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House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East and represent them in this debate of Bill C-28, an omnibus bill that would implement certain portions of budget 2007 and the recent economic statement.

In particular, the bill covers personal income tax rates, corporate tax rates, interest deductibility, and the GST. Therefore, I would like to begin with the so-called personal income tax cuts announced in the October 2007 economic statement.

These cuts are no surprise to my colleagues in the Liberal caucus because they were contained in the last Liberal budget in 2005. The Liberal budget proposed to lower the personal income tax rate for those who earned the least in society from 15.5% to 15%. The effect would be to take 20,000 low income Canadians off the tax rolls and deliver tax relief where it is needed most.

Lo and behold, when the Conservatives assumed office, their first budget eliminated these tax measures. What did the government do instead? It increased the personal income tax rate from 15% to 15.5% and claimed it was reducing income tax.

Canadians are not foolish. They understood this.

Instead of giving a personal income tax cut, the government cut the GST by 1%.

Let us look at what effect this Conservative budget had on average Canadians in 2006.

For a single-income taxpayer earning $35,000 a year, the Conservatives increased his or her personal income tax by $122, so that the same person could then save a penny on a cup of coffee by the GST cut. But the devastating impact is that if the personal tax rate is increased so that a person is paying $122 more, that person would need to earn $12,200 more in order to get the same benefit in a GST cut.

The Conservatives were making no sense. They were not helping the people that we are here to help, the very low income earners.

This GST cut makes absolutely no sense. Most economists at that time agreed that the first Conservative budget suffered from a certain lack of fiscal sense.

Now, after almost two years, the Conservatives still suffer from confused priorities. The October economic statement effectively restores the Liberal tax cuts announced in 2005, yet the finance minister again refused the advice of leading economists and once again implemented a 1% reduction in the GST.

Let us be clear on this. The reason why a personal income tax cut makes more sense than a reduction in GST is quite simple. Canadians would far prefer a larger paycheque over a minuscule cut to the GST.

The GST is a consumption tax. I have already given one example. Another is that a Canadian who earns $300,000 and buys goods valued at that amount would benefit from probably a $3,000 saving. However, a person who does not earn that amount of money and wants to have a $300 benefit from a GST cut actually would have to spend $30,000, and that does not even guarantee anything. This really impacts low income earners.

The Conservatives could have gone a lot further with personal income tax cuts, yet they have chosen to squander another opportunity. Canadians would benefit if the Conservatives reduced personal income taxes.

There have been a lot of deputations by economists, poverty groups, community groups and tax groups. They all state that the consumption tax is not a good economic strategy. As well, the GST rate reduction represents a significant loss of federal tax income, which will have an impact on our fiscal future.

Therefore, the question is very simple: why not reinvest the approximately $12 billion in lost GST revenue in municipal infrastructure?

I recently met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is warning us that our crumbling infrastructure, most of it constructed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, must be addressed now. The FCM estimates that we currently face a $123 billion infrastructure deficit across the whole country.

Without a significant federal investment, we will face a catastrophic loss of critical infrastructure at a significant cost to the taxpayer. As my mother always used to say, a stitch in time saves nine, and this is why it is very important to have a strategy now rather than wait to replace the whole of our capital works.

The FCM recommends that we adopt a national strategy to address this deficit. We in the Liberal Party were in the forefront of the cities and communities agenda and we believe that cities and communities must have stable and predictable long term funding.

The cities and communities agenda put forth by the Liberal government had municipalities at the table with the federal government and the provinces in order to address this problem. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are choosing to ignore this advice at the expense of our future.

Let us now turn to corporate taxes. The previous Liberal government reduced the federal corporate tax rate from 28% to 19%. The Conservatives are now talking about taking a bold step by further reducing the tax rate to 18.5% by 2011.

It is clear that Canadian firms need a corporate advantage on the international stage. That is why the Liberals argue for significantly lower corporate tax rates in order to compete at the global level.

That therefore brings me to another curious misstep by the Conservatives with respect to interest deductibility. Budget 2007, the second Conservative budget, contained what the former chairman of the Canadian Tax Foundation, Allan Lanthier, called “the single most misguided policy” to come “out of Ottawa in 35 years”.

I am not referring to the disaster caused by the Conservatives in the income trust sector in October 2006. Rather, I am referring to the tax measure tucked away on page 242 of budget 2007 regarding interest deductibility and foreign affiliates. It would have essentially thrown a major hurdle in front of Canadian firms that want to make foreign acquisitions by removing the interest deductibility from money borrowed to carry out those transactions.

While the Conservatives may fancy themselves as the party of free enterprise, the fact is that the finance minister is no longer a welcome face on Bay Street, nor is he any longer considered a friend of industry in Canada.

Tom d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers commented that the proposed policy “may seriously undermine the competitiveness of Canada's homegrown champions--the companies that are most active and most successful in building global businesses from head offices” in Canada.

What the finance minister called a tax loophole is actually a competitive edge for Canadian firms to compete globally on an even playing field with firms enjoying similar tax measures in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Therefore, it was beyond belief why the minister was so determined to hobble the Canadian economy. According to tax specialist Neal Armstrong: “it is typical for a Canadian parent company to arrange most of its borrowing in Canada, then use the funds to invest in foreign acquisitions”.

Yet the Conservatives wanted to take this tool away from business. This policy proposal made no sense whatsoever. As Mr. Armstrong pointed out, the result is that “Canadian banks will lose the income from those loans, and the government in turn will lose the tax benefit from that income”.

Mr. Armstrong went on to say “that doesn't do us any good, because the bank in a foreign country isn't paying any [Canadian] tax”.

Tax specialist Karen Atkinson predicted that many companies would have had to “jump through hoops” to create financing structures, calling the finance minister's proposal a “make-work project” for lawyers and accountants.

Fortunately, thanks to a determined effort by the Liberal caucus, and especially the work done by my colleague, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, the finance minister was forced to flip-flop on this issue and order a full retreat last May.

The finance minister was compelled to announce that interest deductibility would be preserved for Canadian companies investing abroad and that the policy would now target so-called double-dippers, or those companies that claim the same deduction in multiple jurisdictions.

Again, this confused leadership at the Department of Finance is not appreciated by the business community in this country. This is the same minister that brought on the income trust debacle and Canadians have had enough.

In conclusion, one has to wonder why the Conservatives so desperately lack an economic vision for the country.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, on Bill C-28, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007. Other economic statements have also been included in this bill.

I will explain the Bloc Québécois position. But I will start by saying that this bill implements the economic statement tabled in October 2007, which does not meet the five priorities of the Bloc Québécois. That is why we will vote against Bill C-28. As the House will recall, the Bloc Québécois strongly defended the interests of Quebeckers and expected that, with the 2007 budget, the federal government would eliminate the federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions. We were expecting direct assistance to resolve the manufacturing crisis, and that was not announced. We also wanted to see the necessary investments to help the most disadvantaged. Once again, there was nothing in this regard.

What we saw in the economic statement was that the oil companies obtained the lion's share and benefited from corporate tax reductions included in the bill, while Quebec manufacturing firms, which are not turning a profit, did not. It is quite something to see the Conservative members, even those from Quebec, rise in this House to say that they have helped the manufacturing and forestry industries by lowering taxes. To take advantage of tax cuts, you have to make a profit. When you do not make money there are no tax reductions and you do not benefit from the measures announced by the government.

The government often claims that it is creating conditions that are favourable to the development of industry. In the manufacturing and forestry sectors, whatever favourable conditions that the federal government may create will never be able to stem the crisis, which has been catastrophic for Quebec as well as Ontario, among others. There is a good reason why the premiers of Quebec and Ontario asked to meet with the Prime Minister, which they did yesterday.

Once again, the Conservative government is trying to buy time for there to be more closures and consolidations, so that when it comes time to help businesses, the government will have to help as few businesses as possible. This Conservative approach to governing, giving the market free rein, is killing a big part of Quebec's economy in the forestry and manufacturing sectors, among others.

This bill does not include any measures to help the manufacturing sector, which is in full crisis, as I was saying, nor the forestry sector. Furthermore, it abandons the least fortunate seniors and does not include any provisions for full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement. It is unbelievable. As hon. members know, to receive the guaranteed income supplement, seniors have to apply for it. It is not automatic. Even though the government has our tax return and is aware of all our income and of our financial situation, it still has not understood that those who do not reach a certain level of income should automatically receive the guaranteed income supplement. Again, why require seniors to apply for it? Because some of them do not even realize it exists. They are being kept in the dark. In Quebec, there are still 40,000 people who are entitled to it who did not receive it because they did not apply.

Year after year, the Bloc Québécois has been working hard to try to make members of the government understand that. All they have to do is listen. There is nothing hard about it. It is time for them to stop saying they have the power. It is time for them to use that power.

I am very glad I am part of a political party that will never be in power in this House. That way I can defend the interests of my constituents without having to defend the interests of my party. Such is the reality for Bloc Québécois members of Parliament. We are here to defend the interests of the people of Quebec. I stand up every day in this House knowing that I am defending the interests of Quebeckers, which is not the case for my colleagues in the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party or the NDP.

They have to defend the interest of their party because they are in power or might be some day, because they are hoping to join cabinet some day or because they are look forward to getting a position and pursuing a career in politics. Therein lies the problem. That is why they do not listen to their constituents.

That is why, once again, in this House, they failed or refused to understand that there is simply no need to have seniors fill out forms to get the guaranteed income supplement. Anyone 65 and over who files an income tax return and whose income is lower than the prescribed level should automatically qualify for the guaranteed income supplement. Then, we would not have to denounce the fact that 40,000 Quebeckers are still not receiving it.

There is worse. The Bloc Québécois launched an operation to locate those who were entitled to the GIS but were not receiving it. More than half of them have been located. That is one of the efforts made by the Bloc Québécois for all these people among the most disadvantaged. When they apply for the supplement, retroactive payment is limited to 12 months. That is the harsh reality.

Cases have come to our attention. For example, CBC/Radio-Canada reported the case of a Toronto woman who explained that, having reached a ripe old age, she should have been receiving the guaranteed income supplement for a number of years. Had full retroactivity been applied, she would have received $12,000. Unfortunately, she did not get it. She only got what was allowed by law. But whenever the federal government is owed money, we can be certain that it will go back much farther, all the way back to the origin of the debt, and will not limit itself to a 12 month period. There is a double standard. If the government owes us money, it goes back 12 months, but if we owe the government money, it will go back to the day when we made a mistake. That is the Conservatives' policy.

What is surprising is that when the Conservative Party was in opposition and aspiring to power, it supported a Bloc Québécois motion calling for full retroactivity. When it came to power, however, it decided to do the opposite. That is hard. I hope that the Quebeckers who are watching understand that there is a difference between a member who wants to take action and a member who takes action. We in the Bloc Québécois always act in the interests of Quebeckers, every time we rise in this House.

In addition, Bill C-28 does not include any measures or any older worker assistance program like the famous POWA, for those who remember it. In 1996, the Liberal government put an end to that program. This was also when the government decided that the employment insurance fund would be made up solely of employer and employee contributions. Consequently, in 1996, after the Liberals put an end to the POWA and other programs, a major decision was made in this House that employers and employees would pay the whole shot when it came to employment insurance and that the government would contribute nothing.

Since that decision was made, the federal government has pocketed $54 billion. That is what actually happened. The government decided that the employment insurance fund did not exist, but was part of the government's consolidated revenue fund. The government decided that surplus employer and employee contributions, which have amounted to $54 billion since 1996, would be applied to other expenses. The government has paid down the debt and done lots of things, except reinvest this money where workers need it. Once again, this is the way the Liberals and Conservatives govern: they take money from the poor so that they can give tax credits and tax breaks to big businesses like the oil companies, as they have done in this budget. That is how things work.

The program for older worker adjustment targeted men and women over 55 who were losing their jobs and gave them a decent income until they reached retirement age.

It is a program that might have cost about $700 million, that had been evaluated and that could have been paid for from the employment insurance fund; a fund that year in and year out has a surplus of between $1.5 and $2 billion. The Conservative government lowered premiums and got themselves some good press with that. Every week, every two weeks or month, they give back pennies, peanuts, on the salaries of workers. No employee has even noticed this reduction in employment insurance premiums announced by the Conservatives.

However, one thing is certain. The people who lost their jobs in the forestry and manufacturing sectors, and who were 55 or older, know how much a support program for older workers could have helped them toward a decent retirement. They devoted 25, 30, or 35 years of their lives to the companies that were forced to close their doors.

The rise of the Canadian dollar is a support program or a nuisance program that nobody ever asked for. The workers are suffering from it and, once again, the government talks about the free market. Well, the free market is causing the loss of jobs in Quebec—a great many jobs in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. The government could have helped workers who are 55 or older and who lost their jobs. They could have benefited from a support program until age 65 but the government said “No.” Even though surpluses are piling up in the employment insurance fund, they tell us there are none. People are making profits because the Conservatives understand profit and loss better. The Conservatives give assistance to companies that are making profits and they take the profits from the employment insurance fund to pay down the national debt; but they do not help those who need help most. That is the outcome of Bill C-28 and it is another reason why we are against it.

What is more, the bill enhances a special agreement that unfairly benefits Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. That agreement cuts the heart out of the equalization program and puts Quebec at a disadvantage. The Quebeckers, and even the Canadians, who are listening to us must understand that this program had been promised to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in relation to oil royalties. Because of the Hibernia project, the Liberal government had promised an amount of money in compensation related to oil production. That compensation should never have existed at the time when that was decided. Once again, it was a matter of election promises.

What do people do to get into power? They do things that they should never do; because the Hibernia debt was not paid off. It should never be forgotten, and I could tell the whole story, but the fact is that Hibernia was paid for with money from Quebeckers and Canadians. More or less, Quebeckers paid 25% of the total cost of Hibernia. That is the reality.

On the other hand, in Quebec, the cost of developing hydroelectricity was paid for in full by Quebeckers through the various taxes, income tax and royalties and charges paid to Hydro-Québec. Yet, there has never been any compensation for Quebec. It is always a double standard when it comes to Quebec, and not just once. That is one reason why many people see Quebec sovereignty as the solution. However, as long as we are still in this country, we must all play by the rules.

Equalization is guaranteed under their Canadian Constitution and takes into account the provinces' relative wealth and poverty. Under the accord with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, oil revenues will not be counted as wealth and will not be part of the equalization formula. This bill would implement the accord, thereby letting provinces that benefited from federal investment—25% of which came from Quebec—benefit from Hibernia as well. They want to have their cake and eat it too, and they want it à la mode to boot.

Not taking oil revenues into account skews the numbers used to determine equalization payments, restore fiscal balance and calculate the amount of money that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland will collect. These provinces are considered to be less wealthy than they really are, which results in lower equalization payments for those provinces that are poor. The very nature of the federal government means that Quebec benefits from equalization.

When I witnessed the closing of the only automobile assembly plant in Boisbriand, Quebec, I understood.

Because of our hydroelectric development—which, I repeat, was paid for entirely by Quebeckers—Quebec is one of the world's largest producers of aluminum and magnesium. About 65% of these resources are used in automobile manufacturing. Yet despite the fact that Quebec is a major mineral producer, there are no automobile manufacturing plants in the province. Everything is concentrated in Ontario. That is the reality of the situation.

When I entered politics in 2000, I was in Mirabel and Prime Minister Chrétien was in power. During the election campaign, he said that Ontario had the auto industry and Quebec had the aerospace industry. When I came to Parliament, Quebec had 60% of Canada's aerospace industry. This year, just 51% of Canada's aerospace manufacturing happened in Quebec.

The Conservatives are always trying to make Quebec smaller. It is even more surprising to see MPs from Quebec take part in these decisions. They do it unknowingly and innocently, but they nonetheless participate every day in these decisions to try to chip away at Quebec. We see that in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Help? Conservatives do not help. Conservatives allow the free market to reign. They allow companies to merge. They allow plants to close in our villages. That is what Conservative MPs do every day in this House. Now they are politely asking the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Finance if there will be an aid program. The Minister of Industry then stands up in this House and says they have just provided one and that they created the economic environment that will make industry flourish in Canada.

The dollar has never been so high. It has never been so difficult for our exporters to sell abroad. The softwood lumber crisis still has not been resolved. We end up with this forestry crisis on the heels of the softwood lumber crisis that affects the two biggest provinces in Canada, Quebec and Ontario. Again, according to the Conservatives, we should let the market reign, let our constituents lose their jobs in their regions and we should definitely not create an aid program for older workers or help them get to retirement with dignity. That is the Conservative philosophy.

Is that how MPs from Quebec get elected under the Conservative banner? I am not here to judge what they do and how they do it. They probably want to advance their careers and that is up to them. But that is not the choice I made. I could have made a career in a party in power, but that is not what I was interested in. I was interested in standing up in this House every day to defend the interests of my constituents. That is the only goal of every Bloc Québécois MP in this House, to stand up every day to defend the interests of Quebeckers.

That is why since 1993 there has been a Bloc Québécois majority of members in this House. Quebeckers have understood. In the next election campaign, the same thing will happen again. Everyone is trying to understand why. It is because Quebec is probably the only province that understands they have to elect members to stand up for their interests, and not members to defend their party’s interests to the public. This reflects how Quebec has developed, having always been in the forefront in Canada when it comes to everything having to do with assistance programs or anything else.

Quebec is the place in North America that does the best job of sharing the wealth among the people who live there. We are happy about that, we are proud of it, but we are not proud to see what the rest of Canada is doing in many areas. We are even less proud that there are Quebec members who belong to the Conservative Party and who rise to vote against Bloc Québécois proposals, when all the Bloc Québécois wants to do, every day, is help their fellow citizens. Obvious examples can be seen here in this House. We have never shied away from this work.

That is why we oppose Bill C-28. As long as the bills introduced by the Conservative government are of no benefit to people who are unemployed and workers in the forestry and manufacturing industries, we will oppose them.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, no wonder Canada's productivity has dropped and keeps dropping. It is not going anywhere fast. In 1983-84, post-secondary education funding, in terms of investment, was about .56% of all the funding given in all of the grant areas. By 1993-94 it was .41% of GDP and in 2007 has dropped to .22% of GDP. No wonder our productivity is not going anywhere fast.

In terms of the environment, I noticed that this budget actually continues to promote the government's failed clean air act targets and includes the inadequate 2050 target. This works out to be a 31% reduction below 1990 levels when the House has been talking about an 80% reduction. Is that something the member can support?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question gives me an opportunity to explain the following to my NDP colleague. She was talking about the environment. We must not forget that from 1970 to 1999, with the consent of the NDP, the federal government spent $66 billion on fossil fuels. The federal government, which is as centralist as the NDP could wish for, spent money on Hibernia, 25% of which belonged to Quebeckers. That is the reality.

We all support that. But no one has ever recognized that in Quebec, the energy industry has been developed without any contribution from the federal government: zero, zilch, nada. It does not make us happy to say that. On the contrary, it hurts, for the good and simple reason that it was the efforts of Quebeckers that once again went into developing our own energy, while the rest of Canada, with the support of the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, decided to spend $66 billion on fossil fuel and nuclear energy.

When it comes to oil, once again, the oil companies are getting tax credits while poor people are dying of hunger. In reality, it is being done with the support of all of the parties that hope to take power in this house one day: the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and especially the New Democratic Party.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague spoke at length about the employment insurance fund. I remember the election of 1997 when a certain prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, gave a speech in front of a crowd of supporters who had paid $250 a plate for their lunch. The business elite of the day were applauded by the then prime minister for all of their sacrifices in terms of wrestling that deficit down.

We found out that it was done by taking a great deal of money out of the employment insurance fund, to the point where two-thirds of all contributors to that fund can no longer collect benefits when they are unemployed and in difficulty. We see the same thing now, despite the fact that the current minister disputes it--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have to stop the hon. member there because I have to let the hon. member respond before question period.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is entirely correct.

This is particularly true in that, with respect to the surpluses in the employment insurance fund, the Conservative government is always telling us that there are none. It is part of the revenue and expenditures. And there is more revenue in the employment insurance fund than there are expenditures. So to the government’s mind, that is the way it goes; the money stays in the vault.

The problem, and the tragedy for workers and the unemployed, is that the Conservative government and the Liberals have retained surpluses of $54 billion to spend on other things rather than to help people in need, the unemployed or older people who lose their jobs. That is the hard reality.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel shall have five more minutes to comment after oral question period.

SeniorsStatements By Members

November 29th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, we owe a debt of gratitude to our seniors. They built our country by working hard and paying taxes, and they deserve a break in their retirement years. That is why the government has given them a significant tax break by allowing pension income splitting for couples. We also have increased the amount of money seniors can claim through the age and pension income credit on their annual income tax returns.

This government has also increased the maximum guaranteed income supplement benefit and the refundable medical expense supplement. Of course in the latest economic statement, the government lowered income taxes for all Canadians, including seniors, and lowered the cost of living by reducing the GST from 7% to 5%.

Seniors deserve our support and respect. In the case of this government, we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk.

Bobby SimpsonStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, amid the excitement of Sunday's Grey Cup game, there is sad news from the family that is the Canadian Football League. Yesterday, at the age of 77, Ottawa Rough Rider great Bobby Simpson died in an Ottawa hospital.

After 13 seasons, Bobby Simpson held the record for career touchdown passes that stood for 15 years. Four times, he was named all-Canadian and six times an Eastern Conference all-star.

In 1956, he was runner-up for the Outstanding Canadian Player award and was nominated for MVP.

Ottawa fans will long remember the role he played in the 1960 Grey Cup win. Anyone who had the chance to meet Bobby Simpson will remember his enthusiasm, his big heart and his powerful voice.

Football lost a great Rough Rider yesterday. Sports lost a great athlete and Canada lost a great soul. Bobby Simpson will be missed.

Member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-JeanStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean that we feel he has made some completely inconsistent statements. Since he has been in this House, he has on more than one occasion voted against measures to help Quebec out of the forestry crisis, which affects a large number of companies and families in his riding. He has also voted against measures to turn around the crisis in the manufacturing industry, after making a campaign promise to defend and help the voters, companies, organizations and seniors of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

We have nothing to learn from this member, who has already been portrayed in his riding as Pontius Pilate.

He should think about the promises he made to his voters and in the future, support the Bloc's initiatives, which truly address Quebec's needs.

New Democratic Party PoliciesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank the residents of Windsor West for their activism in a number of campaigns.

When the Chrétien Liberals tried to cancel the disability tax credit, we blocked them. When we learned that Liberal laws allowed companies fined for polluting our environment and poisoning our children got generous tax shelters, we ended it. When the Conservatives considered a new tax on consumers' TV cable and satellite bills, we stopped it.

Now we are fighting unfairness on other fronts, by introducing laws that ensure car owners have the right to repair their vehicles at the lowest cost, demanding a refund for Canadians for the hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges they suffered from the phone monopolies, and changing our tax codes so small donors and charities are treated as well as political parties.

While the Liberals and Conservatives are consumed with damage control about who took money, how much and the envelopes of cash exchanged in their political worlds, New Democrats are fighting for fairness and protecting the pocketbooks of average Canadians and their families.

St. Thomas Police ServicesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the St. Thomas Police Services was recently awarded the Canadian Automobile Association's ninth annual School Safety and Patrol Program Police Achievement Award for exceptional support for its patrol program.

The CAA has credited Constable Tanya Calvert, the community services officer who is in charge of the patroller program, for her dedication, leadership and pride taken in delivering a top-notch program to help keep the students of St. Thomas safe. Her role as the community services officer is to provide support to the front line officers by promoting education and awareness in the community.

I would like to congratulate the St. Thomas Police Services and specifically Constable Tanya Calvert on receiving this award.

On a personal note, the support of our spouses is key to our careers. I would like to thank my wife Geri for 32 years of marriage on today, our anniversary.

PovertyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had enough of the government's inaction on the issue of poverty. That is why the Liberal Party recently announced its plan to reduce the number of Canadians living below the poverty line by at least 30% and cut in half the number of children living in poverty within five years.

Immediate action must also be taken to support the United Nations millennium development targets to reduce poverty, hunger, gender inequity, environmental damage and the rate of HIV-AIDS around the globe by 2015. This deadline is fast approaching, with much headway still to be made.

I call on the government to follow the lead of the Liberal Party and make the elimination of poverty, both in Canada and around the world, a top priority.

Quebec NationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it has been a year since my government took a major step in the history of Canada by recognizing the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada.

I am delighted by this step, which demonstrates our Prime Minister's vision and leadership. Indeed, by taking that action, he strengthened our ideals and highlighted the solid foundation of our shared aspirations.

I remember this motion and the fact that the leader of the Bloc Québécois changed his position three times on this simple matter—something that he says he has been supporting and protecting for the past 10 years. In the end, the Bloc Québécois also recognized the wisdom of the Prime Minister's proposal.

Finally, since it was so difficult for the Bloc Québécois to reach a decision on such a simple matter, we understand why the members of the Bloc can do nothing more than shout and ask questions here in this House.

HIV-AIDS Awareness WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is HIV-AIDS Awareness Week. In Canada, someone is infected every two hours, but according to the Conservatives, there is no place for prevention.

The Minister of Health continues to claim that next year, the $84.4 million goal will be reached. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in 2008, permanent reductions to the tune of $16.7 million will affect these subsidies and contributions. Added to that, in 2007, is a reallocation and other cuts to the tune of $10.2 million to the prevention budget.

This year, agencies still have not seen a dime of the money for the supposed increases announced by the minister. He has to stop burying his head in the sand and admit his inaction in HIV-AIDS prevention. It is high time that he invest the money in HIV-AIDS prevention.

Wireless IndustryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Industry announced the rules for the advanced wireless services, AWS, spectrum auction, which will begin on May 27, 2008.

This is great news for the industry and for consumers. Because we are taking measures to allow new players to enter the market, consumers should see real benefits in terms of greater competition and more innovation.

As one analyst said, this is a grand slam for consumers. A more competitive wireless market is in the best interests of all Canadians. At the end of the day, our goal is lower prices, better service and more choice for consumers and businesses.

We are getting the job done.

Vancouver Airport Taser DeathStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 14, a terrible tragedy befell Canada when Robert Dziekanski, an innocent immigrant, needlessly lost his life. His death was caused by the failure of the federal system to protect him and ensure his security.

The circumstances around Robert's death have tarnished Canada's reputation as a welcoming, peaceful country and drawn into question the Conservative government's ability to competently run this country.

The Conservatives' lack of courage to take responsibility for this failure is shameful and has created a vacuum of leadership in government which has led the B.C. government to cross jurisdictional boundaries and call a full public inquiry.

Where are the ministers responsible when we need them? The ministers of public safety, transport and immigration, and the Prime Minister have proven that they are incompetent and cannot be trusted when Canadians are in need.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can anyone believe that the world will avoid catastrophic climate change if three of the five major emitters of greenhouse gases—the United States, China and India—do not do their fair share?

“Canada's Prime Minister is right: everyone must be on board for the post- Kyoto strategy.” These comments by editorial writer André Pratte, with which I wholeheartedly agree, were published this week in Montreal's La Presse.

This is a long way from the pitiful and pathetic foot-dragging of the opposition parties, which are mired in a partisan logic to the detriment of future generations and which have held Canada back for too long.

With the help of Australia, Canada is now showing true leadership in climate change on the international stage, as it did in Bonn, Germany, Asia, at the UN, in Tanzania and as it will soon do in Bali in order to achieve tangible and concrete results for the planet.

What Canadians expect from us and what the world is hoping for is exactly what our Prime Minister and our Conservative government are giving them.

City of MontrealStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the fact that on October 18, 2007, Montreal became the first urban centre to sign the National Geographic Society's geotourism charter.

By inviting Montreal to be the first urban centre in the world to sign the charter, the National Geographic Society has granted an exceptional degree of recognition to the city.

The society chose Montreal because of the city's accomplishments in destination stewardship and because of active collaboration among greater Montreal's tourism and cultural sectors.

Since the National Geographic Society first introduced geotourism charters, the concept has evolved. The first urban geotourism charter demonstrates the Society's desire to adapt the geotourism charter to urban centres.

I want to emphasize that many Montreal stakeholders worked in concert to apply for the National Geographic Society charter, including co-applicants Héritage Montréal and the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Greek origin, who have already expressed their discontent, I would also like to share my concerns and indignation regarding a decision made by this Conservative government, which continues to thumb its nose at international institutions.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia regarding the use of the name Macedonia, all UN member states agreed to accept the final agreement resulting from negotiations between the two countries in question.

So why did this Conservative government decide to short-circuit that agreement?

By agreeing, on September 20, 2007, to recognize the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as the Republic of Macedonia, instead of helping to find a solution, this government has done nothing but show its lack of understanding of international affairs and institutions, unfortunately sowing discord in a segment of the Canadian public.

Henri MasséStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, Henri Massé is stepping down as president of the Fédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses du Québec after 10 years of faithful service, not counting his time as general secretary. It was nearly 40 years ago that Henri was hired as an advisor by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1968.

Under his leadership, the FTQ, which has more than half a million members, has become a major player that, with others, can make a difference for hundreds of thousands of workers and Quebec as a whole.

On Monday, at the opening of the organization's general meeting, he said that he hoped the FTQ, the union movement and our nation would stay united in order to rise to the challenges facing Quebec.

A dedicated sovereignist, a passionate man and a bit of a rebel, he has engaged in many battles to move our society forward, and he will continue to do so.

I pay tribute to him today as a colleague, since I was formerly general secretary of the CSN. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois and the people of Quebec, I want to thank him for his outstanding commitment.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2001, Colonel Ken Scott, the director of defence medical policy, assured the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs that it was not possible for our soldiers to develop cancer from exposure to depleted uranium. He said publicly that Canada always takes care of its soldiers. But under his policies Balkan veterans do not receive benefits for cancer.

Recently, the UN voted overwhelmingly for studies on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium because it fears that the use of DU poses carcinogenic risks to the human environment. Canada abstained from this vote.

One of my constituents, David Sherbanowski, a former NATO peacekeeper, has PTSD and recurrent Hodgkin's lymphoma. He believes he contracted cancer in Bosnia. I am appalled that his life has been destroyed through service to his country.

It is deplorable that we do not recognize and compensate for a critical illness sustained on tour. It is unthinkable that Canada should not even study this issue further.

HIV-AIDSStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we approach World AIDS Day this Saturday, our government commends the front line workers and community groups for their work to stop the spread of this terrible disease and to improve the lives of those affected by it. We support their efforts. That is why next year our government will spend in excess of $84.4 million on HIV-AIDS in Canada, more than has ever been spent in this nation's history.

It is unfortunate that, because of the Liberal 2004 and 2005 budgets, which were voted for by the NDP and Liberals, including the member for St. Paul's, who was then secretary of state for public health, we are legally required to find $16 million in savings at the Public Health Agency.

However, I can assure this House, and indeed all Canadians, that this government cares about those suffering with HIV-AIDS. Despite the Liberal budget cuts, we are investing more and taking action to fight this terrible disease.

AirbusOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, these past few days, the Minister of Justice has repeatedly told this House and the parliamentary committee that he did not have the authority to delay Mr. Schreiber's extradition. Yet, we learned today that his department made precisely that offer: to delay Mr. Schreiber's extradition by 10 days. Of course, the department would not be making such an offer if it did not have the authority to do so.

Is the minister so inept that he does not understand the powers vested in him or is he deliberately misleading this House? I would like him to tell me which it is.