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House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and Northeastern Quebec AgreementRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2007 / 10 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual reports for 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03, for the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-465, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (identity of electors).

Mr. Speaker, we all remember the controversy caused by the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to allow voters to vote while wearing a veil. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I promised to introduce a bill to amend the Canada Elections Act.

This bill will require all voters to establish their identity, with their faces visible, before they can vote. The bill also provides that when a voter does not have photo identification with their name and address, the voter can provide two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer.

As we have mentioned, this situation is absurd and must be corrected through legislation. This is why we are introducing the bill.

In any case, I believe this bill will easily receive unanimous consent. I would remind the House that every party has indicated its support for this approach. Furthermore, the government announced this very intent in the Speech from the Throne.

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

National Defence ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-466, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (definition of “employer”) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

Mr. Speaker, we have a rather ridiculous situation right now where members serving in the Canadian reserves do not have a guarantee of job protection when they serve on a mission for Canada. My bill aims to rectify that.

When reservists serve on a Canadian mission, they should have a guarantee that their job will be protected and be there for them when they return to Canada.

Currently, three provinces have elected legislation, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, to protect jobs that are covered under provincial jurisdiction. My bill would change the federal legislation so that people who work in jobs under federal legislation would be covered.

Actually, the House proposed some changes in 1998 but, under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, those changes have never been implemented.

I push the government to ensure that our reservists who serve Canada have a guarantee that their jobs will be protected when they come back to this country.

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

Excise Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-467, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (medical equipment).

Mr. Speaker, charities are increasingly funding the acquisition of medical equipment that community hospitals need. In my riding alone, the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation's Back the CAT campaign raised $1.6 million for a CT scanner and the Whistler Health Care Foundation raised $1.3 million for a CT scanner. The Powell River Health Care Auxiliary has similar plans.

Canadians who give to our hospitals and help their neighbours get the medical care they need should not have to pay GST on these donations. The bill would ensure that the funds raised by our hospital foundations will go even further in helping to improve Canadians' health care.

I ask my colleagues from all parties to support the bill and help gets results for our hospitals and for Canadians.

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

Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-468, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change Act).

Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure and some regret that I present this bill. This was, of course, the clean air and climate change act that was rewritten by all members of this House.

I have the support of the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, who has helped create the full circle of this bill. He created the subcommittee, the standing committee that was able to address the flaws in the original government act, and worked with all members of Parliament from all sides of the House to create some progressive environmental legislation for this country in the absence of true leadership on this front, which Canadians are demanding on a daily basis. The world is demanding that Canada finally take its place on the stage and do its part in the battle against climate change.

It seems that, in coming full circle, we finally present the government with a way forward, a way in which it can no longer delay real action against climate change and can no longer tell Canadians that it cannot be done.

We in the New Democratic Party believe that this is an issue that must be addressed and that it can in fact be done.

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

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Mr. Doug Alderson of Peterborough, Ontario, who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he had promised never to tax income trusts but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision on income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise and to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Logging IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present to the House today.

The first petition involves restrictions on log exports from private lands. Private lands are regulated by the federal government and one-third of the land mass of Vancouver Island is actually a private land forest.

The petitioners note that of approximately one million acres of private forest land on central Vancouver Island, nearly 70% of the logs harvested are currently destined export. They are, therefore, calling upon the Government of Canada to implement a tariff on logs exported from private lands to level the playing field and ensure that Canadian mills, as well as secondary industries that rely on byproducts from processing, are given equal opportunity.

Rail TransportationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition involves the E & N railroad, that is the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railroad, which goes from Victoria up to Nanaimo in my riding and further up to Courtenay and Comox.

The petitioners are calling on the government to act speedily to keep the E & N railroad running. They note that the E & N is part of Vancouver Island's economy and its history and that it was a federal guarantee made as a precondition of British Columbia entering Confederation.

I would note, along with constituents, that we all have an interest in advancing green energy and transportation options. The petitioners are asking for help to keep the E & N railroad running.

Natural Health ProductsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, my final petition involves a private member's bill, Bill C-404, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (natural health products). There are 564 signatures on this petition from my own riding; Qualicum Beach; Parksville; Brandon, Manitoba; London, Ontario; and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Canadians are asking that support for the use of national health products is widely accepted in our society to promote health and wellness and improved access to natural products would allow Canadians to better manage their own health and relieve pressure on the health system.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to enact Bill C-404 and take the GST off natural products and make them more available to Canadians to help promote wellness and health.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine on a point of order.

Bill C-357—Employment Insurance ActPoint of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. As I am sure you recall, a few days ago, I informed you that the Bloc Québécois intended to respond to the Conservatives' request concerning Bill C-357. They called for a royal recommendation concerning the creation of an independent employment insurance fund. I will now raise a few points that will surely enable you to make an informed decision about this issue.

I would like to bring to your attention our argument against requiring a royal recommendation to pass Bill C-357, to create an independent employment insurance fund. That is why I am addressing you today.

At the outset, we recognize that the content of Bill C-357 is very similar to Bill C-280, as introduced in the 38th Parliament. It is clear that the Speaker's ruling on June 13, 2005, included a number of elements that were open to interpretation. The Conservatives are referring to those very elements to support their assertion that the bill now before us requires a royal recommendation. That is why we must take the time to review the Conservatives' arguments point by point.

First, the Conservatives claim that passing this bill would lead to additional expenses. That is totally false, because the current legislation already provides for fluctuations with respect to premiums and conditions of eligibility, which determine the fund's revenues and expenditures that go through the government's consolidated revenue fund. This bill is not designed to change these provisions, so it is not true that the bill would engender additional costs. Therefore, there is no basis for the claim that this bill would bring about “additional” or “new” expenditures.

The Conservatives are saying that the appropriation of public revenue will be altered depending on the circumstances and the way it is managed. The current legislation provides for a contribution to be deducted from every pay cheque and it is understood that this money will be used to ensure supplementary income to contributors who need it because of their own economic circumstances. The eligibility criteria for employment insurance and the premium rates that determine the revenue and expenses of the fund, will serve the same purpose and use the same mechanisms when this bill is enacted. I would add that a change to the eligibility criteria would still require a legislative change. Let us be clear, not only does this bill not require additional expenditures, but what is more, the purpose of and reason for these public funds will not change in any way.

We acknowledge, as the Speaker said on June 13, 2005, that it does involve transferring public funds to an independent employment insurance fund, but royal recommendation is not needed for two reasons. The Speaker himself said, on May 9, 2005, that:

The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill.

Although there will indeed be a transfer of revenue to an independent fund, the circumstances, manner and purposes by which the commission will set the premiums and manage the revenue will not change at all. Furthermore, the spirit of the current act will be better protected since the revenue generated by the premiums will no longer be used to serve interests other than those defined by the act, namely those of the workers. Using revenues that should go into the fund, but instead are taken into the consolidated revenue fund for purposes not listed in the act, will no longer be possible.

A royal recommendation would be necessary if the bill were seeking to withdraw revenue from the government's consolidated revenue fund to be used for purposes other than those described in the act. In this case, it is clear that the purpose of the bill will not alter anything in the current legislation. On the contrary, it will allow the spirit of the act to be respected and prevent the misappropriation of funds that the Liberals and Conservatives are known for.

Fourth, the argument cited on June 13, 2005, that the investment of public monies by the Commission represents new or different expenditures, must have workers seeing red.

The federal government continued to invest—or, in other words, spend—the public monies from the fund to pay down the Canadian debt, which violated the spirit of the law. It clearly did not act in the interests of workers, who watched these monies—that they, with their employers, had paid to ensure themselves against economic downturns—disappear. It was the government, not this bill, that invented a new purpose for the fund and its surpluses.

Finally, adding 13 commissioners will be financed by a small increase in expenses, which will no longer appear as an expenditure from the consolidated revenue fund, given that the Conservatives recognize that the employment insurance fund will no longer be a part of the consolidated revenue fund. Since the Conservatives no longer know how to oppose an idea that they supported in the past for purely populist considerations, today they are attempting to use procedural arguments to avoid openly declaring themselves against a bill that is necessary and that contributors have demanded for many years. Only their neo-conservative ideology, hidden behind a populist facade, can justify such deplorable actions.

With that, I conclude my presentation.

Bill C-357—Employment Insurance ActPoint of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his comments. I will most certainly take them into account, along with the others, when I rule on this bill.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your team a good session, and to welcome the new pages as they start their new jobs.

No one will be surprised if I speak specifically about justice. Overall, the Bloc Québécois was disappointed in the throne speech. Our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, clearly indicated our conditions and expectations.

We also spoke about the Kyoto protocol. We clearly wanted the government to confirm that it would follow through with the commitment we made when Kyoto was signed: to bring greenhouse gases down to their 1990 levels and then reduce them further still. We do not have a green government—this we know. This government is very irresponsible when it comes to the environment, and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has had many opportunities to speak about this.

We would also have liked the government to agree with the views of many important representatives of civil society and our fellow citizens, that Canada's mission in Afghanistan must end in 2009. Since the beginning of the mission we have been critical of the fact that there has not been a satisfactory balance of development assistance, international cooperation and military objectives.

Obviously we hope that attention will be focused on the entire question of forestry and the manufacturing sector. We know what hard times those sectors have experienced. Certainly we hope that supply management will also be discussed, for it is an extremely important issue in rural communities. And we hope that the government will eliminate the spending power in relation to matters under provincial jurisdiction. There have been calls for this for 50 years, and the Bloc Québécois is certainly not going to be satisfied with the government’s dishonest subterfuge.

With that introduction, we must now talk about the justice system. First, what an exercise in cosmetics this is, what an exercise in stage management! Watching the press conference given by the Minister of Justice, his colleague the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, we had the impression that we were attending a play by Molière, starring Tartuffe. We were given to think that since the Conservatives took power in 2006 the House of Commons has been the victim of obstruction when it comes to the justice system. We were also given to think that the government has been prevented from having its justice initiative passed.

And yet when we look a little closer, we see that since January 2006 the Conservative government has tabled 12 bills relating to the justice system. As we speak, six of those bills have received royal assent and have thus become law. Of those six bills that have become law, three were passed using what is called the fast-track procedure, with the unanimous consent of all leaders in the House of Commons.

So out of 12 bills, six have become law, and three of those were passed with the consent of all parties using the fast-track procedure; four reached the Senate, at first, second and third reading, while both in the House and in committee there were only two bills remaining. It has to be said that in parliamentary history there have been more vigorous examples of obstruction. When six bills receive royal assent, four are being considered in the Senate and only two are left, you cannot, in all honesty, appear at a press conference and say that you have been unable to get your bills passed.

For the benefit of our constituents, I will mention the bills that were passed.

First, there was Bill C-9, on conditional sentences. It is true that we did propose some amendments. It is our job to do that. We are a responsible opposition. What is the role of the opposition? It is to ensure that bill are improved and made as perfect as possible. We would be completely irresponsible if we did not do our work. As far as the bill on conditional sentences is concerned, the government ultimately wanted to do away with that option for judges and we highlighted that.

Bill C-17, which dealt with judges’ salaries, was also passed, followed by Bill C-18, a rather technical bill on DNA data banks. Moreover, in tribute to our unfortunately deceased colleague, Bill C-19, which creates a new offence under the Criminal Code with regard to street racing, was passed unanimously.

Two other bills were passed within 48 hours, which is an indication of the cooperation among opposition parties. One of those two was introduced by the Bloc Québécois, because of incidents of piracy, the unauthorized use of camcorders to record movies in theatres, particularly in Montreal. The other bill dealt with the signing by Canada of an international convention to fight organized crime.

Four other bills were being dealt with in the Senate, or I should say, “the other place.” There was, first, Bill C-10, concerning minimum penalties for offences involving firearms.

Next, there was Bill C-22, which dealt with the age of protection under the Criminal Code. Some of my colleagues followed that subject with a great deal of interest. The Bloc Québécois had asked for a five-year proximity clause. The Bill was before the Senate. In spite of some questions, our position was relatively favourable. The bill had been amended in committee.

Then there was Bill C-23, somewhat technical, on the language of juries and the accused.

I do not want to forget to say, Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing the time allotted to me with the likeable and charming member for Sherbrooke.

Finally, Bill C-35 on reversing the onus of proof was also passed. Some television journalists described this bill as reversing the onus of proof for parole. However, the bill was not about parole but about pre-trial bail hearings.

There were two bills remaining about which we had and still have questions and amendments to propose.

The first deals with drug-impaired driving. We are in favour of the new provision in the bill requiring individuals to take sobriety tests. Peace officers and police could stop people who are driving erratically under the influence of drugs. We were in favour of certain provisions to require people to submit to sobriety tests.

We amended the bill however because, as unlikely as it might seem, it would have been irresponsible to pass this Conservative bill without any amendments. Imagine someone driving along in his car together with a friend. They drive down the road—let us say the Trans-Canada highway, for example, to please some of my colleagues here—and it turns out that the friend, who is driving, has marijuana in his pockets or his luggage. If we had passed this bill, the car owner would have been held liable. That did not seem responsible to us or legally sound.

There was also another bill about which we had a lot of questions. Unfortunately though, I have only a minute left and so I am going to proceed to my conclusion and allow the hon. member for Sherbrooke to take over.

We are going to take our work in committee very seriously. We will not allow ourselves to be dictated to by the government which, in a fit of authoritarianism, might demand that the opposition propose no amendments to Bill C-2.

We will amend Bill C-2 if we think that is the direction in which the testimony we hear is taking us. As always, I can assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will act in a serious, responsible, reasoned way. We would also like to remind the House of the justice proposals we made last June.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, because of time constraints, I did not hear my eminent colleague talk about this last bill, about which we had serious reservations. I would like him to give us some more information about it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my young colleague. If I am not mistaken, he is the youngest member of Parliament from Quebec. The bill he is referring to concerns dangerous offenders.

For 50 years, the Criminal Code has contained provisions we have not challenged. We agree that some people are extremely violent and present such a high risk of reoffending that they must be declared dangerous offenders. People who are declared dangerous offenders can receive indeterminate prison sentences and are not eligible for parole for seven years.

The problem with the new Bill C-2, has to do with the list of 22 offences. Some of them, such as incest or attempted murder, are very serious, but others such as assault need some explanation. For instance, if my dear colleague and I were to have a fight—it would not last very long—that would constitute assault.

We are not downplaying assault, but we want to know why it is on the list of 22 offences. After an offender has committed three offences on the list, automatic sentencing applies. We question whether this is the right way to assess how dangerous an offender is.

This does not mean that we will vote against the bill, no more than it means we will vote in favour of the bill. What it means is that we have some serious work ahead of us, in committee.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to this member. I do not speak his mother tongue, but I get the impression that his speeches are always very fluent and very well delivered, and of course our interpreters do a fine job as well

I, too, would like to ask him about the member's response to this question vis-à-vis the reverse onus. I am exasperated when I hear this member and other members in the House, members from the Liberals and sometimes also from the NDP, decrying this. Somehow they feel it is unfair to people because they are being called guilty instead of being called innocent until proven guilty.

Is it not true that if one has been charged and convicted of serious crimes such as aiming a gun at a person, pulling the trigger and missing, not once but twice or three times, it really has been the accused himself who has proven he is a dangerous offender? The bill the member is talking about merely proposed that at this stage this individual be declared what he has already proven himself to be, that is, a dangerous offender. The reverse onus actually is a way out, whereby this person gets yet another chance in which he can say, “I am not a dangerous offender and here is the proof”. It gives him that opportunity.

Do we not have, as a government and as the enforcers of the law in this country, the obligation to put away people who just cannot learn after one, after two and after three times?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, what has come across only too well is my hon. colleague's understanding.

I will therefore try to be very clear. First of all, the American states that tried this system of reverse onus later reversed their decision.

Why? Because in matters of justice, when we set out to imprison someone indefinitely—I hope the interpreter will translate this clearly: the result of being declared a dangerous offender is indefinite incarceration—this is not seen as automatic sentencing.

We agree that the Criminal Code should contain provisions for declaring someone a dangerous offender. Now, maybe after just one offence, an individual might have to be declared a dangerous offender. Perhaps three offences are not needed. It is possible, at this time, for a psychiatrist to be called by the Crown in order to testify, after one offence, that the individual should be declared a dangerous offender.

The problem is that, when his colleague, the Minister of Justice, appeared before the parliamentary committee, he was unable to explain to us why the system is not working, why we should modify the system and resort to automatic sentencing after three offences.

We will have the opportunity to listen to the minister again during our work on Bill C-2 and I hope his explanations will be clearer this time than when he first appeared.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak with regard to the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

The Bloc Québécois was quick to set out what the throne speech should contain. Even though this has probably been done many times before, for the benefit of the voters who are watching us on the parliamentary channel—I imagine there are a few million people watching this morning—we should give a bit of background again and tell people what may have inspired this throne speech.

Thirty-one of the 126 Conservative members used to be Reformers, and eight of the 32 cabinet members were as well. That gives us some idea of the thinking behind this throne speech.

The Bloc's demands were very clear on Afghanistan, federal spending power, measures to address the forestry crisis, meeting Kyoto commitments and commitments to Quebec, and supply management. Of course, there were many other elements, which my colleague from Hochelaga mentioned previously, including justice. Important issues still have to be discussed in this House, and I know he will do a good job and introduce important improvements to the bill.

The government did not address any of the Bloc's five priorities. Although we demanded a withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2009, the government set the date at 2011, after creating a commission to analyze the situation and make recommendations to the government.

Federal spending power has by no means been eliminated. Instead, the government is placing limits on federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. We were clear on this. Federal spending power had to be eliminated, and in the event the government invested in areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, they had to have the right to opt out of these programs with full compensation.

We also care about respecting our Kyoto commitments. The government's sanctimonious attempts to make us believe that it is an ardent crusader in the fight against greenhouse gases and for clean air are green indeed, but they are more often the inexpert sort of green than the environmentally friendly kind. We are a long way from achieving the goals that we must reach as soon as possible given the current state of our air quality and the greenhouse gases that are threatening the entire planet.

I would like to discuss measures to address the crisis in the forestry industry and supply management.

The crisis in the forestry industry has been going on for a long time. The Conservative government—which has done no better than its Liberal counterpart—resolved the softwood lumber crisis in a way that was bad for the industry and for workers. The Bloc Québécois has demanded that the government do something to help the forestry industry and, especially, forestry workers.

In the Speech from the Throne, the government said that it was concerned about the crisis, but it offered nothing concrete to help revive the industry or to help older workers who have been laid off. I would like to read the following excerpt from the throne speech.

Our Government will stand up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors including forestry, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism are facing challenges. Our Government has taken action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions and will continue to do so in the next session.

When I hear that “it will continue to do so in the next session”, knowing that 130,000 jobs have been lost in Quebec in the manufacturing sector since 2003—of which 65,000 since the Conservatives came to power—I find unfortunately that the fears of Quebec and Canadian workers are justified with regard to even greater job losses in the future than what we have already experienced.

With regard to the manufacturing sector, I would like to return to the attitude of the Minister of International Trade, who is currently negotiating 28 free trade agreements with various countries. He is rushing into 28 agreements when no study or analysis of the impact on Quebec and Canadian industries has been carried out—nothing that was not minor or cursory. Consequently, we are unaware of the potential impact on manufacturing jobs in Quebec and Canada.

We know very well that the Minister of International Trade supports purchasing goods at the lowest cost for our companies. Therefore, he supports importing to supply Canadian companies. This also has a direct impact on the Canadian suppliers of the same types of goods. This will result in greater job losses.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville tabled Bill C-411 to establish more specific and pertinent criteria for preventing, among other things, dumping by various countries. In the meantime, our Minister of International Trade is attempting to negotiate, piecemeal, quickly and without any analysis, all sorts of free trade agreements with other countries. That gives rise to concern, as voiced by the government itself in the throne speech, that the situation will further deteriorate rather than improve.

Finally, there is supply management. It is obviously an important aspect which has an impact on the regions, in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing, because of the crises.

We know full well that the regions are important components in the development of a country—Quebec and Canada as well—and in the stability of agriculture, as well as of employment in the manufacturing sector.

As for agriculture, let us remember that in the past few months, the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have made many statements that betray the government's true intentions. Even if, in the throne speech, the government seems to be in favour of maintaining supply management, contradictory comments have been made. The Minister of International Trade even said that one day supply management would have to come to an end. The former Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food suggested that supply managed farmers prevented the government from properly defending the interests of Canadians at the WTO, and that they should consider compromising.

So it is clear that none of the Bloc's five demands was satisfied. And even if there seems to be an interest in supply management, the evidence is there and the comments have been made. The agricultural community will not be able to survive with policies like the ones this government could develop.

In conclusion, supply management is very important, as is the manufacturing industry. But all the other issues brought up by the Bloc Québécois in speeches and debates are important as well.

So, for these five main reasons—the demands I mentioned earlier—and for a number of other reasons that were brought up in this House, we ask the Liberal Party to reconsider its position, to not give in, to not go against its beliefs and to give the Conservative government a chance to go back to the drawing board.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments in his speech today.

The hon. member and I sat on the international trade committee together in the last session. We had some very interesting discussions. We learned many interesting facts, some of which the hon. member maybe did not portray in the best light, regarding some of the reflections from witnesses who talked about what this new government has done to support the economy, to grow the economy and to encourage trade.

I take exception to some of the member's comments. Certainly some jobs have been lost in many of the sectors, and we empathize with those folks who have lost their jobs. However, we have to look at the overall numbers. Since this government took power, there have been 590,000 new jobs created and 80% of those new jobs are high paying jobs.

Canadians are very adaptable. They do not necessarily have to move to find these jobs. They have gone out and found these jobs. That is a positive. They think that this government is doing a great job of providing new economic growth for them. In the last year alone, 280,000 new jobs have been created.

I realize in the hon. member's region there have been some job losses. We have had this discussion. However, is there not a reflection in the jobs that have been created that they actually are compensating for some of the lost jobs?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have to look beyond the job creation numbers. On a political level, the Conservatives are telling us not to look at the polls but at what is happening on the ground. However, when we see statistics on the unemployment rate, we have to be equally careful not to always accept the figures we are given as gospel truth, since determining the unemployment rate and conducting political polls are done by a similar process and methodology.

Indeed, jobs have been created, but what kind of jobs? We have to make a distinction between the manufacturing world in Quebec and that in the rest of Canada. It is absolutely not the same thing. They do not compare. Quebec's economic growth is largely geared toward exports. The manufacturing world is rather seriously affected by the Conservative government's international trade policies.

In my opinion, the ease with which the Conservative government enters into free trade agreements with other countries, without really weighing the consequences to the manufacturing industry, causes significant job losses: since 2003, almost 130,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing. These jobs may have been replaced, but not with jobs of the same quality with the same income for the workers. We see more workers slipping into poverty.

In our society we look at the unemployment rate from time to time and we say that everything is going well since the rate is steady or going down. Nevertheless, people are getting poorer. We have to do everything we can to try to keep our manufacturing jobs. We have to invest in research and development. We have to encourage innovation and not just settle for creating indirect service jobs that often pay minimum wage. We have lost a great deal of good salaries that helped people get out of poverty, a poverty they are quietly slipping back into with Canada's trade policies.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Macleod, which was once my home.

I am proud to stand here today to talk about one of the five priorities that our government set out in last week's Speech from the Throne.

As was laid out in the speech, this is a time of economic uncertainty and volatility in the wider world, and while the economic fundamentals of Canada continue to be strong, our country is not immune from this turbulence. The key to getting through this kind of turbulence is coming out in a strong and prosperous way and making sure that we get the economic picture right. This is critical.

We are certainly living in dynamic economic times. Technology is changing faster than ever and there is no slowdown in sight. The power of computers doubles every 18 months and bandwidth is expanding even faster.

Just when we have finally figured out our BlackBerries, we are being offered the next generation of wireless devices we can use to access more information faster than we could ever have imagined. All of this is already here, literally at our fingertips.

Amid this fast-paced change, intense global pressure is now redefining how businesses must compete. As a result, economic success is judged by different standards than it was even 10 years ago because with the click of a mouse, billions of dollars can move around the globe.

As it stands, Canada is well positioned to be successful. Our economy is strong, growth continues to rise, unemployment is low, and taxes are declining.

Many of our industries are in excellent shape. Our aerospace industry is the fifth largest in the world. Our biotechnology sector ranks third in terms of the number of firms. Our automotive industry stands among the best in the world and our performance in oil and gas extraction is unequalled the world over.

Despite all this, there is no doubt that Canada is still facing economic challenges and that we must be vigilant if we are to be able to stand up to global economic pressures. As I said, part of the solution lies in having a clear understanding of the overall situation. It is the government’s responsibility to do that.

Since coming to office, our government has taken that responsibility seriously. We have worked hard at creating the right economic climate, cutting taxes, reducing the federal debt, investing in education, improving the regulatory environment. In other words, we have ensured that the best conditions for the private sector exist so that the private sector may flourish, so that it may do what it does best, which is to create jobs for Canadians and prosperity.

This fall, the Minister of Finance will present an economic and financial update that will provide information on the next steps in the Advantage Canada process, along with the five priorities in the Speech from the Throne.

Advantage Canada, the government’s long term economic plan, is based on sound fiscal management and is intended to create five advantages for Canada that will help individuals to improve their quality of life and help businesses to succeed on the global scene.

First is a tax advantage establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment anywhere in the G-7. Second is a fiscal advantage eliminating Canada's total government net debt within a generation. Third is an entrepreneurial advantage reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape. Fourth is a knowledge advantage developing the best educated, most skilled and flexible workforce in the world.

And the fifth advantage, an infrastructure advantage, will create modern, world-class roads, bridges and ports to ensure the seamless flow of people, goods and services.

In providing effective economic leadership, the government has made great strides, but we realize that more needs to be done. The Speech from the Throne gives us a clear path to follow in moving toward Canada's goals and economic objectives.

We believe that the taxes Canadians pay are still too high. Since we came to power, we have implemented or announced income tax and other tax reductions of over $37 billion for individuals and families, and reductions of more than $3.5 billion for businesses. But we have to cut taxes even farther.

That is why we will be presenting a long term plan for broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families, one that will include keeping our promise to cut the GST again.

We know it is the government's role to set the right conditions for entrepreneurs to succeed and to help create the ideal climate in Canada. In this sense, the Prime Minister released the national strategy on science and technology in May and invested $1.9 billion in budget 2007 to support new science and technology policies, programs and priorities.

Canadians expect all levels of government to cooperate in creating a more vigorous economy. The government of Canada is firmly resolved to work together with the provinces and territories to eliminate barriers to domestic trade. We will be considering ways of using the federal power to regulate trade and commerce to improve the way our economic union works, for the benefit of all Canadians.

Our government is aware also of the need for copyright reform and that this is essential to ensuring Canada remains competitive. We will introduce legislation in the next few months that will provide legal measures for rights holders, clarify the rules relating to copyright as they apply to Internet service providers, address the educational and research use of copyrighted materials, and address consumer interests.

We will launch our building Canada plan, the largest investment in Canadian infrastructure in half a century. The result will be safer roads and bridges, more competitive businesses and, indeed, a better quality of life for all Canadians.

Our success as a trading nation relies in part on modern and efficient transportation systems. This is indeed a primary responsibility of government. Through the building Canada plan, we are investing in our transportation and trade hubs, including the Windsor-Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways.

It is clear that what the government has put forward in the throne speech has received wide acclaim from Canadian business leaders. Today in the National Post Carrie Tait noted that Canadian business leaders praised this particular throne speech, with 71% of business leaders from small and medium-sized businesses considering this a great road forward for the country. Of the people surveyed, 90% support the Prime Minister's plan to cut taxes for individuals and families. Only 5% found these measures to be undesirable.

That is an incredible vote of confidence. Of the people surveyed, 88% are in strong support of reducing interprovincial trade barriers. As well, a majority of those polled are strongly in favour of the proposed plan to reduce the GST to 5% from 6%.

And by providing economic leadership, our government will also be standing up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors such as forestry, manufacturing and tourism all have challenges that must be met. The fluctuation in the Canadian dollar in recent years is one of the factors causing problems for Canada’s traditional industries. While our government has already taken steps to assist Canada’s traditional industries, we will be doing more. Our long term plan of broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families will provide significant and timely assistance for those industries.

The agricultural sector will benefit from our government's promotion of biofuels and the new growing forward agricultural framework.

In sum, this is an excellent throne speech. Canadians can trust that the government will provide them with continued leadership to ensure continued prosperity and a quality of life unequalled anywhere in the world.