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House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is about child care. The government intends to give all families $1,200, which corresponds to a monthly amount of $100. Has the Conservative government tallied all the administrative costs of this measure, compared to the costs associated with the Bloc Québécois suggestion of a refundable tax credit which would be given once per year? What is the government estimate of the administrative costs of this monthly $100 payment?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is the beauty of our universal child care credit program. It gives money. It puts cash into the pockets of Canadian families. It goes directly to the families that are affected. It is not going to the provinces to develop additional bureaucracies. This is money that families across Canada will get the benefit of immediately with the least amount of administration possible. I hope that answers the member's question because that was the purpose of that part of our budget. It is child care funding that goes directly to parents.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Labrador is rising on a point of order. I will hear him now.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Saskatoon--WanuskewinPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, following question period today the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin raised a point of order emanating from my question.

Specifically, the hon. member said that I had attributed remarks to him respecting, in his words, “race-based sentencing”. The hon. member opposite denied making such remarks and asked that they either be placed on the record or that I or the hon. member for Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River retract our comments.

I wish therefore to clarify the member's request and draw the attention of all members to statements he made in this place on October 23, 2003, at approximately 6:05 p.m. concerning provisions of the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He said:

Presently the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act include sections that instruct sentencing judges to “pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders”. These provisions can result in more lenient sentences for offenders based on race.

Furthermore, I would also like to hereby table for his information and for all members, and for the record, a true copy of a press release issued by the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin on October 24, 2003, which is available on the member's website. It states:

The Liberal government sentencing reforms adopted in 1996 created a two-tier system of justice--one for aboriginals and one for non-aboriginals. These provisions can result in more lenient sentences for offenders based on race.

Having refreshed the memory of the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin regarding his regrettable remarks on this topic and placed them on the record here, he may wish to withdraw his point of order.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table this document.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Saskatoon--WanuskewinPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Labrador have unanimous consent to table the document he referred to?

Remarks Attributed to Member for Saskatoon--WanuskewinPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Saskatoon--WanuskewinPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his intervention. I am sure it will be noted in due course by the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin. If further submissions are required on this point, I am sure the Chair will hear them.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Welland.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Given the strong fiscal record that the Conservatives inherited from the former Liberal government, it is surprising that the first Conservative budget lacks any substantive and real vision for Canada.

Never in the history of our country has any new government inherited such an excellent fiscal position that could have allowed the Conservatives to offer some very positive initiatives. It took our government three years to clear up the Mulroney Conservative deficit spending of $42 billion, followed by eight consecutive surplus budgets with a projection of at least three to five more to come under a Liberal government.

Let me first address some of the alleged tax cuts. Chortling over the reduction of the lowest personal income tax rate from 16% to 15.5% provided comic relief if it was not so serious when one realizes that the 2005 personal tax rate was 15%, and the 15.5% proposed for 2006 tax year will actually be higher. Some tax relief. The reality is that next year Canadians will be paying more.

When experienced economists panned the 1% cut to the GST, the Conservatives plowed ahead with their political bribe. Let us acknowledge that compared to other nations the GST is not that oppressively high. As a consumption tax its reduction will assist higher income citizens to buy more big ticket items while only marginally benefiting lower and middle income earners. Further, for pensioners on an indexed income, there will be little if any benefit because, according to the Bank of Canada, it will lower the rate of increase of the consumer price index by 0.6%. This impacts recipients of old age security and the Canada pension plan, seniors who can least afford it, and in fact they deserve more. Cutting the GST may mildly stimulate an economy that really does not need it. What trade-offs is the government actually making?

In my riding, health care remains the number one priority. Unfortunately, the budget confirms that it does not fall within the Conservatives' five priorities. Yes, there was the patient wait times guarantee, but where is the new money? We are still looking for it. What they have done is to rely on the funding of the Liberal 10-year, $41 billion health accord that created a $5.5 billion wait times reduction fund. The Liberals were on the mark, were they not?

Canadians across the country will soon appreciate that it was the Liberal government that worked with the provinces and territories to establish benchmarks for medically acceptable wait times, to set reductions for key medical procedures, to integrate foreign trained medical professionals, and to supplement shortages within the Canadian medical field. A stronger, better health care system is a priority for Canadians that the Conservative government continues to overlook.

All of our agricultural sectors are under financial stress and we all know it. What is essential is that in order to get our best value for our money, we must ensure that farmers in the most need will get the money now as we head into the planting season. They need a cheque to take to the bank now.

The Conservative budget commits no emergency funding for spring planting. In the last campaign the Liberals acknowledged that improvements were needed to the Canadian agricultural income stabilization plan, CAIS. The Conservatives pledged to scrap it.

It is most interesting to note that the Conservatives will now turn to CAIS to distribute the money the federal budget has designated for our farmers. Will the new government ensure that the distribution of money under CAIS will address the inequities in farm and rural communities across Canada? We have yet to hear the answer.

The government says it is providing $1.5 billion, but that money will go to inventory evaluation and reforming CAIS, not to producers who are in dire need of immediate financing.

The farmers need $1.6 billion over and above the existing program. Compare the Conservative approach to the Liberal government that provided $1.8 billion in emergency funding in 2005 which was over and above more than $206 million provided in the Liberal budget for Canadian producers. Canadians in the agricultural sector will soon appreciate that a Liberal government was a good government and they will want it back.

The tender fruit farmers and grape growers in my region of Niagara were disappointed that their request for assistance for a replant program to assist the industry went unheard. I will continue to lobby for this well thought out and doable initiative to assist Niagara farm communities.

Post-secondary education for our students and research and development for the institutions they attend are the building blocks upon which Canada and Canadians will compete in the highly competitive global economy. Welland riding is home to Brock University and Niagara College. How do they fare? On this the Conservative budget gets a failing grade, the results of which will be felt in the years to come. Yes, there was a pledge of $1 billion in much needed university infrastructure, but it is not new money at all. It was money committed by the former Liberal government under last year's Bill C-48.

Where is the money for research and development that until now has thrust Canadian universities and colleges into the forefront of the knowledge based, technology driven, skills intensive and highly competitive global economy? The lack of such funding will relegate us to the backwater of mediocrity in the G-7.

Removing the tax on scholarships is helpful to the minority of students who receive such awards, although few students pay income tax in any event.

What about the vast majority of talented and smart young men and women who do not win scholarships? Where is the relief for them? There was the expansion of the Canada student loans program which may be advantageous for some. However, the reality is that these students will still fall further into debt, a debt that must be repaid.

Then there is the $500 book credit that translates into 60 or 80 real dollars when most students must spend $1,000 to $1,500 on books annually. Compare this with the Liberal plan to provide 50% of tuition costs of a student's first and final year of a four year program to a maximum of $6,000. Those are real dollars addressing real needs for our university students.

The Prime Minister has revealed plans to slash $1 billion a year for the next two years on unidentified programs. What vital programs for rural communities will be slashed? Regional development agencies such as Ventures Niagara and the South Niagara Community Futures Development Corporation were shut out of this budget. Regional development agencies such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, Community Economic Development Québec, CEDQ, the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, FedNor, and Western Economic Diversification, WED, have done much to help small towns and rural areas. Are we to believe that the Conservatives have turned their backs on this important part of the economic and social fabric of our country? Do they no longer fit into a Conservative Ottawa? The budget tells the tale. It looks too much like yes.

Let me turn to the subject of early learning and child care and the cancellation of the agreements signed by the Liberal government with the provinces in favour of a taxable $1,200 payment to parents of preschool children. Twelve hundred dollars looks and sounds good but what it amounts to is a few dollars a day after taxes. That is more fluff and smoke and mirrors. It does not go anywhere near the daily cost of child care of $35 to $40 a day in my riding.

This is not a child care strategy nor a solution. It does little to help children in care and nothing to help those who cannot find affordable child care at this time. The government suggested this program will provide choice. Where is the choice if there are no places to care for one's child?

The Liberal program was not just about child care. It was about better care and development. It was not just the creation of spaces, but on giving our young children an intellectual boost, a head start which in the long run would help these children develop in primary school, secondary school, and at college and university. Not only would it help themselves but our country in an increasingly competitive world. This is not fantasy; this is reality, and it is what the Conservatives have turned their backs. on.

Many have suggested that the Conservative government has introduced a pro-pollution budget by slashing support for the environment.

Indeed, the Conservative budget has all but gutted every cent the previous Liberal government committed toward the protection of Canada's environment. This budget represents a 93% cut to environmental funding and a complete disaster for future generations.

It also represents a 100% cut in funding for climate change ensuring that Canada will be unable to meet its Kyoto commitments. With no money for Great Lakes cleanup, renewable energy, energy retrofits, energy efficient programs, brownfield cleanup or green innovation, the Conservative government is undoing the progress we have made. The citizens of the Niagara region are sensitive to these issues and will remember at election time.

I offer the foregoing comments in a critical but constructive way. I also wish to acknowledge some quasi-positive features of the budget. Although designed to court the favour of designated groups, most are really only veneer deep.

The $1,000 Canada employment credit recognizes the expenses related to employment responsibilities such as uniforms. It really does cost to work and a credit provides some relief, perhaps the cost of one pair of work boots.

The apprenticeship job creation tax credit will encourage individuals to enter the trades and the $500 deduction for the cost of tools will help them as well. Again, a credit provides some relief.

Reduction of the permanent resident application fee by 50% will assist our newest citizens to continue their integration into Canadian society.

The $500 tax credit to cover registration fees for children's sport programs will strike a chord with hockey and soccer parents, but what about the parents who cannot afford to put their children into sports programs? What about children who are attracted to other forms of recreation, such as music, dancing or drama? Are their parents not worthy of assistance as well? This credit will translate into between $60 and $80 a year, perhaps enough to buy a pair of skates or soccer shoes.

Do we see a pattern here? Most of these items are tax credits, tax credits, tax credits which look good on the outside but will reflect considerably less when people file their income tax returns on April 30 next. Smoke and mirrors and fluff. Do not worry. The taxpayers will catch on soon enough.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on one portion of my colleague's speech where he painted what I would suggest is a picture that is not entirely accurate.

I recall in the last federal Liberal budget there was a clause that forgave the loans of students who were permanently disabled or students who had died. Outside of that, the New Democrats in this corner of the House were shocked not to find any other substantive measure to help students directly with their student debts.

This is obviously something that has been identified in the chamber and in committees year in and year out. Over the 12 or 13 years that the Liberal Party was in government, one would have thought there would have been attention paid to that. Over those 13 years the average debt in this country went up $1,000 per year each and every year.

There is this growing transfer of debt burden from the government and the provinces to the students. It was shown in the numbers. It was not until the NDP pushed the government to find the money that everyone knew it had but which had gone into corporate tax breaks, that it finally showed up.

Now the Conservatives have come to power and are allowing students to take bigger loans. That is the Conservative solution.

Would the member clarify the actual history under the previous government and particularly with the last Liberal budget? In particular Bill C-48 finally put the money in that students, universities and colleges had been requesting for years, but their requests had been falling upon deaf ears.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member may recall it was the NDP who collaborated with the Conservative Party and the Bloc to bring down the federal Liberal government. The program which I elaborated on, the $6,000 in tuition assistance for a four year program would have been put in place.

Since you pulled the rug out from underneath the Liberals, how can you now criticize us when we had a program that was going to go forward?

Research and innovation was fantastic as far as universities go. The university community was most appreciative of the Liberal government and now it has been shut out again.

Where does that put our competitiveness in the global world? We need the assistance which is lacking under the current government.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I hope the hon. member for Welland was not implying that I pulled the rug out from under anyone. Members are supposed to address their comments and question through the Chair.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague touched upon some very important issues. Earlier on we talked about the homeless and housing. I am not sure, but perhaps he can recall that in Bill C-48, and I believe that was the support we gave to the NDP, there was money for affordable housing. I think the amount was $1.6 billion. There was also money with respect to students which we were about to implement. I believe there was money for transit systems.

Would the member elaborate on what happened to that money? Why did it not come to fruition? Why did the money not get to where we it was supposed to go?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, the government fell and all these wonderful initiatives could not move forward.

We are certainly lacking social housing in Canada. It is lacking in my riding. It is a very serious situation.

Major urban centres are being choked with the exhaust of motor vehicles. There is congestion and people cannot get where they are going because of gridlock. We need more efficient transit systems. Our proposal would have assisted. Unfortunately, it did not pass.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, after 13 years of being in government and being unable to do anything, the hon. member stands and challenges the House to consider a Liberal promise, and the two words “Liberal” and “promise” are important to be considered together, and asks students to cash in on that promise. He knows full well that Bill C-48 was done at the behest of the NDP and pushed through the House to actually make something happen, rather than a promise.

If he would still like to fight the last election and cannot get over the notion that Canadians actually voted the Liberals out of office for their many years of poor government, we should have a cup of coffee and I will explain the electoral process to the member if he would like.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government was criticized for certain factors in the last electoral campaign but it was not its record. Its fiscal record was excellent. The Liberal government reduced a $42 billion deficit down to zero and presented eight consecutive balanced budgets with at least three to five more predicted.

That was an excellent position and we could have done wonderful things. Unfortunately, the NDP sided with the Conservatives and the separatists and brought the Liberal government down. Now they think we are to be criticized because we did not bring these programs forward. We should have, could have and would have.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I watched with interest the exchange that took place. I propose that we take the temperature down just a little so I can talk about my wonderful riding.

As this is my first speech in this Parliament, I would like to thank the voters of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for giving me this honour once again.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

They made a great choice.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

See, I told you we could bring the temperature down, Mr. Speaker. How about that?

I want to start by talking about the dynamics of the riding. I also want to talk about rural Canada and in particular, rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

My riding has over 200 communities, an incredibly large number of communities. They are all small and very rural but unique and very special, each and every one of them. When we consider government policy, it is always a balancing act between the urban areas and the rural areas, and sometimes we forget that the rural areas of this country, in particular those in Newfoundland and Labrador, mean a lot. They are engines that provide our food. They provide many of our workers as well. Sometimes we tend to forget that.

I would encourage all members who are rural MPs, whether they are red, blue, yellow, green or whatever, to speak out loudly that rural issues are very important. Because our ridings are not overly represented in this House, and I say that somewhat facetiously, we do have to stand up. I invite all members to do that. In the past little while the debate has brought many of these issues to the forefront and I congratulate all of my hon. colleagues in doing that.

In my riding and in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, fishing is a major occupation. Many of the people in my riding call it the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador and I agree. It has been for over 500 years. We are the oldest colony in North America and we have a tremendous, rich history in fishing.

When it comes to the budget, I heard one hon. member from Nova Scotia talk about reciprocity and giving accolades. I will start this by saying that I give accolades to the government on the issue of the $500,000 capital gains tax exemption. It is something that has been fought for for an incredibly long time. I would like to personally congratulate the member for Cardigan in Prince Edward Island for his tremendous work on a private member's bill to make this happen. Now the government has included it and I congratulate some of the members opposite who worked with me on the fisheries committee.

However, what bothers me about this particular budget is not so much what was said, but what was not said.

Currently in Newfoundland and Labrador fish processing is going through probably one of the toughest times ever. There is a company called FPI, Fishery Products International. The primary processing group is facing incredibly tough times and is now about to make some very tough, detrimental decisions. The government needs to be there for the workers. This is essential for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is essential for the people who work in the fishing industry. Generation after generation it comes down to this in our industry.

What was not mentioned in the budget was the fact that what is needed for hundreds of plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador is an early retirement program. I hope members are listening. They do not seem to be but I would like to repeat that one more time. We need an early retirement program in the fishing industry, licensed buy-back. We need to rationalize the industry itself. What this early retirement program would do is it would save our communities. It would not take much for the government to look to the people in the outports of Newfoundland and say, “We believe in you and we believe in your communities, and if you want to transition into something else, we will let you do that”.

There are incredible opportunities in the oil and gas industry. We have a talented workforce, young, bright, energetic, but they are leaving. They are leaving in droves. At Gander airport I am tired of walking over the puddles of tears shed by mothers and fathers who are crying because their children are leaving, not because they want to but because they have to. It is one of the most pathetic sights to see in my riding.

An early retirement program allows workers aged 50 to 55 to leave the industry with grace. It gives them the exit strategy to allow young people into this industry and it allows those young people to stay home. It allows them to build futures in their homes from Buchans to Bishop's Falls and from Twillingate to Bonavista and all points in between.

These people who have young children watch them and educate them, and they believe in them, but they also believe in their communities. Several years ago now, the FFAW, the union in Newfoundland and Labrador, put forward a good formula for early retirement. The average age of a worker in a plant is now above 50. We walk into a plant and see so many people above the age of 55 that, as we say in Newfoundland, it is a sin to watch. It is a shame. They want to get out. They need this. And we want their young people to stay.

I would implore the people across the way in government: when they do their study, when they look at this, I implore them to look at the people of the community who want to stay in the community and build. What they mentioned in the budget was retraining. That goes a certain way, but first things first. Somebody who is 54 or 55 years of age does not want to go back to be an aeronautical engineer. That person wants his or her children to do it, but the children are in Alberta or Ontario. No offence to said provinces, but I need to--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

An hon. member

They're smart kids.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

My hon. colleague just said they are smart kids. With all due respect to the minister across the way, they are smart kids, and to take them from us simply out of necessity and forget what they are coming from is a shame.

As well, the licence buyback was not addressed in this budget, which is what disappointed me most. Are they smart kids for leaving my province? No, it is out of necessity. It does not make them brilliant, but it makes them energetic and industrious, and we want that in Newfoundland and we want that in Labrador. This government is a national government. It is not set up for one particular province or one particular area; it is set up from coast to coast to coast.

The other industry I talked about is forestry. In central Newfoundland right now it is one of those industries that gets overlooked. There is a forest industry in paper products. It is also having tough times right now. In the last session of Parliament, we put forward some fantastic measures in forestry for implementation in the smaller communities that are faced with an incredibly bad newsprint market, the high dollar and, of course, a depressed market in the newsprint industry. We made some solid gains.

I did not see many of them show up in this particular budget, but I hope that down the road they will. I have one glimmer of hope in that, because I do respect the former minister, with whom I have had several discussions about these forestry initiatives. I thank him for his sincerity.

I also would like to talk about seasonal work. EI reforms are absolutely necessary for the smaller communities to survive. We need the best 12 weeks and 360 hours. This is something we need in order for these communities to survive. We have had pilot projects that have worked. The question was asked in the House if the extra five weeks on a claim is good for seasonal workers. Go forward with that, I say. Now is the time. Time is wasting. The season goes on.

I have one final point and that is the Atlantic accords. Let me read for members something from the budget that is very alarming: “The confidence of Canadians in the overall fairness of federal programs has been undermined....”. As for the chief example used, the February 2005 agreements to provide Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador additional fiscal equalization, it is called a mistake.

I hope that in the negotiations over equalization our dreams and aspirations over the Atlantic accord will not be discarded. I do believe Newfoundland and Labrador is the jewel of the North Atlantic and that we will always prosper.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to my colleague. I have a son who lives in Fort McMurray, Alberta. He is working there and has many colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador. It is interesting that on Sunday mornings there they have two hours of programming from the Maritimes.

I want to know what the member thinks about the apprenticeship programs and the things we have in our budget to enable students to take up their apprenticeships, as well as the tax breaks on tools and all those kinds of initiatives.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's comment. Let me go back to the point I made earlier. I do appreciate the fact that there is to be a tax credit to help workers. However, the situation in my riding is grave to the point where the job itself is essential. The government has gone this far, and now it should try to go that much further. It is not going to be as hard as the member thinks.

The thing about the EI reforms and early retirement programs is that they give people that start and allow them to retrain, to get into something else if they choose to do so. Let me describe it for the member this way. The tax credit the member spoke of is similar to candy. It tastes wonderful, but at the end of the day it does not do much for us.

In comparison, let us talk about income tax cuts. Let us talk about EI reforms. And let us talk about an early retirement program and a licensed buyback program to get these people into their communities

. I have no disrespect for any communities of northern Alberta, none whatsoever, and I applaud them in their efforts, but I want to applaud my own communities: those in seasonal work who need that transition. We were on the way and I hope the government does not squander that opportunity. That is why I am voting down this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my Liberal colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, who just spoke.

I am pleasantly surprised to hear that he advocates employment insurance reform with a focus on seasonal workers and income support for older workers who have unfortunately lost their jobs.

I will not dwell on the fact that, until recently, he was a member of the government, and that while in power, his party turned a deaf ear to the opposition's representations. If I understand correctly, he is now personally advocating employment insurance reform.

This week, the Bloc tabled an employment insurance reform bill. Am I right in thinking, given his statements, that he will ensure that his Liberal colleagues vote for a complete overhaul of employment insurance?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, that program I spoke about earlier, the extra weeks at the end, was an initiative brought in by us. It was an essential first step. The other step we brought in at that time was the 14 weeks for qualification. It was another essential first step. Were we going to go further? Yes, and we will. Do I support initiatives that bring seasonal workers to the fore? Absolutely, to the day I die.

It does not matter whether we cross from one party to the next, if we look at one party and say we cannot vote that way because we are from one particular party, because it is essentially the issue itself that brings seasonal workers back into this workforce. I do not believe that the EI system is strictly for people who face unexpected job loss and I will repeat that: unexpected job loss. In the past, the current government has used that term. Seasonal work is not about unexpected job loss. It is about rural survival.

The other issue is training, as I mentioned earlier. I hope the Bloc supports this as well, but if there is a study to be done in retraining, then I suggest that we invest in the post-secondary skills that are needed in areas such as aeronautics, such as in the town of Gander. We do have the workforce that can attract people, but we have to maintain that workforce. I look forward to supporting more EI reforms.