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House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

PassportsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I would like to remind the hon. member that according to the Standing Orders members are not supposed to read the text of a petition but to provide a summary. I see he is finished now, so we will move on.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an income trust petition which I am presenting on behalf of Darryl Tempest of Mississauga, who has obtained the requisite 25 signatures.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept. The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, wiping out $25 billion in retirement savings for over two million Canadians. The petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to admit that the decision was wrong, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed and to repeal the 31.5% income tax.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first petition is related to the Criminal Code of Canada and it comes from a large number of citizens in the area of Kitchener and Waterloo.

On January 28, 1988 the Supreme Court stated that it is for Parliament to enact the appropriate defences of its legitimate interest in the lives of all subjects, including those yet in the womb. Apparently because the Criminal Code does not have appropriate language, the striking down of the phrase “after becoming a human being” has led to some other decisions. The bottom line is that the petitioners are requesting that Parliament consider restoring the Criminal Code to the prudence it held prior to 1968 by removing the words “after becoming a human being” from section 223(2).

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is an income trust broken promise petition. The petition is presented on behalf of Ms. Tanya Zaritsky who remembers the Prime Minister commenting on his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts. He broke that promise. He imposed a 31.5% tax which wiped out $25 billion of hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise, and to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 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, if Questions Nos. 200, 201 and 202 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 200Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

With respect to Transport Canada's port divestiture program for Quebec: (a) what ports remain to be divested; and (b) for each port to be divested, (i) what is the work to be carried out, (ii) what are the estimated maintenance and renovation costs, (iii) what is the status of negotiations with the Government of Quebec and the municipalities concerned?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 201Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

With regard to grants and contributions awarded by Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions since 2005-2006, for each grant and contribution: (a) what were (i) the names of the recipient organizations, (ii) the addresses of the recipient organizations, (iii) the dates the grants or the contributions were made, (iv) the amounts, (v) the names of the programs, (vi) the federal ridings in which each recipient organization was located; (b) what are the details and descriptions; and (c) was the Government of Quebec involved in the project?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 202Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

With respect to allocations for Passport Canada in the 2007-2008 budget and the announcement of a “renewal process in which low-risk applicants are targeted with an offer to renew their passport using a simplified process”: (a) on what grounds will a “low-risk“ applicant be determined; (b) when was the government's last evaluation of the need to open new passport offices and what were the results of that evaluation; and (c) what other measures are being taken within Passport Canada to expedite passport application processing during the current elevated number of applications?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed 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 third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga South had three minutes for questions and comments remaining. If there is an hon. member who would like to ask a question of the member for Mississauga South or make a comment, we could do so now.

I see the member for Scarborough—Guildwood rising.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite familiar with this budget bill. I wonder whether he would be prepared to comment on the fact that this bill has taken such a long time to get through the House. It started on March 19 and today is June 11. The government is pulling all kinds of manoeuvres in order to move this budget bill along, having delayed it itself.

I wonder whether this bill is not moving along because this bill has so many victims. The budget has literally two million victims in income trusts. Literally thousands of students are victims of this bill. Something in the order of thousands of business people are upset with the interest deductibility decision. All 26 million tax filers would be somewhat upset with the fact that the base rate is going from 15% to 15.5%.

I wonder whether the hon. member would be prepared to comment that possibly the real reason this bill is not moving anywhere and has not moved forward is that the government has so victimized so many Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member provided the answer in his question, so if I could take the liberty, I would just make the point that I wanted to include in my speech but ran out of time.

It had to do with pension income splitting and who in fact is getting the benefit. Of seniors, 70% do not have pension plans. They in fact are the ones who primarily invested in income trusts to provide a similar cashflow from income trusts as they would otherwise get if they were a member of a pension plan.

It really is very odd to me that the day that it announced that it was going to break a promise and tax income trusts, the government at the same time somehow also promised that it was going to provide for pension income splitting. In fact, the beneficiaries of income pension income splitting are the people who have pension plans but not the ones who have income trusts.

The government did not mask or alleviate the pain that it inflicted on about two million Canadians who had $25 billion wiped out from their retirement savings.

I think the member is quite right. The government and particularly the finance minister are ready to duck. They want to duck as quickly as possible. They put forward a motion to put the question and to stop debate on this bill. The less we talk about the budget the happier the finance minister is and that ought to tell us something.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak at third reading on the budget bill.

The Conservatives, who may be groaning and moaning in their seats as I begin another speech, have only themselves to blame.

Let us go back to this past Friday when they chose to try a very sneaky manoeuvre and invoke a Standing Order that has been used only twice in our history. Standing Order 53 was used in 1964 to send peacekeepers to Cyprus and used in 1977 to deal with an air traffic controllers strike.

They tried this very interesting manoeuvre to bring this process to a close, to have the budget process come to an end. They did not want to debate the budget any more because it is getting far too embarrassing, far too difficult for them to handle the criticism in this place, and to know that in fact momentum is growing across the country against this federal Conservative budget.

What has happened as a result of that initiative, that very peculiar move on Friday is that the government then moved the previous question which allows people like me, who have already spoken on the bill, to speak again.

I guess some would say this is poetic justice. It is the Conservatives hoisted on their own petard. The Conservatives were too clever by half and I apologize to everyone who has to listen to me give another 20 minute speech on the budget, but I have lots of issues that I did not even begin to touch on in previous discourses.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

There is so much here.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Yes, as my colleague from Ottawa Centre said, there is much here. We could talk for days. All we wanted in this whole parliamentary process was the ability to put on record the concerns of Canadians.

Indeed, there are many concerns across the country about the federal Conservative budget. We are not trying to hold up the process. We are not trying to be difficult. We are not trying to use any of the rules available to us to hurt democracy and to deny the need for the bill to be passed at some point, but we do want the opportunity to speak.

In fact, if we look at this whole process, as has been said many times in the debate, the Conservatives have had days and weeks to advance the bill and get it through the House.

Is it not interesting that today there is this panic? There is this need to create a crisis in order to get Bill C-52 through, but in fact the Conservatives had 11 days between April 17 and May 11 to actually advance the debate. They had 11 chances to bring this bill forward to debate, so that we could proceed and get it through committee, to report stage and back here for third reading.

Obviously, yes, as my colleague from Ottawa Centre said, it was not important enough at the time. They wanted to hide it as I am told by the member for Windsor--Tecumseh. Yes, there is clearly an attempt on the part of the Conservatives to hide, to bury, and to get rid of any avenues for discussing this budget.

First they tried not calling it, now they are hoisted on their own petard, and are forced to actually hear us out as we thoroughly debate Bill C-52 on third reading.

The developments of the last week have certainly given us a focus for debate and discussion. There is the realization on the part of the premiers of Newfoundland and the premier of Nova Scotia as well as the premier of Saskatchewan that the government in fact has no intention of keeping true to its word of keeping the promise that it made to honour the Atlantic accord and the Saskatchewan agreement.

The debate has now become, out of necessity, one that is dealing with the principle of governments keeping their word.

For too long political parties that have formed government break their promises the first chance they get. It is obvious that when a government breaks its word on something as fundamental as resources, an economic lifeline to regions such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, we cannot sit back and ignore it. We simply cannot let the Conservatives make up some justification for breaking their word and giving them the go ahead.

Obviously, the Conservatives who are waving their hands at me are embarrassed by this situation. They should be embarrassed. They ought to give some thought to the cries from people in the Atlantic region and Saskatchewan who want them to reconsider their position and keep their word with respect to the Atlantic accord and the Saskatchewan deal.

There are eons of writings on this issue and a multitude of quotes from members on the Conservative benches in support of the Atlantic accord and the Saskatchewan agreement. Let me quote the Prime Minister from November 16, 2005. He said:

The Prime Minister is also failing Saskatchewan on equalization. The government promised to reform the equalization program in 2004 for Saskatchewan. The government now says it will not get to that until at least 2006, costing Saskatchewan over $750 million in lost revenue. When will the Prime Minister overrule his finance minister and make the changes necessary, so Saskatchewan does not lose this money?

He went on to say on January 12, 2006:

A Conservative government would also support changes to the equalization program to ensure that all provinces and territories have the opportunity to develop their economies and sustain important core social services.

I could go on at great length making reference to all kinds of previous commitments, words, and promises by Conservative members in the context of the issue of fiscal balance and fairness in terms of distribution of wealth in this country.

However, the point has been made amply by the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. It has certainly been made in the news today by the premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney MacDonald. It has been made very well at the finance committee by the premier of Saskatchewan, Lorne Calvert.

It is time for the Conservative government to begin to listen. We offered a solution. We said from the very beginning that this issue could not be ignored. We said from the beginning that previous promises and commitments could not be ignored. We cannot go back on our word when it comes to economic lifelines.

We asked the Conservatives to honour the agreements and view these accords in terms of ensuring that the provinces have the wherewithal and the means to pursue their provincial economies as they develop their energy resources. It does not mean for all time we must ignore a formula that would look at some variation of what amount of revenue is included from natural resource revenue. It is to say honour the accords and then begin to look at how we move forward in the future.

There is no question that the Conservatives inherited an absolute mess from the Liberal Party. The Liberal government had years to sort out this problem. It refused, as happened with the income trust file. On both counts, they had the evidence and they would not bite the bullet and deal with them.

The Conservatives inherited an absolute mess and that is certainly the case with income trusts. On that issue, the government clearly recognized that it had to act or we would see more tax evasion on the part of corporations and more loss of revenue that would provide important programs for seniors and others.

With respect to fiscal balance and equalization, the case is equally so with the government, and I quote from the Edmonton Sun of a couple of months ago: “Grits Left 'Utter Mess' Books in Disarray After Deals With Provinces, Says Tory Minister”. I agree with that. It was an absolute mess.

There was a chance back in 2004 for the government of the day to build on a consensus achieved by the provinces to put in place a formula that would hold us in good stead for years to come, but the government refused. It refused, out of political expediency and out of a totally messed up sense of priorities in terms of fiscal balance. We have a government that cares more about putting money aside for a rainy day even though it is raining today.

We had a past Liberal government that has a $80 billion of surplus because of unanticipated surpluses caused by lowballing and refusal to forecast accurately. The government accumulated over $80 billion on a most unethical and immoral basis and then decided to put it all against the debt as opposed to deal with the priorities of Canadians.

This is the strange part. The Conservatives are following that pattern, not dealing with this trend line, this pattern of broken promises. Clearly, what is needed is for the Conservatives to have learned from the mistakes of the Liberals and not repeat them.

First, that means not to break its promise when it comes to the Atlantic accord and the Saskatchewan deal. Second, it means to stop the lowballing so we do not have all this unexplained surplus or a surplus that has no demands on it and then allow that to go against the debt without looking at the priorities of the country. Stop playing games with Canadians. That is what we are saying today. Start to put the issues on the table and hear the voices of Canadians.

That would mean, for example, talk about seniors and ensure they are able to live with integrity, decency and security as a reward for having built our country. Do not nickel and dime them. Do not take away the $200 per union it would cost the government to deal with an error by Statistics Canada in the consumer price index.

My colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain has been saying this for days and weeks. She has been tabling hundreds and hundreds of petitions from seniors who are asking why, when they make a mistake and do not pay government what it is owed, it comes after them in a flash expecting them to pay right away? However, when the government owes them money, why do they have to sit back and take excuses? Why do they have to sign petitions? Why do they have to sue the government? Why is there no justice when it comes to government error in calculations that cause people to lose money that is rightfully theirs?

In this case the money owed to seniors, because of that mistake, is about $1 billion. Why did the government not say it was important to pay the people who built our country that money as opposed to putting $22 billion and more against the debt for a rainy day, when it is raining now on the heads of seniors, when the house is leaking, when many seniors are having a heck of a time trying to make ends meet, trying to find decent accommodation, trying to pay for their drugs, trying to provide for themselves, not having to resort to turning down the heat in winter or skipping medication just to save money?

Is it not raining now? What is wrong with the Conservatives? Do they not see that when there is any kind of despair in the country, any kind of destitution because of government inaction and government callousness, is that not enough for them to put some of that money toward the people who built the country? After all, they are not in poverty because of something they did or did not do. They are in poverty because of either deliberate policies to hurt them, like the failure to acknowledge the error in Statistics Canada and the consumer price index, or errors caused by lack of foresight, vision and planning, like we see with respect to the national pharmacare program or national housing.

Is it not time that we started to put money into those areas that will help ensure people have security now and can contribute to this economy and build for a better future?

That is just one example. Here is another one. Why does the budget refuse to collect $300 million from big oil and gas companies that are getting this subsidy from government to develop the oil sands? Why are we giving subsidies to these giant corporations, which are developing and extracting our natural resources from the ground, including the water, and making huge profits?

That $300 million could have gone some distance to deal with some of the issues we see in our own communities, with concerns coming from seniors, from aboriginal people, from parents trying to find child care. That money could have gone into the economy. It could have built the economy and helped bring down the debt in the long run, and at just as fast a rate as will happen from putting it directly against the debt, $80 billion under the Liberals and $22 billion under the Conservatives, with some foolish little catchy program called a tax back guarantee, which does not mean a hill of beans for Canadians.

It will not mean anything to people struggling, but it would have meant a lot if they had taken at least some of those billions of dollars and invested them in programs that would guarantee some reasonable access to job opportunities in the country. It would guarantee some reasonable means of transportation. We might have put some money against the infrastructure deficit and some money into child care and other programs that support parents trying to juggle work and family responsibilities.

The government says that it has to get this budget bill through immediately. Otherwise it cannot spend money on a number of programs. First, that is nonsense. It knows and Canadians know that when money is in the budget and the budget is passed, it does come to fruition and people can count on that money. That is certainly a given. It is also interesting that the government chose to list a number of initiatives that it felt might not get the money on time as an excuse for ramming the bill through and bringing in rare Standing Orders, like the one I talked about, which has not been used more than twice in the last 30 or 40 years.

The government says that it must have the bill through so it can spend the $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change. Perhaps it is not such a bad idea that we hold off on expenditures in this area when it does so little to help ordinary people refit or restore their housing so they have heating or other services on a more sustainable basis. Perhaps it would give the government a moment to consider the fact that this program now does not provide any means to low income Canadians to retrofit their houses. Perhaps the government might want to take seriously the proposals for redefining this so-called green energy program to allow for low income households to take advantage of it.

Why do we keep getting from the government programs, tax credits and a scattering and smattering of initiatives that always benefit those at the top end and do nothing to help those at the bottom end? Why do we keep allowing the prosperity gap to widen when it is the role of government to close that gap?

Surely the way to do that is through progressive measures, not things like child tax credits, which give rich families more than low income families, not envirofit programs, which exclude low income Canadians, and not credits for manufacturers, which are meaningless when in fact all the jobs are gone and the plants are closed.

It is time for the government to reconsider its direction and realize it is squandering an important moment and a great opportunity that will build a wonderful country. However, it takes leadership and it takes vision. It takes a government that says that it will balance our fiscal priorities to ensure some money goes against the debt, some money for tax relief for Canadians and some money for those important programs that build a country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, not always, but most of the time I have the pleasure of listening to the member for Winnipeg North as we share stories across the table at finance committee. I have listened to a couple of her speeches in the House. Sometimes they are exciting, but not always as exciting.

One thing I heard the member for Winnipeg North say, which astounded me, was that the moneys would go forward anyway.

I find that ironic for her to say that. In May 2004, when the Conservatives were in opposition and were pounding away at a government that was corrupt, a government that had a sponsorship scandal, a government that had done some terrible things to the people in the country, she and her party stood in support of that government. They said that the budget should pass because of what it would do for the homeless, for children, for those unemployed. Today she stands in her place and says that the money will be spent anyway.

I would like to get a clarification from the member for Winnipeg North. Why was it okay to support a corrupt government and its budget of 2005, but it is not okay to support the government's budget in 2007?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Perhaps I am mistaken, Mr. Speaker, but is this an offer from the Conservative government to sit down with the New Democratic Party and arrive at an agreement where we see money diverted from tax breaks for corporations and money shunted toward the debt and see it put some of that into programs like housing, education, the environment and health care, as the New Democrats managed to do with the Liberals in the 2005 budget? I would love to sit down and start to work on such a deal.

This is why I made the comments I did. We have not had any success at convincing the Conservatives to change their mind, to sit down with us and develop a reasonable alternative that would include some way to respect the Atlantic accord and ensure that money flows to the creation of child care spaces and not to wealthy families, with a parent at home, that do not need the child care spaces and money to create housing, to improve our infrastructure and to deal with the $60 billion deficit.

I have a shopping list, as long as anyone can imagine, to talk to the Conservatives about, but unfortunately they have refused.

What has happened is the Bloc has agreed to support the Conservatives, prop up the government and give it the votes it needs to get the budget through. I can count, so I know, unless it is true a deal is in the works, the budget will go through and Canadians will be disappointed.