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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Question No. 140Routine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Speaker has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul. I invite the hon. member to state her request.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 52, I seek leave to move a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing North Dakota's intention to proceed with the Devils Lake diversion.

The member for Selkirk—Interlake, the whole Manitoba caucus, and the people of Manitoba are very concerned about this issue. It is feared that this diversion will have significant adverse environmental ramifications for water in Lake Winnipeg, which is already compromised with troubles of its own, the Red River and the Hudson's Bay watershed.

The Canadian government has claimed that an agreement has been reached which would delay the opening of the diversion. In fact, the real reason for the delay is because of wet weather and the high water levels of the Red River.

Madam Speaker, I know you will take this under advisement and I look forward to your reply.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I thank the hon. member. The Speaker has asked me to convey to you that this request will be taken under advisement. He will return to the House later today to render his decision.

The House resumed from June 20 consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

June 21st, 2005 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in the debate that really boils down to what could only be described as a prop up NDP add-on budget to the Minister of Finance's original plans which included none of the back of the napkin spending spree that is outlined in this particular document.

The legislation was not dreamed up in the staid boardrooms of the finance department. It was cooked up in a hotel room between the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP, high on his own new found power as a king maker.

In contrast, my colleague, the member of Parliament for Medicine Hat, has presented Canadians with an eloquently outlined and hopeful vision of how the Conservative Party would move Canada's finances forward. It would include a competitive and productive effort to bring Canada forward, striving for national potential with an invigorated, motivated youth who would have a place to work and participate in the economy, and having programs that were compassionate, forward looking and focussed on prosperity. As my colleague from Medicine Hat has said many times, a prosperous nation is a country that can generate wealth that can then be a generous nation.

We want to provide citizens with a better quality of life and Canadians should look to their government to be able to help them in that regard, to find a job anywhere in the country, and find a job in their home town should they stay and be with their families. What is more fundamental than being with your loved ones?

We want every young Canadian to have the ability to go to university without graduating with a huge debt that is the equivalent of a mortgage. We should be the most educated and most forward looking intellectual country in the world. We have the capacity to achieve that goal.

We want Canadians to be able to start a business if they want, to prosper in their communities, and to participate fully in the economy. Canadians want to succeed and Conservatives want to help them do just that because success should be celebrated. Holding Canadians back is what is happening under the current regime. It is holding Canadians back because of repressive and regressive tax structures. There are punishing payroll taxes. Having the basic personal exemption raised would remove many Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.

We want people to have quality health care. We want Canadians to have the assurances that they will be comfortable and taken care of in their retirement. Nobody is more responsible for the abysmal failure of our health care system than the current Prime Minister. In his capacity as finance minister, he presided over the country's finances for over 10 years, was responsible for brutal cuts that drastically led to the deterioration of health care in Canada.

Canadians want to have the ability to work within this current process. They want to work under the Canada Health Act but they clearly need to move in a direction of innovation. There clearly has to be greater input from the health care providers, the provinces and from those on the front lines of health care delivery.

We want to ensure that the tax structure is fair. Tax relief is very much about improving competition, improving the job market, and improving the ability of companies to employ thousands of Canadians. That was a priority because it appeared in the first budget, but this add-on budget very much neglects that element of the economy. We have too many hardworking, overtaxed Canadians who again are being held back.

Bill C-48 is but one page. It contains three clauses. It would spend $4.6 billion without any plan or detail. It would be an abysmal and irresponsible free-for-all spending orgy, like the sponsorship program, the long gun registry, and like the irresponsible and unaccountable spending in the HRDC department.

Bill C-48 is not a firm commitment. It will not even take effect for a year and a half if, I am quick to add, there is a surplus. It is a pie in the sky throne speech promissory note that will not take effect for at least a year and a half. The NDP clearly tried to exact as much as it possibly could from the government in its negotiations to prop it up. The NDP budget is something that will promote irresponsible spending without a plan.

Conservatives are behind the goals presented in the bill. We are behind better education, cleaning up our environment and ensuring adequate housing. We support helping poor nations as part of our commitment to the betterment of the global village. In terms of foreign aid as a percentage of our GDP, that is part of our platform for the coming election.

Let us not forget that it was a Conservative prime minister who was recently voted the greenest prime minister ever in the history of Canada by the Sierra Club and Elizabeth May.

As I said before, what we are opposed to is spending without a plan. This is what led to the problems we have seen in many of the programs that have gone out of control. We oppose raising expectations of individuals who assume naturally that a government would not make these commitments without having a concrete plan behind it.

Bill C-48 is a case in point. It is costly, insubstantial and it is a throwaway commitment that likely will never be met. The promises contained in the bill will only happen if there is a surplus.

Like the mythical story of Jack and the Magic Beans , I think the NDP is left with nothing more than a handful of beans, anything but a concrete commitment in terms of budgetary items.

Is there any possibility that the surplus will not be there and not be adequate to cover these expenditures? Well, time will tell. We are living in volatile times and the economy can take downturns, as we have seen, God forbid. We know the Liberals cannot resist this type of spending though. It burns holes in their pockets.

Since 1999-2000, program spending has gone from $109.6 billion to $158.1 billion, an increase of 44.3%. In contrast, the growth in our economy has been 31.6%, a compound annual growth rate of 5.6%. The economy is not keeping pace with the government's spending practices.

I spoke earlier about the tax implications. Trade is also a big implication. The dollar and the debt to GDP ratio and the interest on our debt that remains so high. The Liberals are dealing away their problems. They are throwing money at problems hoping they will go away. That is the case with health care, with law and order and with our military. This type of approach is not in the best interests of Canadians. It is not in keeping with fiscal management. It is not in keeping with accountability in this place.

The Conservative Party has a responsibility to rigorously examine these spending practices, and that is what we are doing. Despite the massive funding that is committed in Bill C-48, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness told my colleague from Yorkton—Melville that in 2004 the Canada Firearms Centre lost track of at least 46,000 licensed gun owners. This could have drastic consequences for police officers responding to a call where they believe no gun is present.

This is the type of inefficiency and waste in these types of programs that have ballooned in its spending and they do not work in the best interests of Canadians and take money away from other priority areas where it would have a more profound impact. It is about priorities.

With respect to national unity, let us take the sponsorship program where someone paid commissions to Liberal friendly ad agencies to promote unity. It was done through such means as putting up flags and banners but the money was then funnelled back to the Liberal Party through the sponsorship program. Well, as the former prime minister said, what is a few million when it comes to saving the country? How delusional and disingenuous.

This network of kickbacks, of money laundering and now the cover-up leaves Canadians with a very sordid image of government spending. However it is the Liberal Party. It is not Quebec and it is not all bureaucrats. It is the systemic corruption that runs through the Liberal Party that spawned the sponsorship scandal. It was a taxpayer funded program that was going for partisan purposes, mainly in the province of Quebec.

Let us just imagine the taxpayer funded lawyers working for the Department of Justice arguing that the current and former prime ministers should be completely exonerated of all responsibility for this disastrous program that is under criminal investigation. What happened to the mantra of “let Mr. Justice Gomery do his work?” That of course is a thing of the past when it comes to the partisan interests forwarded by our current Prime Minister. How disingenuous.

Clause 2 of Bill C-48 also deals with money for public transit and an energy retrofit program for low income housing. It talks about enhancing access to post-secondary education to benefit, among others, aboriginal Canadians. It talks about affordable housing and increased foreign aid. Those are all laudable goals, but again, no plan and many of them fall within provincial jurisdiction.

Where is the accountability? How will we ensure that the expenditures of this money are actually committed to? The lack of a plan, the expected results and the lack of details of delivery characterize the minority government. It is similar to the institutional day care plan that was promised by the government without any details. It does not fit the diversity of the country.

Bill C-48 would authorize the establishment of an absolutely out of control type of spending that the Conservative Party cannot support, which is why moved amendments that would have improved the process. Canadians deserve better than blank cheques. In its desperate attempts to cling to power, the government appears willing to do just about anything. Canadians need a blueprint for the future, and that is what the Conservative Party would provide.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the very distinguished member for Central Nova a couple of questions about agriculture and what impact Bill C-48 would have on it.

There is not a word about agriculture in Bill C-48. It has not been mentioned at a time when farmers are hurting the most. In the province of Nova Scotia, in which the member and I share ridings, farmers are the part of our society who are hurting the most and facing the most challenges. Some of them are faced with losing their farms, losing their incomes, losing their profession and losing their homes, and yet there is not a word in Bill C-48 about agriculture.

To make it worse, it has been announced that the Nappan Experimental Farm in my area, which farmers depend on for science and research on our unique soils and terrain, et cetera, will be closed. We have also learned that the government is planning to close the experimental farm in Kentville.

I wonder if the member could speak a bit to that and tell us what he thinks should be in Bill C-48 to help farmers and to help agriculture.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague has worked very hard on this particular issue and, as usual, his diligence has paid off in that much of his digging has uncovered the government's secret plan to close many of these experimental research farms which do, as he said, provide vital research and vital information to farmers who are combating many challenging times in terms of plague and viruses affecting animals. We have seen the effects that can result from terrible afflictions, such as BSE, and the impact they have on the entire agriculture sector. However it goes beyond that. All resource sectors were ignored in this particular add on budget on the part of the NDP and the Liberals.

Agriculture, a vital sector of our economy that provides food and that provides so much in terms of employment, lifestyle and a basic way of life for Canadians, has been completely ignored in the priorities set out in Bill C-48.

In regard to the member's question, the government and the minister from the area have been completely disingenuous in suggesting that closing the experimental farm in Kentville was just an off the cuff suggestion from the department. This was a concrete plan to withdraw funding and to eventually close the research station in Kentville, just as my colleague has seen in his own riding with the Nappan Experimental Farm. Commitments were made, then commitments were withdrawn and that facility is slated to close. That is very disingenuous to Canadians and the agriculture sector that relies heavily on that facility for the important research that it needs.

It is like withdrawing money from education or health care. Agriculture is a stable part of the economy of Nova Scotia as it is throughout the country. However the government seems to be blind in its misspent priorities and its complete adherence to the one priority, which is to cling to power at all costs. The Liberals will make whatever deal they have to make with the NDP or others to cling to power at all costs in order to preserve a hold over the partisanship that allows them to make appointments and control the industries and the ministries.

The government is out of step with Canadians, out of step in its priorities and is certainly letting Canadians down, particularly in our area when it withdraws funding from important research centres like the one my colleague has mentioned.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, let us recall that Bill C-48 comes at the expense of tax relief for corporations such as Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

In my community of Windsor, Ontario, in the first quarter of 2005 we are down 6,000 jobs and unemployment is up to 9.4%. Many of these jobs were in the auto parts sector that supply our major OEMs, such as Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. The tax relief for these corporations is very important to preserve jobs here in Canada, high paying jobs that support a quality of life through charitable giving and tax dollars.

Would my hon. colleague comment on why the NDP is abandoning auto workers at this particular time by getting rid of corporate tax cuts that would have helped Ford, Chrysler and General Motors stay in Canada?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, it seems inconceivable to me that the NDP would be advocating such an approach because, as he said, of the importance of the jobs and the importance to the community for individuals who are working in unions and, in particular, in the auto sector. They need that company to thrive and prosper. If the company does well, then the employees do well. It seems very much out of step with reality.

What is most difficult to comprehend is that the Minister of Finance himself was so clearly committed to this in the original budget and then he swallowed himself whole. Ralph the wonder invisible dog swallowed himself whole and committed to letting the NDP set the stage for the budget which did away with the tax cuts that would have helped the auto industry, my colleague's constituents included, and instead abandoned all principle to cling to power. That is what it was about.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in debate on Bill C-48 to talk about the Conservative Party of Canada and about me as a Conservative member of Parliament and a new member of Parliament, and how we are here to build a better Canada. I have a tangible investment in future generations. I have four kids. My oldest turned eight only three days ago.

We are interested in building a better Canada with an improved quality of life within a better fiscal arrangement, not with boondoggle mismanagement the way things have been done for 12 years on that side of the House, and not with sponsorship scandals where hard-earned tax dollars are skimmed to fund Liberal Party election campaigns in Quebec. Neither do we want deals on the back of a napkin, those sorts of poor fiscal arrangements.

What we are looking for in the Conservative Party of Canada is lowering taxes to increase freedom for families so they can pursue priorities in their lives, so they can put their kids into soccer classes, so they can do the things they want to enjoy life. We stand for paying off the debt--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

What about housing? What about education? You're talking about soccer practice?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

There is incivility on that side of the House. That is quite the hypocrisy coming from the New Democrats.

We want to pay off debt so we can relieve generations to come of crippling bills. The New Democrats want to send a major $500 billion bill to my children and my children's children rather than paying off the national debt.

We want an arrangement whereby we have real jobs here in Canada, not overseas in China. We in the Conservative Party of Canada are fighting for auto workers, for family farmers and for others who deserve to work here in Canada.

Bill C-48 is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The New Democrats are peddling paradise while they are flouting the open and transparent budgetary processes of the House. They are peddling paradise using deceptive reasoning.

I want to probe a couple of the arguments that the NDP has been putting forth in favour of Bill C-48. The first is that the New Democrats are simply taking the tax cuts for corporations like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler and reallocating them to other areas, to what they call their priorities. This is not actually true. This is not a simple reallocation within the same fiscal year.

Bill C-43 offers corporate tax relief. It is a guaranteed budget expenditure, so it is accounted for in a particular year's fiscal arrangement. Bill C-48, the NDP's budget wish list, is a conditional expenditure that triggers only beyond a $2 billion surplus. It does so no sooner than 18 months from now.

A national crisis could emerge. There would go the surplus and the NDP's Bill C-48. We could have downturns in the economy, which could eat up that fiscal room. We could have further provincial demands that need to be satisfied.

Corporations like General Motors, Chrysler and Ford need guaranteed relief to keep jobs here in Canada. They need to know that a guaranteed expenditure is coming to help them so they can plan to stay here and keep jobs in Canada. The NDP is promising, with smoke and mirrors, something that may not even come true.

The NDP will argue that there is plenty of fiscal room and says not to worry about it. The NDP also wants a child care system that would cost $10 billion a year more than the Liberals are currently funding in Bill C-43. That will mean a disappearance of any fiscal room and more. That will necessitate increased taxes, and there may be program cuts from health care and education in order to reallocate money to this national day care.

Or there may be deficit spending. We had plenty of that in Ontario. We remember Bob Rae. We certainly remember the $11 billion deficits that were run in the province. We remember Rae days, on which people could not visit their doctor because the doctor's office was closed that day. Why? There was no money for the doctor to get paid that day. That is what we remember about New Democratic fiscal prudence, or what they like to call fiscal prudence.

This means that maybe child care is on the mantel, to be chopped off. Maybe child care will not be pursued. Where are the dollars going to come from? Will they go to fund Bill C-48? Will they go to fund national day care? They cannot do both with the same fiscal surplus.

Let us look back in time. We have had $90 billion in unplanned surpluses since 1997. The actual surpluses were astoundingly higher, but the Liberal government made an art of end of the year, empty the cupboard, politically driven spending sprees to shrink surpluses so Canadians would not be so alarmed by their size.

I see a train wreck coming for the New Democrats, who actually think they may get something with Bill C-48. They are not likely going to see a dime go to funding their priorities when their Liberal cousins empty the cupboard by year's end. They have been duped. Either that or they are trying to dupe Canadians into believing that something will be there. They know it will not be. The NDP has been keeping the Liberals afloat and the NDP gets nothing. That is a raw deal and those members do not even see it coming.

Let us talk about corporate tax cuts for a moment. The NDP has been claiming that corporate tax cuts simply benefit the rich while claiming that New Democrats are helping regular Canadians.

First, the Conservative Party believes in tax relief, not simply tax cuts. Canadian families,along with corporations having trouble competing because of the high dollar and other reasons, need relief now, and not just a simple one time tax cut. They need sustained relief in taxation. Real people struggle every week to make ends meet. They deserve tax relief.

Second, tax relief for corporations actually benefits Canadians in the workforce. I am Parliament's first auto worker. Let us talk about auto workers for a moment. Having our dollar going up in Canada is hurting our exports. Canadian auto companies' productivity is being hurt. Their ability to compete globally from here in Ontario is being hurt.

Massive layoffs have begun in the United States. We have seen layoffs in my community of Windsor and in the communities in the riding of Essex. We have seen them across Ontario. This is happening not just with Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, but with our parts makers and parts suppliers and our tool, mould and die sector, which has had a 38% attrition rate in Essex county in the last decade under the Liberal watch. Those jobs have gone to foreign labour markets such as China and the United States.

Buzz Hargrove, a friend of the New Democrats, the one who actually helped them cut this backroom deal, says that these layoffs are coming to Canada soon with the trickle-down from the 25,000 layoffs that GM has announced in the United States. The NDP wants to get rid of tax relief for Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler right at a time when they are losing the ability to keep auto workers employed here in Ontario. Those are Canadian families at risk of losing their jobs right at a time when that party, which says it likes to fight for auto workers, is getting rid of that tax relief.

Every auto job supports six other jobs. Five hundred thousand regular Canadians lose their jobs when auto jobs head to cheaper foreign labour markets like China or to lower tax jurisdictions such as Georgia, Alabama or South Carolina.

No, tax relief benefits real Canadians on main streets, not just in urban centres but in rural towns, villages and hamlets. The NDP just does not get it. It is no wonder that the first auto worker in Parliament elected by regular Canadians is a Conservative from Essex and is not from the NDP, the CCF, the Liberals or anybody else.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is a very important speech that the hon. member is giving. I do not believe that we have a quorum. I ask for a quorum call.

And the count having been taken:

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe there is quorum.

On another point of order, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite keeps talking about being the first auto worker elected to Parliament. Of course the first auto worker who was elected to this House was Janko Peric, who was the member for Cambridge and a Liberal member. I think the member should get the record straight on that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary. I do not think that is a point of order, but maybe something can be raised in questions or comments or in debate.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just end my remarks with the NDP logic and what it looks like. That logic says to get rid of tax relief for auto companies, to hurt the quality of life for Canadians by passing Bill C-48, and to hope there is enough money left over after Liberal year end spending sprees to try to replace the quality of life the NDP hurt in the first place.

It is no wonder that the NDP has never formed a government in Canada. It is not likely to do so. We all remember Bob Rae. Canadians will come to their senses, too, when it comes time for the next election.

To sum up, Bill C-48 is a bad deal cut on the back of a napkin. That is not sound fiscal management. It defies the budgetary processes of the House for thorough prebudget hearings and everything else. A couple of people met in a hotel room to prop up a government; this is how they do fiscal management here in Canada. It is a bad deal. I look forward to voting against it.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to some of this and it was a little hard to take, particularly on the factual side.

The hon. member is talking about the state of the Canadian economy. I have been around here a few years. I remember Conservative years. I remember the economy having an unemployment rate that was larger than the Prime Minister's shoe size, only by a fraction. I remember the period of time when the interest rates were about the same size.

I remember that not in one single budget in eight years--and I will not say that they did not balance because Conservatives never can balance a budget and we all know that--could they live with their own forecasts of the deficit they said they were going to have. Those are the years we remember.

Now we have 6.8% unemployment. We have booming sectors of the Canadian economy. We have jobs being created right across the nation. We have an excellent budget, the seventh consecutive balanced budget. We have a budget that has been improved on by this bill and I will be the first to admit that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Eighth.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Eighth? I am sorry. It is the eighth consecutive balanced budget. I was underestimating how good we are.

We have this budget bill, Bill C-48, which will assist those who are less well off in our society.

The hon. member across has said, in a kind of Hobbesian state of nature way of looking at things, to just reduce taxes and let people fend for themselves, presumably where life will be brutish and short, as Thomas Hobbes used to say, and that will fix everything.

I do not agree with that way of looking at it and I do not believe Canadians do either. We are here for the greater good as well as ourselves individually.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I know that Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. I have quoted him extensively in the past.

The hon. member across will know that what he was saying about the state of the human mind when people do not look out for the greater good can happen. I happen to think that there is room in our society to make things better by pooling the resources of this society for the greater good.

I believe that this is the right way of looking at things. We have examples in some provincial jurisdictions, in Quebec for instance, with the day care system. I think that has been a good experience in that province. We are now enabling other provinces to do the same thing. What is wrong with that?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I may be young at 34 but I remember the red book in 1993 and the election campaign that year. The Liberals came to power. Nobody was talking about tax relief, paying down the debt, or any of those types of things. In fact, the red book was a recipe for handing over one's chequebook. There was more and more spending.

But surprise, there was a protest party out west, one of the legacy parties of this Conservative Party. It elected a surprising number of members of Parliament. They came to Ottawa and pushed for things such as eliminating the deficit, zero in three, I think it was back then. There were some surprising ideas that interestingly enough were not in the red book.

Where did the current conditions for today's economy come from? They did not come from ideas from that bench. They came from the official opposition. They came from the Conservative Party's fighting to put the fiscal house in order.

Bill C-48 on the other hand, to get back to the debate at hand, is a recipe for returning to deficits. Combine this with some of the Liberals' other $26 billion in spending promises since the Prime Minister showed up on national television to beg for his political life. They have a $10 billion per year unfunded liability for a national day care system. Put this all together and it is a recipe for higher taxes, program cuts or borrowing the money to pay for them. That is fiscal irresponsibility.

The Liberals have allowed the NDP in because the government needed to be propped up. This is the way the Liberals do it. It is a recipe for deficit spending. It is irresponsible and I look forward to opposing it.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this morning we are here discussing important policy issues in Bill C-48. Our party has been sharply critical of this bill. As we have seen in the past, the Liberals' approach to spending without a plan is a recipe for disaster. I think that goes without saying. It goes without saying when we manage our households and it goes without saying when managing the economy of the country. It is widely accepted that the only reason the Liberals agreed to this bill was to save their political skin. There has been much made of that in the last day or so and I am sure there will be much made of it in the days to come.

All that being said, I want to use my time this morning to lay out a larger concern. I will be more specific in my concern in dealing with the Liberal approach to the economy. I want to talk in particular about the government's approach to managing the fishery. This is an important budget item. It is one which I think if the government was going to make an addition to its budget, it is an issue that the Liberals should have addressed.

I want to talk about the government's failure to include in its budget adequate resources to deal with the fishery on the Fraser River. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has done a couple of excellent reports on this issue in the last couple of years. It has given the government good advice which has been ignored. The committee has spoken of the problems that are being faced with the harvest on the Fraser River this year, in particular the restrictions that will be put on the harvest of Fraser River sockeye because of concerns for the sockeye coming into Cultus Lake.

The 2005 sockeye fishery on the Fraser River should be a boon to the economy of British Columbia. There are about 12 million sockeye expected to return to the river, compared to about five million that came back last year. The harvest should have been substantial.

In fact, if we look back at the harvest rates on this particular run in the 1990s, there was a commercial harvest of around eight million fish on the Fraser River. This year the projection is a harvest of only 1.4 million sockeye. This is only a modest increase over the 1.3 million harvested last year, with a return of less than half the size.

The question is why. Again, it is government inaction on a very important issue. The government has a constitutional obligation to protect wild fish and their habitat. It should be an integral part of the government's budget, yet in this particular instance the government is ignoring the problems.

Cultus Lake sockeye have a very serious problem when it comes to survival. There is no question about that. The survival of these fish is not one that stems from overharvesting by the commercial or sports fishermen, or in fact by native fishermen. The problem comes from the lake itself and problems within the lake.

For example, there is a problem with northern pikeminnows in that lake. In an October 2004 document that I received under access to information, the department makes it very clear when it talks about predator removal. The department says:

Adult northern pikeminnows are abundant in Cultus Lake and are predators of salmon fry. The removal of adult pikeminnows from Cultus Lake has been conducted on two separate occasions in the past. An evaluation of this previous work indicates that the removal of predators can increase survival of sockeye fry.

We know that survival of these fish can occur if we deal with the predator problem. The question is why are we not? Improvement is significant. It is estimated that there are about 40,000 northern pikeminnows in the lake that eat the sockeye fry. It is estimated that each sockeye that returns to Cultus Lake lays about 3,500 eggs. After the eggs hatch the following spring, the fish will spend a year in the lake. That is the time that the northern pike do great damage to the Cultus run.

It is suggested that if we reduce the pikeminnow population by 80%, it would give a jump start on the Cultus Lake sockeye run because the smolts from the 350 to 500 fish that do return would have a far greater chance of survival. There are about 425 sockeye with 3,500 eggs each. If the survival rate was increased by only 1%, it would mean an additional 14,875 sockeye would survive. That is exponentially larger than the 80 fish or so that the department hopes to get back to the lake by almost shutting down the sockeye fishery in the Fraser River this year.

Shutting that fishery down is going to mean a loss to the economy of British Columbia up to probably $75 million. The question is, why is the government not taking some action? Why are there not budget considerations given to removing these predators from the lake?

The fishing industry has proposed that it would go into the lake and seine these northern pike. It has been done before, as was mentioned in the government document that I quoted from. It has been done before very effectively. The only reason it was not continued was that the government balked at spending $15,000 in wages for the fishermen who were doing it. For $15,000 in wages it said it was not going to continue the program and yet the cost to the British Columbia economy is in the tens of millions of dollars.

That is the kind of planning that the government undertakes. That is why I think we should all be concerned about it. There are other problems on the lake as well. There is an Asian milfoil problem. The government, again in the October 2004 document that I received under access to information, talked about it:

Habitat restoration work involves the removal of Eurasian Watermilfoil (a common yarrow plant that provides habitat for sockeye predators) in Cultus Lake. Milfoil removal has been conducted in the past, mainly as a control for “exotic weeds”. Milfoil is an invasive species and its removal would have a dual benefit: expose juvenile pikeminnows to predation by adult pikeminnows and to clear milfoil from prime salmon spawning habitat.

Again, there is a program that the government should be undertaking to save these fish. As well, Cultus Lake is a very busy lake. It is within an hour and a half or two hour drive of downtown Vancouver. With a population of a couple of million, an awful lot of those folks will spend a good part of a day or days in the summer enjoying Cultus Lake. There is heavy recreational boater use. There are summer vacation homes and permanent residences. Each of these factors adds to the level of pollutants in the lake and makes it more difficult for the fish to survive.

When we talk about the budget and the additions that the government put in Bill C-48, it is all very well and good. Some of the additions are meant to help people who are not in a position to help themselves, and yet that is exactly what I am talking about. The expenditure of a few dollars would be of great help to the fishermen in British Columbia.

There is one last item that I want to mention about the management of the fishery. It has to do with the snow crab quota for fishermen in eastern Nova Scotia.

I talked last night with Josephine Kennedy, a snow crab representative. She told me that the government was to cut the quota for snow crab by about 60%, from 16,000 pounds. This will have a huge impact on the economy. All of this without any consultation.

Whether it is budget implementation or whether it is management of the fishery, these are things on which the government falls down. The minister refused to talk to those folks about the issue. The government has refused to have an appropriate discussion with fishermen on Cultus Lake. All of that is hurtful.

I hope that the government will take some action to address these issues.