clear on this. People in Nova Scotia have been very clear that they want the carve-out. The shipbuilding industry has been unanimous. Shipbuilding yards across the country, the owners and the workers have been unanimous, as the member well knows, before the committee on international trade.

Therefore, because it is very much in order to carve out and delete certain clauses of the bill with EFTA that is being brought before the House, the member will need to make a choice between his constituents or a theory. Will the member choose his constituents or will he vote for the carve-out, yes or no?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the committee ruled the amendment on the carve-out out of order. The expectation is that it will be ruled out of order here. If it is not, then I will deal with that.

I would ask my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster to ask the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore if I believe in shipbuilding. Ask him if he believes that I listen to my constituents and try to do the best that I can for them.

Does the member not think that I want to support my constituents? The discussions I have had with them are respectful. I have never turned down a meeting. If the member were to ask them, I think they would say that the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour stands up for their interests. That is what I did before. I do not hide from that but sometimes it is not as easy.

Members of the NDP would like to have an election every second Friday, which is an easy thing for them. However, we will be the government in this country and we will bring in a shipbuilding policy that will be as good as any in the world, a policy that people who work in the shipbuilding industry and who run the shipyards will be very proud of.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has been an incredibly passionate defender of the shipbuilding industry in his riding and across Canada. In meetings we have had together with shipbuilding companies and labour, they have said that the hon. member and the Liberal Party continue to be strong proponents and defenders of shipbuilding.

Does the hon. member agree that yesterday at committee, when the chair made a ruling on the legal advice of the clerk, to challenge the chair on that would have indicated a lack of confidence in the non-partisan clerk, the clerk who does not work for the government but who works for the House of Commons?

Not only is the NDP member economically illiterate, he has absolutely no idea of the rules and procedures in this House when yesterday at committee he accused the clerk, the legal clerk, of being partisan. The NDP member talks about defending the public service and yet yesterday he attacked the public service.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is quite well and good to have a political discussion here but to invent something that did not happen, as the member for Kings—Hants just did, is something that merits a withdrawal.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, if you could ask the member for Kings-Hants to withdraw his comments that are untrue and defamatory.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague from Kings—Hants had it right. We all know the great work and the great support we get from the staff here at the House of Commons. They do not favour one person over another.

What I want to say in closing is that I do not question the motives of my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster. I have been at that committee and I have seen how it operates. It is not the way I would do it but I do not question his motives or his belief in supporting his constituents.

If he has a reason to believe that I do not support my constituents, then he should table it. He should talk to his colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore who is passionate about this industry. I think he would tell him that this is a guy who believes in shipbuilding. I have every faith that when the Liberals form the next government, we will bring in a national shipbuilding policy that people can be proud of.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will follow on the comments that were just made in the House. In regard to Bill C-10, they were quite appropriate. However, the reality is that there will be no shipbuilding industry left if the Liberal Party does not stand up for shipbuilding when the carbon amendment comes before this House in the next few days. I certainly hope they will, and the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has indicated that he is considering it, which is very important. We are making some progress.

Where we are not making progress is on Bill C-10.

What we have seen over the past 20 years is a slow and profound crisis in this country. Family income over the past 20 years has been steadily declining. That is even before the very sharp and acute crisis that we have all felt over the past six months and what Canadians have been living through.

Most Canadian families have been living through a slow and prolonged decline in the resources they have to feed their families, to keep a roof over their heads, to do all the things that Canadian families feel strongly about doing and all the things they hold dear.

Under both the Liberals and the Conservatives, we have seen a steady decline in the quality of life and income over the past 20 years. This comes at a time when Canadians are working harder than ever. It is up over one-third during that period but the lowest income Canadians have seen a catastrophic fall in income. On average, they have lost about a month and a half of real wages every year since 1989, which was the year of the implementation of NAFTA. Working class families have lost about two weeks of income per year over the last 20 years. We would find it hard to live on two weeks less of income than what we had 20 years ago. Middle class families have lost about one week.

In short, we have seen a slow and steady economic catastrophe developing and the last six months has put that even more clearly in the public eye. Over the past six months we have seen the collapse of many of our economic sectors, such as the softwood lumber sector, which started with the softwood lumber sellout that cost tens of thousands of jobs across this country, and we continue to pay. We saw with the arbitration last week that it was inevitable under a softwood lumber agreement that the anti-circumvention clause prohibits any sort of support for softwood lumber and the industry. We have seen Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba all having to cough up money.

Two years ago, the NDP said that was exactly what would happen but, unfortunately, Liberal and Bloc members refused to heed what we told them. They ended up voting for a softwood lumber sellout and the result has been a catastrophe.

It is a catastrophe that has hit Quebeckers particularly hard. The people whom the Bloc say they are supporting are those who are losing their jobs and whose communities are having to absorb tens of millions of dollars in penalties because of the softwood lumber agreement.

This catastrophe in an industrial sector could have been avoided if the other parties had studied the agreement more closely.

It is not just softwood and shipbuilding. We are now operating at one-third capacity and that one-third capacity will be killed off under EFTA. We are seeing in the automobile sector that our exports are falling by about a third. It is catastrophic. It is tens of billions of dollars every month in lower exports. In the manufacturing industries we are looking at about a quarter of a million lost jobs over the course of the last few months alone.

We are seeing, in short, a catastrophic and sharp economic crisis that brings to bear a focus on what has happened over the last 20 years. What is the remedy? The Conservatives, with Liberal support, are bringing forward a budget that does not deal with any of those realities. There is no industrial plan or sector-by-sector strategy being brought in.

Essentially, the Conservatives want a $3 billion slush fund to use for whatever political objectives they may have. At the same time, they want to tie any other funding to investments that are first made by municipalities, cash-strapped cities and hard-hit province, so taxpayers at those other levels of government have to cough up first before there is any relief from the federal government.

It is hard to say that this is an economic stimulus package when it is tied funding and there is a slush fund of $3 billion set aside, we fear, for political means. We have been asking for transparency around that money.

My colleague, the member for Outremont, has been calling for that in committee and here in the House. So has the NDP leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth. Yet, the Conservatives refuse any sort of transparency or clarity around the money that they intend to spend. They basically want a blank cheque from Parliament to use that money however they see fit. We saw from the sponsorship scandal that that is not a good idea.

What is in Bill C-10? If it does not deal fundamentally with the economic stimulus and the industrial strategies that we need, what is in Bill C-10? Members in this corner of the House have been saying very clearly what is in it. This is an ideological attack on many principles that the Conservatives have wanted to attack for some time.

Now, because they have a functional majority, since the Liberal Party has given up any sort of opposition role, they are making those attacks. They are attacking collective agreements and not only collective agreements in the public sector but public sector agreements that affect hard-working RCMP officers, stopping them from fairly-negotiated wage increases. All public sector workers and public servants who have been working very hard with less and less over the past few years are stymied. Bill C-10 is effectively an attack on collective agreements.

Bill C-10 attacks students. It treats them very harshly. This is the same government that believes that corporate tax cuts should be shovelled off the back of a truck. However, in this particular case what they want to attack are students who, through no fault of their own, because of a complete lack of support for post-secondary education that we saw develop under the Liberals and continued under the Conservatives, may end up with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. Instead of the government providing some measure of debt relief, it is treating those student debtors even more harshly.

Bill C-10 allows, basically, for the fire sale of Canadian assets and businesses to go full rein. It is lessening any remaining remnants of foreign ownership qualifications. There actually is a vetting when there are takeovers of Canadian companies. Now they are opening up whole sectors that used to be considered Canadian because it was in the public and Canadian interest to do so. Bill C-10 ideologically attacks that provision for some vetting when Canadian companies are taken over and sold offshore.

We have seen over the past few years company after company purchased at fire sale prices. Canadian companies were bought up because of lax foreign ownership rules. In fact, of the foreign investment that has come into Canada, it is estimated 97% of it goes for takeovers, not for new investment or job creation but a simple takeover of what exists now.

Bill C-10 enhances that fire sale of Canada. So much for standing up for Canada. Conservatives are selling out Canada. We have seen it with the softwood lumber sellout, the shipbuilding sellout, the NAFTA amendments they are bringing forward with the relaxed foreign ownership provisions, so any Canadian company can be a target. The government will simply not stand up for Canadians.

I want to talk about environment assessments. Canadians feel very strongly about protecting our quality of the environment, our quality of life. Yet, Bill C-10 essentially strips environmental assessments from a whole range of projects. That is not in the public interest. No Canadian asked for that. In fact, if the Conservatives had promised that in the election campaign, there would be a lot fewer of them on the other side of the House. However, that is indeed what they are doing because the Liberals are giving them a functional majority with the new Liberal-Conservative coalition.

My colleague from Outremont called it the Conservative-Liberal Alliance party yesterday in the House. We remember the acronym that existed with the Conservative-Reform Alliance party, CRAP. It did not last very long. That was changed. Now we have a new one. Like the member for Outremont said so well, the acronym actually refers to venereal disease. Perhaps the budget is just as painful in its impact on Canadians.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the budget bill, the most ideologically meanspirited attack that we see in Bill C-10, is the attack on the fundamental human right to pay equity. It is simply unbelievable that the Conservatives would try to pretend that in some way, in some Orwellian twist of phrase, they are trying to save pay equity by killing it.

They have stood in the House and tried to confuse Canadians, and have pretended that in some way this is somewhat similar to something that other administrations have brought forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a full-fronted attack on pay equity. It eliminates pay equity. It does not in any way protect pay equity or provide recourse for pay equity.

Paul Durber, who is the former director for pay equity for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said very clearly in his letter just a few days ago that he could not imagine any party in the House knowingly adopting a measure that would contradict such a fundamental value as the equality provision of section 15 of the charter.

It is very clear that this is an attack on pay equity. This kills pay equity. So much for a so-called economic stimulus budget. This kills a fundamental principle of Canadian law and the Liberals are well aware of it. They have said with crocodile tears that somehow they feel that those provisions on pay equity are unfair, but each and every one of them is voting for these provisions that kill pay equity. Canadians will not forgive that incredible shortsightedness and hypocrisy.

Pay equity is being killed and a whole range of other, meanspirited, right-wing, ideological measures are being proposed in the budget. The budget is not one of economic stimulus. The budget is not one that helps Canadians. The budget does absolutely nothing to help the increasing number of Canadians who become unemployed. Not a single, additional person will have access to employment insurance as a result of the budget at a time when tens of thousands of jobs are hemorrhaging out of this country, tens of thousands of people and families are losing their breadwinner.

Yet, not a single new person can claim employment insurance than those who qualified prior to the budget. There is no change to the harsh qualifications that legally the government cannot put in place, but under the budget we are in this Orwellian world where the government now redefines what its legal responsibilities are and redefines employment insurance in a way that half the workers who become unemployed will not be able to access it.

Canadians are not fooled by those few who qualify getting a few extra weeks at the end. They are not fooled by that because they know that in their communities people are losing their jobs as Canadian industries shut down one after the other, after 20 years of completely foolish and irresponsible economic policies from the economic illiteracy twins of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party putting Canadian industry and manufacturing at risk with catastrophic implications today.

As their neighbours, friends and families lose their jobs, Canadians are not fooled by the fact that there are a few weeks at the end of employment insurance for those who qualify. They are concerned and the reason why they are coming to constituency offices across the country is because they know now that they do not qualify.

This is a meanspirited budget, not a budget that addresses the crisis that we are living in. It is an ideological attack on Canadians and for that reason, New Democrats are voting against this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster spoke about how this government treats women. We know that this is not the first time this government has attacked the means that women have to improve their lot in society. It went after women's shelters: of the 16 shelters, there are only four left to support women's groups. And it is now taking on employment equity.

I would like to know what the member thinks about this situation. The Liberals, like all of us and like the NDP, have been highly critical of this measure that would keep women from turning to the courts to have their rights recognized. Even worse, this measure would see fines of up to $50,000 slapped on unions wanting to defend women. What does he think about the Liberals, who have suddenly done an about-face and jumped into bed with the Conservatives, setting women's rights back more than 50 years?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is disgusting. That is the only word I can use. It is the most hypocritical thing that a political party can do; that is, defend women here in House but vote in favour of a budget that fundamentally attacks women's rights. There is no other word for it. I think that the people in the Liberal Party should be ashamed of their position.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, while we are on the rather broad topic of Liberal Party hypocrisy, can the hon. member tell us his how he felt when he heard a member from the Liberal Party of Canada rise during question period this afternoon and speak out against the softwood lumber agreement, which was after all supported, signed and upheld by that same Liberal Party?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the question asked by the hon. member for Outremont regarding softwood lumber. It is a very important one.

Two years ago, we indicated the impact this agreement would have. We were the only party to read the agreement. The Conservative members said they supported the agreement, but they did not even read it. The Liberal members said they would vote to support the agreement, because it looked fine. I cannot help but think of the members from northern Ontario who no longer sit in this House, because the people of that region said no to the Liberal Party during the most recent election, partly because of the Liberal Party's decision to support the softwood lumber agreement. Now I know my friends in the Bloc Québécois also understand that their party made a monumental mistake in supporting an agreement that was not good for Quebec, that cost thousands of jobs, that took away Quebec's autonomy in how it managed the forestry industry, which is, after all, a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

So it is very clear and very obvious. Now that the other parties see that the NDP was right, we hope they might listen to us from the beginning next time, to prevent the kind of crisis that arises when people do not fully understand the consequences of their actions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, given the Conservatives faced a coalition that would have thrown them out of office just two months ago, why would they put add-ons in the budget when all opposition parties would find them objectionable? Why would they do that given they almost lost the government a couple of months ago?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. My only answer is the Conservatives thought the Liberals would simply roll over. There is no principle that governs Liberal Party members. They are willing, at all costs, to give up any principle they support if they do not think their electoral chances are particularly good.

I think the Conservatives simply thought they could do anything they wanted. They knew the Liberals would not stand up to them. They now have a functional majority, a coalition government, Liberal-Conservative, or Conservative-Liberal-Alliance party, or CLAP, in the House of Commons. It is very unfortunate for Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by pointing out that my NDP colleague, with whom I sit on the Standing Committee on International Trade, is an expert on softwood lumber and a staunch defender of the softwood lumber industry in his region. He is also an authority on shipbuilding in his region.

In this case, my colleague has great respect for the people of his riding and his province, and he is fulfilling their expectations by trying to remove this sector from the free trade agreement. However, he still refuses to accept that the Bloc had serious reservations about the softwood lumber agreement. He should bear in mind that we, too, responded to the needs of softwood lumber stakeholders in Quebec. We responded to the needs of Quebeckers, just as he responded to the needs of shipbuilding stakeholders in British Columbia.

Now, once and for all—we have covered this dozens of times already—given that he is dealing with the same situation when it comes to shipbuilding as we did with softwood lumber, I would like to hear him say that the work we did was just as much about responsibility as the work he thinks he is doing now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not say anything bad about the Bloc Québécois. I even congratulated the Bloc Québécois on recognizing that it made a mistake by voting for the softwood lumber agreement.

All I have to go on are the facts. Thousands of people in Quebec lost their jobs after the softwood lumber agreement came into force on October 2, 2007. Since then, thousands of jobs have been lost in Quebec. Last week, a decision was made that will cost Quebeckers tens of millions of dollars. Even if it were to be distributed according to the formula proposed by the Bloc, the result would be the same: Quebeckers will have to pay tens of millions of dollars.

It is clear that the effect on Quebec will be just as the NDP predicted a few years ago. We were right when we said that the agreement should not be signed. They should have waited for the final court decision, which ruled in Canada's favour.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster keeps playing his softwood lumber tape.

There was an election campaign last September and October. The NDP had candidates in all Quebec ridings, including those where forestry is the main industry. That was their message during the election campaign and they came in dead last.

Two-thirds of Quebec MPs are members of the Bloc. This truly reflects what my colleague from Sherbrooke just said: we expressed the wishes of our citizens. We are not retreating from the decision we made. On the contrary, we will continue to represent the opinions and wishes of our constituents.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to elaborate for our Bloc Québécois colleague. We have to say that it is becoming increasingly evident to everyone in Quebec that it was a bad agreement. Last week's decision will unfortunately be reinforced by another to be given in a few weeks, one that will go against Quebec, as we said. The next time, we will campaign in all Quebec ridings and the result will be different because you made the wrong decision whereas we made the right one.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Chambly—Borduas. Ordinarily, members say it is a pleasure to speak to a bill, but in this case, it is more my duty to the people in my riding and everyone in Quebec. Like my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I will vote against this bill.

Quebec is the big loser in the government's recovery plan. We know that the plan includes roughly $4 billion to help Ontario. We understand that this is important to the automotive industry and all that, but Quebec is getting nothing but crumbs. The forest and manufacturing industries are very important, but the recovery plan provides only $170 million for research and development for the entire country.

Last week, Guy Chevrette, president and CEO of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and again impressed on us that the forest industry in Quebec is in deep trouble. Companies could close in the near future and need loan guarantees like the ones the automotive industry got in the recent recovery plan. Loan guarantees would also enable forest companies to take part in research and development programs and at least survive the current financial crisis.

Mr. Chevrette mentioned that the forest industry currently accounts for 825,000 direct jobs in Canada, compared to 500,000 jobs in auto manufacturing. He talked about the forest industry's strategic and economic importance to Canada. But the budget contains no support for the forest industry in Quebec, which is why it is turning to the Government of Quebec for loan guarantees that the industry was hoping the federal government would provide but that have not been forthcoming. As members are aware, the Government of Quebec is not in a very easy economic situation at present.

I would like to talk about the immediate action on the economy that we were expecting from this recovery plan, such as the guaranteed income supplement and employment insurance. With regard to these sorts of measures, if you increase the amounts people are receiving, that money will be invested directly into the economy. People will not be able to take a trip or buy stock in a company with the extra money. This is therefore the best stimulant, especially since the government took so long to introduce a real recovery plan. That would have had a direct, immediate impact on the economy.

The budget has not yet been officially passed. It may be tonight when the bill is passed at third reading and after it goes to the Senate. If only the industry could benefit from certain measures without delay, the stimulus plan would be more effective.

The guaranteed income supplement is one of those measures. Last year, I had the opportunity to introduce a bill to improve the guaranteed income supplement. I should point out that people receiving the supplement because they do not have enough income are now below the low-income threshold, which was once called the poverty line. It is therefore unacceptable for a government not to take advantage of the fact that it has to invest in the economy to give them at least enough income to reach the low-income threshold, particularly since these are people who already need help from the government.

We also asked for automatic enrolment in the guaranteed income supplement program. Once again, the government is playing hide and seek with seniors, who, in many cases, do not know which forms to fill out. In Quebec alone, an estimated 40,000 people who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement are not receiving it because they did not apply.

Throughout Canada, 135,000 people are entitled to it. Last year, the Conservative government said that the program would cost too much. All told, we estimate the cost of implementing the program to be $2 billion, but the government thought that that was too much money.

The government should make the most of this year's stimulus plan. Since it wants to invest, it could invest that money directly and, by the same token, give these people a reasonable income so that they can live with dignity.

The same goes for employment insurance. The government adopted a measure to extend the benefit period by five weeks. The maximum benefit period will increase from 45 to 50 weeks. However, as we have pointed out numerous times, only some 10% of people receiving employment insurance benefits will collect the extra five weeks' worth of benefits. Most of them are resourceful and find new jobs. Also, fewer than half of the people who contribute to employment insurance actually collect benefits. For various reasons, many do not work enough hours. So fewer than 50% collect benefits, and of those, barely 10% reach the end of the benefit period. These are the people the government wants to help with its stimulus plan.

We in the Bloc Québécois had called for the elimination of the waiting period. Under the current employment insurance system, people who lose their jobs have to cover the first two weeks. Doing away with the waiting period would have meant a direct, immediate investment. It would have meant that, as soon as they lost their jobs, people could have counted on a reduced income, but at least some income during what is a critical time for them. Here again, the government is not looking after these people. Despite the need to stimulate the economy, these people are being ignored. The government is not going to suddenly think of these people when times get better.

I wanted to talk about social housing. Quebec alone is estimated to need 52,000 social housing units. I live in Laval, and my riding is in the eastern part of Laval. More than 1,000 people in Laval alone are waiting for social housing, because there is not enough. The current government's position seems to be that families and people in need who cannot find decent housing at market prices should be left to fend for themselves.

Yet the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a surplus of about $8 billion. We have no idea what this surplus is used for. The Auditor General has said that a $2 billion surplus would be more than enough to respond to an emergency.

My riding has a federal penitentiary, the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul penitentiary. An old part of this institution, the Old Pen, has been unoccupied since 1989. The building has been abandoned since then. It has been shown that the building needs about $1 million in repairs to remain in good condition. I have not yet had a satisfactory answer from the minister about whether the government is going ahead with this project. A conversion project is under consideration, and that project could include social housing. But the government is turning a deaf ear. Here again, even though there is a cost involved, this would have been a perfect opportunity to build social housing.

I would have liked to talk about pay equity, which was mentioned earlier. That has been a real scandal. The dynamic men and women in my riding are very concerned about this issue. To them, pay equity is a right, not something they have to negotiate. It is truly unfortunate that the government is proceeding in this way and forgetting all about the current pay equity provisions of legislation. Not only is the government not meeting Quebec's needs, but it is also penalizing Quebec by changing the equalization formula, which will cost Quebec $1 billion.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech in which he made his opposition clear. I would also like to point out that we are currently asking for money. I am responsible for the social housing file, and there is most likely a possibility that non-residential buildings will be converted into residential units.

I would like him to tell us to what point, in his riding, this project would answer the needs of those who are not necessarily the poorest of the poor, but who have modest incomes. I would like him to talk about that project.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I did not know about the project he mentioned. However, it is clear that we need many social and affordable housing projects. Currently, low-income families with two, three or four children cannot find housing at an affordable price. Any projects that can help these people would be appreciated.

There is a need in my riding. That is why I was questioning the government about a building it owns. It is the government's responsibility to convert it into housing units for the public.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, given that the Prime Minister nearly lost his government in December and we would think that he would not want to antagonize the opposition, especially not the Liberals, why does the member think he would add on all these measures that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget? Why would he want to do that if he is hoping for their support to continue his government?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. NDP colleague for his question. Clearly, it would be overly optimistic to hope that any adjustments or amendments might be made, considering the current Liberal-Conservative coalition. The Liberals are supporting this budget, which offers nothing worthwhile.

I deplore that. I am particularly concerned that the 10 Conservative members and the 14 Liberals members from Quebec are supporting this budget, which does nothing to help their own region, Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Alfred-Pellan for his excellent speech and his valuable contribution to the Standing Committee on Finance.

He did not have the opportunity to address the question of equalization and the fact that, in this budget the government is reneging on its own commitment to the provinces. For Quebec, this means a shortfall of about $1 billion. Can he share his thoughts on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Chambly—Borduas for his question. Indeed, I ran out of time and was not able to talk about equalization. In addition to failing to introduce effective economic stimulus measures, the government will undermine the effectiveness and integrity of Quebec by its frankly unilateral changes to equalization payments, despite a unanimous motion by the Quebec National Assembly calling on the government not to change the formula for calculating equalization without allowing some time to discuss it and explore other solutions. The federal government simply decided to deprive Quebec of $1 billion in the next budget. This will automatically lead to a deficit in Quebec, since the provincial government was counting on that money. That is what is appalling.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada decided that revenues from electricity distribution in Ontario by Hydro One would be considered corporate revenue and would therefore not be factored into the equalization calculation, although the same calculation method does not apply to Hydro-Québec. Quebec will lose another $250 million in equalization because of this decision, which is unfair to Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill. This budget contains so many items that are not in the interest of major groups in society, and that penalize Quebec in particular, that it is hard to know where to start. I will first look at an issue raised previously by other colleagues, the treatment of women.

With this government we had become accustomed to policies with misogynist undertones. In the previous budget, cuts were made to programs that supported women's organizations, especially women's centres that provide support to organizations in every region of the country. There used to be 16 such centres; only four remain and they are barely surviving because they are forced to find money wherever they can. Nonetheless, over the years, our society acquired these tools thanks to the struggle—especially by women, unions, and workers' and grassroots movements—to give rights to women in our society.

Despite our reactions here in the House of Commons, the government has gone ahead with this measure. To our great surprise, this budget contains an attack against women once again. This is inexplicable and has nothing to do with kick-starting the economy. Women will no longer be able to go before the courts to have their right to pay equity within the public service recognized. It is unbelievable. What is even more unbelievable is that the Liberals will be supporting it. It is beyond comprehension, even more so because they say they oppose this measure. Under the pretext of not triggering an election, they are prepared to stoop this low and take us back to the 1940s. It makes no sense.

What is even more despicable is the clause saying that if a union dares to file a complaint before the courts, that union could be fined up to $50,000. Where is the logic in that? We tell women that not only can they not go to the courts, but that the organization that is normally there to support them and ensure that their rights are recognized will be penalized if it dares to do so. They are saying that we need to trust free collective bargaining, but if the employer refuses, where does that leave us? What is more, they are saying that if the employer does not agree with the union, if there is a disagreement and they want help and want to take a complaint before the courts, the employer will also be penalized and could face a $10,000 fine. Why should one pay $50,000 and the other $10,000? We have to find the answer. We do not know the answer, but we are faced with an illogical argument that does not hold water.

There are, of course, some embellishments around these measures to try and make us forget them. There are accessories and buffers. That is the main gist of it, however. And it is nonsensical. It is something that we cannot agree with and something that we must object to. We thought that there would be objections from the Liberals as well as the NDP and ourselves. But the Liberals just making a symbolic last stand. They say they disagree with it, but they are in a bit of a bind, because otherwise they will have to go through another election. What better than an election for having debates about our society? This is a topic for a real societal debate.

Have we, in 2009, not reached the point where we must stand up for recognition of the rights of just over 50% of the population of our society, that is, the rights of women?

I wanted to start by addressing this element. It alone ought to be sufficient grounds for rejecting this budget. There are many other measures, for example, that affect Quebec.

There are such anti-Quebec measures as the matter of equalization. Other provinces are also affected. The government has reneged on its commitment regarding the distribution of equalization. That means a $1 billion shortfall for Quebec.

Then there is the centralized securities commission. The government is going to say that Quebec can continue to have its own. But we know very well that, as soon as there is a centralized body and financial institutions or companies have the choice of registering with one or the other, there is always pressure created where the most transactions take place. This is also called the passport system. We know that in the long run, the Quebec body will be undermined. That is, moreover, the reason the Quebec National Assembly unanimously condemned this measure. The premier of Quebec backed down a bit afterward, but there was nevertheless a motion against this measure. It is the duty of the premier of Quebec to come and defend it here, along with his finance minister.

What does this budget have to offer society's most vulnerable? Sure, it has some measures, some tax deductions, but they actually benefit high income earners. These deductions will benefit high income earners more than anyone else.

For the unemployed, this budget is a disaster. That alone should prompt us to vote against it. Like us, the Liberals said that the government should improve access to employment insurance. We agree with that. They even made that one of their election promises. They debated it, and it was part of the platform when they created the coalition with the NDP, a coalition that we supported. They also talked about measures for women. This budget does nothing to improve access to employment insurance. Even so, they plan to vote for it.

Worse still, this budget contains a provision stating that workers' and employers' contributions must remain at $1.73, their lowest level since 1982. What does that mean? It means that we are giving the government permission to make it impossible to improve the employment insurance system. That makes no sense. The government is going back on yet another promise, betraying the people to whom it promised it would fix the employment insurance system.

According to Human Resources and Social Development, only 46% of those who lose their jobs are eligible for employment insurance benefits. Women, in particular, get the short end of the stick because only 33% of them have access to benefits.

I have just one minute left, so I will wrap up. This budget is a gift when it comes to tax havens. The government is getting rid of any tools it had to prevent excessive use of tax havens. This is party time for tax havens. There are measures to help oil companies and measures to help nuclear development, but no measures to reduce poverty. That is the budget the Liberals are about to support. We refuse to support this budget because it is not in the best interests of Quebec or Canadian society.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the comments by the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas. I find some parts of his speech contradictory. He speaks of the very obvious suffering of Quebeckers and Canadians who are unemployed. He is absolutely right. There is nothing worse than being out of work.

Does he think that the economic issue is an urgent one, and that jobs must be created as quickly as possible? Does he think that public sector money should be spent to lower the unemployment rate? If so, does he not think that we need to be practical right now, and get spending that money in order to raise the employment level? Would he rather have an election, with a potential eight weeks of campaigning, followed by another two months when the House would not sit until there was a throne speech? Does he think we ought to wait until fall to take practical economic measures to fight the recession?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his very relevant question. First, we had a useless, or almost useless, election because the Prime Minister ambitiously thought he would get a majority government. In addition, he violated his own law on fixed-date elections. As a result, we have not sat since last June, which is quite outrageous.

This government could have taken action to kick-start the economy without coming before the House and without having an election. When it needed a mandate, all of the elements were there to take action to stimulate the economy. We all know about the government's disastrous attempt in November.

We agree that there have to be measures to create jobs. But what about the people living in regions where there are no jobs? That is the question. Should we abandon them? Is that what our colleague's question is suggesting? I hope not. We have to recognize that in this time of crisis, despite all our efforts, people will remain on the streets because they will not be able to find work. Do they not deserve to be supported, even more so given that the money is right there in the employment insurance fund? Instead of continuing to skim money from the employment insurance fund, the government should be supporting those people who are losing their jobs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my question will be simple and relates to the question asked by the hon. Liberal member for Lac-Saint-Louis. The Liberal Party was offered the chance to solve the crisis through the coalition, but they refused. That was their decision. The party decided to abandon the most vulnerable members of society. The Liberals decided not to govern. They were handed the opportunity on a silver platter. We were not even going to participate in governing; we were going to leave it up to them.

My question is simple. What does my hon. colleague think of the Liberal Party, which has, once again, abandoned the forestry and manufacturing industries in Quebec, as well as Quebec's unemployed workers?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not sure if this is parliamentary, but I think it is when applied to a party.

I think this is an act of cowardice. The courageous thing to do would have been to consider two things. First of all, this side of the House had the majority. Also, the opposition is mandated by the people to prevent the government from deciding whatever it likes. The Liberal Party is allowing it to decide whatever it likes and, more importantly, to implement very ideological measures.

My colleague is quite right. A platform was created based on points that the three opposition parties agreed on and that would have been very beneficial. That is what should have been done. It would have been an act of courage and, more importantly, responsibility and respect for the mandate we are given here.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage my Liberal colleagues to stop and think about what they are about to do if they vote in favour of Bill C-10 this evening. They are handing out a death sentence to pay equity in the country.

Women have fought long and hard for the right to equal pay for work of equal value. By standing in the House and voting in favour of Bill C-10, the Liberals are undermining the aspirations of women for equal pay for work of equal value, throwing away their human rights, disrespecting the contribution women make to our communities and our economy. It is a slap in the face to all women in Canada.

Yesterday afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition told reporters, just outside the chamber, that he was willing to “swallow” the loss of pay equity. This is profoundly disrespectful and unapologetic to a breathtaking degree. Violations of human rights are not something we as Canadians should be willing to just “swallow”.

We are not talking about lofty academic principles here. We are talking about real people, real women who are fighting for equality right now. With the passing of Bill C-10, our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be tarnished and women will be told loud and clear that women's equality means absolutely nothing to the Liberal and Conservative members of the House.

I want to ensure that my colleagues hear the names of the groups of women who will be denied justice if they pass Bill C-10. They are not faceless or nameless. They are women who will be denied justice if we pass Bill C-10 tonight.

The first is file number 20000209 filed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Local 70396, against the Canadian Museum of Civilization on March 31, 2004. It involves a number of women.

Next are file numbers 2000257, 2000258 and 2000451. Again, the women involved are with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. This complaint is filed against the Treasury Board of Canada and Citizenship and Immigration. It was filed on March 31, 2006.

Next is file 20010822. Again, it is the Public Service Alliance of Canada against Correctional Service Canada. This was filed July 25, 2006.

Next is file 20021375 filed by Local 404 of the Professional Employees Union against Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. It was filed on March 27, 2006.

Next is the Canadian Association of Correctional Supervisors against Correctional Service Canada. It is an employee complaint filed July 6, 2006.

Next is the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 404, against Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. It was filed March 7, 2007

File H30055 by Cathy Murphy against the Treasury Board was filed June 21, 1984.

I have a list of a number of complaints, as everyone can see.

File number 2000209 involves the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Local 70396, against the Canadian Museum of Civilization. This complaint was filed December 22, 2003, a very long time ago. This group is waiting for justice with regard to pay equity because the Government of Canada keeps appealing the decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal.

Conservatives say they care about women. They say that they want to propel these cases to a decision and not be entangled in the court, but they keep going back to the courts and appealing every chance that they get in order to stop what women are entitled to, and that is their pay equity settlements.

File No. XOO180, on behalf of Chris Jones, a real woman, was filed against the Government of the Northwest Territories on June 10, 1993.

COPEU, another union representing a number of women, filed against Atomic Energy of Canada on March 30, 2007, only two years ago, but two long years of waiting and fighting against government trying to get justice. This is justice denied.

I have a number of complaints from the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

File No. 20000257 was filed against the Treasury Board of Canada on March 31, 2006.

I will only address some of the complaints. I have at least 35 pages and all of these are complaints against various agencies of government.

The next file is No. 20050721, Arlene Abrey, against Social Development Canada, filed on November 28, 2005. Arlene also filed against the Treasury Board of Canada and the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, again on November 28, 2005.

I will move through a few other cases.

Gloria Allan filed against Social Development Canada on May 3, 2006.

Cindee Andrusiak filed against the Social Development Canada in November, 2005. Cindee Adrusiak also filed against Treasury Board and PSHR.

Elizabeth Antony filed a complaint in November 2005 against Social Development Canada and the Treasury Board.

These last few, Arlene, Gloria, Cindee and Elizabeth are all nurses and they do important work. Unfortunately, and it is painfully clear to me and I would guess to the women of Canada, their contribution as experts and vital contributors at the Museum of Civilization, Treasury Board, Citizenship and Immigration, Corrections Canada, Atomic Energy means nothing to the Conservative government, nor the Liberal government before it. Neither does the work of hundreds of women who are nurses matter.

In the eyes of the government, or the previous government, they do not have the right to equal pay for pay of equal value. That is why both parties are supporting Bill C-10. It is a travesty perpetrated against the nurses who work for Social Development Canada Human Resources. In short, it is a travesty against the people of Canada.

For years, the government has constantly appealed these pay equity complaints. For years, justice was delayed. This evening justice will be denied.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I want to talk about a true travesty. The member brings up travesty, but the real travesty here today is the NDP. Those members do not care about Canadian workers. They mean nothing to them. I listened to the member's speech and it was all fearmongering, all against the budget. Members of the NDP decided to vote against the budget before they even saw it.

I come from Oshawa. Oshawa has been hit hard by this economic downturn. In this budget we have an improvement to the EI system. We have increased benefits. We have increased work sharing benefits. Oshawa needs that right now. We have money that will flow through this budget for the auto sector and we need it now.

What does the NDP want to do? It wants to obstruct and stop the passing of the budget.

There is money for our university, our infrastructure and our research, but the NDP says no. Its members are obstructing. We need that money now. There is money for our recreational facilities. This stimulus needs to go through right away. Every time the members of the NDP have a chance to vote for our workers, they vote against it.

Will the member stand today and ask her leader to pass the budget with unanimous consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to know how removing human rights for women is going to help a single auto worker in Oshawa.

I would like to remind the member that New Democrats stood in the House month after month and year after year asking the government and the previous government to adopt economic policies that would help workers through a green job strategy that would address the needs of the auto and construction sectors while still protecting our environment. The response we got from this bunch and the previous bunch was that they were not interested. They made it crystal clear that they were interested in nothing but their own power.

If they want to talk about obstructionist behaviour, I would like to talk about prorogation. The Conservative government had an absolutely perfect opportunity in October and November to come back to the House with something constructive that would address the needs of Canadians in this economic downturn. What did the Conservatives come in here with? They came with a throne speech that was vacuous and an economic update that was insulting, one that took away labour rights, took away women's rights and proposed to sell off assets. Then they prorogued the House because they could not get their way. They had a temper tantrum and we called them on it, so they ran out of this place. They had months, Madam Speaker, and they did nothing.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member for London—Fanshawe. The other day I pointed out that Bill C-10 was 527 or 528 pages. She categorically gave us a list of individuals, and I respect that. Then she talked about a death sentence for pay equity.

First of all, we Liberals are very respectful of that issue and have been in the past. However, I want to ask her this simple question: is she telling me that she is going to deny my constituents or people who live in the greater city of Toronto the money they need to repair their roads and sewers? The budget is a multi-faceted bill. Unfortunately, there are areas in there that we find disagreement with. I want to ask her to stop touching on these hot-button issues and move forward.

She can go ahead and laugh. How can you sleep at night? It is because of the NDP and their betrayal to Canadians that the party is where it is today. We have to work with it. Unfortunately, you know very well--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I would again question how on earth taking away women's fundamental human rights is going to fix a single street or help a single community. The basic truth is that this party, which is so full of bombast and self-righteousness, has a choice today. They have a choice to stand up for principles, for women and for the unemployed, and they are going to pass it up because they apparently do not have the principles that they espouse.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, when we were dealing with this matter at report stage yesterday, I said it was a minute to midnight. We had an opportunity yesterday to stop this elimination of basic human rights for the women of this country, but the Liberals refused to do what was right. They refused to stand up for their principles and vote with us on those amendments to separate out the pay equity provisions of Bill C-10, the budget implementation act.

Today we are hearing that all we are doing is talking about and focusing on some hot-button issues that are really small and insignificant. We are hearing that we should just put them aside and deal with the bigger issues. I cannot think of a bigger or more important issue than the elimination of fundamental human rights in this country. That is what is happening today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, for the benefit of Canadians, I respectfully ask the member for Winnipeg North to withdraw her comments. I never even used those words. They are putting words in people's mouths, and she should be ashamed of doing that and misrepresenting Canadians. I ask her to withdraw those words.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 4th, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Obviously the truth hurts.

What the Liberals are doing, propping up the Conservatives and in the process eliminating pay equity in this country, is a shame. I will stand in this House every minute of every hour to say shame on the Liberals and shame on the Conservatives for allowing the death of pay equity today. That is what will happen unless those Liberals clue in to what is really at stake here. This is not a side issue. This is not a hot-button issue. This a fundamental human right.

The member for Oshawa can stand all he wants and pretend that we are blowing things out of proportion and that it is really not the case. Well, when it comes to pay equity, he just has to listen to every expert in this country and every organization that deals with human rights to know that what his government is doing and what his Prime Minister has set out to do and is accomplishing today is to kill a fundamental human right, the right to be able to take a complaint or a concern about whether a woman is receiving equal pay for work of equal value to a higher body to ensure that she is able to obtain justice. That is a fundamental issue in this country.

I do not understand the Liberals. It is what Pierre Trudeau fought for years ago. Civil liberties and the charter are at the heart of everything we stand for in this place. I cannot understand how any Liberal can sit there today and smirk and try to suggest that this is a hot-button issue when we are dealing with something so basic, so fundamental. This is the darkest day I have yet experienced in the 20 years I have been in elected political life. I cannot understand how anybody can sit here and not stand and say that we will not let this happen.

In fact, the Liberals could have done so. They said they could not because this section of the budget implementation bill was deemed to be a matter of confidence by the Conservatives, and they had made this foolish commitment to prop up the Conservatives no matter what.

When they realized what the Conservatives were really doing and how they had trapped them and cornered them into supporting a budget that was not only far from adequate in terms of the question of dealing with the recession but was also filled with all kinds of poison pills, such as the destruction of pay equity, the elimination of environmental assessments when it comes to navigable waters, and more, the Liberals should have realized what was happening to them and found a way around it.

In fact, I dare say that if the Liberals had stood up to the Conservatives and said that they wanted to see this section on pay equity removed from the budget bill, set aside, and dealt with separately, the Conservatives would never have come back and said that it was all confidence and that if the Liberals didn't like it, they were going to go to the polls and to the Canadian people on a platform of eliminating pay equity. I do not think so.

I think the Liberals just lack the guts and the gumption and the courage to stand up for their principles, as has been the case for Liberals over the last 20 to 30 years that I have been around.

I may get very heated in these debates. I may express some very emotional feelings, but that is what is at stake here. This is not just a fly-by-night issue. This is not just some sideline. This is not a frivolous matter. This is not a soft social policy issue. This is fundamental justice. This is human rights. This is pay equity.

This is something we fought for in this country and achieved more than 30 years ago. In 1977, the women's movement had documented systemic discrimination in this country and had clearly shown that the only way to deal with that discrimination and to eliminate pink-job ghettos was to move toward a concept of equal pay for work of equal value. We could compare jobs dominated by men and jobs dominated by women and find a way to balance the equation.

It is a simple concept.

What do the Conservatives want? They want to take us back to the 1950s, when equal pay for equal work was the dominant way, the only way, that people compared men's and women's jobs and dealt with the wage gap.

When I started off working in this area 30 years ago, the wage gap at that time was that a woman made about 55¢ for every dollar a man made. As a result of work in this country on equal pay for work of equal value, we have been able to get that up to about 70¢.

In a province like Manitoba, which has a pervasive program of equal pay for work of equal value, we are well above 90 cents for every dollar that a man makes. We can see what a difference it makes.

We are talking about economic security for women. We are talking about bread-and-butter issues. We are talking about the ability of women to be paid what they are worth so that they can contribute to the economy, can actually ensure that their families are cared for, and can grow the economy and be a part of it. That is what we are talking about.

This is not some airy-fairy academic issue that has no bearing on real life. It is bread and butter. It is about the right of women to earn what they are worth. For the government to take this away is an absolute abomination. It makes no sense. The way it is turning the clock back to the 1950s is absolutely deplorable. I presume this fits with its ideological agenda, along with the Prime Minister who called pay equity a rip-off, who called this a stupid idea that should be gotten rid of.

The Conservatives over there, especially the President of the Treasury Board, stand up and try to tell me that what they are doing is much better and that they are going to make this happen for women.

How does that explain the nurses in the federal system, who just won their case before the Canadian Human Rights Commission? They would not have won if we did not have that provision. How is it that justice will be served if there is no avenue at all for women to pursue their rights under the charter, a fundamental right that I thought we all believed in?

Maybe we really are dealing with a group of Conservatives who, along with Tom Flanagan, believe pay equity really is one of those bad ideas that has to be gotten rid of, as he said, along with “big hair and polyester leisure suits and Petro-Canada”. Is that what these Conservatives believe? Is that why they are doing it?

I can think of no other reason, because it is not a cost savings. In fact, because they are breaching a fundamental right in society today, there will be challenge. There will be a challenge by women. There has to be one, to try to regain a right that has been taken away. It will cost the government millions of dollars to try to combat that challenge.

In the end the women will win. We will regain what has been taken away from us today, not because of the Liberals, not because we waited patiently for them to come to their senses, but because the women of this country will withstand this attack on their fundamental rights and freedoms and will decide to fight back.

We are not going to give up for one second. All my colleagues in this caucus, including our critic for the status of women who just spoke so eloquently, and all my other colleagues who believe passionately in this as a fundamental principle, will not sit idly by. My colleague, our finance critic, has spoken out on this issue in committee and in the House.

We will work together until we achieve that day when women once again will be treated with respect and dignity and will have access to the law for all their just rewards and their rights. We will ensure that pay equity and true equality reign supreme in Canada once again.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Routine Proceedings

March 3rd, 2009 / 10 a.m.
See context

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion regarding the report stage of Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, at the conclusion of debate at report stage of Bill C-10, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009, and related fiscal measures, all questions necessary to dispose of report stage of this bill be deemed put, and recorded divisions be deemed requested and deferred to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2009, provided that the bill may be taken up at third reading in the same sitting.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join this debate on the budget implementation bill today. I have to say right at the beginning that I find it distressing that we are standing here and having to deal with a budget bill that is going to spend a huge amount of money and put us back into a huge deficit position. I am sure that all of us as parliamentarians are not happy about what has happened to the economy. We are hoping that we can work together and overcome some of the issues where we have differing opinions, and that we will do what is necessary for Canada and what all Canadians expect of us in difficult times.

Looking back a brief couple of years ago when the Conservative government was elected, its members were fortunate enough to come in during good, strong economic times and find themselves with a $12 billion surplus. Now we are talking about going into a $34 billion to $50 billion deficit. How fast the times have changed. It is too bad that money was not put aside in the rainy day fund in order to help Canadians during this very severe downturn we are having to deal with today.

Had the Conservatives not spent the cupboard bare, we would have had more resources and not have to be dealing with going into such a massive deficit, not even knowing whether or not that is really going to help us through these difficult times. But as responsible parliamentarians on this side of the House, we are going to do what we need to do and what Canadians expect us to do, and that is work together with the government to try to make sure we have accountability and that the investments are being done where they are needed.

Quite clearly we are not afraid to stand and put a motion of confidence in when it is necessary if we do not see the kinds of investments going where we believe would better serve Canadians. When looking at all of the decisions we had to make as the official opposition in this last bit of time, a very wise man I know in the House said quite recently “Canadians need another election like a hole in the head”. That clearly reflected on behalf of the official opposition where we were coming from, that we were putting the interests of Canadians first. We know we are going along with a budget that gives us huge concerns in various areas such as navigable waters and the changes being made to that act, as well as other ones. But on behalf of Canadians and in their best interests, we are going along with that. The wise man that I referred to, of course, was the leader of our party who made that comment about the election. It is a tribute to his level common sense approach that he brings to the challenges facing all of us in government.

We said earlier we would put the government on probation and will not be afraid to call the government to task if we do not believe that the investments are going in the right direction, that they are not meeting the needs of our country and meeting the needs of Canadians. Putting the Conservatives on probation and having a reporting process was a very smart, intelligent way of working with the government, working on behalf of Canadians and making sure that we were following through, and that the money would be getting where it needs to be spent and not just being scattered all over the place like the previous $12 billion surplus that really did not create any significant job creation or investment that we could actually point back to that really made a difference in the lives of Canadians.

We will be supporting the budget with reluctance as we have heard from many in the House on the condition that Canadians will clearly get the accountability and the help from the government that they expect and that they deserve to have. We are bringing the government to account by amending the budget bill. If the Conservatives are unwilling to provide this accountability, or if they fail to satisfy the expectations of Canadians, we will act and we are going to do whatever is necessary on behalf of the citizens of this country. That is our responsibility.

Canadians are going to get regular reports to Parliament on the budget's implementation and its cost, one in March, which we look forward to coming in soon, one in June, and another one in December. We will examine those reports. They will be the subject of much discussion and review, and we will go forward very carefully. Each of them will provide us an opportunity to withdraw our confidence should the government fail Canadians at this important time in our country.

There are some positive investments proposed in the budget. Some of the measures the Conservatives are putting forward, as a result of work with the Liberals and pressure from us, deal with investment in social housing and infrastructure, something we have been calling for, for many years.

When we were in government, we had a minister of housing. We had committed significant dollars toward affordable housing throughout Canada as well as investments in infrastructure. We all know that investing in infrastructure is a huge bonus for our country. We have an aging infrastructure and the needs are many. Investment in infrastructure, providing that it really gets done, provides an amazing amount of jobs and spinoffs.

The concern we had with the so-called building Canada fund is that very little of that money actually hit the streets of our cities. Instead, it was tied up in cumbersome red tape. It is up to the government to cut through that. The minister has said he is going to do all of that, but sometimes talk is just hot air and there is lots of it. The money needs to hit the street. We need to see the equipment out there and the necessary building going on.

There is targeted support for low and middle income Canadians through an expansion of the child tax benefit and the working income tax benefit. Again, we have to face the struggles of the unemployed and people with low incomes who cannot make ends meet. The government has a responsibility to be there when those people need a helping hand.

With respect to colleges and universities across Canada, young people are the future of our country. We need to invest more and provide the opportunities for education for our young people. This is critical if Canada is going to compete in the future. Those areas are in the budget because the Liberal opposition pushed for them. We intend to continue to monitor that money to ensure that it is getting to the places where it is needed.

There are some aspects of this budget that we are still concerned with. We will be watching very carefully and we will be holding the government to account. One aspect we are concerned with is the reference to the modernizing of pay equity for women. The Conservatives call it modernizing, but it clearly looks as though it is two steps backward.

Another aspect that concerns us is the heavy-handed and divisive approach to federal-provincial relations. This is a broken promise to all of the provinces on equalization. This is not the time to be getting into fights with the provinces, as they are all dealing with their own challenges in these difficult times.

What kind of strings are going to be tied to the infrastructure funding? What strings are going to be attached to the funding for the auto industry? It is important that the official opposition and all parliamentarians know, because we have a responsibility to do the right thing to make sure that the conditions that are put on all of these things are fair, adequate and will protect our investment as well as achieve the goal, which is to keep some companies operating. The auto industry is critical for Canada and there are spinoff jobs. I am anxious to see that they get the assistance they need.

The public service collective agreements have been undermined. Those are not the kinds of things that should be in a budget implementation bill. That gives us a lot of reason for concern, because they were negotiated agreements and it would have been far better not to have them in the budget implementation bill. They should have been discussed and negotiated rather than put in a government bill.

There is a missed opportunity to target significant stimulus toward the green sustainable economy. There are very few comments in the budget when it comes to the green economy. Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the weakening of the environmental requirements are things that we have to watch very carefully. There are not enough improvements to the employment insurance program. There is no help for Ontario. I had hoped that the government would balance the employment insurance benefits all across Canada. Ontario is a have not province now and those changes need to be met sooner than later.

The Conservatives also failed to extend EI eligibility, which is critical during these tough economic times. There is no credible plan to get us out of an $85 billion deficit.

These are things that we on this side of the House are very concerned with. I would have liked to see more help for our veterans and seniors, who are also dealing with difficult times.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, there are many things the member stated as the priorities of her party and there are some that I would agree with. If there are things in this budget that can be changed, they should be changed. We are here today to amend what is an ill-conceived budget in many ways.

She indicated that there were many things on the fiscal update that were wrong, including the problems with the public service collective agreements and the pay equity issue. At the time, people were not supportive. We are not supportive. We want those facets taken out of the budget bill. They have no place in the budget implementation bill in terms of stimulus and helping Canadians.

I want to know why her party is not supporting us in removing the retrograde parts of this bill, such as pay equity, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the collective agreements.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, we have issues and the NDP has issues. We are the official opposition and I believe we are acting responsibly.

The government has clearly indicated that any amendments to the bill will trigger an election. Is it a threat? Sure, but we are not prepared to go down that road right at the moment. We are going to try to work with the government. We are going to hold the Conservatives to account.

Report cards will be coming up in March, June and in the fall. If the government is not meeting the needs of Canadians and is putting us into a negative position, we are not going to run away from it. We will stand here and we will vote non-confidence in the government. We will do it with the full intent of knowing what we are doing.

However, we have a responsibility to try to make Parliament work. Canadians expect that of us. I would suggest that if the NDP members were really looking at what their role is, they would be joining with us in trying to make Parliament work rather than being obstructionist at a time when they know Canadians expect us to do better for them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned items in the budget that have no business being there, such as pay equity, the Competition Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

I want to ask her about infrastructure. She has worked hard on the city and urban agenda. Over the last two years some $2 billion of approved infrastructure funding never got delivered. It was approved, appropriated, promised, but never spent.

We are into the last month of the current fiscal year. The budget deals with the year starting on April 1, but we still have a month to go and we have money that is approved which is going to lapse.

It seems to me that even with regard to the budgeted infrastructure money, and I think 40% of the stimulus package is for infrastructure, that we just do not say it should be done and then put the shovel in the ground. There is a lot of pre-work. There are the considerations, the approvals, all of the administration and set-up.

I fear that the only reason work is not happening with the existing approved funds in the current fiscal year is that the government is trying to window dress the results of the current fiscal year to make it look a little bit better than it actually is. It appears to me that the government is putting partisan interests ahead of the people's interest.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, certainly we have seen that in the past, with the so-called building Canada fund which involved the gas tax of $33 billion, and 4% of that has actually been applied.

I have grave concerns about two things. One is that there are lots of announcements and lots of hot air but nothing actually gets done. That is partly why we have brought in the accountability measures. We are going to monitor that and see whether things are being done right.

Also, there is money that could have gone out to the cities to address the aging infrastructure. There are sewers and water mains breaking in all of our major cities in Canada. We have seen that throughout this really tough cold winter. Those are items that are on the books right now for our cities to do. They just need the assistance from us.

I thank the hon. member for that question because it makes me think about matching funds. Whether we are talking about my city of Toronto or we are talking about smaller cities, they do not have the funds to match. As much as I understand how the government does things in requiring a 50% commitment from my city or some of the smaller rural areas, it is going to be very difficult for them to match.

I think it is just pretending that there is money there--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to raise concerns about a budget bill which is not really a budget bill but contains poison pills. It contains poison pills that the Liberals seem all too willing to swallow for months and months to come, poison pills regarding women's rights, workers' rights, and the one on which I especially want to comment today, environmental rights, because the environment should have rights.

I rise today to raise my concerns regarding the review of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This is an act with good goals but it is a bad act and it especially should not be in the budget bill. It should be a stand-alone bill that we can debate without fear of bringing down the House and precipitating an election.

I have been getting a lot of correspondence from my constituents and many groups in Thunder Bay and the rest of northwestern Ontario, such as the Mattawa First Nation and other first nations, Environment North, which is northwestern Ontario's largest and oldest environmental group, many paddling groups, including the Lakehead Canoe Club, and EcoSuperior, which is a non-profit group seeking to protect the environment of northern Ontario. Those concerns are around the proposed changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I know that nationally there are many dozens of other organizations that have concerns about this act. They are all up in arms over these changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

In February 2008 the government requested that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities undertake consultations to develop a new Navigable Waters Protection Act. That act was written in 1882. It is one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Canada. It certainly is time to rewrite it, but the way we are going about it and the suggested changes are not acceptable.

Last year the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities wanted to eliminate a lot of the red tape around municipalities, in particular building infrastructure in and around waterways. At the same time, it wanted to modernize this 127-year-old act. Those were laudable goals. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have done it the wrong way and the result of a rewritten Navigable Waters Protection Act is fewer navigation rights, less environmental protection, less accountability and less transparency.

During the committee hearings, numerous government departments, both federal and provincial, testified and brought forth their issues and proposals for modernizing the act. Unfortunately, the committee restricted the number of witnesses from environmental groups, first nations and citizen organizations. The NDP opposed this limitation and regarded this as a violation of both the concept of consultation and the proper functioning of parliamentary committee reviews.

As a result, the committee then attempted to offer a comprehensive proposal for modernizing the entire act, which was the original government request, and instead of doing that, chose to recommend a series of amendments to the act which are problematic at best and completely unexamined at worst. The NDP voted against these proposed amendments.

The committee, through a majority vote of the other parties, would not allow a supplementary or dissenting opinion to be included in the report. This action is rather unusual since it is a traditional practice to include supplementary opinions and recommendations when there is not yet a unanimous vote in favour of the committee reports and studies. This is yet another example of the increasing dysfunction of that committee acting beyond traditional procedures and practices of parliamentary democracy.

While this is the first phase of the process for changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, this method sets a troubling precedent. The committee now awaits the government's legislative amendments which are anticipated and now available. At that time the NDP had intended to ensure that all interests, including environmental, first nations, recreational and citizen organizations, were to be allowed to make both written submissions and oral testimony in regard to all changes, but that has not occurred.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act does need to be modernized. The process must be comprehensive and transparent, and truly consultative. We need to do it, but now is not the time, and this budget is not the place.

A rewritten Navigable Waters Protection Act would create a class system for Canadian streams, granting the minister absolute authority to deem certain waterways worthy and others unworthy of environmental protection, and designate some as minor waterways. There is no such thing as a minor waterway.

Work on newly defined minor waterways is to be exempted from environmental review processes. This would likely mean that most environmental review requirements for projects on Canadian waterways would be eliminated. Reviews for even major bridges, dams, causeways, and barrages will be left up to the discretion of the minister.

By taking out today's automatic triggers for environmental assessment, these changes mean that politics and money will govern our streams and rivers, not the environment, and not society's long-term needs.

Where is the transparency and accountability in all of this? Eliminating public notification and consultation on these projects on the minister's whim will pose problems for the historic public right of navigation on our waterways, which has been in place since the founding of our country.

I can guarantee that this issue will not go away even if the changes in part 7 are not decoupled from the government's omnibus budget legislation. The government is trying to inappropriately slip environmental changes in with a fast-tracked budget omnibus bill. More than just transport, this issue impacts the protection of our waterways and the access to those waterways by everyday recreational Canadians and other Canadians. What we need is a separate debate in the House and in the appropriate committees.

We agree that the Navigable Waters Protection Act must be modernized, but this must not come at the expense of the public's right of navigation or environmental protection.

We propose that these proposed changes be decoupled from the budget implementation legislation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I know that my colleague has personal experience in his professional life with the issue that he is speaking about. I want to thank him for the comprehensive remarks he made and the very real and important points he put forward on behalf of all those who care about the conservation and stewardship of our water systems.

Would my colleague tell me a little bit about the background that led him to hold these views, some of the personal experiences that he may have had working with the conservation groups in the region that he represents, and expand somewhat on the state of the stewardship of our waterways as it stands today, as that compares to what has been put forward in this bill that he spoke about today?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a biologist, and in a former life I used to write environmental impact assessments and review them.

Over many years of doing that work I have discovered that rarely do environmental assessments stop projects, rather they improve them. Environmental assessment is one more tool, a useful, necessary, and in this case, essential tool to help us to do better planning, better building, better construction, and to assess the likely impacts upon the environment—in this case, upon our streams—by proposed projects.

Environmental assessment is just one more kind of good planning. I am sure everyone in this House supports good planning. We should not be reducing environmental assessments in these days; we should be ensuring, particularly in our waterways, that environmental assessments occur.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this group of amendments to Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill. I believe it would be appropriate at this point to actually recap where we are, so Canadians understand just how significant this debate is and how we are at a defining moment in the life of our country.

We remember that the budget for 2009 was intended to address the economic crisis. It was supposed to be a stimulus package. It was supposed to kickstart the economy. It was supposed to create new jobs, protect current jobs, and protect the most vulnerable. At least those were the parameters or the principles going into this debate on the part of many parliamentarians, and certainly articulated by the Liberals. They specifically mentioned protecting jobs, creating new jobs, and protecting the most vulnerable as their mark, as their defining description of how they would judge the budget implementation bill.

The bill does not achieve those objectives. It does not protect jobs, it does not create new jobs, and it does not protect the most vulnerable. Despite that, the Liberals gave their blessing to the bill and to the Conservative agenda.

The other side to this whole budget debate is that not only does it miss the mark in terms of a true economic stimulus for the economy, it is also, as my colleague from Thunder Bay just pointed out, filled with poison pills. It is filled with a whole set of favoured projects of the Conservatives, part of their neo-Conservative agenda to try to use every avenue, every opportunity to destroy, to eliminate, to hijack those developments, those innovations and those important projects that were developed over many years reflecting the values of Canadians.

Despite the fact that it is neither a true stimulus budget and despite the fact that it is filled with poison pills that kill important initiatives in this country, critically important issues such as pay equity, such as environmental assessments pertaining to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the list goes on, despite all of that, the Liberals will hold their noses and vote with the Conservatives, despite the permanent damage that this will have on our economy, on our environment, and on our record around human rights.

That is truly mind-boggling. How did the Liberals let themselves get hoodwinked by these Conservatives? How is it possible that they still stand here to this day being inundated with information from organizations, groups and individuals right across this country about the devastating impact of this budget, and they can still stand in the House and tell us they want to avoid an election, and therefore, in the interests of political expediency, they will support the Conservatives, no matter the damage done, no matter the hardship created, and no matter the principles involved?

That is what is so frustrating and so disappointing in this chamber, because as Canadians look at Parliament they will ask, what does it means, why are we here, and what do we stand for if, in the blink of an eye, politicians can abandon their principles for the sake of a partisan political agenda?

How is it possible that we are dealing here right now with the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which, as my colleague said, has been around since Confederation, an act that allows for accountability when major projects are embarked upon, whether we are talking about dams, bridges, the widening of navigable waters, or dredging of waters, whatever the term may be? Whatever the issue involved, this was an act that allowed for some accountability to the people of Canada, that required environmental assessments, that had some protections in place to ensure that something as precious as our navigable waters were not tampered with and not in any way that would affect the lifestyle or the working requirements of people right across this country.

In one fell swoop, without a blink from the Liberals, we are going to eliminate something so historic as these protections under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Thank you for reminding me, too, of that Liberal who is yapping from his seat, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, who seems to be on the defensive as a result of my statements around Liberals propping up Conservatives. How many votes are we up to now, 55 votes in the last couple of years, propping up Conservatives? Still, every day, the Liberals stand in this House, saying, “We don't like it. It's not good for this country. It's against our principles. But we're going to go with the Conservatives anyway.”

When do we draw the line? When do we say enough is enough?

How is it that we are dealing with something as important as environmental assessments right now, as we speak? That is what these amendments are about: amendments being made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to supposedly “streamline the approval process”. What does it do? It gives more authority to the minister; it takes away authority from members of Parliament and from Canadians; it allows for construction without further environmental assessments; it will exclude certain classes of work and works on certain classes of navigable waters from the approval process.

That means we are giving carte blanche to the Conservatives, these great defenders of our environment, to, on their own, without any consultation with us, with Canadians, with the environmental community, make decisions about our navigable waters.

Do Liberals trust that? Do Liberals here believe they are putting the best interests of this country first? I would remind members, the future of our planet is at stake. Do the Liberals believe, in fact, that they can trust the Conservatives to do what is best? I see some nods. Well, that might explain it, then. So they talk out of both sides of their mouth at once. One minute, they stand in this House in question period and condemn the government for everything that is in the budget, from the Navigable Waters Protection Act to pay equity, to the way students are being treated, to just name it; and then, the next minute, they are nodding their heads with the Conservatives and going along with them.

I think Canadians have had it with that type of two-faced, double-standard politics. They are sickened by the way people give up their principles so easily, the way they cave in to pressure. They could not bear the heat. They could not figure out a way to work with the opposition parties to create a reasonable budget, a progressive budget that not only was a true economic stimulus package but that also had none of these extreme right-wing poison pills throughout the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are suggesting that I protest too much. They are suggesting that the sky will not fall. They are suggesting that everything is good with the budget.

I have to tell members something that Canadians know full well: There are some very critical elements in the budget around which the sky is falling. In fact, the bill actually brings down the sky on a number of key issues.

It kills pay equity. Is that not the sky falling? Of course it is. It is not tongue-in-cheek. It is not to be toyed with. It is true. It is a fact. We know the Conservatives' agenda on pay equity. They are killing pay equity. It is gone with this legislation. We have one moment, today and the next day only, to stop it.

They are also killing any kind of checks when it comes to navigable waters and environmental assessments. That is a fact.

And the list goes on.

I suggest that we stand today in this House, with my colleagues from the Liberals joining us, opposing the bill by supporting these amendments that put back what is essential when it comes to navigable waters and ensuring that we are doing our jobs as members of Parliament to protect the environment and to save the planet for future generations.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
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Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I think my friend doth protest way too much. With respect to the issue of navigable waters, apparently she does not understand that there is an environmental assessment done anytime a public work will touch a body of water. The province is responsible for the foreshore of a river and a lake, the bed of a lake, the bed of a river and the water in the river. The only thing the federal government has anything to do with on the navigable water is what people so on the surface of the water.

What we want to do is to get the money out. We want to create economic activity in Canada. Having the additional environmental review about what people do on the surface of the water is redundant, considering the environmental review that will already have been done by the province.

She does protest way too much. In fact, by making this amendment, it creates the ability of being able to efficiently assess environmental concerns and, with satisfaction, moving forward.

She really does protest way too much.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, do I protest too much when we reference the fact that the government, despite all of its emphasis on dealing with crime, turns around and cuts RCMP salaries? Is that protesting too much?

Is it protesting too much when I say that the budget totally ignores child care and does nothing to ensure that working people and families are able to do the best they can in these tough economic times and know that their children are cared for?

Is it protesting too much when we reference some of the groups that work with those who are impoverished and homeless each and every day and say that the budget does nothing to help the most vulnerable in our society?

Do I protest too much when I refer to all the organizations and individuals, those knowing that pay equity is dead under the Conservatives unless we can convince the Liberals to change their minds?

Do we protest too much when the former director of pay equity for the Canadian Human Rights Commission stands up for us, as he did yesterday, and says that this is contrary to the charter and human rights?

Do we protest too much when we say, with respect to navigable waters, that we are dealing with federal jurisdiction? We are dealing with the fact that the Conservatives are taking away checks and balances on something as vital as the environment and the future of this planet.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I was almost swept away by the member's protestations of protestations. Yes, she does protest too much.

The fact that we have the government opposite is in large measure thanks to steps that she personally took two elections ago, and that her party has taken ever since then.

However, since she would profess to have the greater interest of the future of Canada in mind, does she have a plan in place that the government has already put to one side, or does she have a better plan in which she would like to engage the official opposition in order for us to support a viable plan?

We are determined to be co-operative and, as members heard me say, when we were prepared to work with the members of the NDP, the government objected. Now that we are moving ahead with others, they are objecting.

Which one does she want?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, what the member for Eglinton—Lawrence said has just reinforced what we all know, and that is the Liberals never seem to accept the will of the people. They did not accept their defeat two elections ago. They do not accept the fact that Canadians want them to stand up for their principles today, and it is about time they did.

If the member truly believes what he is saying, if he truly believes in representing his constituents, he would not for one minute stand here and support a bill and a budget that kills pay equity, a fundamental human right in our country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

moved:

Motion No. 32

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 358.

Motion No. 33

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 359.

Motion No. 34

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 360.

Motion No. 35

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 361.

Motion No. 36

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 362.

Motion No. 37

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 363.

Motion No. 38

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 364.

Motion No. 39

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 365.

Motion No. 40

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 366.

Motion No. 41

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 367.

Motion No. 42

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 368.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

moved:

Motion No. 43

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 383.

Motion No. 44

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 384.

Motion No. 45

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 385.

Motion No. 46

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 386.

Motion No. 47

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 387.

Motion No. 48

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 388.

Motion No. 49

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 389.

Motion No. 50

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 390.

Motion No. 51

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 391.

Motion No. 52

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 392.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

moved:

Motion No. 53

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 394.

Motion No. 54

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 395.

Motion No. 55

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 396.

Motion No. 56

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 397.

Motion No. 57

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 397.

Motion No. 58

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 399.

Motion No. 59

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 400.

Motion No. 60

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 401.

Motion No. 61

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 402.

Motion No. 62

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 403.

Motion No. 63

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 404.

Motion No. 64

That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 405.

Motion No. 65

Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 406.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to do what my party has been doing for a number of years, and most recently on this budget. As opposition members, our role in the NDP is to get involved with what we think is an extremely important project, which is the budget of this nation.

The budget of the government lays out its priorities and intentions and shows what direction it wants to take us. We saw the direction the Conservatives wanted to take last fall when they provided a forecast and road map that would have taken Canadians down a very interesting path. They told public servants that their rights were gone, that they would not have the right to strike, that their wages would be frozen, that collective bargaining would be suspended for however long, the intention I suppose being as long as they were in government. They wanted to rip up pay equity and play politics with funding to political parties, and we saw where that led.

The government claimed, like Saul on the road to Damascus, that all of a sudden it understood the role of government, that it got the fact there was a fiscal problem and that there was a crisis in which government had a role. Then it came up with the budget.

On the surface, one would think that was good, that the government actually saw the light. Quite frankly, it was my party working with other parties that forced the government to pull back from the precipice, to understand that there was a role for government and that it would mend its political errors by way of having a budget that would be there for people.

The amendments I put forward today illustrate how illiterate the government is when it comes to this fiscal crisis. We have talked about the Navigable Waters Protection Act, but the amendments we put forward to delete clauses of the bill have to do with pay equity, the provisions for students and equalization.

It is important to understand that the government is demonstrating exactly what the Mike Harris government illustrated when it first came into power. For those of our colleagues who were not in the Ontario legislature or the province of Ontario at the time, we know who the chief of staff is now to the Prime Minister. His fingerprints are all over the budget.

The idea is to put all ideological tenets and elements into a very large budget. I believe bill 26 was the ominous bill that wrecked the province. There were so many different things put in the budget that there was not time to responsibly deal with them in committee. Why? Because the Harris government changed the rules in committee so they could not be debated.

The Harris government made sure that all the things it wanted to do to change government, in fact take government out of the business of many of the things that it responsibly had a role in, were put into a very large bill. Guess what? Mike Harris is back. It is in this budget bill, to rip up pay equity and change environmental regulations. When it comes to students, one of the amendments is to take out the provisions.

Do members know what the government wants to do in this budget, a budget of so-called stimulus for students? The page I have open now tells students that if they make an error on their filing, the government will go after them. The government has given power to the minister to do that. The government is taking power and concentrating it. Everyone else around the world is looking at ways to open up government, to be more open to the public on how government works and to be transparent.

The Conservative government is going in the other direction. Instead of giving grants to students to ensure they can get a leg up, the government is coming in with retrograde legislation that basically says that it does not trust students and because of that it will put in a provision to ensure it can go after them and get them.

That is what this provision is all about. It has no business being in a budget bill that claims it is going to stimulate the economy.

Further to that, we have heard about the retrograde treatment of pay equity. That galls me, my constituents and many who have fought long and hard to see pay equity. By the way, I hope that by now the government understands the difference between pay equity and equal pay. I think there was a lesson on it yesterday, and hopefully the Conservatives came and took notes. I am not sure they did.

The President of the Treasury Board has the gall to stand in this House day after day, pointing to both the Government of Ontario and the Government of Manitoba and saying that it is exactly what the government is doing. I hope one day he will actually have to be held to account for his performance on this file.

What they did in both those jurisdictions was to give a pay equity commission the resources to make sure there was pay equity in the workplace. What this government does is say that the right to appeal for pay equity is gone; by the way, there will have to be negotiations; by the way, your contracts are frozen.

Who in their right mind would believe the government on pay equity? Who in their right mind who believes in pay equity would let this go through?

The government took away the ability for people to challenge it when it has gone wrong. The court challenge funds are gone. That was a couple of budgets ago. At the time the government said, and this applies to pay equity, that all the laws it would bring forward would be charterproof from then on. Let me say today in this House that the government will be challenged on this law. I will want to know, when this law is challenged and struck down, how much we paid through legal fees and through government justice lawyers having to defend this nonsense, and how much we lost in real dollars.

I can guarantee one thing: people will look back at this day and ask why this bill was ever let through. It is retrograde for pay equity, it is retrograde for women, and it is going to cost us more.

In a nutshell, the amendments are essentially trying to take out the worst elements of this budget. We hear the government saying it wants to get to stimulating the economy, so it brings in measures to take away pay equity and measures to have oversight over students. It won't give them grants, but it is making sure it can go after them and is cracking down on them. They are a big problem, and their tuition is so low. Every single member of this House paid less tuition than students pay today.

It is absolute hypocrisy that instead of providing grants, section 358 states that the government is going to go after students. It is making sure that if they omitted one thing in their file, the government will go after them. How much money is it going to take to go after students? Could that money have been put toward actually helping students? I do not know. It is not on the government's radar. These amendments are trying to take out the worst elements from an absolutely retrograde approach to budgeting.

In summary, I have to say to my friends in the Liberal Party that it is not too late to stand up for your principles. They should not let themselves be bullied. What is the difference between this retrograde legislation going through now and dealing with it in June?

We must remember that every single right and progressive piece of legislation that has been fought for in this country, when it is ripped away, does not come back soon. My friends from the Liberal Party should know that what the government is doing today is saying it is okay to do that because it is going to get a report card from it.

On this side of the House, we say it is not okay to rip apart pay equity, to go after students, and to rip up agreements on equalization.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I completely agree that the budget is far from perfect, but I have to ask the hon. member frankly, if he is so concerned about the interests of Canadians, why he defeated the budget in 2006. That budget would have provided Canadians with universal child care, a Kelowna accord, protection for aboriginals, and an environmental protection plan under Kyoto.

Is it not more important to accept this budget with all its warts and omissions to ensure that Canadians who need the extra funding and the sectors that need the stimulus will receive it, and to ensure that the infrastructure spending that the municipalities, like my own of Mississauga--Streetsville, are crying for will take place, as well as the EI extensions to help the unemployed, the sector investment, and the subsidized housing?

If he really cares about Canadians, will he not work to help get the money flowing to Canadians who need it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I think my colleague would probably know that in 2006 it was the Conservative budget that we voted against, and I did it gladly. She might be referring to 2005. I was not in this House at the time, but what we are talking about now are things so reprehensible that I am absolutely not able to support it with the facets in it.

Today we are asking the Liberals and others to support our amendments, which take out those things that are so ill-conceived and destructive to our country. I would like the member to support us in making this budget bill a little less reprehensible through trying to amend the most destructive aspects.

Finally, on this business about getting money out the door, where is the infrastructure money from the last two budgets that the government has in the register right now and has not spent, but could spend tomorrow? The hon. member should not get caught by Tory traps. It is a trap the Tories set all the time. The hon. member should not believe them. They have money now. They did not spend it two budgets ago, and they could do it today if they wanted.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, let us carry this one step further. If the member would take all the chaff off the wheat, what it really gets down to is that if the budget is defeated, there would be an election, and the House would likely not return and get back to the same point of having a budget before us until next fall.

It would appear to me that the stimulus package needs to be there and needs to be there now. There is nothing that can happen months from now that is going to change the critical nature of having that stimulus in there now because of the economic lag in its impact.

Can the member advise the House of other items he is concerned about that cannot be fixed when the government is replaced? Does he not agree that if the stimulus does not come now, there is not going to be any opportunity to give assistance to Canadians when they really need it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am trying to get to the logic of the member and his party. They say they cannot do anything about it right now, they will ask for a report card, they will not put any amendments forward, and they will not negotiate to make it better.

We were just talking about the 2005 budget, when our party negotiated $4.5 billion in stimulus because we saw that as our role. The Liberals were in government at the time.

What do we get from the Liberal Party now in hard-nosed negotiations? What do they do? They are tough and not to be messed with: they are going to ask for three report cards and they have this nonsense about probation.

The Liberals are an opposition party. They cannot pretend to be in opposition Monday and then not on Wednesday. Can the member tell the House the difference between defeating an ill-conceived budget now and defeating it in June? By the way, that is what the hon. member's party is saying it might do, so it is about them, not about the Canadian people, and that is a travesty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to the changes proposed in the Bloc Québécois amendment.

With regard to equalization, we propose to delete clauses 383 to 392. The Conservative government has proposed similar measures that, in a way, completely change major elements it had announced in 2007.

With the change in the equalization formula, the increase in equalization payments will be much smaller, Payments will be $991 million less for the fiscal year running from April 1, 2009 to 2010. This is significant, because Quebec was counting on that $1 billion.

Equalization payments are planned well in advance. Increases in those payments are also planned well in advance, and a province like Quebec plans its expenditures and the services it will provide for the public accordingly. The federal government is using an economic crisis as an excuse to unilaterally modify a formula that had already been agreed on. That is what is known as passing the buck to the provinces.

As I said earlier, this represents a shortfall of just about $1 billion for Quebec for next year alone. Just imagine the services the Government of Quebec is going to have to take away from people. What services will it eliminate? What tough choices will the Government of Quebec have to make because the federal government decided on its own to change a formula?

One feature of the changes made in 2007 is that they were predictable. That was one of the strong arguments put forward by the Conservative government in 2007: from now on, the equalization amounts the provinces receive will be known in advance. I will come back to this later. That was a strong argument made by the Conservative government, which even said it was correcting the fiscal imbalance in this way.

We do not agree that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected, far from it. In fact, the fiscal imbalance will be corrected when the government stops collecting tax money where it has no business doing so and transfers those tax points to the provinces, including Quebec. But that is another issue.

This change, which was announced in November during the Minister of Finance's update and during a federal-provincial meeting of ministers of finance not long afterwards, and which has been confirmed, completely changed the Quebec government's calculations. Consequently, Quebec's National Assembly held a special session in January where the three political parties—I should say four political parties, since there is now a fourth one represented—unanimously passed a resolution denouncing the federal government's intention to unilaterally modify the equalization formula.

This motion, which was unanimously passed, urges the federal government to keep the equalization formula as it is now. We did not create the current formula. Rather, in 2007, the Conservative government agreed to a new formula. The Prime Minister even wrote to the Quebec Premier to tell him in no uncertain terms that “...for the first time in decades, provinces and territories can now count on long-term, predictable and substantially growing federal support for shared priorities including health care, post-secondary education, training and social programs, and the rebuilding of Canada's infrastructure.”

Knowing that these words were written by the current Prime Minister just two years ago and that today, the government is unilaterally putting an end to it, we no longer have confidence in this Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, who is the same one as in 2007.

It is a matter of trust, because a commitment was made, in the budget and in a specific letter, to be a good government. As well, a plan was promised that would reflect a strong commitment to open federalism and respect for provincial jurisdictions, notably by limiting the use of the federal spending power. That letter even added that Quebec would benefit from long-term, predictable transfer payments and new investments in post-secondary education. That was not all. In the second last paragraph of that letter, the Prime Minister wrote, “We are establishing a solid foundation based on budgetary accountability and transparency and long-term, predictable fiscal arrangements.”

All that did not last very long. Today, we are faced with a budget that shows very clearly and distinctly that the federal government is making unilateral changes to these arrangements, which were supposed to be predictable. It is nonsense for the federal government to make changes unilaterally. It ought to have called a federal-provincial conference to discuss them, since it had already made a commitment that the arrangements would be predictable and long-term. I have already referred to trust in connection with the fine words of the Minister of Finance in 2007, but that is now a thing of the past.

The people of Quebec have great difficulty in trusting this Conservative government, Once again they have been given strong reasons for not trusting it. It says things, but what good is its word? It does not keep promises. It makes commitments, but does not stick to them.

There is a myth in Canada, particularly in the west, that Quebec is the spoiled child of Confederation, the one that takes everything and gives nothing in return, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that Quebec receives substantial equalization payments, but that is just because Quebec is a very populous province. But if the whole amount is recalculated per capita, it is very clear that Quebec is not the spoiled child of federalism, absolutely not. In past years, Quebec received $1,037 per capita, while Prince Edward Island got $2,310, New Brunswick $2,111, and Newfoundland and Labrador $1,781. The disproportion is very clear and it is also very clear that these changes will have a major impact on the future of public services in Quebec, particularly in the areas of education, health, and early childhood resources.

We are therefore suggesting these changes, and we hope all opposition parties will vote in favour of these amendments, so that Quebec will be able to regain the share of the equalization payments that the Conservative federal government has abolished unilaterally, which will cause great suffering to Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, there are so many things that are problematic with the budget bill. There are so many, as someone said earlier, poison pills in this bill that when we look at it we wonder if it is a budget to stimulate and help people or a budget to change the role of government and how government works.

What is really going on here with the Conservatives? Does the member think they actually understand what is required now in terms of the government's role, or are they using this as a bait-and-switch equation, trying to put in what they need to feed their base and change the things they do not like, while saying that they have a couple of dollars to stimulate the economy on the side?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for his question. It seems as though the government has used this budget bill as something of a catch-all. It includes amendments that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget bill.

If the government really wanted to take honest, concrete steps to stimulate the economy the right way and approach its governmental responsibilities coherently, this bill would not include measures to change responsibilities with respect to navigable waters, just to avoid future environmental studies.

Nor would it include amendments to pay equity legislation that attack women's rights, or unilateral changes to the equalization formula, as I mentioned earlier, without going through the usual channels for amending the formula.

It would also not include clauses that give the government $150 million to gradually set up a single, Canada-wide securities commission that almost nobody in Quebec wants. Last January, Quebec's National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to that effect.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned legislation that the government wants to bring in—such as pay equity—that has nothing to do with the current economic crisis.

As to the building Canada fund, does the member think that the funding the Conservative government plans to inject will really help the communities not selected by the Conservatives?

Allow me to explain. Communities in my riding submitted applications for this funding, mainly for water-related projects, and they have spent in excess of $80,000 over three years. Unfortunately, they did not get the green light for their projects.

Does the member think that it will help them?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague raises an important point regarding the extreme partisanship practised by this government. As we know, the government was elected to represent all citizens. Normally, the citizens of all regions of the country—regardless of the party they voted for, since that is democracy—could have expected that some measures would apply to them.

There are also very real concerns about this government practising extreme partisanship. In Quebec, we have even seen public servants already following in the footsteps of MPs or ministers who have announced that certain regions will not receive certain subsidies, because they did not vote for the right party. It feels like 1940, during the good old days of Duplessis, and it is deeply regrettable. This is step backwards for democracy in Canada and Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, this is just about my last opportunity to try to convince my colleagues in the Liberal Party to change their minds about a fundamental human right which is at stake in this budget implementation bill.

We are at a minute to midnight. We are on the verge of losing a fundamental human right in this country, a right that is entrenched in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, that gives women the ability, the right, to seek justice when they are being denied equal pay for work of equal value. The budget implementation bill, Bill C-10, takes away that right.

I may have been very emotional at times in the debate, and I may still be emotional in this last chance to speak on the bill, or one of the last chances, but I hope with all of my heart that I can somehow convince the Liberals that this is a fundamental human rights issue that has to be stopped dead in its tracks today.

We owe it to the women who have struggled before us. This has been a part of the women's movement for 30 or 40 years. I go back to the mid-seventies, when the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Women and the Law, advisory councils on the status of women, and women everywhere in the labour movement, at the community level, fought with everything they had to get recognized in the true meaning of equality, which is to be paid according to one's worth.

That is what equal pay for work of equal value is all about. It is about recognizing that if we really believe in equality, we have to address the issue of job ghettos, we have to recognize that men have traditionally been in job categories where they are considered invaluable to their business, to their organization, and are paid accordingly and paid very well.

Whereas women traditionally have been placed in job ghettos, and although they may be performing work of the same value as the men, as their counterparts in other organizations, they are paid far less. They are treated as second class citizens. They are still treated as second class citizens. They are not paid according to their worth, and that is what is at stake: pay equity. It is equal pay for work of equal value. It is not equal pay for equal work, which is comparing exactly the same job, which does nothing to get women out of job ghettos and does nothing to ensure that we eliminate the wage gap in this country.

We owe it to women who have fought before us for this, and I want today to pay special tribute to Michèle Demers, who was the head of the Professional Institute of the Public Service. She died tragically recently and we mourned her loss. She fought tirelessly for her movement, for professional employees in the public service. She fought for pay equity. She never let us down, ever, and today, we are about to let her down. We cannot let her death be in vain. We must find a way in this House to be true to the people like Michèle Demers who fought day in and day out for fundamental human rights, the right to contribute one's very best, be recognized for it, and not be diminished in terms of one's status in society or treated as a source of cheap labour to be moved in and out of the economy as needed.

The Conservatives talk out of both sides of their mouths. We know from the past that the Prime Minister has said that pay equity is “a rip-off”. We know that when he was involved with the National Citizens Coalition, he said that the government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law. We know that the Conservatives, at their November convention in Winnipeg this last year, actually redefined pay equity from what it really means to the 1950s version, calling it equal pay for equal work.

We know where the Conservatives are coming from. Yet, at the same time in the House, the President of the Treasury Board defends this new move under Bill C-10 as something progressive, something that will ensure that pay equity is maintained, because the Conservatives will legislate it and people will not have to wait so long before the Human Rights Commission.

The fact that that is not true must be connected to the real agenda of the Conservatives, so we understand where they are coming from. The Liberals should know that. The Liberals should use their heads and their hearts to finally do what is right and stand up for the women of this country. We are talking about a fundamental human right.

I would like to quote a few words from Darlene Dziewit, the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. She said this:

I watched with great concern as the Federal Conservative government announced that it would remove women's right to pay equity from the Federal Human Rights Code. Treasury Board Minister...pronounced that such protection for women is too costly and time consuming, and as such, must be removed from the Code and into the realm of collective bargaining. He also cited the pay equity legislation that was passed in Manitoba in the mid 80s as a better alternative to Human Rights Code protection.

Darlene went on to say, “what bunk”, and I say that 100 times over; what nonsense, what bunk, what complete fabrication of the truth. She went on to say:

When a government announces its intention to remove protections accorded to any group from Human Rights legislation red flags should be raised. To use [the President of the Treasury Board's] argument, it would then follow that if any other discriminatory practice, such as discrimination based on age or ethnic origin, for example, were to prove too time consuming or costly, then that too ought to be removed from the Human Rights Code. Then, I guess there would be more time and money to pursue other, less sticky or costly discriminatory transgressions.

The question for everyone in this House, especially the Liberals, is, where do they draw the line? If they cannot stand up for pay equity, which is a fundamental human right, when will they stand up? Where is the line in the sand for the Liberals? Is it racism? Is it homophobia? Is it an attack on the rights of unions to bargain collectively? Is it an attack on people with disabilities? Is it an attack on people of colour? When do Liberals draw the line, if they will not stand up for women on a fundamental human right?

I do not know if I can find the right words today to actually impress upon members in this House, especially the Liberals, just what is at stake. We are talking about a fundamental human right, and the Conservatives are proposing to take that away completely by eliminating the right for anyone in the federal government, at any level, in any aspect of government, to take a complaint about pay equity to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. No matter what happens in society, whether one is working in the labour movement, is protected by a collective agreement, or is working in a private sector company that has none, there is no provision to go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to pursue a fundamental human right as outlined in the charter.

There really is no legislative alternative either, because in fact this is not equal pay legislation we are talking about; this is something called equitable compensation. It does not define what that means. It does not entrench the notion of equal pay for work of equal value. The word “men” is not even mentioned anywhere in the legislation, so how in the world does one compare jobs? Is that not the essence of what we are talking about?

We are talking about comparing the value and the worth of the work that women do in our society with that which men do, and in fact trying to find ways to bridge the gap. When women are performing jobs that are at the same level of skill, education and responsibility in the workplace as jobs being performed by men, should the women not be paid the same rate as the men? Should they not be at a comparable salary range?

That is what is at stake in this bill. Gone will be the ability to pursue that kind of comparative work. Gone is the right to pursue pay equity before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Gone is pay equity forever, unless we can convince the Liberals to get off their duffs, start to stand up for their principles, speak up for what it is right, not be compromised, do what is in the best interests of Canada and stand up for equality and human rights.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to a motion moved by our party, calling for the deletion of clauses 383 to 392 of Bill C-10. Those clauses would amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, in other words, equalization. Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill, includes a change to the formula for calculating equalization. Under the new formula, Quebec's increase in equalization payments will be cut. This change will deprive Quebec of $1 billion in equalization payments in 2009-10. In these tough economic times, a billion dollars less in Quebec's coffers is a very significant loss.

The Bloc Québécois has led the fight in this House, on behalf of Quebeckers, against the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces. The partial correction authorized by the federal government—as a result of the Bloc Québécois' efforts—involved changing the formula for calculating equalization. The federal government, supported by the Liberals, has unilaterally decided to deprive Quebec of $1 billion.

I had the opportunity to read the letter written by Quebec's Minister of Finance to the federal Minister of Finance. Ms. Jérôme-Forget—I will mention in passing that she is not in our political camp—wrote this letter on January 21, 2009. This demonstrates the importance of the Bloc Québécois in defending the interests of Quebeckers. I will read the beginning of her letter:

Dear colleague,

In recent days, authorities of the federal government, among them yourself and emissaries from your government, have said that all the relevant information on the changes you are considering for equalization were communicated at the federal-provincial meeting of Finance Ministers in Toronto last November 3.

That is incorrect. Allow me to set the record straight.

When such remarks are made by the Quebec Minister of Finance, all Quebec members in this House, whether Conservative or Liberal, should sit up and listen, as we have done. For the past few months, the federal government has kept us in the dark. It says that the provinces were aware of the changes to the equalization formula and that it was not a unilateral move, even though it was. Once again this is a unilateral change. The federal government is again avoiding settling the fiscal imbalance. It will deprive Quebec of $1 billion. I will come back to this letter.

It is important to understand. All too often, people wonder why the Bloc Québécois rises so often in this place to defend the interests of Quebeckers. It is simply because the federal government does not keep its word. Its failure to do so will cost Quebec $1 billion in 2009-10. That is quite significant.

Equalization is not unique to Canada. It is part of this confederation—we no longer know if it is a confederation or a federation. However, one thing is certain, equalization in Canada and in other countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Australia, India, Pakistan and South Africa, has a similar purpose. The United Kingdom also has an equalization system that takes into account the special needs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This system results in a better division of wealth within a confederation or a federation. It ensures that the poorest provinces receive a contribution from the confederation or federation. Equalization helps to balance the finances of the provinces with weaker economies.

It gives us no pleasure to defend equalization. I would prefer that Quebec not have to benefit from the equalization system.That would mean that Quebeckers are better off than those in other provinces, which is not the case.

When we are told that Quebec is the spoiled child of the federation, that is obviously a myth, and I will give examples to prove it. Let us look at the amount paid per capita in 2008-09 under equalization: Quebec, $1,037; Nova Scotia, $1,679; Manitoba, $1,732; Newfoundland and Labrador, $1,781; New Brunswick, $2,111 and Prince Edward Island, $2,310. Once again, the equalization system is not equal in terms of the money received per capita in the provinces. This is why Quebec has been asking, for a number of years, that the equalization formula be recalculated in order to correct the fiscal imbalance. If a province is receiving equalization because it is not as rich as the other provinces, the amount should be more or less the same per capita. We are trying to restore this balance.

The Conservative Party has made economic mistakes. I think that reducing the GST was a mistake. Tax payers see very little gain, and it also deprives the federal government of $14 billion. When the government saw an economic crisis on the horizon, it did as it always has, cut transfers to provinces. That is the reality. Quebec will lose out on $1 billion in 2009-10.

Quebec's minister of finance referred to the new formula in the January 21, 2009, letter. In the concluding paragraphs of her letter, she said:

I also want to raise a matter of first importance for Quebec that was raised by the Premier of Quebec at the meeting of First Ministers last January 16.

On November 14, 2008, your officials advised their provincial counterparts that changes to the equalization regulations were under consideration. These changes were announced in the Canada Gazette on December 24, 2008. One of them concerns a change to the treatment of dividends paid by Hydro One to the government of Ontario. The federal government has decided to consider this source of revenue under the corporate tax base rather than the natural resources base.

The argument made by your department is that this enterprise transmits and distributes electricity, but does not produce it.

Clearly, that is important. The minister added:

However, all the dividends paid by Hydro-Québec to the Quebec government remain included in the natural resources base, even if a good portion of these dividends results, as is the case with Hydro One, from electricity transmission and distribution activities.

Once again, this would deprive Quebec of an additional $250 million. By changing the formula, the Conservative government decided to penalize Quebec yet again to the tune of $250 million.

I am worried because, once again, the Conservatives and the Liberals, political parties that have elected members from Quebec, are attacking Quebec. That is the harsh reality in this House. People are always trying to put Quebec down. As if by some unwritten rule, Ontario gets better treatment for Hydro One, and Quebec gets penalized. This will add to the fiscal imbalance that Quebec has to live with as part of this federation or confederation—no matter what people call it, nobody knows exactly what kind of arrangement it is supposed to be.

That is why, in election after election, Quebeckers have put their faith in Bloc Québécois members to raise these issues in the House of Commons and propose amendments, just as we have done with Bill C-10. We hope that all of the Quebec members in the House will stand up and vote for Motions Nos. 43 to 52, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, this budget really is an attack on women. International Women's Day is approaching and it is supposed to be a day of celebration. I think that the celebrations this year will be quite sombre. We will have very little to celebrate because we are not advancing. We are actually going back in time. We were supposed to be moving forward, not backward.

The budget did not just leave women out. It actually attacked and undermined their equality. The federal government has to stop ignoring the fact that women in Canada need pay equity. Instead of attacking them, it should be helping them. The Conservative budget's proposals on pay equity are not just an attack on women but on children and families as well. Instead, it should be looking at EI changes. That would help women. We need to ensure that there is a reduction in qualifying hours and we should qualify the hours at 360. The qualifying hours are very different across Canada. They vary and it is very unfair to some workers, especially women.

We need to remove the two week waiting period so that people who find themselves out of work are not facing the hardships right away and can start accessing that money right away. We need to extend the qualifying weeks for the waiting period. The government has indicated that it is going to increase the qualifying weeks by five weeks. That is fine and dandy, but it is still not enough. We certainly need the 52 weeks to be there.

The demand for national, affordable and accessible child care has fallen on deaf ears with the government. The help it has given with regard to the allotted amount of money per month does not even cover a day's pay for a child care worker. It does not cover how much it actually costs to pay for a child to be in child care. When women have an average income of about $27,000 a year, compared to $45,000 for men, the tax reductions in the higher tax brackets are of very little help. The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

I have talked about national child care because it would certainly assist women in the workforce to earn a decent living, not to say that they are going to work just to pay for their child care. We also have to look at the minimum wages at some point because the minimum wage across the country is not enough for someone to go to work. All too often, I have seen situations where people on welfare, who have actually gotten a job, are being told that they are better off staying at home because it is going to cost too much money to have their child looked after.

Instead of giving them a hand down, we should be giving them a hand up. I have talked about EI reform. I think that it is a really big key here because EI is the biggest economic stimulus one can find. For every dollar that is spent in the economy through a person who receives EI, it is an economic stimulus of $1.64. That was provided to the government during its prebudget consultations, yet it chose to ignore it. Imagine ignoring the biggest stimulus package. These people will spend their cheques over the first two weeks that they get them.

Infrastructure is another big economic stimulus, but we have to do it properly. We held two economist panels, one prior to the prebudget consultations and one after, and the information that was provided to us said the same thing. In order to deal with this and stimulate the economy, we have to deal with poverty. When we address poverty, the economic stimulus package will kick in. By building affordable housing and making sure that people have jobs, we can move the economy forward.

We also have to look at measures to end violence against women. We have talked about the upcoming International Women's Day. That is a big key as well. All too often, we see that the people who are living in poverty are the ones who are being abused. We need to make sure that the government addresses that.

With regard to the pay equity law, we saw in the budget how unfair it is to women. To say that one has to go into collective bargaining to do that, well not everybody actually has a collective bargaining process. That process can actually be lengthy because it all depends on the employers, whether or not they want to bargain. I think we are truly going back in time and we really need to have that addressed.

We have to talk about the people who are retiring. The largest number of people retiring right now and living in poverty are actually women. A 2004 study found that an astounding 45.6% of women in these circumstances still live in poverty. Just think about it, these people have actually helped build our country and all of a sudden they are finding themselves retired. They are supposed to be enjoying their retirement life, and now they cannot because the government refuses to address the fact that a pension income, CPP or a CPP disability, is not enough to live on. We need to make sure this is addressed. Again, it is hitting women the most.

With regard to jobs out there, this why I wanted to touch base on minimum wage a while ago. When looking at jobs, more than ever we see that women are taking those minimum wage jobs. More often than not we are seeing immigrants in those jobs. There is so much poverty out there that it is a shame that the government chose to attack women in this budget.

There is so much that we could actually do to support women. The labour movement certainly has been working in that direction. Instead of kicking women who are down, we should be giving them a hand up. Pay equity legislation prohibits wage discrimination where employees are performing work of equal or comparable value, whereas equal pay legislation prohibits it in respect of the same or substantially similar work.

We have to look at pay equity in Manitoba and Ontario because it is not a part of the regular collective bargaining process. Human rights cannot be bargained for at a bargaining table. The provincial legislation in Manitoba and Ontario covers both unionized and non-unionized employees. Manitoba legislation only covers public sector workers, while Ontario legislation covers both the private and the public sectors. For unionized workers, pay equity plans are developed between both the employer and the union but not during collective bargaining. This process happens separately.

Ontario has a pay equity commission with the same powers as the labour board. It can investigate, mediate and resolve complaints. If one side disagrees with the complaint resolution, there is an appeal process that is referred to as a tribunal. The results of the tribunal are binding.

In Manitoba the pay equity bureau existed to deal with complaints. However, because the Manitoba legislation is quite old and the process only existed for public service jobs, the pay equity commission has run its course. It functioned in a similar manner to the pay equity commission in Ontario. Any disputes now are handled through the Manitoba labour management services board.

Let us look back at how much a woman actually makes. A woman actually makes 71¢ on the dollar compared to a man. For a woman of colour, it goes down. For an aboriginal, the amount a woman makes is even less.

I think it is time the government takes a serious look at what it has actually put into the budget bill and pulls that part of it out. We really need to move forward on it. Pay equity is actually a human right protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The current law prohibits differences in wages between female and male employees and I do not think the government gets it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to my colleague's very progressive and heartfelt remarks. I understood her bias in favour of the fight against poverty, which is all to her credit. I think she is right to remind us that, in terms of employment insurance, it is the government that dragged its feet. The Bloc has tabled a number of bills to improve things for those who are, unfortunately, unemployed.

I would like to put three questions to my colleague. I would ask her to remind us of the importance of social housing in the fight against poverty and of the vital nature of the amendments needed to employment insurance and, finally, I would like her opinion on the fate reserved in this budget for women.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I will deal first with the employment insurance question, as I consider it a big challenge.

It must indeed be recognized that employment insurance needs to be changed. Our colleague and his party proposed a change last week. Unfortunately, it appears that the Conservatives did not hear what is so necessary to help employment insurance claimants. The impact on women is huge, and the matter must be dealt with. As I mentioned earlier, every dollar spent in the community by employment insurance claimants amounts to a stimulus to the economy of $1.64.

Affordable housing is a very important matter. It took a long time for them to build a block of affordable housing units in the London region, if I am not mistaken, and there are only 12 units. It took them three years to build it. Imagine the people in need of affordable housing and unable to obtain it. They cannot go to work and do not have employment insurance. It is these people who usually work for minimum wage.

This government should recognize once and for all that we are in the midst of a crisis right now. It would then understand the importance of stimulating the economy and of making affordable housing available as well. If the government could start building affordable housing, it would reduce poverty. First, people will have housing and, second, they will be able to go to work.

We need, as well, a national child care program so parents can take their children to day care where they will be given appropriate supervision and protection while the parents work. This service must be affordable. It has been under discussion for a long time. The Liberal government said it would set up such a system. It totally forgot its promises. The Conservative government said that it would look into the matter and would help parents. However, it provides only a little money and says that is enough.

It cost me even more when I had to put my children in private day care. Not everyone can pay that much for day care.

My thanks to my colleague for his question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to see you back in the chair. I know that you enjoy the responsibility conferred upon you and wish you every success.

The Bloc Québécois is engaged in a battle of the utmost importance to the people of Quebec to ensure that the sums due to the provinces under equalization are actually paid. This is no trifling matter. I want all the people listening to us, and I know there are a lot of them, to know that the Conservative government has decided in a deliberate, planned way to deprive Quebec’s public finances of $1 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year. This shows that the federal government has the ability to destabilize the public finances of any province.

The equalization formula was determined in the 1950s pursuant to the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems (Tremblay Commission) and its purpose was to ensure that all the provinces were able to provide public services to their citizens. Its purpose has always been to correct regional disparities. Equalization was entrenched in the Constitution in 1982 when it was unilaterally patriated. Quebec’s National Assembly has never agreed to this constitutional change initiated after the 1980 referendum. The Quebec National Assembly, supported not only by René Lévesque but Claude Ryan as well, was against the unilateral patriation of the Constitution. It feared for its prerogatives, especially concerning language legislation. History has obviously proved it right. The Supreme Court has overturned whole sections of Bill 101, especially those dealing with freedom of expression.

Equalization is supposed to make it possible for the provinces to provide services in view of their tax base, their ability to generate taxes, and the number of companies they have. The federal-provincial conference managed to enrage the finance minister in the Quebec National Assembly, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who cannot be suspected of any sympathy for the sovereignist cause. She sent the current finance minister in the Conservative government a letter saying how terrible she thought it was for them to make unilateral changes. These changes will result in the loss of a billion dollars in 2009-10. The second terrible thing about this is that the provinces are not only being impoverished but were also not given reasonable advance warning about what it would mean for their ability to provide services.

Ms. Jérôme-Forget, the finance minister in the government of Mr. Jean Charest, tried on at least two occasions at the federal-provincial conference of finance ministers to get information on how the formula was calculated. Premier Charest returned to the charge at the Council of the Federation, but the government never acted transparently and revealed how the payments would be calculated. That is totally unacceptable.

Who is defending Quebec's interests in this Parliament? Who among the Conservatives is speaking up to denounce this unilateral approach, which is impoverishing the provinces and completely ignores the fact that we must work together, in a spirit of partnership?

If not for the Bloc Québécois, there would be no voice to defend Quebec's interests in particular. And I regret to say that I did not see a single member of the Conservative caucus from Quebec rise in this House to denounce this completely unacceptable way of doing things.

Clearly, when Quebec is deprived of $1 billion in revenues in its budget, some services will definitely have to be reviewed and some aspects of its programming will have to be adjusted. Is that what is meant by a spirit of partnership?

I clearly recall that, during the 2006 election campaign, the current Prime Minister gave a speech in the Quebec City area, in Sainte-Foy if my memory serves, in which he talked about the need to work together, to act in partnership, to put in place what he called “cooperative federalism”, thereby hoping to differentiate himself from what he described as the executive federalism of the previous government. However, does cutting $1 billion in equalization payments sound like cooperative federalism? It definitely does not.

Many aspects of this budget are terribly lacking and absolutely dreadful, and there is no way the Bloc Québécois would have ever considered supporting such a bad budget. I will give some examples, since I have a feeling that people are anxious to hear them.

Of course, I am talking about employment insurance. The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly called for a standard number of hours to qualify for employment insurance and has asked the government to set this figure at 360 hours. The Bloc Québécois has called for the elimination of the waiting period, which defers eligibility by two weeks. Of course, we have waged a long battle to have the system cover seasonal workers. Nothing in this budget makes people looking for work happy.

We know how many unemployed people are looking for a job during this economic crisis. Unfortunately, employment insurance does not meet these workers' needs. One worker in two pays into the system, which the federal government does not underwrite. The federal government does not put any money into the system based on government revenues. The system is funded 100% by workers and employers. Nothing in this budget makes people looking for work happy.

In addition, the Conservative government has chosen to deal a direct blow to women's right to equal pay for equal work. It has chosen to attack the rights of women who are not unionized, and it is no longer allowing women to turn to the courts for satisfaction on the issue of pay equity. That says a lot about this government and its sensitivity toward women.

In its fierce and enlightened defence of Quebec's interests, the Bloc Québécois has put forward amendments. I will close by saying just how important the issue of equalization is to us. We cannot overstate how terrible it is to deprive Quebec's treasury of $1 billion for 2009-10. Imagine the impact that will have on the people whose job it is to plan services for the public. It is shameful, and it shows just how insensitive the government is. If it were not for the voice of the Bloc Québécois in this Parliament, no one would have been concerned, even though this is devastating to the National Assembly of Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / noon
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this Chamber to ask a question of the hon. member for Hochelaga. I was astounded to hear the member's speech because what he said was the opposite of common sense and truth.

Never before has Quebec received such large equalization payments as it does with our Conservative government. Quebec members, and all my caucus colleagues, have not done anything to deprive Quebec of significant payments. In the days of the Liberals and the Bloc, hospitals were closed and cuts were made to education. What have we done for Quebec since coming to power? We have increased equalization payments but we have not stopped there. Social transfers to Quebec have also hit record highs in the history of our federation. The Conservatives and the Quebec members rise in this House and approve initiatives such as this budget, which is an extraordinary prescription for Quebec in these times of economic uncertainty.

My question for the member for Hochelaga is the following. How can he abandon Quebeckers, workers, families and seniors by not supporting this economic action plan in such a period of economic crisis? How can he keep his blinders on and continue with his ideology when Quebeckers need members in this House who will deliver the goods for Quebec?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I would, however, like to say that he is rather far from the truth, and could even end up actually lying, if he maintained in this House that Quebec would not be deprived of one billion dollars. I would ask him, through you, Mr. Speaker, if he maintains that the National Assembly will not be out one billion dollars, contrary to the statement made by the Quebec finance minister in a letter to the Government of Canada, in which she objects strongly to the formula being proposed by his government, when he is collaborating in that initiative? When a Conservative member rises in this House to question that statement, he is on a nasty slippery slope headed toward lying.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard my Conservative colleague's reference to the fact that, in the budget proposed by his government, workers, families and seniors would benefit. We probably did not read the same budget. The measures for workers are in fact for just two years. Five weeks are being added on to employment insurance. These are not appropriate measures for workers. Given the job losses and this government's inertia as far as injecting enough money to get out of this economic crisis, the program for older worker adjustment, or POWA, would have been useful. The government ought to have made an effort in that direction.

Then, they talk about the $1,500 income tax deduction for seniors. But those people have to be paying income tax. If seniors are living below the poverty line, we can be sure they will not be paying income tax, and so they cannot take advantage of that government measure.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. What would be the solution, the attitude Parliament ought to take, to this Conservative government and to this budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his insightful questions. That is not surprising, coming from such an insightful man.

The easiest solution, financially, would be for us to receive additional tax room through tax points and, thus, Quebec would not be dependent on transfer payments that can be changed without negotiation and without respect for the provinces.

In terms of seniors, the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill to increase the guaranteed income supplement. As for the national question, the real solution is sovereignty for Quebec.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to add my voice to the concerns expressed today, particularly in regard to the insinuation in the budget implementation bill of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. What an Orwellian term that is.

Over the last three and a half years, the government has tried to silence the voices of women. It has reduced funding to Status of Women Canada. It ended research, advocacy and lobbying. It closed 12 regional office of Status of Women Canada. It ended the funding to many women's organizations and its removed equality from the mandate of Status of Women Canada, all of these measures designed to keep women quiet, to keep them in their place.

It is not working. The government may have tried to deny the voices of women, but I have a letter, signed by 79 individuals, winners of the Governor General's Award in regard to the Persons Case, lawyers, academics, Canadians of great stature. I want to esnure that their voice and the voice of millions of Canadian women are heard in this place, so I will read into the record a letter they sent to the Prime Minister. It states:

We write to express our dismay at the introduction of the new Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. We are concerned that this legislation has been introduced as a part of Budget 2009, and that, as a consequence, Parliament will not be permitted to decide whether the legislation has its support as a new law independent of the Budget. This amounts to legislating by stealth in our view, and is unworthy of any Canadian government, as well as unfair to women.

The legislation takes away the right of women federal public servants to equal pay for work of equal value. You have claimed that your government recognizes that pay equity is a right of women and that this new legislation merely introduces efficiency and speed to the process of obtaining pay equity in the public service. We have studied this legislation closely and find these claims false. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act empties the right to pay equity of its meaning.

The new legislated criteria for evaluating “equitable compensation” will reintroduce sex discrimination into pay practices, rather than eliminate it. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees employed in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value. In assessing the value of work performed by employees, the criterion to be applied is the composite of the skill, effort and responsibility required in the performance of the work and the conditions under which the work is performed (section 11). The new legislation adopts these criteria, but adds new ones that completely undermine the commitment to equal pay for work of equal value for women. Section 4(2)(b) of Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act adds that the value of the work performed is also to be assessed according to “the employer's recruitment and retention needs in respect of employees in that job group or job class, taking into account the qualifications required to perform the work and the market forces operating in respect of employees with those qualifications.” This permits any evaluation to take into account that male-dominated jobs are valued more highly in the market, requiring the employer to pay more to attract new employees or retain current ones, even if the value of the work when it is assessed based on skill, effort and responsibility is no greater than that of female-dominated jobs.

The right to equal pay for work of equal value was introduced in federal human rights legislation in 1977 precisely in order to expunge the sex discrimination that is inherent in market pay practices from the assessment of the value of work. Historically, the market has devalued work that is done by women. Seeking now to evaluate the federal public service’s compensation practices for female dominated job groups by comparing them with pay assigned to these jobs in the market will entrench sex discrimination, not correct it.

In addition, the new legislation defines a female dominated group as one in which 70% of the workers are women; only these groups can seek “equitable compensation.” This is too rigid a definition as it simply puts outside the boundaries of the legislation those job groups in which women are 51 – 69% of the workers, no matter what the context is. The legislation restricts comparisons of male and female job groups so that comparisons may only be made within defined portions of the federal public service, or within federal agencies, not across the public service as a whole. In addition, the legislation repeatedly refers to providing “equitable compensation” within “a reasonable time.” This seems to imply that women public servants may not receive compensation for the full period when they received less than equal pay for work of equal value and may not receive what they are owed immediately.

We conclude that the substance of the right to equal pay for work of equal value is gone, restrictions have been placed on who falls within the scope of the legislation and on how comparisons can be made, and time periods for which compensation is owed are malleable.

In addition, the processes set out in the Act for seeking “equitable compensation” are fundamentally flawed.The legislation makes employers and unions jointly responsible for “equitable compensation,” even though federal public sector unions do not have any control over the federal purse. It also makes “equitable compensation” for women federal public servants a matter to be negotiated between employers and unions alongside and at the same time as other collective bargaining issues, not separately and distinctly, as it is under the Manitoba Pay Equity Act.

This puts women federal public servants at risk of having their right to be free from sex discrimination in pay bargained away because other issues are of more importance to the employer or the union, or both. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Dickason v. University of Alberta that employers cannot contract out of their human rights obligations. There is nothing in this legislation that ensures that women’s human rights will be respected and fulfilled in the bargaining process, rather than ignored and set aside. The effect of this restructuring of the process for obtaining pay equity is to make pay equity no longer a human right of women, but a benefit or privilege which may be bargained successfully, or not.

We note that individual women, both non-unionized and unionized, are permitted to make complaints to the Public Service Labour Relations Board if they believe that their compensation is not “equitable.” However, neither non-unionized women nor unionized women will have anyone to assist them. Currently, if women file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Commission will investigate it, interview witnesses and examine evidence. Under the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act, complainants will receive no assistance whatsoever.

Further, unionized women cannot have the assistance of their unions to make pay equity complaints. Indeed, unions will be fined $50,000 if they assist any woman to make a complaint. We point out that this legal imposition of a fine violates international human rights norms, since it contravenes Article 9(3)(c) of the Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders. Article 9(3)(c) states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others,…[T]o offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

This individual complaint procedure has been turned into a meaningless enforcement mechanism. Complaints about pay equity are, by definition, group complaints. Individual female public servants, without help from the Commission or their unions, will not have access to the information about pay rates and job descriptions that is necessary to make an “equitable compensation” complaint.

I see that my time is running out, although I had a lot more to say. However, the letter goes on to state:

We conclude that the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act does not comply with the commitments that Canada has made to women in international human rights instruments or the Charter. We ask you to withdraw this legislation immediately and instead to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force.

As Canadians who have contributed many years of work to improving the lives of women, we are angered when the Government of Canada moves backwards on the rights of women. This is the fifth overt attack on the rights of women in Canada made by your administration, following as it does on 1) the cancellation of funding to the Court Challenges Programme, 2) changes to the criteria for funding for Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Programme which preclude support for advocacy or lobbying for law reform, 3) cancellation of the Status of Women...

These individuals have indicated that they are ashamed of what Canada has done to women. This is a dark day—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from the opposite side of the House clearly pointed out that nothing can force unions to defend women's rights. It is not written in stone as part of their mandate. If they want to do it, they will; if they do not want to, they will not. If things are happening quickly during negotiations and there are more details to work out other than just pay equity for women, women will be set aside as they always have been in the past.

There is nothing forcing unions to fight, and there are also tens of thousands of women, as my colleague said, who are not unionized and that no one will ever defend. Women have an intrinsic right to pay equity; that is, equal pay for equal work. It is a fundamental right that is non-negotiable. My colleague is correct in reminding us of this.

By introducing a legal system where this right is denied, the government has set us back 50 years. It fundamentally denies women's rights and makes them disappear for all intents and purposes. The most distressing and tragic thing is that the Liberal Party, which claims to defend women's rights, is siding with the government to deny these rights.

I would like to hear my colleague's opinion on this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit, having read the letter with regard to the incredible women and leaders across Canada, who have expressed shame that the government would compromise the human rights of women and in fact trample them, that my shame is equal when I contemplate the Liberal Party of Canada joining in this sham of a piece of legislation in this march to end women's equality and human rights.

I want to be very clear in my remarks in response to my colleague that including equitable compensation, or the government's version of it in collective bargaining, makes it very difficult. I am very proud of the union association I have had in my career as an advocate and a member of the London and District Labour Council. I know unions do their utmost to ensure the rights of all members. However, when it comes to a matter of safe workplaces and compensation, very often there are pieces bargained away. In this case, it cannot be human rights.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to indicate that the Liberal caucus agrees fully with the member with regard to women's issues, pay equity, court challenges, the Status of Women issues, et cetera. The government clearly has shown itself to be anti-women in virtually everything it does.

With regard to the dilemma of the plight of those who are at risk of losing existing jobs, the problem of not having the creation of new jobs to alleviate the employment situation and the implications and problems created for those least able to help themselves in our society, it would appear that the only element of the budget that will address this is a stimulus package, some 40% of which is infrastructure funding.

Although we know very well there are many other problems and we have an omnibus bill rather than a budget bill, the stimulus package is something that people need and, if delayed, may cause some permanent damage to the lives of Canadians. Would the member agree?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was very clear to us in the New Democratic Party caucus, and has been clear for months and months, that an economic downturn was coming. The situation in August of 2007 in the United States with mortgages made that evident to anybody who was watching or paying attention. That is why we told the government over and over again that it needed to have something in place to protect existing jobs and invest in the jobs of the future. We said it over and over again and it did not listen.

Now we are in a crisis and the government is using this crisis to insert these poison pills into the budget implementation act, poison pills that would take away labour rights and women's human rights, that would give away public assets at bargain basement prices, that would eliminate our ability to look after our own industries.

It is time to stand up—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill. I want to say a few words in support of the Bloc Québécois' proposal to delete clauses 380 to 392. These clauses relate to the Conservative government's unilateral decision to amend the equalization formula as it was previously amended. What we have to do now is maintain the status quo.

If clauses 383 to 392 remain in Bill C-10, Quebec will lose almost $1 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year. At a time when the economic situation is affecting Quebec's tax revenues, the $1 billion shortfall will have very serious effects on the Government of Quebec's ability to fulfill its obligations in terms of health, education and social solidarity.

We hope that all of the Quebec members will do the right thing for Quebec by supporting the Bloc Québécois' amendments. If Quebec members from any of the other parties decide to support Bill C-10 as written, they will be doing a poor job of representing Quebec's interests and will be acting against the National Assembly's decisions. As everyone knows, in mid-January, the National Assembly unanimously passed a motion demanding that the federal government respect the current equalization formula, among other things.

On March 19, 2007, which was just months, not centuries ago, Canada's Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, and made a number of promises that Bill C-10 does not keep, particularly with respect to the issues addressed in clauses 383 to 392. I would like to read an excerpt from his letter. At the end of the first paragraph, the Conservative Prime Minister wrote to his Quebec counterpart:

Budget 2006 reaffirmed this commitment, and launched a dialogue with provincial and territorial governments, experts and Canadians on how to return federal transfers to a principled, predictable and formula-driven basis after two years of one-off deals.

At the end of the Liberal regime under Mr. Martin, patchwork changes were made to equalization. In his letter, the Conservative Prime Minister indicated that there will no longer be any one-off agreements, and that principles and a formula will be used to ensure stable transfer payments. There is no denying that Bill C-10, particularly clauses 380 to 392 relating to equalization, does not respect this commitment made by the Prime Minister of Canada. In the second paragraph of that letter, we read:

All governments will have principled, predictable and long-term support for their key responsibilities.

Once again we see that Bill C-10 flies in the face of the Conservative Prime Minister's commitments. The Minister of Finance tried to tell us that the information was made public during the finance ministers' conference last fall. Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who is not a sovereignist—and I am not convinced she votes for the Bloc Québécois—is the Liberal finance minister in Quebec and cares very much about Quebec's interests. She has clearly said that the information was not communicated at that meeting.

I would like to point out that the Conservative government is in the midst of reaching a parallel agreement with Nova Scotia based on the fact that it had not been informed of the changes to equalization and the impact this would have on transfers to that province. During that meeting of finance ministers, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, and I have no reason not to believe her, very clearly told the federal Conservative government and the Minister of Finance that the information had not been made available.

There was no indication that the amount of the shortfall would be as high as we are talking about now, that is, $1 billion.

I would point out that the essence of clauses 383 to 392 limits the amount to which each province will be entitled. That is a significant constraint of itself. In addition, the government is amending the formula for calculating equalization payments, which, in our opinion was unsatisfactory. I would point out that the government included only 50% of royalties or other forms of revenue related to natural resources, which, to our mind, was totally insufficient. If the government wants equalization to play the role it was created for and enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, all revenues from natural resources must be taken into account. In our opinion, the formula was already a hybrid, as it took into account only half of these revenues. We continue to believe that all revenue must be taken into account in order to establish the real level of equalization and transfer payments to which Quebec and the other provinces are entitled.

If we go back further, the equalization formula and stable principles for it to be determined on were part of a series of demands the Conservative government failed to meet. Despite what the Prime Minister, Conservative MPs from Quebec and the Minister of Finance say, it is incorrect to say that the fiscal imbalance has been resolved. On this point, there is consensus in the Quebec National Assembly and in Quebec. The fiscal imbalance has not been resolved.

For it to be resolved, the levels of transfer payments for social programs such as health care, post-secondary education and social solidarity would have to be returned to 1994-95 levels, just before the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin at the time, began his unilateral cuts and began shovelling his financial problems into the yards of the provinces and Quebec. That is why there is still an $820 million shortfall in Quebec in transfers for post-secondary education. Canada-wide, the figure is $3.2 billion. Efforts were made in the past for health care, but, in the case of post-secondary education programs, we remain at the 1994-95 levels. That is unacceptable.

Once the levels have been restored, we want the federal government and the Government of Quebec to negotiate equivalent transfers of tax room to Quebec. It is very clear, as we can see today with Bill C-10, that federal transfers to Quebec and the provinces are still subject to federal arbitrariness. The only way to make sure that Quebec has the financial autonomy it needs to discharge its responsibilities, even within the Canadian federation, is to transfer tax room to Quebec, as has been done in the past.

Under Lester B. Pearson, the transfer made at the request of Jean Lesage made the Quiet Revolution possible and allowed Quebec to catch up. There was also a transfer in 1977 under René Lévesque. Whether you are a federalist or a sovereigntist, when you work for Quebec's interests, you get results. The transfer made in 1977 was essentially for health care.

What we are asking for is not new, but for these transfers to take place, the government must restore the 1994-95 levels, then negotiate with Quebec to transfer the tax room these transfers represent.

There is still another problem: the Conservative government had promised on two or three separate occasions to address the issue of the federal spending power. It is very clear to us that what is needed is not to restrict or limit the federal spending power, but to eliminate it. The only way to do this is to give Quebec and any province that so desires the chance to opt out of any federal program put in place in the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec, with full compensation and no strings attached. We are still waiting for the bill, but I seriously doubt that we will ever see it. If the government cannot keep its word on equalization and the formula it put in place barely a year and half ago, when it promised that equalization would be guaranteed for the long term, I would be very surprised if it kept its promise on the federal spending power, when it has not even begun creating the conditions to fulfill it.

This is regrettable. Once again, I invite all the members of this House to vote in favour of deleting clauses 383 to 392.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Joliette for his wonderful explanation. Thus, very shortly there will be a $1 billion shortfall for Quebec. For those who do not have that kind of money and who never will, it consists of a thousand $1 million dollar bills stacked one on top of the other. It is a great deal of money with which a great many things can be done and, without which, they cannot be done.

It is a large hole in Ms. Jérôme-Forget's coffers, which she talks about constantly. At present, there is not much in the coffers. One of the reasons is probably the cuts made there also. The National Assembly decided to unanimously denounce the cuts. All federalists, as well as the sovereignists, in the National Assembly of Quebec have spoken out against this. It is unanimous and it is Quebec that speaks in the National Assembly and not two or three persons in this House. It is all of Quebec.

All members of the House who are not members of the Bloc, save one, will vote against Quebec on this matter. We understand why. In fact, this is all about the rules of caucus. In caucus, democracy prevails: the majority decides and the minority follows. Our members are in the minority everywhere, no matter what we do, and will always be obliged to defend the positions established by the Canadian majority that wants these cuts. They will always back Canada rather than Quebec.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Drummond for his extremely pertinent question. In a debate on equalization, one sees the importance of the debate that went on during the election campaign. When campaigning started, the Conservatives tried to question the legitimacy of the Bloc Québécois and the votes of millions of Quebeckers in the last 18 years.

Whether in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 or again in 2008 at the last election, the people of Quebec each time decided that the majority of their deputation would be under the Bloc Québécois banner. Why? They are very much aware, as they are this very day, that the only party that will stand up and without compromise defend the interests and values of Quebec is the Bloc Québécois.

As long as we remain within the Canadian federation, the Bloc Québécois will have a role to play. I am certain that, in the future, as in the past, Quebeckers will continue to send a majority of MPs who truly defend their interests and their values, that is MPs from the Bloc Québécois.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Pascal-Pierre Paillé Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Joliette for this extremely enriching and very true speech. I strongly support his comments.

As my colleague from Drummond has said, it is a matter of Quebec losing one billion dollars. I wonder how the Government of Quebec will be able to plan certain budgets in future without really knowing the true amounts it will be getting from Ottawa. It would also be important to point out that this is not money being given to us by Ottawa, but money being returned to us. Our money. Our work provided that money, which was transferred to Ottawa. It needs to come back to us.

A little aside concerning the Conservative ideology. Albert is receiving ongoing transfer payments, according to a certain progression, while equalization payments to the other provinces are being slashed.

Does my colleague find it logical that rich Alberta continues to get money, while the other provinces watch their equalization transfers getting cut back—equalization that is not only justified, but necessary, especially for the development of Quebec?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Hébert for his question. This illustrates what Canadian federalism is really all about. The federal government will make a transfer for a specific program as long as it feels it will enhance its visibility.

Take social housing, for example. The federal government implemented a program. The provinces, Quebec in particular, took advantage of it to respond to social housing needs. All of a sudden, in the mid-1990s, funding was slashed and Quebec was left to pick up the pieces. That is always the danger. Even worse, all of the programs in the past few years have been based on population—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the amendments that have been proposed for the budget implementation act. I am going to be dealing specifically with clause 362, which has to do with the student loan amendments, and clause 394, which has to do with pay equity.

With regard to student loans, I want to talk specifically about the requirements for additional documentation. This section of the bill deals with the fact that anybody who receives Canada student loans will be required to provide additional documents to the minister upon request. It creates a host of new penalities for false statements or omissions and also appears to permit the minister to retroactively punish students for making a false statement or omission in their application for Canada student loans.

In this day and age, we want to make post-secondary education as accessible as possible to students. We know that in times of economic downturn, it is very important for people to be able to upgrade their skills and education, so that when the economy turns around they have an opportunity to take advantage of the economy as it moves up.

This clause is particularly troubling because it is going to put additional barriers in front of getting education. Currently, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is conducting a post-secondary education review. It is reviewing a program called PSSSP, the post-secondary student support program. One of the options being floated is that some first nations students will be channelled into applying for Canada student loans.

We already know that when it comes to post-secondary education, first nations students have less access, more barriers, and a lower graduation rate. Yet, we also know that in many provinces the first nations and Métis are a significant part of the student population. It is of concern that we are revamping a program that will affect students broadly in terms of access with the potential to impact first nations students more directly.

At a February 23 gathering of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, National Chief Phil Fontaine spoke about the importance of education. He was speaking about kindergarten to grade 12, but I think this also applies to post-secondary. He talked about the fact that the cost of doing nothing is astronomical. He went on to say:

I recently read an editorial in the Star Phoenix which projected that the First Nation and Métis population in Saskatchewan could account for approximately 23% of the labor force by 2016. The implications of this are huge, and not just here but across the country. Nationally, more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth will be entering the labour market by 2026, with the potential to make a major contribution to the Canadian economy estimated at $71 billion. The social and economic costs will be financially crippling to the provincial and federal governments if we don’t make the right decisions today.

I would argue that there is a serious omission in a budget implementation that does not consider the impacts on both Canadian students and first nations, Métis and Inuit students.

Many people have talked eloquently in the House about pay equity. It is actually called the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Since 2006, we have seen a continuous erosion of women's equality in this country, whether it is the removal of the court challenges program, the removal of the word equality from the Status of Women website, or the underfunding of women's organizations that can provide a perspective that is lacking in the House. Only 20% of the members of the House are women. It is very important to fund those women's organizations to make sure that that representation in economic and social policy is heard by the government when it is developing legislation. In the budget implementation act and the budget itself, we saw the virtual absence of women.

I want to touch briefly on first nations. The Québec Native Women's Association issued a press release when it examined what was in the budget. It talked about the fact that the investment plans in infrastructure and industries tend to benefit the sectors of activities that are predominantly comprised of a male workforce. The double discrimination faced by aboriginal women has already led to a feminization of poverty and the economic struggle will no doubt exacerbate their marginalization. The press release goes on to talk about the fact that the United Nations has provided numerous recommendations on key areas of concerns in regard to its human rights obligations. Sadly these recommendations were blatantly ignored by this present budget.

The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about the need to have aboriginal women specifically mentioned as part of the stimulus plan. Instead, we heard only a general comment about aboriginal issues such as social housing on reserves, aboriginal skills and training, child and family services. It went on to talk about the fact that women are not specifically mentioned. When we know that there are no programs, services and infrastructure specifically geared toward women and women's issues, they simply get left off the table.

I bring this up in the context of pay equity because one of the comments made in the House was that we need to ensure that families in this country have access to reasonable compensation. The former pay equity task force from 2004 which did hundreds of hours of consultation from coast to coast to coast, talked to business, trade unions, individual stakeholders and came out with a very substantial set of recommendations which have been ignored since 2004. So it is not just the current government that ignored it, it was ignored in the past as well. That pay equity task force would have put in place some very real measures to tackle equal pay for work of equal value, and let us be clear, that is what we are talking about. We are talking about equal pay for work of equal value, and that gets lost in the noise and the rhetoric in the House.

The current piece of legislation effectively rolls back the clock. We know that women in Canada, on average, make somewhere around seventy-some odd cents to the dollar for every dollar that a man makes. What we really needed was some teeth around the pay equity legislation. Furthermore, it should never have been included in a budget implementation bill. It should have been a stand-alone piece of legislation, so that the Status of Women committee would have had the opportunity to call witnesses, to fully examine the piece of legislation to make sure that it reflected what was in the pay equity task force.

Instead, we have an attempt to bury a piece of legislation in an omnibus bill without adequate oversight. That applies to any number of other aspects that are buried in the bill including navigable waters.

I want to quote from a couple of press releases. The Public Service Alliance of Canada issued a press release on February 23 that said:

PSAC slams Budget Implementation Act for undermining collective bargaining and threatening women's right to pay equity.

It went on to say:

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act would make it virtually impossible for women in the federal public sector to be paid equal pay for work of equal value. It uses pay equity as a bargaining chip during negotiations where the employer historically holds the balance of power. It bars unions from supporting members who want to make pay equity claims. Bill C-10 would do nothing to narrow the income gap between women and men in the federal public service.

In a detailed briefing note, prepared by the women's and human rights officer at the Public Service Alliance Canada, entitled “The end of pay equity for women in the federal public service”, it talks about restricting access. I am going to read a couple of sections. It says:

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act will restrict the substance and the application of pay equity in the public sector. This bill would remove the right of public sector workers to file complaints for pay equity with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The bill would make it more difficult to claim pay equity, by redefining the notion of “female predominant” job group to require that women make up 70% of workers in the position. It also redefines the criteria used to evaluate whether jobs are of “equal” value.

It goes on to talk about the $50,000 fine on any union that would encourage or assist its members in filing a pay equity complaint and it talks about the fact that pay equity is a fundamental human right that has been protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act since 1977.

We know this is a signature attempt by the government to continue to undermine women's equality in this country. It is rolling back the clock on women's rights and it signals the government's overall approach to women's issues. I would urge members of the House to support the amendment to strip this out of the budget implementation bill and put it back where it rightly belongs, in front of the Status of Women committee, so it can have some fulsome discussion on this and appropriate oversight.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 12:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are at the report stage for the budget implementation bill. In the group of proposed amendments today, there are two types of amendments that do not belong in the budget bill. In terms of equalization, the federal government has tabled an economic stimulus budget that, with one hand, is taking from Quebec what it is giving with the other.

The equalization system, as Canada has developed it, is financed entirely by the federal government with the help of taxes paid by Canadians and Quebeckers. It is based on a fundamental commitment to equality, so that citizens have access to public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. In other words, the formula that has been determined over the years aims to measure a province's fiscal ability to offer public services. But it does not take into account the various factors that could influence the volume or cost of public services in a province, with the exception of its size and population.

In this case, the decision was made to unilaterally change the procedure. Quebec ends up with a shortfall of some $1 billion, while Quebec, like the other provinces in Canada, is coping with major problems, reduced consumer spending, and a need to jump-start the economy. On the one hand we are told that money will be invested, in infrastructure for example, in order to stimulate consumption, while on the other they are taking away the leeway Quebec was counting on in order to be able to have access to it. Moreover, the Quebec finance minister wrote a letter objecting to this and calling upon the federal government to reconsider its assessment of the situation and to put on the table what was really important. To that end, the Bloc Québécois has introduced some motions to get that part of the bill deleted.

The fact is that the Conservatives can count on Liberal support. This coalition of the blue and the red is a bit like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. No matter which one is in power, we have the same centralizing federal government steamroller. This is particularly the case for this matter of the cuts to equalization, which will hurt Quebec a great deal.

Another important aspect concerns the whole issue of pay equity. In this block of amendments, there are also ones aimed at restoring the important status of pay equity. We are, moreover, amazed to find measures like this in a bill to implement the budget. We have seen this sort of model in the U.S. Congress, particularly under the Republicans, when they were adding amendments onto omnibus bills with undesirable results.

The Bloc Québécois is, of course, in favour of pay equity and considers it a non-negotiable right. In order to ensure that pay equity exists for all Quebec and Canadian working women, proactive federal legislation is necessary that will cover all women in areas under federal jurisdiction.

In the present bill, rather than give each worker equal rights, an additional category of women is created who are not covered by the same conditions. One protection is given to women in the public sector, and another to those not covered by this bill. This strikes us as unfair to the women affected by this bill.

The Bloc Québécois opposes the part that makes pay equity a negotiable right within a collective agreement. The Bloc would rather see the creation of sectoral committees on pay equity, as has been done in Quebec. We take exception to the fact that this bill creates a third category of workers in Quebec. As I was saying earlier, one category falls under Quebec pay equity legislation, another falls under federal legislation on equitable compensation and the remaining category is in the federally regulated private sector and certain crown corporations and has an ineffective complaint system.

Thus, there are three different categories of citizens in this pay equity legislation. Something does not make sense here. The federal government should not have ventured into this territory. It has put forward measures that will create more inequities, rather than solve any problems.

We believe that the gaps, omissions and false premises, including the notion of a market economy in this bill, make it unacceptable and out of sync with Quebec's values.

If the Conservative government believes that equitable compensation is necessary in the government, why would that not also be the case for private businesses under federal jurisdiction, unless it believes that this principle is too costly and harmful to private enterprise?

Equity is established not based on the rights of the workers in question, but rather based on the interests of the employers who hire them. This is a very unacceptable practice and I believe the Conservatives should have reversed their position. That is why we, particularly as members of the Bloc Québécois, have strongly held beliefs on the issue of pay equity in Quebec, a practice that has not been sufficiently developed. We would like to see the Conservative government reverse its stance on this issue. Otherwise, it will have the public to answer to.

Part ll of the bill deals with equitable compensation and enacts the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. The term pay equity never appears in the bill. It speaks instead about equitable compensation, without ever defining it. This terminological fuzziness could well present problems when it comes to legal interpretations and we may find ourselves facing one of the obstacles that the Conservatives claimed to eliminate, that is to say, endless battles before the courts which will ensure that female workers never get justice.

The bill applies strictly to employers in the public sector: Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Companies under federal jurisdiction are not covered, nor are certain other crown corporations, for example Canada Post and the CBC. They are therefore creating a great muddle that ultimately will do nothing to improve the situation.

The government could have forged ahead in this budget with steps that would have really helped Quebec’s economy, especially forestry and manufacturing. We see once again today how much these sectors need help but have been abandoned by the government. We need action, loan guarantees, and some original thinking. The Bloc Québécois suggested some measures last fall. It was also the only opposition party to come up with some specific suggestions.

In addition to the things that are missing from this stimulus budget but are so important to Quebec that the Bloc Québécois must oppose the bill, the government has included various measures that are not really related to the budget and, most importantly, should not be changed in any case in the way they want to right now if we want to be fair toward the provinces and if we say they have the funding they need to jump-start their economies.

When the Finance Minister boasts of having invested billions of dollars in infrastructure to boost the economy while at the same time he cuts Quebec’s equalization payments, he creates a situation in which Quebec will not have the funds it needs to activate the tripartite programs requiring federal, provincial and municipal participation. If Quebec had been left some leeway with its equalization payments, there would have been a lot more positive effects on the economy and we would really have had a stimulus package to counter the economic downturn.

In that regard, the Conservative government has not been able to kick its old laissez-faire habit. Even when told that a change in approach is needed to deal with the situation, we see several typical Conservative behaviours. One of them is to penalize Quebec by cutting equalization payments. This has draconian consequences for the Government of Quebec, which will have particular difficulty preparing its budget.

I am being signalled that I have only one minute left. We also realize that this approach is one of main factors that has led an increasing number of Quebeckers to consider that if they controlled all their taxes—an important aspect of sovereignty—they could make decisions as an adult nation. They would not be required to conduct such debates or to depend on a government that, from one year to the next, changes the funding provided by equalization. In my opinion, both Canadians and Quebeckers would be much happier with that sort of arrangement.

While waiting for the time when the Quebec people decide to pursue the sovereignist project, the Bloc Québécois is here to defend the interests of Quebec. We are doing so again with the proposed amendments to the bill and by the Bloc Québécois' position, which is unlike that of the Liberals who have chosen to be associated with a Conservative budget that is harmful to Quebec. We have clearly defended the positions of Quebec and we will continue to do so.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

He raised the subject of pay equity. I would like to point out that, today, women earn some 70.5¢ for every dollar men earn. The figure is 64¢, for women of colour and 46¢ for aboriginal women.

I would like my colleague's opinion on the Conservative government's attack on pay equity in the budget. How does he see it stimulating the economy? I do not see it doing so. I would also like his opinion on the fact that our women colleagues in the Liberal party, who in the past defended the rights of women, are now supporting this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, pay equity is a right. It is not a measure to revive the economy. It is a woman's right, a right that the government should respect and put in practice through appropriate measures.

This budget sets up a three tier system, according to the type of employer a female employee works for. It is hard to see how this sort of arrangement will improve the situation of women. In the end, there will be no economic impact, obviously, because recovery will take a long time. There will still be important court challenges. Pay equity must not be made dependent on its effect on the economy. It must be seen as the right to equal pay for work of equal value. All women are entitled to the same wage as men when they do work requiring similar skills, effort and responsibility, in similar working conditions. To link this recognition to employer type, to create different categories according to the place of work—the public, private or para public sectors—is not the road to the future. A forward step must be taken with a pay equity measure that would translate to full equality and that would enable a woman to earn an equal salary for equal and similar work.

So, in the budget, the government should have set this approach aside and instead include a real plan for economic recovery.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. I have a question for him.

Of course, question pay equity for women and give them certain rights publicly, but ensure that, privately, they have no rights, that is more or less the Conservative party style. It has already attacked the status of women and the court challenges programs. So, this is in much the same style. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say on this.

There is also the fact that the government cut equalization payments. It has failed to support our industries in the manufacturing sector and, furthermore, continues to allow tax havens to the tune of $80 billion. I would like my colleague's comments in this regard.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of pay equity, what is ridiculous about this bill is that it creates one group of women who will be subject to the federal equitable compensation legislation and another group, employees of certain crown corporations, who will have to use the ineffective complaint system in the federally regulated private sector. Under the guise of creating more equity, the government is creating more inequity. The answer is there in the wording of the bill.

As for the whole issue of equalization, Quebec wants no more of this mechanism that, year after year, gives it unpredictable payments. It is like a sword of Damocles the federal government is dangling above Quebec's head. This time, it has major consequences. The cuts will be in the order of $1 billion, and when the effectiveness of the overall federal budget measures is assessed, it will come to light that the provinces, and especially Quebec, have not been able to spend the necessary money, because they will have had to make up for the decrease in equalization funding.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful that stage of the bill is now over. It was almost painful. If that is what the opposition suggests is speeding legislation through, I hope Canadians were not watching. It is pretty pathetic and painful to hold up the money that Canadians need.

This is a great opportunity to speak to Bill C-10 at third reading, which is the budget implementation act, 2009. Hopefully this will be a very brief debate that will allow us to move quickly to a vote.

I note for Canadians watching at home that even after the House of Commons approves this bill at third reading, the vital measures in Bill C-10, which are integral parts of Canada's economic action plan, ranging from extended EI benefits to nearly $6 billion for job-creating stimulus investments in housing, as well as infrastructure and more, to initiatives to help improve credit availability for businesses and much more than that, still cannot move forward.

Once done in the House of Commons, the bill has to start the same legislative process in the Senate, from second reading, referral to the Senate national finance committee for study, report stage and ultimately third reading. Only after all these steps are completed, will the bill receive royal assent and become law.

On the government side, with the support of the official opposition, we have made the case that, due to the fragile state of the Canadian economy, Bill C-10 and its vital measures must be approved by Parliament as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, these pleas are largely being ignored by the NDP and Bloc members, who have thrown up roadblock after roadblock to delay Bill C-10 from passing in any form of expedited manner.

What is worse, we are now hearing some of the senators vowing to delay this bill for weeks on end for no other reason than because they can.

Bill C-10 was introduced on February 6 for debate. A month later we are still debating it in the House of Commons. How does a month of debate qualify as passing a bill as quickly as possible? It does not.

Seemingly unaware of the urgency of the situation facing the Canadian economy, the Senate is now musing about further delay so it can engage in, to be frank, abstract and irrelevant debate on the bill, likely the exact same debates we have already had here in the House for a month. We need to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

Listen to Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter, who stated:

Over the last month I'd be very hard pressed to point to a Canadian indicator that came in higher than expected or even as expected. Most have been not only below expectations, but far below.

Clearly, now is the time for urgent action. For those members or senators who would argue for more debate now instead of action, let me remind them that prior to tabling this budget, we undertook the widest and most inclusive prebudget consultations in history, open to all. This was during the months of December and January. That was the time for ideas and discussion. That time has passed. Parliament must act now.

Again, we could, as some suggest, debate Bill C-10 for weeks or months on end. We could engage in abstract discussions about the bill. We could treat this as an academic exercise divorced from the reality of today, but we would do so completely deaf to the plight of Canadians and blind to the economic challenges we now face.

It is easy for MPs, especially senators, to drag out debate and delay action for another month or so. They know when and from where their next paycheque is coming. No such luxury exists for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have recently lost their jobs. This is not time for politics as usual. We need to demand better of ourselves. Canadians are depending on it.

Stalling urgent economic stimulus for weeks or months is the height of irresponsibility. It will only hurt the most vulnerable in Canada.

For the NDP, the Bloc and those senators who would stall the bill, they should listen carefully to Canadians and reconsider. If they do not, we will ensure it is known that their inaction, their delay and their ignorance of the pressing challenges facing the Canadian economy are at fault here. This is not about a genuine debate on the issues for these parliamentarians threatening delay. This is not about some profound opposition to measures within the bill. This is politics for the sake of partisan gain and delay for the sake of delay.

While those members claim a lengthy delay of the bill is necessary for a proper debate to allow them to do their job, their actions prove otherwise.

First, content is not and was never important to them. For instance, the NDP members, weeks before seeing the budget, proudly and publicly said that they would defeat it. Reading from a news story dated December 13, 2008, approximately six weeks before the budget was tabled, it said:

Regardless of what stimulus package appears in the [Prime Minister's] January budget, NDP finance critic the [member for Outremont] said the NDP will be looking to topple the Tory government.

Second, understanding the issues is not and was never important either. For instance, we held a briefing for all members of Parliament and senators shortly after introducing Bill C-10. This four hour briefing was an opportunity for all parliamentarians to ask factual and substantive questions. We had over 36 members of the public service at that meeting to provide answers. There was not an NDP or a Bloc member in the audience.

This allowed them questions that would have allowed a better understanding of the bill. It would have allowed for more informed discussion in Parliament. Unfortunately, no NDP or Bloc MPs attended and only a few senators bothered to attend the briefing. Does this sound like a group genuinely interested in the content of the bill? Does this sound like a group that is really interested in doing its job? No, it clearly does not.

I ask and plead with the NDP and the Bloc members as well as those senators to stop the charade. Bill C-10 has been before Parliament for roughly a month. We know it will pass. We cannot wait another month. Stop the roadblocks, stop the delay and let Bill C-10 pass before Parliament rises for the next constituency week in mid-March.

For our senators, acknowledge the reality of the situation. Sit night and day, around the clock, if needed. Make it happen.

Why do we need to make it happen? How will Bill C-10 legislating vital parts of Canada's economic action plan help those hardest hit by the current recession? How will it help create and maintain jobs? Let me provide a quick overview of what is being legislated in Bill C-10 and why it merits quick passage.

To begin, numerous measures outlined in budget 2009 to lower the tax burden for Canadians are included in the bill. This tax relief will leave more money in the pockets of hardworking Canadians, while also taking 265,000 low-income Canadians completely off the tax rolls. These tax measures include, but are not limited to, personal tax relief: by raising the age credit amount by $1,000 to help seniors; by increasing the amount that can be withdrawn under the homebuyers' plan to $25,000; by increasing the basic personal amount that all Canadians can earn before paying income tax and the two lowest personal income tax brackets.

This package also includes business tax relief such as extending the mineral exploration tax credit and raising the threshold for businesses to qualify for the reduced 11% small business tax rate to $500,000. I note that a wide range of public interest groups heralded this collection of tax changes. The Retail Council of Canada, for instance, called them:

—positive steps to rebuilding consumer confidence. “These tax changes will put money back in the pockets of Canadians, boosting confidence and encouraging spending, which is critical to the retail sector and Canada's overall economic recovery”...

This legislation also seeks to help struggling Canadians who are suffering lost employment as a result of this global recession.

Bill C-10 will provide an extra five weeks of employment insurance benefits and increase the maximum duration of benefits to 50 weeks from 45 weeks for the unemployed. As B.C. finance minister Colin Hansen remarked:

—[the] extension of EI benefits...are going to be very important. Certainly as I've travelled around British Columbia, I've talked to many laid-off forest workers who were getting anxious about when their EI benefits might run out, and so the extension will help them.

As I am sure all members have been made aware by the numerous letters and calls they have received from worried constituents, these increased EI benefits cannot come into effect until Parliament allows the bill to pass.

Bill C-10 also brings forward measures to improve access to credit for businesses. As we have heard extensively in recent months, access to credit has been severely restricted during the current economic downturn. That is negatively impacting businesses and their ability to grow, and often even retain existing employees.

Our economic action plan sought to help address the situation through our extraordinary financing framework. Many of the measures from that framework are legislated in Bill C-10. For instance, it allows EDC and BDC to extend additional financing to Canadian businesses. It also increases the maximum amount for loans made by Canada small business financing program. As the Forest Products Association of Canada noted:

Access to credit is the number one issue for our industry. We are very encouraged by the Budget measures aimed at ensuring access to credit for Canadian businesses, particularly the expansion of the powers and financing authorities of the EDC...

The bill also authorizes nearly $6 billion for needed long-term investment in infrastructure, community adjustment, housing and electronic health records, investments that will not only lead to new jobs in the short term, but will also help strengthen Canada's ability to succeed when competing in the global economy. This includes $4 billion in investments to pave roads, renew our universities and colleges, fix waste water systems and repair our bridges. As the Caledon Institute of Social Policy observed:

The call for infrastructure spending...clearly was heard in Budget 2009...the substantial funding for infrastructure was welcome from the perspective of short-term employment and long-term investment in the quality of life in communities.

This also includes $500 million to help implement electronic health record systems across the country through Canada Health Infoway. Not only will this investment help create thousands of sustainable jobs throughout Canada's health and information technology industries, it will reduce errors, dramatically improve patient safety and produce cost savings. It has the potential to save countless lives. As the Association of Canadian Academic Health Care Organizations stated, this investment will “have a powerful and transformative impact on the health system”.

This constitutes only a few highlights of the many urgent measures included in Bill C-10.

Time precludes me from delving further into initiatives to help the move toward a Canadian securities regulator with willing provinces and territories, initiatives to encourage new investments and the jobs they will produce through modernizing the Investment Canada Act, initiatives to protect consumers from anti-competitive and unscrupulous business practices by adding new provisions to the Competition Act, and much more.

Before moving on, though, let me pass along to the House a sample of the strong support we heard during finance committee's consideration of Bill C-10 for the Competition Act changes. As Options consommateurs and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre noted in a joint presentation:

...the proposed amendments are quite comprehensive, they have certainly been the subject of considerable past discussion among stakeholders and represent a fairly balanced take on necessary refinements to the Act.

...this package of amendments places appropriate emphasis on the importance of deterring anti-competitive conduct, particularly in the current difficult financial environment that all Canadians are experiencing.

We all know what is in Bill C-10. We have had a month to read, review and discuss it, more than enough time, and, for those in need of urgent assistance, perhaps too much time. On balance, a fair-minded individual would have to agree that it is the right plan for Canada's renewed prosperity and the right plan to ensure that Canada exits this current global economic downturn in the same way it entered it: the strongest.

Let us get Canada's economic action plan working. Let us help those hardest hit by the current recession. Let us create jobs today by making investments now that will help create the jobs of tomorrow. Let us pass Bill C-10 without delay. In the words of Global Insight economist, Dale Orr, he said that the budget overall was a pretty reasonable compromise and that the best thing to do was pass it, get on with it and get things moving as quickly as possible.

I ask the NDP, the Bloc and those senators to heed that advice: do not delay, act and let us make it happen.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary and many of the people in his own party are refining the process of insinuating things that are not true. We saw an example of that during question period when the Minister of Finance was boasting about not being able to spend a dollar until we pass this budget.

That is true but the full truth is that it is illegal for any dollar to be spent until April 1. The member then said that we had the broadest and widest consultation but that is not true because the finance committee did not go across Canada. In fact, if the government is boasting about how good it consults, where the hell was the consultation on the November economic statement? Why is it that between November 8, 2008 and January 27, 2009 a global financial crisis miraculously occurred?

This is so ridiculous. Will the member confirm to the House the earliest date on which one dollar can flow after the bill's passage at all stages, including the other place and royal assent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of less than truths in the statement the hon. member made. I take a little bit of exception. If I am not telling the truth, is he then insinuating that I am lying? I am sure that he would not insinuate that of any hon. member in the House.

I would bluntly and blatantly argue that the prebudget consultation process that took place, in probably the shortest timeframe in history, was the broadest that has ever happened. The finance committee did not travel but there were meetings held here. People were invited to Ottawa and to many cities across this country. It was the broadest online consultation that has ever happened. We had an incredible amount of submissions that actually put forward ideas.

Speaking of ideas, we did not receive one idea from the Liberal Party of Canada. We did from some of its members but, unfortunately, some of its members did not get the message to their leader.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member opposite tell the Liberal member that consultations were held by the Standing Committee on Finance during December and January. I would remind him that the House was prorogued and therefore the Standing Committee on Finance did not sit. So, what consultations is he talking about? The Conservative members appointed originally to the committee may have sat, but Parliament could not have.

I would also like to ask him a question. He referred to the establishment of a single securities commission, which the Conservative government seems very proud of. It also seems in a hurry to establish it as well, injecting $150 million into it. How is it going to go about it, given the very strong opposition in Quebec, in particular concerning the constitutionality of this measure? Currently, the Constitution provides very clearly that the provinces have jurisdiction in this matter.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, by all means we will recognize Quebec's jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of all provinces in implementing a voluntary, and I emphasize voluntary, common securities regulator.

This is an interesting question considering that the witnesses who appeared before the finance committee this morning reminded us that we were the only industrialized country that does not have a common securities regulator. We had a long discussion about those people who were impacted through non-bank asset backed commercial paper. We are not certain that a common securities regulator would have prevented that frozen asset problem but could have.

We owe it to Canadians to put in place what could help protect the savings of Canadians. That is more important to us than anything we can do. We are in a financial situation where seniors and investors are coming to us and asking how they can protect what they have left. A common securities regulator is the right thing to do. Most provinces are on board. The others have the option to come on board.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the member has difficulty speaking in the House to any issue without engaging in gratuitous insults and slurs. I would like to remind him that invective is the lowest form of argument.

He raises the question of facts in his speech. I will talk about some facts. The fact is that in November his government claimed that Canada was not in a recession and that we would be running budgetary surpluses this year and next year.

Another fact is that the government, which is led by someone who claims to be an economist, either did not see in November a recession coming, in which case I question his competence, or did see a recession coming, in which case I question his honesty with the House.

The member says that we did not send in any suggestions to the government. Our party sent in dozens and dozens of suggestions to the government. I personally sent in 15 suggestions about stimulus infrastructure spending from my own riding but the government persists in saying that the opposition has not been helpful in this regard, which is simply not true.

The Obama administration in the United States is putting every infrastructure project and federal dollar on the Internet so citizens of that country can see where their government is spending the money. I would ask the member if the government will do the same thing in Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear because once again I have been accused of lying in the House. I find that absolutely repugnant, besides the fact that I have slurred no one here, Mr. Speaker, and you very well know that.

I do not appreciate the hon. member saying that I lied when I said that his leadership did not provide suggestions. Good for him if he provided some suggestions to the leadership of the NDP but his leadership did not give one of them to us. That is the truth.

I sat with the Minister of Finance when the NDP critic berated the finance minister but refused to offer one suggestion. It was the same thing from the Liberal Party. At least the Bloc had the decency to put forward some written suggestions. The leadership of the NDP put forward absolutely nothing and then those members have the audacity to stall this process.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Macleod, Alberta, for his dedication and hard work in getting this budget through and the economic action plan and Bill C-10. I know he sacrificed time from his family through Christmas and New Year's. On behalf of my constituents and our country, I thank him.

We had consultations, as was mentioned, from coast to coast to coast. I had the opportunity to have consultations in my riding, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and attended by people of all ages. We had good input, including the EI waiting period, work sharing and the extension of the EI benefits. The British Columbia minister of finance, Colin Hansen, was in our riding and talked about the budget.

We heard this afternoon how the NDP has delayed the budget. Would the member comment on what the NDP has done in the past trying to form a coalition and talking about bringing forward finances for our communities and our country that are in a real economic deficit and the fact that its delay antics do not respond to its words?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Okanagan, a beautiful part of this country. I envy where he lives. I thank him for his support.

In answer to the first question, when we talk about dollars going out, the important thing is that the five week extension to EI will be available to people the moment the budget passes this House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the last time on the subject of Bill C-10 As I have said a number of times, the Liberal party will vote in favour of this bill, despite its significant weaknesses, for the simple reason that the economy is in a full blown crisis. Despite its weaknesses in a number of areas, we have made it clear that the top priority for the Canadian economy and for Canadians is to support the economy during this crisis. This is why we decided to vote in favour, and we have not changed our mind. I think we have probably spent enough time on this bill, and it is not my intention to repeat all of its weaknesses, all the bad things it should not contain and all the good things it should contain.

I do not want to be repeating myself and, in this speech, I would like to address two issues. First, the fact that the government is on probation and, second, the issue of this blank cheque for $3 billion the government wants us to support.

Both the fact that the government is on probation and is subject to a number of reports, and the matter of the $3 billion fund go to the heart of the question of accountability, especially since the Prime Minister rode to office under a banner of accountability. The government ought to pay attention both to a serious approach to its quarterly reports and to resolving in a satisfactory way this matter of the $3 billion so-called slush fund.

On the question of probation, the Liberal Party is voting for the budget, but the Liberal Party, as members know, has put forward a detailed amendment that requires the government to make regular reports. I would like to indicate in the next few minutes how we propose that the government do this in a way that is accountable and transparent.

There are four items in our amendment, which was accepted by the government.

First, the government is to provide ongoing economic and fiscal updates.

Since the time of the budget, with the terrible economic news that we have had, it should be abundantly clear to all in this chamber that we have a need for fiscal and economic updates. We have had a terrible drop in GDP of 3.4% in the last quarter of 2008, the worst since 1991. We have had big job losses. We have had record bankruptcies in the personal sector. We have had big drops in housing starts.

For all those reasons, the first point, which requires ongoing economic and fiscal updates, will clearly be necessary for the reports that the government has undertaken to provide to this House.

The second point is to detail the actual implementation of the budget. That is to say, is the money actually flowing the way that the government has said it will flow? Is it flowing fast enough? Are there delays?

I would emphasize the infrastructure funding, which has been talked about frequently, but also the funding from the Business Development Bank of Canada and EDC. The government has committed some $8 billion in small business lending. We know that credit is at the core of our problems and we had a very unsatisfactory meeting in the finance committee this morning with the president of BDC, who was entirely unable or unwilling to give us any idea of the speed with which these billions of dollars in credit would get out the door.

Just as infrastructure funding is of no value if it sits under a mattress in Ottawa, neither is credit to small business of any value if it stays in the vault of a bank rather than getting out the door to the business customers who are desperately in need of credit.

Therefore, to detail the actual implementation of the budget is the second point. In this regard, the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be playing an important role. He has provided what I thought was a good report as to how he plans to proceed to help parliamentarians, to provide these economic and fiscal updates, and to detail the implementation of the budget.

The Liberal Party certainly expects the government to co-operate fully with the requests of the Parliamentary Budget Officer for information in order to permit him to do his job for Parliament, which is to provide these economic and fiscal updates, as well as to detail the implementation of the budget.

The third item is that we expect the government, and indeed the government has agreed, to itemize the actual effects of the budget with respect to the five criteria, which our leader has set out: to protect the vulnerable, to protect the jobs of today, to protect the jobs of tomorrow, to ensure regional fairness, and to avoid permanent deficits.

In each of these categories, we expect the government, as it has committed to do, to set out the ways in which its actions and its future actions will impact Canadians in these five areas.

Finally, the fourth point is to provide details on any adjustments or new measures as may be required to benefit the Canadian economy.

As our party has said a number of times, as the finance minister has said, if the situation becomes distinctly worse, then it may be necessary for the government to take further action.

This would seem to be a matter of common sense in a crisis the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes and nobody knows where the bottom is. It is impossible to say whether or not further government action will be needed. If we were to base our assessment on recent events, we certainly could not rule that out.

The only one who seems to be out of step on this is the Prime Minister himself, who has spoken ambiguously, on CNN yesterday and in previous times, where it becomes apparent that he does not really believe in fiscal stimulus in the first place, which was clearly reflected in his MA thesis.

I am not sure that he, unlike his finance minister, unlike the Liberal Party, subscribes to the notion that even if the Canadian economy gets substantially worse that he will or will not be willing to provide additional support. That is a question for the Prime Minister.

In the amendment to which the government agreed, the government agreed that it would provide details on new adjustments or new measures that may be required.

This is what we mean by the role of a government on probation. The government has agreed to it and we will hold it to account for co-operating fully and in a transparent manner on all of these four points of the amendment which was accepted by this Parliament.

I turn to my second and final subject, which is the matter of this $3 billion so-called blank cheque, as we tend to call, or slush fund as others tend to call it. It is a $3 billion fund which the Treasury Board seeks to appropriate and to spend in some fashion, as it sees fit.

If there is any doubt in the minds of anybody in this House as to the position of the Liberal Party, I will just read a headline from a Canadian Press story that came out about one hour ago. The headline is, “[Liberal leader] won't bend on $3-billion 'slush fund' despite election threat”. That is a verbatim statement of the headline, except that it uses his name which I cannot say here rather than “Liberal leader”.

He has said, as the headline says, clearly that our party will not bend on this $3 billion slush fund despite election threats. Let me just make it very clear, what is involved here. This has nothing to do with the vote on the budget. There has been some confusion on this issue. It is entirely a matter of the vote on the estimates. That vote will not take place for two to three weeks, which means that there is plenty of time to make some adjustments to what the government is proposing in order to restore at least a modicum of accountability to the government proposal which, so far, is entirely lacking in accountability.

It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. That is to say, we can get the money out the door with zero delay, with zero impact on the speed with which that money is out there to support the Canadian economy, and at the same time we can make some changes to what the government is proposing, so that it is not presented with a blank cheque that is absolutely and utterly blank.

The problem is that we have heard from Treasury Board officials that, contrary to statements by the Treasury Board President, this $3 billion would be limited to expenditures on budget measures. The Treasury Board officials have told us in writing that in fact the $3 billion could be spent on anything under the sun, including measures that the government has not even thought of yet.

Especially for a government and a Prime Minister that tells us, ad nauseam, about accountability and how much they subscribe to that, surely it is unacceptable to provide totally unrestricted rules for a government to spend taxpayers' hard-earned money with no accountability to Parliament, with no scrutiny, and with no barriers around the areas in which it is able to spend.

That is why, for the Liberal Party, it is a non-negotiable issue to come to some agreement on this which will maybe not establish maximum accountability but at least a modicum of accountability, whereas as matters stand today, none exists.

We have come almost to the end of our debate on this bill. All of us must be seized with the gravity of the situation facing our economy. All of us must be seized with the importance of providing support to the economy and that is why we in the Liberal Party, notwithstanding all the errors of omission and commission contained in this budget, will nevertheless support it at third reading.

However, we are not giving a blank cheque to the government in two respects. First, we are not giving it a blank cheque because we have put it on probation. We are requiring reports and demanding that the government behave in a transparent and co-operative way in providing the required information on these reports. Second, we are demanding that it display at least a substantial element of accountability in terms of the management of this $3 billion fund.

In conclusion, I move:

That this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my Liberal colleague's speech about Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill, which is at the third reading stage. He spoke to us about two major elements, the second being the $3 billion that the government wants to give itself. The member said he was not ready to give the government a blank cheque. He also spoke about accountability and the fact that minimal accountability, not maximum accountability, may be required.

I would like my colleague to explain exactly how he intends to show the government that it must demonstrate minimal accountability and to explain what he considers to be minimal accountability.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe that I said we would require a significant and substantial amount, not a minimal amount, as if it were not important.

I believe the House leader is discussing the options with his counterpart. It is somewhat technical, but I believe that there are means to limit the government's flexibility in terms of what it wants to spend. We may have other means to come to a solution.

In my opinion, we have not yet come to a solution that both parties find acceptable, but I am relatively optimistic that we will be able to get there and reach an agreement. I hope that there will be an agreement. As I said, our leader is seeking a solution and we would prefer to have an agreement. Negotiations are ongoing and so I do not have an exact answer to the question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Let me get this straight, Madam Speaker. After the Liberals bent over backward on pay equity and sold out the women of Canada on pay equity, after they sold out and bent over backward on employment insurance because they supposedly believe, as the NDP does, that half the workers not being able to access employment insurance is a fundamental crime, after they bent over backward on equalization in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec, and after they bent over backward on virtually everything, now we are being told that this time the line in the sand that they have drawn is a very real line.

I just do not buy it because what we saw today, for the 60th consecutive time over two Parliaments, was Liberals propping up the Harper agenda, propping up the Conservative government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I am actually referring to an agenda, kind of like Harper's Magazine and Harper's index. It describes something that is a reality, not referencing anybody in particular in the House.

However, what we have is systematic bending over backwards on everything, by the Liberals, for the Conservative agenda. We even saw the principle of the slush fund in the former sponsorship scandal. It was Liberal ingenuity, also most criminal ingenuity, that brought the sponsorship scandal to bear. We also saw with the softwood sellout, which the Liberals supported through every single stage, that the Bush softwood slush fund was supported by the Liberals.

The simple question is this: How could we possibly believe the Liberals this time?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, Liberals do not take any lessons from the NDP members either on economics or on morality. On economics, they do not understand it and they never will. On morality, they may accuse us of propping up the government, but everybody knows it is the NDP that created the government, because it is as a consequence of NDP action that the government came into being. Had it not been for those actions, Canadians would have child care, Kelowna, and pay equity. It is the NDP members and not the Liberals who are responsible for that.

Therefore, we take no lessons from the NDP either on the subjects that the hon. member raised or anything to do with economics.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, during question period the finance critic for the official opposition posed a question to the finance minister, the gist of which was following the finance minister's statement admonishing the House that we have to pass the bill because until we pass it not one dollar can flow. The finance critic posed the question and reminded him that no money under the budget implementation legislation actually can flow until April 1. As a matter of fact, it is not legal.

Interestingly enough, I asked the same question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance in commencing this debate. I asked the blunt and straightforward question, could he confirm to the House the date on which the first dollar of these monies under the budget implementation legislation can flow?

He did not answer the question, which says to me that the Conservatives will not answer straight questions because they know they have been implying and insinuating that everything is everybody else's fault, that it is a global financial crisis that has nothing to do with us, that it is synchronized somehow, that this is jingoism and it is not true.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on the accountability and the transparency that his party shows even in simple questions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his good question. I believe he knows in part the answer to his question, which is that the money from the budget can legally flow as of April 1 of this year. When it will actually flow is a totally different matter.

If we were to make that assessment based on the government's past record in flowing infrastructure funding, and based on what we heard in committee this morning about the BDC's lack of concrete plans, I think we will be left to wonder whether this money will ever flow or whether it will take many months before any significant quantity of money does flow.

I think in a sense the practical question is more important than the legal question, and the monitoring function will be central for us in determining what the answer to that question will be.

The member refers to accountability. To repeat my speech, I will refer to the double elements of accountability that will be important to us going forward: first, to have the government accountable as a government under probation according to the four sets of criteria set out in the motion; and second, that the government must also be accountable in accepting substantive and significant changes in the management of the $3-billion fund.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, New Democrats believe passionately in pay equity. This budget trashes pay equity. New Democrats believe in respecting our public civil servants and the sanctity of negotiated contracts. This budget rolls back negotiated collective agreements, including rolling back pay to RCMP officers.

New Democrats believe in child care spaces. This budget does not create one child care space. New Democrats believe in a national housing plan, something that the Liberal Party promised to restore in 1993 and failed to deliver, despite being the government for 13 straight years.

What does the hon. member say to the children, the women, the affordable housing advocates and the civil servants of this country in terms of his supporting the bill?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, the NDP can always be counted on to speak with sanctimony. The NDP never has to exercise responsibility, and that is the fundamental problem. I have said many times that this budget is far from perfect. It is reprehensible in many ways, but the NDP never considers the fundamental point that this is an economy in crisis. This is an economy where jobless rates are soaring. This is an economy where in my office I receive requests from—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I will begin by saying that it is very clear, as far as third reading of Bill C-10 is concerned, that the Bloc Québécois will be opposed, for a number of reasons. We have taken part in the debates at second reading, and proposed amendments, all of which were rejected. Both the Budget Implementation Act 2009 and the budget implementation plan create significant inequalities for Quebec. They have been strongly objected to in Quebec. In particular, the National Assembly passed an unanimous resolution in which all four parties in the Assembly took part.

These elements are of such importance to Quebec that they were the topic of a special session of the Quebec National Assembly. It came out unanimously against the government's intention to create, through this bill, a single securities commission, setting aside $150 million for the purpose. Quebec has always objected to this, and continues to do so. The Bloc Québécois members here will therefore continue to doggedly defend that position.

It is very clear that this is an area under Quebec jurisdiction. The Conservative government has been saying since 2006 that it absolutely wants to create this institution. We are totally opposed to this measure on constitutional grounds. What is more, we doubt that it will work.

Moreover, this morning, in the Standing Committee on Finance—which the Liberal colleague just referred to—we heard from specialists from the finance department. They told us that even if there is in the United States a commission for the entire country with a somewhat difficult to define role, it had not been up to dealing with the devastating effects of risk mortgages. These experts admitted that this type of mortgages were the source of the economic crisis we are experiencing. Even a single body in the U.S. was not able to offset the effects of a crisis everyone could see coming.

What is the real intention of the Conservative government in creating this single commission if not to be at cross-purposes with an existing process that is working very well? There are thirteen commissions working within an area that falls under the jurisdiction of their province or territory. A passport system enables communication between them. The International Monetary Fund has deemed this to be highly satisfactory and worthwhile for Canada and Quebec.

How can a government be trusted that is determined to flout one of Quebec’s clear desires and decisions? The Autorité des marchés financiers is the only remaining bulwark in Quebec protecting all securities, especially at the Montreal Exchange, which had to give up a number of functions when merged with the Toronto Stock Exchange. The government wants to deprive Quebec of a tool that is very important for its future development and concentrate it in Toronto, which paradoxically is located in the only province that refused to join the passport system because that province knew that its refusal would damage the system.

Ontario said to itself, therefore, that if a single securities commission were established, it would get it. We are totally opposed to this situation.

There is another major item that we tried to amend. That is the Conservative government’s intention in the budget implementation bill to unilaterally change the equalization system. They want to eliminate the planned $991 million increase in the 2009-10 financial year. This figure was confirmed by the Finance Minister’s people. Quebec will therefore be deprived of nearly $1 billion, which will prevent it from establishing programs and improving services in the areas of education, health and transportation. The people of Quebec will therefore once again experience this offloading of responsibilities that uses the economic crisis as an excuse, despite the fact that agreements had already been reached. Now the government says it is putting an end to all that and henceforth the provinces will have to pay, especially Quebec.

We totally disagree with this. I was talking a little while ago about the resolution unanimously adopted by the Quebec National Assembly in January 2009 that asked the Conservative government to review this issue, because it is totally unacceptable. In March 2007, our current Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Quebec saying that transfer payments would henceforth be predictable and Quebec would be able to plan better knowing in advance how much equalization it would receive. In November, the government put an end to this agreement, all of a sudden and without warning anyone, and cut Quebec’s equalization by a billion dollars, not counting subsequent years.

Another major, totally incomprehensible item in the budget is the favourable treatment accorded Hydro One in Ontario in comparison with Hydro-Québec. Hydro One arranges and installs electric power lines and distributes power. Hydro-Québec does the same but also builds and operates electric power generating plants. Two-thirds of Hydro-Québec’s revenues come from transmission and distribution. The government is refusing now to give equal treatment to this two-thirds of what Hydro-Québec does.

That too is completely unfair to Quebec and deprives it of about $250 million that it would receive if the same formula were applied to it as to Ontario. Once again, this is totally unacceptable.

There is another major issue. Once again, pay equity amendments, among others, were not passed this afternoon. This budget implementation bill scoffs at the right to pay equity, women's right to receive the same pay as men for the same work. This bill makes pay equity a negotiable right. That is unacceptable. Conservative government representatives told us that they had modelled the amendment on Quebec legislation, but everyone knows that in Quebec, pay equity legislation is proactive because it researches and analyzes these problems in advance. However, the federal government is trying to make women in the public service take a significant step backward. They are being told that from now on, the matter will be negotiable and the government will have to see if it can be adapted.

The Conservative members' suggestion that their bill is similar to Quebec legislation is false, and we take exception to such statements.

The other issue is capping pay raises for federal employees. The government signed salary increase agreements with a number of groups, but the budget implementation bill is a big step backward for these people too. Their employer, the government, publicly gave them the shaft. These people work for all Canadians and Quebeckers, but they have just been denied the right to the fair, equitable, proper negotiations that resulted in agreements, agreements that the government has torn up. That, too, is completely unacceptable.

Another major issue—and I should note that I am only talking about major issues, because we could go on forever if we were to discuss the details of every significant irritant in this bill—is this bill's amendment of the Navigable Waters Act. Bill C-10 gives extraordinary powers to one person, the minister, no consultations required. From now on, the minister will have the power to define navigable waterways and structures that may be exempt from environmental assessment.

This is giving far too much power to the minister, without reference to consultation or environmental studies, justified simply by the statement that we must act quickly to see that the money set aside for infrastructure is spent quickly.

Generations will follow us and rap our knuckles. They will rap the knuckles of the Conservative government and of the Liberals who support it at the moment. They will say it is crazy to have given a minister powers in this bill to circumvent the necessary environmental studies. It is highly likely that, in some respects—especially at the pace they want to proceed—the government will end up with projects that will damage the environment. No one wants this, but the way is clear for this to happen.

We mentioned as well in the budget debate that there is a major imbalance—I will point it out again—in connection with the forestry sector. The budget implementation bill has done nothing to correct the imbalance we identified in the budget. There are measures worth $170 million for the forestry sector across Canada, when $2.7 billion was paid or planned as loan guarantees for car manufacturing, which is concentrated in Ontario. That means crumbs for the forestry sector, which has been in crisis for five years, while the government taps are being opened to pour billions of dollars into the automotive industry.

It is if they were saying the forestry sector counts for nothing. That is nonsense. In Quebec, there are 140 municipalities whose livelihood depends only on the forestry sector. The Conservative government does not care about these communities. People are going to lose their jobs. Businesses will close. The economy will collapse. And yet, the government does nothing. No loan guarantees have been provided for the companies with a chance of surviving. The government is not there to help them.

Finally, I would like to speak about the entire employment insurance system. The government told us it had improved the employment insurance system by adding five weeks of benefits, going from 45 to 50 weeks. However, very few of the unemployed will benefit from this measure because the real need is felt when workers first lose their jobs. The two weeks of the waiting period are the most difficult. During the election campaign and the holidays, I met hundreds of citizens. Unfortunately, many companies are working on a temporary basis and this is even the case for some government services.

We have been told that workers are seriously affected by the two week waiting period. This occurs year after year and they are never able to recover these amounts.

The Conservative government has stated that money has to be injected quickly. Before its November economic statement, we suggested a very specific plan to foster economic recovery. The unemployed would have had money in their pockets sooner. Now, however, they are impoverished constantly because they often have recurring periods of unemployment.

I reiterate that the Bloc Québécois will not support Bill C-10.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, we were very interested in the speech by the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, especially because he is opposed, like us, to the budget and Bill C-10.

The Liberal Party has actually spoken against the bill as well, while simultaneously saying it will vote in favour. This is the sixtieth straight time that the Liberals have supported the Conservative government in a vote of confidence in the House.

Can the hon. member tell me how he sees things? The Liberal Party says it opposes everything in the budget and Bill C-10 but ultimately will vote in favour of the bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

It is true that the Liberal Party has been contradicting itself over and over for the last year and a half. It effectively supports the Conservative government, often under false pretexts.

We have also heard the Liberals and been repeatedly dumbfounded by both their speeches and what they have asked in question period. They say something does not make sense and the Conservatives should have included something else in the budget, but then they go and vote in favour of it.

It is as if they were saying there are some very important things in this world but protecting women’s right to pay equity is not as important as all that. It is not so important for the Liberals because they are ultimately going to allow things to pass that they oppose. It is not all that important, in their view, that Quebec has been unanimously demanding the withdrawal of the new equalization formula and the cancellation of a single securities commission. This is not very important for Quebec. That is clearly what the Liberals think because they will vote with the government to impose measures on Quebec that are unacceptable to it.

I can only say to my colleague that, unfortunately, we have heard and seen the same inconsistencies coming from the Liberal Party.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois speaking about all the problems he has determined with the economic action plan presented by our government.

I find it really strange and hard to imagine, since the budget would provide many billions of dollars to his province in various aspects, both in economic structure development and also in equalization.

My question to that member is this: why would he keep blocking the passage of Bill C-10?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, we have often said that the measures the Conservatives included in this budget to boost the economy will miss the mark. We presented them with a very complete plan last November. They even admitted that the Bloc was the only opposition party to introduce a credible plan. The measures proposed in this plan would have given back to older people and the unemployed the money they had been promised. This plan would have ensured that the manufacturing and forestry industries were not completely abandoned, as this budget does by leaving them only $170 million. Instead, all the assistance is focused on the automobile industry in Ontario.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain spoke earlier about part 7 of Bill C-10, which is a part that I personally find very important. Is he aware that, when this part of the bill was studied in committee, 28 witnesses were invited, none of whom were from Quebec? This is incredible given how many lakes we have in Quebec. And we have issues because the 1882 law, which became the 1886 law, was revised and became the 1985 law. But it does not reflect the reality of the majority of our lakes in Quebec.

I am very proud to hear that the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain will not support this bill, which, in my opinion, is completely inadequate for Quebec.

Is he aware that the bill does not even include secondary bodies of water even though the department's civil servants recommended them? It does not include secondary work either. I would like to hear his opinion on this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is obviously referring to the part when I spoke about navigable waters. The most important point is that we are giving a minister, a single person, power that he would never have been given if the parts of this bill had been studied separately.

The Conservative government took advantage of the fact that it would have the Liberals' support and introduced a number of elements into its bill that are even against the Liberals' philosophy and views. But, knowing that they would support the budget, the government took advantage of that and included measures such as this one, which gives the minister, a single person, the authority to define waterway and decide which structures will not require an environmental study. The minister can decide which structures can be built where, without referring to environmental studies. That is absolutely unacceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this important bill, which illustrates the profound differences between the parties in this House. This brings to light all the challenges we have with a third minority government in a row. This is the first time in Canadian political history that there have been three minority governments in a row: the Liberal minority government of Paul Martin, followed by two Conservative minority governments led by the current Prime Minister.

I say this by way of introduction to explain that, clearly, the government has had to become accustomed to this situation and find various ways to deal with the presence of other political forces in this House. Let us look at the differences in approach.

When Paul Martin came to power with a minority government in the spring of 2005, he was faced with an opposition majority. There were enough Conservative, Bloc and NDP members to defeat the Liberal minority government, so it had to find an ally.

Mr. Martin's budget had provided that taxes on major corporations would be reduced by $4.8 billion. This money was removed from Crown assets. The NDP supported the budget on the condition that the government make a drastic change, allocating the $4.8 billion to social housing, public transit and post-secondary education. This shows that the parties can work together in a minority situation, provided that the government is willing to accept its minority status and work with the other parties in the House.

What changes have we seen with the Conservatives? During their first government, which lasted from January 2006 to October 2008—there was another election last October 14—the House of Commons was the scene of daily bickering, spite, invective and constant attacks from a minority government. The leader of the Liberal Party was weak and voted 43 times for the Conservatives. As a result, it was very difficult for the Liberals to face the voters and say how bad the Conservatives were, since they had given the government a vote of confidence 43 times.

The Prime Minister had the temerity to call an election. It should first be said that this election was called contrary to the provisions of legislation that had been introduced and voted on by the Conservatives as part of what they called their ethics package. That may seem somewhat pompous, but it was as hollow as it was pompous. They said with their hand on their heart that it was not right for the government itself to decide on the date of the elections and that they were going to set the date for the next election, which would be held on October 19, 2010. That was when the next election was to be called.

They did as all the other governments have done before them, but more hypocritically, since they had a vote on legislation here in the House of Commons saying it was not right to leave it to the government to choose the date of the election and that elections had to be called on a set date. That really betrays the Conservatives' modus operandi and shows how it is they cannot work with anyone. In the 2008 election campaign, they swore to the public that they had understood the importance of working with all forces in the House of Commons. They said that this time things would be different, even if they were in a minority position. It is true that things were different. They were worse.

On November 27, right in the middle, not of what we feared might be, but what has already proven itself to be one of the worst economic crises since the 1920s, the Conservatives made a budget statement, one that required the confidence of the House. In the statement, they attacked three things. First, they attacked the right of women to equal pay for work of equal value. Second, they attacked union and social rights. Third, they attacked the very system of funding political parties. This system, it will be remembered, had been put in place in the wake of the worst political scandal in Canada's history. It was the sponsorship scandal, in which the Liberal Party of Canada stole millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers for its own use. It has yet to pay it all back.

That is what the Conservatives decided to do, instead of proposing budgetary measures to increase economic activity, save jobs and create new ones. It was so serious that the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party of Canada announced their plans to defeat the government. That is when we saw a man who usually struts about like some tough guy run and hide behind the Governor General's skirts, asking that Parliament be prorogued, instead of facing the music on December 8. He went and saw the Governor General, imploring her to grant a prorogation unlike any other in the history of Canadian politics. That prorogation was granted only a few weeks after the federal election. He was about to be defeated. Showing a lack of respect for our institutions, he hid out at Rideau Hall and succeeded in getting his prorogation, and a reprieve. The House resumed exactly two months from November 27. On January 27, the government presented its budget.

What did the budget do? The budget attacked women's right to equal pay for work of equal value. The budget attacked union and social rights. But this time, as though there always have to be three things, instead of attacking political party financing, it attacked the environment, taking away the protection granted by legislation that even has that word in its title: the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

I will list all the things that were in the budget and ought not to have been, and the others that ought to have been in there and were not. The only thing that was taken out between November 27 and January 27, and which was of sufficient interest to the Liberals to get them to vote in favour of the budget this time, while they were prepared to vote against it in November, is abolition of the clean funding system for political parties. In so doing they managed to get their money back. We got it clearly: the only principle of interest to the Liberals is their own money. Let us keep in mind that the Liberal Party of Canada is the party that depends the most on public assets for its funding. It is, in fact, incapable of finding funding. We saw that with the sponsorship scandal: the only way it could get any money was to steal the public's money. So, there were a whole series of elements that should never have been in a budget bill.

We understand where they got the model from, however. In another Bill C-10 in another time, the Conservatives felt the desire to start imposing film censorship. This was a step back to the 1950s. The good Conservatives made the decision for the public on what films could or could not be made in Canada with funding from various tax credit programs. That had nothing to do with the budget except the fact that tax credits were mentioned, but it had everything to do with their right-wing ideology.

Then, in another bill they managed to include in a budget bill, we had an all out attack on our immigration system, a system that had been based on rights. A person was entitled to become a citizen if he or she met all the criteria. The Conservatives changed this to “may”. A person may become a citizen if he or she meets all the criteria, but the one who makes the decision is a public servant. It thus becomes totally random and discretionary, and thus at cross-purposes with all our principles of law, but that did not bother them much. For the Conservatives, none of that is of any interest.

Those are the three things they have done.

These measures were included but should not have been there. I have to say that those items that should have been in the budget are nowhere to be found.

I will make a friendly suggestion to my good friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance: he should either clean his ears or take a memory test. I was at a meeting attended by my colleague for Winnipeg, the Minister of Finance, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. They explained to him, chapter and verse, what should be in the budget—because our approach was to stimulate the economy with large public expenditures—and, knowing them very well, they did not want them to start down another path. It has been on the website for a long time. My leader met with the Prime Minister and had been discussing with him a number of measures for an hour and a half. Significantly, during the meeting, it was my colleague who, on behalf of the caucus members, pointed out, line by line, item by item, projects that were at the ready and had all been analysed in their respective parts of the country. Apparently, the Minister of Finance, who looked as though he was taking notes, was just pretending to take notes. His parliamentary secretary, who was obviously there in body but not in mind, rose in this House today to contradict one of my colleagues by stating that nothing at all had been submitted. That is false.

My colleague did indeed provide a list of things, but our approach is totally different. As our Bloc colleague has just put it so well, there is a fundamental difference between our two parties. This difference colours all of their thinking. We would have preferred from the outset that they not provide the same tax reductions across the board to all major corporations, because, by definition, a company that makes no profits has no tax to pay and cannot therefore enjoy a tax reduction. This is economics 101.

They should have targeted the sectors of the economy that needed it most, such as the manufacturing and forestry sectors. Unfortunately, these two sectors are in Ontario and Quebec, primarily, where they have no political base. So that was of no interest to them. They gave tens of billions of dollars to the most profitable companies, including the oil and gas sectors in western Canada, their political base. So, companies not needing it were bailed out with public funds, and companies with the greatest need got nothing. The figures are there. Since they came to office—even before the current crisis—over 350,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector and over 100,000 in the forestry sector in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. That is the direct result of the poor budget choices of the Conservatives. But they were not about to change their tack. That was the meeting we had with the finance minister.

His parliamentary secretary said earlier that we were rude. We do not agree with them and do not support the decision taken knowingly by the Conservatives to demolish the manufacturing and forestry sectors. That is what they have done.

At the end of January, on January 27, they presented a budget. The crisis had been full blown since September and continued in October, November, December and January, but at the end of January they still had not done anything.

They have introduced a budget with supposedly 1.9% of the GDP for public spending. Let us look at the facts. The figure advocated by the G7 and the G20 is 2%. Let us look closely at the facts, however. The 1.9% includes $8 billion that was to come from a reduction in public spending, but nothing was identified. One important point to remember is that the Conservatives have been in office for three years and, prior to the current budget, they had increased spending for government programs by nearly 25%, or $40 billion a year, with no results.

They gave $60 billion in tax cuts to the richest large corporations and increased spending by $40 billion, but this has no impact on most people. Did they eliminate the two week waiting period for employment insurance? Not at all. Did they help certain sectors of industry? They do not believe in that; they will not do so.

What is more, the 1.9% of GDP is also entirely unrealistic. They claim they will spend the municipalities' money and the provinces' money. In their little columns of numbers, they are including money from the municipalities and the provinces, which have not said a word about whether that money is available. Yet, that money is part of the Conservatives' calculations. Talk about free-loading. While all other countries are pinching their pennies and doing everything they can to sustain themselves, the Conservatives are sneaking a little here and a little there from everyone else's plate. They are not really spending to stimulate the economy. This aspect, which should have been in the budget, is totally missing.

There is a third factor. We are talking about what was in the budget and should not have been there, like the attack against women's right to equal pay for work of equal value, and what should have been there, like real spending to stimulate the economy, particularly in the area of infrastructure and refurbishing old homes to make them more energy efficient. Are we going to pass such a huge debt down to future generations? Hopefully we can at least pass down green infrastructures at the same time, along with clean, renewable energy and things they can benefit from. Instead, some would rather destroy the environment under the pretext that projects must be approved as soon as possible. Thus, they are using a real economic crisis as an opportunity to attack women's rights, the environment and social rights.

Last week, we got the icing on the cake, the cherry on top. On Thursday, we found out that by fiddling with the vote on the Treasury budgets, they were going to try to get approval for a $3 billion slush fund to be spent however they wish with no strings attached and no defined programs. They tried to absolve themselves by saying that they have to do it because measures take too long. This is like some kind of 1-800-Chuck-Guité. They have to start understanding what they have done. They are asking high-level bureaucrats to do what the Liberals asked them to do during the sponsorship scandal.

We have a parliamentary system based on departmental accountability. Since the sponsorship scandal, the rules have been changed, and what used to be implicit—deputy minister accountability—is now explicit. They are thumbing their noses at all of that even though it was in a bill that they introduced on accountability and the obligation to report to the people's elected representatives. That is what is so dangerous.

The U.S. has a different system of government and a lot has to change to make it work, but the Americans and their new President Obama are setting up an on-line system that will allow citizens to track how every dollar is spent. I made the same suggestion last Thursday. The same parliamentary secretary, the one with the memory problems, was on CTV with Tom Clark, and he said that it was a very good idea. Just two days later, on CTV's Question Period with Craig Oliver, that interest evaporated.

The NDP reproves and condemns the government because it has introduced a budget that does nothing to stimulate the economy, that attacks basic rights, such as women's rights, and that brings in several billions of dollars worth of discretionary spending. The budget is shameful. Unlike the Liberals, who have no principles, the NDP will take a stand against this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, much of the debate we have had through the various stages of the budget implementation bill has meandered around the question of whether this flawed budget should be passed. I think all hon. members understand how serious everyone is about the principles upon which the budget tramples.

The budget came down on January 27. If we consider how long it will take to get through the balance of third reading and then through the Senate, it appears it will take until near the end of March before it will be in place and April 1 when the money starts to flow. That is two months. However, the process was also contracted by the budget consultations and even the debate. This means even if we were to defeat the budget, go to an election, see how it turns out, get the House back, start it all up, get another throne speech, get another budget in place and then add about two to three months on to that, it would appear we would be into October of 2009 before we would be back at the same point we are at right now, albeit with a different budget, I would hope.

I am pretty sure that the damage done to some of the principles trampled upon by the budget will be reparable by subsequent actions of Parliament. I think I am convinced that, if we do not get this stimulus out and help the people of Canada to either save their jobs or create new jobs, if the House is defeated and we go into an election, the damage done will never be reparable.

Would the member care to comment on that assessment?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always an interesting experience to listen to Liberals try to give themselves a clean conscience, as they vote against women's rights, the environment and social and union rights. They try to give themselves a clean conscience by convincing themselves that somehow this is a stimulus package that will help the economy, whereas their member from Markham—Unionville, who has always been with me in committee, has said the same thing; that a lot of this is a pure fiction.

Of the 1.9% of GDP that is supposed to be in this budget, those members presume that a lot of the money will come from municipalities and provinces that do not have the money. That is a fiction. A lot of it is supposed savings in government spending. The Conservatives are the worst public administrators in the history of Canada. Prior to this budget, which has a large deficit, they had already increased public spending by the order of 25%, almost $40 billion a year, with nothing to show for it.

This so-called stimulus package has almost nothing left in it except for the $3 billion slush fund that the Conservatives keep talking about now and that has to be put through with the same urgency. They are using a very real political and economic emergency at this time in the country to try to take away the normal rules of control of public spending.

This is exactly what the corrupt Liberals did with the sponsorship scandal. There was a very real national urgency with regard to national unity in the wake of the 1995 referendum. The Liberals said that we had this unity problem, so they would spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public money. They forgot to say that they would take away all the normal controls and fill their pockets with millions of those dollars. That is the sad legacy of the Liberal Party. That is why no one who actually knows the Liberals is surprised to see them talking about women's rights and the environment and then voting against them.

One of their members, I think Toronto Beaches is the name of her riding, spoke eloquently yesterday, and I congratulated her when I saw her alone. I asked her if she would do like the members from Newfoundland and Labrador and stand up and vote against the budget. She walked away, having nothing to say. I saw her today, shamefully standing up and voting for the Conservative budget because, like all the other Liberals, she is devoid of principles. She talks a good game when it comes to women's rights, but will not back them up when it comes to a vote.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I found the comments by the member for Outremont very interesting and I would like to ask him about what I would call the government's deceit. He talks about the fact that the Liberals will probably vote for the budget implementation bill to keep the government in power and says that, at that point, it may even include other laws. That is fantastic because it will pass and there will be no need to revisit it.

There are many such laws. In addition to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Pay Equity Act, we find amendments to the Competition Act, the Investment Canada Act, the Canada Transportation Act, and the Air Canada Public Participation Act. And we could name others. Hence, I wonder if the member for Outremont believes that this shows contempt for Parliament.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi that there is contempt for Parliament. I would add, though, that the Liberal members have contempt for the voters. They all keep on talking in this House during question period and outside when they are questioned during media scrums after question period. They talk about women's rights and say that it is terrible that the Conservatives are taking away those rights, yet they are voting for that. They say it is terrible to play with the Navigable Waters Protection Act, yet they are voting with the Conservatives to remove that protection.

Another issue we have not had enough time to talk about is creating a new regulatory system, which not many people in Canada want. We must not forget that we are talking about a group that has never been a fan of big government. Yet the Conservatives are creating a new securities regulator. That is really something. It does not address any known problem. We have a passport system that works very well and has been praised by the G7. Canada is a regulatory model.

I would like to ask a few riddles. How many court cases were undertaken by the federal government in the sponsorship scandal? I will give you a hint. The number starts with a zero. Yes, the only court cases were those undertaken by the Government of Quebec, and the people who went to jail went there thanks to the Government of Quebec.

And how many days of proceedings have there been so far under the Criminal Code for Vincent Lacroix? Let us keep in mind that the Autorité des marchés financiers exists at the provincial level, and that it is the Criminal Code on the federal level. He is in prison for many years because of the proceedings initiated by Quebec. There are several hundred criminal charges against him, but how many days in court so far? Let me give you another clue. It starts with a zero. Yes, that is the real performance record of the federal government as far as crimes of this type go, what are sometimes called white collar crimes, that is fraud and the like. I myself have had the pleasure of seeing how the OSFI, the Office of the Superintendent of FInancial Institutions operates, when Ms. Dickson came and testified last year. We had an opportunity to question her about the famous commercial paper, and she was not able to tell us what she had to do with all that and yet this was one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated in Canada.

So. for heaven's sake, before they start preaching to us about how well the federal government can do things, could somebody at least look at the facts?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard the member for Outremont say that the Conservative government, unlike previous minority governments, has not learned to work with the other parties and has not considered its minority status. I think that is untrue since there is a party that has supported it 60 times. I do not understand his earlier statement. I would like him to explain it to me.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not know if it is the lawyer in me speaking or the politician who hates to admit he is wrong, but my colleague is absolutely right. When the spineless Liberals, who have no backbone, consistently and constantly support the Conservative government, we are, for all intents and purposes, facing a new political party. We all remember the acronym that was invented when they formed the Conservative Reform Alliance Party. The acronym was unforgettable. Now we have the Conservative Liberal Alliance Party. I will let you figure out the acronym. It is very telling.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate at third reading on the budget implementation bill for the fiscal year that will commence on April 1.

We have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. I would like to bring us to where we are and where some of the indicators may have been had someone's eyes been open, or at least had someone read the newspapers.

Back in the 39th Parliament, there were a number of things going on in the House. There was certainly some sabre rattling by some political parties that if the government did not get its act in gear, it may face an election. Some parties did not have much confidence in the government. They thought that the government could not be trusted, that its credibility was in question, that they could not believe what the government said. Conservative times were tough times. All these things were going on, which is part of the political process that we experience in Parliament.

During the latter part of the 39th Parliament, there was an investigation going on in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on the in-and-out scandal. The Chief Electoral Officer had ruled that the Conservative Party had broken the elections law of Canada, had overspent its advertising budget and had laundered the money through candidates, et cetera. I do not have to go through all of that other than to say that there are ongoing legal proceedings as a consequence. We did have committee hearings and we were getting evidence and testimony from people who were corroborating what the Chief Electoral Officer had found, that the government was aware that what it was doing was improper under the Canada Elections Act. This is where the term “dysfunction” came out.

In fact, the standing committee, which I chair, held summer hearings on this issue. Things were getting pretty hot and interesting to the point where we had to subpoena members of the Conservative Party of Canada to appear. They refused to honour the subpoenas of the committee. That got a lot of attention. The committee decided it would deal with it when the House resumed because the assistance of the Speaker of the House would be needed to act on the subpoenas and to determine whether contempt of Parliament issues might have to be dealt with.

Before the summer was over and before the House was to return, the Prime Minister dissolved Parliament. He said that Parliament was dysfunctional. We had an election on October 14, 2008.

The first point is there was no defeat of the government on any confidence issue. Opposition members certainly had a lot of concerns about the integrity of the government, but there was no threat to any legislation. Everything the government had wanted to pass had passed.

In fact one of the things that had passed in that Parliament is a law regarding fixed election dates which had specified that the first election was to be October 19, 2009. The Prime Minister himself said that not ever again would a prime minister have the opportunity to call an election when it was politically advantageous. He said that everybody, every party, every member of Parliament, every member of the public would know exactly when the next election would be held.

What did he do? He dissolved Parliament and called an election one year earlier than the law stipulated. I can remember why. By that time, we were already seeing indications that an economic tsunami was forming. We saw indications that the highest record of employment in 30 years was starting to crack. All of a sudden economic indicators pointed to concerns within the financial institutions and some of the major industries. We started to see some indications in the auto sector. We started to see it in some of the other program areas. Little cracks were forming.

We had that election. We came back. I remember I got a letter from my own broker with regard to my RRSPs. We had a long, good and healthy period under the Liberal government. There were balanced budgets for 10 years, tax reductions, highest employment rate, lowest inflation, lowest interest rates. Things were good, but what was going to happen, as we know now, was foreshadowed by a lot of the indicators that were out there.

In fact one of the key indicators happened to be the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That office was created under the Federal Accountability Act to make sure that the information the government had was reliable for parliamentarians and Canadians. That is a story in itself, the way the government has totally ignored the information and the advice of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The election was on October 14. On November 18 we were back here and there was an economic statement. That economic statement said, “Life is good. We carry on. Everything is going to be fine. We are looking forward to four years of healthy surplus yet again. Do not worry about it, but by the way, as long as we are at this, we are going to destroy pay equity. We are going to cut out the funding to political parties. We are going to deal with the public service and we are going to do a few other things”.

These were all things that had nothing to do with budgetary or economic measures. The government was playing games. It was poking sticks in people's eyes, trying to make them upset. But all of a sudden, the November economic statement did not have the support or the concurrence of anybody anywhere on the planet.

It was ludicrous. It was so ridiculous. As was pretty clear under the Constitution, if the government was defeated either on its throne speech or on some measure out of that economic statement, we would be into another election. However, there was an opportunity under our Constitution that the Governor General, if there had been an election in the last few months, could have approached the official opposition to form a government if it could demonstrate it had the majority support of the House.

We know where we were. There were indicators. The government said that everything was good. The November economic statement said that everything was going to be great, but I am a little concerned that the government again was saying, “We are getting a little worried about the possibility of a coalition government and getting turfed out of office. We better save our backsides”. What did it do? When it saw that there were problems coming down the pike, that the jobs of Canadians were going to be put at risk, it prorogued Parliament. It shut it down totally. No committees existed. No work was getting done. No attention was being given to the emerging issues of the day.

We came back and there was a throne speech on January 26, and the next day the budget was presented. The budget now shows four years of deficits, not four years of surplus. It shows four years of deficits, cumulatively, $84 billion of deficits.

I do not know about other members, but when we go from four years of surpluses and everything being fine in an economic statement on November 8, then on January 26 the government puts out a document, which was already a month old because it had to go through the approval process, which shows fours years of deficits totalling $84 billion, where is this coming from? How is it that the world could change so much?

The Prime Minister explained it quite simply that it has nothing to do with us, that our banks are healthy and we do not have to do anything, but what he did say also is that it is a global economic crisis. Consider what global means. Everybody who is in business, anybody who has any economic activity in the world is part and parcel of the same thing we are experiencing here.

On November 8, when the Conservatives put out an economic statement that they were having nice surpluses and everything was fine, they had no inkling whatsoever. Then all of a sudden there is this global economic crisis that in the next month they recognized and they changed their numbers and their forecasts and came out with the January budget showing four years of cumulative deficits. Can anyone imagine the ludicrousness to suggest that they did not know about a global economic crisis because it really did not happen until after the economic statement? It is nuts. It is absolutely unbelievable.

The Conservatives think that Canadians are stupid but they are not. They continue to persist that it is not their problem and they did not create that. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives inherited a $14 billion annual surplus from the previous Liberal government that had 10 years of surpluses and handed over the reins of a healthy economy. The Conservatives squandered that by their tax cuts and the spending spree that they went on, the highest spending per capita in the history of our country. They squandered the $14 billion annual surplus. They put us in a condition where we had absolutely no wiggle room. There was no cushion to help us get through difficult economic times.

That $14 billion per year would have gone a long way to handling the so-called global economic crisis. It would not have been so painful.

Now we have this wonderful budget that has a stimulus package associated with it and 40% of that infrastructure. We know that infrastructure is an efficient way to save jobs at risk, to create new jobs, generally being supportive, and to provide support to the financial sector. Other countries are doing it and we are doing it as well.

The government continues to say, in its answers to questions, that the opposition needs to put the public interest ahead of partisan interest and pass this budget, but what does it do? It decides in this budget to address the serious needs of Canadians who are faced with job loss and all kinds of other consequential impacts of a major financial crisis by loading the budget up with a bunch of other things. What is it going to do? It will basically decimate pay equity for women, equal pay for work of equal value. That has nothing to do with a budget but if it is thrown in, the Liberals and the others will not be able to defeat the budget because if they do an election will be called.

That may be true but the Conservatives also put in things like the Competition Act, changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and proposals for a national securities regulator that cannot possibly be resolved for years. It will take years to deal with that. They also had changes on equalization, a very sensitive area that affected Quebeckers and Maritimers.

The Conservatives made this an omnibus bill, which means they put in a bunch of things that are not necessarily connected. Why did they do that? Again, this is playing partisan politics, poking a stick and trying to get what they can get because they know that no responsible official opposition party would allow the budget to be defeated because it would probably take until next October before we could get back to the same spot that we are at today. By that time the jobs will be lost, the personal and business bankruptcies will have peaked, the consequences to Canadians will be enormous and the damage will be irreparable.

It would be totally irresponsible for Parliament not to pass the budget. The government knew that. it knew there was an economic crisis and it knew there would be this major downturn. It knew that it could get away with this and it continues to play partisan politics.

Every time the government talks about this, it says that the opposition needs to put the public interest ahead of political interest and yet it is the government's actions, not its words. We need to look at its actions and its actions have been totally contrary to the words that come out of the mouths of government members.

Today a question was asked of the finance minister. He said that the opposition needs to pass this budget quickly so the money can flow and that no money will flow until we pass this budget. That is true, except that this is the budget implementation for the fiscal year that will begin on April 1, 2009. Therefore, even if the bill were to pass at all stages, even in the other place, and receive royal assent, no dollars could legally flow until April 1. We still have a month for the balance of this process to take place.

It is the way the finance minister is trying to insinuate that everyone else is slowing the process down and blocking the money from flowing. What makes it even more ironic is that over the past two years $2 billion of approved, funded and appropriated infrastructure funding was promised but was never sent out. As a matter of fact, we still have another month to go in the current fiscal period. If infrastructure is so important, jobs are so important and stimulating the economy is so important, why are the Conservatives not spending some of that money in this last month? Why are they not getting it out before the books are closed?

I know why. It is because the Conservatives promised they would have a balanced budget in the current fiscal year which ends on March 31, 2009. The current budget implementation bill shows that it will be a small deficit of $1.1 billion. Members should mark my words that we will have a balanced budget reported for the current fiscal year and they will use that to say that they kept their promise. What they have done is taken away the opportunity for Canadians to save themselves, to save those jobs by having $2 billion less for infrastructure funding.

This is not integrity of government. This is not transparency, openness and accountability. The measure of success of a country is not an economic measure. It is a measure of the health and well-being of the people. With the inactions of the government with regard to the infrastructure funding, it is very clear that it does not believe that stimulus funding will do any good. It just wants to paint a picture for partisan reasons that the current fiscal year will look pretty good with a balanced budget and if it delays enough a few other things and the $3 billion slush fund it has set up in this with no accountability strings attached to it, it will be able to manoeuvre.

I wish I could pull out one of the speeches and read it into the record for members, but the Conservatives basically said that we were a trading country and that all of those countries with which we trade, the United States and others, have massive stimulus packages. Those countries have pumped a lot of money into the banks, the auto industry and into infrastructure, et cetera. They said that we would benefit because those countries will begin buying our stuff again and everything will be fine. They said that we really did not need a stimulus package. I honestly think they do not believe that the stimulus is necessary. I think they will ensure that the stimulus package does not get out on a timely basis and maybe never. It will be promised but never delivered and promised at another photo op and promised again and never delivered.

That is what the Conservatives have been doing since they were first elected in 2006. They have not been governing since 2006. They have been campaigning. It is only because of the official opposition saying that we cannot let this happen to the people of Canada, that someone must give hope to the people of Canada, not fear. It is the Conservatives who are delivering the fear to our country.

Today it is reported that the Prime Minister, in an interview with the CNN, said that what is happening right now is just a cyclical downturn but nothing that requires major government intervention. It speaks for itself. The Prime Minister is not on side. He does not believe it. He cannot be trusted. He is not credible in what he says. His caucus is right behind him in lack of credibility, accountability, transparency and openness.

The day will come when we will be able to fix all the damage the Conservatives will do with this budget, but in the meantime, the official opposition will support the budget because the people of Canada need us to be here working for them and ensuring the government is held accountable at a time of Canadians' needs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Madam Speaker, that was a very entertaining speech that we just heard from the member for Mississauga South.

We all know that the oracle of Omaha is Warren Buffett. He has been a very successful investor over the years. I heard the hon. member comment during his speech that during the election he anticipated a downturn in the Canadian economy. However, during the month of September we saw an additional 100,000 jobs added to the economy. In October, further during the election period, we saw 9,500 jobs added to the Canadian economy when the analysts, unlike the oracle here, had predicted the loss of 10,000 jobs. The Canadian economy produced 9,500 jobs.

The reason for that is that the Prime Minister took action well in advance. He anticipated the downturn long before, unlike our colleagues on the other side of the House. There was a tremendous stimulus in the form of tax cuts to keep this economy going, one of the last countries of the G8 to maintain a positive economy.

He talked about a vision for Canada. His former leader offered a vision of Canada in October called the carbon tax. One can just imagine if the carbon tax had been brought into this country. It would have been devastation.

If the hon. member was predicting the future like Kreskin, where are the comments that we would foresee this massive economic recession during the election? Would the hon. member comment on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, Statistics Canada just reported the results of the fourth quarter for 2008: an annualized rate of reduction in the GDP of 3.4%. That is the reality of what happened in the last quarter of 2008 under the Conservatives' watch.

I do not care how rosy the member wants to paint October, et cetera, the fact remains that we lost a record number of jobs in the fourth quarter, the economy has tanked and there is a global recession going on that is very deep and very dangerous. The Conservatives think that all they need to do is say that somebody else will take care of it.

The interesting thing is that the Conservatives feel so little responsibility to do anything about the economy, they have decided to turn their attention to perusing thousands of hours of tapes of the leader of the official opposition to see if they can come up with stuff they can use in attack ads in the next election. That is the priority of that government.

As I said earlier, since 2006, the Conservatives have not been governing. They have been campaigning and they continue to do it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, in his presentation, my colleague stated that, in practical terms, in order to avoid elections, the Liberals had no choice but to support the budget. That is not true because, first of all, there was the coalition agreement signed by the three parties, which would have made it possible to take down the government and bring about change without going to the polls. Thus, it is false to state that there was no other option.

I would say that, at the very least, the Liberals could have made significant gains for citizens. What did they get besides a new cloakroom in the lobby and an end to the lawsuit against them? Next to nothing. They made a pitiful amendment asking that the government report on its work. I believe that it is the responsibility of all parliamentarians to monitor the government. Therefore, in general, the Liberal amendment asks the government to do the opposition's work.

Could the Liberals not have seized the opportunity to make substantial rather than trivial changes to the budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member has a point but sometimes we need to say that this is not a matter of a lust for power, that it is a matter of what is in the best interests of the country and nothing more.

Constitutionally, the coalition was a possibility and still is a possibility. However, the member will also know that the opposition was able to secure a substantial amendment and that amendment called for ongoing economic and fiscal updates, details of the actual implementation of the budget itemized to the actual effects of the budget in respect to protection of the most vulnerable, minimizing existing job losses, creation of employment opportunities for tomorrow, provision for economic stimulus, et cetera.

This was the compromise that was made by the official opposition. The official opposition has a greater responsibility than the other two opposition parties that will never, ever form a government. It is our responsibility to work in the best interests of Canadians. We have taken a decision and Canadians will judge ultimately.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, let us get this straight.

The Liberals sell out employment insurance, given that 50% of Canadians who lose their jobs cannot access it, and that is okay. They sell out on pay equity, rise in this House and try to defend it, and that is okay. They sell out the Kelowna accord. They did that in the last election campaign, when their election promises repudiated Kelowna, and 14 years in power did not deliver child care.

Basically what we are hearing is that every single time, Liberals sell out Canadians. Every single time, without exception, they sell out Canadians, and they are doing it again. They simply do not have any credibility whatsoever. The Liberals cannot have credibility when time after time they break their promises and sell out Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, let me remind the hon. member from the NDP that with its vote bringing down the Paul Martin government, the early learning and child care program never happened, the Kelowna accord to help aboriginal Canadians never occurred, and the pay equity changes that we were bringing in never occurred, because that party--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, it was because NDP members decided that they were more interested in going into an election than they were in serving the people of Canada.

In this budget there is $2 billion of infrastructure stimulus, a $495 million base funding program, $250 million for communities, $200 million for green infrastructure, $51 million for Atlantic Canada, $106 million for economic development in Quebec, $175 million in Ontario, $17 billion in the north, $154 million for the west, $1 billion in repairs for post-secondary institutions, $75 million for first nations housing, $125 million for CMHC, support for on reserve housing, social housing, low-income seniors, disabled persons and in northern housing, and there is more--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, there was so much in that speech. I listened to every word the member gave, and as usual it was right on the mark.

I would ask him a simple question. I know he is very interested in innovation and research. The government says it has put money into innovation and research. The facts are a little bit different. We even have the case of the university teachers, CAUT, going in to see the minister and being told to shut up, that they had burned their bridges and all that stuff.

Could my colleague tell me if that is a good idea? Is that the way to treat people?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is quite right. Unfortunately, when a minister of state for the Crown starts raising his voice and pointing fingers and telling a group representing 121 Canadian universities and colleges across the country that they do not understand the budget and that everybody loves the budget, it means one thing to me. It sounds to me like yet another example showing that the government really does not care to listen to anyone who does not agree with it. If they do not agree, the government is going to be a bully.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I will do what I can in the time that I have.

Naturally, the Bloc Québécois will not support this budget because the government has broken its promises. Once again, it is encroaching on areas under provincial jurisdiction that fall within the exclusive purview of the Government of Quebec. Take the securities commission, for example. The government's plan to impose a Canada-wide securities commission and centralize the work and the regulation in Ottawa is blatant interference. Quebec does not want this commission, and neither do many other provinces.

One reason the federal government's interference in areas under Quebec and provincial jurisdiction is so surprising is that it cannot even take care of business in areas that are under its own jurisdiction. As I have always said, should the day ever come when the federal government can manage its own affairs capably, it would have nothing more to do. Perhaps it would be tempted to get involved elsewhere. But that is not the case. Take immigration, for example.

Currently, all classes of immigrants are subject to long wait times. For example, immigrant investors are prepared to put up $400,000 to come to this country and invest in our economy. Those who go through Quebec's system get their Quebec selection certificate within a year, but they have to wait many more years for the federal government to do a basic criminal records check through Interpol before they even go to a designated doctor for a physical exam. That takes years.

I would suggest that if the government suddenly stopped interfering in areas that belong to Quebec and the provinces, and started taking care of its own responsibilities and putting a little money into speeding up case processing for immigrant investors selected by Quebec who are still waiting for confirmation from the federal government, thousands of people on these lists would come here in the middle of the economic crisis and contribute to and stimulate our economy.

That is not what the government plans to do. Instead it is getting in the way of members from Quebec and the provinces. Like the Liberals in their day, the Conservatives say they are listening to Quebec. But they are not. One hundred and twenty-five members out of 125—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-10. It has been an interesting journey for us to get to the point where we have a budget for us.

This is a very interesting story. When we go back to before the last election, in this House we actually passed a fixed election date law. The election was supposed to be held on October 19, 2009.

We had an election. One has to wonder, if we look at all the things that have happened, whether there is something more to the story. I looked at it very carefully and listened to how the government explained this.

In the November economic statement, the government indicated that there would be four years of surplus ahead of us and that everything was fine. The Prime Minister was happy that a recession had not occurred in Canada and had clearly indicated that if we ever to go into recession it would have already happened. That was out of line with virtually every private forecaster and with the parliamentary budget officer who has been under attack by the government. I do not know why.

The government started to change its tune as things started to come out. All of a sudden, in the January budget, instead of four years of surplus, we are looking at four years of deficit and at a recession.

The government says that we are in good shape. The Prime Minister's original assessment was that our banks were stronger than the banks in the rest of the world, so we did not have anything to worry about. On top of that, all these other countries that are boasting about being ready for the impending recession and the financial crisis, will be spending a lot of money. Since we are a trading nation, all the money they spend will benefit trade with us because we are a good trading country. It was basically an explanation that somehow we did not need do anything. We just needed to sit back and let other countries do the job and Canada will be just fine.

As we well know, that is not the case. In the January budget, we now have four years of deficit. The government's latest jingle line is that this is a global economic crisis. That means that everybody who is a player in the global economy is in crisis, and we are all there.

This is an absolute miracle, when we consider that last November there was no problem. We had an economic statement that said there was no problem. However, between November and January, when the budget came out on January 26, there was a global financial crisis. Instantaneously, the entire world was in a global financial crisis with no indication whatsoever that there was any problem out there. This is a lot of hogwash. The whole world does not go into an economic crisis without people knowing it.

The government knew it and the parliamentary budget officer knew it and told the government about it. The Governor of the Bank of Canada knew about it and told the government about it. I have heard from far too many people that the Prime Minister simply did not want to listen to the facts. He did not mind if the finance minister was left hung out to dry by giving numbers that were clearly a terrible indication.

The House knows that under the rules of budget day, the budget secrecy provisions, and even in general developments, the finance minister should never make commentary that may have some impact on the marketplace or on other financial indicators or instruments that might be involved. It is hard to believe that he actually gave that November economic statement that was basically panned by virtually everybody who knows anything about economic forecasting. It was clearly wrong but the government will not admit it now.

We now have a situation where the Prime Minister has said that we need to rush this through because we need to get the money flowing, and if we do not do it, there will be an election. I thought that was a little over the top because the official opposition has decided, notwithstanding the flaws in the budget, to support this one because we need to get that economic stimulus package moving and in place.

The only alternative would be to defeat the government now, go into another election and probably not come back until just before the summer or maybe even after the summer, depending on what happens. That would be unacceptable for the people of Canada. We need to put the people's interests before partisan interests.

However, the Prime Minister is still playing this partisan game saying that he has to get this going because he has to take care of the country and he is the only one who can take care of the country. I am not sure whether or not that is the assessment of the people.

As a consequence, when we think about it, there were indicators. Most people, who had any investments in RRSPs or direct investments, probably received the economic forecast letters that I received and I have seen others receive where it said that we have had a long good run of balanced budgets. We ducked the last recession that the U.S. had. We had low interest rates. We had the highest employment rate in 30 years and everything was going very well. We paid down debt and gave tax breaks. However, eventually it has to turn. Fat builds up in the system, the system gets lazy, the system gets undisciplined and things happen. Of course we are now into a more cyclical scenario.

Is it not a shame that the government broke its own law and called an election a year before it should have called it? Then, is it not a shame that it decided that it was going to go forward with an economic statement that made absolutely no sense, but wasted time? Then Parliament was prorogued, for how long again, so that the government could go back and figure out what would be its next political step. It came back with a budget.

What is in the budget? It is not just budget information. It turned out to be like an omnibus bill. There were things in there that had nothing to do with the budget, nothing to do with the financial crisis, and nothing to do with the need to get an economic stimulus package out.

It included an all out attack on pay equity. It included an all out attack on the public service, on the Competition Act, and even on the Navigable Waters Protection Act, things that have taken up time because they are in the budget and members have to address them, but they should not have been there in the first place. They could have been separate bills.

The Prime Minister says that he wants to get the stimulus out. Canadians want that stimulus out. However, we cannot just flip a switch and say, “Here's the cheque, go do it”. Obviously, we have to pick the projects, we have to appropriate the money, we have to come to an agreement and work out the details. Could that be going on now before the budget is passed? Could that be going on now before the cheque is cut? Absolutely.

As a matter of fact, if the government is not happy about that, why is it that over the last two years there was $2 billion of infrastructure spending that was budgeted, approved, appropriated and a cheque ready to be cut but never spent? It never got spent. It is called lapsed, promised but not spent.

If the government was clearly committed to doing something about the financial crisis that we now face, and when the January budget came out and the Prime Minister recognized or apparently recognized at that point that there was this financial crisis, why is that he did not accelerate or get out the already approved money and not have to wait for this? That would have put shovels in the ground or at least all the work would have started to move forward. There is no reason why money should not be out there.

The other issue that I would like to comment on is what I read in the paper, which I found a little disturbing. It was on the front page of the Globe and Mail where a minister of the Crown had a meeting with the representatives of 65,000 academic and general staff of universities and colleges. He started yelling at them and telling them that they did not understand the budget.

Why is it that we want to change the channel when the issues are creating jobs, saving jobs that are at risk, and taking care of the most vulnerable in our society in this financial crisis? Those are the priorities. The tools are available. The Prime Minister has to stop playing games saying that there are somehow delays going on here. This budget has gone through faster than any other budget in the history of our country. The official opposition is supporting it. It will pass quicker than any other budget. The tools are there. The government should get on with the job.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech. However, there is one aspect of the budget and the group of amendments that bothers me considerably. Although we hear about a desire to bring in a budget to stimulate the economy and really focus on the important aspects of economic stimulus, the Conservative government has decided to take an approach modelled after American budgets, that is, with measures that are not necessarily connected to the specific goal, and, as we say back home, measures that could be used to pull a fast one.

This includes creating a national securities commission, even though a consensus has been reached on this among the Government of Quebec, economic stakeholders in Quebec, all political parties in the Quebec National Assembly, and the Bloc Québécois. This consensus is based, for one thing, on the fact the OECD has ranked Canada second best in the world for securities regulation.

Now, with the support of the Liberals, the Conservative government is using the budget implementation bill as an opportunity to change this system, to change this arrangement and ultimately throw away a system that is working well, even though we are in a time when, if something works in the securities sector, we should leave it alone, instead of replacing it with something else.

How can my colleague explain his party's position, which is to support such a measure?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is quite right. This is another area where there is not consensus by all of the provinces. There is quite a divide in terms of the provincial view on this and I know that Quebec has a unique situation in which its securities regulation function actually includes more aspects of the financial administration or markets other than the banking system, which is federal, as he knows.

He has simply raised another example of matters that should not have been put in the budget. It was not necessary to put it in the budget. It should have been discussed and studied in committee. It should have had the kind of vetting that is necessary to make a wise decision, which is what we say in our prayer every time.

I agree with the member. I think the government shows yet again that it is not prepared to address the financial crisis. It wants to switch the channel to other issues which do not help to create jobs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would be happy to sit down and talk with the member about tax havens. It is certainly an important area for us to ensure that there is fairness and equity within the taxation system of Canada.

Let me simply reiterate that 40% of the stimulus package is infrastructure. I am not sure whether the $3 billion surplus without the designated scrutinies or due diligence is the safest way to go. There are other opportunities to continue to get the money out without creating a situation where people are focusing on the rules and history rather than on how we get those projects approved and running so those that are shovel ready can commence as soon as possible in the best interests of all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Yellowhead Alberta

Conservative

Rob Merrifield ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Madam Speaker, I listened to the debate and want to go back to the securities regulator question. The Bloc is saying we do not need it, but we are going into a very difficult economic time internationally and a time when Canada has to be as competitive as it possibly can be. To have a single securities regulator seems to be the only appropriate way to move forward.

I come from a province that agrees with its own securities regulator, but this is a voluntary process. My question to my hon. colleague is this. He is standing and saying that we do not need a national securities regulator. Would he go against the wishes of his province in that area?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I did not say that. That is not true at all. I said we should be discussing this because there is no consensus. This is provincial jurisdiction, and there are 13 regulatory agencies. However, it is also important to understand that this matter of whether or not we should have a single national securities regulator does not do anything for jobs. It is not necessary. The urgency is not there today. It should have been a separate bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the group of amendments submitted by the Bloc. For those who are listening, I would like to recall that the budget implementation bill puts into effect several initiatives including tax cuts, elimination of rules for tax deductibility for foreign corporations, and tax havens, which I will discuss in just a moment. It also includes changes to the employment insurance plan which, we believe, do not go far enough and do not address demand or provide the assistance needed by workers in these rather difficult economic times.

In addition, the budget will fund a transition office to oversee the creation of a single securities regulator, which my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup spoke about earlier. The budget also sets a cap on equalization payments and reforms the equalization formula, which has outraged the National Assembly. We have in our hands a motion by the National Assembly and our colleagues in the Government of Quebec, which criticizes the federal government for this. The budget also includes items pertaining to the Employment Equity Act, about which our colleague from Laval talked about extensively last week when she initiated a debate about the status of women.

We would like the House to accept the amendments proposed by the Bloc. Clause 6, which permits the use of tax havens, should be deleted. This short budget clause eliminates a section of the Income Tax Act that was designed to close a loophole used by Canadian multinationals to avoid paying taxes. Tax havens have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 1995, and recently, from 2000 to 2002, as well as in the 2003 and 2005 reports, the Auditor General reported on the use of tax havens, which are a from of tax avoidance. Section 18.2 of the Income Tax Act would have plugged this loophole as of 2012.

There is no justification for rescinding this section and it is quite scandalous. We need measures that will create jobs here in Quebec and Canada. We do not need measures that will create competition for local businesses that do not have the means to benefit from such a mechanism.

In this difficult economic context, the Bloc Québécois as well as thousands of taxpayers would like to know why the Minister of Finance is surrendering in such an important battle. The global economy as a whole is threatened by offshore investments and tax havens.

It is inconceivable that we would approve a decision by the Conservative government to allow too many financial transactions to go through tax havens. We must not let companies escape the social contract with the people and run away from their responsibilities. Many Quebeckers and Canadians pay taxes, and I am sure they are outraged to learn that companies will have the right to use such a mechanism and that the government wants to encourage tax evasion by multinationals.

The lack of transparency of tax havens makes it hard to identify credit risks and promotes market distrust. A report by the Auditor General revealed that the Canada Revenue Agency had a hard time properly monitoring international financial transactions and tended to go easy in tax probes of major corporations so as not to hurt relations with those companies.

Is the finance minister so blind that he did not understand from what the lobbyists said that companies are evading billions of dollars in income tax? Tax havens equal major capital flight. In 2000, according to the Auditor General, losses due to tax havens were equivalent to 50,000 taxpayers not paying their taxes. What about today? Statistics Canada says that the use of tax havens is on the rise, which is cause for concern.

The young people in my riding, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, want to know why it was not right to use tax havens to avoid paying tax in 2007, yet it became a good thing in 2008. Workers, seniors and the most vulnerable members of our society are asking themselves the same question.

The Minister of Finance knows, however, that we need some sort of oversight over the international financial market. In his 2007 budget, he said that steps had to be taken to ensure everyone pays their fair share. He complained that some foreign and Canadian corporations were using the tax rules to get around paying tax. He said that every time this happens workers and small and medium-size businesses have to pay higher taxes. He concluded by stating that it was unfair.

The anti-tax-haven initiative was proposed to prevent multinational corporations from using tax havens and other tax avoidance structures to generate two expense deductions for the same investment. Today, not only has the economic situation worsened, but the Conservative government appears to have taken steps to increase the injustice.

The Minister of Finance, members will recall, had already backed off in the fight against tax havens by acting on pressure from financiers in Toronto. He gave them a five-year grace period before the implementation of his plan to fight tax evasion and then set up an advisory panel whose independence and neutrality are highly debatable.

The finance minister out and out reneged on his commitment in the fight against tax evasion when he blindly accepted the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Canada' s System of International Taxation. This panel was clearly set up to justify the minister's change of heart.

Of the six members of the panel, four are from private companies that may have benefited from the strategy and still can. They include, for example, the former CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Canadian bank with the most branches in tax havens. The authors of the report are clearly in conflict of interest.

How can the Prime Minister today justify allowing banks and oil companies to avoid taxes through tax havens, when thousands of jobs are being lost each month and businesses are closing their doors?

The fight against tax havens is an ongoing fight. Things must change democratically. A number of European countries would like tighter legislation right away and a much more transparent means of disclosing international financial transactions. Billions of dollars are involved. The disappearance of over half of the money to tax havens is cause for concern.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the member's speech was very clear, and I understand her points. I would like to ask her a question about process.

A lot of vulnerable people will be helped by this budget. We want to get the money out to them quickly. However, why would the government put in items that did not have to be in the stimulus package, that would not speed up the help for vulnerable people? Some of these could be rightful topics of discussion, but any proposed changes should be reviewed through the normal processes.

There is the pay equity section. Women of the country and federal unions such as PSAC are understandably outraged that this item would be in the budget, especially when PSAC's been told it would not necessarily save any money. Why is this so urgent and why can it not go through proper debate?

Then there is the Navigable Waters Protection Act, when a boom or a bridge is built, which affects canoeists, kayakers and rafters, hundreds of thousands of recreational boaters' organizations have said that they have not been consulted on that. How will this improve the economy?

The Competition Act has also been included in the bill, about which the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has complained. If we wanted to get money out quickly to those who are hurting, this did not have to be in bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. Everything he said is important.

With regard to the most vulnerable, I believe the government is way off base. It would have been wiser to choose its targets better, among others, the changes to the equalization formula. To add to what my colleague said, changes to the equalization formula will cost Quebec almost a billion dollars a year, $991 million to be exact. The bill also lays the foundation for creating a national securities regulator, which the Government of Quebec opposes.

There is also the matter of reforming access to employment insurance. The government refuses to abolish the waiting period. For thousands of unemployed workers, there is nothing encouraging in the budget. The bill proposes misguided tax reductions and eliminates provisions of the Income Tax Act aimed at preventing corporations from avoiding taxes by resorting to tax havens. There is also the matter of deregulation of foreign investment, which opens the door to foreign ownership. Funds allocated for social housing are poorly targeted and allocated, as indicated by the community development trust. And that is not a complete list.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges for her wonderful speech.

I would like to give her an opportunity to continue, particularly concerning employment insurance. The government is proposing to extend the employment insurance benefit period by five weeks for those who can receive benefits. Only a minority of the population presently receives employment insurance benefits or could do so.

I would like my colleague to explain why the Bloc has demanded real employment insurance reform.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to recognize the important work that the member for Chambly—Borduas is doing in this file.

The Bloc Québécois is demanding substantial improvement to the employment insurance system. I would like to read the Bloc's position on this issues. We must make the following changes:

Reduce the qualifying period to a minimum of 360 hours of work, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment; increase the rate of weekly benefits from 55% to 60%; eliminate the waiting period; eliminate the distinctions between a new entrant and a re-entrant to the labour force; eliminate the presumption that persons related to each other do not deal with each other at arm’s length; make it possible for self-employed workers to belong to the program on a voluntary basis; and calculate benefits based on the 12 best weeks.

Those are the major improvements that need to be made to the employment insurance system.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the budget implementation bill. The amendments are being brought forward to try to take away some of the inequities that have been included in the bill, as previous members have stated. They are inequities that do not have much to do with the idea of having a package of financial measures to respond to the fiscal crisis, but rather adopts the government's approach to its agenda for our country, which varies considerably from that which our party supports.

I will review what has happened in the last few months in the country.

On November 27, we had the fiscal update, which to be fair and very polite ignored the fiscal reality. The government decided it was a good time to include three very prominent measures that caused quite a big furor in the House and across the country.

The first was an attack on the rights of women by declaring that pay equity was no longer something with which the Human Rights Commission was able to deal. It was to be eliminated from the remedies under the Human Rights Act and made something that would have to be bargained like any other item for collective bargaining.

The second was an attack on collective bargaining rights, for which workers across the country have fought for decades. The indication that the government would refuse to honour agreements with workers was an attack on collective bargaining.

The third was something that also caused a big furor as well, and that was the attack on the changes that had been made to party financing in the wake of the Liberal financial sponsorship program scandal. Imposed were fair rules for financing our political parties.

We and the Bloc were opposed to the attack on those fair rules. The Liberals were extremely opposed. In fact, as a result of these measures and the failure to address the problem, the Liberals agreed to enter into a coalition to replace the government to ensure that these things would not happen and that the government would be able to respond to the needs of the people.

If all the rest is taken away, that is really what happened in December, just a couple of months ago.

As we know, Parliament was then prorogued through the application of the Prime Minister. We came back again on January 26. What do we have? We have some changes to the government's attitude toward the budget, but what has happened to those three major irritants that caused the problem for the Liberals back in December? All but one of them are still there.

We still have an attack on women. We still have the removal of the pay equity provisions from the Human Rights Act remedies. Women in the public service can no longer avail of the rights that many other Canadians have to seek remedy from the Human Rights Commission for a violation of pay equity in the federal sphere. They now have to go and bargain along with every other item on the agenda of a collective bargaining session and play with the give-and-take of hardball negotiations on the part of the employer, or not, or whatever takes place. Pay equity becomes another bargaining item along with holidays, overtime pay, vacations and various other things. Pay equity is one of the things that as part of these negotiations is totally wrong. However, it is apparently acceptable to the Liberal Party of Canada and to the Liberal opposition in the House. I find it astounding that this could be the case.

The other issue is collective bargaining. Part of the implementation act are the changes that would be brought about to ensure all the collective agreements in the federal public sector would be changed, with pay increases that have been negotiated or agreed to wiped out. That is being done at the drop of a hat by the government, supported by the Liberal Party of Canada.

One of the three major irritants that has been left out is the one which would take away party financing for the Liberal Party of Canada. Now the Liberal Party is supporting the government and the measures it is implementing, including the attack on pay equity, the attack on women and the attack on collective bargaining.

It is kind of ironic. There was quite a furor in the House in December. Every single member of the Liberal caucus signed the letter declaring their lack of confidence in the government, declaring their willingness to form a coalition government to govern the country and prevent the very things that we see them complain about every day in this House.

I was a little encouraged the other day. The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl was entertaining some protestors from the Public Service Alliance of Canada who showed up at her office on Friday. They were protesting the fact that the Liberal Party was supporting the pay equity changes. According to news reports the member invited them in and she was asked whether or not there was any opportunity of hiving off those pay equity provisions from the budget implementation bill and dealing with them separately. The member apparently was interested in trying to do that but was not sure that it could be done.

I want her and all members in the House to know that there is an opportunity to hive off those sections of the bill. There are opportunities in this debate through report stage motions and amendments to vote against particular provisions of the budget implementation bill and pay equity can in fact be taken out and members can vote accordingly. I would certainly encourage them in that regard.

I am glad to see that the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl has an interest in that. I look forward to her supporting the amendment which would remove that. For any member of the Liberal caucus who would wish to register his or her objection to the removal of pay equity rights for women, there will be opportunities for them to do that today. Whenever it comes to a vote, I look forward to seeing the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and others join with us in seeking to amend this legislation at least to the extent that it does not trample the rights of women when it comes to pay equity. It is a very significant issue for many people across this country and for the women who fought for pay equity.

Again and again I hear the President of the Treasury Board talk about how the Conservatives are fixing this. It took 15 years for women to achieve pay equity in the public sector. My question is, why is that? Who was in government forcing the women to spend 15 years fighting for pay equity? Who opposed these applications? Who opposed these measures before the Canadian Human Rights Commission? It is very obvious. Who was in power during those 15 years? During those 15 years, it was the Conservative government of Mr. Mulroney and then the Liberal government of Mr. Chrétien. Those were the governments in power. That is why it took 15 years, not because there was a problem with the system, but because both governments, the Conservative government and then the Liberal government, resisted every single step of the way to ensure that it took 15 years.

All the President of the Treasury Board has to do is say, “Hey, we are going to streamline this process. We are not going to resist. We are going to let the process take its course as it should”. All the Liberal members have to do is ensure that when the opportunity comes, they actually take this provision out of the budget implementation bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, we are at the report stage for the budget implementation bill, and the group of amendments currently before us includes amendments about tax havens. The Conservatives have decided to do a 180 and go back to the old way of doing business, which resulted in billions of dollars leaving the country. Paradoxically, they have decided to set up a Canada-wide securities commission, which is unacceptable to Quebec. This group of amendments also includes the Conservative government's decision to exempt several foreign corporations buying Canadian companies from review. In these troubled economic times, when we should be tightening up the rules, the Conservative Party has, as always, opted for total laissez-faire and wants the market to handle everything. What a paradox. We all know how that worked out; we are living with the economic crisis now.

I would like the member to tell me whether he finds the Conservative government's decision to go ahead with this measure paradoxical because it will allow greater foreign ownership of our companies with no controls in place. The government will be giving up control over what happens after that. Is it not paradoxical that the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberal Party, should be going ahead with such a measure?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, yes, it is rather ironic that during the election campaign when the Prime Minister was apprised of the fact that there were serious problems in the stock market, he said that this represented some good buying opportunities. The irony is that by opening up the foreign takeover opportunities, he is now wishing to make those buying opportunities available to capitalists, entrepreneurs and companies in the rest of the world when the stock prices are so low.

Some of these companies are now at fire sale prices. Despite the huge drop in the stock market, many people and companies have enormous cash reserves. This seems to be the wrong time to make it easier for foreign companies to take over Canadian enterprises by lowering the standard and not making it subject to review in many cases. I think the new rule now is $1 billion. There are many companies now available for takeover by foreign enterprises without a review of any kind. It is basically open season for Canadian enterprise to be gobbled up by those with strong foreign cash reserves. It is the wrong time to be doing this and I certainly oppose it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, both Dofasco and Stelco are located in Hamilton with ownership from outside of Canada. The member talked about a laissez-faire style of governance in this country. With the $1 billion cap, it strikes me that a lot of companies will slip out from underneath it. Does the member share that view?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, yes, a lot of companies previously would not have been covered by this, but because of the low stock prices their market cap is so low they are vulnerable to takeover without any review whatsoever.

We have seen the attitude of multinational corporations--or transnational corporations, which I think is the preferred phrase these days--that have no concern whatsoever for the consequences in this country with respect to layoffs and things like that. It is a bad thing and it is open season.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak in this House to give thanks to the people of Etobicoke North and discuss infrastructure, an important component of the stimulus package and a real need in our riding.

Municipalities provide much of the infrastructure and services that matter most to Canadians: bridges, public transit, roads, sewage systems, et cetera. However, cities are the level of government least able to fund these projects. Municipalities, unlike federal and provincial governments, are uniquely constrained. Their main source of revenue is property tax which is likely to be reduced for at least the near future as the housing market trends downward.

Canadian municipalities must stay on top of infrastructure needs as complacency and further deterioration may ultimately prove deadly. We cannot afford to ignore warning signs or to repeat the mistakes of the past. For example, a Portuguese mayor repeatedly told the government that a bridge crossed by 1,600 vehicles a day was unsafe before it plunged into a river, submerging two cars and a coach. In 1990 and 2005, the U.S. government gave the Mississippi bridge a rating of “structurally deficient” before it collapsed, sending more than 50 cars plunging 20 metres into the river below. Here in Canada drivers reported chunks of falling concrete about an hour before the collapse of an overpass in Quebec.

These tragedies all have one thing in common: the behaviour of organizations and people who fail to assume their responsibilities during the building or service life of the bridge. I point out that I could have chosen examples regarding other forms of infrastructure.

Recent disasters show the importance of protecting Canada's infrastructure from all types of hazards, for example, the 1996 Saguenay flood, the 1997 Red River flood, the 1998 ice storm, and the 2003 power blackout.

Canadian municipalities build, own and maintain most of the infrastructure that supports our economy and quality of life. Unfortunately, our Canadian communities are increasingly at risk of human made and natural disasters, largely because after decades of neglect, our once efficient and reliable infrastructure is now crumbling. Municipalities facing growing responsibilities and reduced revenues deferred needed investment and infrastructure deteriorated.

Canadian public investment in infrastructure has declined significantly since the 1960s. Public investment measured as a proportion of gross domestic product peaked at almost 5% in 1966 and fell to 2.6% by 2002. Deferred investment has significant consequences including the closing down and failure of some facilities such as bridges, roads, sewage and water supply.

The 2004 report, “Assessing Canada's Infrastructure Needs”, showed that Vancouver had bridge and traffic congestion that cost the region an estimated $1.5 billion in air pollution, lost work hours and shipping delays as the city's bridges were too narrow and therefore had to operate over capacity.

For Calgary, a transportation infrastructure improvement list included 880 million dollars' worth of major roadway projects. For Saskatoon, the needs included two more bridges and a list of road projects worth over $750 million. The estimated costs of reducing the backlog of repairs to highways, streets and viaducts in Toronto was $300 million and continues to grow today. Just to bring home the challenge, there are over 10,000 streets in Toronto with 5,300 kilometres of roads and 530 bridges.

Canada's infrastructure was mostly built between the 1950s and the 1970s. The decay is accelerating faster than previously thought, with infrastructure showing 79% of its service life already used.

Estimated cost to fix infrastructure increased fivefold, from $12 billion in 1985 to $60 billion in 2003. Today the cost is a staggering $123 billion.

Although I have largely focused on bridges and roads, infrastructure is needed for community, cultural and recreational infrastructure, solid waste management, transportation, and water and waste water systems.

The government proudly announces that the gas tax fund allows all municipalities to better plan and finance their long-term infrastructure. This is because municipalities know in advance how much money they are getting, know they will receive funding on a regular basis and know that in turn they must account for how they spend the money. Planned, steady spending allows shovel-ready work to begin quickly.

Unfortunately, Canada's cash-strapped communities are being asked to pick up a third of the cost of stimulus infrastructure projects. This means that Canadians will see fewer shovels breaking ground, fewer jobs created and too little stimulus to the economy when they need it most.

Government cannot afford to wait while municipalities find the money and infrastructure continues to deteriorate. We have all seen far too often what happens when organizations and people fail to assume their responsibilities with respect to building and maintaining infrastructure.

In some cases we will have to go further and make life-protecting investments, such as the much-celebrated Red River floodway expansion project, which provides a once in 300 years level of flood protection, equivalent to the largest flood in Manitoba history.

It is also important to recognize that the risks to infrastructure are becoming increasingly complex and frequent. For example, climate change is affecting our capacity to manage the risks associated with natural disasters, and Canada has seen a rise in severe weather related natural disasters such as droughts, floods and severe storms.

The 1998 ice storm in eastern Canada left three-quarters of a million homes without electricity, and the weight of ice and snow toppled 1,000 transmission towers and 30,000 utility poles.

The impacts of climate change on infrastructure are already evident in Canada's north. Permafrost is the foundation for airstrips, buildings, and community water. Thawing permafrost will have serious socio-economic implications for maintaining these structures.

A more efficient, faster and more stimulative method must be found to transfer federal funding to municipal infrastructure projects. The need is particularly great among first nations communities, where $1.4 billion is targeted for infrastructure, housing and skills; although encouraging, this investment does not reflect the need created after decades of economic marginalization and unfairness. Canada, which normally ranks in the top ten of the United Nations development index, would fall to 48th place out of 174 countries if judged solely on the economic and social well-being of first nations people.

In closing, I leave the House with a plea made by U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings following hurricane Katrina: “We cannot allow it to be said by history that the difference between those who lived and died was nothing more than poverty...”

The 2001 census data showed that one first nations community was in the top 100 Canadian communities, while 92 were in the bottom 100. Let Canada not make the same mistake with communities that can pay versus those that cannot.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to say that I agree with much of what I heard in the remarks of the member for Etobicoke North.

She talked about the difficulty municipalities will have in coming up with one-third of the money to match funds. In my home community of Hamilton, 7,000 people lost their jobs in February. In the last month, 600 families had to go on welfare.

The budget absolutely fails to do what the government says it does in stimulating the economy. We all know that the $62 billion tax break is $60 in tax breaks for every dollar invested in Canadians.

EI is the front-line defence for Canadians, and there has been no change there to help them. There is no change in accessibility. It is the first line of defence for Canadians.

The budget also, in a very underhanded fashion, will neuter pay equity for women in Canada.

Can the member tell us if she will now join with us and defeat the budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, over the last six months Canada has the second-worst-performing economy of the G8 countries. In the fall our Prime Minister told us that there would not be a recession. At the time of the economic statement we were told there would even be a surplus. By January we were told we would be $13 billion in debt, and today we know it is much higher.

Canadians are in real trouble. A quarter of a million jobs were lost in the last three months alone. We need an economic stimulus package now for all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out that, in this budget, the Conservative government has announced a lot of money for infrastructure. I was in my riding recently, where some of the rural municipalities have 300, 400 or 500 people. They have to do a lot of road maintenance and take care of other infrastructure, and they are having a hard time dealing with those needs because they do not have the money. Even if the federal government does invest a lot of money, they do not have—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with interest that I rise to speak today to Bill C-10, a bill to implement the 2009 budget the Conservative government presented in January.

Obviously, we oppose this bill. We made it clear that we would vote against it, because we believe that the 2009 budget and the measures in Bill C-10 do not meet the needs of the public, which, in an economic crisis, is entitled to expect appropriate and sufficient measures.

Not only does this budget not meet the public's expectations, but this legislation contains provisions in direct opposition to the unanimous demands of the Quebec National Assembly. As a responsible party, the Bloc, which works solely and always in the interest of the Quebec nation, has introduced a series of amendments aimed at correcting the main elements of the Conservative budget conflicting directly with the interests of Quebec and Quebeckers.

For the purposes of this debate, I am going to focus on two of the measures contained in the implementation legislation that we consider unacceptable. First, we are proposing an amendment to eliminate clause 6, that is, the section permitting the use of tax havens. This is a major issue. I have been hearing about these tax havens since I was first elected in 2004. The Liberals put measures in place at the time, and the Conservatives, who were supposed to abolish this type of measure continued with clause 6 of this budget.

While this Conservative budget does nothing to help the regions and sectors such as furniture manufacturing, which is a major industry in the riding I represent, or the infrastructure the Liberal member just spoke of, and contains no measures to help the thousands of workers who have lost their job, the Minister of Finance is going to allow the major corporations to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes through tax havens. It is a scandal.

This is despite the fact that, in 2007, the Minister of Finance clearly stated his intention to put an end to tax havens and to ensure that everyone would pay their fair share of taxes. However, this is not the case. At the time, that same minister also lamented that, whenever large corporations managed to avoid paying taxes, workers and small and medium-size businesses had to pay more. That is something the Bloc Québécois noticed a long time ago and it rightly came to the conclusion that this was unfair.

Yet, in the 2009 budget, the Conservative government has decided, with the support of the Liberals—those masters of tax havens—to remove a provision in the Income Tax Act that was meant to prevent businesses from continuing to avoid paying taxes through the use of tax havens. Clearly, this Conservative government has yielded to the pressures of large corporations, including oil companies in western Canada. It has reneged on its commitment to fight tax evasion during this economic recession, at a time when thousands of workers need support. It is quite insulting to see how the Conservatives and Liberals are now refusing to act to put an end to this injustice.

The Liberals did just like the Conservatives and supported this budget because they, in fact, have always been against fighting tax evasion. Who could forget the former Liberal finance minister and Prime Minister who personally took advantage of these tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Canada? I thought the Liberals would have learned a lesson from the 2006 election. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

This is why I am asking all members to support this amendment from the Bloc Québécois. Those billions of dollars we are losing could definitely be useful to the unemployed, to low-income seniors and to manufacturers who are neglected in this budget, at a time when they need programs and support.

There is no question that, while the Bloc Québécois wants to help our regions and our poor, the Conservatives and the Liberals are as always protecting the large multinationals that do not want to pay taxes.

The second amendment that I want to discuss is the one calling for the clauses relating to the establishment of a single securities commission to be deleted. That amendment is necessary because this government with, of course, the support of the Liberals, has decided to use this legislation to introduce the provisions that will set up a Canadian securities regulation regime. Why does the federal government want to interfere yet again in an area that comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces? Why do the two main Canadian parties want to deprive Quebec of one of its powers? Why centralize the whole process in Toronto, thus depriving Quebec of quality jobs and of its expertise in an area that is its own, namely its financial sector? Why are the Liberals and Conservatives opposed to the consensus that was clearly expressed by the Quebec National Assembly against the establishment of a single securities commission? This is despite the fact that, as my colleague indicated earlier, the OECD believes that the current monitoring regime under the authority of Quebec and the provinces is one the most efficient among industrialized countries. Why question such a successful structure?

The passport system, like the system used in the European Community, works very well and allows a uniform, coordinated approach to the operating rules. It also promotes the development of specific areas of expertise, which makes it possible to have different, but complementary approaches to compliance with the regulations.

Lastly, the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec is the last bastion against the disappearance of stock market activity from Montreal, because the AMF has the regulatory power to require exchange activities in Montreal. In the interest of Quebeckers and given the unanimous will of our National Assembly, with this amendment, we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, reiterate our opposition to the creation of a Canada-wide securities commission.

Last week, we voted on a motion calling on the federal government to abandon the idea of putting in place a Canada-wide securities regulator. Yet not a single Conservative member from Quebec got up to support that motion, even though the National Assembly of Quebec had taken a unanimous position against such a regulator. As always, they agreed to stand up for their party and the interests of Canadians at the expense of Quebeckers. But all the Bloc Québécois members rose to support that motion by a Bloc member, and I am proud that we did. Our mandate is still to defend the interests of Quebec, its National Assembly and its people.

Now, I call on the members of this House, but especially all the members from Quebec, to vote for the Bloc Québécois amendments to this budget implementation bill. The main purpose of our amendments is to defend Quebec's interests and the consensus expressed by the National Assembly. Our amendments also address the needs of the people of Quebec. The House will vote, and we will see once again which party is the only one that really defends the interests of Quebeckers in this House, which party is the only one that stands up for unanimous votes in the National Assembly of Quebec. That party is the Bloc Québécois.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on his speech.

In his speech, he touched briefly on one sector of the economy that affects my riding in particular and his region, Trois-Rivières and Berthier—Maskinongé, that is, the softwood lumber sector. I read recently that, in addition to the businesses going bankrupt and the companies in the softwood lumber sector that are closing, all forestry operators are affected. In the budget, the Conservative government responds by telling us that no action should be taken in this sector, because it would be too dangerous. Otherwise, it could be disputed under the softwood lumber agreement. Compared to the auto industry, which is receiving billions of dollars, even though it is in loans, nevertheless, we see that there is not much in this budget for the softwood lumber agreement. I would like my colleague to say a few words about this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question. Softwood lumber is an important issue. Our industries are in crisis and facing difficulties at this time, like the manufacturing sector in our ridings. This budget does not include any measures or loan guarantees to support these businesses.

What is more, we are exporting much less to the United States. The Americans are currently dealing with an economic crisis that is gripping their country. As a result, there is less construction and we are exporting much less softwood lumber, which is affecting our own industries. Our exports accounted for about 35% of the American market, but that number has decreased to about 20% to 22%. Thus, the recession in the United States is very important and is having a real impact on our industry.

If we want to maintain that industry and its vitality, this government must support our forestry companies, even at the expense of NAFTA. We all know very well that the Americans are also supporting their industries.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the previous speaker mentioned that the municipal governments have the least ability to raise taxes and therefore need that infrastructure money. I would add that it is the same for first nations. Those two orders of government have responsibilities for infrastructure but very limited revenue increasing resources. I have said a number of times in this House that they need to get the same percentage of funds as they have in the past because those programs were primarily for them.

I wonder if the member has heard any concerns from his municipalities that they may not be getting the appropriate levels of funding or, at the very least, the same as they received in the past, if the process is any worse and if they are getting it fast enough.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

Even if the government puts certain measures in place to fight the recession and maintain and develop infrastructure, some municipalities, especially rural ones with 500 to 1,000 residents, do not have the means to contribute one-third of the funding under the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund. Even if the federal government invests an exorbitant amount, rural municipalities with fewer than 2,000 people will not be able to sustain this program.

The Bloc Québécois motion deals with this infrastructure program. The federal government has the means to make it happen. It could invest 50%, provinces 35% and municipalities 15%. This program would then actually stimulate infrastructure development both in large cities and in relatively poorer rural areas.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-10. I want to talk about a couple of things that are important for not only my riding but also nationally.

In clause 10 of the bill, the government has done a very sly thing. I will give the House a bit of history, which you know very well, Madam Speaker, coming from the area that we come from, the greater Victoria area. Our dockside workers are the men and women who ensure our navy has ships that are functioning properly for our brave men and women in the Canadian Forces.

During the last several years, people in the trades nationally were earning a lot of money in the private sector and our workers in the dockyards could have easily left the civil service, gone into the private sector and made more money. Did they do that? No, they did not. Why not? They felt they were honour bound to continue to serve our country as civilian workers on the docks.

The government refused to negotiate their contract in good faith, so it went to arbitration. The arbitration was completed in January of this year with a fair and reasonable increase of 5% that goes back to 2006. What did the government do? In clause 10 of Bill C-10, it literally tore up that arbitrated agreement and has actually rolled back the moneys that our dockyard workers are owed. That is an underhanded approach.

My party, the Liberal Party, approached the government and asked if we could work for the betterment of the dockyard workers. We asked the government to negotiate a way to enable the dockyard workers to receive the pay and benefits that are their due. What did the government say? It said no. It said that it would not negotiate at all and that we must take this bill in its entirety. It would not allow us to change or amend the bill. It would not accept any of our suggestions to make the bill better for Canada and Canadians. It said that we had to take this lock, stock and barrel and, if we did not, since the vote on this bill would be a vote of confidence, it would invoke an election and ensure we wore it.

The government has refused to negotiate in good faith with the opposition on this bill. It has refused to allow us to work for our constituents. It has refused to negotiate to make this bill better in the interest of our country. It said that if we do not take this bill lock, stock and barrel, it will not only have an election but the stimulus package that is in the bill, which is important now for our workers, our economy and our country, will not go through. Therefore, after an election the stimulus package might get through some time this fall.

What kind of response is that from the government to Canadians at a time of need and at a time when all of us want to work together for the common good during a time of economic crisis in our country? We have a government that simply will not negotiate with the opposition to strengthen the bill in the interest of the public. That is what Canadians need to hear and what I hope they hear in the debate today.

The government is simply saying to Parliament and to the Canadian people that if we do not take this bill we will not get the stimulus package, jobs will be lost and we will have a $350 million election that nobody wants.

Is it not remarkable when we see events south of the border, where the U.S. president is willing to work across party lines in a bipartisan way. He is asking what the best solutions are that his country needs right now for his people. That is the kind of leadership that Canadians want and deserve. The Prime Minister is failing again to do this because he is playing politics. Why is he not listening to those of us in the other parties? Why will he not work with us to implement a series of solutions that will strengthen our country and help our citizens during their time of need?

Let us look at the stimulus package for a second. The stimulus package was intended to pass quite quickly. If last year is any indication, in 2008 in my province of British Columbia 75% of the moneys allocated for infrastructure projects are still sitting in the bank. What kind of infrastructure project is that?

The community of Sooke requires umpteen infrastructure projects. The west shore needs the E&N railway up and running, the Bear Mountain and Spencer Road overpasses need to be up and running, a storm sewage drainage system requires fixing, affordable housing needs to be implemented, and the federal government must work with the provinces to help post-secondary institutions from Royal Roads to the University of Victoria, Camosun College and the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. These and many other infrastructure projects have their hands out saying we should use these moneys now in order to provide a long-term benefit for our economy and our country.

The president of the high tech parks in Canada, Dale Gann, has an exciting proposal that would enable the government to invest taxpayers' money into high tech infrastructure parks that will enable our economy to compete internationally. We are a trading nation. We are an exporter. The government has simply not responded. Why is it doing that? Unless we invest in high tech parks today, we are going to be so far behind the eight ball that we will be at a huge disadvantage in terms of the changing economies.

China, for example, is building dozens and dozens of high tech parks. India is doing the same. They are getting into the forward cutting edge of research and development, which are the central pillars of the ability of any economy in any country to be able to move forward and capitalize on the future challenges ahead of us.

If we also look at the ability of our workers to access post-secondary training, one of the great challenges now is the fact that access to post-secondary training is often dependent on the amount of money in one's pocket. That is not an egalitarian situation. How can we have a nation whose access to post-secondary training, to be the best that we can be, to contribute in the best way possible for our nation, is actually predicated on the amount of money in our pockets? If we do not have money in our pockets, we cannot fulfill our highest potential for ourselves and our nation. That needs to change.

The Liberal Party put forth a number of very exciting solutions that could have been beneficial and, frankly, ought to be implemented now by the government. A couple of those are that the interest rate would be prime plus .5% and that the time students have to repay their loans would only start two years after they graduated.

In the case of medical students, for example, and those in residency training, they should not have to pay their loans until their residency training is over. Why should students have to pay off very hefty loans when they are making $50,000 or $60,000 a year while they are still essentially in medical school, in training? They are not able to pay off all of what they owe.

Some flexibility must be put into play to enable them to pay back the amounts they can. Many students graduate and go into jobs that are just a bit above minimum wage. They cannot possibly meet the financial requirements that are placed on them. The government has to invest in post-secondary institutions in an intelligent way and enable students to access the post-secondary training they need.

The other issue is investment in research and development, from Genome Canada to the stem cell research taking place in various institutions. Canada is full of outstanding researchers. The lack of interest and attention the government has given in this particular bill to research and development is going to hamstring the ability of our researchers to save lives and to develop research and development initiatives that could massively improve the health and welfare of our citizens.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, when I hear a Liberal member complaining about the government budget when it had the opportunity to take power itself and move ahead with its ideas as part of a coalition government, I cannot help but smile.

In a coalition government, compromise sometimes has to be made. I believe that the other party that would have been involved in the coalition also made compromises. I believe that the program the coalition presented had advantages for all of Canada.

Today we see that Ontario and Alberta are benefiting, while the rest of Canada has been forgotten, especially the mining and forestry sectors when compared to the auto industry.

Since he is equally concerned with the mining industry in his region, could the member tell me what is actually planned for the mining and forestry sectors as compared to what has been planned for the auto and oil industries?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I think that the member poses an intriguing suggestion. It goes back in history. The interest of our party was to make the system work. At a time of crisis, the last thing that our country wanted or needed was a political crisis. We in the Liberal Party said that we wanted to work with the government by fulfilling and implementing a series of initiatives that would deal with the economic crisis before us. Frankly, that is what we did.

Our critics in the Liberal Party put forth some profound solutions to the government. To a degree, some of them were adopted, and we were happy that the government took the olive branch that we put forward. There were some fruitful negotiations that took place with our finance team.

However, subsequent to that, the government has slammed the door shut on any viable negotiation. This is not democratic. This is not in the interest of our country. This is not in the interests of our citizens. We in the Liberal Party have said that we have a series of solutions. We can make Bill C-10 better. We want to make this bill better, but we do not want to have an election. We do not want to put our country through that because that would be utterly irresponsible.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. I must say that it raises a certain number of questions. I cannot ask them all but I would like to ask the following.

I know my colleague well enough to understand just how much he cares about social justice and wants fairness to prevail in this country. However, given that his party is preparing to vote for a law that will result in significant inequality between men and women and that will take away from women the right and the power to go before the courts to obtain pay equity, does he not believe that he is abdicating his responsibility and compromising on a fundamental principle of our society?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I would just like to say that we all have a choice to make. Do we pass a bill that we think is inadequate, or do we fight and defeat a bill that we think is inadequate and by doing so incur another election, deprive our country of a stimulus package that it needs now, and deprive our nation's workers of the jobs they need to survive?

We do not feel that this is something we can responsibly take on ourselves. However, the real responsibility falls within the Conservative government's failure to negotiate with any of us in good faith to make this bill better and deal with the several inequities that my colleague and friend mentioned.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I see that I have some fans in this chamber, or at least one.

The budget implementation bill, Bill C-10, presents various initiatives contained in last January's budget, in particular the transition office for the single securities regulator. The Bloc Québécois has introduced amendments to delete clauses 295 to 299, that is to eliminate the clauses to establish a single securities regulator. The government, through this bill, wants to establish a transition office for the Canadian securities regulator and would provide an operating budget of $150 million for this office.

The Expert Panel on Securities Regulation in Canada, appointed by the Minister of Finance, tabled its final report in January 2009. It is proposing the creation of a federal regulator for securities, over which Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction. This is an encroachment into Quebec's jurisdiction. The report proposes various mechanisms to implement the project without agreement from Quebec and the provinces. Furthermore, the report also proposes that the federal government use legal recourse to force dissenting provinces to comply with the federal project. The 2009 budget reflects the recommendations of the expert panel and reiterates the government's commitment to establishing a single regulator in Canada.

The Bloc Québécois would like to reiterate its opposition to the creation of a national securities commission. Instead, it will support harmonization of the rules governing the financial system through a passport mechanism, like that of the European community, in order to maintain the autonomy and jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. The Bloc Québécois will continue to vigorously argue against the creation of such a commission and will continue to fully support the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec.

I want to go back one year and talk about the 2008 budget, which confirmed this Conservative government's intention to set up a single securities commission. At the time, the minister reiterated in his budget his intention to introduce federal legislation to establish a single regulator. To this end, the minister commissioned a panel of experts to draft a bill to create a single securities commission. He said, “I am asking the panel to develop a model common securities act to create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets.” That is what is written in a news release issued by the Minister of Finance on February 21, 2008.

The panel tabled its final report at the end of 2008. That document includes a series of measures to establish a single securities commission. In his 2009 budget, the minister welcomed the recommendations made by the panel in its report. Moreover, the budget allocated $150 million to set up a committee to implement those recommendations.

This is unacceptable. The Minister of Finance is stubbornly going ahead with an initiative that goes against the unanimous will of Quebec's National Assembly and that is a flagrant violation of Quebec's constitutional jurisdictions. The Bloc Québécois will continue to defend Quebec against the centralizing views of this federal government.

For over 40 years, the idea of a single securities regulatory body has been surfacing every now and then. Since 2003, the issue has again moved to the forefront of federal politics. The Liberals, who were in office at the time, set up an expert panel to look at the possibility of establishing a single regulatory body in Canada.

In 2005, the Ontario government mandated a group of experts, led by Purdy Crawford, to examine the benefits of a single securities regulatory system. Of course, the Crawford report supported Ontario's arguments in favour of a single regulator.

The 2006 federal budget revisited the idea. In that budget, the government announced that it planned to work with the provinces and territories to set up a common securities regulator. That position was confirmed in the November 2006 economic update and the 2007 budget.

In June 2007, following a meeting of ministers responsible for securities, the current Conservative Minister of Finance announced plans to set up a working group to, first, study the outcomes, principles and performance measures that would best anchor securities regulation and the pursuit of a Canadian advantage in global capital markets. The group was also supposed to study how Canada could best promote and advance proportionate, more principles-based regulations, starting from existing harmonized legislation and national and multilateral regulatory instruments. It was supposed to look into how this progress could facilitate, and be reinforced by, better coordination of enforcement efforts.

In September 2007, the minister announced that the group would focus on how to set up a single regulatory organization instead of looking at how effective the current system is. When the Minister of Finance announced that work had begun on February 21, 2008, he confirmed his intention to change the expert panel's mandate and have it focus on drafting model legislation to create a single securities commission.

Budget 2008 confirmed the Conservative government's intention to set up a single securities commission. In his budget, the minister reiterated his plan to introduce the bill before us to create a single regulatory body. Quebec's National Assembly rejected the federal government's initiative and unanimously passed a motion to that effect on October 16, 2007. I will read it: “That the National Assembly ask the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project”.

Authority over securities is given to the provinces by virtue of their jurisdiction over property and civil rights under section 92.13 of the Constitution Act, 1867. The Conservatives ignored Quebec's motion. In the November 2008 economic and fiscal update and in this budget, the Minister of Finance reiterated his intention to set up a single securities commission in blatant disregard of his own Constitution.

Not long after the economic statement was tabled, the expert panel set up by the minister tabled its report, which, as expected, suggests creating a single securities regulator. It also proposes a mechanism that would allow companies to disregard the laws of Quebec and do business with the Canada-wide regulator, ignoring the organization in Quebec. In short, this report reflects what the minister wants: to impose a single securities regulator despite Quebec's legitimate objections.

Lastly, when budget 2008 was tabled, the current Minister of Finance again expressed confidence in the expert panel report. In addition, he made $150 million available to implement his proposed Canada-wide commission.

The Conservative government is prepared to infringe on Quebec's jurisdictions in order to advance its plans for a single, Canada-wide securities commission. The federal Liberals are in favour of creating a single institution. All the political parties in Quebec are against this initiative. The current passport system works. Under this system, a company that registers in one participating province can do business with people in all the other participating provinces. The first phase of implementation was completed last fall, and the second phase is under way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the budget is about saving jobs that are at risk, about creating new jobs and about helping the most vulnerable during this period of crisis.

The Prime Minister has gone way over the top. He has threatened that if we do not get this budget passed quickly and we do get the stimulus money flowing, we will have an election. This is ludicrous given that the official opposition has indicated, notwithstanding the flaws in the budget, it will support the budget to get that stimulus out.

The Prime Minister also has showed his hand, that he is not very serious about this, by including matters like the pay equity, the Competition Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the national securities regulator. These four areas really should not have been in the budget and have only taken the attention off the most important areas.

The member spoke extensively on the national securities regulator. I understand Quebec has a slightly different situation than the other 12 regulators. There is no consensus among the provinces. I think four provinces oppose a national regulator.

Is the member aware of the writings of a couple of professors out of the University of Montreal and Jack Mintz out of Calgary, who have talked about a hybrid solution of sorts whereby provinces could opt out of the national securities regulation system and thereby continue with their current system? What would the member's comments be on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I will respond to the Liberal member by saying that his suggestion is not really a solution. I must tell him that I find it extremely difficult to see that the Liberal Party has supported this deeply flawed budget. One example that comes to mind is the creation of a common securities commission, which would be disastrous for Quebec.

In addition, there is also the issue of pay equity for women. This bill sets the status of women back significantly. I believe that we should be guided more by our convictions than our election strategy. In circumstances like this, the opposition members must work together. We should not provoke an election, but we should make sure that the government backs down on essential, important things. We have spoken about pay equity and I mentioned the securities commission, but there are also the artists who have fallen victim to $45 million in cuts in a sector where a cut like that hurts. They can no longer go overseas on tour. There are no longer any federal programs for artists in performing arts who want to tour overseas. There is a gaping hole in the government's financial aid. This is extremely damaging.

This same government created the Canada prizes and invested $25 million on behalf of some Toronto lobbyists, from whom they copied the entire project. The government cut and pasted from the lobbyists' promotional budget and included it in its budget. It was word for word. Then it realized that the project was a boondoggle and that the partners had never been informed about it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Hubert on her speech.

I would like to hear more about the cuts. Filmmaker Jacques Godbout wants to save the NFB. The National Film Board has also suffered cuts and lacks money. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that. That is part of this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, this government knows nothing about what artists need. It knows absolutely nothing. It is not making increases where they are needed. For example, the Canada Council's budget should be increased more. The government has cut money for the arts. It has cut $45 million from programs, which is preventing artists from travelling abroad.

It has given $25 million to a phoney Canada prize when the partners in that prize do not even know about it. The prize was a cut-and-paste job, lifted into the federal budget. The government knows nothing and has slashed budgets that allowed our artists to exhibit and perform abroad.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

March 2nd, 2009 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Madam Speaker, as I rise today, all members of Parliament on both sides of the House understand that Canada is facing a storm of strong economic and financial headwinds, and we are feeling the turbulence of all this.

The impact has been greater and more extensive than originally stated by the Prime Minister during the recent federal election campaign. When we combine this with a more rapid deterioration in global economic growth, it has necessitated a discussion about substantial government intervention.

As industries such as automotive, forestry, mining and other sectors face uncertain times, as legislators we have a responsibility to respond to the concerns of people. It is the right thing to do, since we are dealing with potentially millions of Canadians who could lose their jobs, homes and savings.

These are difficult times and we need to do all we can to improve the present economic situation.

In 1993 the Liberal Party was challenged by what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. We inherited a $42 billion deficit, double digit unemployment, skyrocketing debt and a tax system that was stifling economic growth. The record shows that while we were in office, we successfully eliminated the deficit, paid down the debt, created over three million new jobs and significantly reduced