This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #163 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is important to note is we are talking as much about a specific issue, being the profit margin of oil and gas companies, which have received record profits over the last number of years, as we are about the Prime Minister once again saying one thing and doing another. He criticized the member for LaSalle—Émard, when he was the former prime minister, for not living up to democratically held votes in the House of Commons.

How does the parliamentary secretary personally feel about that? Does he view that votes in the House should be upheld by the majority? Should we follow through on them? They are simple motions that we pass, calling for accountability with respect to the oil and gas industry. It was not radical. It has been called for by consumer groups. Canadians have asked for independent investigations and for the Competition Bureau to have the ability to investigate properly with a modernized law, something that can be done fairly for the oil and gas companies and for Canadian consumers. Canadians deserve this.

Therefore, once again, how does the parliamentary secretary feel about votes?

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's new government is committed to helping Canadians reduce their gas consumption so that they can save money and protect the environment. We believe that we can make real progress on environmental issues without endangering economic growth or unfairly increasing the burden on thousands of Canadian families, which an excessive increase in the price of gas would do.

The three opposition parties have proposed unrealistic emissions targets that would have devastating consequences on Canada's economy. Economic analyses supported by leading independent economists show that implementing the nonsensical measures in Bill C-288 would lead to a dramatic increase in the price of gas—as much as 60%. Canadians could have to pay $1.60 to $2.00 per litre of gas. The measures proposed by the opposition parties would combine with factors that already contribute to the rising price of gas.

The government has made available online a wide range of practical tips on buying, driving and maintaining cars, tips that can help Canadians save money and gas while reducing greenhouse gases. For example: obey the speed limit, because driving at 100 km/h rather than 120 km/h—

7:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to raise again this question that I raised earlier with regard to the accord, especially on such an important day as today when we are discussing the budget and the shortcomings in the budget.

Of the many shortcomings, I think of the way that the government turned its back on and withdrew from the Atlantic accord. Because of the impact that has had on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the people of Nova Scotia, I think it is appropriate that I am able to address this in adjournment proceedings this evening.

I recall the day, February 14, 2005, when my colleagues joined with the provincial government and then Premier John Hamm and we signed that momentous accord that some Nova Scotians refer to as the single greatest day for the people of Nova Scotia since the discovery of oil and gas off our coast.

I know that when the parliamentary secretary gets up to answer my question she is going to say in her reply that everything is being abided by and the commitment to the people of Nova Scotia is not being challenged. That is not in fact the truth. That is totally false.

Let us listen to some of our foremost and respected economists, not just in Atlantic Canada but in this country, including Wade Locke from Memorial University , who states that $11 billion will be lost to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Mr. Paul Hobson, a respected economist from Acadia University, who states that $1 billion will be lost by the province of Nova Scotia.

Right across the Atlantic provinces, this is not going unnoticed. Peter O'Brien, a former Atlantic vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and certainly no big friend of the Liberal Party of Canada, outright condemns the new formula that was put forward in the government's last budget.

He said not long ago through an op-ed that when the changes were made he was willing to accept the word of the federal finance minister and Nova Scotia's regional minister, but now he states, “Now, faced with the indisputable analysis from two respected economists, it is obvious that” what has come from this government is “spin”. He said that the government “did not tell us that the budget established a cap on the combined equalization transfers and revenue from the Atlantic accord, which would penalize” these two provinces.

What we have seen from the government throughout this whole play is a bad imitation of Howie Mandel on Deal or No Deal. We have heard the regional minister, the member for Central Nova, say that if the people of Nova Scotia do not want this deal, okay, and the government will see them in court if they do not think they are getting a fair deal.

This is something that the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador already had. This is something that they fought for and received. This is not something additional.

That is why I ask the government to stand by the agreement that was signed between the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government and to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia what is theirs.

7:10 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton—Canso doubts that we have honoured our commitment to Nova Scotia's offshore accord and the treatment of natural resources in the equalization formula. As he said, he has put that position forward before.

There is some discussion surrounding the accord, the member is aware of that, between the federal government and the government of Nova Scotia. It is important to remember, and sometimes this gets lost in the shuffle, that budget 2007 provides important benefits to the people of Nova Scotia as part of our commitment to fair and equitable financial support for provincial and territorial health care delivery, post-secondary education, child care, social programs and infrastructure.

In specific terms, our budget will allow the government of Nova Scotia to continue to enjoy the benefits of its 2005 offshore accords, in recognition of the province's economic and fiscal circumstances.

This will provide the province with offset payments that are equivalent to the reductions in equalization that would normally arise from its increased fiscal capacity from offshore revenues. These are available only to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Indeed, budget 2007 honours Canada's new government's commitment to respect the offshore accords by allowing Nova Scotia to operate under the existing equalization formula for the life of the accords, and the member knows that, and there is no cap in that formula.

Nothing in budget 2007 changes these facts. The benefits from the existing Atlantic accords and the equalization system will continue to flow to Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia can operate under the existing equalization system or it can choose to opt into the new system based on the O'Brien report, if and when the province determines this as being advantageous. By having this additional choice, Nova Scotia potentially stands to receive even higher benefits than under the existing system, while retaining its right to offset payments under the accords.

If Nova Scotia's government chooses the new equalization system, however, we believe that it is fair that the whole package would apply, including the fiscal capacity cap that is an integral part of the new equalization system. It would not be fair to other provinces if only Nova Scotia were allowed to choose those parts of the new equalization program that benefit the province. The equalization program should be a national, principles based program.

Finally, Nova Scotia has been given additional flexibility beyond what was set out in budget 2007. Budget legislation introduced in Parliament will allow Nova Scotia to benefit from the O'Brien report for 2007-08 and provide more time to assess whether it wants to permanently opt into the new equalization formula.

This option has given Nova Scotia an additional $95 million, for total benefits of $1.5 billion in 2007-08. Under this arrangement Nova Scotia will receive its fully offset payments under the offshore accords.

The facts show that this government is keeping its word. The offshore accords are being respected. We are delivering on our commitments to the people of Nova Scotia.

If the member does not believe me, maybe he should read today's Halifax Daily News, which states:

But here in Nova Scotia, we really have nothing to complain about...And even under the new formula, we still get 50 per cent of resource revenue, plus the richer equalization stipend. Folks, there is really nothing about this not to like--

7:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Cape Breton--Canso.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess that is sort of what happens when the answer is prepared prior to hearing the question and some of the facts that are delivered throughout the question.

I remember the date, November 4, probably because I have had 51 trips around the sun and I celebrate a birthday on November 4. However, there was another significant November 4 and that was in 2004. The current Prime Minister, who was then the leader of the opposition, stood here and articulated the fact that under the old system, before we had managed to fix that system, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia would be severely penalized under the old system. That was ratified through the accords, signed on, and that is why these accords should be honoured.

This member should know that her own caucus is in the midst of a conflict of conscience. They know that this is going to hurt the people of Nova Scotia. We have seen that the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is torn by this. He is looking at voting against the budget. This is devastating. Do the right thing and honour the accord.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, we committed to respect the offshore accords. We did so in budget 2007. Budget 2007 proposes that Nova Scotia be allowed to stay on the status quo formula for the life of the accords.

The status quo formula is what existed in legislation when the 2000 accords were signed. The member knows this. That status quo formula continues to exist in legislation and will be an integral part of the new approach to equalization. There is no cap in the status quo.

This means an additional $95 million for Nova Scotia, for total benefits of $1.5 billion in 2007-08. Nova Scotia's growing prosperity is something to celebrate. When Nova Scotia succeeds, all of Canada benefits.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply concerned and alarmed by the inaction on Bill C-55, the wage earner protection program. The bill, which was adopted in the 38th Parliament, has yet to be proclaimed by the government.

The bill is so crucial to so many who have lost their jobs. Bill C-55, or what should be known as chapter 47 on the status of Canada, puts the needs of individual workers ahead of corporations and creditors.

The essence of Bill C-55 is that working people deserve respect and justice. When a company is bankrupt, under the current system, the company and the trustees are under no obligation to ensure that salaries and pensions for their workers are the primary priority for payment. Bill C-55 would remedy this, ensuring that workers would not be left out in the cold.

Due to the inaction of the Conservative government, Canadian manufacturing jobs are being lost at an ever increasing rate. The Conservative government refuses to take any action to protect these jobs in the textile, automotive, forestry, fisheries and other sectors. The least it can do is to ensure that when these companies declare bankruptcy, their workers are protected.

The government has a duty to act. For all the noise the Conservative Party likes to make about leadership, it does not seem to understand that leaders lead through action. The Conservatives claim to support the bill, but if they do, why will they not do the right thing, move the appropriate motions and make the bill law?

Its actions lead me to the sad realization that rather than leading our country, the Conservative Party is simply unwilling to do what is needed to benefit Canadian people. It has made it abundantly clear that if it does not produce headlines, it is not a priority for the Conservatives.

Anyone can climb on a soapbox and proclaim to care about Canadians, but a real leader takes action. A real leader looks at ways to make Parliament work, not to obstruct it and its committees. Real leadership inspires the country, it does not produce inaccurate and unfounded attack ads that mislead and misrepresent. Real leadership is about standing up for what is right and just for all Canadians, not just for the wealthy few.

Real leaders roll up their sleeves and work on the real details on issues like Bill C-55. This is because they make such a difference in the lives of people and Canadians.

Canadians do not need million dollar campaign ads that speak of leadership, but deliver nothing of substance from those who paid for them. If the Conservatives want to show Canadians any leadership, then they are going to have to actually get up and lead. Bill C-55 is an excellent and long overdue opportunity to do just that.

When will the government show the slightest glimmer of leadership and follow the Liberal example on Bill C-55? Let us make this bill law now. It is the right thing to do.

7:20 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members are no doubt aware, Bill C-55, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, was proposed and passed into law with the unanimous support of all political parties in both Houses during the previous Parliament.

Bill C-55 then became chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada. This legislation was passed by the previous Parliament very quickly and it was well understood at the time that technical amendments would be needed to ensure that the legislation would operate as it was intended to do. The previous government gave an undertaking to the Senate not to bring the legislation into force until the Senate had been given the opportunity to review it in depth.

Canada's new government has tried to move forward quickly with the amendments to chapter 47. The Minister of Labour and the Minister of Industry have developed an amending bill. The Minister of Labour introduced a notice of ways and means motion on December 8, 2006, and the government then worked with opposition parties to ensure that there was support to pass this legislation through the House quickly so that it could be referred to the other chamber for indepth review.

The Bloc Québécois has now changed its mind and has refused to give its support. Without the unanimous support of all opposition parties, workers across Canada and in Quebec are being denied the protection that would be provided under this legislation.

There is no need for this delay. The amending bill is consistent with the will of the House of Commons in the last Parliament. It is time to let the other chamber do its work and then move forward with bringing chapter 47 into force.

The wage earner protection program has strong support from parliamentarians, labour unions, employers, as well as the insolvency community, and for good reason. Every year, 10,000 to 20,000 workers are left with unpaid wage claims due to employer bankruptcies at a time when they need their wages the most.

Let me take this opportunity again to encourage the Bloc Québécois to join the rest of the parties in the House of Commons and support this important legislation so that it can be passed as quickly as possible. Canadian workers and their families are counting on this legislation. The longer we delay these amendments, the longer they will have to wait for this program.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, a large majority of the members of this House support the proclamation of this law. A large majority of members of this House are hoping to make Canada a more just society by protecting workers.

Let us be clear about what is happening here. The Conservatives have both the power and the obligation to proclaim this bill and yet one and a half years later nothing has happened. Either the Conservatives do not want this bill to be law or they do not care enough about this bill to put in the necessary effort to make it law.

Today I am offering, not for the first time, to do whatever it takes to see this bill proclaimed into law and whatever it takes to protect these workers.

Will the minister commit today to set up a real timetable for the proclamation of this bill? We can factor in all the obstacles and work together to fix any imperfections. We can prove to Canadians that, like us on this side of the House, the Conservatives in Parliament are willing to do the work for the benefit of people in Canada. Will the minister commit to this today?

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat again what I stated earlier. Before chapter 47 can come into force, some technical amendments needed to be made to ensure the legislation operates as it was intended to do.

We have taken action. A notice of motion was introduced in this House with a draft copy of the amendments attached. These technical changes simply reflect the will of the House of Commons in the last Parliament and all the opposition parties should agree to fast-track the amending bill and send it directly to the Senate.

The member opposite is talking about the Conservatives holding it up. Perhaps he should talk to his friends in the Bloc because when the Bloc gives its support we will act quickly to table the amending bill. The questions really need to be directed to the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and his caucus who continue to press this House for action on this issue but cannot seem to take yes for an answer.

We are ready for it but the Bloc Québécois is slowing down the progress for workers and their families. I would like the member to take that message back to his fellow counterparts in--

7:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:26 p.m.)