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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Question No. 145Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

What funds, grants, loans and loan guarantees has FedNor issued and to what ridings since February 6, 2006, including the 2006-2007 Budget and up to today, and, in each case where applicable, please provide: (a) the program under which the payment was made; (b) the names of the recipients, if they were groups or organizations; (c) the monetary value of the payment made; and (d) the percentage of program funding covered by the payment received?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 165Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

With regard to the cost and outcomes of the on-site audit procedures conducted under the provisions of the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program's claims processing contract: (a) what is the total number and cost, including expenses such as accommodation, travel and meal expenses, of all on-site audits conducted of the dental benefits portion of the NIHB Program; (b) what are the details about the types of fraud uncovered by any on-site audit the government has conducted regarding the dental benefits portion of the NIHB Program between 2000 and 2005; and (c) for each of the fiscal years 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2003-2004, 2004-2005, what is the detailed accounting of the amounts recovered by the government in each category of fraud as a direct result of these on-site audits?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, given that I would like to listen to the debate, could you please ask the member for Lévis—Bellechasse to sit down?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Speaker does not control the movements of the members in the House. It might be a good idea, but not today.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-9, in the name of the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, is acceptable to the government, subject to the usual reservations concerning confidential information, and the documents are tabled immediately.

Motion No. P-9

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all studies that were done and the list of people who were consulted, thus far during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, regarding the efficiency and administrative costs of: (a) Status of Women Canada; (b) Court Challenges Program; (c) Canada Volunteerism Initiative; and (d) the Law Commission of Canada.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Subject to the reservations or conditions expressed by the parliamentary secretary, is it the pleasure of the House that Motion No. P-9 be deemed to have been adopted?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 20, 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

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord.

In my speech, I will be focussing on how the federal government continues to exercise its spending power in Quebec's jurisdictions. As far as the Conservative government is concerned, the fiscal imbalance has been resolved. As far as the Bloc Québécois is concerned, this is not so. The Minister of Finance, in his budget, definitively resolves just one aspect of the fiscal imbalance, and that is the equalization formula. For the rest, including transfers for health and post-secondary education, nothing has changed much in this budget. In fact, there may even be slightly less money for health in 2006-07 than in 2005-06.

Let us not forget that there is nothing—absolutely nothing—in this budget on asymmetrical federalism or the end of federal spending power. Let us not forget that the solution for Quebec is to transfer tax points or GST points.

Is Quebec the spoiled child of the federation? To that question, even if the government argues that Quebec's share of federal transfers will be much larger than its population, it is certain that these transfers merely help Quebec catch up and do not constitute a favour. When we look at the evolution of federal transfers, we see that from 1993-94 to 2007-08 transfers have increased by 55% in Quebec, and 66% in Canada without Quebec, while federal revenues have increased by 91%. Quebec, therefore, is not the spoiled child of the Canadian federation.

Let us consider the so-called federal spending power. Like the Séguin commission, the Bloc Québécois is asking that Ottawa stop spending in non federal jurisdictions. Accordingly, the Bloc Québécois continually asks, and will continue to ask, for Quebec to have a real right to withdraw with full financial compensation from all federal programs, or parts of programs, that encroach on its jurisdictions.

The 2007 budget perpetuates the so-called federal spending power simply by providing a framework for it. It proposes that new cost-sharing programs, in areas of provincial jurisdiction, be agreed to by a majority of the provinces. This is totally unacceptable to us. In other words, the Conservative government has announced absolutely nothing that makes it possible to set limits on federal spending power, much less put an end to it.

What has struck me since I was elected in this House in 2004 is the great number of bills that come to us week after week and to which we must constantly take exception because they intrude on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the fact remains that we must constantly fight to ensure respect for the Canadian Constitution. In passing, I would remind this House that Quebec has still not signed this Canadian Constitution.

As critic for intergovernmental affairs, I wonder, among other things, about the Canadian securities commission that is mentioned in this budget. In the 2007 budget plan, on page 179, the Minister of Finance wrote:

A move to proportionate, more principles-based regulation will be a significant undertaking that would be difficult to achieve under the current, fragmented structure of securities regulation. A common securities regulator will create the opportunity to deliver this new approach. It will help improve investor protection, cut red tape, reduce costs for market participants and give an equal voice to all participating jurisdictions. The plan also proposes to modernize the legal framework for financial transactions.

Must we remind the House that Quebec's securities commission is working just fine? The OECD has given it a favourable recommendation, saying that Quebec's securities commission worked in an exemplary fashion. We must remind the House that Quebec and the provinces are responsible for regulating the securities market and that Ottawa has nothing to do with this.

Why does this show up in the minister's budget?

The federal government's desire to create a Canadian securities commission is beginning to look like an obsession. Jean Chrétien's Liberals talked about it regularly. The current Minister of Finance was after it last year and is after it again this year. The federal government has never succeeded in making Quebec withdraw from the finance sector only because this issue is none of its business and it has no power to intervene. The regulation of stocks and bonds falls exclusively within provincial jurisdiction.

In Quebec, the legislative framework for the securities sector is based on the Civil Code, not on the common law. Provincial securities commissions are involved in ongoing discussions to harmonize many of their practices and to ensure that businesses are registered with provincial exchanges. One might wonder why the government so desperately wants a Canadian securities commission when the Americans, among others, have a securities commission in each state. It works very well. Let us use that model as our inspiration. To my knowledge, the United States is known for intervening in all financial sectors.

Quebec wants nothing to do with the minister's initiative. This is not a divisive issue for the parties in Quebec. On June 4, 1996, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution that read as follows:

That the National Assembly clearly affirm Québec's wish to continue, with the other provinces, the harmonization process with regard to securities, which is in conformity with the objective of preserving the Canadian economic space, and that it request that the Federal Government abandon its plan to create a National Securities Committee, which constitutes interference in a provincial area of jurisdiction.

It could not be any clearer than that. I think it is very important to clarify things and abandon the ridiculous notion of a Canadian securities commission.

Now, I would like to talk about a few glaring omissions in this budget. We, the members of the Bloc Québécois, will pay particular attention to these issues.

Let us begin with regional development. The budget does not include any measures for regional development. The budget respects the Conservative philosophy, whereby if we reduce corporate taxes, then economic issues will disappear, thanks to the market's invisible hand. Market forces are cruel. With globalization, we can see, among other consequences, that our businesses are experiencing serious economic problems, particularly in the regions of Quebec. My riding of Trois-Rivières has had some major difficulties, whether we are talking about the furniture, textile or forest industry. Thousands of jobs were lost. Unfortunately, this budget does not include measures that would help regional development, that would help our businesses to overcome the problems they have in recruiting qualified people, dealing with high transportation costs and, particularly following the gas price increase, controlling the cost of their products.

Before concluding, I want to say a word about infrastructures. The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the government is making significant investments in infrastructures. The Bloc Québécois is generally pleased with these efforts. However, even though these investments are fairly predictable, the Bloc would have liked to see guarantees that funding for these programs will be uninterrupted, particularly as regards the gas tax fund, because this is not always the case. That is a request made by the Union des municipalités du Québec.

We believe that the government should be careful not to infringe on the exclusive jurisdictions of the Quebec government and of the provinces.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will support this budget, even though it only partially solves the fiscal imbalance issue, because the taxes paid by Quebeckers must be returned to the Quebec government, so that it can meet its responsibilities.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her very interesting speech.

I will be following a certain chronological order. It is important to remind this House that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals acknowledged the existence of the fiscal imbalance. In fact, they have yet to acknowledge it. It does not exist for them.

As a result of the work of the Parti Québécois since 1998—April 17, 1998 to be exact—the fiscal imbalance was discovered. The Séguin commission did indeed identify that there was a fiscal imbalance in Quebec.

Since then, the Bloc Québécois has taken on the challenge, in this House, of defending the existence of the fiscal imbalance, because it was absolutely necessary for the government to be aware of it and to understand that it existed in Quebec. At that time we were dealing with a Liberal government; now we have a Conservative government.

Having said that, after the election of the Conservative government, there was recognition finally that the fiscal imbalance existed in Quebec and solutions were put forward.

There are some good things in this budget and, as we have said, we will vote for it. We will not turn down money for Quebec, which really needs it. I will provide some glaring examples.

In the health field alone our needs are great. Our hospitals are overflowing and emergency departments cannot cope. How many Quebeckers cannot find a family doctor?

There is a danger: the creation of a two tier health care system. We do not want that in Quebec or in Canada. We are fighting as hard as we can to avoid that. What is needed is for our tax money, which is sent to Ottawa, to be returned to us.

Health is an area that is wholly and entirely under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The administrative decisions are therefore up to us. The needs are truly great.

My son works at the hospital in Saint-Jérôme; this is a regional hospital serving a regional population. I can say that there is no shortage of work there. But there are shortages in many other areas, including hospital staff, nurses, doctors and emergency department space. As I said, there is a shortage of family physicians.

My riding is the one that has undergone the highest population growth. I have just received this information from my riding office. In barely five years the riding's population has increased by some 11,000 residents. The Laurentians is the region with the highest growth in Quebec.

And the health needs follow. This means that we need more pediatricians. Young families often come and settle in our region. That is why we need the money.

It would be great, of course, to get something back in certain areas, but it should also be done on a permanent basis. It is not right to keep playing this kind of give and take game in areas as important as heath and education. The fact is that there is not much in here for post-secondary education.

I would have a great deal to say on the matter. It is very important that measures be put in place to really help students. I can tell the hon. members about my daughter, who is currently a student. I have calculated how much my daughter's education will cost from the CEGEP to the master's degree and, without her mother's help, she would rack up a major debt.

There is talk about a scholarship program but we are not sure what it will look like, whereas we already have our own bursary system in place. You may not have been here at the time, Mr. Speaker, but you probably remember that we doggedly opposed the millennium scholarships because the program, in our opinion, overlapped one we already had in Quebec.

Send Quebec the money, but make it something permanent. We will manage it based on our own needs, those of our students, to ensure that they get a good education and a higher education.

I know hundreds of young university students who must drop out of school because they do not have the means to pay. Or else the students go into debt and spend 10 years after graduation paying off their debts. This is unacceptable. A student will not necessarily find a well-paid job right after graduating from university. First they have to prove themselves. All of this must be taken into consideration. So, I think we must get our priorities right in the areas of health and education.

I would also like to talk about what is missing from this budget. It is good that we were given a little something to spend. Hopefully this will be done under a Parti Québécois government, which will likely be elected next Monday, and which has very good policies for Quebec.

I want to talk about what was left out. For a long time, we have been asking for an independent employment insurance fund. There are enormous surpluses in this fund. We could reinvest in employment, reduce the number of hours required and increase income. Instead of being 50%, we could increase the income to 55% or 60%, depending on the surpluses generated by the employment insurance fund. These surpluses should be reinvested in the employment insurance fund to serve the unemployed, or be reinvested in training programs. This could be done in different ways. But this is not what is going on now. Surpluses from the employment insurance fund are spent wherever. The unemployed do not benefit like they should. It is too bad this was not in the budget.

There is also the whole matter of the textile, furniture and aerospace industries. In Quebec, there have been an incredible number of closures. These companies will never reopen, some are closed for good. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. We have to take care of these people. Often, entire villages shut down because it was the companies that were sustaining them. When a company closes its doors, workers are left with nothing. They are the forgotten ones. That is why we asked for a program for the older workers, like POWA—which existed under the Liberal government—to help older workers take their retirement a little sooner. If a company closed, they could have some money to carry them through until their retirement. Unfortunately, there is nothing for our older workers. It is truly a shame.

There is also the social housing issue. Social housing is something I have already defended here in this House. I have been here for 13 years and I have been a critic for a number of files. In Quebec, there is a social housing crisis. It is important to recognize it in a region such as my riding with a population growth as a great as I mentioned. In five years, receiving 12,000 new people in a single riding is quite significant. This also means more housing. Not all of these people require social housing, of course, but the need is there. In Saint-Jérôme, the regional capital of my riding, the need is greatest. Low-income earners need social housing. Often it is single women and single older women who need this type of housing.

In closing, we will vote in favour of the budget, even though there is still a lot of work to be done. The voters can count on the Bloc. We will never stop fighting for what is rightfully ours, rightfully Quebec's. We are not beggars and we know full well that the money is here and that it comes from our taxes. We will get back what is rightfully ours in order to live better, in order to live well in Quebec, and to live in health and happiness in our Quebec.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

She said that some people were overlooked. Perhaps she should have read the budget properly before venturing to say such things.

In fact, for post-secondary education alone, more than $245 million will be invested in Quebec. Furthermore, although she said that Quebeckers who have completed their university studies were possibly the most heavily in debt, I would remind the House that Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in all of Canada, even North America. Thus, the members opposite appear prone to exaggeration.

There is something else I would like to point out. With respect to labour market training, $117 million will also be invested in Quebec alone, for the training of workers.

No one is saying that we are going to force our workers who are 55 and older to retire. We are saying that we will help them find new jobs, so they can live with dignity.

Also, at what age would the Bloc Québécois like to make our workers retire?

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I used extremely polite vocabulary in my speech. I do not like being accused of exaggeration. Our party does not exaggerate, quite the contrary. Maybe those accusations can be attributed to the lack of experience of the member opposite. We can excuse him for his mistake.

I am not talking about forcing people to retire because of their age. When a 50 year old worker loses her job because the company she was working for closes its doors, and the only work experience she had was with that company, and she is too young to collect pension benefits, we must help her. That is the kind of situation I am talking about.

I talked about post-secondary studies. It is true that students in Quebec might have less debt than students in other provinces, but they have debt nonetheless, and they must pay back their debt. Thus, there is no doubt that we must reinvest in and help our young people, so they can continue to study.

It is not enough simply to toss $245 million at us. This is not enough money. Yes, we will take it and, yes, we are happy to have it, but it is not enough. It must also be permanent. It cannot be just one part, one time, one year. It cannot be money given simply to placate Quebec and to clear the conscience of the Conservatives, who can now say that they did a good job, because they gave money to Quebec. I am sorry, but these arrangements must be permanent.

Ottawa is raking in astronomical surpluses. We know this, because we can add them up. The Bloc Québécois has always been the best at doing so. Therefore, this money must come back to us, and be allocated to the files in which we would most like to invest. This does not mean that other provinces will want to invest in the same areas.

Thus, let us decentralize things, as the Prime Minister likes to say. If he wants to decentralize, he has an opportunity to do so. I wish he would decentralize and allow us to invest, with our own means, where it is needed most, where our citizens have the greatest needs. In Quebec, the areas that need the greatest investment are health, education and our workers. We would like to help all these people, but it is up to us to decide and not up to the federal government.

We want to take control of our own affairs, we want to make our own decisions. That is what it means to be independent. And one day we will be a country, we will be sovereign, and when that day comes, we will have everything we need to function.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer my colleague from the Bloc. Her party was supposed to be here for only one or two terms. No wonder, then, they have become such experienced members of Parliament.

How much longer does the hon. member think that the House will be able to benefit from her experience?

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, as long as the population from Rivière-du-Nord will see fit. I have been democratically elected. Our fellow citizens can count on our presence and on our experience to defend Quebec's interests here in Ottawa until Quebec becomes sovereign.

Financial statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today and offer a few comments on the recent budget speech. I am also pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre.

This is the second budget that we have seen from the Conservative minority government. The first example of Conservative management of the public purse raised the tax rate in the lowest tax level for the poorest members in our communities. This most recent Conservative budget distinguishes the present finance minister as the $236 billion man, Canada's biggest spending finance minister ever.

I have been in the House long enough to recall times when Canada's coffers were not so plentiful and I have to tell the House that this budget makes me nervous. Governing is more than writing cheques. Canadians expect leadership and vision. They want a strategy for long term national growth. They want investments for the prosperity of Canadians and a commitment to fairness to each and every citizen.

What we have in the budget that was just tabled by the government is a budget that ignores the plight of the poor, the less fortunate and the homeless. At the very least, the barest of minimums, the largest spending budget in Canadian history should offer something for everyone. This budget does not.

When I return to my home in Kitchener Centre this weekend, I expect to be asked what is in the budget for ordinary people. It is a natural response to a federal budget. Canadians contribute. They expect and they deserve a return on their tax dollars.

I will have to tell the single mother that she will have to wait for child care spaces for her two young children as the current government does not look at children, our future, as a priority. Of course, she will be grateful for the $310 per child in tax relief, but it is not enough for child care even if she can find spaces for her two children.

Waterloo region is home to multiple post-secondary institutions and they are outstanding institutions. We have Conestoga College, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

I am incredibly disappointed that the Conservative government did not announce an extension of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. This foundation delivers $350 million in needs-based grants on an annual basis. It is another example of how lower incomes are simply ignored as a group by the government. The best and brightest are not always the richest, and as a result, students are carrying an enormous debt burden.

We all want to feel safe in our home and on our community streets. When I think about building a safer Canada, I think about crime prevention and I think about the important work of the council.

It is my experience that many members of the government feel strongly about crime. They feel strongly about punishment. But they only have a cursory regard for crime prevention.

There is no doubt that it is important to invest in the anti-drug strategy that has been announced in the budget and in efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children as well as combating human trafficking.

Recently, I reviewed research conducted by the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council in Waterloo region, and it calls for a reduction in violence by enhancing human and social development.

The tools to reduce violence are extensive and sensible. It is an increase in early childhood education with a focus on the underserviced and low income areas. Studies show that centre-based child care prepares children for school and a successful school experience will lead to fewer dropouts. By providing supplementary nutrition and supportive counselling to low income pregnant women, we contribute to better life outcomes. Low birth weight is a risk factor for violence.

Crime prevention is key to a strong, safer, and better community. Child care is a part of that solution. Support for women is part of that solution. Support for lower income people is also part of that solution.

The fact is that the budget makes no mention of poverty. It does nothing to address homelessness. This is a glaring omission. As a matter of fact I find it astonishing.

We should think about how we Canadians spend our paycheques. Our first priorities are where the needs are the greatest. The necessities are food and shelter, but when the Conservative finance minister sets out to spend more money than any other finance minister has spent before him, he ignores these needs. He does not even mention necessities such as food and shelter. He says he wants to help those who are huddled around the kitchen table, but he completely neglects Canadians who are huddled around the heating grate or the alley dumpster behind the local restaurant.

There is no doubt in my mind, when prosperity enables us to spend, we should spend it where the need is the greatest. While those on that side of the House may disagree with me, I believe that there is much agreement about those huddled around Kitchener Centre kitchen tables and in constituencies right across this country that we need to reinvest in those who have the greatest need.

Despite the tremendous resources the government has at its disposal, the budget does little for the average working family. There is nothing to position Canada for the 21st century. On this side of the House we cannot stand up for such a narrow, ineffective budget, particularly at a time when Canada faces enormous challenges on competitiveness, the environment and social justice.

In Ontario, we shall have to wait till 2014 for fairness on federal health transfers. That is simply too long for patients and others who are waiting for surgery, and it breaks a Conservative campaign promise to address wait times immediately.

Further, there is still no long term predictable funding mechanism to address public transit, which leads to more ad hoc projects as opposed to an integrated, comprehensive plan to reduce gridlock. This is of particular concern in my community where a partnership with the region's light rail transit proposal would connect the region and present extensive economic growth opportunities. The budget is silent on those kinds of projects.

It is through fiscal prudence and responsible spending of Liberal governments that Canada eliminated a deficit and went on to build one of the strongest economies in the world. I am astonished at the level of spending in the Conservative budget and I am completely disappointed by the haphazard manner in which this money has been disbursed.

Preparing a budget, whether it is for a household or a nation, is a delicate balancing act of many competing priorities. As a member of the Liberal Party, I have consistently advocated for support for Canadian families while promoting fiscal responsibility in building a strong economic foundation for the future. I find the budget to be irresponsible, shortsighted and lacking vision, and because of these reasons I cannot support it in the House of Commons.

Canadians deserve better.