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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-48.

Topics

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

June 23rd, 2005 / 8:50 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I think this is the fourth or fifth time that I have spoken on this bill. Apparently the message is not getting through.

The merits of this bill are self-evident. This bill anticipates the spending of something in the order of $4.5 billion in four key areas previously identified by the government where investments of great significance have already been made, namely, affordable housing, post-secondary education, foreign aid and the environment.

Mr. Speaker, I know of your interest in all of these areas, particularly affordable housing. That is an area of investment that currently receives in the order of $1.9 billion on an annual basis. That investment houses something in the order of 640,000 families who are given shelter by virtue of the investment by the Government of Canada on an annual basis of $1.9 billion. This bill proposes to add an additional $1.6 billion to that base funding of $1.9 billion, which in and of itself should contribute to housing many more families.

I know members opposite criticized this bill on account of the fact that it does not specify which house, city or community the money is supposed to go to. I point out to members opposite and those who may be listening that this money is allocated in the same fashion as would any other moneys in any other budget document. I suggest that the level of detail proposed by motions that have been put forward on the floor previously generally do not get incorporated into a budget or a budget implementation bill.

It is rather interesting because in the area of affordable housing once the government turned the ship of state around and broke the back of the deficit, one of the first investments by the government was in the area of affordable housing. I know the area of homelessness was of great interest in particular to those of us in urban ridings. In my case, the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood is at the eastern most part of Toronto. At one point it was the entranceway to Toronto until Highway 401 was built. As a consequence, there are quite a number of motels along Kingston Road. Along the same road, we were sheltering a number of families in housing which frankly was unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

The moneys that were allocated through the supporting communities partnership initiative, otherwise known as SCPI, have been extremely important to my riding and indeed I know to quite a number of other ridings. They have in fact addressed the issue of affordable housing for homeless people or people who are near homeless. That has resulted in 1,400 homeless people in my riding being reduced to 75 over the course of a number of years, which means now only about 75 people are seeking shelter on a night by night basis as opposed to 1,400. Bill C-48 builds on initiatives such as that.

I know as well, Mr. Speaker, that you are interested in post-secondary education. It is near and dear to your heart because you come from Kingston, which of course is home to the university from which you and I graduated, namely Queen's University. These moneys, the $1.5 billion contemplated in Bill C-48, will be addressed to making that university, along with all of the other great universities in Canada, more accessible to students, so that students may enjoy the benefits of higher education.

As members know, the life and well-being of people who actually seek and obtain higher education is greatly enhanced by post-secondary education and training. I anticipate that these moneys, the $1.5 billion, will be added to the $15.5 billion that the Government of Canada currently puts into post-secondary education and other social grants and programs.

That money is roughly divided evenly between cash and tax points. This will be a significant infusion of cash into that field. As I say, those students at Queen's and other universities around our country will enjoy the benefits of this significant investment, building on the previous investments of the Government of Canada.

I know as well, as do all members, that the environment is something that Canadians probably rank if not first now, certainly second, vis-à-vis health care. Health care and the environment are linked, as the hon. member for Peterborough indicated. We cannot really separate the two. We cannot have good health unless we have a good environment, so I would anticipate that again, members opposite would be very supportive of $900 million that is contemplated as an investment in Bill C-48.

We anticipate that this will build upon the $1 billion over five years in the clean air fund, the $250 million that is in the partnership fund, the $225 million over five years which will quadruple the number of homes retrofitted under the EnerGuide program, the $200 million for the windpower initiatives, $300 million contemplated in Bill C-43 for the green municipal fund, and an equivalent of $5 billion over five years out of the federal gas tax revenues.

All of those are initiatives that have been taken in Bill C-43, the original budget, along with previous budgets have been put forward by the government, voted upon by the House, and have been found by Canadians to be a very acceptable and useful way in which to deploy tax dollars.

The other area where an investment is contemplated is foreign aid. Bill C-48 anticipates something in the order of an additional investment of $500 million in international assistance. Canada's recently released international policy statement put out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for CIDA sets out a vision for Canada and its role in the world. This new international policy framework delivers on the government's commitment to invest in the international role which builds our presence around the world.

We had increased international assistance by $3.4 billion over the next five years and we anticipate that we will be doubling levels from 2001-02 through to 2010-11. We anticipate that we will be doubling the aid to Africa from its level in 2003-04 by 2008-09.

This reflects the government's commitment to alleviate the poverty that is in Africa. It reflects the commitment by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to address those problems in an effective way.

I anticipate that this bill will receive a great deal of favour from members opposite. I cannot imagine why members opposite would vote against investing in foreign affairs, in affordable housing, in the environment and in post-secondary education. I urge all members to support Bill C-48.

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

9 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that right now there is very little to distinguish the rhetoric, although maybe there never has been and maybe I just noted it more now than before, of the Liberal members on that side of the House between the rhetoric the NDP members, the socialists, on the left. The rhetoric seems to be identical from both of those particular parties. I have been listening to it all afternoon and it does not really seem to change.

The issue of socialism runs rampant in those parties. I guess that is mantra coming from the parliamentary secretary.

The member talks about affordable housing initiatives but basically that is all directed to provincial affairs and it always has been. The governing party wants to look after people from cradle to grave. The dominant theme of everything the Liberals do and say it seems is to take private initiative away. Instead of concentrating on the economy and ensuring jobs are created and there is not that dependency on state, they want to look after people in every way, shape and form.

I can go back into another life when I was a police officer. When I joined the Calgary City Police way back when, the issue of affordable housing was even on the agenda at that time but it had taken a completely different stance.

Today I see ministers and parliamentary secretaries on that side of the House running helter-skelter all over the country with cheques in hand for various municipalities and provincial governments all to do with so-called affordable housing projects. I have seen mausoleums being built with this money. Does it really benefit the community overall? I have that question in mind every time I see a new structure going up that makes it affordable for those who are maybe less fortunate.

Instead of helping the less fortunate people out of their situation, they create this dependency. However there is really nothing they can put on their own agenda to say that they own a piece of property. It is not that way at all. It is some wonderful structure that the Liberals have designed as their answer to poverty, when they should be looking at creating jobs and helping people out of that situation.

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

9 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure there was a question there but I am not sure what it was.

First, I have been described as a lot of things in this life, particularly in my political life, but generally socialist is not one of them. Some of the people who know me would probably find that very difficult to believe when thinking about me.

The hon. member complains about intrusion into provincial affairs. I want to point out to the hon. member that this is kind of a false dichotomy. The Government of Canada contributes significantly to the issue of affordable housing and has had, for instance, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for years and years, about which virtually no one complains because it is a mix of private and public.

I will give an example in my riding. He is worried about taking away initiatives from the private sector. In my riding, CMHC is contributing to buying down the costs of mortgages so that people who want to get out of rental situations can get into ownership situations. Actually, it is a very good example of a mix of public and private initiative that gets people into the very situations in which the hon. member wishes to them to be.

I cannot imagine what is so objectionable about trying to put up a further significant sum of money that goes toward the very initiative to which the hon. member wishes it to go.

As to the intrusion into provincial jurisdiction on the environment, frankly, the environment respects no jurisdiction. When the Ottawa River is flowing down here, is it an Ontario river, a Quebec river or a national river, or does it just need to be cleaned up? We live in the great nation of Canada and in fact we live in an area of mixed jurisdiction.

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

9:05 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-48, a bill that deals with several very important issues.

As hon. members know, the bill contains a commitment to pay down at least $2 billion of debt on an annual basis. With the additional money we will investment in affordable housing, in transit, in foreign aid and in post-secondary education.

The bill has had a lot of debate and discussion and there have been different perspectives on it. However I think all of these areas, it is fair to say, are coherent, complementary and follow the same theme to what was presented in Bill C-43 and preceding budgets, which are investments built on sound fiscal strategy. We can go back to budget 2003 and to budget 2002.

The bill also reflects the priorities of Canadians. When we look at the examples that are in this bill in terms of the types of investments that are made, we look at the investment in affordable housing. Over the past number of budgets the government has put significant sums of money into affordable housing. We think of the significance of the $1.6 billion that will be invested in affordable housing and the fact that in this particular case it is not attached to matching funds and that it also includes aboriginal housing.

We can look at some of the previous funding that has been made with respect to affordable housing. We had a program in place where we had matching funds from the provinces and other entities. Therefore the investment that we are making in Bill C-48 to affordable housing is on top of the previous investments that the government has made in affordable housing. It is very important to ensure that Canadians have an opportunity to have a household and prosper in this great country. It also builds upon the $2 billion that has already been put toward homelessness and affordable housing over the last number of years.

The investments made do a couple of things. They certainly look to address a specific number of challenges and problems that may be faced by people in our society. We think of the additional funds that the bill proposes to put toward an increase in accessibility to post-secondary education, the $1.5 billion, which again builds upon a whole other set of initiatives that have been put in place.

We can think back to previous budgets, budgets that have been called education budgets where there were all types of different incentives and investments for Canadians to receive additional training and to gain further access into post-secondary education and to assist with the cost of that further education. We know that with training and education we can further improve our economy and people have an opportunity to further prosper in this country.

We can think of the $900 million that is being proposed to be invested in public transit and energy retrofit. Again, when we look back to previous budgets, Bill C-48 builds upon Bill C-43 with a number of different initiatives.

Finally, we can look at how the bill contemplates the additional investment of $500 million in international assistance, again a priority of the government and certainly a continued priority and a future priority of the government.

These investments, along with those made in Bill C-43, were made possible not only because of the performance of the economy but also because of the financial management provided by the Minister of Finance in ensuring that we do have the ability to pay down debt and we do run balanced budgets, which is the cornerstone of budget-making, in that the government takes the approach that we need to pay our way.

Like Canadians in their own households who earn money and try to live within their means, governments need to live within their means. It was in the decades previous to 1993 when governments were living beyond their means and saddling citizens of this country with debt, debt interest and debt payments.

The cornerstones of the budgets that the government has put forward going back to 1993 are certainly balanced budgets and looking at continuing to make debt repayment, not because debt repayment is the goal but because debt repayment frees up additional money and reduces the burden on future generations. It frees up additional money to make smart investments to ensure our country can continue to prosper in the future, to ensure Canadians have an opportunity to participate in this economy and to ensure the country can lead the G-7.

As the Minister of Finance said earlier today in question period, while we lead the G-7 in terms of our balanced budgets and our budget making, we need to now focus on leading the G-7 in terms of the productivity of our country. The Minister of Finance has taken some steps and articulated that in his speeches.

I know in the future, in working and speaking with Canadians and working in the House, there will be an opportunity to exchange ideas and focus on initiatives and programs that deal with the productivity question. At the end of the day, it is about ensuring Canadians the opportunity to participate in the economy, to prosper and to create wealth. With that opportunity, we think the country will be a better place.

Providing opportunity for all Canadians at all different socio-economic levels is important. That is why government makes investments in different areas to ensure there are opportunities for people. It is not only an ideology that might exist with certain parties in the House. It also is an approach that benefits Canadians. Canadians need an active government, a government that will support them and enable them to participate in areas of the economy, where they, their children and their children's children can benefit.

I would hope hon. members in the House reflect upon what the bill is looking to accomplish. I hope they know that the bill is in the interests of Canadians and that it will advance those interests.

When members get the opportunity to vote on the bill, I hope they support it. Then they can spend the summer in different parts of the country talking to Canadians about what has been accomplished in passing the bill. They can talk about the investments we have made.

In closing, an agreement has been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the third reading stage of Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments. I move:

That in relation to Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, not more than one further hour shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill and, at the expiry of the time provided for in this order for the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

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

9:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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

9:15 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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

9:15 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

9:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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

9:15 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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

9:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

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

10 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-48, an Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, be read the third time and passed.

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

10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share my time with the author of this document, the NDP budget.

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

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

As I understand it, there will be no Conservative speakers on this bill tonight. As a consequence, the only party that is opposed to this motion, the only party that is opposed to Bill C-48, will be denied the right to speak and will be shut down. That is--

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

10:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid the hon. member may have raised a point of debate, but it is the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster who has the floor.

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

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak about this important document because the NDP's balanced budget document brings hope to Canadians.

Over the past 10 years the number of homeless has been growing in the cities across the country. We have seen the growing number of poor children. We know that the NDP's balanced budget document is going to start addressing these issues by allocating $1.6 billion to housing to help poor families.

I am proud to stand for this document because we know that $1.5 billion will be allocated to post-secondary education. We know that over the past number of years it has become a crisis in this country. We need to lower tuition fees. We need to provide affordable education to our youth and young adults. The NDP's balanced budget document does just that.

I am pleased to speak for this document, Bill C-48, because it also addresses the environmental crisis that we are living through. There is $900 million that will go to start addressing the problems that we see across the country, the increasing smog, greenhouse gases and all of those issues. As a result of the NDP's balanced budget document $900 million will now be allocated to that.

We live in an unstable world. There is more and more violence and more instability. We know, and I think it is the shame of members in all four corners of the House, that today 29,000 children will die of hunger and preventable diseases in the world. Tomorrow 29,000 more will die and another 29,000 the day after that.

The NDP's balanced budget document allocates half a billion dollars in foreign aid so that we are finally going to start working around the world to supply fresh water, food and medicine, and health care to people, to start to address that instability. We know full well it is not by providing more guns and weapons that we have more stability on this planet. It is by having safe water, food and housing, education and health for all the world's people.

I am also proud to speak to this document because for too long workers have been at the bottom of the list when a company goes bankrupt. In many case we have seen people lose their life savings. The NDP's better balanced document finally provides $100 million to protect those workers in the event of bankruptcy.

I am very proud to speak to this document because it addresses a whole series of issues that the NDP in this corner of the House have felt for years need to be addressed in this country. Tonight if we adopt this budget, we will be bringing hope to Canadians across the country from coast to coast to coast. In the main streets Canadians see the need for more funding for education. Canadians see the need for more housing to address poverty and the increasing number of poor children. Canadians see the need to address environmental issues. Canadians see the need to provide some stability in the world through governmental funds. The NDP's balanced budget document is addressing all of these critical issues.

It must be said too that this document, which gives Canadians hope, also meets the needs of Quebeckers. This is extremely important. Since the NDP moved passage of this budget, organizations across Quebec have been telling us that it is vital C-48 be passed. FRAPRU and other organizations fighting poverty are calling on Bloc members to pass this budget. Organizations for persons with a disability are telling the Bloc it has to pass this budget. Municipalities in Quebec and environmental organizations are saying yes to the NDP budget. It is extremely important.

Given that organizations and Quebeckers are calling on the four parties in this House to adopt the NDP budget, we hope it will have the support of the Quebec members.

We know there are extremely important matters addressed in this document. However, we also know that the NDP will continue to work on other tasks. We are very concerned about saving our public health care system in Canada.

We saw of course a few weeks ago an indictment, tragically, of Liberal health care policies. It is important to mention that the Supreme Court judgment is not a call for privatization. It is an indictment of the Liberals' policy on health care, I am sorry to say.

We need more action provided to public health care to support public health care. We need to start to address the effectiveness of the system. Members in this corner of the House have called for a more effective system of health care. We have called for the saving money on things like evergreening, where we are simply providing money to pharmaceutical companies, the most profitable industrial sector in North America. We believe we can save money by having a more sane evergreening policy that would allow us to save money, divert it from the pharmaceutical companies to patient care and bring down waiting list times.

We would also continue to work on bringing in a home care policy, because we know that every dollar invested in home care saves $2 in health care costs elsewhere in the system. We are going to continue to work for that in this corner of the House.

We are also going to continue to work to make sure that we build quality jobs for Canadians. Canadians have seen over the past decade continued diminishment in the quality of jobs that are offered. We saw that in the Statistics Canada study that came out in January. Most jobs in Canada now are temporary or part time in nature. Most jobs in Canada now do not have access to pensions. Most jobs in Canada now do not have basic benefits. Because of that, because we have seen that decline in the quality of jobs, we also know that the average Canadian worker is earning 60¢ an hour less than he or she was earning a decade ago. Because of all those facts, we in this corner of the House are going to continue fighting for a jobs policy that makes sense, that makes good quality jobs for Canadians and for Canadian families across the country. We will continue to work on that.

We are pleased to see tonight the opportunity to finally adopt the budget that the member for Toronto—Danforth authored, brought forward and built to improve the lives of Canadians.

There is hope in this country tonight. If we adopt this budget, we can move on to deal with other serious issues that Canadians want us to deal with. They want a better quality of life. They want better health care. They want better education. They want to see homelessness go down and housing go up. They want to see access to education go up and tuition fees go down. They want to see international aid go up and the poverty numbers and the shocking numbers of children who die every day on this planet go down. They want to see all those things. From tonight onward we will be working on these other issues.

We are hoping that tonight this House will adopt the NDP's better balanced budget at third reading and give hope to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

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

10:15 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr.Speaker, first I would like to implore members to think about this important bill as we are getting very close to the vote. I implore them to think about public transit, clean air, foreign aid for poor children overseas, housing for families that cannot afford it, and post-secondary education for our youth.

I would like to implore all the members across the way, the Bloc and the Conservatives, to think individually about their constituents and also about what they would like to have on their record, on their principles. I implore them to vote for it and then hopefully they can sleep well.

Before I ask the question of the member, I would like to make sure that people remember how long this plan has been in place. When the Prime Minister first became leader of the party he put in his vision for the country, his vision of foreign policy, Canada's place in the world, rebuilding Canada's social foundations, lifelong learning and a new deal for cities. He has carried this on with integrity through the throne speech and into the various budgets. Then, in this agreement with the NDP, Bill C-48, we have added another 1% to Bill C-43 to extend the funding for those elements.

Here is what I would like to ask the hon. member about. If we lose this vote, which will of course cause us to go to an election, how does he think the Bloc and the Conservative candidates would feel going door to door telling people that they caused an election by voting against clean air, foreign aid for children overseas, housing for people who cannot afford it and lower tuition fees for our children going to universities?

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

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will not really know. I do not think the Conservative members even know what the public says. As we know, a few weeks ago the leader of the Conservatives would not let the members of his party talk about what the public reaction was in their ridings to a possible election. It is just shameful that this public input, that responsibility of members of Parliament to do the door to door, to do the phone calls, to speak with individuals in their ridings, was cut off from the kind of caucus debate that should have taken place.

I do not know what the reaction of Conservative constituents will be, but we can certainly see in the polls that the Conservatives have been going down and down. They are now in third place in Ontario. They are now in third place in Nova Scotia. In many other parts of the country, their support is crumbling.

I would certainly hope that members of the Conservative Party would be reflecting on the message that their constituents are sending them through those polls, which is that they do not want to see an election right now. What they want to see is the NDP's better balanced budget.

I should add too that it is extremely clear to me that investing in housing and education is important to Quebeckers. Individuals and organizations from throughout Quebec have said this over and over in e-mails, letters and telephone calls to us. Quebeckers have also made it clear that, ultimately, they want investments in key sectors. So, I hope that the members of the Bloc Québécois will support the NDP's balanced budget.

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

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member stands up and says things like the Conservatives do not support homes for the homeless, which is completely false and misleading to the House. What the Conservative Party has had a concern with is the continual promises made and promises broken.

I would like to ask the hon. member two questions, please. First, the last time the Liberal government gave out billions of dollars for homes for the homeless and less fortunate, it did not amount to that many beds. I would like to ask the hon. member, with $1.6 billion, exactly how many beds are going to be produced? I suggest that it is not a good bang for the taxpayers' bucks.

Second, calculated invocation of closure tonight shut down the voices of my riding. My riding is not allowed to speak tonight in this supposedly democratic forum. How does he feel about that? That is what I would like to ask the hon. member.

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

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just gave his voice to the House of Commons. I think there is a bit of a contradiction there.

I think it is important to note the past irresponsibility of the Conservatives and the fiscal record we saw under Mulroney. We saw the social deficit under the Liberals and that is what the NDP is trying to correct, but under Mulroney we saw record financial deficits at the federal level.

Last year we saw the most expensive political platform in Canadian history at $86 billion. That was before the Conservatives threw in the aircraft carrier, the HMS Mulroney . They threw that in with no idea of how to pay for it. There were all those assorted promises.

We definitely have a different approach than the Conservatives. We believe in a balanced budget and we believe in addressing the social deficit. That is what we are doing tonight with Bill C-48.

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

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand and speak on this improved budget bill this evening and to share a few thoughts about it.

First, I want to thank all of my caucus colleagues for the work they have put forward over the last number of months since the election in order to be able to advance the propositions that we have put forward in Bill C-48. I particularly want to single out our House leader, our finance critic, our whip and our deputy leader, who have been intimately involved in this entire project.

There is something more that needs to be said in terms of thanks. Actually, the propositions in Bill C-48 do not really come from any particular individual or even a political party, I would say. They have emerged from Canadians.

Let us take a look, for example, at education. The student organizations across the country, the professors and teachers across the country, those involved in trying to help us understand that education and training are vital for the 21st century economy but who have by and large not been heard for the last number of years across this country, they need to be thanked, because this budget is in response to what they have been calling for.

Those in the labour movement who have been emphasizing the importance of training so the training is available for Canadian workers to take on the jobs of the 21st century, they need to be thanked, because that is are why we are dealing with this budget today.

When we look at the expenditure on housing, I certainly think back to Eugene Upper, who lost his life one block from my house when he froze to death. It was a statement of shame that Canada was not providing housing to its citizens. Since that time, groups across the country have formed and have urged all of us in all parties to take action and to get back to building affordable housing again.

It was a great tragedy when the best affordable housing program in the world, as recognized by the United Nations, was cancelled in the mid-1990s and we saw homelessness grow. Now we are seeing a turnaround. We are seeing an investment that brings federal dollars to the construction of affordable housing.

We must thank organizations such as FRAPRU that have long demanded investments in social housing. We now have funding that in no way requires matching funds. So this is important.

Organizations like the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, all of these organizations, have pressed us to take this kind of action.

We could say the same thing about the gas tax. I recall meeting with the Prime Minister years ago when he was the finance minister and debates were under way about this going way back. Through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, mayors, heads of transit commissions and environmental groups were calling for us to invest in the solutions that would help us address the rising pollution that is killing our citizens. In this budget we finally have that investment coming forward.

All those people and groups need to be thanked, because in the end our action is in response to what the citizens are calling on us to do. I think this budget really reflects that. My thanks go out to all those organizations.

There is the initiative to start retrofitting low income housing so that we can create jobs, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants and provide more affordable housing, all at the same time. Organizations like Green Communities and the Better Buildings Partnership, along with the building trades, have all been pushing us in this direction.

This is only a start. There is so much more that we can do and need to do if we are to achieve our Kyoto commitment, but there is no question that this bill, if it passes here tonight, as I hope it will, will take us a further step down that road.

Let me turn finally to the whole question of foreign aid, which is very much in our minds at the present time. We are facing a G-8 meeting. We are facing an unprecedented mobilization around the world in the Make Poverty History campaign. I think all of us are looking for Canada to play a leadership role, and in the context of the balanced budget framework, this bill adds some additional funds.

In the end it will not be enough to have Canada meet its commitment to the world, which Prime Minister Trudeau signed and which Prime Minister Pearson defined. It is a commitment that Canadians have made. We are in the process now of finding reasons why we, one of the most affluent countries in the world, will somehow try to explain to the world that we will not meet our commitment to the most needy.

I think there is where we are moving away from Canadians' views. I think Canadians want us to meet that goal. Do they know it will be painful? Do they know it will mean something from their pockets at the end of the day? We are talking about their tax dollars here, dollars they worked hard to earn, and they want us to use them wisely.

I can tell members that we saw Canadians respond to the tsunami with unprecedented generosity. They wanted us here to join with them in that effort. They want to be contributors to the ending of poverty, globally and here in Canada.

Once again Canadians are pushing us. I think the half a billion dollars in Bill C-48 is a response to that fundamental moral impetus that comes from Canadians and the privilege they feel they have been given and want to give back. They understand that these things represent opportunities for us to aid and assist around the world.

This is a budget that was crafted carefully. This proposal suggested that a tax cut to the large corporations, which was never discussed in the election but emerged in the first version of the budget, bringing on support from the Conservatives, was something we could not afford if we were to make the investments we needed to make, responding to what Canadians have called upon us to do. We proposed to the Prime Minister a carefully calibrated replacement of that tax cut to the largest corporations with, instead, a group of investments, also including a wage protection package for workers who find themselves in a bankruptcy situation through no fault of their own.

Those elements were proposed. I do thank the Prime Minister for having taken the time to discuss with me the possibility of such an amendment to the budget and for having decided to move forward. I think that kind of working together on a project such as this represents what Canadians would like to see the House of Commons do from time to time, maybe all the time, although that might be too much to ask, but certainly more than we were seeing.

If we remember the context here, when the first version of the budget emerged, it was supported by the Conservatives, or at least not opposed. It was welcomed because of the large corporate tax cut that was awarded. Then the government began to become involved in political games back and forth with the removal of opposition days and challenging the democratic procedures here. That provoked a reaction.

We came forward with a strategy to help this Parliament to continue to work toward some positive objectives before we deal with the election that will be inevitably coming based on the findings of the Gomery commission and all of the other issues that are emerging.

We in the New Democratic Party have attempted to do our job here, thinking about what people wanted us to do when they voted for us across the country. They wanted us to produce some results, initiatives that responded to their needs, and that would actually have an impact on the lives of their families. Canadians want us to use their tax dollars that they work hard for to create a better society instead of for those who had already had so much.

It is with some element of humility that we are here. We are not the largest group in the House quite clearly, but we looked for the way in which we could have the most positive impact. I am very pleased that we have been able to bring it to this point and that there will be funds flowing to public transit, education and training to deal with the debts and costs of students, et cetera, and to build some affordable housing.

If there is some affordable housing built, and I have no doubt there will be as a result of Bill C-48, the New Democrats will sleep well at night knowing that we came here to do a job, not on behalf of ourselves but on behalf of Canadians by using their funds to produce the consequences, the results, and the kind of society that Canadians believe in, dream of, work for, and count on us to deliver.

In conclusion, I want to say that this is an important budget bill, which allocates funding in accordance with people's needs. We hope it will be adopted this evening.

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

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been a member of Parliament for 12 years and I have worked very hard to represent my constituents in those 12 years. Today is the saddest day that I have ever experienced in the House of Commons. One hour of debate will be allowed for a bill worth $4.5 billion of my children's money and other people's children's hard earned money.

That is important, but what is most important about Bill C-48 and the third reading vote that we are about to take is that if the bill is not defeated then Bill C-38, the same sex bill, will certainly pass in this House.

We have had 30 members of the Liberal Party who have said they would do everything they could to defeat Bill C-38, the marriage bill. They are the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, the member for Mississauga South, the member for Huron—Bruce, and the member for Pickering—Scarborough East. They are 30 in total--