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House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Correctional Service of CanadaOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a much more serious note, my constituents in Leeds--Grenville are concerned that 36% of federal offenders are convicted of a new crime within two years of completing their sentence. They want us to end the revolving door justice system created by the Liberals by creating a fair and effective corrections system that places the priority on protecting Canadians.

Can the Minister of Public Safety update the House on our platform commitment to review the operations of Correctional Service of Canada?

Correctional Service of CanadaOral Questions

3 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I announced on Friday that the review would begin and it has begun. We want a report back by October.

There are a number of disconcerting elements within our system and the hard-working, dedicated men and women within the correctional service system face a changing offender profile. Seventy-five per cent of the offenders who get out on early release, and that is required by the way the laws are written, will actually reoffend. One out of four offenders in our system is actually in there for homicide.

Some questions need to be addressed. The review is going to do that. Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, has said that we need to end this back and back and back process and get some answers.

PassportsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is swimming in surpluses. Yet, it is incapable of providing fair, adequate services for a simple passport application. Backlogs continue to accumulate every day. Canadian and Quebec travellers are losing time and money because of this situation. Even worse, people in rural regions are particularly inconvenienced, including those in my region, for instance.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs recognize the problem and does he intend to set up a passport office for Bas-Saint-Laurent and the Gaspé as soon as possible?

PassportsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the question. I must say that my department is working very hard to address this issue. I know it is a very difficult situation.

Since this issue has come to light, we have taken the step of opening 58 new receiving offices through Service Canada. We have hired 500 new employees. We hope to have them all on stream very soon to address this bottleneck in the process.

We recognize and appreciate the patience of Canadians with regard to this issue. We will continue to look for ways to increase efficiency and speed up this process.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Health lost his cool in an interview with the Vancouver Sun saying that members of the group Families for Early Autism Treatment are trying to intimidate him.

This is an organization of parents with autistic children. They are trying to get the federal government to provide the support they need to raise their children, but the Minister of Health has labelled them as extremists.

Is this really what Conservatives think of people who try to get their government to do the right thing? Does the minister really believe that advocating for one's child's health and well-being makes one an extremist? Will the minister tell us what other advocacy groups are on his list?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, this government, I was pleased to announce on behalf of the Prime Minister and the government, has done more when it comes to autism and ASD in terms of the federal capacity to deal with this issue than any other previous government.

When it comes to research, when it comes to ASD surveillance, when it comes to a research chair, when it comes to reorganizing Health Canada to make sure that it can deal with ASD, this government has put kids with autism and parents who are suffering as a result of their kids having autism on the front burner. We are proud of this government for doing so.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Ted Morton, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development of Alberta.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought I would correct the record on the misinformation from the Minister of Public Safety to say that I did meet with the head of the Canadian Police Association. As witness to that, I had the leader of my party and also the justice critic.

Canadian Human Rights TribunalRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the 2006 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal annual report.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference of Monday, October 30, 2006, your committee has considered Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act, and has agreed on Thursday, April 19, 2007 to report it with one amendment.

I might point out that this particular legislation first went through the House in the form of a private member's bill and was supported by a number of members on this side, the member for Wild Rose, the member for Lethbridge, the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells, in an effort to make our streets and our country safer for children. Now we see the fruits of that labour over the number of years that we have been here. We are pleased to submit this report with one amendment.

Visitor VisasPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by people in my riding and in other ridings.

The petitioners wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Republic of Poland has successfully joined the European Union, that Canada and Poland are active members of NATO, and that Poland is using biometric passport technology. The petitioners therefore ask for the lifting of visitor visa requirements for Poland. They believe it will increase family visitation, tourism, cultural exchanges and trade missions.

The Canadian Polish Congress, representing 800,000 Canadians of Polish heritage, is strongly recommending the lifting of such visa requirements for Poland.

Tradespersons Travel and Accommodation DeductionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions today, both of which were circulated by members and supporters of the building trades, the first in the golden horseshoe and the second in and around British Columbia.

Building trades across the country have lobbied successive governments for over 30 years to achieve some basic fairness for their members. They want tradespersons and indentured apprentices to be able to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes so they can secure and maintain employment at construction sites that are more than 80 kilometres from their homes. It makes no sense for tradespersons to be out of work in one area of the country while another region suffers from temporary skilled trade shortages simply because the cost of travelling is too high.

To that end, they have gathered hundreds of signatures in support of my bill, Bill C-390, which allows for precisely the kind of deductions that their members have been asking for. I am pleased to table the petition on their behalf and share their disappointment that this item was not addressed in the government's budget in March.

Youth EmploymentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to present a petition on behalf of the citizens in my riding, who condemn the Conservative government's decision to cut the youth employment initiatives program by $55 million.

As we know, this program also includes the career placement program, which is extremely important to the students in my riding, as it is to students in ridings across the country.

A cut like this to the career placement program is extremely harmful to young people in our society, and to young people in rural areas. These citizens think the government's decision to cut funding is wrong and unacceptable.

The petitioners are calling on Parliament to reinstate the necessary funding, which suffered a $55 million cut, to ensure that the career placement program and the youth employment initiatives program can continue as they were under the Liberal government.

Softwood Lumber IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present in the House today a petition on the issue of the softwood lumber industry.

The petitioners decry the situation where $1 billion in funds owned by the Canadian softwood industry have been used to subsidize our U.S. competitors. They say that it is a bad precedent for the softwood lumber industry but also for other industries in Canada. They have said that this agreement has triggered layoffs. In fact, it has triggered layoffs in my own community.

They ask that this agreement be renegotiated and that the Canadian industry be provided with loan guarantees and the political and moral support that the industry deserves to defend itself and to defend Canadian interests.

Consumer Price IndexPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present six petitions on behalf of the residents of Sackville—Eastern Shore, plus the other residents residing in that great province of Nova Scotia.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to repay the over $1 billion that was mistakenly taken from them when Statistics Canada made the error on the consumer price index in 2002, costing these seniors well over $1 billion. May I remind the government that the meter is running.

I would also like to bring to the attention of the government on behalf of these petitioners that it should remember what a senior did to Brian Mulroney in the 1980s. These same seniors can do it to this government in 2007.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 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, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-52, the government's bill to implement its budget.

I had the privilege of speaking to the budget itself when it was first tabled in the House and was pleased to represent the concerns of people in my riding of Hamilton Mountain during that debate.

Unfortunately, there was little time to explore any one issue in greater detail so I am pleased to use this opportunity today to focus on just one specific area, and that is the budget's appalling silence on the decline of Canada's manufacturing sector and its failure to create either a steel or an auto sector strategy.

With the government's fiscal capacity, the budget was a huge opportunity to invest and yet the government chose instead to squander this important opportunity. It is no wonder that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Workers are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet as the prosperity gap in the country grows. While we are seeing stagnating wages for average workers, folks at the high end are doing better and better. The top 100 CEOs in this country make in a few hours what the average Canadian worker makes in an entire year. The earnings of the richest 10% of Canadian families now stand at 82 times of those of the poorest 10%.

The rich are making more while working families are working harder and longer, 200 hours longer on average, just to make ends meet. At the same time, we are experiencing a crisis in the manufacturing sector. Over the last five years we have lost 4,300 jobs in the steel sector in Hamilton alone with another 300 jobs in jeopardy once Stelco's hot strip mill is closed. Some of the losses were from bankruptcies and plant closures while others are the result of continuous downsizing where there are still more losses to come as the nature of the industrial marketplace changes in the global economy.

The job losses did not begin and end with the steel industry. We lost Studebaker, International Harvester, Westinghouse, Proctor & Gamble, J.I. Case, Firestone and hundreds of smaller plants. Those are just some of the big names from Hamilton's past, and the list of losses continues to grow.

More recent ones that pop to mind, again from just the past five years, are Siemens Westinghouse with 332 layoffs and Camco where 716 lost their jobs when the plant closed and 284 more workers ended up on temporary layoff. The Tiercon plant closure saw another 700 jobs lost. There were bankruptcies and plant closures at Rheem, Philip Environmental, Hercules, Mak Steel, Frost Fence, Dominion Castings, Cold Metal Products and ACI Automotives. New permanent layoffs are happening every month in the industrial manufacturing sector in Hamilton and there is no end in sight.

Across Canada, a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2002; more than one in ten jobs due to layoffs, plant closures and the non-replacement of retiring workers.

I have seen the impacts of these job losses first-hand. In Hamilton I have been meeting regularly with the workers and retirees at Hamilton Specialty Bar who are once again uncertain about their futures and pensions because the company that runs the plant is under bankruptcy protection for a second time. The first time the Hamilton Specialty Bar plant went into bankruptcy protection it was the United Steelworkers, not the government, that did the work to find a new buyer for the plant to save both jobs and the pension plan.

This time the Steelworkers are working just as hard but there is no investor or buyer in sight. Once again, the government is doing nothing to help them. If no buyer is found the plant will shut down for good in May, which means that 380 workers will be out of jobs and 500 retirees will lose up to 20% of their pensions.

These are good jobs we are losing. Manufacturing jobs pay 28% higher wages than the national average. More often they come with decent pension and benefit packages.

Some analysts and politicians will tell us that there is no reason to worry, that these jobs are being replaced by jobs in other sectors. However, all jobs are not created equal.

Statistics Canada recently found that workers displaced by firm closures and mass layoffs who find other jobs suffer an average decline of 25% in annual earnings. That is a loss of $10,000 for a typical manufacturing worker. That is devastating for ordinary workers and their families but it also has a huge impact on our communities.

With a loss of one-quarter of a million manufacturing jobs, the total loss of Canadian earnings is estimated at around $2.5 billion annually. Just think of what that means in terms of spending and revenues for other sectors of our economy.

Workers are losing their jobs but the government's budget is doing nothing to address the growing crisis in the manufacturing sector. Workers are finding it harder and harder to get by but the budget is doing nothing to close the growing prosperity gap.

How did we get here? First, through downloading, funding cuts and trade deals the Liberals and the Conservatives have drastically reduced the capacity for the federal government to play a positive and helpful role in ensuring that the fundamentals are in place so that economic and social assistance can adjust, innovate and change at the same time as ensure a cushion for the blows of the unchecked market.

Second, with the limited capacity they do have, successive governments in Canada have had no vision and no plan to get right those things that we as a society expect from our federal government.

In their recent budget, the Conservatives simply stuck to the same old tried and failed path. Rather than working to close the prosperity gap with their budget, the Conservatives actually widened it. They maintained over $8 billion in corporate tax cuts, tax cuts brought in by the Liberals.

The budget provided no money for the things that would make life more fair and affordable for everyday Canadians, things like child care, pharmacare, transit, housing and student debt. Of course, the Conservatives, like the Liberals, have not put forward a plan to deal with the loss of manufacturing jobs.

New Democrats, on the other hand, have consistently fought for justice for all workers in their workplace. For too long workers have been left behind while Conservative and Liberal governments give handouts to their corporate friends.

It is time for fairness. I would urge the government to amend its budget bill to include initiatives that will make life more fair and more affordable for workers and their families. At a minimum these should include: secure pensions, by putting workers' pensions at the front of the line when employers go bankrupt; adequate employment insurance, by overhauling the EI system which denies two-thirds of workers any benefits; a reliable safety net, by reforming the social assistance programs that have become an ineffective, unaccountable patchwork since the Liberals abolished the Canada assistance plan; the protection of workers' rights, by protecting collective bargaining rights with progressive measures like outlawing replacement workers that prolong labour disputes; and a fair trade policy, by making workers and the environment a priority.

We in the NDP have a different vision of the kind of economy that we should be creating in the 21st century. I believe that the economy ultimately must be judged on how well it meets the needs and aspirations of the people it serves.

I believe that in a market economy the federal government has an obligation to ensure that the social and physical infrastructures are in place to ensure individual goals and collective needs are met. That is why we are working to strengthen the public service and health care and why we are working to get results on climate change, on labour rights and on real equality. Getting results on these issues will make life more secure and affordable for ordinary Canadians but they will also create a competitive advantage for our economy.

The budget exhorted Canadians to “aspire”. All Canadians had hoped for in the budget was a little bit of fairness. Their hopes were dashed when the finance minister rose to read the budget.

Canadians deserve more. They deserve better. They deserve the fairness they have been asking for.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I often speak with seniors in my riding and they tell me that their hydro bills, their Roger's cable bills, their heating bills and their property taxes, et cetera, have increased and yet for 10 to 15 years their guaranteed income supplement has not caught up. They recently received a tiny increase.

Some of the seniors in my riding are desperate. They are asking the government what it plans to do to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors.

Since this increase in the guaranteed income supplement is not in the budget that is in front of us, what is the NDP's plan to ensure that ordinary Canadians, especially seniors, can live their lives with dignity and have some money to pay the rent and buy food?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague hits the nail right on the head. Seniors in our community are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. They have worked hard all their lives. They have played by the rules. In fact, they have built the very system that they hoped would be there for them in their retirement years, but unfortunately that system is crumbling around them.

My colleague was addressing income supports only. She is absolutely right. There was no mention in the government's budget of substantial increases to the GIS, the OAS or the CPP, all of which are critical components of most seniors' retirement incomes.

Worse than that, though, the government is not even willing to live up to its legislated mandate, which would mean that the cost of living increases must be paid to seniors on those retirement income supports. We know there has been an error in Statistics Canada's calculation that has underestimated the cost of living increase. As a result, seniors are actually owed money from 2001 until 2006, when that mistake was fixed.

However, the government has refused to fix it retroactively, and we are talking about some of the poorest, neediest people in our communities. Seniors need their incomes. They need their incomes, and not for luxuries, as they are not buying plasma TVs and iPods; they are just trying to get buy. They are trying to pay for their heat, hydro, rent and food, the basic necessities of life. The government has not been there for them. Worse yet, it has not even lived up to the obligation it has to index their incomes as a result of the cost of living increases.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's statement. It seems pretty clear that she has some concerns with respect to seniors and seniors' incomes. That is shared by the government. That is why the government has moved to change taxation for seniors in such a dramatic fashion.

We have increased the age credit and the pension allowance. We took 655,000 taxpayers completely off the tax rolls in budget 2006 and over 200,000 in budget 2007, the overwhelming majority of those being low income seniors.

This government cares about seniors. It cares about looking after them. We are putting money into health care. We are reducing their burden. These are seniors' priorities. This government listens and we are getting it done. I would like to know why the member does not support that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to share with the member why I do not support that, and I thank him for giving me the opportunity.

Yes, the budget created a tax credit for pensionable income, but that is not the income support that most seniors rely on. That credit is purely on private pensions. Seniors who actually rely on public income supports like the GIS, the OAS and the CPP do not benefit from that change at all.

Worse yet, what the government also did, and what the member forgot to remind our colleagues about, is that it raised the lowest tax rate. The Liberals reduced it from 15.5% to 15% and the member's government raised it back up to 15.5%. The very poorest seniors in our country are now paying half a per cent more in income taxes than they were before the member's government took over.

Seniors deserve more than lip service from the government. I would encourage the member and his government in the next budget to realize that opportunity and to stand up for seniors and give them more than empty rhetoric.