Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois agrees to apply the vote and will be voting against Bill C-44.
Bill Morneau Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.
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 March 22, 2017 budget by
(a) eliminating the investment tax credit for child care spaces;
(b) eliminating the deduction for eligible home relocation loans;
(c) ensuring that amounts received on account of the caregiver recognition benefit under the Veterans Well-being Act are exempt from income tax;
(d) eliminating tax exemptions of allowances for members of legislative assemblies and certain municipal officers;
(e) eliminating the tax exemption for insurers of farming and fishing property;
(f) eliminating the additional deduction for gifts of medicine;
(g) replacing the existing caregiver credit, infirm dependant credit and family caregiver tax credit with the new Canada caregiver credit;
(h) eliminating the public transit tax credit;
(i) ensuring certain costs related to the use of reproductive technologies qualify for the medical expense tax credit;
(j) extending the list of medical practitioners that can certify eligibility for the disability tax credit to include nurse practitioners;
(k) extending eligibility for the tuition tax credit to fees paid for occupational skills courses at post-secondary institutions and taking into account such courses in determining whether an individual is a qualifying student under the Income Tax Act;
(l) extending, for one year, the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors;
(m) eliminating the tobacco manufacturers’ surtax;
(n) permitting employers to distribute T4 information slips electronically provided certain conditions are met; and
(o) delaying the repeal of the provisions related to the National Child Benefit supplement in the Income Tax Act.
Part 2 implements certain goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures proposed in the March 22, 2017 budget by
(a) adding naloxone and its salts to the list of GST/HST zero-rated non-prescription drugs that are used to treat life-threatening conditions;
(b) amending the definition of “taxi business” to require, in certain circumstances, providers of ride-sharing services to register for the GST/HST and charge GST/HST in the same manner as taxi operators; and
(c) repealing the GST/HST rebate available to non-residents for the GST/HST that is payable in respect of the accommodation portion of eligible tour packages.
Part 3 implements certain excise measures proposed in the March 22, 2017 budget by
(a) adjusting excise duty rates on tobacco products to account for the elimination of the tobacco manufacturers’ surtax; and
(b) increasing the excise duty rates on alcohol products by 2% and automatically adjusting those rates annually by the Consumer Price Index starting in April 2018.
Part 4 enacts and amends several Acts in order to implement various measures.
Division 1 of Part 4 amends the Special Import Measures Act to provide for binding and appealable rulings as to whether a particular good falls within the scope of a trade remedy measure, authorities to investigate and address the circumvention of trade remedy measures, consideration of whether a particular market situation is rendering selling prices in an exporting country unreliable for the purposes of determining normal values and the termination of a trade remedy investigation in respect of an exporter found to have an insignificant margin of dumping or amount of subsidy.
Division 2 of Part 4 enacts the Borrowing Authority Act, which allows the Minister of Finance to borrow money on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada with the authorization of the Governor in Council and provides for the maximum amount of certain borrowings. The Division amends the Financial Administration Act and the Hibernia Development Project Act to provide that the applicable rate of currency exchange quoted by the Bank of Canada is its daily average rate. It also amends the Financial Administration Act to allow that Minister to choose a rate of currency exchange other than one quoted by the Bank of Canada. Finally, it makes a consequential amendment to the Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.
Division 3 of Part 4 amends the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act and the Bank Act to
(a) specify that one of the objects of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation is to act as the resolution authority for its member institutions;
(b) require Canada’s domestic systemically important banks to develop, submit and maintain resolution plans to that Corporation; and
(c) provide the Superintendent of Financial Institutions greater flexibility in setting the requirement for domestic systemically important banks to maintain a minimum capacity to absorb losses.
Division 4 of Part 4 amends the Shared Services Canada Act in order to permit the Minister responsible for Shared Services Canada to do the following, subject to any terms and conditions that that Minister specifies:
(a) delegate certain powers given to that Minister under that Act to an “appropriate Minister”, as defined in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act; and
(b) authorize in exceptional circumstances a department to obtain a particular service other than from that Minister through Shared Services Canada, including by meeting its requirement for that service internally.
Division 5 of Part 4 authorizes a payment to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to support a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy.
Division 6 of Part 4 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to expand eligibility for student financial assistance under that Act to include persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act, whether or not they are Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons. It also amends the Canada Education Savings Act to permit the primary caregiver’s cohabiting spouse or common-law partner to designate a trust to which is to be paid a Canada Learning Bond or an additional amount of a Canada Education Savings grant and to apply to the Minister for the waiver of certain requirements of that Act or the regulations to avoid undue hardship. It also amends that Act to provide rules for the payment of an additional amount of a Canada Education Savings grant in situations where more than one trust has been designated.
Division 7 of Part 4 amends the Parliament of Canada Act to provide for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to report directly to Parliament and to be supported by an office that is separate from the Library of Parliament and to provide for the appointment and tenure of the Parliamentary Budget Officer to be that of an officer of Parliament. It expands the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s right of access to government information, clarifies the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s mandate with respect to the provision of research, analysis and costings and establishes a new mandate with respect to the costing of platform proposals during election periods. It also makes consequential amendments to certain Acts.
This Division also amends the Parliament of Canada Act to provide that the meetings of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons are open, with certain exceptions, to the public.
Division 8 of Part 4 amends the Investment Canada Act to provide for an immediate increase to $1 billion of the review threshold amount for certain investments by WTO investors that are not state-owned enterprises. In addition, it requires that the report of the Director of Investments on the administration of that Act also include Part IV.1.
Division 9 of Part 4 provides funding to provinces for home care services and mental health services for the fiscal year 2017–2018.
Division 10 of Part 4 amends the Judges Act to implement the Response of the Government of Canada to the Report of the 2015 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. It provides for the continued statutory indexation of judicial salaries, an increase to the salaries of Federal Court prothonotaries to 80% of that of a Federal Court judge, an annual allowance for prothonotaries and reimbursement of legal costs incurred during their participation in the compensation review process. It also makes changes to the compensation of certain current and former chief justices to appropriately compensate them for their service and it makes technical amendments to ensure the correct division of annuities and enforcement of financial support orders, where necessary. Finally, it increases the number of judges of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Yukon Supreme Court and increases the number of judicial salaries that may be paid under paragraph 24(3)(a) of that Act from thirteen to sixteen and under paragraph 24(3)(b) from fifty to sixty-two.
Division 11 of Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act to, among other things, allow for the payment of parental benefits over a longer period at a lower benefit rate, allow maternity benefits to be paid as early as the 12th week before the expected week of birth, create a benefit for family members to care for a critically ill adult and allow for benefits to care for a critically ill child to be payable to family members.
This Division also amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things, increase the maximum length of parental leave to 63 weeks, extend the period prior to the estimated date of birth when the maternity leave may begin to 13 weeks, create a leave for a family member to care for a critically ill adult and allow for the leave related to the critical illness of a child to be taken by a family member.
Division 12 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to, among other things,
(a) specify to whom career transition services may be provided under Part 1 of the Act and authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting those services;
(b) create a new education and training benefit that will provide a veteran with up to $80,000 for a course of study at an educational institution or for other education or training that is approved by the Minister of Veterans Affairs;
(c) end the family caregiver relief benefit and replace it with a caregiver recognition benefit that is payable to a person designated by a veteran;
(d) authorize the Minister of Veterans Affairs to waive the requirement for an application for compensation, services or assistance under the Act in certain cases;
(e) set out to whom any amount payable under the Act is to be paid if the person who is entitled to that amount dies before receiving it; and
(f) change the name of the Act.
The Division also amends the Pension Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to remove references to hospitals under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs as there are no longer any such hospitals.
Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.
Division 13 of Part 4 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to
(a) provide that a foreign national who is a member of a certain portion of the class of foreign nationals who are nominated by a province or territory for the purposes of that Act may be issued an invitation to make an application for permanent residence only in respect of that class;
(b) provide that a foreign national who declines an invitation to make an application in relation to an expression of interest remains eligible to be invited to make an application in relation to the same expression of interest;
(c) authorize the Minister to give a single ministerial instruction that sets out the rank, in respect of different classes, that an eligible foreign national must occupy to be invited to make an application;
(d) provide that a ministerial instruction respecting the criteria that a foreign national must meet to be eligible to be invited to make an application applies in respect of an expression of interest that is submitted before the day on which the instruction takes effect;
(e) authorize the Minister, for the purpose of facilitating the selection of a foreign national as a member of a class or a temporary resident, to disclose personal information in relation to the foreign national that is provided to the Minister by a third party or created by the Minister;
(f) set out the circumstances in which an officer under that Act may issue documents in respect of an application to foreign nationals who do not meet certain criteria or do not have the qualifications they had when they were issued an invitation to make an application; and
(g) provide that the Service Fees Act does not apply to fees for the acquisition of permanent residence status or to certain fees for services provided under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Division 14 of Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act to broaden the definition of “insured participant”, in Part II of that Act, as well as the support measures that may be established by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. It also repeals certain provisions of that Act.
Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Aeronautics Act, the Navigation Protection Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to provide the Minister of Transport with the authority to enter into agreements respecting any matter for which a charge or fee could be prescribed under those Acts and to make related amendments.
Division 16 of Part 4 amends the Food and Drugs Act to give the Minister of Health the authority to fix user fees for services, use of facilities, regulatory processes and approvals, products, rights and privileges that are related to drugs, medical devices, food and cosmetics. It also gives that Minister the authority to remit those fees, to adjust them and to withhold or withdraw services for the non-payment of them. Finally, it exempts those fees from the Service Fees Act.
Division 17 of Part 4 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things,
(a) transfer to the Canada Industrial Relations Board the powers, duties and functions of appeals officers under Part II of that Act and of referees and adjudicators under Part III of that Act;
(b) provide a complaint mechanism under Part III of that Act for employer reprisals;
(c) permit the Minister of Labour to order an employer to determine, following an internal audit, whether it is in compliance with a provision of Part III of that Act and to provide the Minister with a corresponding report;
(d) permit inspectors to order an employer to cease the contravention of a provision of Part III of that Act;
(e) extend the period with respect to which a payment order to recover unpaid wages or other amounts may be issued;
(f) impose administrative fees on employers to whom payment orders are issued; and
(g) establish an administrative monetary penalty scheme to supplement existing enforcement measures under Parts II and III of that Act.
This Division also amends the Wage Earner Protection Program Act to transfer to the Canada Industrial Relations Board the powers, duties and functions of adjudicators under that Act and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.
Division 18 of Part 4 enacts the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, which establishes the Canada Infrastructure Bank as a Crown corporation. The Bank’s purpose is to invest in, and seek to attract private sector and institutional investment to, revenue-generating infrastructure projects. The Act also provides for, among other things, the powers and functions of the Bank, its governance framework and its financial management and control, allows for the appointment of a designated Minister, and provides that the Minister of Finance may pay to the Bank up to $35 billion and approve loan guarantees. Finally, this Division makes consequential amendments to the Access to Information Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act.
Division 19 of Part 4 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to, among other things, expand the list of disclosure recipients to include the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and to include beneficial ownership information as “designated information” that can be disclosed by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. It also makes several technical amendments to ensure that the legislation functions as intended and to clarify certain provisions, including the definition of “client” and the application of that Act to trust companies.
Division 20 of Part 4 enacts the Invest in Canada Act. It also makes consequential and related amendments to other Acts.
Division 21 of Part 4 enacts the Service Fees Act. The Act requires responsible authorities, before certain fees are fixed, to develop fee proposals for consultation and to table them in Parliament. It also requires that performance standards be established in relation to certain fees and that responsible authorities remit those fees when the standards are not met. It adjusts certain fees on an annual basis in accordance with the Consumer Price Index. Furthermore, it requires responsible authorities and the President of the Treasury Board to report on fees. This Division also makes a related amendment to the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 and terminological amendments to other Acts and repeals the User Fees Act.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 12th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois agrees to apply the vote and will be voting against Bill C-44.
The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.
June 12th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
Toronto Centre Ontario
Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance
Mr. Speaker, thanks to Bill C-44, we will continue to move forward with our plan to improve the lives of Canadians.
It is true that Bill C-44 includes a way to collect a tax that keeps pace with the rate of inflation. That is our goal, and it is very important. We know that it is crucial to make important decisions for the future of our country and our economy.
June 12th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-44 features some foolish legislation, including one that is particularly underhanded. I am speaking of the so-called tax escalator. We know that the government decided to raise taxes on alcohol, but oddly enough, this tax will continue to automatically increase year after year. This is known as a tax escalator.
Why is this government so greedy when it comes to Canadian taxpayers' wallets?
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-44, our budget's implementation act.
The best way to draw a nice picture is that this a continuation of last year's budget 2016, where we are seeing a focus again on the middle class and those working hard to join it. It is impressive to see the new jobs as the economy continues to grow. It was announced just this morning that there were another 50,000-plus new good-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians. That is extremely impressive.
I would also like to say that many Canadians will benefit from budget 2017. I know that across Nova Scotia and my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, the youth, seniors, veterans, tradesmen, and new Canadians will benefit. Canadians all across this country will benefit.
I want to talk about budget 2016 and the two things that were essential and will continue to benefit Canadians. The first one is the child care benefit—
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON
Mr. Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
As the member of Parliament for Markham—Thornhill, I am honoured to stand in this House today to speak in support of the budget bill, Bill C-44, which, if passed, would see important measures for helping the government meet the commitments it has made to Canadians.
First I would like to talk about some of those commitments we have already delivered on, commitments that are making a real difference in the lives of families across the country, like lowering taxes on middle-class Canadians by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1%.
We also introduced the Canada child benefit, which is essential for helping families with the high cost of raising children.
I am enormously proud that our government is represented by a gender-balanced cabinet.
Budget 2017 is the next step in our long-term plan. Over the last couple of months, I have talked to and met with thousands of families in Markham—Thornhill, and I have heard their concerns and aspirations for our community. They talked to me about how hard it is to commute for hours a day and how they want to see a transit plan that meets the needs of families. They told me about the balance and the expense of caring for their young children while at the same time caring for their elderly parents, and making sure that our seniors have what they need to lead a good quality of life.
I also heard about my constituents' ambitions, the ones that have propelled Markham ahead to making it one of the most diverse, dynamic, and fastest-growing communities in Canada. The riding of Markham—Thornhill is a leader in innovation, with GM's new autonomous and connected car centre, or IBM's Innovation Space – Markham Convergence Centre that is helping businesses take their new technologies to global markets. There are also Canadian companies, like ICON Digital Production's state-of-the-art visual production facility, and Pond Technologies' commercialization of its research to fight climate change. These multinational Canadian headquarters and SMEs stand to serve as an example of the potential and ambition in Markham—Thornhill.
Now, at a time when changes in the economy, both here at home and around the world, present incredible opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it, with its strong focus on innovation, skills, and partnerships, budget 2017 takes the next steps to supporting Canadians as they acquire the knowledge and skills to build a more prosperous future for Canada. One of those steps is making big bets on sectors of the economy in which Canada can be a world leader. This includes areas where Canada already has world-leading expertise, like artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is an emerging and promising sector with huge potential to transform technologies.
The Government of Canada's advisory council on economic growth identified artificial intelligence as a platform technology that will impact almost all sectors of the economy. Thanks to the investments by the federal government and to the pioneering work done by outstanding Canadian researchers, Canada is a global leader in AI research and development. However, we are not alone. Other countries also recognize the strategic importance of AI technology and are investing in research and innovation in this area. As a result, Canadian talent and ideas are in demand around the world. In order to fully harness the benefits of AI, we need to ensure that activity remains here in Canada. That is why, through budget 2017, we have dedicated $125 million to launch a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy.
In addition to AI, our government is showing strong support for business-led innovation, with an investment of $950 million over five years in superclusters. In key sectors such as digital and clean tech, superclusters have enormous potential to accelerate economic growth. Our new strategic innovation fund would attract, support, and grow Canadian businesses in dynamic and emerging sectors through an investment of $1.26 billion over five years. In the face of national opportunity and growing global competition, this is a strategic, focused, and bold investment in the future of our economy.
Our government is also working hard to make significant unprecedented investments in infrastructure. We have more than doubled our infrastructure commitments to meet Canada's most urgent needs.
Our infrastructure plan provides for investments in projects that will transform communities for the 21st century. We are aware of the risks and costs associated with underfunding of infrastructure. Those risks and costs are significant. That is why our budget is the next step in our plan to make wise investments that will promote the growth of our economy and strengthen the middle class.
We believe that decisions made at the local level are very important and we want to support municipalities so they can meet their infrastructure priorities.
Beyond investments in infrastructure, one of the issues raised most frequently by residents in my riding is public transit. We know that public transit is the lifeblood of a thriving city. Whether it is widening the GO train from Milliken to Union Station, or taking the Viva, or connecting to the TTC from Markham transit, fast, efficient, and reliable public transit is essential. That is why budget 2017 would provide an investment of $20.1 billion for public transit projects over the next 11 years. This is real change that would make a difference in the lives of the people in Markham—Thornhill and across our country.
I am also very proud to be a part of a government that believes in the necessity of effective and high-quality care for Canadian seniors. We recognize the need to address the issues of seniors, and have taken action to improve the quality of life for our seniors. Budget 2017 includes important investments in supports for an aging population to help our seniors and to give them the respect they deserve. I know how important this is for my riding and for the people in Markham—Thornhill. That is why we are improving access to home care by investing $6 billion over 10 years so that Canadians can stay in their homes well into their retirement.
We are also investing $2.3 billion over two years to provide more affordable housing options. This investment will improve housing conditions for seniors, especially senior women living alone. This builds on the work already done by our government to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to boost support for our most vulnerable seniors.
In addition, this budget would also help improve the lives of new Canadians. Many of our new immigrants are highly skilled and highly educated. They want to put their talents to use and to contribute to building our great country. However, many times highly skilled and educated immigrants face barriers that limit their employment opportunities once they arrive in Canada. Our government recognizes these barriers as a problem. With this budget, we are doing something about it.
This budget proposes to allocate $27.5 million over five years starting this year, and $5.5 million per year thereafter, to support our targeted employment strategy for newcomers. Our plan would improve pre-arrival supports for newcomers so that the process to recognize their foreign credentials can begin before they arrive in Canada. This ambitious program would break down the barriers that bright new immigrants face in fully contributing to our economy.
Finally, our government has shown that it recognizes the importance of young Canadians. With this in mind, I look forward to forming a youth council to bring together the diverse and talented youth in Markham—Thornhill. Our government understands that the path to a brighter future begins by giving all Canadians the tools they need to learn, retrain, discover, and embrace the future.
Budget 2017 supports the facets of our country that make us unique and strong. The investments in innovation, infrastructure, transit, and seniors provide the tools for our country to be successful in the future. This is a forward-looking budget, one that I think we could all get behind. I am proud to support it.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for speaking to Bill C-44. Unfortunately he is the only NDP member who will have the opportunity to speak to the Liberals’ budget implementation bill.
They had promised not to misuse omnibus bills, but then they gave us a 300-page bill that amends 30 pieces of legislation and limited debate on it twice. This makes it an antidemocratic bill in its form and in the way it is debated. It is despicable.
The member showed us in his speech that the health negotiations, pension plans, and improvements to the employment insurance program are broken Liberal promises.
The Liberals also focussed on young people to get elected, but what are they doing for them? By 2030, just over 10 years from now, 40% of jobs are going to be automated. What do the Liberals have to say about precarious employment? They are telling young people to get used to it.
They promised to give a tax credit to small businesses that were going to hire young people, but is that in the budget? Not at all. Are jobs with benefits being created for young people? No. There is no old age pension for young people either. It is all just hot air.
This budget does not provide any compensation to farmers. On top of featuring none of many things that were promised and dangled in front of us, the budget only contains measures for the rich and does nothing for the middle class.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks about Bill C-44, which reminds us of all the things we will not get and shows that the Liberals break their promises.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to highlight some of the NDP's objections to Bill C-44 at third reading.
As we analyzed the bill, it became clear that we do not oppose the actions of government because it is made up of Liberals, but we oppose the Liberals because of their actions. The legislation is rife with things that would not take the country in the right direction and it fails to live up to the very commitments made not by us in the last election campaign but by the Liberals themselves.
I want to highlight some of those problems and also suggest other ways that the government might have proceeded that would have helped to attain the goals it says it wants to attain.
Let me start with housing. No money was allocated in the budget proper for a national housing strategy this year, and that is unfortunate. There is some money promised for down the road, but this is unfortunate because for all the words that come from a government, statements on positions and everything else, it is really where a government spends its money that we learn its priorities and we see what it is serious about. It was not a promising sign to see no money right away.
We in the NDP support the idea of the development of a national housing strategy but it would have been nice to see in the budget implementation bill some legislation that would create ongoing statutory funding for housing. That is because reliable, stable funding, year over year, is the basis for a well-functioning and reliable national housing strategy that could put a meaningful dent in the dearth of affordable housing and social housing that we currently have in Canada.
Putting money in the budget would have been one way the government could have signalled its seriousness about a national housing plan. Instead it is left to the ad hoc decision-making of government year over year.
The NDP has proposed in the past, through private member's bills, legislation for a meaningful and permanent national housing strategy, including provisions for how to consult and develop that plan so that decisions would not just be made at the cabinet table. Everyday Canadians would have the opportunity on an ongoing basis to feed information from their own lived experiences and those of their friends, neighbours, and family, into that ongoing strategy that would have reliable, multi-year funding going forward.
I raise that as an example of how the government in the legislation could have signalled and solidified its commitment to a national housing strategy. It was disappointing not to see that. Instead, we have the word of the Liberals that the money will come.
We have their word on a lot of issues. It is hard to believe that the Liberals will be able to achieve all of their goals given the current state of the country's finances and the choices that they have made in terms of not seriously going after, for instance, large tax offenders and in terms of not raising the corporate tax rate. I will have more to say on that later.
The other thing in the bill that is an important priority for me and for the NDP is the health care funding. What was promised in the election campaign by the Liberals and by the Prime Minister was promised on the basis of a criticism of the previous government and Stephen Harper's plan for health care funding that would cut the regular increases by the federal government for health spending from 6% to 3%. That was roundly criticized by Liberals in the last campaign and there was a clear promise in their platform and by the Prime Minister that not only would he not adopt the Stephen Harper funding model but that he would change the way the funding model was decided. The Prime Minister said he would convene a meeting of premiers to talk about a new national health accord.
After the election the premiers took the Prime Minister at his word and asked to have that meeting. On a number of occasions they held joint press conferences calling on the Prime Minister to convene a national meeting of premiers to discuss a new national health accord, but they never had that meeting. The legislation is the outcome of that broken promise by the Prime Minister to convene that meeting and to meaningfully include premiers in deciding the structure and the framework of health funding in Canada going forward.
Instead, the Liberals adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy where they went to each province separately and made side deals, the gist of which in all cases was to get provinces to sign on to the very same Harper model of funding health care that they had opposed during the election. That is what is represented in the bill.
On the additional money the Liberals promised during the election for home care and mental health, instead of flowing to the provinces out of the commitment made by the Prime Minister and Liberals in the last campaign, it became a condition of their signing on to the Stephen Harper model. This money was used instead as a threat and as a coercive tool to get provinces to sign on to a funding model that they had roundly criticized and that the federal Liberals had roundly criticized.
Therefore, it was a serious switch of priority and strategy by the federal government, and I think a serious broken promise on one of the most important issues of public policy in Canada. That is what the bill represents in its current form. I think that is shameful, and I cannot but draw attention to the fact that now, frankly, we do not really have a national health accord, because 10 side deals, and we are not even at 10 yet but nine out of 10, do not a health accord make.
This was the opportunity. After the Harper government reneged on the idea or passed up the opportunity to create a new national health accord after the health accord of 2004 expired in 2014, there was a moment to bring the provinces together to negotiate a new health accord in the way that former prime minister Paul Martin did in 2004. There was a moment to be able to do that again, and it certainly seemed like the federal Liberals were posturing to fill that role, which would have been good. They ought to have done that, but they passed it up and adopted the Harper ultimatum, although they gave themselves a bigger stick with the promises of home care and mental health money.
Now it is an open question as to when we are going to get that opportunity again. It is on the current Prime Minister's shoulders that we may lose the opportunity to have a meaningful national health accord for a generation. I think that is seriously shameful and something that I hope Liberals across the way who ran on the idea of having a new national health accord appreciate that they are complicit in, having Canadians miss out for a generation on a meaningful national health accord, because that is not what the funding arrangement in the legislation before us represents.
This includes not having a national pharmacare plan, for instance. It would be wonderful if in this budget implementation act we saw the legal provisions necessary to institute a national pharmacare plan. A national pharmacare plan would allow us to provide more equitable drug coverage to Canadians across the country so that it would not matter where one lived in Canada, one would get good access to the prescription medication one needed. It would allow Canadians to do this at a lower out-of-pocket price for the portion they would be responsible for. It would also allow governments to provide better service at a cheaper rate, and there have been all sorts of estimates. If we triangulate the lowball estimates and the higher estimates, it is quite reasonable to think that we could be saving Canadian taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $7 billion annually if we had a national pharmacare plan.
This was something the Liberals promised in 1993, if members can believe it, and here we are today. However, as we did prior to 1993, consistently after 1993, and are doing today, the NDP will continue to advocate for a national pharmacare plan until we have one.
I think it is shameful to think that after all those years, 25 years after Jean Chrétien got elected with a compelling majority and a clear promise to have a national pharmacare plan, we still have to be here talking about it. We are not talking about the details of it, whether it is working well, or how it could save Canadians more money if we modified the plan this way or that. We are still talking about establishing one at all, which I think is a great shame.
We had promises from the Liberals as well to restore lifetime pensions for veterans, but that is not anywhere in the act. When we talk about commitments made and how those get followed through on where it really counts, which is where the money gets spent, we see another promise coming up empty.
We still hear repeated promises from the Minister of Veterans Affairs and that we should just wait, that it is coming. However, the government has continued with the court case it promised to stop against Equitas and Canadian veterans. It is saying that there is no sacred covenant between Canada and its veterans. It has money to spend on that, money that would be better spent on veterans who, through their service, have earned our respect and deserve to live with dignity. The government should be doing that with the money.
It is the same when it comes to first nations. The government is continuing to spend money it promised it would not, fighting first nations in court. It could be flowing the money, money that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and many other bodies have said is owing to first nations people as an important piece of the reconciliation process. It would help get first nations people in Canada back on their feet and address the endemic problems in their communities, so they could become full participants in all the wealth, resources, and quality of life that Canada has to offer. They have been excluded from that for far too long. Nothing in the legislation addresses that.
On my point about veterans, they have said clearly that lifetime pensions have to be restored. The Liberals clearly said that as well. The New Democrats have been advocating for that. One would assume there would be wide support. There certainly would be support on the NDP benches for restoring lifetime pensions, yet it is nowhere in the legislation.
The Liberals talk big about spending priorities, but the recent release of the defence review is a very good indication of what it means to be a Liberal spending priority. It means money announced for 2026, 2027, 2028. By the time our grandkids are adults, they will start spending money on this serious priority.
It is frustrating to see large numbers being thrown about, including on infrastructure, knowing that many years and a number of elections will have to occur before the time arrives to spend that money.
This means we are not having a serious debate in Parliament about our priorities. Instead, we are playing a game of make belief with Monopoly money. The Liberals can announce all sorts of money for 2035, but they will never have to deliver it. The circumstances will have changed so many times and in so many ways, in ways we cannot predict. When the time comes to spend that money, it will have been re-budgeted, reallocated, and changed many times over. It is convenient for the government to talk now about what it wants to do in 2027, 2030, 2040, or 2050. I think 2055 is when the government says it might balance the books.
This is not a real debate. It does a disservice to this place and Canadians for a government to pretend that by announcing money 10 years into the future, it is doing a real thing. This is really indicative of its priorities. People in this place deserve better and the people we represent deserve better. Therefore, I make no apologies for focusing on the next few years and what the government announced in spending, because the rest has yet to come.
On my point about housing, if the Liberals were serious about long-term funding, they would have included it in the legislation. It is the case sometimes that five-year or 10-year plans are required to address something, which is certainly true when addressing the shortage of affordable and social housing. However, the bill does not include a national housing strategy and funds for that strategy. Statutory funds for that strategy is the way to do it.
At the very least, it appears to be a sign of insincerity when governments talk about the need for a long-term plan, but do not want any accompanying legislation that would mandate the money and lay out the consultation process for that kind of long-term spending. Long-term spending like that ought not be done willy-nilly. If a 10-year plan is required, there should also be a corresponding structure, which is appropriate to lay out in legislation, and provide a legislative guarantee of those funds. We do not see that in the bill.
However, what we see is a guarantee for a structure going forward, not just for 10 years but indefinitely. Canadian taxpayer money is going to be used to pad the pockets of corporate Canada. That is shameful. When we talk about legislating priorities in the budget implementation bill and putting one's money where one's mouth is, the Liberals are doing that.
The Liberals are talking about a $35 billion fund that will be used to privatize infrastructure and make it easy for large corporations, not even large Canadian corporations, but large international corporations, to own Canadian infrastructure and dictate to Canadians what they will pay to use a highway or cross a bridge, so they can make money on that. Then, when it is not making money anymore, if the plan is ill-conceived and it does not generate the 7% to 9% return they thought it would make, they will walk away from the project, and Canadian taxpayers will pay the bill.
We see the Liberal priorities the bill. Unfortunately, they are not the priorities the Liberals espoused during the election campaign.
The government talks about openness and transparency. We have very good reason to doubt the sincerity of that. Yesterday we heard that the Liberals' record on access to information requests, which is a very reasonable measure of openness and transparency, was worse than the Harper government's was in its last year.
The embarrassing appointment process, now the non-appointment process, for Madeleine Meilleur to the position of Commissioner of Official Languages was far from open and transparent. The Prime Minister still will not admit that it was a mistake to think that such an overtly partisan person could be seen as independent enough to occupy the position of an independent officer of Parliament. There is nothing open or transparent about that.
Canadians have every right to worry, with a proposal like the infrastructure bank, that they cannot expect the kind of openness and transparency one would need in order to evaluate whether it was getting value for money.
It may well be true that more things get built as a result of the infrastructure bank, but they are not getting built for free. No one is building it out of charity for Canadians. The Saudi investment authority is not going to come to Canada because of the infrastructure bank and say that it got a letter from the bank, it heard we needed a major bridge, it would build it for us, do it cheaply and it would be a nice quality bridge, and not ask for payment. Canadians are going to pay. If we are building more infrastructure, we are paying more. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
To hear the Liberals on one hand espouse and call on some of their members' experience in business and finance and say they are smart managers, then on the other hand pretend that somehow Canadians ultimately will not pay for every bit of infrastructure that is paid under the bank, and in fact pay more, is farcical. Those investors will demand a higher return than the banks the government could borrow from, which was its promise in the election. It has been an ongoing insult, frankly.
When we talk about getting money to build more infrastructure by borrowing at 2%, the Liberals like to say the NDP was going to balance the budget, so we would not have built any of that stuff.
First, the stuff on the infrastructure bank is stuff for which they are borrowing money and they are borrowing it at a higher rate from other investors. The idea that this is not a deficit that Canadians are incurring is factually wrong. The Liberals can play with the books, put it on the books of the infrastructure bank, or private investors, or whatever, but at the end of the day it is the Canadian taxpayer who will pay for that. The Liberals are not fooling anyone on this side of the House.
The other thing is this. The Liberals are not pursuing revenue streams, or ways of saving money. When I talk about a national pharmacare program, that is a way to save substantial amounts of money. If they were borrowing at 2% to build infrastructure instead of 7% or 9%, they could build a lot of bridges and roads for $7 billion a year.
The Liberals voted for an NDP motion telling the government to take meaningful action on closing tax havens and loopholes. A black and white commitment of the Liberals was that they would close the CEO stock option loophole. They passed that up. That is almost $1 billion a year, and substantially more when we start addressing the issue of tax havens and tax cheats. Some have estimated that to be as high as in the order of $50 billion to $60 billion annually. That is a lot of money. Therefore, the idea that somehow there is no money to be found to advance these important priorities is false. It is a question of political will and a government willing to follow through on its commitments.
When we take all of that into consideration, it is clear that, not only when we talk about the infrastructure bank, for instance, this is not the way to go for Canada. This is not the way to build infrastructure. It is not value for money for Canadians. There are better ways of doing it. I have tried to highlight some of those. Not only is this not the right direction, but it does not even get us in the direction the Liberals promised they would go in the last election. On all counts, Canadians should stand opposed to the bill. I know we will.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.
Intergovernmental RelationsOral Questions
June 9th, 2017 / noon
Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs Québec
Marc Miller LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Mr. Speaker, with regard to Bill C-44, I am pleased to inform the member that infrastructure projects in Quebec and every other province will comply with all applicable laws, in this case, Quebec's laws. That is important to us, and the projects will comply with the law at all times.
Intergovernmental RelationsOral Questions
June 9th, 2017 / noon
Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister blows hot and cold when it comes to Quebec. After telling Philippe Couillard to take a hike, he now wants Quebeckers to feel more at home in Canada. The last time a Trudeau risked his neck for change, he sent the Quebec nation into exile.
Will the Prime Minister finally respond to the Quebec National Assembly's unanimous resolution asking him to respect Quebec's laws and change Bill C-44?
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance for her speech. I am not sure that people in her riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe are happy with the budget. Contrary to what she claims, this budget does not do anything for the ordinary Canadians who work hard every day and keep this country going. This budget helps the interest groups that make up the Liberal Party of Canada's electoral base.
I find it ironic that the parliamentary secretary thanked the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for its hard work in analyzing the 2017 budget implementation bill, since it is quite likely that the other place will ask that the infrastructure bank provisions be removed from this omnibus bill. We have many questions and concerns about the infrastructure bank, questions that have gone unanswered during question period and in committee.
The infrastructure bank protects the investments of private investors to the detriment of Canadian taxpayers. That is ironic since private companies pride themselves on taking risks. Entrepreneurs are the ones who have the moxie to take risks. They have the expertise, the ideas, the innovate spirit, and the courage needed to do things that way. Canadians are already paying taxes to keep the country running. It is not their responsibility to protect private sector investments. That is one of the things that we find worrisome about this bill.
What is more, the government has taken $15 billion away from community infrastructure projects to fund this new bank, a measure that my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent has decried before. He has said that the communities in Quebec's regions will not get any support from the infrastructure bank because it deals only with projects worth over $100 million. Rimouski or Baie-Comeau cannot afford a $100-million arena.
In reality, this bank will serve only the interests of big cities and those that have been especially selected on the basis of the votes for the Liberal Party in 2015. That was my opening statement.
The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance had the audacity to say that it was a budget for people, for Canadians, when it is the complete opposite. Bill C-44, like the 2016 budget, targets Liberal interest groups, “post-national” interest groups that have very specific goals and that resort to the Supreme Court to argue their political positions instead of going through the House. This time, they certainly have the government’s ear, and their political demands are being heard loud and clear, because this budget does nothing but meet their needs.
There is something else that makes me extremely uncomfortable. The title of the budget is “Building a Strong Middle Class”. What it should have been is “building a strong country for everyone”.
Of course we want a strong middle class; I understand that, but I put myself in the shoes of millions of Canadians who are going to look at their pay and wonder whether they belong to the middle class. It is an open secret in Canadian politics that the Liberal government always talks about the middle class because most people want to be able to feel that the middle class includes them, even if they may not really be part of it, based on their income. It is a trick, a catch-all, but people subconsciously hear that the Liberals are working for the members of one class only, and not for all Canadians.
In my opinion, Bill C-44, which would implement budget 2017, does not really reflect Canada’s structural needs, both current and future. It is a bill that amends certain measures and sprinkles money here and there. There is really no overarching vision when it comes to the direction the country is going in. It is really an ideological, vote-seeking budget plan. What it actually offers is deficits and highly targeted expenditures to please a few interest groups. I will name some of them. I note in passing that these interest groups have all the right in the world to exist, but they should be not be the priority in a budget. The priority should be all Canadians in general.
This budget focuses on NGOs, groups that generate media interest, various civil society groups, and academic elites—the number of research chairs has grown. All universities are receiving incredible amounts of money. That is fine for research, but here again, that is not what helps average Canadians.
Next are the urban and financial elites, the environmentalists, the “post-nationalists”, who pretend that there is no culture or common ground in Canada, that French Canadians do not exist, and that they are just one group among many.
Then there are the civil liberties groups. The groups of litigants who have been going to the Supreme Court since 1982 to get preferential rights, to circumvent the House, to get faster decisions that change the course of Canadian politics in their favour. There are the anti-globalists, the social engineers who think that by changing social policy they will be able to make things better. They are doing it for purely ideological reasons without really stopping to think about the potential consequences of their actions, which are based on a world view rather than on rational facts and most importantly on a desire to help all Canadians.
What I am essentially saying is that Bill C-44 does not meet Canada’s continental challenges, the North American challenges we face on the economic, military, and social fronts. The bill also fails to meet the international economic, military, social, and even environmental challenges we are facing.
Since the end of the 1990s, we have been living in a highly competitive world. More than ever, the west, including Canada, is slowing down. We are seeing the emergence of new world powers, the BRICS we all know about, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. There is also Nigeria, with the largest population in Africa and an economy that is increasingly important in Africa and the world.
With their economic growth, their increasing military importance, and their now enormous populations—the countries I named easily represent half of the world’s population—these emerging countries want energy resources. In spite of what they may say in their speeches at the United Nations, they want cars, they want to be consumers, they want oil, they want to be mobile, and they want a western lifestyle. For the last 20 years, and this is certainly a good thing, we have seen a growing transfer of wealth from north to south. This is undoubtedly a consequence of the decolonization of the 1950s and 1960s. It is to be expected and it is a good thing.
However, we need a government like the previous Conservative government that understands international geopolitics and understands the major economic challenges that lie ahead. The economic crisis of 2007-08 was undeniably terrible and was perhaps the harbinger of other things to come.
There is a certain impoverishment happening in Canada, perhaps not so much for people, but in terms of infrastructure. For example, our icebreakers are completely obsolete, our highways in the Maritimes need repair, and our ports and airports should be updated, particularly Beauport 2020 in Quebec City, which really needs investments.
Sometimes I get the impression that Canada does not realize that it is losing ground in terms of its international role as an economic and diplomatic driver.
There is also the North American context. The United States is suffering from the emergence of the BRICS countries. That is one of the reasons why the current president was elected. Americans are extremely worried because 20 million people are unemployed in the U.S. Isolationism is taking hold again. The media talks about this as though it were a new phenomenon, but on the contrary, isolationism re-emerges in the U.S. roughly every 50 years.
In this isolationist context, there will be major tax cuts in the United States for businesses and individuals. This political context is reactionary on economic, social, military, and diplomatic levels. It is not up to us to decide whether this is good or bad. The Americans will develop their economic isolationism.
I see that in Bill C-44, which would implement budget 2017, the Liberal government does not seem to explain how we are going to deal with this new North American reality or how we are going to make sure that Canadian companies are competitive in the face of American isolationism and a less porous border that allows for less trade. Trade between Canada and the United States is worth $2 billion a day, so that is pretty significant. These isolationist American reactions, which will last at least three years and a few months, are going to have very significant effects on Canada, but we are not hearing the Liberals talk about this.
We are also seeing a Canadian context taking shape before our eyes. The economic health of the federation has been going downhill for two years. For example, we are astonished to see that the Liberals never talk about the significant loss of economic growth in Alberta and the major job losses for Albertans. They also do not talk about the employment problems in the Atlantic provinces. They do not talk about the importance of Montreal and Quebec City. Simply put, we are not hearing them really talk about the role of each province in our country’s economic unity.
For example, we have been telling them for several months now that it is incomprehensible that there is no free trade between the provinces in Canada, when it is right there in the Constitution. That is why we have asked them to make a reference to the Supreme Court to have the judges interpret the Constitution as it is written, and give us a definitive judgment that sets out, in black and white, that we should have free trade among the provinces. That would certainly help our businesses everywhere in Canada.
There is a real need to complete major projects for the next 100 years. Once again, this budget tell us about building a strong middle class, but it does not contain any major projects that will ensure there will be even more wealth creation in 50 years. All the interest groups that the Liberals favour in their platform and their budget are systematically opposed to any long-term major projects.
I always like to take the example of the premier of Quebec, Mr. Bourassa, who created gigantic hydro-electric projects in the 1970s, dams such as had never been seen in the history of humanity. Recently, the record was topped by a dam in China, but until very recently, we had the biggest dams in the world in Quebec. That means that today, we in Canada and Quebec are the ones who pay the lowest prices for electricity. That is one of the few things that we pay the lowest prices for, but because of that, we have a healthy welfare state in Quebec and services that are overall quite adequate.
What is there in Canada at present, however, that guarantees that in 50 years—I will still be here if I am lucky—our children and grandchildren will enjoy rising wealth? There is nothing in this bill that guarantees us that, because it focuses only on the present moment and aims simply to please vote-getting groups that make up the Liberal voting base, which is slowly but surely crumbling.
According to my own and my Conservative colleagues’ analysis, Bill C-44 shows that the Liberals are working for the financial elite of the infrastructure bank of Canada and the social elites who want to make major policy changes, not to create jobs, but to suit their own world view. There is nothing there for working people, however. That is why the Conservative opposition has a moral and political obligation to be the voice of taxpayers in the House.
As I said in the House yesterday, we might be better off talking about the responsibilities of citizenship, the Canadian Armed Forces, and how we can serve our country. Instead, we have no choice but to talk about the importance of lowering taxes and creating jobs because those two things are in peril under this government.
Taxes keep going up. This year alone, Canadians' tax burden is going up by nearly $5 billion. That includes taxes on public transit, carpooling, beer and wine, also known as the Friday and Saturday night tax, medication, child care, small business owners, oil and gas companies, which represent millions of jobs in Canada, and tourism. That is a very long list of taxes, and the government is breaking one promise after another.
Worse still is the $29-billion deficit, which has nothing to do with economic conditions. Unlike the deficit at the time of the 2007-08 economic crisis, this deficit has nothing to do with a need to stimulate the economy and create jobs. This deficit exists because the government wanted its budget to cater to the needs of the interest groups I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. Plus, these deficits have no end date.
This is the first time that we have a Canadian finance minister who is incapable of answering a simple question: when does he plan to eliminate Canada's fiscal deficit? Will it be in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2030, or 2040? He has no idea. He does not take the economy as seriously as he should.
It is important to remind Canadians that the deficit has exploded over the past two years. Through words and actions alike, the Liberal government is creating budgets to take money away from taxpayers and spread it around to certain special interest groups, rather than all Canadians. The government is trying to divide Canadians by saying that it is working for the middle class, and not for everyone else. It has no overall vision for Canada, particularly when it comes to continental and international challenges. In addition, it keeps introducing outdated bills in the House, like the one to raise the salary of ministers of state.
They should be focusing on more important matters. I am sure you are also concerned about this, Mr. Speaker, but you can rest assured. Until 2019, we will continue to stand up for Canadian taxpayers every day, until midnight if necessary, and we will make sure that this government does not win another term, so that 60 years from now, Canada will not reflect this terrible mismanagement.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, again, I thank my colleague for the question and its sub-questions.
I want to address the question of the omnibus bill. First, in our campaign platform, in 2015, we were clear that we would not use omnibus bills excessively. All the measures included in Bill C-44 are tax measures, measures that are very important for Canadians. We in no way took advantage of the bill to hide other bills that we wanted to introduce. That is my answer to the first question.
Second, the infrastructure bank will help Canadians across the country. Many communities will be able to use it for transformative projects. As far as the smaller municipalities are concerned, they will have access to money that is invested, that is set aside for these projects.
Again, the previous government under-invested in infrastructure for a decade. We are making historic investments to secure these projects, an investment of over $180 million over 12 years.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague that the Liberals roundly criticized the Conservatives when they introduced omnibus bills that contained many bills in one. On top of that, the Liberals have imposed a second time allocation motion to cut the debate short. My Bloc Québécois colleague pointed out again this morning how appalling it is that so few members have an opportunity to speak. Only one NPD member will be allowed to speak today on the most important bill of the session, Bill C-44 on the budget. This is completely undemocratic. The Liberals used to scream till they were blue in the face about how undemocratic this is.
Here is my question. The member said that this bill will help the middle class. In addition to the 30 acts that it will amend, this bill also creates an infrastructure privatization bank. Municipalities like the ones in my riding of Salaberry—Suroît, municipalities like Rivière-Beaudette, Elgin, and Ormstown, will not be able to afford infrastructure projects worth $100,000 or more and will therefore not have access to this privatization bank. Projects that are supposed to be for communities, for the middle class, but are funded by private companies that want to turn a profit will never be within their reach.
How can the hon. member say that this is for the middle class, that it is good for everyone, and that it is democratic?
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders
June 9th, 2017 / 10:10 a.m.
Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick
Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak today about the budget implementation act, also known as Bill C-44. Passage of the bill would implement the next chapter of the government's plan to strengthen the economy and grow the middle class. It would allow the government to continue making the necessary targeted investments that would create jobs, grow the economy, and provide more opportunities for Canadians.
A strong and growing middle class is the engine of our economy, and truly it is our highest priority.
When we were elected, we promised Canadians that we would make middle class families our priority and that is what we have done. We began by asking the wealthiest 1% to pay a bit more so that we could give a tax cut to the middle class. We then introduced the new Canada child benefit. This non-taxable benefit is much simpler, more generous, and better targeted to those who need it than the former system, the universal child care benefit.
We then reached a historic agreement with the provinces to help people retire with more dignity, by strengthening the Canada pension plan. We went even further to support Canadian families by investing $6 billion over 10 years for home care and $5 billion over 10 years for support for mental health initiatives. With the passage of Bill C-44, the government would provide funding for the first year for home care and mental health services to provinces and territories that have accepted the federal offer of $11 billion over the next 10 years.
The steps we have taken to date are having a real, positive impact on our economy and on Canadians as a whole.
The steps we would be taking through Bill C-44 would have a positive impact on our parliamentary budget officer, also known as the PBO. Our government is committed to openness and transparency. That is why we have taken steps to strengthen the PBO in ways to make the office truly independent. Bill C-44 would recast the head of the PBO as an officer of Parliament, supported by a team that was separate from the Library of Parliament, with the authority to report directly to Parliament. It would expand the PBO's right to access government information and would give the office a new mandate to provide costing platform proposals during elections so that voters could make informed decisions based on an independent financial analysis.
The government believes that the work of the PBO is fundamental to Parliament's ability to debate and to consider the economic and fiscal considerations of the day. That is why we listened and took action when we heard that more could be done to further strengthen the PBO's independence. The government took action by introducing 12 amendments to Bill C-44 at the House of Commons finance committee that would further strengthen the mandate of the PBO. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the committee, in both this place and on the Senate side, for the work they did and also for the collaboration in improving this legislation. It was through their efforts and those amendments that were brought forward that we found broad support. In fact, The Globe and Mail reported that “The government has placed Canada’s PBO on strong legislative footing.”
I want to turn now to some major elements of Bill C-44, starting with a priority I know members of this House broadly support. One of the best ways we can bring confidence back to the middle class is by investing in public infrastructure to build stronger communities.
These days, governments around the world are facing a challenge. They have to figure out how to finance and build huge public works projects that are efficient, dynamic, affordable, and, most importantly, long-lasting.
This is why the government has laid out a historic plan to invest more than $180 billion in infrastructure over the next 12 years. This investment will be unprecedented in Canadian history and will come at a time when we need it most. However, no level of government can accomplish this ambitious infrastructure goal alone. The Government of Canada will invest in a historic infrastructure plan, so we set our sights on a new kind of partnership, the kind that can leverage the strength of private sector investors and put their skills, talent, and capital to work for Canadians.
Bill C-44 would enact the Canada infrastructure bank act, which would establish the new Canada infrastructure bank as a crown corporation. The bank would amplify federal investments by bridging private sector and institutional investors at the table. Through this new bank, we would work with our partners to build world-class infrastructure that would transform communities, create good jobs, and build a stronger and greener economy. By establishing a new organization capable of working with the private sector where it makes sense, public dollars would go further and be used in a smarter, more targeted manner, transforming communities with projects that would not otherwise be built without the bank. To this end, the bank would only make investments in infrastructure projects that were in the public interest. I have to underline that. The bank would work with partners to determine whether projects were suitable candidates, including whether project sponsors were willing to consider robust revenue models and partnering with private investors in a new way. As a result, we would see more innovative approaches for large and transformational types of projects, and we would build more of them.
The bank would also have strong governance protocols for accountability and risk management. The bank would be structured as an arm's-length corporation.
Despite being at arm's length, the Canada infrastructure bank will be accountable to the government and Parliament through an appropriate minister. The bank will be required to seek government approval for its business plan every year and submit its annual report to Parliament. It will also be accountable to the Auditor General and a private sector auditor, which is the highest accountability standard applicable to crown corporations.
In addition, the minister responsible and Parliament will undertake a five-year review of the bank's enabling legislation and its implementation.
The government would be responsible for setting the overall policy direction and high-level investment priorities. In addition, the bank would work with all orders of government as well as investors to identify the pipeline of potential projects and potential investment opportunities.
With the Canada infrastructure bank, Canadians will enjoy the advantage of transformational infrastructures built to meet their needs and that help their communities thrive.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Senate for its thorough prestudy of Bill C-44, which the government followed with close interest, particularly as it pertained to the Canada infrastructure bank. I would like to thank Senator Harder and the government representatives in the Senate, as well as Senator Woo, the independent senator sponsoring this legislation. They have done tremendous work.
The scrutiny and the in-depth study that the Senate applied to Bill C-44 has been an important element in our parliamentary process. Their work has informed our deliberation by providing us with the benefits of independent legislative review during the course of the House proceedings. Senators, including independents and Senate Liberals and Conservatives, raised issues that the government has, as a result, given additional consideration and careful consideration.
In the case of infrastructure bank, the Minister of Finance was pleased to appear on May 31 to answer questions from the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. I would like to recognize the work of this committee, and its members as well, who went above and beyond to study this legislation. Once again, it was a job very well done.
Again, I would like to thank the Senate for the benefit of its prestudy, and note for the record that this scrutiny has informed the government's deliberation in advance of Bill C-44's passage.
Beyond all of the bricks and mortar, people really are at the heart of our plan. Last year, the government held broad-based consultations on how to improve the labour market transfer agreements, including the labour market development agreements.
One of the main messages we heard during the consultation is that these agreements have to be more flexible and do a better job of taking into account the diverse needs of employers and Canadians.
That is why we are planning to reform these agreements together with the provinces and territories.
This reform will ensure that more Canadians get the assistance they need to find and keep good jobs in the new economy, and build better lives for themselves and their families. We want to help Canadians get the training they need so that their first job is a great job, and their next job is an even better one. That is why we are taking steps to help working parents, who must balance the demands of raising a family while managing their own career needs in this time of transition.
Bill C-44 would allow parents to choose to receive El parental benefits over an extended period of time, up to 18 months, at a lower benefit rate of 33% of the average weekly earnings. It also proposes to do more to provide greater flexibility to pregnant working women, giving them the option of claiming El maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, expanded from the current standard of eight weeks, if they choose to do so.
Budget 2017 also takes action to support those who have put their lives on the line to make Canada a safe and secure place to live. Our women and men in uniform deserve a successful transition to civilian life.
First, we will create a new education and training benefit. This benefit will provide more money for veterans to go to college, university, or take a technical course at a technical school after they complete their service. Under the program, as of April 2018, veterans with six years of eligible service would be entitled to up to $40,000 of benefits, while veterans with more than 12 years of eligible service would be entitled to up to $80,000 of benefits. That is tremendous. This legislation will also facilitate the redesign of the career transition services program.
This program will equip veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, survivors, and veterans' spouses and common-law partners with the tools they need to successfully navigate and transition to the civilian workforce. The services offered would be expanded to include coaching and job placement, starting in April 2018, all of which would be provided through a national contractor.
Finally, Bill C-44 will provide very generous assistance to family caregivers in recognition of the essential role they play in helping ill and injured veterans. This tax-free monthly benefit will replace the existing family caregiver relief benefit and will be paid directly to family caregivers.
I want to stress that we understand that the job is not yet done and more needs to be done.
Veterans and stakeholders have told us that the existing suite of programs is complex and difficult to navigate, and that is simply not good enough. We intend to take additional action to streamline and simplify the system of financial support programs currently offered to veterans over the coming months. This is certainly a priority for this government. That will include fulfilling our commitment to re-establishing lifelong pensions as an option for injured veterans, so that veterans and their families can decide for themselves which form of compensation works best for them.
Also, recognizing that all families, military or not, must sometimes become caregivers to their relatives, the government has announced a new Canada caregiver credit program. Bill C-44 proposes to simplify the existing tax support for caregivers by replacing three credits with a single new credit.
This new non-refundable tax credit will provide better support to those who need it. It will go to family caregivers regardless of whether they live with the family member they care for, and it will help families with caregiving duties.
The new Canada caregiver credit will provide tax relief of an amount of $6,883 in 2017 in respect of care of dependent relatives with infirmities, including persons with disabilities, which includes parents, brothers, sisters, adult children, and any other specific relative. It will be $2,150 in 2017 in respect of care of a dependent spouse or common-law partner or minor child with an infirmity, including those with a disability. Families will be able to take advantage of the new Canada caregiver credit as soon as the 2017 tax year.
To conclude, the bill before us has concrete measures to move Canada forward, grow our economy, and create good jobs.
However, we can do more, and we will do more to help the middle class and those working hard to join it. We will ensure that economic growth helps all Canadians, not just the wealthy, and we will help families build a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.
I urge all members to support this bill and to work with us on those portions of it that could benefit from our own views and ideas, so that at the end of the day we meet the high standards and expectations that Canadians have put on us.