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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I think that our colleague, the leader of the NDP, should not mislead the House and should clearly say that the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-28. If he wants to find—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hochelaga should know that that was not a point of order, but rather a comment related to the debate.

We shall continue with questions and comments. The hon. member for Victoria.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, like my leader, I believe the federal government can be a source of positive change in our country by providing leadership with strong social policy that helps us all move forward. The government can provide stewardship of a vibrant, equitable and sustainable economy. It can also specifically provide a creative vision for our economy and our environment, rather than opposing them as the government does.

I am wondering if our leader would be able to develop a little bit our proposals around creating green jobs and sustaining our economy.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that we have an opportunity in front of us with the surpluses we have, with the capacities of Canadians, to launch upon a very ambitious project for the 21st century economy. We call it the new energy economy.

We believe, and to pick one example, that it is possible to create what we have been calling green collar jobs all across the country in the energy sector. Not everyone has to go to Fort McMurray to be involved in energy.

What people can do instead is help Mrs. Smith and Madam Cournoyer down the block to renovate their homes, so that they use less energy. It will mean a little less money for the big oil and gas companies, so I can see why the government members do not like the idea.

They will use less energy and thus reduce their daily cost of living. They will reduce the emissions that Canada is putting into the atmosphere at a rate much more ferociously high than virtually any other developed country in the world, and at the same time create work in neighbourhoods for people who are looking for work.

These are opportunities for young people and chances for older workers who have skills but are being laid off. They will be able to put their skills to work right there in their communities.

If we add that to an ambitious renewable energy program right across the country, a green grid right across the country, and all other kinds of other initiatives, we really could be on the right track. Unfortunately, this budget takes us down the wrong track.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Outremont has the floor for a question or comment. As a friendly reminder, I would like to say that he has one minute and a half left, which includes the question and answer.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my leader to kindly explain to the House the adverse consequences of the Liberal and Bloc members supporting this bill. They have helped things progress today by voting with the Conservatives on these middle-class budget issues.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear what is going on in this House, and it is too bad. Obviously, the Liberals do not want to be forced to stay seated during a vote in January or February. This is why they have gone along with forcing a vote before the bell stops ringing, which is completely unacceptable according to the parliamentary traditions of this House. And this tactic was supported by the Bloc Québécois as well.

Where was the commitment to democracy, to which we aspire in this House? Decisions are being dictated by political and partisan interests instead of the values of our constituents. The NDP will—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments about Bill C-28. As usual, my comments will focus on how this affects the people of my riding.

Practical items that concern me the most for the people in my region have to do with the lack of serious speeches and measures from the Conservative government on Bill C-28.

I am thinking about an economic sector that is vital in my region, in particular, but also in a number of regions in Quebec and Canada, and that is the forestry sector. This sector is going through a crisis and its workers are affected by it more so than workers in other sectors. Unfortunately, there is a crisis in many other manufacturing sectors as well.

We all know that circumstantial factors contributed to making an already difficult situation even worse. In light of these circumstances and this crisis, we expected the government, which has the means to provide informed and dynamic governance, to help the people. After all, the role of government is to redistribute wealth and to be fair to all its citizens, whom it is meant to serve.

While we expected measures to help these sectors, both businesses and workers, we have seen in official documents just a small sentence, as though this were not as important—the Leader of the New Democratic Party was just talking about this a few minutes ago—as the oil sectors, the banks and high finance. Nonetheless, when it comes to sectors that are vital to the people in our regions, there are just a few words that leave a whole lot to be desired in the economic statement.

I am not speaking only about workers and what could be very legitimate expectations regarding employment insurance. I am speaking of course for workers who have been laid off, in particular. I am thinking of employability measures that will keep our forestry workers on the job, as well as our businesses.

We all know that in our various communities, our towns, municipalities and regions, thousands of jobs are being lost. We now know that, in many cases, there have been temporary closures in the forestry sector, but we also know that, quite often, they will unfortunately not be temporary. Some closures could be permanent. Given the lack of timely support and vision, municipalities and towns are being put at risk of devitalization, for which the people will pay the price.

While firm action was needed to allow these businesses in the forestry sector, among others, to reposition themselves, modernize, diversify and become more competitive, absolutely nothing has been done. This is unacceptable for everyone involved, since the possibilities were and are significant.

What is the government doing? As I said earlier, with one short sentence, it thinks it will console someone or that perhaps no one will even see it. The Conservative government—and this has already been clearly and eloquently stated—is nevertheless offering considerable tax cuts for businesses that are already thriving.

Clearly, in the provinces and sectors affected by this measure—let us be honest, there are more of them in the west than in the east—businesses and employees will benefit from it.

This is an easy solution. It is certainly not a sign of a government possessed of the vision and the will to use the means available to it to provide enlightened governance by demonstrating that it is concerned about all sectors of the economy, does not play favourites, is not in league with anyone and is fair to everyone. What I find striking, as I just said, is the degree to which these tax cuts will benefit companies that are doing well and making a profit, including, above all, oil companies.

To switch gears, I would like to talk about something I care deeply about, as do many of my colleagues, I am sure. The government failed to take the opportunity to help thousands of people who make up an entire demographic: our seniors. Unfortunately, I am talking about poor seniors. I am talking about seniors who are on fixed incomes because for various reasons, they were unable to put any money aside for retirement even though they worked hard. These people live on their old age pension and their guaranteed income supplement. They receive about $1,100 a month, which places them well below the poverty line.

Here is one example from my riding. Given the cost of living and the poverty line in the Rimouski region, our seniors' annual income is about $4,000 or $5,000 below the poverty line. To add insult to injury, they found out too late, because they were not informed, that they were entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement. To top it off, the previous government, the party that is now the official opposition, granted them just 11 months of retroactivity.

The new government—the adjective “new” has been used for some time by the other side of the House—had the chance to do something, to make an important decision for our seniors everywhere in Canada. There is nothing partisan or sovereignist about it—I am bringing this forward on behalf of everyone. This government had the opportunity to do something. However, once again, absolutely nothing was done.

In February, I will have the opportunity to table a motion in this House. I hope that this will spur a large number of my colleagues to reflect on the appalling situation of our mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, in short, our seniors. They are the ones who built this society and who are largely responsible for who we are and what we have today. At the very least, out of respect for them, we could provide an income that is above the poverty line.

I see that some colleagues have such an interest in this matter that they have been overcome by laughter.

Before I conclude, I would like to suggest to my colleagues in this House that they read a few pages from a very revealing book. It may prove to be a way of learning French but it is also a way to broaden almost everyone's horizons. This book was written by the well known author, Riccardo Petrella. He has just written a new book, Pour une nouvelle narration du monde. Just before these holidays, I believe that the members of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the other parties, as well as the three independents, would benefit from broadening their horizons and realizing that we can look at our world from a different perspective. We can believe in solidarity and sharing, and not just in globalization, competition and in market forces that are completely out of control.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her important speech. The federal government has billions of dollars in surpluses and is giving a tax reduction to large companies that are turning a profit. Ordinarily, a company that does not make a profit does not pay any tax. But when we look at what is happening, we see that the big oil companies in Alberta are getting tax breaks and reductions.

But some large companies were losing money and some large companies have closed. For example, UPM in Miramichi, the Smurfit-Stone paper mill in Bathurst and plants in New Richmond and Dalhousie have just closed. Fils Fins d'Atlantique and textile companies in Quebec have also closed their doors. These companies have not received any help, and the workers have lost their jobs.

Does the member agree with me that instead of giving money to companies that are making a profit, the big banks and all those people, the government could have used it to help create employment for people who have lost their jobs? Once again, the Liberals have helped the Conservatives by voting with them or not voting at all, as they tend to do. They are not here to represent ordinary Canadians who have lost their jobs and are in terrible straits, families living in poverty and need and children who are hungry.

There are currently 1.4 million children in Canada who are hungry. This was the case under a Liberal government in the past, and it is now the case under a Conservative government.

Is it not shameful to see a government that stands up for big companies? I hope that the Canadian workers who are watching us this evening and seeing what is happening will realize that these are not the sorts of political parties they should vote for, because these parties do not stand up for them.

I would like to hear what my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques has to say about this.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst who, like many members of his party, cares deeply about the well-being of his communities. That has been clear to me since I came here, and I knew it even before I was elected.

I agree with him that the government's inaction is nothing short of scandalous in light of what is going on. I agree with what he said and I would add that I, like many others, no doubt, was dumbfounded when I discovered that the government planned to help those who were already able to help themselves. Those who are in a position to benefit from a tax cut or from a 1% GST cut are those who have money to spend.

Consumer spending is all well and good, but we should also be talking about productivity. We have to put people to work and keep them working as long as possible. However, when people are unable to work, there should be measures in place not only to improve their employability but to support them during hard times.

It is clear that given the current surpluses, especially those that were announced before we came back to the House—the $10 billion, $11 billion or $12 billion being used to pay down the debt, which is not actually a problem for Canada—we could put some of that money to work to help people who need help. That is called redistribution of wealth. That is what the government should be doing, but the Conservative government seems to have forgotten all about that particular responsibility.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

On the advice of both whips, the vote is postponed until tomorrow at 1 p.m.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak during the adjournment proceedings regarding my question related to residential schools. I was there on the day that this great historic agreement was made on residential schools by a great prime minister from LaSalle—Émard and a great grand chief, Phil Fontaine.

I remember that evening, the tears that were shed. The grand chief, prime minister and the Liberal government had worked so hard. Many first nations people had waited so long and it was certainly a moving moment.

Subsequent to that time, unfortunately, the government was defeated and then there came a series of very sad delays. I heard rumours that the government in cabinet had a debate and members could have one or the other, the historic residential school agreement or the equally historic Kelowna accord.

For whatever reason, after significant delays cabinet agreed to go ahead with the residential school agreement, but unfortunately a number of elders who had gone through some horrible experiences in their youth never lived to see the results.

Even though the agreement has been signed and sealed, there are still delays in the payments. I want to read from the November 29 deliberations of the aboriginal affairs committee. A Bloc member, who was asking about these late payments, said the following:

I have a question. I do not know whether it is because of you, Mr. Minister, but why were we not ready? Why is it taking so long for these people to receive the cheque to which they are entitled? What is holding things up? What is going on? Why does it take such a long time for them to receive the money to which they are entitled?

Another member on the aboriginal affairs committee said:

You made a commitment on September 19 to the 80,000 survivors who were eligible to apply for compensation that the payments would be made within 35 days. We have all heard the stories, we've all seen the press reports, and we've heard that many survivors have not received their compensation. I appreciate your remarks that the money is there, that it is committed, and that it will be honoured. What I want to know is when this money will be out to them. The 35 days is long past. How do you account for the failure in getting those moneys out?

I will give one example that I received:

I am writing to support your opposition to the current government's delay in the processing of the Indian Residential School Common Experience Payments. I submitted my completed application to Service Canada on September 20, 2007. I was told to expect payment within 35 days. On October 26, I contacted Service Canada to enquire about my file. They informed me that my file was received on October 18 and that the 35-day window would begin there. This was contrary to what I read on the information they gave to me!

Unfortunately, I believed them. I was counting upon and expecting a prompt payment. I hoped to relocate to the Vancouver area to be nearer my daughters. We rarely see each other because we cannot afford to. But now the delay has bankrupted me and thrown my plans into chaos. My electricity will be disconnected on November 14! I have no food or money. I am unemployed.

The government thinks everything is fine. With residential schools there were two resolutions passed either today or yesterday at the Assembly of First Nations. One of them is talking about documentation and I do not have time to read the whole thing, so I will do it in my other minute.

8:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I stand to respond to some of the assertions made by the member for Yukon.

First, he claims this process has been delayed by our government. I find this a really remarkable assertion by him. We first sat in the House of Commons as a newly elected government on April 7, 2006. By May 1, we had passed this historic legislation. As a new government, a government that was finding its feet, we pushed this forward within one month. That shows our commitment to this issue.

In response to his comments about the payments, we have received over 80,000 applications. This is a court ordered process. The court demands that we only pay those who were actually at the schools. As such, through this very rigorous court process, we have to ensure that only actual residential school claimants receive the money. We have processed 34,000 claims of those 80,000 who have applied, and nearly $600 million has been sent to Services Canada for distribution.

I will leave it there and see where the hon. member for Yukon goes with his next question.

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I want to alert the government to two resolutions from the AFN.

Resolution 12 was moved by Chief Tom Bressette and seconded by Chief Donavan Fontaine. It talks about residential school survivors not being adequately documented in Canada. It states:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

The Chiefs-in-Assembly mandate the National Chief and the AFN Executive to seek resources to develop a background paper on Children of Residential School Survivors.

Resolution 37 states in part:

The CEP have started to flow to the survivors and a growing number of persons are receiving payments that fall short of the years they attended residential schools, thus not getting the full entitlement to their claim.

Therefore Be It Resolved that:

Chiefs-in-Assembly direct the National Chief to seek to establish sufficient capacity at the Assembly of First Nations to support those survivors in cases of underpayment of CEP and to work closely with Service Canada and IRSRC.

I hope the government will take these concerns under advisement and work to better the payment system.

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, on this front, a number of questions have been brought forward not only by the member's party, but other parties, in relation to individuals who have received the common experience payment in less than the amount they expected.

Occasionally, there are situations where there is no proof of the actual tenure at a school. However, should these individuals feel that their payment is short of what they expected, there is a process, mandated by the courts, to review these payments and appeal said payments. We will continue to abide by this court order.

We are very pleased that the new Conservative government has delivered on this shameful record that has been left by our predecessors.