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Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1

An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Joe Oliver  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 and related measures proposed in the February 11, 2014 budget. Most notably, it

(a) increases the maximum amount of eligible expenses for the adoption expense tax credit;

(b) expands the list of expenses eligible for the medical expense tax credit to include the cost of the design of individualized therapy plans and costs associated with service animals for people with severe diabetes;

(c) introduces the search and rescue volunteers tax credit;

(d) extends, for one year, the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors;

(e) expands the circumstances in which members of underfunded pension plans can benefit from unreduced pension-to-RRSP transfer limits;

(f) eliminates the need for individuals to apply for the GST/HST credit and allows the Minister of National Revenue to automatically determine if an individual is eligible to receive the credit;

(g) extends to 10 years the carry-forward period with respect to certain donations of ecologically sensitive land;

(h) removes, for certified cultural property acquired as part of a gifting arrangement that is a tax shelter, the exemption from the rule that deems the value of a gift to be no greater than its cost to the donor;

(i) allows the Minister of National Revenue to refuse to register, or revoke the registration of, a charity or Canadian amateur athletic association that accepts a donation from a state supporter of terrorism;

(j) reduces, for certain small and medium-sized employers, the frequency of remittances for source deductions;

(k) improves the Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to provide feedback to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada; and

(l) requires a listing of outstanding tax measures to be tabled in Parliament.

Part 1 also implements other selected income tax measures. Most notably, it

(a) introduces transitional rules relating to the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations tax credit;

(b) requires certain financial intermediaries to report to the Canada Revenue Agency international electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more;

(c) makes amendments relating to the introduction of the Offshore Tax Informant Program of the Canada Revenue Agency;

(d) permits the disclosure of taxpayer information to an appropriate police organization in certain circumstances if the information relates to a serious offence; and

(e) provides that the Business Development Bank of Canada and BDC Capital Inc. are not financial institutions for the purposes of the Income Tax Act’s mark-to-market rules.

Part 2 implements certain goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures proposed in the February 11, 2014 budget by

(a) expanding the GST/HST exemption for training that is specially designed to assist individuals with a disorder or disability to include the service of designing such training;

(b) expanding the GST/HST exemption for services rendered to individuals by certain health care practitioners to include professional services rendered by acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors;

(c) adding eyewear specially designed to treat or correct a defect of vision by electronic means to the list of GST/HST zero-rated medical and assistive devices;

(d) extending to newly created members of a group the election that allows members of a closely-related group to not account for GST/HST on certain supplies between them, introducing joint and several (or solidary) liability for the parties to that election for any GST/HST liability on those supplies and adding a requirement to file that election with the Canada Revenue Agency;

(e) giving the Minister of National Revenue the discretionary authority to register a person for GST/HST purposes if the person fails to comply with the requirement to apply for registration, even after having been notified by the Canada Revenue Agency of that requirement; and

(f) improving the Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to provide feedback to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

Part 2 also implements other GST/HST measures by

(a) providing a GST/HST exemption for supplies of hospital parking for patients and visitors, clarifying that the GST/HST exemption for supplies of a property, when all or substantially all of the supplies of the property by a charity are made for free, does not apply to paid parking and clarifying that paid parking provided by charities that are set up or used by municipalities, universities, public colleges, schools and hospitals to operate their parking facilities does not qualify for the special GST/HST exemption for parking supplied by charities;

(b) clarifying that reports of international electronic funds transfers made to the Canada Revenue Agency may be used for the purposes of the administration of the GST/HST;

(c) making amendments relating to the introduction of the Offshore Tax Informant Program of the Canada Revenue Agency;

(d) permitting the disclosure of confidential GST/HST information to an appropriate police organization in certain circumstances if the information relates to a serious offence; and

(e) clarifying that a person cannot claim input tax credits in respect of an amount of GST/HST that has already been recovered by the person from a supplier.

Part 3 implements excise measures proposed in the February 11, 2014 budget by

(a) adjusting the domestic rate of excise duty on tobacco products to account for inflation and eliminating the preferential excise duty treatment of tobacco products available through duty free markets;

(b) ensuring that excise tax returns are filed accurately through the addition of a new administrative monetary penalty and an amended criminal offence for the making of false statements or omissions, consistent with similar provisions in the GST/HST portion of the Excise Tax Act; and

(c) improving the Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to provide feedback to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

Part 3 also implements other excise measures by

(a) permitting the disclosure of confidential information to an appropriate police organization in certain circumstances if the information relates to a serious offence; and

(b) making amendments relating to the introduction of the Offshore Tax Informant Program of the Canada Revenue Agency.

In addition, Part 3 amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Excise Tax Act to clarify that reports of international electronic funds transfers made to the Canada Revenue Agency may be used for the purposes of the administration of those Acts.

Part 4 amends the Customs Tariff. In particular, it

(a) reduces the Most-Favoured-Nation rates of duty and, if applicable, rates of duty under the other tariff treatments on tariff items related to mobile offshore drilling units used in oil and gas exploration and development that are imported on or after May 5, 2014;

(b) removes the exemption provided by tariff item 9809.00.00 and makes consequential amendments to tariff item 9833.00.00 to apply the same tariff rules to the Governor General that are applied to other public office holders; and

(c) clarifies the tariff classification of certain imported food products, effective November 29, 2013.

Part 5 enacts the Canada–United States Enhanced Tax Information Exchange Agreement Implementation Act and amends the Income Tax Act to introduce consequential information reporting requirements.

Part 6 enacts and amends several Acts in order to implement various measures.

Division 1 of Part 6 provides for payments to compensate for deductions in certain benefits and allowances that are payable under the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and the Civilian War-related Benefits Act.

Division 2 of Part 6 amends the Bank of Canada Act and the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to authorize the Bank of Canada to provide banking and custodial services to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Division 3 of Part 6 amends the Hazardous Products Act to better regulate the sale and importation of hazardous products intended for use, handling or storage in a work place in Canada in accordance with the Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Action Plan initiative for work place chemicals. In particular, the amendments implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals with respect to, among other things, labelling and safety data sheet requirements. It also provides for enhanced powers related to administration and enforcement. Finally, it makes amendments to the Canada Labour Code and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act.

Division 4 of Part 6 amends the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to authorize individuals to transport beer and spirits from one province to another for their personal consumption.

Division 5 of Part 6 amends the Judges Act to increase the number of judges of the Superior Court of Quebec and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

Division 6 of Part 6 amends the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to prohibit parliamentarians from contributing to their pension and accruing pensionable service as a result of a suspension.

Division 7 of Part 6 amends the National Defence Act to recognize the historic names of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force while preserving the integration and the unification achieved under the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act and to provide that the designations of rank and the circumstances of their use are prescribed in regulations made by the Governor in Council.

Division 8 of Part 6 amends the Customs Act to extend to 90 days the time for making a request for a review of a seizure, ascertained forfeiture or penalty assessment and to provide that requests for a review and third-party claims can be made directly to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Division 9 of Part 6 amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to provide for the dissolution of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Board and to repeal the requirement for the President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to submit a comprehensive report every five years on the Agency’s activities and on the impact those activities have had on regional disparity.

Division 10 of Part 6 dissolves the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and authorizes, among other things, the transfer of its assets and obligations, as well as those of its subsidiaries, to either the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency or Her Majesty in right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. It also provides that the employees of the Corporation and its subsidiaries are deemed to have been appointed under the Public Service Employment Act and includes provisions related to their terms and conditions of employment. Furthermore, it amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to, among other things, confer on the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency the authority that is necessary for the administration, management, control and disposal of the assets and obligations transferred to the Agency. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts and repeals the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation Act.

Division 11 of Part 6 provides for the transfer of responsibility for the administration of the programs known as the “Online Works of Reference” and the “Virtual Museum of Canada” from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Canadian Museum of History.

Division 12 of Part 6 amends the Nordion and Theratronics Divestiture Authorization Act to remove certain restrictions on the acquisition of voting shares of Nordion.

Division 13 of Part 6 amends the Bank Act to add regulation-making powers respecting a bank’s activities in relation to derivatives and benchmarks.

Division 14 of Part 6 amends the Insurance Companies Act to broaden the Governor in Council’s authority to make regulations respecting the conversion of a mutual company into a company with common shares.

Division 15 of Part 6 amends the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to support the objectives of the Regulatory Cooperation Council to enhance the alignment of Canadian and U.S. regulations while protecting Canadians. It introduces measures to accelerate and streamline the regulatory process, reduce the administrative burden for manufacturers and importers and improve safety for Canadians through revised oversight procedures and enhanced availability of vehicle safety information.

The amendments to the Railway Safety Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 modernize the legislation by aligning it with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management.

This Division also amends the Safe Food for Canadians Act to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting activities related to specified fresh fruits and vegetables, including requiring a person who engages in certain activities to be a member of a specified entity or organization. It also repeals the Board of Arbitration.

Division 16 of Part 6 amends the Telecommunications Act to set a maximum amount that a Canadian carrier can charge to another Canadian carrier for certain roaming services.

Division 17 of Part 6 amends the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to interrupt their compassionate care leave or leave related to their child’s critical illness, death or disappearance in order to take leave because of sickness or a work-related illness or injury. It also amends the Employment Insurance Act to facilitate access to sickness benefits for claimants who are in receipt of compassionate care benefits or benefits for parents of critically ill children.

Division 18 of Part 6 amends the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act to provide that fees fixed under that Act for the use of a facility provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Safe Food for Canadians Act as well as fees fixed for services, products and rights and privileges provided by the Agency under that Act are exempt from the application of the User Fees Act.

Division 19 of Part 6 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to, among other things, enhance the client identification, record keeping and registration requirements for financial institutions and intermediaries, refer to online casinos, and extend the application of the Act to persons and entities that deal in virtual currencies and foreign money services businesses. Furthermore, it makes modifications in regards to the information that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada may receive, collect or disclose, and expands the circumstances in which the Centre or the Canada Border Services Agency can disclose information received or collected under the Act. It also updates the review and appeal provisions related to cross-border currency reporting and brings Part 1.1 of the Act into force.

Division 20 of Part 6 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 to, among other things,

(a) require certain applications to be made electronically;

(b) provide for the making of regulations regarding the establishment of a system of administrative monetary penalties for the contravention of conditions applicable to employers hiring foreign workers;

(c) provide for the termination of certain applications for permanent residence in respect of which a decision as to whether the selection criteria are met is not made before February 11, 2014; and

(d) clarify and strengthen requirements related to the expression of interest regime.

Division 21 of Part 6 amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act to clarify that an adjudicator may grant systemic remedies when it has been determined that the employer has engaged in a discriminatory practice.

It also clarifies the transitional provisions in respect of essential services that were enacted by the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2.

Division 22 of Part 6 amends the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 to clarify how payments to provinces under section 99 of that Act are to be determined.

Division 23 of Part 6 amends the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 so that the aggregate amount of payments to provinces and territories for matters relating to the establishment of a Canadian securities regulation regime may be fixed through an appropriation Act.

Division 24 of Part 6 amends the Protection of Residential Mortgage or Hypothecary Insurance Act and the National Housing Act to provide that certain criteria established in a regulation may apply to an existing insured mortgage or hypothecary loan.

Division 25 of Part 6 amends the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, make that Act consistent with the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks and add the authority to make regulations for carrying into effect the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks. The amendments include the simplification of the requirements for obtaining a filing date in relation to an application for the registration of a trade-mark, the elimination of the requirement to declare use of a trade-mark before registration, the reduction of the term of registration of a trade-mark from 15 to 10 years, and the adoption of the classification established by the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks.

Division 26 of Part 6 amends the Trade-marks Act to repeal the power to appoint the Registrar of Trade-marks and to provide that the Registrar is the person appointed as Commissioner of Patents under subsection 4(1) of the Patent Act.

Division 27 of Part 6 amends the Old Age Security Act to prevent the payment of Old Age Security income-tested benefits for the entire period of a sponsorship undertaking by removing the current 10-year cap.

Division 28 of Part 6 enacts the New Bridge for the St. Lawrence Act, respecting the construction and operation of a new bridge in Montreal to replace the Champlain Bridge and the Nuns’ Island Bridge.

Division 29 of Part 6 enacts the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada Act, which establishes the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada (ATSSC) as a portion of the federal public administration. The ATSSC becomes the sole provider of resources and staff for 11 administrative tribunals and provides facilities and support services to those tribunals, including registry, administrative, research and analysis services. The Division also makes consequential amendments to the Acts establishing those tribunals and to other Acts related to those tribunals.

Division 30 of Part 6 enacts the Apprentice Loans Act, which provides for financial assistance for apprentices to help with the cost of their training. Under that Act, apprentices registered in eligible trades will be eligible for loans that will be interest-free until their training ends.

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

June 12, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 12, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following: “this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it: ( a) has not received adequate study or amendment by Parliament; ( b) cancels the hiring credit for small business ( c) raises costs for Canadian businesses through changes to trademark law that have been opposed by dozens of chambers of commerce, businesses and legal experts; ( d) hands over private financial information of hundreds of thousands of Canadians to the US Internal Revenue Service under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act; ( e) undermines the independence of 11 federal administrative tribunals; and ( f) fails to fully compensate for years of unjust clawback to the benefits of Canada's disabled veterans.”.
June 9, 2014 Passed That Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 376.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 375.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 371.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 369.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 317.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 313.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 308.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 300.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 223.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 211.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 206.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 179.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 175.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 110.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 28.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 27.
June 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting the short title.
June 5, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
April 8, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
April 8, 2014 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it: ( a) amends more than sixty Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight; ( b) does nothing to create quality, good-paying jobs for Canadians and fails to extend the hiring credit for small business; ( c) fails to reverse devastating cuts to infrastructure and healthcare; ( d) hands over private financial information of hundreds of thousands of Canadians to the US Internal Revenue Service under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act; ( e) reduces transparency at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; (f) imposes tolls on the Champlain Bridge; ( g) jeopardizes the independence of eleven federal administrative tribunals; and ( h) enables the government to weaken regulations affecting rail safety and the transport of dangerous goods without notifying the public.”.
April 3, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, not more than three further sitting days after the day on which this Order is adopted shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the third day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying last night, while the opposition parties may claim to be standing up for consumers, it is our government that has consistently acted on behalf of consumers since we first assumed office in 2006. For example, we moved to ensure fairness at the pump, implement anti-spam legislation, and require stronger drug-labelling regulations.

I would like to focus my remarks today on what we have done to increase competition in the telecommunications market, improve access to broadband, and ensure consumer protection for the people of Canada, all while creating new job opportunities in the wireless sector. I am confident that upon hearing my comments, all members of the House will agree that provisions such as this make this budget one of the strongest pieces of legislation in our government's tenure.

Through the 2014 economic action plan and other measures, the Government of Canada has put consumer protection at the forefront of our legislative agenda. Every Canadian family could tell us that cellphone, television, and Internet bills add up quickly and that every dollar counts when it comes to the household budget. We understand that Canadian families are tired of seeing inflated wireless bills, and that is why our government has taken action on this issue in economic action plan 2014.

We have a proven track record of delivering results for Canadians. In fact, since 2008 wireless rates have fallen by nearly 20%, and jobs within the wireless industry have increased by 25%. Prior to 2008, Canada's largest wireless companies held 99% of the market share. We have brought that number down by 10%. For Canadians living in rural areas, our government is investing $305 million to extend and enhance broadband service to an additional 208,000 households. Furthermore, in January 2014 Canada held the 700 megahertz spectrum auction, which resulted in unprecedented success.

The 700 megahertz spectrum is the highest-quality wireless frequency option in Canada. It allows wireless signals to travel longer distances and penetrate thicker walls, and it requires fewer cellphone towers. The auction generated $5.27 billion in revenue and paved the way for Canadians to benefit from a fourth wireless competitor in every region of the country. Key smaller players such as SaskTel, MTS, Videotron, and Eastlink secured their opportunity to maintain and expand their regional footprints. This means that Canadians will now have access to more choice, lower prices, and better service in our wireless industry.

The telecommunications provisions in economic action plan 2014 are consistent with our government's commitment to protecting Canadian consumers and increasing competition in the wireless market. Our government's wireless policies are aimed at lowering prices through competition, and the provisions in this budget are the next step in a long line of concrete actions our government has taken to put consumers first. Policies such as these are not created overnight; they are a result of careful consultation and deliberation with the industry, consumer groups, and Canadians at large.

Our government believes that nobody is better suited to tell hard-working Canadians how to spend their money than Canadians themselves. Our government is committed to empowering individual Canadians, which is why we have proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act and the Radiocommunication Act to provide the CRTC and Industry Canada with the authority to penalize companies who violate the rules of the Wireless Code. This increased oversight would ensure that companies employ fair business practices.

The 2013 Speech from the Throne reminded us that healthy market competition is essential to keep prices low and keep businesses from becoming complacent. In economic action plan 2014, our government has proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act that would cap wholesale domestic wireless roaming charges to keep wireless bills low for Canadians and to prevent wireless providers from charging other companies more than they charge their own customers. This would lead to a greater number of new entrants into the telecom industry, which would in turn create more jobs and stimulate market competition and growth in the wireless sector.

As Canadians are thoroughly aware, a lower price means greater competition, and greater competition means further lowering of prices. This change to the Telecommunications Act would be good for business, good for consumers, and good for Canada.

I hope my comments today will shed some light on this key feature of the 2014 economic action plan. I am sure every member in this House will agree that our government's economic action plan 2014 is one of the finest budgets ever to be introduced into this place.

Despite ongoing economic challenges, Canadians know that they can count on this government to protect their interests. By maintaining fiscally responsible policies to continue on our path to a balanced budget, as well as increasing investment in Canadian families, seniors, and the environment, our government is delivering on our promise to keep more money in the pockets of Canadians and put Canada on a sure economic footing, leading to jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very astute remarks about this budget and also for his hard work around the Hill. I have observed him at committees and I have a high respect for his talents.

At the public accounts committee, where I currently serve, we recently learned that the national debt of Canada has been flatlined as a percentage to GDP, even during the worst economic recession in 60 or 80 years. Also, taxes have remained at an historic low.

At the same time, we are returning to balanced budgets. I know we have heard the leader of the third party say that budgets balance themselves. I wonder if my hon. colleague could comment on how it is that the government has been able to balance the budget at the same time as flatlining debt as a percentage of GDP and keeping taxes down.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 12th, 2014 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also admire my hon. colleague's work in this place and on committee.

I would like to say that when our government took power in 2006, the first thing we did under the leadership of the late minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, was pay down $35 billion in debt.

This gave us the flexibility, when the recession hit in 2008-09, to be able to respond quickly. We did respond quickly with an economic action plan. We had a plan to stimulate the economy for that period of time to create jobs, growth, and prosperity.

What we did after the recession was over in mid-2009 was create 1.1 million net new jobs. These are people who have jobs and who pay taxes. We have lowered the corporate tax rate down to 15%. This has created an environment whereby companies from around the world now want to invest in Canada, in a very low-tax environment that is conducive to business and business-friendly.

Bloomberg has said that we are the second-best country in the world to be doing business in right now. All the major economic institutions around the world have said Canada has the soundest economy. The OECD and the IMF have said that we have the strongest fundamentals in place for the next 50 years to be leading the world in terms of economic performance.

The member could not have been more right. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is now 32% and going down to 25%, the lowest in the G7, and it is because have a plan of low taxes and job creation. That is going to lead to long-term prosperity in this country of ours.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to speak to Bill C-31 at third reading.

This act sets out a comprehensive agenda to create jobs, keep the economy growing, and return to balanced budgets.

With economic action plan 2014, the government continues to support families and communities by keeping taxes low, putting consumers first, protecting Canadians' health and safety, and making communities more resilient in the face of natural disasters.

During the next 20 minutes I would like to talk about our economic and fiscal strengths and our plan to ensure we remain a world leader in a relatively uncertain global economy. The opposition may not find this to be the world's most exciting story. After all, it is a story about low taxes, fiscal discipline, and long-term thinking. Canada's story in recent years shows a country that is getting back to work and in which businesses, families, and communities are in an enviable position to succeed moving forward.

Let me begin with this. Canada's fiscal fundamentals are solid and sustainable. Our government has ensured that Canada was always in a better position to weather the economic storm. For eight consecutive years, our government has demonstrated steadfast leadership and an unprecedented commitment to the Canadian economy.

In 2006, when our government assumed office, the world was a different place. Markets were booming and economic growth was strong. Even back then, the economic storm clouds were gathering. Our government's focus on sound fundamentals meant that we were ready when those storms reached our shores. We paid down the federal debt, we cut taxes for families and job-creating businesses, and we set out an ambitious plan to renew Canada's aging infrastructure.

In 2009, when we reached the depths of the great recession, our government acted quickly, decisively, and better than most. We introduced an economic action plan that funded thousands of critical infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads, bridges, and border crossings, as well as knowledge-based infrastructure like research labs, universities and colleges, and broadband Internet access in rural areas.

Fast-forward to today and we can see that those actions are paying off. Since coming to office, our government has had the best job creation record in the G7. We are leading in economic growth. We have created almost 20% more jobs on a per capita basis than our closest competitor. Canadian households have seen a near 10% increase in their after-tax inflation-adjusted incomes under our government and an almost 45% increase in their net worth. Canada has the lowest total government net debt burden of any G7 country by far.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and next.

Government of Canada bonds are among the most sought-after investment tools in the world. That means that investors both here and abroad have confidence in our government’s ability to manage the economy, today and in the future.

While it is gratifying to highlight Canada’s economic strengths, we know we must remain vigilant. Today’s advantage will not carry into tomorrow simply by sheer luck or even good intentions. By making considered economic choices, Canada is doing relatively well where other countries are on shaky ground.

However, we cannot be complacent. That is why we will continue to deliver on our commitment to Canadians while keeping taxes low. After all, when Canadians elected our Conservative government, they were clear. They cannot afford to pay the higher taxes that the Liberals and the NDP want to force upon them.

Unfortunately, both the NDP and the Liberal leader have recently committed to raising taxes, thereby stunting Canada's economic growth. Those taxes would prevent businesses from expanding and block them from hiring workers. Small businesses cannot afford these higher-tax policies. In fact, families in my riding of North Vancouver, and across Canada, tell me that they cannot afford the NDP's irresponsible pension proposals either. They cannot afford a smaller paycheque, nor can they afford to lose their jobs.

In an all too volatile global economy, there is no substitute for decisive actions and hard work.

There remain risks from beyond our borders, which bring with them the potential for severe consequences on the Canadian economy. The result is that our economy has been restrained by weak export markets and declines in commodity prices. In addition, financial market vulnerabilities in some emerging economies could translate into weaker than expected growth in these countries and increase financial market volatility more generally.

The message is clear. Competing in such an uncertain world means sticking to proven strategies and continuing with plans that work. Fortunately, Canada has just such a plan: economic action plan 2014. Today's legislation would build upon previous actions by our government to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians.

First, as members well know, a growing part of Canada's economic strength comes from our rich natural resources. These sectors create jobs and prosperity, particularly in many rural communities across the country. Canada's natural resources sector represents 18% of the economy and over half of our exports, and supports 1.8 million jobs directly and indirectly. Furthermore, it generates about $30 billion annually in revenue to governments, equal to approximately half of all spending on hospitals in Canada in 2013.

There are hundreds of natural resource projects under way or planned in Canada over the next 10 years, representing a total potential investment of over $650 billion.

A significant element of this economic boost is represented by Canada's unique oil sands industry. This sector is an asset that will increasingly contribute to the prosperity of all Canadians. The oil sands is among the world's largest technology projects, contributing about 275,000 jobs across Canada and $48 billion in GDP. These numbers could grow to an average of 630,000 jobs and a contribution of $113 billion in GDP per year, up to 2035.

Canada’s natural resources have always been a factor in our success, but never as much as today. Major economic projects create jobs and stimulate development everywhere in Canada. The reason is growing global demand for resources, in particular in the emerging economies. As part of Canada’s economic action plan, we are modernizing the federal regulatory regime by establishing clear deadlines, reducing overlap and the burden of remuneration, and by focusing resources on the big projects that have the most positive environmental impact.

For example, we are implementing system-wide improvements to achieve the goal of one project, one review within clearly defined time periods.

In our most recent budget, we announced $28 million, over two years, to the National Energy Board, for the comprehensive and timely reviews of applications to support the participant funding program and eliminated tariffs on mobile offshore drilling units used in offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

To help improve offshore energy developments, today's legislation would amend the customs tariff to eliminate tariffs on mobile offshore drilling units used in offshore oil and gas exploration and development. By making the status of the drilling units duty free, it would help improve the global competitiveness of Canadian energy projects and increase the potential for valuable resource discoveries in Canada's Atlantic and Arctic offshore areas.

We also announced an extension of the mineral exploration tax credit until 2015. This credit helps junior exploration companies raise capital by providing an incentive to individuals who invest in flow-through shares issued to finance mineral exploration. Since 2006, this measure has helped junior mining companies raise over $5 billion for exploration. In 2012, over 350 companies issued flow-through shares with the benefit of the credit to more than 30,000 individual investors.

Our government remains committed to making Canada a great place in which to invest and expand a business and for hiring new workers. Economic success, however, requires more than simply being blessed with an abundance of natural resources. It requires ensuring our greatest resource, our people, have everything they need to excel. That is why our government has consistently focused on training the workforce for tomorrow.

Students participating in Canada's education system are the largest source of new labour market supply. Providing them with the right skills is essential to further Canada's economic prospects. Employers and various organizations have identified an acute need for skilled tradespeople. Employer surveys indicate that skilled trades are among the most difficult jobs to fill. In fact, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lists skill shortages as the number one barrier to Canada's competitiveness. As the baby boom generation retires, demand for skilled tradespeople, and apprentices in particular, is going to increase. While the number of apprentices completing training and obtaining certification has doubled from 2000 to 2011, apprenticeship completion rates have averaged only about 50% over the same period. That number is low compared to other countries and substantially lower than that of community college and university students.

In Canada, apprentices and skilled trades do most of their learning during on-the-job paid employment and participate in technical training for periods of time ranging from six to eight weeks each year. They can face significant costs to complete these periods of technical training required by their program including educational fees, tools and equipment, living expenses, and forgone wages. That is why to help connect Canadians with available jobs, Bill C-31 introduces a new Canada apprentice loan. This initiative would help apprentices registered in Red Seal trades by providing access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year to complete their training.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the efforts made by our government to match Canadians with the jobs offered is the Canada job grant. That program is going to transform job training, to ensure that federal funding meets the workforce needs of employers and enables them to participate as full partners in the job training system.

The Canada job grant provides up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including tuition and materials, which includes a maximum federal contribution of $10,000, with employers funding, on average, one third of the total training costs.

The government held exhaustive consultations with employers and other stakeholders on the design of the grant, which reflects the results of those consultations. It is important to note that in recognition of the special challenges facing small businesses, they will be allowed greater flexibility in the cost agreements.

At the same time, to foster job creation, our government is renegotiating the $1.95 billion per year labour market development agreements to better reorient training toward labour market demand. EAP would also invest $11 million over two years, and $3.5 million per year ongoing, to strengthen the labour market opinion process to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs.

The bill provides $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing toward the successful implementation of an expression of interest economic immigration system to support Canada's labour market needs.

By investing in the skills of Canadians and the resources of our country, we are acting to ensure Canada's long-term prosperity.

Finally, today's legislation builds on our governments actions to support and improve the quality of life for hardworking Canadian families.

Our Conservative government is the only party that has a record of proven successes in supporting families and communities. The opposition does nothing but vote against these supports. We are working hard to create economic benefits for all Canadians, so they can enjoy a good quality of life and long-term prosperity. We have reduced federal taxes to their lowest level in 50 years, and we are going to look at other ways of providing tax relief for Canadians, while at the same time aiming to return to balanced budgets by 2015.

Since 2006, our government has lowered taxes in a number of ways for families, including increasing the amount of income all Canadians can earn without paying any federal income tax; increasing the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets so that individuals can earn more income before being subject to higher taxes; reducing the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%; and introducing the TSFA, the tax free savings account, to help Canadians save by earning tax free investment income.

Our tax cuts have also given individuals and families the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that our government has provided significant tax relief for Canadians, benefiting low- to middle-income families the most. He says:

Cumulative tax changes since 2005 have been progressive overall and most greatly impact low-middle income earners (households earning between $12,200 and $23,300), effectively resulting in a 4% increase in after-tax income.... In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent.

That is what leadership is. It is simply not possible to tax and spend our way to prosperity. As a result of actions taken by our Conservative government, the average family of four will save nearly $3,400 in taxes this year, and the net worth of families is up over 44%, with The New York Times saying we have the most affluent middle class in the world for the first time ever.

While we are focused on creating savings for Canadians, the leader of the Liberals has the same old Liberal high-tax, high-spending agenda that would threaten jobs and set working families back. How can someone who thinks budgets balance themselves be trusted with jobs and the economy? At the same time, the leader of the NDP continues to push risky, high-tax schemes, like the $20-billion carbon tax, that would hurt Canada's economy and kill Canadian jobs.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague says it is an increase of $22 billion.

Our government's ambitious agenda for tax relief for families, individuals, and businesses is aimed at creating a tax system that fuels job creation and growth in the economy and allows Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Specifically, today's legislation proposes to increase the maximum amount of the adoption expense tax credit to $15,000 to help make adoption more affordable for Canadian families.

The bill would introduce a search and rescue volunteers tax credit for search and rescue volunteers who perform at least 200 hours of service in a year, something I know will be very welcome in my riding of North Vancouver.

We are also encouraging competition and lowering prices in the telecommunications market by capping wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates to prevent wireless providers from charging other companies, which may be their competitors, more than they charge their own customers for mobile voice data and text services.

To conclude, in this rapidly changing world, helping Canadians and businesses is a fundamental part of everything our government does. It is why despite ongoing global economic challenges Canadians can count on our Conservative government. We remain committed to providing the strong leadership Canadians expect.

The role of government is to put in place the right balance of policies and initiatives to support growth and unleash potential, and that is exactly what we are doing through this legislation. I therefore encourage all members of this House to give this bill the support it deserves.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some amusement to my friend's speech, because so little did he reference the bill in front of us. However, this is the way of talking points from the Prime Minister's Office.

A question about the bill and the legislation before us may be pertinent, and so I will try one.

This is an omnibus piece of legislation of over 360 pages. It would affect more than 60 Canadian laws all in one bill, which is something the Conservatives, when in opposition, used to decry and sing to the heavens about, saying how unfair and unjust it was. However, it is something they have taken up and put on steroids.

Buried within the omnibus bill is a tax treaty, an intergovernmental agreement with the United States, our largest trading partner, on a piece of legislation that was pushed through Washington, much to everyone's disdain and anger. It is called FATCA, which would be used to try to grab money from Americans living overseas.

Now Canada is obviously not a tax haven, and the Americans admit that, but lo and behold, Canada has to do something about this. What the government has done is shield the banks from any expenditures. The banks estimate that a single bank would need $100 million to go ahead and collect all this information about Canadians, dual citizen Canadian-Americans living in Canada. In fact, there may be up to one million people.

My simple question to my friend is this: Has the government estimated the cost? The banks are saying that it is $100 million per chartered bank. Now that the Government of Canada is going to collect this information and pass it on to the IRS, has it estimated the cost to the Canadian taxpayer of collecting all this data on behalf of the IRS?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, in fact, this has raised some concerns in Canada, and that is why we undertook to negotiate with the United States to improve it. The agreement we reached, after a long period of discussion, addresses those concerns by relying on the existing framework under the Canada-U.S. tax treaty.

CRA will not assist the IRS in collecting U.S. taxes, and no new taxes will be imposed on Canadians. In our negotiations, we obtained a number of concessions, including exempting certain accounts, such as RRSPs, RDSPs, TFSAs, et cetera.

I would remind my colleague opposite that without an agreement in place, our financial institutions would still have to comply with FATCA. In fact, it would have been much more onerous. FATCA would be unilaterally and automatically imposed on Canadian financial institutions by the U.S. as of July 1. These obligations would have forced Canadian financial institutions to choose between entering into an agreement with the IRS that would require them to report directly to the IRS on accounts held by U.S. residents and U.S. citizens, which would raise concerns about consistency with Canadian privacy laws, or being subject to a 30% FATCA withholding tax on U.S. source payments for not complying with FATCA. With our agreement in place, this will not happen.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member went to great lengths to explain how well the Conservative government has been doing in terms of its budgetary policies. I want to highlight two areas in which the government has been deemed somewhat a failure.

One issue is the temporary foreign worker program, which has had a profound negative impact on tens of thousands of Canadians from all regions of our country.The government has created a crisis within that program.

Second is the infrastructure program. The government is saying, on the one hand, that it is making record commitments to the infrastructure program, yet in this fiscal year, it is cutting back something in the neighbourhood of 80% to 90% of actual dollars being spent.

Many would argue that the government is putting election politics for the next fiscal year ahead of the needs of our communities throughout Canada. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would provide comment as to why it is the government has done such a poor job on two key elements of the budget this year.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House that it was the Liberal Party, when it was in power, that brought in the temporary foreign worker program. Yes, the program had problems, which is why we have set about fixing those problems.

Our government has been clear that Canadians must have the first chance at available jobs. We have repeatedly warned employers that the temporary foreign worker program must only be used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available.

Despite our actions in recent weeks, there remain serious concerns regarding use of the temporary foreign worker program, especially in the food services sector. Abuse of the temporary foreign worker program will not be tolerated by our government. Allegations of misuse will continue to be investigated, and any employer found to have violated the rules will face serious consequences. Those employers who are found to have lied about their efforts to hire Canadians could face potential criminal prosecution, with sanctions that include fines and jail time.

Our government will continue to pursue significant reforms to the temporary foreign worker program to ensure that employers make greater efforts to recruit and train Canadians first and that it is only used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke a little bit about the tax credit for search and rescue. I know that he lives in Vancouver, so he is right next to the ocean. I wonder if he could talk a little bit more about how that tax credit would be of assistance to the people living in his riding.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, she is absolutely right. It is a very important measure that would benefit those men and women across the country who volunteer to help save the lives of other people. They put their own lives at risk every day to help save the lives of other people, and they should be recognized for that.

I can tell members that in my riding of North Vancouver, North Shore Rescue has done an amazing job over the last number of years. They have saved over 2,000 people in the last 25 years who were at risk of losing their lives in the mountains or on the shores of North Vancouver. This tax credit would help people who risk their lives, including the volunteers of North Shore Rescue and other rescue operations across the country, by allowing them to have a tax credit they can write off if they dedicate 200 hours or more each year in service to help others.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, here are some numbers that are actually factual about the government's term since 2006. When it came into office, Canada's national debt was about $480 billion. Today it is $620 billion. One-fifth of the total debt of Canada was accumulated in the last seven years under the Conservative government. We know that the unemployment figures are high. We know that there have been seven successive deficit budgets, and we know that there has been a massive slash of services to Canadians.

I want to focus on the comments by my hon. colleague from Vancouver. He talked about a tax credit for search and rescue. This is the place where the government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. In Vancouver and on the B.C. coast, people's lives and health are now in danger because the government cannot even see fit to fund search and rescue operations.

However, my question is about FATCA. We have a million Canadians in this country who have to now report their own personal financial information, which will go to the U.S. government, and they are subject to fines and penalties because they now have to file taxes there. These are people who have lived in Canada for 50 or 60 years, and they just happen to have American citizenship by birth.

Can the member tell the million Canadians with dual citizenship that they will not be subject to fines and penalties for not complying with filing U.S. tax returns when they did not feel that they had to do that?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned a couple of things. First of all, with regard to debt, I remind the hon. member that Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP of any country in the G7 by far, and we are well on track to bring it down to the level the Prime Minister said it would come down to by 2020, which is 25%. We are currently at about 32%. That compares to the next-lowest country, which is Germany, at 54%. The numbers speak for themselves. Canada is in very good shape with respect to our trading partners and to other G7 countries.

With regard to FATCA, I remind the member opposite that this was not our law. It was a law that was passed by the U.S. Congress. It is a law that would have come into effect no matter what we did here in Canada, and it would have been extremely onerous to our financial institutions, as well as to Canadians holding dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. Thanks to the efforts of my late colleague, Minister Jim Flaherty, we were able to achieve a significant compromise with the U.S. government. We were allowed to get provisions that would not have existed otherwise that will significantly lessen the burden on Canadian financial institutions and on Canadians holding dual citizenship.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, what a resounding reception. New Democrats like this work thing, staying here late, working on budgets, working on bills, and trying to do the good work of Canadians.

I will refer my comments to my Conservative colleagues along the way, and hopefully there will be some good give and take in the questions and answers.

What we are debating here tonight here is Bill C-31. This is the debate that ought to be occurring, as opposed to what just happened in the speech from my friend across the way, which was all about fun things he wanted to talk about, some of it slightly based on fact but most of it based on spin from the Prime Minister's Office.

Bill C-31 is an omnibus bill of some 360 pages. I have to give some credit to the Conservatives for providing a lot of important education to Canadians on parliamentary procedure, such as prorogation and omnibus legislation. Many Canadians did not have any idea of what they were until the Conservatives started to abuse their power, and now they know what they are. For that bit of education about our parliamentary system, I thank the Conservatives. For the abuse of their power, I certainly do not.

In these 360 pages that affect more than 60 laws on the books in Canada, the Conservatives have buried all sorts of things that they hoped would not see the light of day. If they did, the tradition and pattern of the Conservative government would have been to lift them out and make them their own standing bit of legislation. They would have been elevated, with champagne and balloons and all sorts of good fun. However, they did not want Canadians to know about them.

Let us put to rest the idea that anything involved in the process of passing this bill has been anything short of a farce. The Conservatives are ramming through this legislation. Of course, like almost all legislation introduced by the government, it was put under what they called time allocation. That was another bit of education for Canadians on parliamentary tricks and tactics promoted by the government.

What time allocation does is shut down debate at every single stage. It closes off the number of MPs who can speak and it closes off the amount of scrutiny that we can apply to a very complicated piece of legislation. Many aspects of this legislation will affect the day-to-day lives of Canadians and the strength and veracity of our economy.

The Conservatives consistently put politics ahead of policy. They simply say that because they wish it so, so shall it be. What we see in this omnibus bill are fixes to the last omnibus bill, because they got it wrong. In that one there were fixes to the previous omnibus bill, because they got it wrong there too.

Why did Conservatives get it all wrong? It was because they did not listen. They have this incapacity to listen. I understand why they do not listen to the official opposition: it is because we have a naturally contrarian approach to what goes on in the House. It is quid pro quo, which is fine, but they not listen to experts either. They do not listen to academics or people in the business community. They do not listen to anybody.

That level of arrogance has been on a noticeable increase, much like the unemployment rate in Canada. That level of arrogance has grown steadily, just as the debt has grown under the Conservatives, with more than $140 billion tacked on for future generations to pay off.

When $140 billion is borrowed, $140 billion is not paid back. Anybody who has ever borrowed any kind of money at all knows that the amount paid back at the end of day, with interest and time, is much more than what was borrowed.

The Conservatives always talk about their care and concern for future generations. I remember the 2008 budget that was referred to earlier by my friend, and I love Conservative revisionist history. They are able to look back on things that happened and are in the record, in black and white, and then pretend them away if they do not like what they see.

The budget brought in by the Conservatives, right in the teeth of a global recession, was not a stimulus budget or a budget to help put Canadians back to work; it was an austerity budget. If I remember properly—and I do, because I was in the House and looked across as the Conservatives brought their budget in—it was meant to cut programs and services. The budget was meant to deprive the economy of tens and hundreds of millions of dollars on the very cusp of a global downturn.

Why did the Conservatives reverse their position? It was not because they had any enlightenment as to how the economy actually works; it was because their own jobs were threatened with defeat.

As we will remember, right about that same time there was the threat of a coalition government. The Conservative government panicked, prorogued Parliament, and shut things down. Can anyone imagine this happening in other countries, by the way? There are some countries that come to mind, but none that we would ever want to imitate, not at all.

However, the government, about to face a vote of defeat, turned to the Queen's representative and said, “Let us get out of town, because we don't want to fall to the majority of MPs in the House.” That conversation is an entire speech.

As late finance minister Jim Flaherty joked, he said, “We're all Keynesians now.” Suddenly the Conservatives got religion on the idea that government has some role to play in the economy. Rather than doing what was suggested by all the experts, which is to directly infuse money into the economy in places where it would work, they instead invented all sorts of programs and the economic action plan. We still see the annoying ads and the billboards for them all over the place.

These measures cost tens of millions of dollars to roll out. They could instead have done something like an enhancement of the gas tax, which would have gone directly to municipalities that had projects ready to come off the shelf and onto the market. It took an extra year and a half for that money to actually touch the Canadian economy, thereby increasing the pain and suffering of those who had lost their jobs.

Even when Conservatives figured out that Keynesian economics is not the devil's work and even though they realized, finally, under threat of failure of their own government, that there was an important conversation to be had, they failed to do it properly and ended up spending tens of millions more than was required. That money was completely wasted.

Let us get back to Bill C-31.

As I raise points of criticism tonight, I would like my Conservative colleagues to acknowledge, and Canadians who are watching to realize, that despite all the criticisms New Democrats have raised, we did not just oppose what the government was doing. We actually brought forward proposals and amendments. We suggested changes to the bill that were based on the evidence we heard at committee. We did not hear a lot because, again, the Conservatives shut down the process and limited the number of voices that could be heard.

We were passing amendments to Canadian law. In the final stages of this bill, we were changing law every two minutes. This is what the Conservatives call oversight and accountability. They were making significant changes to Canadian law without any understanding of the repercussions and without bringing forward any witnesses.

Regardless, we brought substantive amendments. We brought even more at the previous stage of this bill that we are now debating tonight. Every single time—with one small exception, which was when I worked with my friend across the way for a technical fix on the bill—they were refused. Even when the evidence was overwhelmingly strong that the government had got it wrong and that the impacts were going to be disastrous for Canadians, Conservatives stubbornly refused.

We tried to be reasonable with them. The amendments were completely founded on the consensus we got from the witnesses, who understood many of these issues far better than any parliamentarian involved, and arrogantly and consistently the Conservatives refused every single one. We introduced nearly a thousand amendments on omnibus legislation, and the government was consistent in refusing all of them. What is ironic is that the fixes that are now in this omnibus bill to fix the last one were changes we attempted to make during that process and that debate, and Conservatives said no, no. They said they had it right.

Let us get into the actual details of the bill. I want to touch on one point that my friend raised earlier, the $14 million a year that is going to the NEB that is going to help with participation for Canadians. There are some tens of billions worth of projects on the docket as potential development projects, and the Conservatives offer up $14 million and want to slap themselves on the back.

Here is what they have actually done to environmental assessments in this country, according to the Auditor General. They can dispute the Auditor General if they so wish. By gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, they have taken the average number of environmental assessments from 4,000 per year down to between 12 and 15 per year. These assessments are the public hearings on mines, new major builds, pipelines, and all the rest at which companies are forced to bring their science forward, their evidence and facts, and community members raise concerns. That is the process they engage in.

We are going to go, on average, from 4,000 of those assessments in Canada per year down to between 12 and 15 per year. I am not saying 12,000 or 15,000, but 12 or 15. All the other projects are simply going to get rubber-stamped and approved by the government with no public input, no hearings, no evidence, no science, none of it. One would think that a resource-based country like Canada would have learned from past mistakes. That is why we have the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Last year the federal government and all federal taxpayers put $160 million into Yukon alone to deal with old, abandoned mines that are leaking because they were built badly. What we said was, “When you get things wrong in resource development, it's expensive.” It is not just expensive for the environment; it is also expensive for taxpayers. Therefore, let us get smart. Let us evolve. Let us understand the impacts as well as we can before we build the project, rather than have to pay and clean up the mistakes afterwards.

Conservatives like to turn back the clock, as they so often do. They have been watching too many reruns of Leave it to Beaver to realize that the world has moved on. What the world has realized is that science is important. However, time and time again we see the government purposely make itself ignorant. I do not know if we have ever before seen a government of a G7 country that says it would rather not know much about the economy. The government cut 20% from the labour market assessment, so 20% of that budget is gone. It does not want to know what is going on in the labour market, but what it will do is bring in temporary foreign workers for any problem it perceives or for any anecdote it has from an employer.

Of course, that program has absolutely exploded. That program is addressed in the bill. That is one of the laws that is addressed in the bill. Here was a missed opportunity by the Conservatives to fix the obvious and known problems with the temporary foreign worker program. Did they do it? Not at all.

They are caught in a bit of a dichotomy here, because they keep saying that the program is fine, that it is strong, that they are hard on employers and have a blacklist they put them on. Oh, the terrifying blacklist. After two years, there are two employers nominally on the blacklist. One might think there have not been any abuses, but in Alberta alone last year, 160 cases of abuse of the temporary foreign worker program were raised. That is just one province. Obviously, the abuses are there.

There was an opportunity for a fix here, an opportunity for the government to pull back and close those massive loopholes that one could drive a pickup truck through. The Conservatives obviously got the temporary foreign worker program badly wrong.

The effect is not just the abuse on those temporary foreign workers. We in the NDP believe that if someone is good enough to come to Canada and work in Canada, they are good enough to eventually become a Canadian, as opposed to the indentured labour program that the Conservatives set up. Rather than fix those programs, they chose not to. It was another opportunity the government missed.

There was a program that was ragingly successful for small businesses, the true job creators in our country. Depending on the year, eight or nine out of every 10 new jobs in Canada are created by small and medium-sized businesses. These businesses are the ones that drive the economy, drive innovation, and absolutely support communities and families.

The Conservatives did something smart: they borrowed an idea from the NDP. They said if they were going to offer a tax cut to small businesses, which is a good thing, it should be connected to a job being created. I know it is a radical suggestion to say that if we give a tax break or a benefit of some kind to someone, they should give something back. The NDP said that was a good line to connect, that taxpayers would support that idea. Lo and behold, even the Conservatives supported it. It was the small business hiring tax credit, which half a million small businesses supported and applied to. It created those jobs that we so desperately need. With such a successful program, what did the Conservatives do? They cancelled it.

What was it the Prime Minister said today? He said it was a time-limited offer. He's the ShamWow prime minister now. It is time limited only. Here is this very effective small business program, but it is time limited. “Call now. We'll throw in a set of knives for you if you hurry.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business decried this cancellation. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said it was wrong. Small business operators across the country asked why, if the government had a program that worked, would it cancel it?

Here is something the Conservatives did not cancel that we have seen over time: the massive shifting of tax away from corporations, particularly the largest and most profitable. This tradition was started by the Liberals, to be fair, but it was continued with great vigour by the Conservatives. Tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks were given to corporations with no strings attached. The Conservatives, and previously the Liberals, said, “Just take the money, and we hope you'll do some great investment in research and development and create those jobs and invest back.”

What has happened? It turned into dead money, as former finance minister Jim Flaherty put it. Almost half a trillion dollars are sitting in the coffers of corporate Canada that they are not reinvesting and not putting into R and D and not using to create those jobs. Why is that? It is because there are no strings attached. That is how it works in life; so too does it in business. If we give someone something for free, they will take it gladly. If we include some implication, some sort of contract attached to getting a break from the taxpayers of Canada, then they can be expected to create a job with that break, as opposed to what these guys have done.

Getting back to this participation thing, the Conservatives have created massive uncertainty when it comes to resource development in Canada. We see it through the fiasco of the Enbridge northern gateway proposal, where they retroactively changed the law that governed the NEB, taking the decision away from the independent panel that they always talked about as an independent tribunal, saying that they were going to let do what it does. Then why did they, in an omnibus bill, retroactively change the process while we were halfway through it to take the decision away from the NEB and land it in the lap of the Prime Minister, who within seven days, is going to make a decision on this?

Gosh darn it, he is caught between a rock and a hard place, because they would not listen to the economics of exporting raw bitumen to China being a bad idea for the value-added chain in Canada; that this is a non-renewable resource that we get once. They would not listen to the environmental implications; they accepted a project without admitting whether bitumen, this thing that comes out of the oil sands, sinks or floats. Now why would that be important? Well, we could ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. He would know, because whether it sinks or floats affects how the cleanup operation would be designed. If it sinks, boy that would sure be hard to clean up. Lo and behold, two days after the NEB sent in the report, without knowing the answer to that fundamental question, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had in fact done a study on bitumen in water in a tank here in Ottawa, and it sent the report in two days after the panel had reviewed the project and said, “Goodness, let us just go ahead and give it the green light”. Now the Prime Minister has a week to make up his mind. He has not listened to the economics.

He has not listened to the environmental concerns of putting supertankers on B.C.'s north coast, which as anyone who has been there knows, is fraught with peril. It is the place I represent and know well. There is going to be a massive accident if this goes ahead.

Now they are listening to the politics. The 21 B.C. Conservative MPs are suddenly faced with a bit of a dilemma: who are they going to listen to? Are they going to listen to the voters who put them here, or are they going to listen to the Prime Minister who has had blinkers over his eyes since day one on this project? It was his government that said that anybody who raises concerns about this pipeline must be a foreign-funded radical, an enemy of the state. What do people think the effect was in British Columbia for those who were raising legitimate concerns about this project? They were offended and maybe saddened to see a Prime Minister use this kind of rhetoric against his own people: enemy of the state—how dare he?

What they did ultimately, as we are now seeing, was react in the way we would expect Canadians to react to a bully. They stood up, are standing up, and are standing shoulder to shoulder with first nations and non-first nations allies, community to community; and the town of Kitimat itself passed a plebiscite vote rejecting this project. Yet the Prime Minister will not listen to any of that.

The Conservatives ignored the Canadian chambers of commerce on the trademark provisions that were in this bill. There were also the intellectual property components; and FATCA, on which my friend from Victoria has done amazing work, exposing this travesty that over a million Canadians may be exposed to the IRS because the Canada Revenue Agency is going to play some sort of middleman role and pass on the private banking information of up to a million Canadians. Here is who are affected: Canadians of dual citizenship, who are Canadian, by the way. The minister was in committee time and again and said no Canadian would be affected. Is a dual citizen between Canada and the U.S. not a Canadian? Are individuals who were born in the U.S. but have lived almost their entire lives here, with Canadian citizenship and voting in Canadian elections, not Canadians? The mayor in one of my towns is affected by this. Are those not Canadians? The minister, bold-faced, stood in front of the committee and said no one would be affected. One of the amendments we put forward was to at least give people notice when passing their personal banking information on to the IRS, and the Conservatives rejected that too. This is a bad bill; it has all sorts of consequences for Canadians.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it: a) has not received adequate study or amendment by Parliament; b) cancels the hiring credit for small business; c) raises costs for Canadian businesses through changes to trademark law that have been opposed by dozens of chambers of commerce, businesses, and legal experts; d) hands over private financial information of hundreds of thousands of Canadians to the US Internal Revenue Service under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act; e) undermines the independence of 11 federal administrative tribunals; and f) fails to fully compensate for years of unjust clawback to the benefits of Canada's disabled veterans.

If for no other reason, the Conservatives should show a little spine and stand up for Canada's wounded vets and support this motion.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 11th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his truly passionate remarks. I know that he survived the ordeal of the Standing Committee on Finance, and the frustration felt by committee members at having to sift through a budget bill that covers so much ground. The member for South Shore—St. Margaret's agrees with me because he was there too.

To give you a sense of the complexity of what we were dealing with—and we had very little time to do so—one specific issue took up 50 pages of the bill. I am referring to the substantive amendments to the Trademark Act. We had a moment to take a superficial look at the issue. This fact was decried by all the witnesses who appeared and in the various briefs heard on the subject, starting with the one from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

I would like to hear the member’s comments, first regarding the fact that this was buried in such an immense bill—and therefore the issue could not be addressed appropriately—and second, regarding the changes that these amendments will bring that may hurt Canadian businesses and the economy.