House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge and commend my colleague and friend, the hon. member for St. John's East, who has brought forward this motion to the House of Commons for discussion. I thank him very much for years of great service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to the House of Commons and to Canadians.

I think it goes without saying that the hon. member has served the House well but, most important, has served his constituents exceptionally well. I wish him all the very best in having stated that he will not seek re-election. I know he is one of the finest members of Parliament that Newfoundland and Labrador has ever had the benefit of having as a representative in the House of Commons.

Motion No. 242 is a very important one. It is very timely. I also would like to think, and I feel confident in saying, that the MP for St. John's East would have liked to have gone out with a real high note on Marine Atlantic, having championed and spearheaded an initiative to reinforce and reinvigorate that Crown corporation, which serves our needs within the island of Newfoundland so importantly.

The motion was tabled in the House of Commons prior to the announcement of the Government of Canada in terms of its overall Marine Atlantic strategy. That motion having been tabled, called upon the government to adopt a comprehensive strategy for marine services and transportation links to the province.

The member who brought it forward fully intended that it would be a source to spur on the government and to create an incentive to fully fund and revitalize, from a policy point of view, the Marine Atlantic ferry services. Unfortunately, however, it did not achieve that.

The overall result, as a result of the Government of Canada's decision on Marine Atlantic, was to increase fares on an annual basis tied to the consumer price index for the next five years. That is completely unacceptable to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Its second decision was to add an additional fuel surcharge to users who used the Marine Atlantic ferry service.

Its third decision was to look at ways of reducing fuel consumption within the ferry system. I do not know. There could be other ways to do it, maybe using blended fuels and other things which Marine Atlantic is already doing, but the only way to reduce fuel consumption is to reduce the number of crossings of the Marine Atlantic ferry service. That is unacceptable. Our objective here is to increase the level of standards of service, not to decrease them.

The fourth decision established by the Government of Canada, through the Department of Transport, was to increase user fees onboard the vessels and for related services. This is not a strategy to revitalize Marine Atlantic. This is a strategy to gouge Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and others who use the service.

Of all the perishable goods that come into the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, 90% arrive via the Marine Atlantic ferry service. This is our essential service. It is our Trans-Canada Highway. That is why the very excellent member for St. John's East brought it forward for debate in the House of Commons. He, too, understands and realizes the importance of this issue. Together we will continue to work and press the Government of Canada to provide a better, not a lesser, service for Canadians.

Marine Atlantic, the gulf ferry service, is unique in that it is constitutionally bound by the Government of Canada to provide, but it is not necessarily exclusive in that responsibility. There are three constitutionally based ferry services in the country.

In the province of British Columbia, the government bears a responsibility for a fortnightly mail boat service between Victoria and Seattle, Washington. In lieu of actually providing that service, a political arrangement was established between the Government of Canada and the Government of B.C. Instead of providing a fortnightly mail boat service, a financial compensation offer was granted. That compensation was established to increase annually, based on the consumer price index of Vancouver. Today's annual subsidy is roughly $30 million a year.

Looking at it fairly and genuinely, the Government of Canada has two options available to it. It could either provide a fortnightly mail boat service, a mail boat between Victoria and Seattle every four days, establish a Crown corporation to do it, maybe costing $3 million, $4 million or $5 million a year to do so, or it could have a political arrangement between the Government of Canada and the Government of B.C. and establish it based on some merit based principles. It established that service and provided close to $30 million a year, the annual federal subsidy tied to the consumer price index of Vancouver, not reducing the subsidy based on inflation, but increasing it. This is a very important point.

The second constitutionally bound service is between New Brunswick and PEI. PEI forwent its constitutional service for the construction of a fixed link. The Government of Canada paid 100% of all capital costs related to the construction of the Confederation Bridge, the fixed link that now binds the mainland of Canada with the people and the province of PEI It tied the fees or the rates charged to consumers to use the Confederation Bridge at an amount less than the value of inflation. It is well below the actual cost of providing the service. It structured a deal that annual subsidies would go to the private sector operator of the Confederation Bridge and it required the private sector operator not to increase fees to any level, other than below inflation. In other words, the cost of using the Confederation Bridge is lowering each and every year.

Now we get to the Marine Atlantic ferry service, the third and final and most recent constitutional obligation that was brought in to the federation. Marine Atlantic is not lowering the fees and it is not stabilizing fees. What is it doing? It is increasing fees on an annual basis.

The disparity between how the Government of Canada treats other constitutional services versus how it treats the Marine Atlantic, the gulf ferry services, is quite evident. I am sure that is why the member for St. John's East brought this motion forward.

We need a comprehensive strategy that deals with the rising costs of Marine Atlantic, but does not bear those costs out on the consumers, on the users of the ferry service.

Here is one of the problems. When Marine Atlantic was a Crown corporation that encompassed all of Atlantic Canada, it had 17 ferry runs throughout all of Atlantic Canada. It operated ferries between New Brunswick and PEI, Cape Breton and PEI, Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick, between Nova Scotia and the state of Main, throughout the coast of Labrador and throughout the south coast of Newfoundland and the northeast coast of Newfoundland. It had 17 ferry operations plus the Saint John dockyards.

In 1995 the decision was taken to dramatically reduce the actual size of the Crown corporation. Today, Marine Atlantic is no longer a Crown corporation that offers 17 different ferry runs. It now operates one full time service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques and a seasonal service between Argentia and North Sydney.

The problem, and this is a very evident problem, the entire pension costs of all the former workers at Marine Atlantic from all 17 runs are still borne as the responsibility of the current Marine Atlantic Crown corporation. In other words, all pension costs, which now inflate to $25 million a year, are incurred by the users of one ferry services, the crossing between North Sydney and Port aux Basques.

The government opposite has decreed a policy of reducing net federal debt. I could not think of a better opportunity to apply some of that $10 billion in surplus that went to debt this past year and the $13 billion last year. Why does the Government of Canada not pay down that pension liability, that pension debt, and allow $25 million more to Marine Atlantic for use by consumers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion by my colleague from St. John's East. As we all know, he has recently announced his retirement from politics. With last Monday's budget, I guess we all know why. It was a litany of broken promises on the part of the Conservative government to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I also add that I have great respect for him. I congratulate him on his long public life and his service to the people of the province and the people of the country. I sincerely wish him and his family the very best in his retirement years.

I am somewhat disappointed with the intent of the motion. It has focused on Marine Atlantic and Marine Atlantic only, and the still fantastic idea of a fixed link. It is solely concerned with the island portion of the province.

It might be hard for the member to remember at times, but our province is not just an island. Most of the province is part of mainland Canada, Labrador. Marine Atlantic is an important part of the transportation picture, but we must look at the whole picture.

My friend from St. John's East has talked about how the province is dependent on Marine Atlantic. In fact, if there is a transportation link more than any other that would unite the province with the rest of Canada and reduce that dependence, it is the Trans-Labrador Highway. Completing it will take vision. It requires the province to commit to the project and unconditionally. Labrador deserves more than 50¢ dollars. It requires cooperation with our neighbours in Quebec. Some people do not like that, but there is no good reason to get upset.

Labradorians know that prosperity requires modern transportation links west with Quebec and the rest of Canada as well as south with Newfoundland. It should also mean that the Conservative government honour its promises to Labrador.

In 2005 byelection the current Minister of National Defence promised, among other broken promises, a Conservative government would share the cost of the Trans-Labrador Highway on a 60:40 basis. During the last election, the Prime Minister himself said in a letter to Premier Williams, “A Conservative government will support a cost shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway”. Premier Williams praised this supposed commitment at the time. One wonders what he thinks of it now.

As our own regional minister once wisely advised, “Whatever deal you make, get it in writing”, which might be funny if it was not so serious.

Here we have written Tory commitments on the Trans-Labrador Highway. My Tory opponents in the past two elections should thank the voters. Imagine if they had won, they would have to get up and defend the broken promises of the Conservatives to Labrador.

Just like this motion, the budget on the past Monday is silent on the Trans-Labrador Highway. Not only is it silent, the government plays games with the issue. In question period the finance minister said that money was available for infrastructure. What he did not say is that the Conservative government offered nothing. Perhaps the finance minister did not read his own budget before deciding to support it. He should read, specifically at page 165, where he promises:

A Building Canada Fund, with spending allocated among provinces and territories on an equal per capita basis. This will support investments in the core national highway system...

There are two things wrong with that.

First, the formula is per capita. That is great for provinces that have more population than roads. However, in Newfoundland and Labrador, with 1.6% of the Canadian population, we have 6.5% of the national highway system. If highways funding is allocated per capita, we get short changed.

Second, the finance minister's build Canada fund does nothing to build Labrador. It refers to core national highways. The Trans-Labrador Highway is part of the national highway system, but as a northern remote route, not a core route. If the finance minister misspoke, I would ask him to set the record straight, or the transport minister or somebody to set the record straight.

Labrador alone, with the Trans-Labrador Highway, accounts for 20% of Canada's northern remote highways. That category also includes route 389 in Quebec which links Baie Comeau to Labrador City. It includes other northern roads: the Dempster and Klondike in Yukon; the Mackenzie Highway and Ingraham Trail in NWT; the 37 in northern B.C.; the 58 in Alberta's Peace country; the Canam Highway in northern Saskatchewan; the Flin Flon highway in Manitoba; and the Radisson Highway to James Bay, Quebec.

These are important northern routes just like the Trans-Labrador Highway.

What do the territories and the provincial north get out of this budget? A goose egg. There is no dedicated funding for northern and remote highways.

The finance minister also boasts of his $25 million in infrastructure funds for each province and territory. I wonder what his provincial colleagues think of this. They want $15 million per year for the Trans-Labrador Highway alone. That is on top of everything else they want the federal government to cost share.

Nor are we the only province looking for federal highways money. My colleague from St. John's knows full well, for example, that the fixed link makes no economic sense unless Quebec completes route 138 along the north shore. Right now, there is a 350 kilometre gap between Natashquan and Old Fort Bay. Route 138 would provide yet another route to and from Labrador and Newfoundland.

Many of my constituents look forward to this project, just as they look forward to the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway. The combined route would form a belt linking Labrador and Quebec, creating a tourism route and providing transportation alternatives.

Quebec is looking for federal funding of $100 million for this particular fixed link, but just as with the Trans-Labrador Highway, the Tory budget is a bitter disappointment for anyone who was counting on federal cash.

There is something else that the finance minister said yesterday that I must contradict. He accused Liberals of ignoring infrastructure for 13 years when we were in government. Respectfully, this is wrong and it is a disservice to the proud record of the previous two Liberal MPs for Labrador.

Labradorians remember that it was their Liberal member, now Senator Rompkey, who secured federal funding for the reconstruction of the Labrador Straits Highway in the 1970s and 1980s. They remember he provided funding in 1983 that built the highway from Labrador City to Churchill Falls and many of the bridges between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Churchill Falls.

Especially they remember the $340 million Labrador transportation initiative fund, one of the proudest achievements of my predecessor in this place, Mr. O'Brien. That fund paid for upgrading of phase one of the Trans-Labrador Highway, the construction of phase two from the Straits to Cartwright, the branch roads to St. Lewis, Charlottetown and Pinsent's Arm, and has even been used to build phase three.

Despite the efforts of some in the provincial government to rewrite history, it was and remains federal funding. Not one cent of that fund came from the province. In fact, it is the provincial share of Labrador highway funding which has always been and remains inadequate.

Despite what members opposite have said, it was not just federal but Liberal federal funding which has paid for 90% of the Trans-Labrador Highway so far. Indeed, the last time the Tories were in power, they sold us out. In the Crosbie-Peckford roads for rails deal, Labrador got a measly $8 million out of over $800 million. We have nothing to learn from the Tories about commitments to Labrador.

Many of us in Labrador are getting impatient with the Conservative minority government. We no longer wonder when the Conservatives' Labrador highway promise will be kept. We wonder whether they will keep it at all.

Mayor Letto of Labrador City, who was my worthy opponent two years ago, has expressed his frustration. So has Mayor Leo Abbass of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Our provincial minister, Mr. Hickey, said last year that we would have a cost shared deal by the end of October, by the start of November, by Christmas, by the end of the year. To his credit, he never specified the year. He even said at one time that he had a signed deal on his desk, but federal officials said they were still waiting for the provincial proposal.

On March 11, Minister Hickey told VOCM Radio that the federal transport minister “looked across the table, he said it is done, you can go back and tell your people that we're committed to this project”. Those are his words. Some commitment. It is not in the budget.

We cannot drive on a commitment. We cannot build a highway with promises.

In either case, I would like to know what the province is seeking from the federal government.

The Prime Minister promised a cost sharing agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway, all of it, not part of it. If the province settles for anything less, especially if the province settles for a chip seal for the Labrador West-Goose Bay segment, leaving the rest of Labrador for a later date, then I will be very disappointed in both Tory governments.

A promise is a promise and a deal is a deal.

When my friend from St. John's East filed his motion in October, he had no idea he would be betrayed in February. How does this motion square with the fact that they have hiked ferry rates, they have put a fuel surcharge in place and they are going to reduce the crossings across the gulf?

My friend from St. John's East should pressure his colleagues to stop stalling and keep their promises on Marine Atlantic, on the Trans-Labrador Highway and on other infrastructure projects for Labrador and the province.

I would only say that the province wins when Labrador wins.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all hon. members who participated in this debate. I want to thank the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte for his kind personal remarks, also the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, the member for Labrador, and of course the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I want to thank all members for their participation in this debate as well.

Needless to say, the comments on my motion have been many and varied. It is sufficient to say that we do need an improved gulf ferry service.

In concluding this debate I want to concentrate a little bit, if I may, and make specific reference to the fixed link, a proposal connecting Newfoundland to the mainland of Canada in southern Labrador. I am encouraged by people such as Mr. Tom Kierans, a great visionary, a professional engineer who was instrumental incidentally in the development of the Upper Churchill. The Confederation Bridge has already done wonders for Prince Edward Island. I am sure that a fixed link would do wonders for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Connecting to the mainland of Canada by tunnel would also relieve the pressure being felt on the Marine Atlantic ferry service. Much of the freight and tourism business would certainly make a tunnel venture worth pursuing.

A tunnel link would allow tourists to come to our province via the gulf ferry service and then leave through a tunnel under the Strait of Belle Isle, which is the great circle route.

I am told by one of my constituents who knows Newfoundland's coastal area very well, Mr. Burf Ploughman, that many of the mayors from the region have recently held meetings with the mayors around the northern peninsula area to support this issue. This is the first time they have come together in a long time. As a matter of fact, it is the first time they have come together since the boundary was drawn in 1927.

A tunnel across the strait not only would be good economically, it would be good for national unity as well. It would provide an opportunity for the governments of Canada, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to work together for the common good of this underdeveloped northern region of our country.

I have no doubt that the money for a tunnel could be found if there was a collective political will to find it. Economically speaking, this region of Canada is ripe with hydroelectric and mining potential. By building a tunnel and, as the member said, Highway 138, we would be greatly enhancing the economic potential of the whole area.

Our Lower Churchill and hydro projects in Quebec could see upward of about $50 billion for the region and for the area. Instead of sending our sons and daughters to far-flung parts of the world, we could send them north to high paying jobs in the mining sector.

A number of people would say it is a pipe dream, but maybe not. Building the tunnel would save millions in annual subsidies to the federal, Quebec and Newfoundland governments for subsidies to the ferry service. A tunnel would allow Lower Churchill hydro power easy access to the island of Newfoundland, thereby allowing us to close our polluting oil fired generation. A tunnel would greatly enhance our tourism potential. It would open up the general economic potential of the whole area.

A recent feasibility study put the cost of the tunnel at about $1.5 billion. The cost of route 138 would be in the order of about $600 million. I am somewhat troubled by the estimated tunnel cost because Norway built the world's longest road tunnel, 24 kilometres in length, at a cost of $125 million U.S. Perhaps we could make use of that kind of technology.

Let me conclude by saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It is time to strengthen our national chain to provide an improved Marine Atlantic gulf ferry service. The railway was a national dream as well. It opened up the west. Let the tunnel be our national dream. Let us open up the northeast for the benefit of the people who live there and strengthen the nation as a whole.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


On division.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland CanadaPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

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

7:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak again in the House of Commons about a very serious issue, our automotive industry.

We have witnessed a decline in Canada of our market share in the automotive industry. I put a question about this to the Minister of Industry, who really should be named the minister of industrial disasters given the lack of action by the government with respect to industrial strategies, not just for the automotive industry but also for the textile industry.

We are now hearing news reports about the Gilden manufacturing company abandoning its Canadian market, particularly in Montreal, and moving offshore. The Conservative government had an opportunity to protect those jobs and chose not to do so.

In the automotive sector, we have witnessed a number of different problems. I have been speaking on this subject in the House of Commons for many years, trying to push the government forward. I thought that when the flip-flopping, floor crossing Minister of International Trade went from being a Liberal to a Conservative, he would have at least brought his auto policy that he promised the House of Commons industry committee with him. He promised a number of times in the House to deliver an action plan to the Minister of Industry, who has done nothing to bring a public policy forward.

My question really pertained to the terrible news that we heard in my constituency and across this country about 2,000 Chrysler workers being laid off. The government's response has only been a veiled empathy. It claims it cannot do anything, but that is not true.

The government has acted with hostility toward the auto industry. It repealed the Technology Partnerships Canada program that was the only instrument available to the government to induce automotive incentives. That program was well abused by the Liberals at the time and it needed a review.

The House may remember that it involved a number of different scandals with regard to David Dingwall and a whole series of kickbacks and schemes that really made problems for the program. It was the only program available to do something. The Conservative government cancelled that program but has provided no vision for a substitute program.

I asked in February why the minister had not brought forth a comprehensive automotive strategy. Basically, once again, what I received in reply to my question was complete neglect for the industry. There was no appreciation or understanding of the industry. The government announced in its budget a fee based system to work against our automotive sector. It is incredible to think what has happened.

The Canadian auto workers that I represent and those in Oakville and Oshawa, as well as those across this country, are going to work every single day at companies that need renewed investment and new technology. These workers see taxpayers' dollars going to other countries. It is shameful.

We know the government is pursuing a trade policy with South Korea which will be detrimental to the auto industry. It is going full speed ahead with no brakes. Canadians are now going to send millions of dollars to South Korea, so that country can set up its own factories and promote its own workforce as opposed to the government making investments in Oakville, Oshawa, Windsor and St. Thomas.

I once again call upon the Conservative government to invest money and resources in the people of Canada to close the prosperity gap as opposed to sending money overseas.

7:30 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the concerns of the hon. member for Windsor West about Canada's auto industry and the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with South Korea.

The hon. member would have us believe that Canada's auto sector is on life support. The facts clearly show otherwise. Canada's automotive manufacturing industry is one of the most successful and competitive in the world. It employs over half a million Canadians. Canada boasts 12 major assembly plants with a 13th coming on line in 2008, producing 2.5 million cars and light trucks in 2006, about 16% of all North American production.

In fact, in 2006 Ontario outperformed Michigan for the third year in a row as the highest automotive producing region in all of North America. This being said, a restructuring is taking place within the North American auto industry.

The Detroit-based auto assemblers are taking some difficult but necessary decisions to remain competitive and this, regrettably, is impacting Canadian jobs. We are very concerned for the people who are impacted by these business decisions. Affected employees are of course eligible for assistance through existing government programs in addition to the severance packages which the Canadian Autoworkers Union has secured for its members.

At the same time other companies within Canada's auto sector are expanding and creating new jobs. For example, Toyota is building a new $1.1 billion assembly in Woodstock, Ontario which will come on line in the fall of 2008 and Honda is investing $154 million in a new engine plant in Alliston, Ontario, also coming on line in 2008.

Despite the difficult period of global restructuring for the Detroit-based automakers, Canada's assembly plants are winning new product mandates. A new Chevy Camaro will be built in my hometown of Oshawa; the new Dodge Challenger has been awarded to the Brampton plant in Ontario; and in Oakville, Ford is building two new successful crossover vehicles. These are votes of confidence in our auto industry.

Canada's new government will continue to ensure that Canada's auto sector remains viable. Our measures in budget 2006 to reduce corporate and personal taxes make Canada even a better place for auto investment. We have laid out a strategic economic plan in “Advantage Canada” that will create a better business environment for all industries. By continuing to reduce taxes, cutting red tape, building modern infrastructure, and creating a more skilled and educated workforce, Canada's new government is setting the stage for economic growth, opportunity, and choices for people and businesses.

The role of the federal government is to create the right economic conditions to support a strong manufacturing base in Canada. In budget 2007 the government introduced significantly enhanced write-offs for capital investments in machinery and equipment. This is a measure which has been advocated by the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council to stimulate new automotive investment and help ensure the Canadian auto industry remains innovative and competitive.

As for the hon. member's concerns about the impact of a potential free trade agreement with South Korea, studies show that such an agreement will in fact have a limited impact on Canada's auto sector. The implications of the proposed elimination of the tariff are relatively small when compared to the size of the auto industry. This is expected given the current tariff of only 6.1% and the fact it would only be eliminated on 128,000 units or roughly 8% of the total Canadian vehicle sales.

However, what it does have is the potential to deliver significant commercial benefits across a wide range of the Canadian economy from agriculture to high tech services to investment. Free trade agreements ensure that Canada is competitive in key markets. The United States and other countries are aggressively negotiating free trade agreements, including with South Korea. The hon. member for Windsor West can rest assured that the government will only agree to a free trade agreement that delivers substantial benefits for Canada and which is good for the Canadian economy.

7:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should know that those studies are absolutely bogus, shallow and short-sighted. It is interesting to note that the Americans this week will be actually pulling out of negotiations with South Korea because they are going to decide to protect their industry, just like they did with regard to the free trade agreement with Canada.

While the government and its predecessor, the Liberal government, gave lip service and watched while we lost our auto pact. The United States protects its aerospace industry, its bus industry and a series of others because it demands protection for certain industries. This deal with the South Korean government right now needs to be pulled from the table immediately. We cannot have another attack on our domestic auto producers.

Yes, there is restructuring happening right now, but that is not a reason to abandon those communities that have successfully paid taxes across this country and have contributed to Canadian coffers for years, day in and day out. Those are the jobs that we have to protect and ensure they are going to be there for the future.

Why is the government so easily going to give up with regard to the existing base of auto manufacturers just because it thinks it is convenient? It is not acceptable and I would ask the parliamentary secretary to look in his own community where his new tax is going to have an effect because it is certainly going to be one that is regressive.

If he does not want to listen to me, he should listen to the media reports out there, headline after headline, that are condemning this new tax. The investment should be in Canada not in foreign countries.

7:35 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians asked for action and we delivered.

The hon. member for Windsor West is a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. The committee issued a unanimous report that included the two year writeoff for the capital cost allowance.

7:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

It was five years.

7:35 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

This recommendation was included in our budget 2007. Canadians asked for that, but the hon. member for Windsor West decided to vote against it.

He also voted against $400 million for the Windsor-Detroit border infrastructure, voting against infrastructure money for his own community.

He voted against more money for increased border security.

He voted against record amounts of money for research and development.

He voted against the scrappage program to get older, polluting cars off the road and consumers into new, fuel efficient, clean vehicles.

He voted against the apprenticeship program money, which will help alleviate some of the human resource problems in the auto industry.

He voted against more money for higher education.

He voted against lower taxes for companies that invest in the auto sector here in Canada.

I could go on. In fact, the member does not support a strategy that he helped bring to the committee report. This is what the hon. member is doing--

7:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Resuming debate.

7:35 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak during the late show and to express my concern about the future of child care centres in Canada.

Child care services play an essential role in our communities and help children to fully develop. In addition to offering quality service to working parents, child care centres make it possible for children to acquire learning techniques and to develop social connections.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government refuses to invest in child care centres. In addition, there is no measure to increase the number of places available in child care centres or to ensure appropriate pay for workers. The Conservatives have dealt a terrible blow to these institutions, which are essential to early childhood development.

Let us remember that the previous Liberal government signed bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories, and reserved $5 billion over five years to create a national child care program. We signed agreements with all of the provinces and territories to create up to 250,000 places in affordable, accessible and quality child care centres for Canadian families. However, the Conservative government decided to terminate that program.

A new report indicates that Canada is ranked last among industrialized countries for early childhood education spending. This clearly proves that the Conservative government has abandoned Canadian families. The report by Dr. Fraser Mustard, Companion of the Order of Canada and internationally recognized expert in early childhood development, ranks Canada against 20 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most European countries, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Mexico. According to this report, Canada invests 0.25% of its GDP in early childhood education compared to 2% by other industrialized countries.

Another report, Making Space for Child Care, deplores the fact that the Conservative government has not created a single day care space since it was elected. This report calls on the government to restore funding agreements signed by the previous Liberal government with the provinces in order to provide Canadian families with access to quality child care and early childhood education centres.

A third study published by the YMCA found that Canadian families, irrespective of where they live or the size of their communities, want their child care needs met by a nationally-funded public system and not a federal cash payout. As many parents have pointed out, the Conservatives’ payment amounts to only $8 a week—a sum that will come nowhere close to meeting basic child care needs. Furthermore, even if parents have money to buy child care services, there is still a shortage of services to buy. Canadians want a plan that will guarantee every child—regardless of parental income or geography—will get a quality, affordable and accessible space offered by a licensed professional.

Parents understand, as we do, that a cash payout is not the answer to the country’s very real need for child care. The Conservatives promised the creation of more child care spaces and have reneged on this promise. The success of Canadians families depends on having access to affordable, quality child care.

Can the minister tell us, once and for all, where these new child care spaces are that he promised in 2005? This Conservative government promised child care spaces, but in the end, has not managed to give even one additional child care space to Canadian families for children who live in either urban or rural areas. The Conservative government's promise to create 125,000 new spaces has been a complete farce. In truth, not a single new space has been created in Canada. No new spaces have been created for families—

7:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

7:40 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan


Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, tonight I am here to remind the member and the House of the great progress that this new government is making on choice in child care and, particularly, on child care spaces.

The Canadians I talk to find it absurd to hear the Liberals taking such an interest in child care spaces now that they sit on the opposition benches. They wonder where all that interest was when the Liberals were in government. They know that the waiting lists, to which the member referred in his initial question, did not begin on January 23, 2006. They find it absurd that for a party that claims it is all about spaces, the Liberals, according to their own former deputy leader, failed to create a single space in 13 years. They also find it absurd that the Liberals, who were so inept at government, are no better as opposition.

Canadians read our election platform. They know our pledge was to begin delivering child care spaces in the upcoming fiscal year. Canadians also read budget 2006 where they saw the same commitment. They are not about to be duped by a Liberal opposition that is desperate, lacking in focus and scrambling for some credibility.

I suspect that Canadians will also find the member's question a little absurd as well. Apart from the fact that the member's spin and misinformation was corrected by the minister back in February, Canadians read budget 2007 which came out between the exchange and now. They know that the budget is delivering child care spaces, now that our pledge is coming due.

In fact, if the member took a minute to read the budget, he might be a little embarrassed to see just how much we are delivering for Canadian families. The Liberals should read the budget but, because they have not, permit me to tell the member what Canadians already know. Their new government is delivering where the old one did not. We are putting $1.1 billion in transfers to the provinces and territories for child care and child care spaces.

Already, in the week that followed the budget, provinces announced in their own budgets that they will be taking the money and using it as it was intended. There have been 17,000 new spaces announced for the upcoming year so far.

While the member and his Liberals would like to take away from the headway that we are making on child care spaces, Canadians will have none of it. They see past the Liberals' desperation. They see their new government getting things done for them. They see us, the new government, delivering as promised.

Canadians see their new government delivering over $2 billion a year for universal child care that goes directly to families to put toward choice in child care. That is twice the entire Liberal plan but the Liberal leader said he will take it away.

Canadians see us putting $695 million toward a child care expense deduction. The Liberals just voted to take it away. Canadians see us creating a new $1.5 billion child tax credit that, like the universal child care benefit, will go directly into their pockets. The Liberals just voted to take that away.

Canadians see their new government putting more money than any government in Canadian history into early learning and child care; over $5.6 billion in direct payments, transfers and tax measures. The Liberals want to take all of that away.

We believe in Canadian parents who asked for choice in child care. Canadian families know which party in the House is standing up for them.

7:45 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should be ashamed for saying such things, since it was the Liberals who had invested $5 billion to ensure early learning and childhood development in Canada. Yes, $5 billion.

What did the Conservative government do? It cut the money that was allocated to the provinces to help child care centres across the country. It is shameful to produce figures and make references the way the Conservatives do, since it was a Liberal government that invested $5 billion, not them. The Conservatives cancelled the money that we had allocated.

What is even more shameful is that $116 million was earmarked for the rural regions of New Brunswick, where we need it most, thanks to an agreement signed in good faith between the federal Liberal government and the provinces. A $116 million agreement was signed.

In their new budget, the Conservatives presented $6 million. What happened to the other $111 million in the agreement for families signed with the province of New Brunswick?

7:45 p.m.


Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I say shame on that member. Canadians find it a little funny to see the Liberals trying to take the early years study, the data of which was all collected during their time in government, and pass it off as criticism of this government. The study was released less than a week after the budget. It does not take into account the $5.6 billion we are investing in child care choice. The study is nothing less than an indictment of the Liberal record.

Canadians are happy to see that their new government is nothing like the old. We have come to Canadians with a plan. We have outlined the costs. We are delivering what families have asked for.

We will continue to deliver unprecedented benefits directly to parents. We will continue to support them with tax benefits that recognize child care expenses. We will continue to support parents and we will continue to put more money in their pockets. We will continue to stand up for parents. We will not--

7:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:49 p.m.)