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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

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Saint John, NB

First, Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the hon. member on one point that she raised and that is the fact that it is taxpayers' money.

However, when a government tries to pit one region of the country against another and, more important, one taxpayer against another, that is what we, as Canadians, find offensive about the budget and about this political party.

The other thing that the hon. member raised, which I think is very important, is what about the ordinary taxpayer? What does the budget mean to the ordinary taxpayer? The budget means in fact an increase on those who have the least amount of income in our society. The increase at the lowest corporate rate, from 15% to 15.5%, is not only offensive, but it is disgraceful to those Canadians who need the most help from our national government.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week when the Canadian Labour Congress came forward, they made the case that some of the new jobs that are being created and that the government wants to talk about ad nauseam, a big percentage of those jobs are actually low wage and part time.

The Conservatives introduced a concept of temporary agencies which get jobs for people and take a percentage off the top. These are the kinds of jobs that are now being generated in the economy that are beginning to be rolled out under the leadership of the government.

There are people who had lost manufacturing jobs in northern Ontario, southern Ontario, southeastern Ontario and across the country. The only choice they have is to take these low wage, no benefits, no pension, oftentimes temporary agency jobs in order to feed their families, pay the rent, and contribute in the way they have grown accustomed.

I wonder if the member would like to respond to that.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, the reality and one of the concerns we all have in every region of Canada is the migration of our workforce.

Certainly in my area of the country in Atlantic Canada, a lot of our workforce is migrating to places west and throughout the United States. We have a big concern about that.

We also have a large concern as it relates to these temporary and part time permanent jobs, but I have to say that one of the concerns we all have is pitting region against region. That is why I am voting against the budget.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to the budget. Again, like many, I have had a chance to talk about it on a number of occasions.

To be very honest and upfront, and I do not want to disappoint anybody, I do not like it. I do not think it is a fair budget. I do not think it is a budget that does anything to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor and, in fact, it increases the gap.

I want to echo the comments of my colleague from Saint John. I want to speak a little bit to the issue of how I believe that this budget divides Canadians, which I think it does.

I am going to talk about three examples. The first is the Atlantic accord. The accord has received a lot of attention, particularly where I come from in Nova Scotia, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and also across the country. It is a sign of how a government should not do business by alienating one region and playing one off against the other in a game of what I would call crude political arithmetic. The government thinks it can afford to maybe lose a few seats here if it gains a few seats there, and it adds up to where it wants to go.

When the Atlantic accord was torched, when it was betrayed so callously in the budget, it set off a firestorm. It did not just set off a firestorm among opposition MPs in Ottawa. It set off a firestorm among Progressive Conservatives in Atlantic Canada.

I have recited some of these before, so I will not spend a lot of time on this. Back home the premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney MacDonald, rather mildly rebuked the government. The premier had to say something and he acknowledged very quickly that the Atlantic accord had been betrayed. The accord had been worked on by his former colleague, Dr. John Hamm, the former premier of Nova Scotia, a very distinguished leader in our province. Premier MacDonald today acknowledged the fact that Dr. Hamm's work had all gone for naught with the betrayal of the Atlantic accord.

Premier Danny Williams has been reasonably vocal in his concern about the Atlantic accord and what he thinks it means to Newfoundland and Labrador. He has spoken out loudly. Premier Rodney MacDonald has not spoken out as loudly. I think we can be fortunate that we have a new Liberal leader in Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil, who will stand tall for Nova Scotians and demand fairness.

Premier MacDonald and all legislators in Nova Scotia in an all-party resolution of the legislature, including the wife of the Conservative member for South Shore—St. Margaret's who was a minister in the Rodney MacDonald government, condemned the federal government for breaking its word on the Atlantic accord.

Here is a commentary from back home the day after the budget. Marilla Stephenson, a columnist in the Chronicle-Herald, said, “If any theme rang through the Harper budget delivered on Monday night, it was that the have-nots are to remain--

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The hon. member cannot do indirectly what the rules prohibit him from doing directly. I would ask him to please refrain from referring to the Prime Minister by name.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. The article states:

If any theme rang through the Harper budget delivered on Monday night, it was that the have-nots are to remain, well, have-nots.

Jim Meek indicated:

Jeering from the sidelines were the budget's unlucky trio of obvious losers: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan. All are now victims of a calculated insult—the effective federal clawback of resource revenues under the new equalization schemed insult.

David Rodenhiser said:

Nova Scotians are left asking themselves: Who's standing up for us?...Right now, the answer is no one....Certainly not our federal cabinet minister, [the member for Central Nova], who's defending Ottawa rather than Nova Scotia on this.

An article in the Chronicle Herald states, “Atlantic Tories running for cover”.

On the weekend, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley on the government side indicated, acknowledging that the Atlantic accord has been betrayed, that it gave him concern about how he should vote. That is not easy for anyone. I wish him well in his deliberations. All government members should have the same principled approach to this.

The Atlantic accord is gone. Atlantic Conservative candidates, people who were going to run for the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada, like Jane Purves in Halifax, are having second thoughts. A candidate in Newfoundland said, “That's it, I can't run for these guys. What chance would I have? We can't win if we're going to be breaking accords like the Atlantic accord which was so important. You can't do it”

The Atlantic accord was opposed by virtually everybody in Atlantic Canada, again, dividing one part of Canada against the other.

I want to talk about the Coast Guard. A month or so ago we had an announcement in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour that two icebreakers, employing some 130 people plus support staff, would be moved from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, to the two ridings where Conservative members happen to reside.

Nobody in Nova Scotia wishes Newfoundland and Labrador anything but good fortune, but there was no business case along with this move, no discussion with workers and union and no discussion even with regional management of the Coast Guard. A draft business report for a business plan for the next three years of the Coast Guard, dated April 1, had no mention of this move. This was a crass political move and it is the crassest kind of political move not only to divide region against region, but province against province for political purposes. It is wrong.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the debacle, which is the summer grants program. Last year it was the subject of a $55 million cut. In the fall the program was cancelled. It came back in the spring with an $11 million cut, and no explanation of what happened to that $55 million. Maybe it is still in play and maybe it is not. We do not know. We only have budget documents and press releases to tell us, and there has not been much about that recently.

Two or three weeks ago, organizations across Canada started getting letters in the mail, like the Autism Society of Nova Scotia. It was told that it did not qualify for the summer jobs program, although it had for years under the Liberal program. It had seven people last year and ten the year before, in the last year of the Liberal government. This year the society did not qualify.

The minister keeps telling us that the old program was Liberal MPs dispensing patronage. Hogwash. It was Wal-Mart, Rogers and Bacardi giving jobs. If the Conservatives do not like them giving jobs, take the jobs away from them and give them to the Autism Society of Nova Scotia. Do not take them away from the Autism Society of Nova Scotia. Do not take them away from the Diabetes Society.

I want to read a letter from an organization called Edward's House, which deals with young students at risk, students who have either been kicked out of their home or lost their parents. The only way they can stay in school is with this program, which provides shelter, comfort and food and allows them to go to school. On May 15 it received a letter dated May 10. Always having had summer students before, the letter stated, “Thank you for your application...Your application was assessed and received a rating of 23 out of a total of 70. It did not rank high enough on the list of assessed applications to be funded. Since the demand exceeded the budget, we are unable to offer you funding at this time”.

Representatives came to see me and we talked about it. Miraculously, when we went on the summer break, the minister denied there was a problem.

We had a minister in New Brunswick saying it would be fixed a certain way. A MP in Nova Scotia there was 15% more money. A cabinet minister of the Government of Canada blamed it on the bureaucrats, scrambling everywhere. It was a disaster that had to be fixed. All of a sudden, Edward's House received a call and was told the government could fund it. Even though the letter said that the demand exceeded budget and there was no money, all of a sudden there was money. What kind of program is that? Only when the government gets caught does it throw money in.

The minister said in the House that we would soon see on the website the names of organizations requesting funding, which ones received it and which did not. I and my colleague from Saskatchewan beside me had a motion before the HRDC committee, stating that by June 1 we would know what organizations had applied, what ones received funding and what ones did not. Late in the afternoon on June 1, we received a letter saying that because of privacy concerns, we could not received that information. However, the minister can stand in the House and read a list when somebody asks him a question, but parliamentarians are not allowed to know.

That is dividing Canadians, not only region to region or province to province but non-profit organization to non-profit organization. Organizations in our communities across the street from each other are now pitted against each other because of the political crassness of the government.

We have a large and diverse country and we take pride in that. We come here to represent our constituents. Surely, there is a special place for all of us in our hearts and in this place to represent those who need help the most. For years we have done that in Canada. We have built a social infrastructure. I am concerned that this budget and last year's budget will signal the end of that belief in the social infrastructure if we do not soon do something to fix it.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier the member for Saint John spoke about Bill C-45, which was a Liberal budget bill from the last Parliament. He talked about the transfers to cities for transit. It struck me how ironic that was because it was known in many circles as the NDP better balanced budget, after the member for Toronto—Danforth negotiated with the then prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, to change from $4.5 billion of corporate tax breaks and have that money transferred to the municipalities.

Which way did the member support that bill, for the tax breaks for corporations or the transfers that we negotiated?

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

If I recall correctly, Mr. Speaker, that was Bill C-48, not Bill C-45. The money was not specifically for cities. It was for four areas: overseas development, the environment, post-secondary education and housing. I absolutely supported that motion.

I remind the member that the $1.5 billion negotiated by the leader of the NDP and the then prime minister of Canada for post-secondary education was dwarfed in the economic update six months later, when the Liberal government promised $2.2 billion for students who needed it the most, making the $1.5 billion irrelevant. Unfortunately, the NDP did not vote to adopt it.

When the Conservative government came in, it changed that $1.5 billion to $1 billion. It changed it from student access to infrastructure. There was very little benefit for students in that bill, but I was happy to vote for it at the time. I thought it was a good initiative and it showed that Parliament could work when leaders worked together on priorities.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the perspectives of the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and respect his work, but I have difficulty trying to understand his view on the budget.

He picked on one program within the budget, upon which changes were said to come from the very beginning. It was a new program that needed to be implemented based on getting rid of the situation where MPs were signing off. We would turn it into a system that was fair and equitable, a system that would be reviewed after it started, and it was.

He asked a question in the House as to why that association had not received funding. He stood in the House today and acknowledged that it did receive funding. Congratulations, the organization deserved and received the funding it should have.

The one thing he did not talk about, and the member for Saint John did not speak about beforehand, was the $1.4 billion under new equalization for New Brunswick, the $1.3 billion for equalization for Nova Scotia, the $512 million under the Canada health transfer for New Brunswick and the $639 million to Nova Scotia for health care transfers. Talk about the big impact this budget will have on provinces that for years cried to the former government for help and what did it say? Nothing. Newfoundland and Labrador had to lower the flag in order to get attention.

Why will the member not acknowledge the good, the intent and the funding that will help his province? Why he will not support the budget?

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to ask if hogwash is a parliamentary term. Maybe it was not until the Conservative government came in and it became accepted.

The member talked about the organization that eventually received funding. If I could find it, I could read the email in which it thanks me for the funding it received. I raised the issue. Is that how it is supposed to work?

Are organizations supposed to go cap in hand? Should the Autism Society of Nova Scotia beg for support from the government and only get it because the government was shamed into doing it? Surely, my colleague, the member for St. Catharines does not think that makes sense.

Everyone in Nova Scotia, except a couple of old fashioned Conservatives, knows it got rooked in the federal budget. We got slaughtered in the federal budget. The Atlantic accord was not just money. The Atlantic accord was the future of Nova Scotia. It was the future of young Nova Scotians. It was callously pushed aside and cast aside by the Minister of Finance. The government is trying to fix it up now and perhaps trade off something else.

All the Conservatives have to do is honour the Atlantic accord as they said they would when the Liberals brought it in.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The question is on Motion No. 5. A vote on this motion also applies to Motions Nos. 6 to 9. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Report stageBudget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

There has been a request that the vote on Motion No. 5 be deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

moved that Bill C-35 be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am exceptionally pleased that we are debating Bill C-35 at third reading. According to my colleagues, it is the second best thing that has happened yet today.

It proposes a reverse onus in bail hearings for a number of firearm-related offences.

Canada's new government is following through with its commitment to get tough on crime. That is why, since last spring, we have introduced 11 bills to make our communities safer. We have tackled key issues such as gun crimes, alcohol and drug impaired driving, street racing, and the protection of our youth from adult sexual predators.

This government is listening to what Canadians are telling us. We are making progress on amending the Criminal Code to make it more responsive to their concerns.

It is important that we maintain the trust of Canadians in the criminal justice system. Along with other bills, Bill C-35 aims to do just that. Bill C-35 demonstrates this government's commitment to ensuring that people charged with serious firearm offences do not roam our streets while out on bail.

In my view, the legislative reforms proposed in Bill C-35 are appropriately tailored to the concern that has been expressed by many Canadians, the concern about the release from custody of individuals accused of serious gun crimes who pose a threat to public safety.

Bill C-35 proposes to shift the onus during bail hearings from the Crown to the accused, so that people charged with serious firearm offences will not benefit from a presumption in favour of release on bail. The burden will be on them to demonstrate why it is not justified to keep them in custody until they are dealt with according to the law.

Under Bill C-35, a reverse onus will apply in a number of cases.

First, Bill C-35 creates a reverse onus for eight serious offences committed with a firearm. These offences are: attempted murder; discharging a firearm with intent; sexual assault with a weapon; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; hostage taking; robbery; and extortion. It is clear that these are serious offences and their severity is only heightened when they are committed with a firearm.

Second, Bill C-35 proposes a reverse onus for the offences of firearm trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, and firearm smuggling. While firearm trafficking and smuggling are not offences that involve the actual use of a firearm, they are nonetheless very serious offences. Those involved in firearm trafficking and smuggling are responsible for the illegal supply of guns to people who cannot lawfully possess them and who are likely to use them for a criminal purpose.

The Criminal Code already provides a reverse onus for accused persons charged with drug trafficking and smuggling. It should also provide a reverse onus for those who are involved in firearm trafficking and smuggling. Just like those involved in the drug trade, firearm traffickers are also involved in organized and lucrative crime. In some cases, these activities go hand in hand and involve the same network of people.

Regardless of whether the charge is for firearm trafficking and smuggling or for drug crimes, a reverse onus should apply to the accused. The potential for continued involvement in that kind of ring is high, even after the accused has been arrested and then released. From a public safety perspective, firearm traffickers play a significant role in the firearm homicide problem. Their involvement poses an indirect but significant threat to the safety of the public.

Bill C-35 also creates a reverse onus for any offence involving a firearm or other regulated weapon if committed while the accused is subject to a weapons prohibition order.

Weapons prohibition orders are imposed in many cases, such as, for example, when a person is convicted of an indictable offence in which violence against a person was used, threatened or attempted. They are imposed on people convicted of certain drug trafficking and smuggling charges, as well as weapon-related offences. They remain in force for several years and in some cases for a lifetime.

Weapons prohibition orders are a very important tool in our criminal law to help prevent firearm violence, whether it is homicides or other gun related crimes, but also accidental injuries and suicides.

I would like to highlight the fact that there are approximately 35,000 prohibition orders currently in force in our country. This specific reverse onus situation has the potential to apply in a number of cases where the risk of future firearm violence is a concern. People should not be entitled to bail when they have demonstrated their inability to abide by a court order to not possess firearms or other regulated weapons.

Finally, Bill C-35 provides additional criteria specifically related to firearm offences for the court to consider when it decides whether the detention of the accused is justified.

This particular amendment is not a new reverse onus situation. The court will be able to justify denying bail to a person charged with an offence involving the use of a firearm or with a firearm offence that attracts a minimum penalty of three years or more.

If the court is not able to justify keeping a person in custody under the other permitted reasons, under Bill C-35 it will be able to do so if it is necessary in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

Bill C-35 takes into consideration the broader picture regarding crime in the country. When it comes to gun crimes, the situation has changed, and we need to adapt to this change.

The reality is that organized crime and now street gangs are armed. Frequently they are armed with handguns or other restricted or prohibited firearms. Our criminal justice system must be properly equipped in order to step up to the challenges posed by this new brand of criminality.

Several of our large urban centres are now struggling with the criminal use or illegal possession of firearms by members of street gangs and by drug traffickers. Innocent people are affected by inter-gang violence, random shootings, armed robberies and, as we saw so recently, killings in schools. Just a couple of weeks ago, another young person, Jordan Manners, was fatally shot in a Toronto school.

We are adapting to changing times and changing crimes. Bill C-35 will enhance our bail regime to reflect our collective denunciation of gun crimes.

I am very happy that the bill is being met with quite a bit of support from all parties in the House and from various stakeholders. I would like to express how pleased I am with the recent support of the bill by the Bloc. Indeed, the study of this bill in committee has given us the opportunity to find out about important points of view, allowing all parties to appreciate its value. It is proof that committees can work.

The government believes that Bill C-35 is a very sensible piece of legislation. It is focused, strong and right. It is my hope that it will be well received in the Senate and that senators will move on it quickly and expeditiously.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated that comprehensive view of the bill. I want to add some more things to the record during this debate. One, of course, is that we do have a bail system in Canada. It is a right allowed to citizens. We do work in a system where people are innocent until proven guilty.

Witnesses also explained that people in most of the serious gun crime cases were not let out on bail anyway under the present system, so this would not affect a large number of cases.

What all committee members were shocked at was that there were no statistics to support the bill. I hope we are going to be improving on that. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics apparently does not collect these statistics. All members on all sides of the committee would have liked to have had some statistics about how many people are on bail and how many commit crimes while they are on bail, et cetera.

One of the statistics presented was that, particularly in the case of violent crime, roughly 40% of the people did not end up being convicted. Therefore, a number of innocent people are charged with crimes and, under this bill, could be more likely to remain in prison.

Hopefully we would have the support of the member to try to speed up the system so that as little damage as possible will be done to an innocent person who is put in prison for that time. That person might be one of those who are in prison by accident. That person would be affected by this bill, but could later be found innocent.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging the support of the hon. member on committee, as well as the work he did to make sure that we did move forward. It was a lengthy study. We did a lot of work. We heard a lot of witnesses.

As he pointed out, we did not necessarily hear specifics that went back historically a long way, but we certainly did hear from witness after witness that, based on their experiences, this is a necessary piece of legislation. It had to be put forward.

As the member pointed out, the statistic of 40% was put forward. Having said that, I also note that it did not necessarily include the fact that a number of individuals who are charged end up pleading guilty to lesser charges, not necessarily the original charge, but certainly a lesser charge as to degree.

However, certainly the intent of the legislation is to ensure that we are proactive. It is to ensure that we are proactive in the sense that certainly for criminals who are repeat offenders, and who have shown that they will offend again, it is up to them to prove, while on bail and while their charge is being held, that they have a right to move forward in a process that is going to be fair to them.

At the same time, we need to ensure, as many of the witnesses indicated, that justice will prevail, that those who are guilty will be found guilty, and that those who are not guilty certainly will not have to spend an extraordinary amount of time waiting for trial.