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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

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, close to a million people from around the world are on a waiting list to come to Canada. Grandparents and parents right now have a waiting time of about three to four years, depending on where they come from, and sometimes the waiting time is even closer to six years.

I am not sure if the member is aware that we also allow an individual in Canada, if he or she has absolutely no other family, to sponsor a member of his or her family or a close relative.

This idea is something that was thought about and discussed. One thing that must happen is that the provinces sign on. Some provinces may not want to sign on because it will put a strain on them.

I am saying to the member that although this is a good idea, everyone who has immigrated to Canada would want to sponsor someone, once in his or her lifetime. There are close to seven million people who were not born in Canada and all of them would want to sponsor someone.

I am just wondering if the member has thought about the numbers when she says that this will have absolutely no strain on the immigration process. People who are getting sponsored, people who are waiting, people who are in line, the number of which is now close to 250,000 people, how many people are we going to allow under this category, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000? If so, if everyone wants to sponsor someone, that would be close to seven million.

How long is it going to take them to come to Canada? I am just wondering if the member has really crunched the numbers. Has she thought it out?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member was listening closely to my comments earlier. As I said before, the amendment being proposed in Bill C-394 does not change the limits on the overall numbers of people who would be allowed into Canada through the sponsorship program.

The difference between people who are now on the list and who may be waiting for some period of time is that the people who today do not qualify because the bill is not in place can never get on the list.

Yes, today some people have to wait a few years, but there are people today who have waited a lifetime and can never get on the list. That is what the bill is intended to address.

In terms of the member's statement that everyone will want to sponsor someone, I challenge that. A sponsorship application is very serious. It means a long term responsibility and a very serious financial commitment. I can tell the hon. member that not everyone wants to take that on. One has to be very serious about the responsibility under the sponsorship requirements.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for tabling the bill.

There are others of us in the House who have tabled similar legislation in the past. The member for Vancouver East, the member for Winnipeg North and I have all tabled similar legislation, because we in the NDP caucus believe that the definition of family that is in the current immigration act does not apply to all families. We know that in many families the relationships that are formed between a brother and a sister are stronger than that between parents and that the definition discriminates against those families and those relationships.

It is something that we know is very important. We also know that it is very important to strengthen the whole family reunification aspect of our immigration law. That has been a keystone of immigration policy in Canada. It is one of the strongest aspects of our immigration policy, because people who arrive with family members already in Canada tend to be happier. They settle faster. They integrate into the communities faster because they have that family network to help them to settle successfully here in Canada.

This will also make Canada much more competitive with our main competitors for immigration, such as the United States, because we will be seen as a country that encourages the maintenance of family relationships when immigration happens.

I think that makes this a very pro-family piece of legislation. I would like the member to comment on how pro-family this piece of legislation is.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas for his work in presenting this kind of legislation in the past. While I am at it, I would like to also thank my colleague from Vancouver East and my colleague from Winnipeg North, who also in the past tabled similar legislation. They--

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but the time for questions and comments has expired.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

This private member's bill would grant every Canadian citizen or permanent resident the opportunity to sponsor once in his or her lifetime one foreign national who is a relative but not a member of the existing family class. The existing family class is a spouse, a common law or conjugal partner, a child under 22, a parent, or a grandparent. In that sense, there is an opportunity to sponsor family.

All of us appreciate the importance of strengthening families. Family reunification has been a cornerstone of Canadian immigration for decades, and this government is committed to ensuring that families represent a vibrant component of our immigration program in the years ahead. Indeed, that is what Canadians expect. Canadians expect a government that is firmly committed to families and to strengthening the ways that families can be reunited with their loved ones from overseas should they choose to make Canada their new home.

The issue raised by Bill C-394 is not new. There is a considerable history to it. The bill was previously introduced on two occasions and was defeated by significant margins at second reading. Bill C-272 was previously defeated on March 23, 2005 by a margin of 167 to 76. Bill C-436 was defeated on April 18, 2004 by a margin of 149 to 40. It is worth noting that both our party and the then Liberal government were clearly opposed to the previous incarnations of this bill.

The bill defines a relative as a brother or a sister of the sponsor, an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin, or a child who is under 22 and not dependent on the sponsor.

The management and implementation of a provision for once in a lifetime sponsorship of a family member is problematic for a number of reasons, all of which apply to the private member's bill before the House today. Such a wide open expansion of the family class category would place an unsupportable burden on existing resources.

It is interesting that the member did not answer the question about the uptake, or how many people this might bring into the system. If, as she said, the targets were not going to be changed, where would those numbers come from, where would they be taken away from?

There is no doubt that it would increase inventories exponentially and likely result in substantial delays for processing other applications, including those from immediate family members or applicants from other family class categories. This clearly is not in the best interests of Canadians.

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park knows there are extensive family reunification provisions in the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the regulations and guidelines thereunder. These regulations, passed in 2002, significantly enhance the family reunification program and more closely reflect today's social and cultural realities.

It is easier today for Canadians and permanent residents to sponsor their loved ones from abroad in a well-managed and sustainable way.

These changes, for example, provide for equal treatment under the law for common law and conjugal partners. They expand the definition of dependent child to better reflect the new realities of children being reliant on their parents for longer periods of time. They lower the age at which Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible to sponsor from 19 years of age to 18 years of age.

Under the immigration and refugee protection regulations, Canadians and permanent residents can also sponsor any other relative, regardless of age or relationship, if the sponsor does not have a more immediate living family member.

These enhancements to the family class facilitate family reunification while ensuring an appropriate balance between economic and non-economic immigrants. In the absence of a significant increase in admissions and resources, the adoption of this bill would have significant impacts on the balance and on the overall inventory and processing.

While the previous Liberal government allowed the backlog to balloon to over 800,000, the ever-increasing number of applicants wishing to make Canada their home continues to put additional pressures on the immigration system which many say is already too cumbersome and slow. These pressures would be compounded exponentially by the implementation of Bill C-394.

Simply put, implementing this legislation would impede CIC's ability to ensure the program is balanced and responsive to government priorities, including the ability to meet labour market demands.

The proposed amendments would also have potential impacts on matters of provincial and territorial concern. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has consulted with other levels of government, partners and stakeholders to find a way to work on immigration issues in a more coordinated and cooperative way.

For example, under provincial and territorial immigration agreements, the government has removed the limit on the number of immigrants provinces can nominate each year, allowing the provinces a better opportunity to meet their unique economic, social and labour market needs.

We have also committed to find ways to help temporary foreign workers and students settle in the provinces. In recent years most have gone to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver because large, established ethnic communities in those cities have made them attractive to newcomers. This has been a major challenge for the immigration system. Therefore, we have aligned our system to make it more responsive to labour market and regional needs.

As all members know, part of the government's plan for the coming year involves introducing a new avenue to immigration, a new economic class that will help attract and retain certain skilled temporary workers and international students with Canadian degrees and work experience.

We must ensure that the immigration program continues to meet the needs of all Canadians in the future. It is how the government will move forward in the future.

We agree with the concept of making it easier for families to reunite with their loved ones. We agree with the idea of strengthening families in general. But, the government has also a duty to properly manage the immigration program and ensure the principles of integrity and balance are upheld.

It is worth noting that the previous Liberal government was vehemently opposed to this legislation when it was introduced in previous sessions. On November 3, 2003, a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration said:

Such a wide open approach would significantly increase processing delays and the size of existing backlogs for every immigrant category. it would place an unsupportable burden on existing resources, and it would help to undermine the integrity of the entire immigration program by increasing the opportunities for fraud.

This position was echoed by another former Liberal parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration, the current member for Vancouver Centre, who, on February 12, 2004 said that the actual effect of the legislation would be:

--anyone could sponsor nearly anyone else as a member of the undefined relative class without any thought to fiscal support or employability. The new person could then repeat the exercise, as could their sponsored applicant, and so on, creating a multiplier effect. The result would be an almost limitless chain of family class immigration based simply on loose associations.

If this proposal is adopted, not only will we need significant resources to deal with a larger number of cases, but we will also need proportionally more resources to deal with the family class applications, simply to maintain the existing ratio between family and economic class immigration.

Moreover, this could result in new frauds and it could undermine the integrity of the economic class immigration, since a significant number of economic class immigrants have distant relatives in Canada who could sponsor them.

The changes proposed...runs counter...to the principles of fairness, balance and consultation, and so we cannot support it.

That is what that member said. Those are not our words.

Implementing Bill C-394 would have far-reaching negative implications on the integrity of the current immigration system. Its specific proposals to expand the family class are both unsustainable and unmanageable. We therefore cannot support Bill C-394 and urge all hon. members to do the same.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we witnessed today in question period, indeed, immigration is an important issue, an issue that requires vision, and an issue that speaks to the future of our country. When we look at the years 2011 to 2015, approximately 100% of the net labour force growth will come from immigration alone.

We take these private members' bills very seriously. We analyze them. We see how, in a holistic manner, they can address key concerns related to immigration. There is nobody in the House who does not care about reuniting families or helping new Canadians or understanding the economic and social benefits of immigration.

We do this as a modern society that has seen this country transform itself, and this bill is debated at a time when the census report, the 2006 statistics report, was actually released. What do we see? We see that the 2006 census enumerated 6,186,950 foreign born in Canada, representing one in five, that is 19.8% of total foreign born population, the highest proportion in 75 years.

Between 2001 and 2006, the foreign born population increased by 13.6%, four times higher than 3.3% growth of the Canadian born population, 19.8%. It is higher than the U.S. at 12.5%, and lower than Australia at 22.2%.

The census also estimates that 1,000,110 recent immigrants arrived in Canada between January 1, 2001 and May 16, 2006. These newcomers make up 17.9% of the total foreign born population and 3.6% of Canada's population of 31.2 million.

I say this to paint a picture of the new Canada that is emerging and the resources that will be required by this government and future governments to address the key issue of immigration and immigrant settlements. However, as I reviewed Bill C-394 it was déjà vu, because the material in Bill C-394 is not exactly new. Bill C-272 resembled it very much and so does Bill C-436.

This bill would allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor once in a lifetime a relative who is not a member of the family class. It defines a relative as a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, first cousin or child who is 22 years of age or older and is not dependent on sponsors.

It mirrors some of the provisions which already exist in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act regulations to process relatives who do not normally fall under the family class.

The bill essentially could create an exponential influx of immigration applications that could result in delays in processing priority members of the family class that are spouses, partners and dependent children. That could happen. It would also further increase processing times for other members of family class, such as parents and grandparents.

Good intentions also have to be followed with proper analysis of numbers and resources that are available. After today's question period, it was pretty clear that the present government does not have enough resources to address the present issues that our immigration system faces. It simply does not make sense at this point in time, unless we are willing to engage in a broader review of the immigration system in Canada with brand new goals and of course greater resources, to look at this particular bill.

We already have a backlog of 800,000 applications. That is stretching the present resources of the government.

I am one of those who has said, as I asked today in question period, that in fact the proper resources need to be made available so that we can reduce the backlog to have an effective and efficient immigration system. A system where we are going to require, as a nation that is an aging society, to really tap for the future not only the obvious social and cultural benefits drawn from immigration. I believe that immigration is an economic imperative as we look at the competition that exists for skilled workers and labour force of the future.

The hon. member will have to answer many questions related to whether or not she has actually crunched the numbers, as we say, in relationship to her bill. My sense is that she actually has not and that in fact this would inflate the demand for applications abroad as well.

This, of course, would result in larger processing inventories for family cases when demand in family class has already exceeded government resources. This would hamper, also, the efforts to process priority family members, such as spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children, as quickly as possible. It would also add pressure to the processing of other family class applicants.

So, these bills cannot be just introduced ad hoc. The immigration system is a bit more complicated than perhaps the hon. member would believe. We need to look at it and balance the various needs.

It is clear, and it has been pointed out already by the parliamentary secretary, that in fact there are provisions that allow people obviously to come to Canada, that is how they get here, and this bill essentially would stress the already stressed resources of the immigration department at home as well as abroad.

Finally, I want to say to the hon. member that I have really not heard anything new from her that was not heard during the debates and presentations of Bill C-272 and Bill C-436. This is kind of déjà vu all over again.

It is a question that, once it has failed, we need to, as members of Parliament presenting private members' bill, present new evidence that in fact things can work better. With a government that is not willing to provide greater resources to immigration, that is going to be difficult.

However, I am one of those individuals who think that, given the challenges that we face as a country, as I said earlier, an aging population, skills shortages and reunification of families, we need to look at immigration in a broader scope. We need to redefine exactly what our targets are and redefine what it is that the government is willing to invest in immigration. Is the present government willing to make it a priority?

Because, quite frankly, what I have seen to date in the short time that I have been immigration critic is a government that has not made immigration a priority, although every indicator, social, cultural and economic, points to the fact that the future of our country largely depends on our ability to attract immigrants.

Whether we are talking about the 800,000 application backlog or whether we are talking about the $100 million shortfall with the Province of Ontario to help it deal with immigration issues, as well as the failure of the accreditation of foreign credentials, there is a lot of work to do in this portfolio.

I hope that the Prime Minister, as well as cabinet, begins to really realize that immigration in this country should not be an afterthought. Immigration is a key issue. It speaks to the future of our country and it should be taken more seriously by the Conservative government.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-394. This enactment would allow a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor, once in their lifetime, a relative who is not a member of the family class.

I would like to thank the member for Parkdale—High Park for raising this issue in response to repeated requests that we receive as members of Parliament when we meet citizens who wish to be reunited with family members. Their frustration on discovering that they cannot be reunited is evident. Moreover, those who already have a case in process tell us that they, too, experience frustration and exasperation when they find out how long they will have to wait before the government processes their case.

The Bloc Québécois believes that family is of vital importance. That is why we have always supported policies that help families. That applies to immigration too. This issue deserves a close look. I am very glad that one of our colleagues has opened the debate on this issue in the House. I think that the questions that will be raised and the discussion they will lead to will prove useful.

Canada has a moral obligation to do whatever it can to reunite families. We will therefore support the principles underlying this bill.

We would like this bill to go through a preliminary consultation process during meetings of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We want to be sure that we understand the consequences of this bill on the immigration program.

The government will probably want to maintain the 60:40 balance between economic class immigration—business people, independent workers and skilled workers—and family class and refugee immigration.

I represent the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges in Quebec. The number of immigrants in my riding is growing. Lots of people come to my office to ask me to help them sponsor a relative. I am sure that other ridings in Quebec are experiencing the same thing.

We would like to hear about what happened from 1988 to 1993, when the Conservatives in power at the time changed the sponsorship rules by expanding the family class. I think it found itself in a situation in which it did not have the ability to process all the files of everyone who took advantage of this legislative change. We should remember the backlog that existed at a number of immigration offices abroad. At that time, different programs in the public service were experiencing major budget cuts and immigration was no exception.

Now, maybe the federal government has the means, but that is not the case for all the provinces. It is true that there are big challenges to integrating immigrants, but that does not prevent this bill from moving forward and at least continuing somewhat, so that it can be considered in committee.

Although the list of people who can be sponsored under the family class was expanded a few years ago, Canada's regulations concerning immigration and refugees are still quite limited in their definition of family members. Unfortunately, efforts in recent years have not solved the problem of wait times.

It may be time to expand the family class. I believe that an in-depth review in committee will allow us to better assess the mechanisms and resources that will be needed if Parliament passes this bill.

Canada certainly has to be able to control its immigration and set some limits. The limit here is allowing someone, once in their lifetime, to sponsor a relative. I think the hon. member was trying to limit massive immigration of relatives, but I wonder if she is taking the right approach.

There are so many problems to resolve in our immigration system. Certain mechanisms and principles distort the real objectives of immigration. Insufficient resources are a major problem across the board in immigration.

The consideration of a bill like this will at least force a debate and keep the pressure on the government for adequate funding to provide proper settlement services for those we take in, while not ignoring our humanitarian duty and compassion.

We need to bring meaning back to the expression “human compassion”, far too often rendered meaningless by acts that are not consistent with the family reunification programs.

The social costs of prolonged periods of separation must not be forgotten in our decision.

Although we are in favour of the principle of this bill, we believe it poses some problems in terms of its application. Is the hon. member proposing an increase in the number of immigrants or more changes to the 60/40 ratio between economic class immigrants and family class immigrants? Will immigration targets vary within the current limits on the admissible number of immigrants or is the hon. member suggesting the limits be increased? If we maintain the current numbers and the current limits, what impact will this have on the already lengthy wait times? If we increase the number of files to process, is the department capable of absorbing the new workload? Considering the existing backlog in processing files, will this bill not make matters worse?

For now it would be important to look at whether this will have a significant impact on the ability of Quebec and Canada to integrate the people sponsored through this bill. There are other questions that need to be asked and these could be discussed in greater length during the next debate on this bill.

Not only is the protection of families a fundamental principle entrenched in international law, but the principle also appears in section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That section outlines the goals of the act and specifies that one of the goals is to ensure that families are reunited. We must not lose sight of that objective. It is from that perspective, I think, that the member introduced this bill. We must at least consider this bill, allow it to move forward and be studied in committee. We could then at least debate, once and for all, the shortcomings of the immigration system. We could identify its shortcomings and the opportunities presented.

In accordance with international human rights texts, the protection of families is a responsibility of the state. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies that family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state. In other words, the state, which is Canada, must do everything it can to support family reunification. This is in the legislation and, as parliamentarians, we must examine the matter and not completely dismiss the possibility of debating such an important issue.

The Bloc Québécois believes that some of the existing mechanisms facilitating family reunification need to be remedied. As many people already know, among other things, I am extremely involved in refugee files. When a family reunification file takes eight or nine years to resolve, that is completely unacceptable. That is an example of how the family reunification policy must be improved. We must examine and assess the possibility of expanding the category immediately, as I was saying earlier. We must work from that perspective and with an objective that is as open as possible to other family members, as set out in this bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to speak on this fine legislation submitted by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park.

My colleague follows a long line of New Democrats who have proposed this idea to the House and who will keep proposing this idea to the House until it becomes a reality. Why? Because it is a good idea, it makes sense, and it will contribute enormously to the future of this country.

Those members who have tried to persuade Parliament to go down this path deserve acknowledgement and congratulations. My colleagues from Burnaby—Douglas, Vancouver East and of course Parkdale—High Park all deserve congratulations for their persistence and perseverance in bringing this forward to the House of Commons.

Because one day the bill will pass. One day the NDP will persuade a critical mass in the chamber that it is worth pursuing, because we are not talking about some outrageous, outlandish proposal that is going to bring this country to its knees. No, we are talking about a proposal that will fact build this country and create enormous potential for ensuring an economically prosperous future for every one of our citizens.

It is ludicrous for anyone to suggest, as has been suggested many times in this debate, that this proposal will cause the floodgates to open and thousands of immigrants will be knocking at our doors and pounding at the immigration system's door and demanding to get in. That is not going to be the case. We are talking about a proposal that would simply expand the definition of family to bring it into the 21st century, a definition of family which recognizes that sometimes it takes a whole group of extended family members to raise children and provide nurturing care because they have to or because they want to.

All the NDP is saying to members today is to get their heads out of their little boxes and think creatively. I want them to think about what it would mean to have aunts and uncles, cousins or other relatives coming to join them if they were alone and isolated in a foreign land. I ask them to think about what it would do for that family unit.

I ask them to think about what it would do to strengthen our communities. I ask them to think about what it would do in terms of providing services and supports that otherwise are required to be provided by the government and would cost the taxpayers money.

As we see this, it is a cost saving that we are talking about, not an added burden on our economy or to the taxpayers of this country. We are talking about strengthening society. That can only be good for us in all senses of the word.

I come from what I would consider probably the most diverse constituency in this country. I am sure my colleague from Vancouver East or others might take umbrage at that, but in fact Winnipeg North has such a great diversity of people that one could say we have the world in one constituency.

Many decades ago, immigrants built our community, whether they were of Ukrainian, Polish or German origin. Now there are waves of new immigrants who are continuing with that pioneering tradition and building the community, including Filipinos, Punjabis and many more. These are people who have contributed a great deal to the province of Manitoba and in fact to this entire country.

I want to say for the Conservative members here, and especially for the parliamentary secretary, that they should go back to a few years ago, six years, when this idea was presented to the immigration committee as those of us on that committee were dealing with Bill C-11, the supposed framework piece of legislation to revamp our immigration legislation and bring it into the modern century.

At that time, the NDP proposed an amendment to that bill to in fact expand the definition of family. That proposal was taken very seriously by the Conservatives, to such a point that they actually voted for the amendment. They joined with New Democrats to send a message to the Liberals to get their heads out the sand and start thinking about what it really means to build community, to give families support, and to create a country that is truly respectful of everyone's differences.

A motion was presented in 2001 during that debate on the bill and it was only narrowly defeated, by one vote, in a vote of seven to six at the immigration committee. Conservative members joined with New Democrats in supporting this idea because it truly is worthwhile to pursue.

Let us remember that we are not talking about a wide open, permanent solution. In effect, we are talking about a pilot project, a test run. We are talking about an idea that actually came from the minister of immigration at the time, Elinor Caplan, in discussions with my colleague from Vancouver East. The minister said that perhaps they could try, on a pilot project basis, this idea of once in a lifetime: that a family here, either citizens or permanent residents, could in fact sponsor a relative who was outside the traditional definition of family.

That was a very important suggestion. Unfortunately, her colleagues in the Liberal Party never pursued it and in fact have vetoed it and stopped it every step of the way.

I want to remind members that it was a Liberal cabinet minister who ran against me in the 2004 election and was defeated at the polls largely because he refused to accept this notion that family has a broad definition, and that if we are truly serious about an open door policy we would encourage this kind of sponsorship, knowing full well that it does not open the floodgates.

It is not going to produce all kinds of illegal immigrants because in fact these sponsorships have to go through the same rigorous rules that now apply to anyone who is sponsored, whether we are talking about a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a grandparent or a child under the age of 22. We are just saying to open the definition, to try it and see what happens.

Let me say that I am disappointed in the Conservatives. I am not surprised given their record, which is like that of the Liberals, with respect to other proposals dealing with sensible family policies in the area of immigration. This is a government that claims to represent family but turns down a family because one child in that family has a disability.

I have now half a dozen cases on my plate of families that were accepted under the Manitoba provincial nominee program, because their skills were needed in our province and in this country, and they were turned down by the federal government because one child in that family of four, five or six has a disability.

I want to say shame on the Conservatives for that kind of discriminatory anti-human rights policy. If they are serious about building families, they will fix this matter of immigrants who come here with disabilities and stop enforcing this rigorous definition of economic and social demand on our society. We are talking about children with disabilities who are not going to cost our system one penny because they have families and relatives who will support them and help them every step of the way.

I want to say that if the government is serious about family, it will also deal with the backlogs that my colleagues in the House have mentioned today. They will deal with the fact that so many people cannot complete their sponsorships, whether we are talking about mothers, fathers, grandparents or children under the age of 22. They have to wait years because this government, like the previous Liberal government, refuses to bolster the numbers in the immigration department to ensure that all of our offices are properly resourced to provide for decent, humane treatment in our immigration system.

I call upon the government and all members in this House to support this bill. It is the least they can do if they are serious about an open door policy, about attracting skilled immigrants to this country, which we need so desperately, and about ensuring that the family is the bedrock of our society. If we cannot do that, we cannot guarantee a future for our citizens in this country. I would suggest that every member in this House should give this a chance and let it get to committee.

We are not saying that the whole thing must be supported right now. We are saying that for once in the history of this Parliament, after four private members' bills have been initiated in this chamber, allow one of those bills to go to committee for input, discussion and consideration. If we were to do that, we would truly know whether there are serious obstacles to this constructive proposal or whether the government and the Liberal members are simply being destructive and counterproductive in terms of building a strong country that is built on an open door policy and that is founded on the principles of humanitarian and compassionate actions.

I suggest that there is only one way for this Parliament to go and that is to give this bill a try and send it to committee. Let us ensure that we have an immigration policy that we can all be proud of.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we were last debating Bill C-28, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley still had 10 minutes and he now has the floor.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, when I finished my first 10 minutes I was going through the contradictions in the ongoing discussions about the Atlantic accords and the different things that came up that confused Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders about the approach that the government has about the Atlantic accords and the fact that it just took them away.

In case there is any question about the accords being taken away, I would like to read from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, an independent think tank, that said:

The new program also reverses a pre-election commitment to exclude natural resource revenues, and includes 50% of these revenues.

It goes on to say:

The protection provided by the Accords is undermined.... In the authors’ view, this violates both the letter and the spirit of the Accord.

Just today the Premier of Newfoundland said:

Essentially, we are being railroaded into an untenable situation whereby we are forced to choose the O’Brien formula....

In the mail-out that he sent around to every Nova Scotian, Premier MacDonald said:

That budget effectively ripped up our Offshore Accord and all of the opportunities it is expected to bring to Nova Scotians.

Also in the mail-out, Premier MacDonald called on all Nova Scotians to join him and sign a petition “demanding that Ottawa honour the Offshore Accord and all agreements it signs with any province or territory”.

We would not think we would need to have a petition to get the Government of Canada to honour a signed agreement with anyone, whether it is a province, another country, a business person or a single person. However, the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia felt compelled to call on Canadians, and Nova Scotians in particular, to sign a petition demanding that the government honour signed agreements.

We now have an agreement with Nova Scotia but it is not the Atlantic accord as requested in the petition that the Premier of Nova Scotia asked for.

I want to go on to another bit of confusion. I want to point out that when the Prime Minister came to Nova Scotia in 2005 he was very supportive of the Atlantic accords. I want to read a couple of things he said. In the Halifax Sunday Herald of February 6, he said:

...it was Mr. Hamm's leadership that brought home the agreement, which he described as the best opportunity Nova Scotia had in 138 years.

Why would he say that and then take it away? That is confusing to a lot of people.

The Prime Minister went on to say that the accords were “courageous and visionary”. I do not understand how he could say that and now the government refers to the accords as double-dipping, cherry-picking and double-stacking.

I do not know how one goes from courageous and visionary to double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking, but somehow the exact same agreements, which were at one time, in the Prime Minister's view, courageous and visionary, are now double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking.

It is confusing for the people of Nova Scotia to wonder how the Prime Minister and the government could zig and zag on this very issue.

When the government decided to break the Atlantic accord, it gave two reasons. One was that it wanted to have a single, principled base equalization formula for the whole country. It has done exactly the opposite with Bill C-28.

In Bill C-28, the government established an equalization formula for two provinces and a different one for eight provinces. Two provinces have a 3.5% escalator clause until 2020. Eight do not have that escalator clause. Two provinces have an agreement that goes to 2020. Eight provinces have an agreement that goes to 2013. The government has created exactly what the Prime Minister said he would not do.

I want to again read part 11 in Bill C-28, which states:

Part 11 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to provide for an additional fiscal equalization payment that may be paid to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Previously the Atlantic accord was not an equalization payment. It was an offset payment, but now the government has established a different equalization formula, which seems to me to totally contradict the goal of the Prime Minister in establishing one equalization formula because now we do have two formulas. The ironic thing is that when we had the Atlantic accord and the O'Brien formula we had one equalization formula, which is exactly what he said he wanted.

The other goal was to eliminate any side deals. I do not know how we would describe the side deals in Bill C-28, but it is full of side deals as far as the accord goes. One is that two provinces would get the 3.5% escalator until 2020 and the other one is that at the end of each year the federal government may pay Nova Scotia an amount of money each year if the parallel calculation is more than the O'Brien formula. Each one of those is a side deal for each year.

That is the reason I will be voting against Bill C-28. I voted against it before and I will be voting against it again.

I am not arguing that the province of Nova Scotia has negotiated a new deal, and it may be a good deal, but we do not know because we have never seen the projections. Senators, members of Parliament and the media have asked for the projections to confirm what the government says when it says that the new deal is good for Nova Scotia.

We had the provincial projections but we have never had the federal projections. If any of the Conservative members do stand up I hope they will table the projections so we will know whether it is a good deal for Nova Scotia, not based on the federal government.

Officials have told us that they have done their projections. They have done the best case scenario and the worst case scenario, but as yet we have not been able to get them to share those projections with us so we can share their enthusiasm for this program if it is accurate. However, we do not know because we do not have the projections.

I will close my remarks with that but I will say that the Atlantic accord is still in effect. It is a two-page agreement and it is still there. It is just that the government has chosen not to honour or respect it and it has chosen to take a different route. It is a shame. It is a two-page agreement, nine paragraphs long and the Conservatives have decided to break the deal and not honour it. They have tried to come up three alternatives now, none of which are the Atlantic accord. That is why I will be voting against Bill C-28.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to comment very briefly and then ask the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley a question on Bill C-28.

I want to commend him not only on his consistent principled position in standing up for the Atlantic accord, but also for him making it very clear that standing up for the Atlantic accord requires voting against Bill C-28. I commend him for taking that position.

My colleague gave an excellent summation of the spectacular betrayal and flip-flop and double-crossing that goes on whenever we deal with this issue. Nothing could be clearer than what the then leader of the official opposition said on the campaign trail in Halifax, the city I am privileged to represent. He then did a complete and total reversal after he found himself in power.

In that sense, it is starting to look a lot like the more familiar pattern of Liberals who run on a progressive platform and then when in government, govern on the right. They are meanspirited and are quite prepared to throw Atlantic Canada overboard, which they have consistently done. When the Liberals were government, they threw Atlantic Canada overboard in the period between 1993 and 1997. That resulted in the 11 sitting Liberals in Nova Scotia being defeated. They were unceremoniously thrown out of office, which brings me to my two brief questions.

My first concerns the position of the premier. A very accurate summation was given of the premier's initial outrage at the fact that the Atlantic accord had been trashed. He pleaded with every Nova Scotian at considerable public expense. He put out what we would call a householder to every Nova Scotian, asking for them to petition the government to reinstate the Atlantic accord. So far so good.

More recent, the premier sent out a second householder in which he made a number of claims that turned out to be simply untrue. He made a number of claims about how Bill C-28 would fix the problem and that it justified his decision to abandon the fight for the Atlantic accord. The benefits that were promised are not delivered in Bill C-28. As far as he is concerned, he is off the hook. Many of the claims he has made in that document are simply not accurate. They are not substantiated.

What does the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley make of the premier's betrayal of his own commitment to fight to ensure the full reinstatement of the Atlantic accord?

What does he make of the Liberals from Atlantic Canada, who are cozying up to him when it comes to the full vote on Bill C-28, and then he is completely abandoned, thrown overboard, by every other member of that party with no intentions of supporting Bill C-28 changes, which would reinstate the Atlantic accord?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I remind the hon. member for Halifax that some people probably do not measure time, but I do. The comment came to me that we were under resuming debate and not under questions and comments.

If the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley takes as much time to respond, he will have burned the whole clock.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I would not burn the clock, Mr. Speaker, but I will answer the second question first about the Liberals cozying up to me. My caucus is not that big and I welcome the company.

As far as the Premier of Nova Scotia goes, I tripped on his presentation. The Premier of Nova Scotia came to the Senate and made a presentation. I read it the other day. He was told, in all fairness, by the Minister of Finance of the Government of Canada that “not one comma of the accord has been changed, and that it remains in its original, pristine form”.

I contend, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council contends and all Nova Scotians contend that this line is not right. I contend that the premier of the province was misled, the same way I was. I recognize those words “not a comma changed”. I was told exactly the same thing.

In all fairness to the Premier of Nova Scotia, he was given wrong information in the beginning, but in the end he did call on Nova Scotians to sign a petition to demand the Government of Canada honour all its agreements.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I have done before, I want to commend my colleague. We had the spectacle in the spring of the Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the regional minister for Nova Scotia, saying in the House in answer to a question from the member for West Nova, that no member of the government would be kicked out of caucus for voting his or her principles. That was before he realized one person over there had principles and he backtracked on that pretty quickly. That spectacle is known to Nova Scotian.

I want to ask my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley a simple question. The accord can be complex. Equalization is not easy to understand. It is my sense that Nova Scotians understood what the Atlantic accord stood for and they know it has been broken.

Is it the belief of my colleague and friend that the people of Nova Scotia actually understand the Atlantic accord and know what they have lost?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the first part of question was about the Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. I did not know he had said that until minutes before my vote, but it did not affect my vote.

As far as the people of Nova Scotia go, I believe all Nova Scotians know something went wrong. They do not necessarily understand the accords because they can be complicated. There are several accords, several accord agreements, several equalization formulas, but they know the Government of Canada broke the contract.

The contract is only two pages long, with nine paragraphs. It is very simple. The government decided, for whatever, reason to not honour it. It is still there. It is still an obligation of the Government of Canada. Even today, it chooses not to honour the accord.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here this evening to present our position on this budget. I say “budget”, because, clearly, Canada's extraordinary surplus gives us a golden opportunity. We are living in a country that has been presented with an incredible opportunity. However, the budget and the so-called mini-budget are devoid of any measures that take advantage of the opportunities we have. With such an extraordinary surplus, we could make investments that would meet the goals of average Canadians, our communities and our society, based on our shared values.

We really have two visions in front of us. One is the vision of the Conservatives, supported by the Liberals. It is a vision that would reduce taxes, give much more to the wealthy in our society, give more to the largest companies, especially the ones making big profits, like the banks, the big oil companies, the companies that are the biggest polluters. They will benefit the most from this approach chosen by the Conservatives and their friends of the moment, the Liberals.

We are here this evening because we witnessed an extraordinary event in the House of Commons a few hours ago. We saw the two whips walk down the aisle together, before the usual time, in order to hold a vote to consummate that union properly in front of everyone. The budget is the product of that union. It is too bad, because the vision behind it runs counter to the hopes of our constituents.

I am proud of our team, the NDP, because it is a party with principles. We are prepared to stand up because we have principles and values to defend. As we have said many times in this House during this debate, this budget is not at all balanced. It is continuing to take Canada in the wrong direction. It is not a balanced approach. There was an unprecedented opportunity to invest, but the government and its friends missed it. It was a perfect opportunity to give tax relief to the people who need it most, but the government missed it. It was an opportunity to reduce the imbalance and the growing prosperity gap in our society, but the government ruled out any possibility of taking action.

For these reasons, we will oppose the bill. It is the wrong direction for Canada.

It was a rather bizarre moment to watch as parliamentary rules were stretched to the limit, and I would say beyond reasonable limit, to the point of actually abusing the privileges of members to be present during a vote, to see the respective whips of the Conservatives and the Liberals walking down the aisle together, not quite hand in hand but metaphorically at least as much. The consequence of course is that democracy in this chamber was pushed aside. Why? In favour of massive corporate tax reductions for those who are already doing incredibly well in our society.

I have canvassed my constituents, as have our members of Parliament. We have yet to find one person, and I would challenge people to be in touch with us if I am wrong, who was calling for reductions in taxes for the big banks shortly after they posted record profits. It may be that there is someone there who was calling for it and could demonstrate that this is somehow for the good of Canada, but I have yet to hear that voice. The fact is that it is the wrong direction for the country. It is absolutely the wrong direction for the country.

I have yet to hear anybody tell me that the largest oil and gas companies in Canada needed a break. What I do hear is that people need a break from the big oil and gas companies in the way people get gouged every time they go to the pump.

When it comes to people trying to get access to their own money at the bank, they need a break from the banks and the bank presidents who stick out their hands metaphorically and grab some of that money back. That is unacceptable.

The fact is that the government took a very narrow-minded view of where we could go at this unprecedented moment in our history. I believe that our party has a very good idea about where we need to go, a sense of the vision shared by a great many Canadians. In fact, this debate has put these two visions before Canadians.

It is unfortunate that the debate is being cut short by those who share one particular point of view, the Liberals and the Conservatives, because frankly, we should have more discussion. We are talking here about billions of dollars that, over subsequent years, are going to be unavailable to invest in what we need. What kind of things do we need in our country today?

We need investments that are right for our families. This budget is wrong for families. We need investments that are right for our communities, our municipalities, our cities. This budget is wrong for all of those people and their communities. We need an approach that represents some sense of balance and common sense. This budget certainly does not do that at all. We do need some targeted tax help for those who are most in need. We do not see that here. In fact, what we see is a budget that would widen the prosperity gap that already is widening rapidly in our society.

That is why, if we talk to the average person today, the middle class, the working families, however we want to describe them, we are going to find people who are finding it harder and harder just to get by. It is not that they are complainers. In fact, Canadians are as far from complainers as we are going to find. The fact is that they are working harder.

Independent studies have shown that the average Canadian family is working 200 hours more every single year. That is the equivalent to five full time working weeks. They were already working hard. How is this happening? They are taking second jobs. They are taking third jobs. They are trying to get by. They are trying to cover the rent. They are trying to pay the mortgage. They are trying to put food on the table. They are trying to educate the young people in their family so that their hopes and their dreams can be accomplished. They are finding that tougher.

The students end up with more debt than they have ever had. Somehow we regard it as sensible as a society to load them up with more. I do not know any other species that would do that to their young. But we seem to think that throwing as many millstones around their necks at the very time they are supposed to take off and succeed and build our future, that dragging them down and pulling on the handbrake is the way we ought to treat young people.

Are we doing any better when it comes to seniors, the people who actually built this country?

It was an opportunity in this budget to correct a wrong with regard to seniors. The government has admitted that in its indexing of the payments to seniors, their pensions, something to keep them out of poverty, something they deserve after building our country and raising their families, it made a mistake in the inflation increase seniors were supposed to be getting. Their food costs are going up. Their rents are going up. Their transit costs are going up. The price of everything they do in their modest way in their lives as seniors in our communities is going up, but the government has failed to keep up with inflation, and the government admits it.

I will bet people have noticed how quickly the government is prepared to come after them, and I will say seniors here too, because I know a lot of seniors are frightened by this, if they have made a little mistake on their taxes. By golly, a $10 mistake, a $50 mistake and the government is writing letters telling people they must do this and they must do that, and the government charges interest, too, at rates that are not far from the usurious rates of the banks, I might say.

The government is very happy to reach out into seniors' lives and pull something back if they have made a little mistake on their taxes, but what happens if the government makes a mistake on seniors' taxes? It simply says that it is too bad and there is nothing it will do about it.

This could involve $1 billion or even more that should be in the hands of seniors. Here we have a surplus. We could have done something about that in this budget bill. It absolutely could have been corrected, and should have been corrected. Our seniors deserve it.

The fact is a lot of Canadians are one or two paycheques away from living in poverty. A great number of other Canadians already live in poverty, many of them seniors, single mothers, first nations, Inuit and Métis people. There are people who are living in abject poverty. Even the world organizations have come forward and pointed out how Canada is mistreating its own in so many ways.

This would have been an opportunity to do something about affordable housing in first nations communities. This would have been an opportunity to do something about affordable housing in cities so that we do not have the growing crisis of homelessness, where more and more people are dying on our streets. This winter could turn out to be the worst ever.

All we get from the government is the recycled announcements of funds that were put aside when we debated a previous budget two years ago. That is when the NDP insisted that corporate taxes should be cancelled and money should be put into affordable housing, including for aboriginal people, post-secondary education for our young people, the environment, public transit, foreign aid, the priorities of Canadians.

Now the government is making these announcements again, but the fact is, it has gone right back to the old practice.

The Conservatives already had a corporate tax cut planned. We know that. They made that clear. However, along came the Liberals and the leader of the Liberal Party who said that there should be an even deeper cut to corporate taxes. This was only a few weeks before he said that his biggest priority was dealing with poverty. Guess whose poverty he was apparently concerned about. It was the poverty of the struggling multinational corporations, the profitable companies. It was their definition of poverty that most concerned him.

That is why we saw the Liberals sit down on the job. When it came time for them to stand up for Canadians, they stood up for the privileged. That is what happened. It cannot be denied, because we all saw it, and we have seen it time and time again.

Now we see the marriage is being brought together in an even more intimate way. There may even be votes of support. We might even see a vote of support this evening. Who knows what will happen with the so-called official opposition, an official opposition that could not even muster the numbers of an official party in the House the other night on a vote, if I may make that comment.

We are here as representatives, 30 members of Parliament across the country raising these issues. We are raising them in the context of a very important moment in the life of any Parliament. That is when we decide how our taxation laws are going to work and how we are going to raise the funds from one another to put them forward in a common project to build the country of our dreams.

What we have chosen here to do, apparently, is to begin to deconstruct, to take apart the country of our dreams. In case there are any doubts, people should talk to municipal mayors about what is happening in their communities. I am here with the member for Outremont, who once represented in another place a community known as Laval, where a bridge collapsed and tragedy happened.

Right across this country there is over $100 billion of infrastructure deficit. Instead of investing in infrastructure the way we should, the government is saying it is not going to respond to the needs of municipalities, except for the occasional megaproject financed by one of its corporate friends, most likely in one of these triple so-called public-private partnerships for some sort of mega-enterprise that it can put its signature on. Clearly, the government has lost track of the need to make sure that communities have fresh drinking water when they need it, or that the infrastructure, the roads and bridges are sound, and the recreation centres for our young people are able to stay open in our communities.

A grave mistake is being made, a very grave mistake. We are not alone in believing this. Many across the country have said that it is time to invest. We have the opportunity in front of us to do that, just as families would do if they suddenly found themselves with the opportunity of having funds to invest. They would not sit around the table and make the kind of decision that has been made here. They would say, “Let us invest in our young people. Let us invest in our homes to make them more sound. Let us invest in our future. Let us make sure that we are leading in the investments that are needed and responding to the needs of Canadians”.

It is a question of being balanced. It is a question of representing working families, seniors, young people, people from coast to coast to coast who are counting on us to respond to their concerns.

I know a lot of members of Parliament will return to their constituencies over the weeks to come and they will talk about, for example, the few pennies that might go back into people's pockets by virtue of some of these tax cuts. What they will not talk about is how we have missed the opportunity to build. I think Canadians are builders. I do not think they represent the kind of self definition that seems to underlie the point of view here. They want to build something in common. They want to build a collective enterprise. They want society to work for every Canadian, not just for a few or just for themselves.

When we boil it down, there are two visions in front of us.

We have a choice to make. We have a golden opportunity, and we in the NDP will be here and will stand up to defend our principles, because they represent the values of the vast majority of Canadians.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the NDP for his speech. I have to say that the Bloc Québécois considered the issue of poverty and took action a long time ago. As the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, certainly one of the hardest hit ridings in terms of industrial obsolescence, I tabled a bill known as the anti-poverty bill on four occasions, and am about to do so again.

My bill contains four measures that I certainly hope will have the support of my NDP colleagues. My bill would add “social condition” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. My colleague for Outremont, who was a member of the National Assembly of Quebec, will remember that eight legislatures, eight provinces, added social condition to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in their human rights codes. It is unacceptable that the federal government has not. Had it done so, we could have successfully challenged certain measures. For example, Lloyd Axworthy's employment insurance contained restrictive measures for new applicants and that was unacceptable.

My bill also provides for a new contravention, by financial institutions, of the Canadian Human Rights Act. I am referring to the refusal by banks to provide credit to disadvantaged communities. I have studied what happened in the United States where, since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act has provided access to credit for the most disadvantaged communities. I am thinking of black and Hispanic populations.

If adopted, my bill would require Parliament to hold a mandatory debate on poverty, on a regular basis. It would institute the requirement that the Canadian Human Rights Commission assess every bill and its effects on the impoverishment of citizens.

I know that the member and his political party are concerned by these matters. However—the member knows that I am very sensitive—I was somewhat hurt to discover that in Paul Martin's last budget, my NDP colleagues, whom I affectionately refer to—

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member for Hochelaga. He is a very experienced parliamentarian. He knows that when referring to another member, he must use the name of the member's riding and not his or her name. In any case, the question was long enough and I now give the floor to the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, regarding your intervention, I would like to say that I did not use the name of any colleague or any riding.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hochelaga mentioned the name of the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.

The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard is not generally in this House. Thus, we can forgive such a mistake from time to time.

I thank my hon. colleague from Hochelaga for his comments and his question. However, I must wonder about something. Why did the Bloc Québécois help the government move this bill along so quickly in committee and why did he vote today to limit the debate on such crucial questions?

Further debate would have allowed for the mistakes in this budget, in this bill, to be pointed out. The bill does not take into account the situation in the manufacturing sector and the forestry crisis. There are no references in this bill to the needs of businesses in those sectors.

Instead, we have tax cuts across the board for all big businesses that are already profitable. The most profitable stand to benefit the most, that is, the banks and oil and gas companies. The Bloc, by supporting an accelerated debate and a limit to democracy, is preventing the opposition parties from opposing this collusion between the Conservatives and the Liberals. I invite the Bloc to make an effort to join our efforts in order to reach a new level of accountability here in the House of Commons.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hochelaga on a point of order.