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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

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the leader of the New Democratic Party posed a question to the government. In the response, the Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) said that the Prime Minister was meeting with the president of Russia. I think she will find, once she has clarified with the Prime Minister, that in fact the Prime Minister was meeting with Prime Minister Zubkov of Russia.

I wanted to clarify for the record and for the House that this was indeed the case.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I can tell the hon. member's clarification is much appreciated.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before oral question period, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel had the floor to respond to questions and comments after his speech. He has five minutes remaining.

The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question. For a long time now, the Bloc Québécois has been recommending that tax credits for research and development be refundable, especially during the current crisis in the manufacturing sector. The government claims that this represents an extremely significant tax expenditure. What the government is not saying is that unused tax credits will represent a tax expenditure one day or another. When the business in question makes a profit, it will then use these credits.

The purpose of the Bloc Québécois proposal is to allow this tax credit to be advanced and applied now, without necessarily creating a new gift for businesses, as is the case in the tax reductions for the oil companies. The last budget granted a general tax reduction.

Can my hon. colleague explain how this refundable tax credit we are proposing, instead of a general tax reduction, would be more beneficial to the industries that really need it?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, who does such a fine job on the Standing Committee on Finance. He is quite right. The Bloc’s suggestion of a refundable tax credit is easy to understand. The tax credits proposed by the government will not do anything for the forestry and manufacturing businesses that are not profitable in these difficult times. On the other hand, a refundable tax credit would produce some income for them. If the government issues them a cheque in the amount of their tax credit for the current year, they can use it to modernize, even though they do not have any income or profits.

Once again we are faced with this Conservative trait of not understanding the real needs. It is hard, especially when the Conservative members from Quebec are incapable of rising in the House to defend the interests of their constituents and the working people who have lost their jobs or are on the verge of losing them. The crisis in the forestry and manufacturing sectors means that companies are being merged and taken over. Sawmills and other forestry operations are being shut down in our villages. We are very much aware of this.

My colleague’s proposal of a refundable tax credit rather a tax credit for future use when companies have returned to profitability would be much more effective. It would be of direct assistance to companies and would help them modernize, create added-value products and expand, rather than remaining mired in losses and penury.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will follow up with a question on manufacturing. When the Minister of Finance answered a question in the House, he talked about the capital cost reduction allowance. The government has only moved on two years of the recommendation of the industry committee, of which I was a part. This is a very grievous situation. It should have been five years. Many companies have already made decisions about their original capital purchasing. They will benefit from that, which is fine.

We wanted to get the third, fourth and fifth year investments. After that, there was to be a review for a potential extension of five years. This would send a strong message. An important distinction is the equipment would get on the plant floors in the manufacturing sector of Ontario and Quebec and the rest of the country because of the capital stay, as opposed to a general corporate tax cut where that money could move offshore, as it has been doing historically.

What does my colleague think of the fact that the minister has completely disregarded this aspect, which hurts the investment strategies that need to be made today to protect jobs?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois agrees with the NDP's position on this and defended it in committee. Capital cost allowance is still an expense. It is all very well to make it possible to amortize a purchase more quickly, but once again, only for companies that are profitable because the item is still an expense. When companies are losing money, even if they can write things off more quickly, the losses are already there and losses cannot be amortized. The losses mount even higher and nothing comes in.

That is the part the NDP forgets. It is like the Conservatives and Liberals and always thinks of profitable companies. Some of them need it too, of course, because they are on the verge of no longer being profitable. But in manufacturing and especially forestry now, we have companies that are already losing money. This requires prompt assistance programs and fresh money to invest in the company. Once again, if a company is not making any money, its problems cannot be solved by increasing its expenses.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to say a few words on Bill C-28, an act respecting the March budget and the October economic update. I want to say a few things about the general direction of both these documents, or I should say, the lack of direction and the lack of vision.

We have heard a lot of talk in the House over the last number of weeks and from any group that comes to Ottawa, and any questions that are put to the Minister of Finance. Basically it is talk about tax cuts and some numbers. I want to point out to the House and to all Canadians, that I do not represent numbers. I represent people, real people who have real jobs and real families, and those people do not like what is coming out of the government.

There were certain tax cuts in the last economic statement. They should be part of what I would classify as a productivity agenda but we do not hear anything about that. The right tax cuts are very much a vital part of this productivity agenda, as is skills training, as is funding for post-secondary education, as are initiatives that reduce any constraints on the mobility of capital, labour or goods, as are innovation, science and technology. The tax cuts can be put into four classifications.

We had the corporate tax cuts, and in my opinion these were good tax cuts. The minister is to be congratulated. These tax cuts will be beneficial to Canadian companies and will help the productivity of this nation.

On the individual tax cuts there was an increase in the basic personal exemption. In my opinion, that was a good move. The $10,000 which was announced originally by the Liberal government was decreased and now it is gradually going back up. It is a step in the right direction. This move certainly benefits lower income families as opposed to higher income families.

The individual tax rate cut from 15.5% to 15% was basically a removal of a tax increase which occurred one year ago when the tax rate was increased from 15% to 15.5%. Now it is being decreased from 15.5% to 15%, so really, it is an insignificant event.

Most of the money in the tax cuts came from cuts to the GST. I believe that every living, breathing economist in Canada would suggest that this is absolutely the wrong direction. It does absolutely nothing for productivity. It is inflationary. It is certainly geared toward the higher income Canadian. Again, it is something I do not think should have happened at all and I believe history will bear me out.

People expect more from a federal government. The situation in Canada is the agenda of the government of the day is to allow each of the 13 provincial or territorial jurisdictions to erect a firewall or a moat around their particular jurisdiction and have their programs and policies geared to the particular ideology of the government of the day. As such, the federal government has no role, other than in aboriginal affairs, fisheries and immigration. It has no role in the lives of Canadians. That is not my vision of Canada at all. That is not the vision of the people that I represent.

Over the last three or four weeks, we MPs have met a lot of people visiting Ottawa. A lot of sectors have come to Ottawa to meet with us, to talk to us and to plead with us for more assistance.

The manufacturing sector has been to Ottawa. We have lost 90,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector this year alone as a result of the Canadian dollar and the movement of jobs to other jurisdictions. The answer we get from the Minister of Finance is that we have tax cuts.

Well tax cuts just do not cut it for those 90,000 people who have lost their jobs, or for those who think they may lose their jobs, or a mayor or city councillor who represents a city or town that has lost a lot of jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Last week many representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities were here. This is a very important component of Canadian society, especially the large capital regions. They actually drive the economy. They are looking for assistance in immigrant settlement, in skills training, in research, in post-secondary education, in early childhood development. Most important though, they are looking for assistance in infrastructure. We have heard their pleas. There is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit.

I am pleased to be part of a previous government that did respond. It was not a total response to the plight of cities and municipalities, but it was a very good response with the gas tax rebate, the GST rebate, the municipal and rural infrastructure program and the strategic infrastructure program. These were starting to make a big difference.

There is a new package coming out. I call it re-gifting. The government has taken the bundle and put it in a much smaller box and put a big bow on it. Instead of being over three years it is over seven years, and it is approximately 50% of the previous programs.

No one should think that the mayors and city councillors are being fooled as a result of this announcement. These people have to go back to their constituents and they have to get re-elected. They know exactly what is going on.

These people were in Ottawa last week and they met with the Minister of Finance. They were told three things. The first thing they were told was that the government is not in the pothole business. The second thing they were told is that they should stop their whining. The third thing they were told is that they should go home. They are going home, but I do not think they are going to be quiet.

Over the last three weeks we have met with two separate pan-Canadian organizations representing students at our post-secondary institutions. They pleaded with politicians to do something about their plight. A country is only as strong as its educational system. We know the debt crisis that some of these students are facing. They did meet with the politicians and they did meet with the government, but they went home empty-handed. They were told about these tax cuts.

The week before last, several of the agricultural sectors were in Ottawa. Not in all, but in certain sectors, farmers across Canada are having a very difficult time, especially the beef and pork producers. In fact, in my career here, I have never seen the pork industry in worse shape. It is facing a perfect storm. There is the high Canadian dollar, feed costs are going through the roof, and other import costs are increasing dramatically. Also, the price of their final product is at an all time low. The primary producers are shutting down in record numbers.

I want to quote one of the leading producers from my province, Mr. Eddie Dykerman, a Prince Edward Island farmer from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture:

At a time when the federal government is basically embarrassed by its surplus...it's a big disappointment that something couldn't be done for agriculture when people are actually walking off their farms and losing their houses and their way of living and everything else...

A lot of farmers who are closing their farms, especially in the pork sector, have been third, fourth and fifth generation farmers. They are very efficient farmers but they are caught in this perfect storm, and again, we have a government that is doing absolutely nothing.

I recall three or four years ago, when the Conservatives were in opposition they were talking about agriculture. Now that they are in government, we are seeing absolutely nothing. I, like most Canadians, especially the Canadians in these sectors, am extremely disappointed.

The list goes on and on. What did the aboriginal people see in Bill C-28? What did they see in the previous budget? Did the people who are concerned about climate change and about the environment see anything in either of these two documents? Students and poor people saw nothing. The list goes on and on.

That is the direction in which we are heading. The Prime Minister announced that he intends to introduce legislation in the House putting constraints on the federal government's spending power. This power was used by successive governments of various political stripes to develop, to maintain and to enhance social programs, such as medicare, employment insurance, the Canada pension plan, the child tax credit, the old age pension, the old age security, et cetera. Those programs responded to the needs, the hopes and the dreams of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

However, we have a government now that is prepared to put a moat or a wall around each jurisdiction and that is prepared to introduce legislation in the House that would restrict the power of any future government to develop any programs like medicare, like the Canada pension plan and like old age security. Let me say right here and now that is not my vision of a strong federal government.

In Canada, we need a federal government that speaks for every Canadian, regardless of where they live or in which sector they are involved, but as a pan-Canadian vision. I do not see that in the policies, the programs and the initiatives that are coming forward in either Bill C-28 or in any other legislation that has been introduced in the House.

I will get questions at the end of my speech and I hope I do because it will give me an opportunity to expand on some of the points I raised.

In the House, the Prime Minister issues talking points and the Conservatives will be talking about 13 years. I will address that right here and now.

I was a member of Parliament on that side of the House for the last five years of that government and that government has a tremendous record. When it came to power, the annual deficit was $43 billion.

We had a Conservative government in power for nine years. Interest rates were at 12% and unemployment was at 11%. The debt to GDP ratio was at 73%. The world monetary bank had an active file monitoring this country. We were basically under active engagement with that world organization. We were down to days before this country would have been broke. I say that the country would have been broke, not the prime minister, Mr. Brian Mulroney. He was not going broke, according to the media reports and what I am hearing in the House right now. It was the country. We need to make that distinction before we go any further. It was not Brian Mulroney.

We did respond to the needs of Canadians. We developed a lot of assistance for the cities, the towns and the communities. We had the gas tax agreement, the municipal rural infrastructure program, the strategic program and other programs that assisted the cities, because there was in Canada a real imbalance developing between the cities, that level of government, and the other levels of government.

There were dramatic increases in the amount of research moneys going to not only post-secondary institutions but other foundations. We developed a program of early childhood development. We substantially increased maternity benefits for families. We developed the child tax benefit, which, in my opinion, was probably one of the greatest social programs ever developed in this country. We also increased the guaranteed income supplement.

I could go on and on. However, I do want to clarify that the Liberal government did have problems at first. When we were left with a $43 billion deficit from the Mulroney years, we had to make tough decisions. Yes, we made tough decisions but we did respond to the needs of Canadians. That will answer any questions that members on the opposite side have.

We also introduced $100 billion in tax cuts that again responded to the productivity agenda of this country.

I am disappointed in the direction the government is taking.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, while listening to my hon. colleague, it was interesting to hear him refer to some of the challenges faced by cities. I would point out that our government has provided record amounts of infrastructure funding for provinces and cities. I would also point out that we have provided record increases in federal funding for post-secondary education, an issue that he raised. It is an interesting contrast, particularly to the Liberals, who, as he mentioned, cut $25 billion in transfer payments to the provinces.

However, the Liberals did have priorities. They did find millions of dollars to run Liberal campaigns during that same time. It was good to know that they at least had some priorities back then. Right now they apparently have a little difficulty with priorities and decisions, as evidenced by their lack of ability to make decisions on which way to vote, for example, on important issues facing the country right now.

I have a couple of questions. First, now that the hon. member has had time to think about how to vote on this fall economic update, will he vote yes or no?

Second, his leader and several other key Liberal members have mused openly about raising the GST from 5% to 7%. I would be curious to hear, again, in a yes or no answer, with no dancing around, what he is feeling on this. Is he in favour of raising the GST from 5% to 7%?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

He could have just asked me over here, Mr. Speaker. He did not need to get up on his feet.

I have a couple of points on that. On the infrastructure, I want to point out that the package announced by the Conservative government is a re-gifting. It has taken all the Liberal programs and put them in a package that adds a bit of money. The original programs were over three years but it has extended it over seven years. It is re-gifting but it is re-gifting in a much smaller box with a bigger bow.

Some people in this chamber might be fooled but I would suggest that they go back to their ridings this weekend and talk to their mayors and city council and I assure everyone that they are not fooled. They have to stand for re-election so they know exactly what they are being presented with. They know that there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit in this country and that the government is not responding to it.

I would repeat the comment the Minister of Finance made to municipal leaders. He said, “we're not in the pothole business”, stop “whining” and go home.

On the issue of voting, we will decide when and at what time the Canadian people want an election. We are certainly talking to Canadians and we will let the hon. member know in the fullness of time.

As to the point on the GST, there is absolutely no indication from my party that we would be raising the GST.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised that the member is disappointed in these financial statements. His lack of a vote would have led me to believe that he was not so disappointed with where the government was going on this measure.

I also find it a little strange that he is disappointed in the corporate tax cuts that the Conservatives proposed since his own leader proposed exactly the same tax cuts. In fact, a lot of people think that the challenge from the Leader of the Opposition led the government to the lengths that it went in the budget, to go even lower in terms of the corporate rate, and that he in fact gave them permission to do so.

I am really concerned about the gutting of the fiscal capacity of the government by these massive corporate giveaways to big oil, to the big banks and to the wealthy in Canada. It is undermining our ability to address program needs, like the ones he talked about, like students, the need for post-secondary education, the infrastructure needs that are very serious all across the country and like the agriculture programs that he seemed so concerned about.

I am also concerned about the financial planning that the government is doing that eliminates the surplus from any reasonable consideration of the needs of Canadian society. It is always a big surprise and it is always automatically turned right over to the debt. We agree, money should go to pay down the debt, but not all of the surplus should go to that and it should be involved in the financial planning process in this place and in government. It seems that the Conservatives have adopted the same policy with regard to that as the Liberals did.

Why would the member be so disappointed in the economic statements when they follow the exact same planning path that the Liberals adopted? Why would he not adopt his party's own policies?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I may not have made myself absolutely clear but on the corporate tax cuts I am not disappointed. In fact, I congratulate the government. I think the cuts are very much a part of the productivity agenda and I think they are good. I said that in my opening remarks and I thought I had been clear.

These corporate tax cuts are not a major part of the overall tax cut package. The most significant part is the cut in the GST. As I explained in my remarks, that cut is inflationary, it is the wrong way to go and it is much more beneficial to higher income Canadians versus lower income Canadians.

Under the capacity of the federal government, I agree with what the member said. People from across Canada are looking to the federal government to respond to some of their concerns in the sectors, whether it is the manufacturing, agriculture or farming sectors or students. Certain sectors in Canada right now are suffering and it is incumbent upon the federal government to at least talk with them and, if there is a legitimate case, to respond to their concerns.

On that very point, this is something that will be debated in the House, but the announcement by the Prime Minister that he intends to introduce legislation to constrain federal spending powers, which governs successive political stripes used to develop medicare and the Canada pension plan, that will be gone if the legislation passes, and that would be very regrettable.

As people watch this, I have one comment. What would Sir John A. Macdonald, Lester Pearson or Tommy Douglas think if we were to do that?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have always had a great deal of respect for the hon. member. His comments are interesting but he did provide a lot of revisionist history today that simply is not accurate.

For example, he talked about our $160 billion in tax reductions and criticized it in so many different ways. He talked about the $100 billion that his government, he claimed, put in place, but he forgot to talk about the fact that it increased taxes in other areas and the net tax reduction was very minimal indeed.

However, I want to ask the member for his comments on the hog and beef sectors of agriculture being hard hit by so many things going wrong at once. Our government fully recognizes that. With most of the members of the Conservative Party being from rural areas, of course we understand that fully. Our agriculture minister and our party are doing everything we can to deal with what is an extremely difficult issue and not one that can be effectively dealt with, quite frankly, to be completely honest about it. The high dollar simply makes it far more difficult for hog and beef producers to compete. The dollar increasing so rapidly is the biggest part of the problem, that along with increased import costs.

I acknowledge that the member is absolutely right on that issue but not when he says that our government is not doing anything about it because we are doing more than any government in the past has.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the member across that it cannot be dealt with. I am not going to suggest for a minute that I am blaming the government for the rise in the Canadian dollar. We all know that is basically outside the control of one government. However, there are programs that should be looked at for the hog industry. It is a perfect storm; I have never seen it worse.

I have seen sectors go through very difficult times, but this is probably the worst I have ever seen. These people are walking away from their farms. They are losing their farms. Time is very much of the essence and I plead with the government to provide assistance to this sector immediately.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we have an opportunity to discuss Bill C-28, which has three important parts: the implementation of last spring's budget, the economic statement issued a few weeks ago, which is commonly referred to as the mini-budget, and the Atlantic accord.

For the members of the New Democratic Party, it is also an opportunity to take stock of the differences between the various parties here in the House of Commons.

If there is one observation we can make in light of the most recent budget statement, it is that the Conservative Party, which is now in power, simply does not believe in the role of government in the economy. That is a purely ideological stance, and it prevents the Conservatives from seeing that, in an economy as diversified as Canada's, the government absolutely must be aware that it has to rebalance things when they get out of balance.

What caused the current economic imbalance? The overheated oil economy in western Canada, which affected the value of our dollar. In turn, the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar led to higher export prices, naturally. What sector has been affected? The manufacturing and farming sectors have been particularly hard hit, as the member for Charlottetown just said. It would be a bit easier to believe the Liberals' hand-wringing over these sectors if they had had the courage to vote against the government's budget. Still, we believe the member was talking in good faith when he said he wanted to do something for farmers.

The third sector that is feeling the effects of the rising Canadian dollar is forestry. Mill and plant closures in Quebec and the rest of Canada are the direct result of our loonie, our Canadian dollar, increasing in value by over 50% over the past five years. Despite extraordinary gains in productivity, plants that have been around for ages have been closing one after the other in Quebec, particularly in regions such as Montmagny and Beauce. Around Sherbrooke, we were all very sad when Baronet, a high quality furniture maker that has been around for over 60 years, closed its doors. It is one thing to say that a factory has closed its doors—that is kind of cold and unemotional. It is another thing to watch very skilled workers lose their pride and their ability to support their families.

How does the Minister of Finance respond when we tell him about these things? He stands up and says that according to them, they are cutting taxes for businesses, which is good news for productivity. Our poor unfortunate Minister of Finance does not seem to understand a thing even though, apparently, he is an educated man. It is hard to believe that he can be so completely unaware of how ridiculous his position is. He needs to understand that if a company, such as a sawmill on the lower North Shore in Quebec or a furniture factory in Beauce, did not make a profit last year, it cannot benefit one iota from a so-called tax cut because it did not pay any taxes last year.

Now for a rhetorical question: which companies did rake in huge profits last year? Oil companies in western Canada. Who will get the lion's share of these tax cuts? Oil companies. Who else recorded huge profits? The banks, which cleared $18 billion.

Let us examine what is going on in these two sectors so that we can better understand our Conservative government's priorities—or lack thereof.

It is primarily the Liberals who are to blame with the oil sector, since they did nothing for 10 years, although they were supposed to reduce greenhouse gases. They had the largest increase in greenhouse gases out of all the Kyoto signatories. It is a disgrace. The Liberals are responsible for this.

Now that the Conservatives are in power, what have they done? They have made it worse. They are busy denouncing the Kyoto protocol. They have no intention of respecting it. They have no regard for future generations. Their political base is in oil sands country, which is responsible for producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases. They have no intention of finding a solution to the problem.

Furthermore, they are giving bonuses for environmental misconduct in the form of tax cuts, without the slightest effort being made—in terms of sustainable development—to internalize the cost of adding these greenhouse gases to our atmosphere.

Now let us look at our Minister of Finance's absolutely classic bad track record with banks. Many people have their paycheques deposited automatically at the bank. It is not even their choice. Why should a worker whose pay is automatically deposited have to give a tip to the bank president to have access to his own money? Our tireless Minister of Finance, cap in hand, visited the bank presidents last year and was told to get lost. He got nothing at all, but that is no big deal. At least he made an effort.

Then, at Halloween, he decided to give the banks a little present. He gave them more tax cuts and benefits, with the result that the banks, which are already raking in huge profits and do nothing to reduce ATM fees, will get even more money. There is absolutely no vision.

Let us take a look at what is happening in the manufacturing sector, in Ontario and in Quebec, in the industrial heartland built up after the second world war, part of a balanced economy. Yes, we do have a lot of natural resources, yes, we need a manufacturing sector; yes, we need a resource sector like the one out west; and yes, we need a service sector. However, we are sacrificing our manufacturing sector on the altar of dogma, of far right ideology, which states that governments play no role in the economy. This is the narrow-minded vision that has taken hold of Canada.

Next week, Mark Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. He will eventually take over for David Dodge who, unfortunately, remains in his position as somewhat of a lame duck. In fact, his successor was announced more than one month ago, and since then the value of the loonie has swung wildly, as never before.

Some companies have benefited a great deal, particularly companies such as Goldman Sachs, Mark Carney's previous employer. We can hardly wait until next week to ask Mr. Carney some questions about his work at Goldman Sachs because many economies in the world today are guided by former Goldman Sachs employees. It will be interesting to hear the vision of Mark Carney, the man who sold the public's share in Petro-Canada. Is that the best way to go about things? He was the one who pointed out the tax leakage arising from income trusts. I will quickly add right away that we never supported income trusts, but unlike the Conservatives, we would never have lied.

The outcome of all this is quite interesting. Certain companies that paid taxes in Canada now no longer pay any because they are registered elsewhere in the world. Is that the vision that Mark Carney will present to the Conservative government if he becomes the Governor of the Bank of Canada for seven years? These are some of the very interesting questions that Mr. Carney will be asked next week by a parliamentary committee.

It is because of the New Democratic Party that Mr. Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. I suggested it to my colleagues and they unanimously passed a resolution to that effect.

This discussion around Bill C-28 is an appropriate opportunity to look at, analyze, and compare the different philosophies that exist in this House.

Just as in the matter of greenhouse gas production, Canadians now realize that they have a choice amongst a government that refuses to act, a Liberal official opposition that never did anything when it could act, and the Bloc Québécois that will never be in a position to do anything because it cannot act. The only real option right now on these issues is the New Democratic Party of Canada. We are the ones who are leading the charge on these important issues, such as greenhouse gas production.

When we look at the differences between our different parties, there is nothing clearer than the fact that for ideological and dogmatic reasons, the Conservatives are completely destroying the manufacturing sector of our economy. They are sacrificing it on the altar of their dogma and their ideology. They simply do not believe that governments can play a role in the economy. They have this idealism that somehow there is a pristine free market that works out the best solutions.

We have, geographically speaking, the second largest country in the world populated by fewer than 35 million people. We have, especially since the second world war, built a modern, solid and balanced economy.

Our country's beginnings were in the resource sector and it remains an important part of our economy. But we have also built hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure in manufacturing that is now being ruined by the Conservatives' inability to comprehend that the government can and should be acting on behalf of those sectors that are suffering from the sudden flight of our loonie.

What has been driving that increase in the value of the Canadian dollar? A very strong petroleum sector in the west that, of course, is producing greenhouse gases that the government refuses to understand is driving global warming. But that sector is also warming up the Canadian economy and destabilizing what was a relatively balanced economy.

As the Canadian dollar increases of course, it becomes more and more difficult for manufacturing and forestry firms to export their products because, the Canadian dollar being worth more, those exports cost more for people in other countries to buy. So it has been having a serious effect on them.

Instead of intervening in those sectors of the economy and trying to help maintain a balanced economy in Canada, the Conservative government announces with great fanfare, in the documents that are before us, that it is providing across the board tax decreases for all businesses.

What does that mean for a manufacturing company that made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company paid no taxes. What does it mean for a forestry firm that is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company did not pay any taxes.

Who is getting the lion's share of these supposed tax decreases? Lo and behold, it is the energy sector out west because it is making huge profits. It is also the banks that are making huge profits. Anybody who looks at these things understands that a solid banking structure is indeed the backbone of a sound economy. But is it necessary to have strong banks in Canada to gouge the little guy? What about someone whose paycheque is deposited directly in a bank? Why should that person have to give a $3 tip to the bank president to have access to his own money?

Our Minister of Finance went cap in hand last year to the banks and was sent packing. He received nothing except their contempt. He came back here to the House and said he had at least tried. He does not seem to understand that he is the Minister of Finance and the banks answer to him, not the other way around. But then again he is a Conservative so he cannot understand that. He thinks that all these structures are the boss and he is the underling.

We in the NDP understand that the government can and should play a constructive role in helping manage a modern economy like Canada's economy. We know that if in Europe people had the same approach as the Conservatives, they would never have something like the train à grande vitesse that now criss-crosses Europe at 300 kilometres an hour. It took vision. It took government involvement. It took the best brains. It took long term planning, something the Conservatives simply do not understand because they do not believe in it. They do not think that governments can play that sort of proactive role. That is why they are always coming up short on Kyoto. They are always embarrassing us internationally on climate change.

Canada once had a proud reputation around the world as being an environmental leader. After 12 years of inaction by the Liberals, and now the embarrassment of the Conservatives, we have lost a lot of that credibility. We can hardly look anyone in the eye internationally any more on these environmental issues, and it is a tragedy.

It is the same thing for the profound changes that we have undergone in Canada's role as a peacekeeper. We were once a proud country, with a role that goes back 60 years. The rest of the world has looked us and said that we are the country they can count on to help build peace when the time comes. If we look at what John de Chastelain did to build peace in Northern Ireland, we will see the archetype of what Canada can do when it works at its best.

What is the worst example? Our current involvement in a combat mission in southern Afghanistan, which has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our traditional role in the world as a peacekeeper and a peace builder.

That is the Tory record. That is the tragedy of the current Tory government.

However, there is one saving grace in all of this. The Conservatives have decided to move forward and make it increasingly clear that is their agenda, that is who they are. As we say in French, “Le chat sort du sac”. It is becoming increasingly clear, and more and more Canadians are seeing the Conservatives in their true face.

They are great emulators of the George W. Bush White House. They are more comfortable with American foreign policy. They are like the current American administration, tragically, blissfully unaware of the right of future generations to have us think about the effect on them of the decisions we take today. That is the essence of sustainable development. It is the obligation of every government in every action that it takes to weigh and to consider the effect on future generations.

I love it when I see senior members of the Conservative government, including the Prime Minister, pose with young people, the future generation, during campaign ads. It would really be nice to see them actually do something for those future generations instead of just posing with them during their campaign ads. One of the favourite things is to pose with kids skating. Pretty soon there will be no outdoor skating left in southern Canada for one good and simple reason. There will not be enough winter.

Some people might not lament the fact that our temperatures are starting to rise. However, we have to realize that it will have a profound effect not only on our future, but on the future of the planet. This is why it is such a tragedy to listen to the bumbling facile answers of our Minister of the Environment as he continues to embarrass us and goes off to Bali to spout the same animismes that come out of his mouth every day here in the House of Commons.

On our side, the New Democratic Party firmly believes the government can and should play an active role in maintaining a stable and balanced economy. We should look out for the interests of average Canadians in their daily lives. Modern families require a government that understands its obligations toward future generations and it obligations toward them on issues like day care, housing and overtaxation.

We understand the average family needs a break from government, but what we also believe firmly is governments have to play a role in the modern economy. That is something the Conservatives have completely let down. That is why the forestry, the agriculture and the manufacturing sectors are in such a dire crisis right now, and the fault for that rests squarely on the shoulders of the Conservatives. They are going to be judged very severely for it in the next general election.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to rise to speak on this, but toward the end of his speech the member started talking about how our government is failing young Canadians.

The Speaker, I believe, was elected at the age of 26. I was elected at the age of 24. I am frankly quite proud of the record of the Conservative government when it comes to standing up for young Canadians. We are delivering for young Canadians.

One thing young Canadians are sick and tired of, quite frankly, are politicians who spend money that they do not have on promises they cannot keep, driving the futures of young of Canadians into the ground, with high taxes due to high debt that we cannot maintain. The NDP is a political party throughout the country, federally and provincially—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Check the record.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not heckle the member when he spoke. He can offer me the same courtesy.

The federal NDP and the provincial NDP, whenever they have been in government, have driven every one of those provinces to high taxes, high debt, less opportunity. The NDP in British Columbia took British Columbia from the fastest growing have province in Canada to the worst economic record in all of North America . That is the New Democratic Party record.

Our party, this government, stands up for young Canadians. We pay down our debt so young Canadians are not burdened by the failed promises of failed politicians. Our government is being responsible for families. We are being responsible by lowering taxes.

The New Democratic Party has an unbroken record of failure on economic policy in the country in every province where it has been tried, especially in B.C. and in Ontario. Our government will not listen to a political party that has failed in every election to get elected because the Canadian people have more common sense not to elect failed socialists to ruin the economy.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can only thank my Conservative colleague for proving my point in shopworn cliches. What a pathetic attempt coming from someone who is a member of the only federal party that does not have youth wing. It scrapped it last year.

The other thing that is not true in what he has said is that there has been anything other than balanced budgets, with one exception, and I will deal with that in a second. Look at the fact that in Manitoba right now has the third consecutive majority NDP government with consistent balanced budgets from day one, an admirable record of competent, first class public administration serving the public interest. Although a new group has come in, we finished five consecutive mandates in Saskatchewan, with nothing but balanced budgets.

Those are the facts about the NDP, good competent public administration with a heart. Yes, we wear our hearts in the right place, which is on the left.

I said I would talk about the one exception. I have to agree with my colleague on one thing. There was an unfortunate exception and it was in Ontario under Bob Rae. Look where Bob Rae is now.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, one part of the spectrum that the NDP has always etched out and defended is the reinvestment in human capital, people who come to our country looking to take part in the economy, aboriginal people who have fallen outside economic opportunities, people who require literacy programs, skills upgrading programs, apprenticeship programs, whether they are employer initiated or labour partnerships.

I may be wrong in my history, but I think the previous Liberal government, with the support of the NDP, had $3.5 billion in such programs that invested in people. Out of those investments were partnership programs with the provinces under labour market agreements. I did not hear the member talk about that part at all.

Would he like the opportunity to address what I think is extremely part of that productivity equation, and that is investment in people so they can become full partners in the economy, which in many sectors is threatened but there are opportunities?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased but somewhat surprised that a Liberal member of the House would afford me that opportunity. It gives me the occasion to remind people that under the member for LaSalle—Émard, who was prime minister of Canada for a very brief period, the New Democratic Party held the Liberals' feet to the fire. Instead of giving a $4.5 billion tax break to their corporate buddies, we managed to take that money and spread it out among three main categories of public spending.

One was for post-secondary education. It was a shot in the arm, well needed and well deserved, for a sector that had suffered a great deal in recent years because of a lot of inaction and lack of attention on the part of successive governments.

Another very important area that got attention with the NDP budget was public transit, which received a similar $1.5 billion. I know the member has a long and respected history as a senior manager in the field of public transit, so it is another area about which I am sure he knows.

The final $1.5 billion went to public housing.

Also, it is interesting to note that, in areas like public transit, post-secondary education or housing, we have managed to come to an agreement with all the provinces over the years.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating my hon. colleague from Outremont on his election, because we had not had the chance to do so. I think this was his first full speech in the House on a matter as important as this one.

A Liberal member just questioned him on the reinvestment in human capital. This concern is to the credit of the NDP, and the Bloc Québécois as well, because we are pretty consistent in that respect. The same can hardly be said of the Liberals and the Conservatives.

I would like to hear my hon. colleague from Outremont on the position taken yesterday on Bill C-357, providing for the establishment of an independent employment insurance account to ensure that only those paying into it—that is, employers and employees—be allowed to manage this account and that it no longer be used for other purposes. We know that $54 billion has been diverted from that account. The bill was designed to put an end to such misappropriation and ensure that the funds are managed in accordance with the account's mission, which is to pay out EI benefits.

Yesterday, both the Liberals and the Conservatives voted against that bill. I would like to hear my colleague on that.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the NDP supports this initiative. I would also like to recognize the outstanding job my friend and colleague, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, has done over the years. He has always taken the lead across Canada on these employment insurance issues. He has worked tirelessly. This is an issue he understands. In addition, he has the utmost respect for people who need employment insurance, and he completely understands what they are going through.

Yes, surpluses are currently being used for other purposes. This is unacceptable and must stop. A dedicated fund will be part of the answer.

We have to say that, as usual, the Liberals are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Yesterday, we had a stunning example of this when a Liberal member from New Brunswick stood up during question period and dealt a blow to the Conservative government with a stinging question designed to defend employment insurance recipients. That same evening, when it came time to support or reject the motion calling for real action to help people in this situation, the NDP and the Bloc were there, but the Liberals spoke in favour of the motion but voted against it. That is the truth about the Liberal Party of Canada.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, in June 2005 the Prime Minister, who at the time was the opposition leader, wrote a letter to a widow of a veteran saying that if his party were in government, it would immediately extend VIP services to all widows and veterans. The budget does not address that aspect—