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House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

The BudgetOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians too were betrayed yesterday. The Prime Minister broke his promise to honour the offshore accord.

Yesterday, the province was told the accord will not apply to the revised equalization program, but the deal we signed said that it would apply no matter how the program changed.

Premier MacDonald said, “the...budget forces Nova Scotia into a 'fundamentally unfair' choice between cash today and rights to offshore oil and gas tomorrow.

Does the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency disagree with the premier or will he stand up today for Nova Scotia?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I already answered that question. The budget protects all the benefits to Nova Scotia, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no cap whatsoever applied to the Atlantic accord, contrary to what was said by some commentators last night.

In fact, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, unlike the other provinces, actually have the choice of two different equalization formulas, although they cannot have both at the same time.

This should allow the Government of Nova Scotia to do something very different than the Government of New Brunswick. The Government of New Brunswick surprised people with tax increases and program cuts in the last budget. That should not happen in Nova Scotia or anywhere else in Atlantic Canada.

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, after touching on the subject in his economic update last November, the Minister of Finance is back with his budget and his pet project to create a common securities regulator, once again looking to satisfy the obsession of his Bay Street buddies in Toronto.

Does the Minister of Finance intend to reject the demands of the Toronto Stock Exchange brokers, to tell them that securities are in Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction and that the federal government has no business there?

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the efficacy of capital markets is very important in Canada to help encourage jobs and investment.

I have had constructive discussions with my provincial colleagues with respect to that issue. This is not an issue dealing with the creation of any sort of national federal entity. It is an issue relating to the creation of a common securities regulator shared by all of us who are in government, the various governments in Canada.

This would help put us in a position to have a stronger economic union and to move toward more free trade in securities, not only in North America but in the G-7.

SecuritiesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's response is very disconcerting, to say the least.

The Minister of Finance argues that having 13 securities commissions is inefficient. But a study by the OECD published last fall says the complete opposite, and states that the current system is actually a model of efficiency.

How can the minister explain his obsession with wanting to improve a system that works, other than wanting to transfer to Toronto a jurisdiction that belongs exclusively to Quebec?

SecuritiesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. That is not the intention at all. The intention is to try to make the Canadian economic union work as well as it can.

The IMF and the World Bank have looked at the issue and in their report they recommended that we, as governments in Canada, continue to pursue this option of making our capital markets more effective and more efficacious, which creates more liquidity in Canada, which creates more investment, more jobs for Canadians and more jobs in Quebec. This is all progress.

As I say, this is all about creating a common regulator to make the markets work more efficiently, not creating a national--

SecuritiesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Bourassa.

AfghanistanOral Questions

March 20th, 2007 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, after months of misleading Canadians, the Minister of National Defence was pushed into apologizing for general incompetence. He dismisses distortion on the role of the Red Cross in Afghanistan as inadvertent and that he only recently learned just how wrong his statements were. How can that be true?

The minister was briefed personally by the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross last September. That is right. Dr. Kellenberger gave the Minister of National Defence a personal briefing on the role of the Red Cross so that there would not be any confusion. Which part of the briefing did the general not understand?

AfghanistanOral Questions

3 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we had a very broad discussion and in that discussion the president pointed out how much cooperation he has received from the Canadian Forces and he appreciated all our efforts.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was a historic day in Canada's fight to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle Canadians' concerns regarding climate change. Budget 2007 invests $4.5 billion to clean our air and water, reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change, as well as protect our natural environment.

Could the Minister of the Environment please tell this House about some of the new and innovative programs in the budget that will help Canada in its fight to eliminate smog, reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell the House that I am somewhat shocked that no member of the official opposition has stood and asked any questions about Ontario in this budget.

I can tell the member opposite that there are a lot of very good initiatives in this budget. The Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have heard the concerns. We are moving forward to work with the provinces with a $1.5 billion ecotrust announcement for the first time ever. As two premiers told me, they never received a single dollar from the federal government under the Liberals and now they are finally getting help to combat greenhouse gases and combat climate change. We are proud of it and the best is yet to come.

Transfer PaymentsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, sending the NDP's gas tax transfer to cities is good news but the Federation of Canadian Municipalities says:

The bad news is that the Budget fails to deliver a long-term strategy to meet the challenges in our cities and communities, particularly to erase the $60-billion municipal infrastructure deficit, fix the municipal fiscal imbalance, provide Canadians with the transit options they need, or help new immigrants settle.

When will the minister start showing the same respect and commitment to our cities that he continues to show to his corporate buddies in the oil and gas sectors?

Transfer PaymentsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it was about three weeks ago that a historic announcement was made in the greater Toronto area with respect to infrastructure. That is a commitment of about $1.5 billion for urban transit issues, public transit, subway in Toronto, subway into York region, city of Mississauga, city of Brampton, region of York, region of Durham. These are all major infrastructure investments in transit.

I think that is what the member for Hamilton Centre is talking about. There are $33 billion in infrastructure funding that is budgeted now and I am sure some of it will be spent in the area of Hamilton.

Comments by the Member for Markham—UnionvillePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning, at around10:44 a.m. to be precise, during the budget debate the Liberal finance critic, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, claimed that the NDP voted against the Liberal 2005 budget and caused the former government to fall. That was dead wrong. Further, he claimed there was new money for affordable housing in the Liberal 2005 budget. He was wrong again. The NDP actually added money for affordable housing.

I hope the member will stop misleading the House.

Comments by the Member for Markham—UnionvillePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think we are getting into a debate. It sounds like a disagreement as to facts. The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina knows she has the tremendous advantage of being able to ask questions of the hon. member for Markham—Unionville at the end of his speech. There are times allotted for questions and comments at the end of hon. members' speeches. I am sure she would want to have raised the matter then. It is perhaps a little late to do it now, but she has evidently made her point.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell had the floor. He has three minutes left in the time allocated for his comments.

The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, just before question period I was speaking on our most excellent budget. Allow me to summarize only some of its key elements.

First, there were $7 billion in tax savings.

Second, having been married 21 years and being the father of five children, let me speak of our support for families. There is a $2,000 child tax credit for each child under the age of 18. Ninety per cent of Canadian families will benefit from this tax credit and 180,000 taxpayers will be removed from the tax rolls as a result of this measure. In addition, there is a working income tax benefit of up to $1,000 per family to help low income working families.

Third, we have eliminated the $4,000 limit on annual contributions to registered education savings plans. We have provided $6 million a year to combat the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking.

Having personally served in the Canadian military for 20 years, I am pleased to reiterate that there are $3.1 billion for national defence over the next three years. There are $60 million for operational allowances for our brave men and women serving in operational theatres overseas.

We are appointing a veterans' ombudsman. We are providing $19 million in 2007-08 and $20 million a year after that to improve services to veterans. Not only do we salute our men and women in uniform, but we stand by them and are taking action.

As the MP of a rural riding representing farmers, there are $1 billion in new funding for farmers, $400 million paid directly to producers to help with the high cost of production and $600 million in federal funding to kick-start new producer savings accounts. We are increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $750,000 from $500,000, therefore increasing the rewards of investing in farming. This is the first time it has been increased since 1998.

As the Minister of Finance correctly stated, Canada's farmers do not just feed our country, they feed the world. It is time we provided the kind of support that these decent, hard-working people of integrity deserve. We have heard from our farmers and listened to them, but most important we have acted.

We are a government of action and our budget is a budget of action. There are two words that best describe our budget: it delivers. Canadians could not be happier. Finally, they have a government that is acting for them. That is our Canada. Voilà notre Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget delivers but not to everybody.

The member will probably know that the first $36,800 of pension income is already taxed at the lowest possible rate. Therefore, pension income splitting for seniors does not benefit people who make less than that amount of money. It does not benefit seniors who do not have partners, such as widowers.

It delivers but it does not deliver to all. Why do all seniors not benefit from the budget that was presented to the House?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, what kind of a question is that? He should speak to the seniors in his riding and to the seniors in my riding. Pension income splitting is a huge tax initiative that our government has taken to assist our seniors. Not only that, he has asked about seniors who do not collect pensions. We have increased the age exemption amount from $4,000 to $5,000. That is great news for seniors.

We have delivered tremendously for seniors.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the budget provides almost nothing for single parents who need day care. That is their budget. Voilà.

The budget offers almost nothing for low income people. That is their budget. That is their Canada. Voilà.

The budget provides almost nothing for undergraduates. That is their Canada. Voilà.

The budget provides almost nothing for aboriginal Canada. That is their Canada. Voilà.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question, but I will do my best to respond.

Let me highlight some of the numbers associated with our budget.

There are $39 billion in funds dedicated over seven years to restore the fiscal balance, the fiscal balance that the Liberal Party has consistently denied exists.

I have already mentioned that for families, we are introducing a $2,000 child tax benefit for every child under the age of 18 to assist hard-working families. This will remove 180,000 taxpayers from the tax rolls and it will benefit 90% of Canadian families.

There are a number of other initiatives as well. We are talking about the working income tax benefit. This will benefit 1.2 million low income working families. There are $6 million in additional funds for the RCMP to protect our children from sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I also mentioned the support for our military.

This is a budget that delivers for Canadians. Our government is a government of action and our budget is a budget of action.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the budget and listened for some people who were left behind. I recall that in 1996 a big change was made to employment insurance. The federal government made surplus after surplus. It balanced its budget on the backs of the working people who lost their jobs. It had a zero deficit on the backs of the people who lost their jobs. It has taken $51 billion away from the working people who lost their jobs.

Could the member tell us if the budget helps the people who lost their jobs and if there are any changes to employment insurance, the program that belongs to the workers of our country?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was explaining, this is a budget for all Canadians. It particularly helps the working Canadian, and I outlined some of the initiatives that we have taken to assist them. The one I am referring to most specifically is the working income tax benefit to help low income families deal with the expenses of the day.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the budget.

I heard the member for Acadie—Bathurst say that the Liberal government had balanced the budgets. That is odd. We have heard over the past year that the our government did nothing.

I will be sharing my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

I have followed the debate, and I listened to the Minister of Finance yesterday outline his budget. There were a few areas with which I was pleased, and I will touch upon those. Overall, the budget did not just fail Ontario, but it failed other provinces in many ways. Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, was very explicit with his comments the other day.

Earlier today in question period the Minister of the Environment talked about how he had not heard anything from Ontario members. The debate has just started.

Let me quote what Premier Williams had to say. He said, “The Prime Minister has betrayed the people of Newfoundland and Labrador” and he commented about Conservative MPs in his province. I think we got the message very well.

Premier MacDonald made the same kind of comment, but he was a bit more diplomatic in his choice of words. He said that the Conservative government had fundamentally been unfair.

When it comes to Ontario, the government has reneged on its commitment to transfer $6.9 billion to the province. That was tossed out. I am disappointed that the voice from the provincial legislature has not been what it should have been, but a few crumbs were thrown its way, so it seems to be satisfied for now.

When the new Conservative government took over, it simply threw out all the commitments that had been made. I mentioned the one with respect to Ontario. Now I will mention the Kelowna accord, which is important to all of us as a nation. It reflects on what we are as Canadians, looking after the needs of all Canadians, especially our first nations people. A $5.1 billion written commitment was literally tossed out.

Our health care system is probably the most important issue to each and every one of us in this place. As we have an aging population, we must ensure that programs are supported and that sustainability and long term funding is there.

Let me remind members what we did in our budget of 2005. The current Minister of Health was asked not too long ago about funding and his response was that the government would continue to support the efforts that the Liberals had put forth in their last budget. Therefore, no new money per se was put into health care delivery.

On that subject, I must compliment the Conservative government for putting $300 million toward cervical cancer treatment. This is similar to the immunization program the Liberal government brought in two budgets ago and it was applauded throughout the country. I must give credit where credit is due and for me. Given what is going on internationally, I think this is a very wise investment.

Earlier today in question period a member from the Conservative Party asked a question about how the government would address the environment, the carbon issue, CO2 emissions, et cetera. When the Conservatives were elected, for a year or so the then minister of the environment was continuously asked by us what her plan was since her government had tossed out our recommendations. The current leader of the Liberal Party had put a plan in motion, offered it to the new government, but that plan was tossed aside. Every time we asked a question about the government's program, we were told we would have a made in Canada solution.

Then we did a bit of research and asked where the Conservatives stood. We had always had this feeling that they just did not believe in the science. We knew they did not believe in Kyoto.

Then, of course, we realized where the Prime Minister of today stood on it. I would like to quote for the record his idea of carbon dioxide. He said, “Carbon dioxide does not cause or contribute to smog, and the Kyoto treaty would do nothing to reduce or prevent smog”. That is the Prime Minister's statement of June 10, 2004. He also made another statement on October 11, 2002. He said, “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant”.

As for the Minister of the Environment, I believe he was positioned there because he seems to be a very good speaker, and I compliment him for that, but suddenly today the Conservatives are up on their feet and they believe in the science, they tell a good story, and they seem to be camouflaging it with a few dollars here and there.

As I said in my opening statement, whenever we ask constructive questions their rebuttal is that we have done nothing. I was pleased that it was not I but the New Democratic member who said that we balanced the budgets. He used the analogy of the EI, which is another area I want to touch upon.

I recall what we inherited. We never entered this chamber and criticized the then Conservative government for creating high debts, high deficits and high unemployment. We just simply pulled up our socks and did what we had to do. I recall the corporate community out there saying to lower the unemployment premiums and give them a break and they would invest in creating jobs.

Let me remind all of us here, both those who are new and those of the class of 1993, that since 1993 we kept on reducing the EI premiums year after year. I heard nothing in this budget to address that area. At that time, members will recall, there was an unemployment rate of about 11.7% or 11.8%. As recently as 2006, when we lost the government, the unemployment rate had been reduced to 6.2% or 6.3%. Indeed, it was the lowest unemployment rate in well over 30 years.

Yesterday the Minister of Finance rebutted that in his comments. He said that we are at 6% unemployment. I compliment him on the fact that we have gone down 0.2%, as we are headed in the right direction, but I am very disappointed as a former employer to know that these rates have not been addressed. I believe he has an obligation to address that area.

When it comes to tax relief, I asked a question some time ago. The lowest rate that we as the Liberal government had at that time was 15%. What did the new Conservative government do when it assumed office? It brought the rate up to 15.5%, yet again the Conservatives stand up and say they have been lowering taxes. According to the math I was taught, 15% is less than 15.5%.

I had the privilege of chairing the Subcommittee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment for Canada. In those recommendations, we talked about our CAN-Trade initiatives. Canada can compete internationally. Yes, we produce goods and services to address the needs of our people here in Canada, but part of being competitive and part of creating new jobs within our country means that we go outside our borders to market our goods and services, thus creating economic prosperity for people.

At that time, through the recommendations, the Liberal government committed $485 million over five years. In their budget the Conservatives committed “$60 million over two years”. I am just amazed at how they are able to camouflage it and present it to the nation as a great thing that has happened. What this simply means is that the Conservatives are putting in one-third, or two-thirds less than what we were putting into this program. I ask them to tell me, then, how we are going to be able to have the tools, the means and the ways to compete.

In conclusion, what the Conservatives have done is literally camouflage all these figures. I am disappointed that they have provided nothing for housing. I am very disappointed that they provided very little to a small number of students in post-graduate programs. That does not make for a competitive country.