Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2

A second 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 certain income tax measures proposed in the February 11, 2014 budget. Most notably, it

(a) extends the intergenerational rollover and the lifetime capital gains exemption for dispositions of property used in farming and fishing businesses;

(b) extends the tax deferral provision with respect to breeding animals to bees, and to all types of horses that are over 12 months of age, that are kept for breeding;

(c) permits income contributed to an amateur athlete trust to qualify as earned income for RRSP contribution limit purposes, with an election available to taxpayers for up to a three-year retroactive application;

(d) extends the definition “split income” to include income from a business or property that is paid or allocated to a minor child from a partnership or trust where a person related to the child is engaged in the activities of the partnership or trust to earn that income;

(e) eliminates graduated rate taxation for trusts and certain estates with an exception for cases involving testamentary trusts whose beneficiaries include individuals eligible for the Disability Tax Credit;

(f) eliminates the 60-month exemption from the non-resident trust rules;

(g) allows an individual’s estate to carry back charitable donations made as a result of the individual’s death;

(h) expands eligibility for the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation and energy conservation equipment to include water-current energy equipment and a broader range of equipment used to gasify eligible waste fuel;

(i) adjusts Canada’s foreign accrual property income rules in order to address offshore insurance swap transactions and ensure that income from the direct or indirect insurance of Canadian risks is taxed appropriately;

(j) better circumscribes the existing “investment business” definition in the foreign accrual property income regime;

(k) addresses back-to-back loan arrangements involving an intermediary; and

(l) extends the existing tax credit for interest paid on student loans to interest paid on a Canada Apprentice Loan.

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

(a) alleviates the tax cost to Canadian-based banks of using excess liquidity of their foreign affiliates in their Canadian operations;

(b) ensures that certain securities transactions undertaken in the course of a bank’s business of facilitating trades for arm’s length customers are not inappropriately caught by the base erosion rules;

(c) modernizes the life insurance policy exemption test;

(d) amends the foreign affiliate rules to ensure they apply appropriately to structures that include partnerships and makes generally relieving changes to certain of the base erosion rules to ensure they do not apply in unintended circumstances;

(e) amends the rules for determining the residence of international shipping corporations;

(f) provides for the appropriate taxation of taxpayers that invest in Australian trusts;

(g) amends the foreign affiliate dumping rules to ensure the rules apply in appropriate circumstances and, if applicable, provide appropriate results;

(h) excludes from the definition “non-qualifying country” in the foreign affiliate rules those countries or other jurisdictions for which the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters is in force and effect;

(i) avoids unintended tax consequences with respect to the British Overseas Territory of the British Virgin Islands;

(j) simplifies the rules for the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit regime;

(k) amends the trust loss restriction event rules to provide relief for investment trusts that meet specific conditions; and

(l) increases the maximum amount that may be claimed under the Children Fitness Tax Credit and makes the credit refundable starting in 2015.

Part 2 implements certain goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures by

(a) ensuring that pooled registered pension plans are subject to similar GST/HST treatment as registered pension plans;

(b) implementing real property technical amendments that provide for the consistent treatment of different types of housing and ensure that the special valuation rule for subsidized housing works properly with the GST/HST place of supply rules and in the context of a GST/HST rate change;

(c) clarifying the application of GST/HST public service body rebates in relation to non-profit organizations that operate certain health care facilities; and

(d) relieving the GST/HST on services of refining precious metals supplied to a non-resident person that is not registered for GST/HST purposes.

Part 3 amends the Excise Act, 2001 to provide a refund of the inventory tax, introduced in the February 11, 2014 budget, on cigarettes that are destroyed or re-worked, in line with the refund of the excise duty that exists for tobacco products that are destroyed or re-worked.

Part 4 enacts and amends several Acts in order to implement various measures.

Division 1 of Part 4 amends the Industrial Design Act to make that Act consistent with the Geneva (1999) Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and to give the Governor in Council the authority to make regulations for carrying it into effect. The amendments include provisions relating to the contents of an application for the registration of a design, requests for priority, and the term of an exclusive right for a design.

It also amends the Patent Act to, among other things, make that Act consistent with the provisions of the Patent Law Treaty. The amendments include reducing the requirements for obtaining a filing date in relation to an application for a patent, requiring that an applicant be notified of a missed due date before an application is deemed to be abandoned, and providing that a patent may not be invalidated for non-compliance with certain requirements relating to the application on the basis of which the patent was granted.

Division 2 of Part 4 amends the Aeronautics Act to authorize the Minister of Transport to make an order, and the Governor in Council to make regulations, that prohibit the development or expansion of or any change to the operation of an aerodrome. It also amends the Act to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations in respect of consultations by the proponents and operators of aerodromes.

Division 3 of Part 4 enacts the Canadian High Arctic Research Station Act, which establishes a new federal research organization that is to be responsible for advancing knowledge of the Canadian Arctic through scientific investigation and technology, promoting the development and dissemination of knowledge of the other circumpolar regions, strengthening Canada’s leadership on Arctic issues and ensuring a research presence in the Canadian Arctic. It also repeals the Canadian Polar Commission Act and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Division 4 of Part 4 amends section 207 of the Criminal Code to permit charitable or religious organizations to carry out, with the use of a computer, certain operations relating to a provincially-licensed lottery scheme.

Division 5 of Part 4 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to adjust the national standard for eligibility for social assistance to provide that no minimum period of residence is to be required for Canadian citizens, for permanent residents, for victims of human trafficking who hold a temporary resident permit or for protected persons.

Division 6 of Part 4 amends the Radiocommunication Act to:

(a) introduce an administrative monetary penalty regime;

(b) explicitly prohibit jammers, subject to exemptions provided by the Minister of Industry;

(c) provide for the enforcement of rules, standards and procedures established for competitive bidding systems for radio authorizations;

(d) modernize wording relating to the powers of inspectors and the requirements to obtain warrants;

(e) authorize inspectors to request information in writing and to seize non-compliant devices; and

(f) authorize the Minister of Industry to share information with domestic and foreign bodies for the purpose of regulating radiocommunication.

Division 7 of Part 4 amends the Revolving Funds Act to correct an error in the heading before section 4 by replacing the reference to the Minister of Foreign Affairs with a reference to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The amendment is deemed to have come into force on July 2, 2013.

Division 8 of Part 4 amends the Royal Canadian Mint Act to eliminate the anticipation of profit by the Royal Canadian Mint with respect to the provision of goods and services to the Government of Canada.

Division 9 of Part 4 amends the Investment Canada Act to require foreign investors to provide notification whenever they acquire a Canadian business through the realization of security on a loan or other financial assistance, unless another Act applies. It also allows public disclosure of certain information related to the national security review process and makes related amendments to another Act.

Division 10 of Part 4 amends the Broadcasting Act to prohibit a person who carries on a broadcasting undertaking from charging a subscriber for providing the subscriber with a paper bill.

Division 11 of Part 4 amends the Telecommunications Act to provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) with the authority to impose certain conditions concerning the offering and provision of services on providers of telecommunications services that are not telecommunications carriers, to prohibit providers of telecommunications services from charging subscribers for the provision of paper bills, to allow for sharing of information between the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, to provide the CRTC with the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Telecommunications Act, CRTC decisions and regulations, to provide the Minister of Industry with the authority to establish a registration system and update other processes relating to telecommunications apparatus in order to assess conformity with technical requirements, and to update inspection powers for ensuring compliance with that Act.

Division 12 of Part 4 amends the Business Development Bank of Canada Act to clarify the financial and management services that the Business Development Bank of Canada is authorized to provide, including financial services in respect of enterprises operating outside Canada. It also makes some changes to the governance provisions of that Act.

Division 13 of Part 4 amends the Northwest Territories Act — enacted by section 2 of chapter 2 of the Statutes of Canada, 2014 — to provide that, if the election period for the first general election under that Act would overlap with the election period for a federal general election, then the maximum duration of the first Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories under that Act may be extended until five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs at the last general election under the former Northwest Territories Act (chapter N-27 of the Revised Statutes of Canada).

Division 14 of Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act to allow for the refund of a portion of employer premiums paid by small businesses in 2015 and 2016. An employer is eligible for that refund if its premium is $15,000 or less for the year in question.

It also amends that Act to exclude from reconsideration under section 112 of that Act decisions of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission made under the Employment Insurance Regulations respecting the writing off of penalties owing, amounts payable or interest accrued on any penalties owing or amounts payable.

Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act in order to implement amendments to the dispute resolution mechanism of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement.

Division 16 of Part 4 amends the Canada Marine Act to provide for the power to make regulations with respect to undertakings that are situated in a port. It also authorizes those regulations to incorporate by reference documents, including the laws of a province. Finally, it authorizes port authorities to acquire federal real property or federal immovables and to lease or license any real property or immovable other than federal real property or federal immovables.

Division 17 of Part 4 amends the DNA Identification Act to, among other things,

(a) create new indices in the national DNA data bank that will contain DNA profiles from missing persons, from their relatives and from human remains to assist law enforcement agencies, as well as coroners, medical examiners and persons or organizations with similar duties or functions, to find missing persons and identify human remains;

(b) create a new index that will contain DNA profiles from victims of designated offences to assist law enforcement agencies in identifying persons alleged to have committed designated offences;

(c) create a new index that will contain DNA profiles derived from bodily substances that are voluntarily submitted by individuals to assist in either the investigations of missing persons or designated offences;

(d) establish criteria for adding and retaining DNA profiles in, and removing them from, the new indices, and transferring profiles between indices;

(e) specify which DNA profiles in the existing and new indices will be compared with each other;

(f) specify the purposes for which the Commissioner of the RCMP may communicate the results of comparisons of DNA profiles and the purposes for which that information may be subsequently communicated; and

(g) specify the uses to which the results of comparisons of DNA profiles may be put.

It also makes consequential amendments to the Access to Information Act and the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

Division 18 of Part 4 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to provide that certain foreign entities that are engaged in the money-services business are included in the definition “foreign entity”.

Division 19 of Part 4 amends the Department of Employment and Social Development Act to eliminate the limit on the number of full-time and part-time members of the Social Security Tribunal.

Division 20 of Part 4 amends the Public Health Agency of Canada Act to create a new position of President as deputy head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, thereby separating the responsibilities of the Chief Public Health Officer from those of the deputy head of the Agency.

Division 21 of Part 4 amends the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 in order to provide that certain provisions of Division 8 of Part 3 of that Act apply to any corporation resulting from an amalgamation referred to in that Division, and to provide that certain provisions of the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act continue to apply to the Blue Water Bridge Authority after its continuance.

Division 22 of Part 4 amends several Acts to discontinue supervision of provincial central cooperative credit societies by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, to eliminate tools for federal intervention in relation to those centrals and to provincial local cooperative credit societies, and to facilitate the entry of provincial cooperative credit societies into the federal credit union system by simplifying the process for continuation and amalgamation that applies to them.

Division 23 of Part 4 amends the Financial Administration Act to authorize Her Majesty in right of Canada to neither pay nor collect low-value amounts, except amounts owed by Crown corporations to persons other than Her Majesty in right of Canada, amounts payable to Crown corporations by such persons, amounts payable under the Air Travellers Security Charge Act, the Excise Act, 2001, the Excise Tax Act, the Income Tax Act or the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006, and amounts related to the public debt or to interest on the public debt. It also provides Treasury Board with the authority to make regulations to set a low-value threshold, to specify circumstances for the accumulation of amounts and to exclude amounts, as well as regulations generally respecting the operation of the authority to neither pay nor collect low-value amounts.

Division 24 of Part 4 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to, among other things,

(a) replace references to an opinion provided by the Department of Employment and Social Development, with respect to an application for a work permit, with references to an “assessment”;

(b) authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Employment and Social Development to publish on a list the name and address of an employer who, among other things, has been convicted of certain offences; and

(c) authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations

(i) regarding the publication and removal of the names and addresses of employers,

(ii) regarding the power to require documents from any individual or entity for inspection in order to verify compliance with regulatory conditions,

(iii) requiring an employer to provide prescribed information in relation to a foreign national’s authorization to work in Canada for the employer,

(iv) governing fees to be paid for rights and privileges in relation to an assessment provided by the Department of Employment and Social Development with respect to an application for a work permit,

(v) governing fees to be paid in respect of the compliance regime that applies to employers in relation to their employment of certain foreign nationals,

(vi) regarding the collection, retention, use, disclosure and disposal of Social Insurance Numbers, and

(vii) regarding the disclosure of information for the purposes of cooperation between the Government of Canada and the government of a province.

Division 25 of Part 4 amends the Judges Act and the Federal Courts Act to implement the Government’s Response to the Report of the Special Advisor on Federal Court Prothonotaries’ Compensation with respect to the salary and benefits of the prothonotaries of the Federal Court.

Division 26 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Payments Act to make changes to the governance structure of the Canadian Payments Association and to add new obligations in respect of accountability, including by

(a) changing the composition of the Board of the Directors of the Association and the procedures for selecting the directors of the Board;

(b) establishing a Member Advisory Council;

(c) expanding the power of the Minister of Finance to issue directives to the Association; and

(d) adding new obligations in respect of the preparation of annual reports and corporate plans.

Division 27 of Part 4 amends the Payment Clearing and Settlement Act to expand and enhance the oversight powers of the Bank of Canada with respect to systems for the clearing and settlement of payment obligations and other financial transactions, so that the Bank is better able to identify risks related to financial market infrastructure and to respond in a timely and proactive manner. It also makes minor consequential amendments to other Acts.

Division 28 of Part 4 enacts the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act in order to impose the following obligations on entities that are engaged in the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals for the purpose of implementing Canada’s international commitments in the fight against corruption:

(a) the obligation to report to the responsible Minister certain payments made to payees; and

(b) the obligation to make reported information accessible to the public.

For the purpose of verifying compliance, the Act provides for an inspection regime and gives a power to the responsible Minister to require an entity to provide certain information. Finally, the Act provides for certain offences relating to the obligations under the Act.

Division 29 of Part 4 amends the Jobs and Economic Growth Act to provide that Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd. (CNL) is an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada, effective as of the date of CNL’s incorporation, and to provide that CNL will cease to be an agent on the day on which Atomic Energy of Canada Limited disposes of CNL’s shares. The Division also amends that Act to provide that the Public Service Superannuation Act will apply for a transitional period of three years to persons who are employees of CNL on that day.

Division 30 of Part 4 repeals a provision of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 that amended a provision of the Public Service Labour Relations Act. It also amends provisions of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 that amended the Public Service Employment Act in respect of the staffing complaint process.

It also makes a technical correction to a coordinating amendment in the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2.

Division 31 of Part 4 transfers the pensionable service that is to the credit of certain Royal Canadian Mounted Police pension contributors under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to the Public Service Superannuation Act and deems those contributors to be Group 1 contributors under the Public Service Superannuation Act. It also amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to repeal provisions relating to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police not holding a rank.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Dec. 10, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 10, 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 C-43, A Second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it: ( a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight; ( b) fails to take meaningful action to create jobs and address weak economic growth; ( c) seeks to restrict refugee claimants’ access to social assistance, despite no demonstrated fiscal need or request from provinces for such measures; ( d) introduces patent law changes which could lead to costly litigation against the government; ( e) implements a job credit whose job impacts have not been analyzed by the government itself, and which will deplete a significant sum from the Employment Insurance fund; and ( f) breaks the government’s promises to protect small businesses from merchant fees and to ban banks from charging pay-to-pay fees.”.
Dec. 8, 2014 Passed That Bill C-43, A second 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] .
Dec. 8, 2014 Failed That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 225.
Dec. 8, 2014 Failed That Bill C-43 be amended by deleting Clause 172.
Dec. 4, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to 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 stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
Nov. 3, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
Nov. 3, 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 second reading to Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it: ( a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight; ( b) fails to address persistent unemployment and sluggish economic growth; ( c) aims to strip refugee claimants of access to social assistance to meet their basic needs; ( d) imposes a poorly designed job credit that will create few, if any, jobs while depleting Employment Insurance Funds; and ( e) breaks the government’s promises to protect small businesses from merchant fees and to ban banks from charging pay-to-pay fees.”.
Oct. 30, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-43, A second 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 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 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.

Second ReadingEconomic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this budget implementation bill. This bill would put some of the measures contained within the 2014 federal budget into practice in Canada.

Before I address some of the specific measures in this bill, I would like to give an overview of what the international community is saying about Canada's economy and the success we have seen since the global recession in 2008.

Both the IMF and the OECD have stated that they expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and the next. The New York Times conducted an analysis and concluded that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada, which were substantially behind in the year 2000, now appear to be higher than in the United States.

Finally, with nearly 1.2 million jobs created since July 2009, the Canadian economy has had one of the strongest job-creation records in the G7 since the recession. As we move forward with this legislation, the international community can look forward to Canada continuing its role as a global leader with a successful economic record.

One of the reasons Canada has had such great economic success is that we recognize that the challenges we face in the global economy are not simple or straightforward. They are complex challenges that affect every sector in the Canadian economy. This is why I am pleased to see that this bill encompasses a broad approach to addressing the many problems we still face in the fragile global economy.

I know that the term “omnibus” does not sit well with some. However, we have to be realistic. Canada exists within a global economy, and because it is comprehensive, this bill would ensure that we address as many issues as possible to maintain our outstanding economic recovery and growth. Since Canada has had to move quickly to meet the challenges of the economic recession, Canadians have experienced that these bills have in fact been working very well for our economy. Furthermore, historically, it has been common practice to include various measures across many sectors in a budget and then in the budget implementation bills to follow. Ultimately, it reflects the central role a budget plays in addressing the wide range of issues Canadians need addressed.

Now I would like to highlight some of the measures contained within this bill that will be important to the residents in my riding of Vancouver South, and indeed to all Canadians.

The first measure I feel would greatly benefit the people of my riding, and particularly small-business owners in my riding, is the small-business job credit. Over the next two years, this credit would lower the payroll taxes of small businesses by 15%. It is estimated that this would result in savings of approximately $550 million for small businesses over these two years. As a previous small-business owner myself, I fully understand the importance small businesses play in driving the local economy. I know that this credit would go a long way in supporting the many small businesses in my riding and would promote job creation throughout Vancouver and Canada.

Another measure I was pleased to see in this implementation bill was the extension of the tax credit that currently exists for interest paid on government-sponsored student loans to include interest paid on Canada apprenticeship loans. As we know, apprenticeships are a vital link between high school and the workplace. Many students in my riding and across Canada take part in apprenticeship programs to gain the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. Furthermore, these apprenticeships can usually lead directly to full-time employment. I have met many constituents enrolled in apprenticeship programs who share how they thoroughly enjoyed learning their trades through hands-on experience and direct training from an employer. I am therefore very pleased to see that the government would extend the existing credit to loans students can take out to participate in apprenticeship programs. This would certainly encourage students to take part in these programs, which will contribute to a strong and skilled workforce.

Another tax credit I am pleased would be implemented as part of this bill is the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit. In 2006, the government introduced a non-refundable tax credit of up to $500 annually for fees related to the registration of a child under the age of 16 in an eligible program of physical activity.

This bill would act on an announcement that the Prime Minister made this month that would double this tax credit as well as make it refundable.

I know that many people in my riding and across Canada widely support this credit as it would enable children to enrol in sports like hockey, baseball and soccer, when they otherwise might not be able to afford it. As a previous soccer mom of twins, and recognizing that many families, like mine, have more than one child, I know how quickly fees can add up.

That is why I am very pleased to see the doubling of this tax credit in this implementation bill as it would help Canadian families support sport and activity for their children. This measure would ensure that parents can take advantage of this credit when they file their taxes for the 2014 tax year.

Finally, I was pleased to see that this implementation bill would end pay-to-pay billing practices in the telecommunications sector. This would ensure that those who prefer to or must receive their bills in the mail are not forced to pay additional fees just because they receive their bills in the mail.

This commitment was made as part of the government's 2013 Speech from the Throne. I am very pleased to see that it would now be implemented. Many seniors in my riding, as well as those who do not have access to high speed or any type of Internet, have been frustrated with these unnecessary fees. I know that they will certainly be pleased to see this practice end.

In closing, I would like to share that when I am in my constituency in Vancouver, I consistently hear from my constituents about how happy they are with the work of the Minister of Finance and what he has been doing to ensure that we will return to a balanced budget by 2015. Hearing from my constituents about how pleased they are has certainly made this a priority for the government and a priority for all Canadians.

I therefore urge the opposition to support economic growth, lower taxes and the many positive measures in Bill C-43.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, A Second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bill C-43—Notice of time allocation motionEconomic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures. Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for consideration and disposal of proceedings at that stage.

I might add that it is my intention to propose an additional three days to the second reading debate for a total of four days for that debate.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to the latest Conservative omnibus bill. This bill is a product of a tired, old Conservative government that has lost touch with the challenges and opportunities of Canadians.

Bill C-43 is overflowing with changes that have no place in a budget bill, such as the petty change the Conservatives want to make to deny refugee claimants access to social assistance.

The Conservatives are actually using Bill C-43 in an effort to deny income support to refugee claimants, right after their attempt to limit refugee claimants' access to health care was struck down by the Federal Court. The court called that Conservative policy “cruel and unusual treatment” that “outrages (Canadians') standards of decency”.

A recent editorial in The Globe and Mail called this bill “an abuse of process and shown contempt for Parliament by subverting its role”. The Globe is right. It is anti-democratic for the Conservatives to once again use a massive omnibus budget bill to limit debate and ram through so many unrelated measures in Parliament.

In the last few years, the Conservatives have concocted and implemented a process that prevents MPs from all parties from doing their jobs in properly scrutinizing legislation. This is leading to a lot of sloppy mistakes. The Conservatives' general disdain for Canada's democratic institutions and their outright contempt for Parliament have led to countless errors being cemented into Canadian law.

This bill would try to fix a number of previous Conservative mistakes. I would like to give members a few examples of areas where the Conservatives are trying to use this omnibus bill to fix errors in previous bills.

First, the Conservatives forgot to include a tax credit in the last omnibus budget bill, Bill C-31, for interest paid on Canada apprentice loans. The Conservatives try to fix that in clause 35 of Bill C-43.

The second is that the government forgot to ensure that PRPPs are subject to similar GST treatment as RRSPs. The fix for that is found in part 2 of Bill C-43.

Third, they forgot to include a refund in Bill C-31 for duties paid on destroyed tobacco products. That correction is in Bill C-43, part 3.

Fourth, they forgot to change a legal heading when the Conservatives used Bill C-19 to transfer spending powers from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Conservatives gave all of the powers in that section of the law to the immigration minister, but still named the section “Minister of Foreign Affairs”.

Fifth, they forgot in Bill C-38 to allow the Minister of Industry to publicly disclose certain information regarding the review process.

Sixth, they forgot in Bill C-31 to include foreign money services businesses as foreign entities under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

Seventh, they ignored expert advice and capped the size of the Social Security Tribunal in Bill C-38, leading to massive backlogs in the system.

Eighth, they failed to realize in Bill C-4 that the amalgamation of the Blue Water Bridge Authority might not go as planned.

Ninth, they created confusion in Bill C-4 with various amendments related to public service labour, including a reference to the wrong clause number.

Tenth, they forgot in Bill C-45 to coordinate between RCMP pension rule changes in Bill C-42 and rule changes that raised the age for public service pensions in Bill C-45.

There are 10 examples of the the mistakes the Conservatives made in the previous bill that they are trying to fix in this omnibus bill.

The fact is that the Conservatives' game plan of limiting debate and ramming these bills through Parliaments is responsible for creating these mistakes. Parliament is denied its legitimate role to identify these flaws in the process of real parliamentary debate at committee and in the House and fixing them.

The reason these mistakes are made in the first place is because of the deeply flawed process surrounding omnibus legislation.

I would like to talk a bit today about tax policy, GST, EI, and the income-splitting proposal that the Conservatives had in their last platform.

Bill C-43 actually adds GST to some goods and services that are used by or provided by non-profit organizations operating health care facilities. When we asked officials for an example of what kinds of service might get caught up in this GST hike, the example they provided was of a health care facility that also runs a residential apartment building, such as an old age home. Adding GST to services purchased by or provided by old age homes means one of two things: either it will cut into the bottom line of the health care facility, or the old age home will have no choice but to pass the tax hike on to the people they serve. In the case of an old age home, it means that the government is getting ready to hike the GST and punish Canadian seniors, who are already struggling to get by on a fixed income.

In terms of employment insurance, Bill C-43 also gets it wrong. Bill C-43 offers a small EI tax cut to employers, but only if they agree to stay small. Instead of creating real jobs and growth, Bill C-43 would actually encourage businesses to stay small and would punish them if they grow and become more successful. Due to a design flaw in Bill C-43, the so-called small business job credit creates an incentive for some businesses to fire workers. That is why economist Jack Mintz has called it “a disincentive to growth” and why economist Mike Moffatt said “...the proposed ‘Small Business Job Credit’ has major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.”

Even Finance Canada officials last night acknowledged that this tax credit creates a disincentive for some employers to hire.

Last month the PBO looked at this tax credit and found that it will only create 800 jobs over the next two years, at a cost of $550 million. That means it will cost taxpayers almost $700,000 per job.

In response to the need to encourage businesses to hire and to reduce EI premiums for businesses that do that or reward businesses that hire, the Liberals have proposed an EI holiday for new hires. This plan would only reward businesses that actually create jobs. The Liberal plan has been endorsed by Canadian job creators, including the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which has said that the Liberal plan for an EI exemption for new hires “would create jobs”. The Restaurants Canada organization, representing restaurants across the country, said “This...proposal for an EI exemption for new hires would help restaurants create jobs.” The CFIB said it loves the Liberal plan to exempt small business from EI premiums for new hires, which has lots of job potential.

The same PBO report that looked at the Conservatives' tax credit and identified the flawed program that would cost $700,000 per job also identified that the Conservatives are collecting billions of dollars in excess of taxes in EI over the next two years and that the Conservatives actually have the capacity to cut EI premiums significantly.

The PBO estimates that artificially high EI rates under the Conservatives will cost the Canadian economy 10,000 jobs over the next two years. That is 10,000 more Canadians who will be out of work over the next two years because the Conservatives are using artificially high EI premiums to pad the books to fund pre-election spending. The Conservatives are ignoring the evidence and putting Conservative politics ahead of the Canadian economy and ahead of the interests of Canadian workers and employers.

Speaking of ignoring the evidence, the Conservatives appear ready to go ahead with their flawed income-splitting scheme that was introduced in their last platform. The idea that the Conservatives were putting forth in their last platform has been panned by everyone from the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to the Mowat Centre and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It was even panned by the late Jim Flaherty himself.

It is being panned because, as articulated in their platform, fewer than 15% of Canadian households would benefit, most of them high-income households, at a cost of $3 billion per year to the federal treasury and another $2 billion per year to provincial governments. Provincial governments, as we know, are facing deficits and huge fiscal challenges.

Under the Conservatives' scheme, the Prime Minister, earning $320,000 a year and with a stay-at-home spouse, would save about $6,500 per year. Meanwhile, a Canadian earning the average industrial wage and with a stay-at-home spouse would save less than $10 per week, and most households would get no benefit whatsoever.

We have a different approach. The Liberal approach is that we need to build a plan for 2015 that would be focused on creating jobs and growth to strengthen the Canadian middle class. The status quo is not working. The current federal government is so preoccupied with day-to-day politics that it has lost track of and is out of touch with the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian families. Those are challenges such as aging demographics and a slow-growth economy, which some refer to as secular stagnation. Baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement age, and as they exit the workforce, they will leave a shrinking tax base and labour shortages in their wake. They will also place a greater strain on health care systems as they age. We will end up with more Canadians using the social safety net and fewer Canadians paying into it. These demographic pressures are leading economists to predict that slow economic growth could become the new normal.

The Canadian economy, frankly, is already sputtering under the Conservatives. Job growth over the last two years has been extremely weak, consumer debt is high, infrastructure is in disrepair, and housing prices in our cities are inflated. Last year the Canadian economy created a paltry 5,300 net new full-time jobs across the country. The percentage of Canadians working today is still two full points lower than before the downturn. There are 200,000 more jobless Canadians today than before the downturn, and the number of Canadians who are considered long-term unemployed is twice that of 2008. More than 150,000 Canadians are unemployed and have been searching for work for a year or longer. As we all know, the longer they are out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to get back in.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have young Canadians who simply cannot get their foot in the door of the Canadian labour market. Recent grads are facing huge challenges. There are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn, before 2008. Persistently high youth unemployment and under-employment is robbing a generation of people of opportunities they need to succeed. TD economist Craig Alexander and CIBC economist Benjamin Tal describe a scenario of a lost generation of Canadian youth and a lost generation of potential for all Canadians.

This is despite the fact that this generation is the most technologically adept, most educated generation in our nation's history, and therein lies the challenge we face. There is a gap between the education they have and the job market. We have people without jobs and jobs without people.

Too many Canadians in their twenties are left saddled with big student loans and are unable to make ends meet. All too often, it is their middle-class parents and grandparents who are footing the bill. Among the hardest hit are Canadians who are actually squeezed between helping their adult children pay the bills and taking care of their aging parents at the same time, the sandwich generation. In many cases these parents in their forties, fifties, and sixties are taking on additional debt or dipping into their retirement savings. In fact, this is one of the things that is driving record levels of personal debt, which is about $1.65 for every dollar of annual income. According to the Canadian Financial Monitor, Canadians who are 55 years of age or older are two and a half times more likely to refinance their mortgage if they have children than if they do not have children. Their average household debt is twice that of their childless peers.

Meanwhile, many younger families do not actually have a mortgage to refinance. Instead, they are being priced out of the housing market altogether.

On this front, the Conservative government must share at least part of the blame for the high housing prices in Canada and commensurate personal debt. It was the Conservative government, in budget 2006, that brought in 40-year mortgages with no down payment. It introduced them for the first time in Canada. It had an effect, because in the first half of 2008, more than half of all new mortgages in Canada were 40-year mortgages, and 10% of those had zero down payment.

The Conservatives shifted Canada's borrowing culture and lending culture, and that shift has helped fuel record levels of housing prices commensurate with that household debt. They have since reversed course and returned to the norm that was the case under Liberal governments in the past, meaning 25-year mortgages with at least 5% down. However, it is important to recognize the Conservatives' culpability in bringing 40-year mortgages with no down payments into Canada and helping fuel record levels of personal debt related to skyrocketing housing prices.

From the OECD and the IMF to the Bank of Canada, one thing on which Canadian and international economists agree is that elevated housing prices and household debt pose a big domestic threat to our economy. These elevated housing prices have helped widen the generational divide between those on the one hand who have watched the value of their house appreciate and in some cases have tapped into that equity to help fund consumption, and those on the other hand who cannot afford to even enter the housing market.

We are seeing greater income inequality in Canada, and fewer Canadians now think of themselves as being middle class. In fact, the number of Canadians who self-identify as middle class has dropped from 64% in 2009 to 47% in 2014. Even more troubling is that for the first time in recent history, more Canadians now believe that the next generation, their children and grandchildren, will be worse off, not better off, than they are today. That is the first time this has happened in Canada.

What we need is a federal government that will rise to meet these big challenges facing our country: aging demographics, slow growth, soft job market, and high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. These are all challenges, but they also represent opportunities. I will give one specific challenge to our country that is a big social and economic challenge but that also represents an opportunity if we can get it right.

Over the next 10 years, there will be about 400,000 young aboriginal and first nation Canadians who will be of workforce age. If they have the skills they need for the jobs of today, that would be really good for our economy. If they do not, it represents a demographic, economic, and social time bomb for our country.

The reality is that we have failed collectively as governments at all levels to address this challenge. If we take it seriously, young aboriginal workers can be part of a Canadian growth and economic success story. We have to get it right. We have to take these issues seriously.

Liberals believe that sustainable growth and a focus on creating jobs, growth, and opportunities is the best way to benefit Canadian middle-class families and to restore hope to them. We believe we need to invest in infrastructure, training, innovation, and trade, and we believe that we need to keep our competitive tax rates.

Bill C-43 does nothing to grow the Canadian economy, and it ignores the very real challenges of the middle class and of young Canadians.

In a very short period of time, potentially within days, we will be seeing a fall economic statement. We hope the government chooses to invest in the future by investing in infrastructure, in training, and in young Canadians. We need the government to do so, and if this government does not, a future Liberal government will.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to find a way to say that it is a pleasure to speak to this particular piece of legislation but it is not, simply because of what we have in front of us. The story that is best told about this mammoth bill, Bill C-43, is the story of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let me start with the good because it is the shortest section. In here, we have the government seeking to go halfway with respect to some consumer protection. New Democrats have been fighting for years to protect consumers from businesses that operate in hat we believe is an unethical way. We think that is the proper role of government. The Conservatives agreed in part.

Pay to pay, a term that was coined in an NDP office in Toronto, is a concept that Canadians should not have to pay to receive their bills. It is adding a little insult to injury. The Conservatives said, yes, certainly with the telecommunications companies, with which they have a particular fight, and certainly for some of the broadcasting companies, with which they also have a dispute right now. Those will be banned. Pay to pay will not be allowed there by law. However, the banks are a special case for the Conservatives and the Prime Minister. It seem the banks do not earn enough money to have to do away with this unfair practice to their customers, so banking consumers will continue to pay to receive their own bills in the mail.

A second piece that is a good and important piece, which has nothing to do with the budget but here it is in the budget bill, is the establishment of a DNA bank for missing and in some cases murdered Canadians. This is also something the NDP has long believed in, after listening to victims groups and police associations that said this was important. We are happy to see progress there.

Now let us move to the bad, because in the 460 pages that are in this massive bill, most of it is bad. Certainly at the very best it is completely unassociated to anything that we would know as a budget. There are 460 pages with 401 clauses changing dozens of laws in the stroke of a pen. When we vote on the bill it will be a six- to seven-minute process and all of a sudden all of these laws, as has been the case before, will be changed all at once.

What is remarkable about this failed process from the Conservatives is that in this massive omnibus bill are a number of changes to fix mistakes in the last omnibus bill, which fixed mistakes from the previous omnibus bill. If the Conservatives consider this competent governance I would hate to see what they think is incompetent because all this does is make up for the arrogant mistakes that get made time and time again by the government. It says rather than debate any of these individual pieces of legislation, among the dozens, at separate times so that we could hear from witnesses who know what they are talking about and so that MPs could vote freely and fairly with their conscience on each aspect, the Conservatives do this kitchen sink approach.

It is a Trojan horse. Buried within the bill are so many concepts, and some of them at odds with each other, that when we had the briefing last night with government officials they needed to roll in dozens and dozens of civil servants to address all the different parts of Canadian law that would be changed by the bill. I had a great deal of sympathy for these folks. They drag them in here and we sit until eleven, twelve, one o'clock in the morning for these things. The officials get up to the front of the room for their six minutes to address one section out of this massive bill and then go home. I am sure they are salaried and not getting overtime for this hassle the government continues to put them through.

The mistakes that continue to be made by doing legislation by bulldozer is a problem for the government. It is a problem for the Canadian people. My colleague just read a quote from the right hon. Prime Minister from when Conservatives used to occupy these benches. We have quotes from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Industry and virtually every senior Conservative in cabinet who was at one point in opposition and hated this process when the Liberals did it.

When the Liberals used omnibus bills to ram through legislation, the Conservatives talked about the conscience of Parliament, the inability of MPs to represent their constituents properly and fairly and how this was an abuse of the democratic process.

We agreed with them when they had that conscience. Now, it is the same old story because they picked up some of the worst habits from my Liberal colleagues, and these omnibus bills have grown massively over time. Now we have hundreds and hundreds of pages of legislation being rammed through Parliament with little oversight, affecting virtually hundreds of Canadian laws. They are changing everything from the nuclear act to public safety and Canada's medical act. It goes on and on.

However, what is not in the bill is important. What is in a bill is sometimes very critical. What is not in this so-called budget implement bill is greatly worrisome for me and I believe for the Canadian economy. Taken in the current context, with virtually no private sector growth at all over the last 18 months, the private sector is not creating jobs. We have personal debt rates in this country that are the highest in our history, dramatically higher than any generation has seen before.

We have youth unemployment that is twice the national average and persists from the worst moments of the recession. For young people getting into the economy, getting that first job, which we know is critical for them to become productive and effective members of society, that first job is the most important step.

Youth, as they are coming out of school, training and university, if they are not able to find work, the statistics consistently show us that they will find whatever work they possibly can, and it is usually not in the field for which they trained.

We say we have a skills shortage in this country and in parts of this country we do. However, what we desperately have is an experience shortage. Young people are not getting the apprenticeships, not getting the training and not getting into the jobs for which they were educated.

When we have a youth unemployment rate nearing 14%, and that is not capturing the full rate of unemployment, that should be a problem for any government. This persists. This lasts longer than that one single year. We have also seen 1.3 million Canadians who are unemployed.

I am reminded by the sounds coming from the gallery of something else that is not in this bill. There is no affordable child care in this bill. We know statistically, because we now have evidence from Quebec, and it is proposed by the NDP, that affordable child care is one of the best things that can be done for the economy, never mind for families, never mind for single moms looking for options, and never mind for those families that are struggling to just pay the bills.

When considering having kids, one of the largest factors that comes into play is whether a family can afford it or not. We hear of daycare rates of $2,100 per child per month in places like Vancouver and Toronto. What single mom can afford that? What couple can afford that? We see rents and the cost of living continually going up.

We have suggested to the government that this is an ideal opportunity to increase women's participation in the workforce, as has been evidenced in Quebec, and to increase the fertility rate of this country. As we know, we have a stalled and declining fertility rate or replacement rate in this country. We have seen a baby boom in Quebec.

I thought Conservatives were focused on family and interested in what happens with family affairs. I guess not so much when it comes to actually providing help for those families.

We have seen the loss of 400,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs just since the Conservatives have taken power that have not come back. According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last decade that have not been replaced. The trend is continuing.

There are actual aspects of this bill that we believe offer less scrutiny for foreign takeovers of Canadian companies, a back door process, to allow even less oversight of foreign companies taking over Canadian assets. We know the experience. We have the list of promises made when Canadian firms are taken over. The government just does not even bat an eye. It is a problem for Canadians and it should be a problem for the government.

We see, from the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the serious concern of long-term unemployment. We see time and again that if long-term unemployment persists, it has a huge and important effect on our economy, and there is nothing in here.

We heard from those same lobby groups the Conservatives like to quote all the time, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and average ordinary everyday people who have businesses. They say that merchant fees, credit card fees, are too high, and that the influx of new credit cards that consumers enjoy is hurting those small and medium-sized businesses.

From Restaurants Canada, we heard that the profit made by restaurants on certain meals, if paid for by certain credit cards, is less than the fees they have to pay to the credit card company. They have to pay fees on the tips that are given to their employees and it comes directly out of the owner's pocket.

If the Conservatives were actually interested in doing something to help small businesses, this would be a good place to start. It hits them and helps them right in the bottom line right away.

However, these are two competing interests. Let us see who wins out, the small businesses of Canada or the large banks and credit card companies. Looking through these 460 pages, the banks and credit card companies win yet again, as they did under the previous Liberal regime.

Let us get into some of the other global concerns. We see a weakening in China. The EU is in trouble again. Paying $80 for a barrel of oil should be a concern as the Alberta government is now publicly saying that its budget estimates were based on $93 a barrel. We are asking the government what its estimates are based on because we know how critical the price of oil is as it relates to how much revenue the federal government is able to receive. As one economist said to the finance committee, if oil stays at or below $80 a barrel and we are losing upward of $4 billion a year, there is no accounting for that at all.

There is no Conservative budget here. Very expensive promises are about to be made, like income splitting, that will cost the taxpayer upward of $5 billion just as we remain in a flat and fragile Canadian economy with very little private sector job growth, with a global economy that remains uncertain and with oil prices that have dropped off dramatically. The Conservatives do not seem to acknowledge any of this and yet they call themselves managers of the economy. How could that possibly be?

Let us look at the one job scheme that the government has placed in this legislation. I say scheme purposely because there is nothing else to call this thing. We asked officials last night to give us the evidence that supports any of the claims that the Minister of Finance makes. One would think that if the finance minister and his department had run the numbers and found that the government's half a billion dollar employment scheme would create a lot of jobs in Canada, they would be more than happy to produce the numbers and give us the evidence. They told us that was all advice to the minister and it was protected by confidentiality.

As if ripping off the employment insurance scheme for $550 million was not the business of the people who paid into it, the employers and employees. As if slipping a bit of advice to the minister was somehow to protect those people from knowing what was happening to the employment insurance fund they paid into.

It is not the government's money. The Conservative member from Toronto who sits on the finance committee said that very thing just this week to a witness. This is not the government's money. Why does the government, as previous Liberal governments, treat it otherwise, as some sort of slush fund that it can use for its pet projects?

The only true analysis we have seen of this scheme so far has been from the Parliamentary Budget Officer who has a good record when it comes to analyzing Conservative costs. We remember the whole Afghanistan cost, which the Conservatives denied.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has to routinely go to court just to get data from the government, which is ironic and tragic considering it was the Conservatives who created the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer in the first place. He spends half his time in court trying to drag the numbers and the data from the government, so that he can do what he was mandated to do. Why spend the money on this office? Why create the office through legislation in the first place if it is going to be starved of information and denied its right to do its honest and good work?

The PBO did study this employment insurance scheme and found a couple of extremely worrisome discrepancies. One is the perverse incentive regarding employers that sit right around the threshold line as designed in this plan, that are just above the EI contributions of $15,000, would have a $2,200 incentive to drop below that line. How do they drop below that line? They will have to fire somebody. They would have a $200 incentive to hire somebody that might put them above the line.

Let me do the quick math for my Conservative colleagues. A $200 incentive to hire somebody and a $2,200 incentive for those same small and medium-sized businesses to fire somebody. We hope they will not do that. Most small and medium-sized business owners have a good conscience and want to help create jobs. Why, for heaven's sake, would a government create a program that would give them the incentive to do the opposite while taking from the EI fund to do it?

The Parliamentary Budget Officer also ran the numbers on this and found that the $550 million scheme would create upward of 800 jobs. Wow. That is $550 million in employment insurance contributions out, 800 jobs into the economy. When that number is broken down, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer did publicly and transparently for everyone, that works out to $550,000 for every new job created.

I have emails sitting in my inbox and posted on my Facebook page from Canadians saying they want one of those jobs. They want to know how to apply for one of these fancy EI scheme jobs if they are going to be given half a billion dollars. My goodness. Who came up with this thing?

How bad could it possibly be for the Conservatives that they have to grab and desperately search for job creation plans that cost half a million dollars or more per job? My gosh, they have to do better than this. I guess 8, 9, 10 years in, they have completely run out of ideas.

As Churchill once said about anything he would like to change about all his time in government, he said, “Circumstance”. He wished that he could have changed the circumstance.

However, the circumstance and reality for the current Conservative government is that our economy continues to struggle from the depths of the recession. The Conservatives cannot have 18 months of virtually no private sector job growth and be satisfied as a government. How can that possibly be true? I would love for the Conservatives to get up and deny that reality. Where does that number come from? It comes from Statistics Canada, the government's own reporting agency.

Let us look at another aspect of this so-called budget bill. Refugee claimants are clearly a concern of the government because it has to crack down on the billions of dollars going to refugees. Oh wait, the changes the Conservatives would make do not affect the federal treasury at all.

What would the changes do? They would affect real people's lives, and those claiming and seeking refugee asylum status in Canada will be denied, through the provinces, which would be enabled by the the bill before us, to receive social assistance.

This is coming after the most recent experience of the Conservative government denying refugees medical service and protection, which a Federal Court judge said was cruel and unusual punishment. Members do not have to take my word for it, they can listen to the judge who, when faced with this case, this absolute atrocity of legislation and policy coming from the government, said that any government that does this to anybody is performing something that is cruel and unusual.

Rather than back up that particular train, the Conservatives decided to double down and say that clearly the refugee claimants are making so much money and living so well that we need to deny them, and we will help the provinces deny them.

We then asked, “Which provinces asked for this measure? Which refugee claimant groups asked for this?” The best we got from the government was that it notified the Ontario government of the changes.

Would members like to know what the Ontario government's official policy is on denying refugee claimants social assistance? It is against it. Therefore, the one province the Conservatives even mentioned this to said not to do it, but here we have it.

The Conservatives, on some ideological rant, some xenophobic policy, meant to attack some perceived enemy, some problem that does not exist. They say that their government cares about people. How dare they. How shameful for them to put this in the middle of an omnibus bill and say that it is about the economy.

The Conservatives go to Canadians and say that they are working for them. Yet, the first thing they are going to do is go after those refugee claimants because obviously people who are seeking refugee status in Canada have been living so well and have had such a good experience in life that they have decided to seek refugee status here.

Where is that compassionate conservatism? Where are those Canadian values that say we are a place that welcomes the world as we have welcomed millions over the years? This strikes at the very core of our values and the Conservative have gotten it wrong.

What possible solutions do the Conservatives have?

Well, let us start with one of them. The Prime Minister, in a rare appearance at the UN, did not talk about climate change or activities of peace around the world, but about his program on maternal health, which is a good and decent program. He said that an important thing about the program is that the government is going to measure it because “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

Well, guess what? We do not have good statistics to measure what is going on in the labour force in Canada. The Conservatives have denied gathering census data, which all the economists, banks and credit unions say is an atrocity and a bad way to run a government.

This is a story of the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a story of a government that has absolutely gotten it wrong yet again. It is a failed opportunity to actually help Canadians and our economy.

I move, seconded by the member for Laval:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it:

a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight;

b) fails to address persistent unemployment and sluggish economic growth;

c) aims to strip refugee claimants of access to social assistance to meet their basic needs;

d) imposes a poorly designed job credit that will create few, if any, jobs while depleting Employment Insurance Funds; and

e) breaks the government's promises to protect small businesses from merchant fees and to ban banks from charging pay-to-pay fees.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to introduce Bill C-43 at second reading. Today's legislation builds on the strong foundation that was laid last year. We are continuing to build on our portfolio of initiatives we have introduced since 2006, with affordable measures to create jobs, promote growth and support long-term prosperity.

This key strategy is working, creating jobs, keeping the economy growing and returning to balanced budgets in 2015. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, our economy has created nearly 1.2 million net new jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009, one of the strongest job creation records in the G7.

I would be remiss if I did not tout some of the outcomes of our economic action plan.

According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7 and 46% lower than those in the United States. When was the last time that happened? What is more, Canada leapt from sixth to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive destinations to do business in the world.

Both the IMF and the OECD still expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and next.

For the seventh year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system the soundest in the world.

All the major credit rating agencies accord Canada a top AAA rating with a stable outlook, a rating shared by very few countries.

A recent New York Times study found that after tax, middle-class incomes in Canada were substantially behind in 2000 and now appeared to be higher than those in the United States. In fact, the Canadian middle class is among the richest in the developed world for the first time ever.

The federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years, and remember we have removed more than one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls entirely. The average family of four will save nearly $3,400 this year and a small business earning $500,000 now saves over $28,000 in taxes, thanks to our low-tax plan.

It is clear that Canada has become an international success story, but Canada is still not immune to the global economic challenges beyond our borders. Our government has been adamant that as long as Canadians are still looking for jobs, there is more work to be done.

With that, let me now turn to the measures in today's legislation that would build on our success and ensure that we would continue to keep Canada on track for job creation and balanced budgets.

First, Bill C-43 reaffirms this government's commitment to making our tax system simpler and fairer. It also closes tax loopholes and strengthens tax enforcement to ensure low taxes for all taxpayers, not only a select few.

Allow me to highlight some of the measures we have taken to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system.

First, today's legislation would simplify the tax rules relating to the lifetime capital gains exemption, LCGE, and the intergenerational rollover for taxpayers who carry on farming and fishing businesses in combination. This builds on our original measure to increase the potential rewards of investing in small business, farming and fishing.

Economic action plan 2013 increased the LCGE from $750,000 to $800,000 in 2014. To ensure that real value is not eroded over time, we also indexed the $800,000 limit to inflation for the first time ever. The first indexation adjustment will occur for the 2015 taxation year. To accomplish this, the government proposes to generally treat a taxpayer's combined farming and fishing business the same as separate farming and fishing businesses conducted by the same taxpayer. This would ensure consistent treatment for taxpayers who conducted farming and fishing activities in different legal forms.

Similarly, a special income tax rule is currently available to farmers who dispose of breeding livestock due to drought or excess moisture conditions existing in specific regions in a given year. This rule permits farmers to exclude up to 90% of the sale proceeds from their taxable income until the year following the sale or a later year if the conditions persist.

Bill C-43 proposes to extend this tax deferral to beekeepers and horse breeders, effective for 2014 and subsequent taxation years. These are two examples of our Conservative government standing up for the interests of Canadian farmers, fishers, and others who own and operate businesses in Canada.

As I mentioned, our government takes tax evasion seriously, and we want to close loopholes to ensure that all taxpayers are paying their fair share. Bill C-43 would tackle tax loopholes head-on.

It is vital that the government have the ability to obtain tax information from other jurisdictions through revised tax treaties and through tax information exchange agreements with non-treaty countries. Current, reliable information is key to our government's efforts to verify compliance with Canadian laws and to reduce opportunities for abuse. Bill C-43 would take another important step in this direction by adjusting the policy encouraging the exchange of information for tax purposes.

Specifically, the definition of “non-qualifying country” in the Income Tax Act is relevant in determining the foreign accrual property income of a foreign affiliate of a taxpayer for a year. Today's legislation in that regard proposes two changes. First, it proposes to amend the definition of “non-qualifying country” so that it does not apply to those jurisdictions for which the convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters is in force and in effect. Second, it proposes to ensure that the FAPI rules do not apply inappropriately with respect to the British overseas territory the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction that now has a comprehensive tax information agreement with Canada.

Our Conservative government has also consistently demonstrated that it recognizes the importance of a strong financial sector. Bill C-43 would be no different. Our government is moving forward with its dual agenda with respect to credit unions, ensuring that the regulatory framework is clear and supporting those provincial credit unions that want to be federally regulated.

Since the financial crisis, we have pursued an important agenda of regulatory reform to ensure that the federal financial system is stable and competitive and serves the needs of various participants. Stability has been the dominant theme of the federal reform agenda.

Bill C-43 would deliver on the announcement made in economic action plan 2014 about withdrawing the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions' supervision of provincial credit union centrals and clarifying access to federal intervention tools for provincial credit union centrals, credit unions, and caisses populaires.

As many hon. members appreciate, Canada's credit unions are a valuable source of financial services in communities across the country, including in my area of North Vancouver. We want to promote the continued growth and competition of the credit union sector on a national scale.

In recognition of the important role credit unions play, our government created in economic action plan 2010 a new legislative framework for federal credit unions as a platform to broaden choices for consumers and to improve services for existing members. To continue to grow, some credit unions are looking to amalgamate with credit unions in other provinces to become a federal credit union.

In economic action plan 2014, the federal government also announced streamlining the process of amalgamating provincial credit unions, continuing into the federal credit framework, to make it less costly and complex. Bill C-43 would deliver on that announcement.

Yes, there is more. As we have said many times, we understand that the main priority of Canadians is jobs. Let me highlight three measures that are helping small businesses and ensuring that Canadians are first in line for jobs.

Bill C-43 would implement our recently announced small business job credit, which would save small employers more than $550 million over 2015 and 2016. It would also lower EI payroll taxes by 15%. This is real money that a small business could use to help defray the cost of hiring new workers and to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities supporting growth and job creation.

We have listened to the experts on small business. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that our small business job credit would create 25,000 person years of employment over the next few years.

Monique Moreau, of the CFIB, said, “small businesses in Canada should be thrilled with this announcement...because they told us time and time again that payroll taxes like EI are the biggest disincentive to hiring.”

Our Conservative government recognizes the fundamental importance of small businesses in fuelling the Canadian economy, so while the opposition insists on attacking job creators with massive tax hikes, we will continue to lower payroll taxes for 90% of businesses to support some of Canada's most important job creators.

However, that is not all. Today's legislation would build on our support for small businesses and entrepreneurs by reducing barriers to the international and domestic flow of goods and services. This measure in today's legislation would promote job creation and would improve the conditions of business investment.

Currently, Canada's framework for protecting intellectual property is not aligned with international practices, creating unnecessary costs for innovative businesses. Harmonizing Canada's intellectual property regime with international norms would help improve Canada's innovative businesses' access to international markets, lower costs, and draw foreign investment to Canada by reducing the regulatory burden and red tape faced by businesses. Economic action plan 2014 proposes to modernize Canada's intellectual property framework by ratifying or acceding to the following widely recognized international treaties: the Madrid protocol, the Singapore treaty, the Nice agreement, the patent law treaty, and the Hague agreement.

Bill C-43 would complete the required legislative amendments to the Patent Act, the Trade-marks Act, and the Industrial Design Act to align Canada's intellectual property framework with international practices. The benefits expected for Canadian businesses from these reforms are significant. For example, accession to the trademark treaties would make it possible for a company to obtain protection for trademarks in a number of countries through a single international application, filed in one language and in one currency with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization, thus cutting red tape and reducing paperwork and business costs.

Finally, we are implementing certain reforms to the temporary foreign worker program. Our message to employers has been clear and unequivocal: Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs. Our comprehensive and balanced reforms would restore the temporary foreign worker program to its original purpose as a short-term, last resort for employers when there are no qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.

Make no mistake about it, through these amendments in Bill C-43, we are making a comprehensive and balanced overhaul of the program. This clearly contrasts with the Liberals and the New Democrats, who have been completely incoherent about where they stand. While inundating our government with requests for foreign workers for their individual ridings, they are voting in favour of an expansive moratorium on the program. While they are demanding change to the program, they have voted against all our previous reforms to tighten access to the program and to crack down on abuse. These reforms would require that employers make greater efforts to recruit and train Canadians for jobs through initiatives like the Canada job grant.

Some of our temporary foreign worker program reforms include the following:

Employers seeking to hire high-wage TFWs would now be required to submit transition plans showing how they will be hiring more Canadians.

A new enhanced job-matching service would allow Canadians to apply directly, through the Canada job bank, for jobs that match their skills and experience. It would provide information to program officers reviewing an employer's labour market opinion impact assessment application on how many qualified Canadians have applied for specific jobs, meaning more and better labour market information.

There would be stronger enforcement and tougher penalties for abuse of the program through the expansion of the ability to publicly blacklist employers who have been suspended and are under investigation and those who have had an LMIA revoked and are banned from using the program. There would be improved information-sharing among departments and agencies involved in the oversight of the TFWP, including in provincial and territorial governments.

At the end of the day, this program should accomplish exactly what the name says. It would only be used to provide temporary help where clear and acute labour shortages exist and Canadians are not available.

Our government will always stand up for connecting Canadians with available jobs, and these measures allow us to do just that.

I could talk all day about the positive measures in the bill, so let me list a few more before my time runs out.

We are supporting families by doubling the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 and making it refundable. As we promised in our 2013 Speech from the Throne, we are ending the pay-to-pay billing practices of telecommunication service providers whereby subscribers are charged to receive bills in paper form. We are creating a national DNA-based missing persons index to assist law enforcement in investigations and to help bring closure to the families of missing persons through DNA matching. We are reducing the administrative burden on charities by allowing them to use modern electronic tools to raise funds. The list goes on.

While these measures are a sign of excellent progress, again, our work is not done. Our government will continue to ensure that our tax system is fair for everyone. We will continue to close loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules, and crack down on international tax evasion and avoidance. In doing so, our government will also build on the responsible management that has kept taxes low for Canadian families and has kept Canada's net debt burden the lowest, by far, among the Group of Seven countries.

For those reasons, and many other measures in today's legislation that I have not mentioned, I urge all hon. members to accord the bill their full support.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 3:20 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Finance

October 28th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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D/Chief Jill Skinner Deputy Chief of Police, Victims of Crime Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Good afternoon.

While this legislation certainly does address important principles for victims' assistance, the language of rights employed in the new legislation, combined with the requirement that the rights of victims under the act are to be exercised through the mechanisms provided by law, may make it difficult for victims to identify their enforceable legal rights and corresponding remedies.

We suggest that clear, identifiable, enforceable legal rights and the corresponding mechanisms for exercising these rights will go a long way to assisting victims in navigating the criminal justice system. As Benjamin Perrin stated in his paper entitled “More Than Words”, on Bill C-32, “...a 'right' without a remedy in the event of its breach is no right at all.”

Second, responsibilities for implementing victims' rights are directed to “the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system” and not to specific agencies, which may make it difficult for criminal justice partners to identify their respective legal responsibilities. Added clarity in this regard will direct victims to the appropriate agency and, where necessary, will allow them to take up any concerns through the appropriate complaints mechanism.

As indicated, the police are the most common first point of contact for victims and their families and play a critical role in ensuring victims know their rights. The consequences of inadequate or untimely information can be detrimental to a victim. Victims should have rights to timely, relevant, and easy-to-understand information regarding safety, programs and services, and the investigative, court, correctional, and parole process. In keeping with this goal of ensuring that all victims receive the same high-quality resources and supports, funding and support to police and justice partners will be critical in the implementation of the Canadian victims bill of rights.

Firstly, to ensure that victims have access to programs and services, consideration should be given to how accurate and consistent information will be provided to victims, particularly those who live in remote locations. The CACP supports the government's intention, as outlined in budget 2014, to “provide victims with online resources that will help individuals access the federal programs and services available for victims of crime”. In addition, the CACP supports the government's intention to create a web portal that will allow victims of federal offenders to view a current photo of the offender prior to the release.

Secondly, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police requests timely and complete information for law enforcement agencies to create victim response enhancements to be integrated within current training. Chiefs of police look to the Government of Canada to coordinate with a training institution—like the Canadian Police Knowledge Network—and to provide funding to develop education and training modules. Consistent federal funding would expedite the process of implementing the Canadian victims bill of rights within the provinces and territories and ensure these important rights can be implemented as immediately as possible.

Thirdly, in order to implement and deliver effective victim services and thereby increase confidence in our justice system, funding for sufficient resources across the country is imperative. The establishment of a police victims support fund, similar to the former police officers recruitment fund, to this initiative would help to provide the necessary supports.

Furthermore, in creating and funding victim resources and services, chiefs of police stress the importance of recognizing the historical trauma, unique awareness of, and respect for tradition and culture of first nations, Inuit, and Métis groups. The Canadian victims bill of rights should respond to the needs of victims in these groups in a holistic and culturally sensitive way. lt should also consider Canada's multicultural composition, specifically in ensuring access to information in diverse languages, which is critical in ensuring meaningful participation by all victims.

The Canadian victims bill of rights should enshrine core enforceable rights of victims of crime and the effective recognition of and respect for a victim's human rights and should ensure that needs, concerns, and interests of victims are valued and considered in a participatory environment.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police victims of crime committee supports the principles advanced by the Canadian victims bill of rights. Chiefs of police stress the importance of ensuring resources are in place to ensure victims across the country clearly understand their enforceable rights and have timely and accurate access to information and services.

The CACP looks forward to continued participation during the consideration and implementation process of the Canadian victims bill of rights. We recognize that the victim-focused approach of Bill C-32 creates a solid foundation for victims and is the first step in enhancing victims' participatory and service rights throughout the criminal justice process.

Merci.

October 28th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Arlène Gaudreault President, Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to begin by thanking the committee for having us and giving us an opportunity to participate in this consultation.

The Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes is an organization that promotes and defends the rights of victims of crime. It has existed for 30 years and mainly operates in Quebec.

When the bill was announced by the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, it was presented as a first in Canadian history—a piece of legislation that would fundamentally transform and clarify victims' rights, and create a better balance between victims' and offenders' rights. His message was very powerful.

However, despite the proposed amendments—most of which we agree with—we believe that the current bill will not make it possible to achieve such ambitious objectives.

Since our allocated time is limited, we will mostly tell you about our concerns over this bill's scope and its capacity to strengthen victims' rights. We will also share our concerns about the legislation's implementation. We will submit a brief over the next few days, and we hope that you will welcome our feedback. Of course, our objective is to enhance the bill and strengthen victims' rights in Canada.

I will begin with two comments.

First, the bill's title is not the same in English and in French. We feel that the title should be the same in both languages.

Second, this bill does not cover victims' social entitlements—the right to assistance and the right to compensation. To make the message clearer for victims and the general public, the bill should instead provide for victims' rights in criminal proceedings or in the framework of the criminal justice system.

My next comments are about the rights afforded to victims.

I will first talk about rights as stipulated in clauses 25 and 29. The bill sets out rights in a general sense, as was the case in the 1989 Statement of Principle and the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, 2003. Over the past few years, all the groups have asked that victims' rights be clarified, so that victims can know what rights are afforded to them, how they can exercise them and whose responsibility it is to enforce those rights. In that regard, Bill C-32 is disappointing. It does not go as far as the Ontario and Manitoba legislation, which is much more specific.

When it comes to the right to information, for instance, this piece of legislation contains no proactive rights. It contains only rights victims have to ask for. The Manitoba legislation lists proactive rights, rights victims can obtain upon request and rights that involve certain restrictions owing to other existing legislation and policies.

Another very important element is the fact that the obligations of criminal justice system agencies and representatives are not specified. This has been an issue for years. Our organization has participated in all the consultations, and this issue has often come up. It is important for victims to know where to turn to obtain information, participate in proceedings or obtain protection. They must also be familiar with the responsibilities of various justice system players, at various stages, and know what to expect.

Inspiration could have been drawn from the experience of other countries, such as England and Wales, or the directives issued by the European Union, but Bill C-32 does not reflect those improvements. So it will be up to the federal, provincial and territorial departments to do all that detail work. I want to point out that all provinces have disparate interpretation legislation. The definition of “victim” varies. Complementarity and consistency are being talked about, but there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in that area.

Third, discretionary rights are at play here, and they are clearly set out in clause 20. All representatives—the police, departments, prosecutors and others—have a significant amount of discretion in deciding what is or is not reasonable, what can be granted and what comes under their discretion. Numerous provisions, both in the Criminal Code and in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, grant all those representatives discretion.

Presenting this bill as a quasi-constitutional tool meant to strengthen victims' rights indicates to victims that their rights will be taken into account and enforced. However, that is a misleading message. It fails to make the necessary distinctions and creates false expectations. Therefore, it is bound to lead to dissatisfaction among victims.

I don't think this is the bill's objective.

I will now move on to clauses 21 and 22, which concern rights largely established or defined in other pieces of legislation. It is said that this bill should take precedence over other federal statutes, with the exception of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as other quasi-constitutional laws. In Canada, declaratory statutes have rarely been tested before the courts. That has been done in three provinces. There have been three cases and, in all three, the judges came to the conclusion that the statutes had no legal force or effect.

I will now talk about recourse.

It is true that Bill C-32 provides for a remedy. This can be considered a step forward, but the step is a small one because there is so much left to be done to set out remedies. Federal entities only provide for the complaint process. A lot of work remains to be done to clarify the responsibilities of various departments and federal organizations, as well as to define the mandate of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and its authority to act. Procedures and policies will also have to be established, so that this statutory obligation can take effect.

The problem is even more complex in the provinces and territories. As you know, the complaint mechanisms vary from one region to another, and even from one organization to another. What is the situation on the ground? Complaint mechanisms are not well-known and are rarely used. Victims do not distinguish among the organizations of different levels of government. They have to navigate through the complex organizational machinery and often receive no guidance in this process, which they experience as a re-victimization. We also note that a number of victims do not use their recourse because the system is too complex. It's a real obstacle course. We also note that many organizations do not document the number of complaints received or the follow-up provided.

There are two stages to the process. First, the organizations must report on their work to the complainants, and second, they must analyze the complaints and process them other than on a case-by-case basis. That is the work of an ombudsman. There are recurring problems with and obstacles to the recognition of the rights of victims of crime. These rights must be represented to the appropriate authorities and all levels of government. It would be complicated to determine the responsibilities in the provinces. I know that the federal Minister of Justice said that he had started working with provincial ombudsmen.

However, if you look at section 18 of the legislation on Quebec's ombudsman, you see that this individual's area of jurisdiction and oversight is limited compared with the whole legal community, if I may call it that. Consequently, many recourse-related issues are still unresolved. This is extremely important in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I now want to move on to clauses 27 and 28. They do not grant any rights and do not provide for the appeal of a decision or an order.

What lessons can we learn when we consider the bill's scope? There is no point in promising victims that the bill will be enforceable if their rights largely depend on the discretionary power of justice officials, and if victims cannot take action and appeal decisions. There is also no sense in promising victims they will have recourse if we cannot rely on clear and coordinated mechanisms, which have no constraining effects, and if organizations are not reporting on their actions and decisions.

I would now like to add a few comments on the restitution provided for in clause 5. That measure should be clearer and talk about the entitlement to a remedy, which better reflects victims' needs and the progress made in this area. The entitlement to a remedy includes the right to restitution of goods or to a refund of costs incurred when testifying in court, as well as the right to restitution and to restorative justice. The bill should provide a definition of restorative justice. Protection safeguards should also be added when victims participate in restorative justice programs.

Let's now talk about the amendments to the Criminal Code and, more specifically, to section 7. That provision grants the right to representation by legal counsel.

Following its review of the production of records in sexual offence proceedings, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs published a report in 2012. That report looked at equity and victim protection in those records. The committee very clearly recommended that victims be entitled to a lawyer. That was stated in black and white.

Clause 7 mentions the right to be represented by counsel. That term choice is not insignificant. It greatly mitigates the Senate committee's recommendation. That term was chosen because it makes the process much less expensive for the government, since no promise is made to cover the complainant's legal costs.

As for the victim's right to representation, we will certainly recommend that the right to counsel be replaced with a right to a lawyer when records are produced in sexual offence proceedings.

We will also recommend that the agreement be reviewed because it currently covers only offenders and not complainants.

I will now comment on the victim impact statement.

The bill introduces the community impact statement. We are wondering about the scope and usefulness of such a statement. We feel that this is not a priority, given the current extent of victims' needs.

We are also wondering about the inclusion of a drawing, poem or letter in a victim impact statement. Those measures could make sense in a therapeutic context, with a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but we are wondering how they can be used. Couldn't this harm victims' interests by making them more vulnerable? I could perhaps elaborate on this issue during the question period.

I have some other comments about the victim impact statement. The court or the review board has the discretionary power to grant victims the permission to convey their views about the decision. However, according to the current jurisprudence, comments on sentencing are not accepted in the victim impact statement. This remains a discretionary power of the courts, of course, but we are wondering how it will be used by them and how eligibility will be determined. We feel that there are bigger problems currently when it comes to the use of the victim impact statement. We have many concerns in that regard.

October 27th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Chair, hon. members, and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Rouge urban national park act. This is a key initiative to support the national conservation plan which the Prime Minister launched in May.

The bill would establish a Canadian first, a national urban park in the heart of Canada's largest city. It would provide the opportunity for millions of Canadians to connect and enjoy our rich natural heritage. To support this, Canada's 2012 economic action plan has allocated $143.7 million over 10 years and $7.6 million each year afterwards for this park.

I would like to highlight how this bill would strengthen the protection of the land that would become the Rouge national urban park.

This bill would give the park the highest level of legal protection. It was crafted to go well beyond the existing provincial laws and policies governing the land that makes up the future park. The bill would allow for the expansion of the park and protect more land. Once completed, this park would be much larger than the existing regional park and about 16 times the size of Central Park in New York City. The bill provides clear legislative protection and powers on mitigating and preventing pollution, as it would be covered by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Let me go through a number of ways the Rouge national urban park act would improve the current provincial laws and policies. The bill directly prohibits activities such as mining and hunting on all lands in the park. This is not the case right now under the province. The bill directly prohibits the removal of native plants and fossils on all lands in the park. This is not the case right now under the province. The bill provides full protection under the Species At Risk Act to lands within the park. This means that species that are threatened under this act would receive full protection. This is not the case now under the province. The bill provides fines for illegal activities, such as poaching, that are equivalent to those in national parks. Again, this is not the case under the province.

To ensure that there is strong enforcement of these clauses full time and year-round, dedicated law enforcement officers would patrol the park. I don't mean to repeat myself, but this is also not the case under the province.

Parks Canada's 2014 draft Rouge national urban park management plan strengthens and supports provincial goals including the ecological link between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Given the unique setting of this national urban park, Bill C-40 provides an approach that is tailor-made for the park location in Canada's largest metropolitan area. As many of you may know, the park contains major highways, rail lines, homes, businesses, and hydro corridors, as well as farmland.

In designing a national urban park for this area, it was important for us to find a balance between all these factors. Clause 6 of the bill would specifically require me to take into consideration the protection of natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes, the maintenance of native wildlife, and the health of the ecosystem. This is an approach that recognizes the park's urban surroundings. This new model embraces an integrated conservation approach that strives to maximize the ecosystem health of the park without isolating one value or area at the expense of another. It would be managed in such a way that it remains healthy and strong, while respecting the fact that it is located in an urban centre.

In all of this, we need to remember that there are families of farmers who have lived here for a very long time. Our government's legal and policy protections would also extend to the Rouge's rich agriculture heritage. It would ensure that farmers could continue to work the land and implement best farming practices.

Earlier this year I met with some of the farmers, and I can say that they are very pleased with the discussions that are happening on the draft management plan and leasing strategy. We would provide long-term leases so that they could plan and be sustainable long into the future.

Working with the farming community and others, Parks Canada would develop a set of best management practices for agriculture in Rouge national urban park. These practices would be aligned, to the extent possible, with those in existence provincially and regionally to avoid duplication of efforts.

In a letter that was sent to my office, Paul Reesor, president of the York Region Federation of Agriculture, said:

The farmers in the Rouge National Urban Park already use Environmental Farm Plans incorporating best management practices as part of their ongoing stewardship of the farmland they have been caring for for generations.

The farmland in the park needs to preserved so that future generations of farmers can produce food for their surrounding urban neighbours.

We recognize that the future potential and viability of farms in the park are tied to the protection of natural and cultural heritage and the evolving needs of nearby communities. This means that Parks Canada must work in a collaborative manner to achieve all purposes for the Rouge.

There are a few other features of this bill that I wish to point out.

First, clause 7 of the bill addresses the protection of national historic sites. This means that for the first time national historic sites are receiving this kind of legislative protection. This means that the Bead Hill national historic site within the park will enjoy greater protection than ever before.

Parks Canada has made a strong commitment to work with the first nations in the protection and preservation of heritage places. Parks Canada has met regularly with first nations groups with historical connections to the Rouge Valley. An advisory circle was put in place to provide Parks Canada with input from 10 aboriginal groups on parks planning, presentations, and management. All members are supportive and keen to be involved.

Parks Canada has conducted extensive public consultations over the last two year, which have involved close to 150 provincial, municipal, aboriginal, agricultural, and community stakeholders and have generated positive comments from nearly 11,000 Canadians. This extensive engagement has continued. Since June of this year, the agency has conducted consultations on a draft plan for the management of the park. At the recently held public open houses throughout the greater Toronto area, we received tremendous support for the management plan.

Going forward, the Rouge national urban park act will ensure that the public will continue to have a voice in the management of the park by making public participation a requirement for the development of the management plan. In addition, the bill provides for the establishment of a committee to advise the minister on aspects of the park's management.

With the creation of the Rouge national urban park, Rouge lands will be protected with this strong federal law. This park is one of the greatest conservation achievements in our nation's history, and I'm very pleased to be a part of its creation.

I would like to conclude by reading a quote from Wade Luzny, executive vice-president of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. He said:

It gives us great pleasure to provide our solid endorsement of bill C-40 for the formal establishment of the Rouge National Urban Park....The future Rouge National Urban Park is sure to be a national treasure for generations to come.

That concludes my remarks. I'd be happy to take questions. Thank you.

October 23rd, 2014 / noon
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Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Okay, in G-2 I'll move that Bill C-591 be amended by replacing line 20 on page 1 with the following:

entitled to receive the death benefit under section 71 as a result

Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Finance

moved that Bill C-43, A Second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures be read the first time and printed.

(Motion deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

October 21st, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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Steve Sullivan Former Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, As an Individual

Mr. Chair, thank you to the committee for allowing me to come to testify on Bill C-32.

I am here as an individual, but I come with a wide range of experience. I was formerly the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. I currently work in an organization called Ottawa Victim Services, which is a front line, community-based agency that works with victims of crime. I also teach at Algonquin College in the victimology program. I am here as an individual, and so I don't represent any of those organizations but am happy to draw on the experiences of that work.

There are many positive aspects to Bill C-32. Frankly, I think much of the positive stuff isn't so much found in the victims bill of rights as in the changes to the Criminal Code and the CCRA. I'm not trying to say there is something wrong with the victims bill of rights, but what concerns me is more what people are saying about the bill than what the bill actually says.

We were told that the bill would put victims at the heart of the justice system. It doesn't do that. We were told that the victims would have enforceable rights. They don't have those. This is an important bill. I think it's important for Parliament to take the opportunity, as provincial legislatures have, to pass their comments on and give direction to the courts and to those in the system on how they expect victims of crime to be treated, but to be honest, I don't think the bill is going to change very much in the everyday aspect of our court system, our police stations, and our victims service offices.

Before I get to that, let me talk about some of the positive things that are in here. To be honest, I'm pleased to see some of the initiatives that we started during my short time at the ombudsman's office, such as the amendments to the CCRA to let victims see a photo of the offender, if he or she is about to be released. That can be really important for people. If someone has been in prison for a long time, their appearance may have changed and you don't know whether they are coming back to your community, so it would be nice to know what the person looks like. To have access to that photo is very positive. That's one of the recommendations we made when I was at the ombudsman's office.

The ability to have that, and the suggestion Andy made about having the photo as part of the victim impact statement, but maybe doing more than that.... I think those are important, really positive changes for victims who are there to represent their loved ones. I don't think they would change anything in the sentencing process.

I think it's important to have information about immigration for victims, and there are some changes to the CCRA here. That was one of the recommendations we made as well.

I wouldn't limit it so much. The bill limits information, if the offender has been removed from the country while under sentence. I would not put that limitation on, because if the Correctional Service of Canada transfers the offender to the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency, and while they have them—it's not a quick process—the sentence ends, then the victim wouldn't necessarily be notified if the offender were removed from the country. I think some expansion there would be appropriate.

The changes to restitution are positive, although I'm hesitant to suggest that we're going to see any real, significant change in it. Restitution is really complicated and very difficult. It's relatively easy if you have a broken television or you have a computer that was stolen, but when it gets into having counselling and losing time at work—some of the things the minister talked about—the expenses are sometimes very hard to capture, if there is going to be a plea bargain, because these things happen really quickly. The court requires your expenses to be readily ascertainable.

There is a provision, and I think it's positive, that the crown can ask for an adjournment to help collect those costs, but the victim has no ability to ask for such an adjournment. I think that would be a positive amendment as well.

Having said that, restitution is very challenging. Even though there is the civil process to have the order enforced, it becomes very challenging for victims to have to go to civil court to have the order enforced.

Saskatchewan has, as far as I know, a very well run restitution program that supports victims through this process. It might be something you would want to look at.

The complaints process is a very good idea, usually not through the ombudsman's office. It allows tracking of problems. if there are recurring issues, if there are systemic issues, you can address those. In smaller jurisdictions, it can be used as an educational tool.

I think the notion that a complaints process makes a right enforceable is a bit of a stretch. The right to complain doesn't give you a right to anything, really. This is not to say that it is not a positive addition, but it really doesn't give you, I think, what the government says that would equal enforceable rights.

In a lot of the bill, with the limitations in the bill again, there are important jurisdictional issues and important charter issues to consider, so I'm not suggesting to you that the limits that are in the bill are wrong. I think if you wanted to remove those and give victims standing and let them be a party, those are bigger discussions than you'd want to have in this bill, but as long as those restrictions are in there, I don't think anyone can suggest this puts victims at the centre, at the heart of the justice system.

Let me give you one example. We've heard already about the right to be notified of the plea, and so the judge, he or she, will have to ask the crown whether they notified the victim about this plea arrangement, but the bill actually says that the judge has to ask that question after he or she has accepted the plea. Crown and defence make their submissions. The judge accepts it. At that point the judge is required to ask the crown whether they talked to the victim about this. As Andy mentioned, if the crown says no, he or she should go and do that, but if they don't, nothing really happens. Keep in mind also, before the judge is to give the sentence, he or she is required to ask the crown if the victim wants to give a victim impact statement.

There's a series of these things. The last research I saw suggested that about one-third of judges actually ask crowns if they canvass victims for impact statements. It's in the Criminal Code, and it says they shall do it, but we know they often don't. There is no remedy or fallback from that, so I think it's important as we talk about the bill of rights to put it into context.

If you really want to understand what change this bill will make, you really should be hearing from the provinces; 90% of this falls under their jurisdiction. If they were to come to you and you were to ask them—because they all have their own provincial legislation—what the difference would be in their province, my guess is they would probably say, “not much”. If you were to ask police officers, if you were to ask the crown attorneys association, how they are going to do their job differently, I'm pretty sure they would say that not really much is going to change.

On the other hand, if I'm wrong, and I've been wrong before, if they were to say, “No, absolutely a lot is going to change: as crowns we're going to have to do all these things; as police we're going to have to do these things”, the question then becomes who's going to pay for all that. We hear constantly that our crowns are overburdened, and our police services budgets are really high. I can tell you in the Province of Ontario they're undergoing a modernization process for their victims services. This bill has not come up. In fact, they are cutting some victims services, and no new money is going to be put into victims services is the message that's being given in Ontario.

Also, with the concerns about victim-client surcharge, if we get a court of appeal that comes forward and says those lower court of appeal decisions are correct, that means they'll stop imposing the victim-client surcharge. In Ottawa, we've had lower court decisions that have said it's unconstitutional, and some judges, even when offenders can pay, have chosen not to impose the surcharge. Programs like Ottawa Victims Services that exist across the province get all of their funding from victim surcharges; it doesn't come from general revenue. If there is no surcharge money, that will have an impact on how those services operate.

Quickly, I would suggest a couple of things the committee might want to consider. The minister has talked about the ombudsman's office having some kind of oversight role. I've read the bill, but I don't see the office of the ombudsman actually mentioned in the bill at all, and I think certainly for provincial jurisdiction, that wouldn't be appropriate. I know when I was there we were told in no uncertain terms we were not to look over the shoulders of the provinces.

I think if there are going to be federal agencies that have their own complaints process, I would hope that the last point of appeal for a victim would be to the ombudsman's office. If it was the RCMP or corrections, and they didn't get a resolution, they could go to the ombudsman's office. I would also hope that all the departments would report back to the ombudsman's office so that it could track the kinds of complaints they're seeing and make recommendations to the government.

I would echo something Andy said as well about those victims. In our case, in a lot of the cases in the front-line victim services, many clients who we see don't report to the police. Some 90% of women who are sexually assaulted don't report to the police. Most domestic violence victims don't report. Hate crime victims and male victims don't report to the police. If this bill were to have the kind of change in the system the government suggests it would, I think in victim services we'd be putting a lot of resources into those victims in the system, which means that those victims who don't report would be left out in the cold. I wouldn't want to see that happen.

On immigration I talked a bit about that.

I was struck by the minister's comments that the bill wouldn't apply to the military; it wouldn't apply to the military justice system. I find that quite concerning, especially given what we've heard in recent years about the treatment of sexual assault victims in the military. I would hope that if it can't be remedied in this bill, the rights and the provisions and the approach that is provided to victims, that kind of recognition, would also be given to victims in the military justice system.

Thank you.