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House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Alleged Conduct of Member for Calgary EastPrivilege

10:05 a.m.


Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret and with a sense of responsibility that I rise on a matter of privilege.

More specifically, yesterday I was threatened and intimidated by the member for Calgary East while at a meeting on Parliament Hill. In Marleau and Montpetit on page 83 under the section “Freedom from Obstruction, Interference, Intimidation and Molestation” it states:

Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed. The assaulting, menacing, or insulting of any Member on the floor of the House or while he is coming or going to or from the House, or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding in Parliament, is a violation of the rights of Parliament. Any form of intimidation...of a person for or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding in Parliament could amount to contempt.

With regard to dealing with a matter of privilege, Marleau and Montpetit states on page 121:

The House of Commons is certainly the most important secular body in Canada. It is said that each House of Parliament is a “court” with respect to its own privileges and dignity and the privileges of its Members. The purpose of raising matters of “privilege” in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold its powers, and to enforce the enjoyment of the privileges of its Members.

That includes the freedom of speech.

On Thursday, June 7, at approximately 6:30 p.m., I attended a meeting of a parliamentary friendship group in room 308, West Block. Prior to that meeting commencing, I advised the chair of the group, the member for Calgary East, that I had a concern in regard to the process and would be raising a point of order during the meeting. He immediately put his finger in my face and started yelling at me, saying, “If you raise anything during this meeting, just watch what happens to you. Don't start with me”.

During his intimidation and his threats, I raised my point of order during the meeting. After that meeting had concluded I came upon the member for Calgary East, who was telling another senator, “She is just being a cry baby”. Upon hearing this, I immediately told him that “I am not a cry baby, I was simply trying to follow the rules and the procedure”.

The member again lost his control, put his finger in my face, and yelled, “After what you did to me, just watch what I do to you. I am going to smear you and your reputation”.

During the second incident a number of senators, MPs and staff asked him to calm down. However, he refused to listen. He continued with his threatening and attacking behaviour. The second incident was witnessed by a number of individuals, including the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Rouge River.

I have raised this question of privilege because I do not think that any member of this House should be intimidated, should be threatened, or verbally abused.

Being approached by another member and being threatened handcuffs our ability as parliamentarians to carry out our necessary responsibilities. If we are subject to some sort of retribution when we are doing something that we believe is right, we cannot function.

I believe that this incident has satisfied the two conditions in regard to a matter of privilege, first, in regard to making a case that it is a prima facie breach of my privilege as a member not to be threatened or intimidated by another member in the performance or conduct of my duties; and second, having it raised with the Speaker at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, should you find a prima facie case of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged Conduct of Member for Calgary EastPrivilege

10:10 a.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to defer your decision until the member for Calgary East is available to comment on the comments made by the member opposite.

Alleged Conduct of Member for Calgary EastPrivilege

10:10 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The point raised by the hon. member for Brandon—Souris is certainly a legitimate one. I think that before any final ruling is given by the Chair, we will hear the hon. member for Calgary East, for the sake of having both members of Parliament who are in this dispute have their say on the floor of the House of Commons.

I would say by way of anticipating what might be the final ruling that it does also say in Marleau and Montpetit:

The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.

I make no judgment in the matter, how regrettable or inappropriate or whatever, concerning certain things that happen outside the House and ironically in friendship groups. It may be that the Chair has no particular authority in the matter.

We will hear from the member for Calgary East. A final judgment will be made at that time.

The House resumed from June 6 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.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:10 a.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House in order to support the bill before us today, Bill C-52.

As many members here know, I have for a long time been very interested in finances, particularly as they pertain to ordinary taxpayers, small businesses and families. This was one of the things that drew me into the parliamentary part of my life.

There are so many things in this bill that I could speak for probably several hours if the rules permitted, but I shall speak only for a short time. I would like to first of all mention my very enthusiastic support for the principle of income splitting for pensioners. This is long overdue.

Particularly in my generation, there were many families that had only a single income and that was our case as well. We made the choice that my wife, the mother of our children, would be a full time mom for our kids. I really value that. I think she probably contributed more to the well-being of our country by doing that than I did going to work every day, even though I may have gotten up at four o'clock in the morning.

I will also mention that we had perfect children. I do not know if other members did, but ours were. I know, for example, that right after they were born, I declared quite seriously that they never cried at night. They never once awakened me. My wife, on the other hand, I think may have some other stories to tell in that regard.

The bill, among other things, would allow income splitting for pensioners which would bring them into a lower tax rate. I think that is very important because most people who have made these choices also have half the income throughout their lifetime and half the pension when they retire. This is really part of the theme of tax fairness.

The other thing that is relevant here is the new tax credit of up to $2,000. Our government, this party and certainly I as an individual recognize not only the value of families raising children but also the tremendous expense that entails. Therefore, having a new tax credit of up to $2,000 is a tangible recognition of that. I applaud our finance minister and our government for introducing measures like that.

The other measure that I also support is making the equality of the spousal deduction equal to that of the single wage earner when there is but one wage earner in the home. It is another very pro-family measure that is being taken.

I do not want to sound in any way negative about this, but the money needed to support a person is really independent of whether or not the person works outside the home. In our experience, my wife actually spent as much money as I did and probably more because she managed our household expenses. As a matter of fact I used to say that we have specialization in our family. I earned the money and my wife spent it. The object of this was for me to be just a little better at my job than she was at hers. However, there definitely are expenses that are involved in the support of a spouse who is not working. To make that basic exemption equal is just a measure of fairness and I support that wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

Because I believe so strongly and firmly in the merits of the bill, I therefore move:

That this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing for me to hear that the member wants to stifle debate on the budget, probably the most important item. However, I would simply ask him to clarify his statement with regard to what he described as income splitting for pensioners. It is pension income splitting, not income splitting because pensioners do earn other income that is not from a registered plan.

I would also suggest to him that 70% of seniors do not have registered pension plans. In fact, the personal exemption at the lowest rate is $36,500 plus the $2,000 pension income deduction. It means that this will only benefit those who have a pension income of over about $40,000.

When we take that into account, as well as where the other spouse has some pension income, the calculations from the experts before the finance committee have indicated that only 14% of seniors will benefit at all from pension income deduction.

This was brought in as a measure to distract from the fact that the government broke its promise on income trusts and decided to tax income trusts when it said it would not. Somehow $25 billion of the value of pension assets of about two million Canadians were wiped out permanently by that broken promise.

How does the member rationalize that a benefit to some high income pension earning seniors, only 14% of all seniors, is somehow an appropriate offset to the extraordinary damage done to over two million Canadians when the government broke its promise and taxed income trusts?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is on this theme all the time but he does not acknowledge that it is necessary to have tax fairness in our country, which is what our government's policies are all about. This includes the fact that big businesses need to pay their share of taxes so that the rest of us do not need to pay a whole bunch more. I think the member is sort of off track on this.

With respect to all of these wipeouts, I read recently that some of these income trusts are actually valued higher now than they were before October 31. Therefore, it is a myth when he says that this was all wiped out.

With respect to the income splitting, I think I used the words income splitting for pensioners. That was not 100% accurate and I acknowledge that he is right there. It is for pension income for pensioners. However, I would rather do something than nothing and the fact that our government is going forward in these measures is nothing but positive in my view.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, listening to the hon. member's comments on his idyllic lifestyle of the past, he talks about something that my generation has not experienced in a large way, and that is the one wage-earner family. For my children and the next generation, we have and will have more and more highly educated young people who, when they get married and start a family, will both need work to make ends meet.

The hon. member's point of view is a thing of the past. The Cleavers are now a rerun. The parents in a two wage-earner family are working sometimes more than one part time job to make ends meet, working more and earning less, with all the expenses they have, the higher housing costs and those kinds of things. The government's budget is based on spend first and then get a rebate but these families cannot afford to do that so they are left out. They find themselves having to scramble to make ends meet.

I am just wondering why this budget did not include a national child care program that was affordable and that would be accessible to families, instead of this $100 a month that gets cut off when a child turns six; a national housing program that would help make housing more affordable for ordinary Canadians; and free prescription drugs for ordinary families.

In their election campaign the Conservatives talked about having a catastrophic drug plan and about home care for our seniors who would rather be in their own houses living in dignity, and yet we have seen nothing. I am wondering why the budget did not include those kinds of supports.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:20 a.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, again, I look at the bigger picture.

First, I thank the member for acknowledging my being in another generation. I am rather proud of the fact that I am an old guy. I remember when I turned 50, I said to my dad, “Remember when I was a kid and you used to say, 'When will you grow up?'” At my 50th birthday I said to my dad, “Do not give up, Dad, I think soon now it is going to happen”. I am glad to be in the generation above.

When I was a youngster, it is true, most families had only one wage earner. That was true for about 50% of the people in my generation. That is a reality and that is why it is so important for us in this budget to acknowledge that by offering an additional tax credit for children.

It is not dependent on how many wage earners there are. It is so important for us to lower taxes in general. One of the reasons both parents need to work is that they have such a huge tax bill. I am committed, and I have been since 1993, to working hard at reducing that total tax bill for families and for individuals. We should be working toward that. We need to do more and more on putting forward that part of our financial agenda.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a family friendly budget. It is a budget that is good for seniors with the pension income splitting. The seniors in my riding, those who have worked for General Electric, Quaker Oats or General Motors, and those who perhaps were nurses or teachers, this is a big win. It is a big savings and it will really help them.

It is always incredible to hear the Liberals stand in the House, the party of the sponsorship scandal, the party of the fiscal imbalance, the party of inequity for Ontario, the party of inequity for Quebec, the party of inequity right across this country and the party of regional division, say that they do not like this budget. What is that based on? It is based on nothing.

This is a budget the Liberals never could have delivered. They never would have delivered fairness to Canadians. They never delivered more money for health care. They never delivered more money for post-secondary education. They starved the services Canadians want.

I want to know from the member who gave the speech, and I really appreciated the speech, whether he acknowledges that this budget is in line with what the constituents in his riding were looking for.

I know it is well within the desires of my constituents. They wanted fairness. They wanted an end to the fiscal imbalance. They wanted clean government. They did not want a sponsorship scandal. Is this what the member's constituents were looking for?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether my colleague has ever been a teacher but I was for many years. One of the best skills one can use as a teacher is to promote the thinking of the students. What he has done, through his question, using the Socratic method, he has basically delivered for me the answer to it by giving all of those correct answers.

I am so proud and very pleased to be part of a party that has gained the trust of Canadians to the point where they asked us to form the government. I am very proud to be a part of group that is committed and dedicated to all of the things the member mentioned in sharp and abrupt contrast to the party opposite in the 13 years that it mismanaged the affairs of this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the recent hot air from those members. They talk about raising taxes or not raising taxes. In 2005 the tax rate was 15% when we were in government. In 2006, for anybody who wants to go back and look at their tax forms, it was 15.25% for the minimum taxation. This is the tax rate that affects the most vulnerable and all of the people that we on this side of the House care about very much.

Frankly, the reason the Conservatives came into office with an $11 billion surplus was because of the great work that our government did here. That is why they had all that money and a strong economy. That is from the 13 years of work that we did on this side of the House after the Conservatives left us with a $42 billion deficit. They do not need to tell me about what we did because I can give them a list of all the great things we did in the 13 years we were here.

Anyway, in spite of the efforts from my colleague on the other side of the House in trying to stifle and end the debate on this budget, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to it because it is very important, both for what is in it and what is not in it. I am going to talk a bit about what is not in it and the implications of that for all of us as Canadians.

Clearly we are faced with another divisive budget, which puts one Canadian against another; a speciality of that government. It puts provinces against provinces and one Canadian against another Canadian. It puts the wealthy against the poor. It puts those with children against those without children.

Governing is far more about governing on important issues for Canada than it is about writing cheques. It is about real leadership. It is about identification of what are the issues that matter to Canadians. Canadians do not want a country in which everyone is forced to fend for himself or herself. They want a strong and united Canada led by a government with a real commitment to meeting our country's challenges and making all our lives better.

Sadly, this minority Conservative government has proven time and time again that it does not understand the challenges of working families. It certainly does not understand the riding of York West and the need for many in my riding to improve their quality of life, just as many other areas across Canada do.

As well, the Conservatives' second budget does little for my province of Ontario. My constituents will have to wait until 2014 for fairness on federal health transfers. That is simply far too long for patients and others who are waiting for necessary surgery. I ask members to imagine telling people they are going to have to wait until 2011 for their surgery to happen. That is not the Canada that we all are proud of.

This breach of trust breaks a Conservative campaign promise to address wait times immediately. Whatever happened to that fifth priority of health care? We certainly do not hear anything about that ever since the Conservatives got elected. Did the Conservatives really think that Canadians would not notice when they carefully turned their backs on investing in health care? We are not hearing anything about it in any of these budgets.

There was absolutely no mention in this budget of homelessness or the need for affordable housing, an issue that clearly resonates across all of Ontario and in many parts of Canada.

The government also needs to invest in the infrastructure that we are going to need to be competitive for Canada's future. One example is the need for a Windsor-Detroit border crossing, which one of our colleagues has been working on for a very long time. It is one of the things that we have committed to in regard to improving that infrastructure.

Clearly there already is a private investor who is ready to swoop in and make a fortune by providing twinning. Is this an issue that we want to see go ahead without government support? Do we want to see it put into private hands? I do not think so. I am sure Mike Harris's buddy, the finance minister, would not want to be in a debacle such as the 407. He had a front row seat for that charade. Let us make sure that we look at that twinning issue for the Windsor-Detroit border as an important issue for all of us. It is time for the government to start taking some concrete action on some of these issues.

When it comes to investing in our cities, the government clearly will not put its money where its mouth is. The previous Liberal government committed over $800 million to public transit. but sadly, transit has fallen off the Conservative government's radar screen. The minister said last weekend, “This national transit strategy is not about new funding”. How, then, are we going to get buses and railway cars? Are his speeches going to supply them? I do not think so.

I asked a question of the minister this week on that issue of infrastructure and investing in transit. I am still waiting for an answer, but that is how typical of how things are dealt with here. As we go through question period and try to get answers, we get a lot of the same old same old kinds of answers from them about what we did and what we did not do. It is time the Conservatives recognized that they are the government. It is time they started producing instead of simply pointing fingers.

The budget also ignores the Conservative campaign promise to lower airport rents and address the issue of ground fees at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, one of the biggest airports in all of North America. Toronto's Pearson drives the greater Toronto area, Canada's economic engine. That is just a reminder in case the Conservatives have forgotten.

Airport ground rent makes up a considerable component of airport costs and factors prominently in the setting of annual airport fees and charges. Perhaps if the Conservatives had won a seat in the GTA, our airport would get the deal it deserves, but clearly they did not, and we are going to make sure that they do not.

The Conservative budget is a colossal disappointment for Canadians. The Liberal Party clearly cannot support such a narrow, ineffective budget, particularly at a time when Canada faces enormous challenges on competitiveness, the environment and social justice. When the finance minister was crafting his budget, he clearly was far more concerned with positioning the Conservatives for an election than with improving the lives of Canadians.

Instead of demonstrating a real commitment to meeting Canada's challenges, the Conservatives squandered this budget on short-sighted measures clearly aimed at an early election that Canadians did not want. Canadians told us through whatever polls were being done that they were not anxious to see another half a billion dollars spent on an election campaign. They wanted us to spend our time governing and leading Canada forward.

However, after seeing their plummeting poll numbers, the Conservatives readjusted the muzzles, crawled back into their bunkers and decided they had better hold tight and figure out what else they could possibly do to win the hearts of Canadians. They still have not managed to do that.

This budget fails to offer real tax relief. Taxes began to go up, as I indicated earlier, the day the government took power. The lowest income tax rate was 15% in 2005, and we have the forms to show that, but in 2006 it went up suddenly to 15.5%, which attacks those at the very lowest income tax rate who really need our help more than anyone else does.

The Conservatives also decreased the amount that could be earned tax free in 2006. On the whole issue of raising or lowering taxes, clearly the Conservatives are going after the lower income earners and giving the tax breaks to the higher income earners. If they really cared about the most vulnerable in our society, the least they could have done was reverse some of those tax hikes.

This budget maintains the Conservative tax hike on the first $35,000 of income. The cost of this tax hike was $1.4 billion and it clearly cancels out the benefit of their new child tax credit, which the Conservatives are so proud to talk about. Overall, the tax relief for hard-working Canadians is a measly $80 per taxpayer with the new child tax credit.

The budget fails to help Canadians safeguard our environment or fight climate change. The Conservatives have finally acknowledged that there is a problem when there is snow in Calgary and it is 32° Celsius in Toronto. That tells us there is something going wrong with our climate and we had better start paying attention to it.

The budget cuts back our energy commitments to renewable energy to 4,000 megawatts from 5,500 megawatts of support for clean and sustainable production. The budget keeps tax breaks for new oil sands expansion in place until 2015 to help with the plan for explosive growth. It slows our planned cleanup of lakes and waterways. It replaces rewards for those who make energy savings changes with gimmicks that cost thousands of dollars for every tonne reduced, but I guess they are easier to sell to the taxpayer.

This budget also fails to offer new support to the provinces and territories. The Conservatives cut nearly $10 billion from projected federal, provincial and territorial transfers through 2010-11 by killing the Liberal child care agreement, something that was extremely important. We were very proud to see it going ahead. It was a major social program of investing in our children and providing them with opportunities for the future.

The Conservatives also scrapped the labour market partnership agreements and reneged on much of the Canada-Ontario agreement that would have brought millions of dollars into Ontario for a variety of investments for everything from immigration to housing to meet some of the social needs we have in our province.

In place of these agreements, the government put back $11.1 billion in new funding, so the net benefit to provinces over the next five years is about $1.1 billion. Clearly they are getting short-changed.

The budget fails to position Canada for the 21st century global marketplace. In 2005 the Liberal government put forward the CAN-Trade strategy, which provided $485 million over five years to help Canadian businesses succeed in emerging markets, remembering that the success of our businesses is the success of our country. Investing in our businesses provides jobs and ensures that we will have a healthy Canada for our children and our grandchildren.

I note that we have a lot of children visiting us here today. I think it is important for them to know that we all care very much about ensuring that Canada stays strong and is able to provide a lot of opportunities for them.

The Conservatives scrapped that trade initiative and have now replaced it with $60 million over the next two years.

The Conservative budget also cuts $970 million from the indirect costs of research program, which provides support to Canadian universities, a very important program that we were working on. It was important for us to continue with that opportunity for our young people who wanted to focus on investment and research in everything from renewable energy to biomedical issues and other things that are important in the research community. Those kinds of cuts severely hurt those industries.

The Conservatives are failing to offer new support to students, which I am sure will be of interest to those who are in the House today. The budget does not put a penny in the pockets of Canada's undergraduate students. What a shame that is, because again, that is an important investment in our young people. There is money for Canada's top 4,000 graduate students but the vast majority of our students will get no help at all. How is that investing in our young people? Is it that only our special ones get investment, never mind all of the rest of them who are struggling to put themselves through university?

The budget fails to help working families. In 2006 the Conservatives promised 125,000 new child care spaces over five years. Eighteen months into this mandate, Canadian families are still waiting. When is the government going to realize this promise? It was not worth the paper it was printed on. There have been zero spaces created in the past year and many families are still waiting.

What is worse, the so-called universal child care benefit, which is neither universal nor child care, I would like to note, is fully taxable, and the government will rake in an average of $400 more per family. How is that supposed to be a child care program?

The Conservatives simply do not understand the pressures facing low income and middle income families and they clearly do not care either. Once again, the government is turning its back on the majority of hard-working Canadians.

The Conservatives implement tax policies that look helpful on the surface, but their benefit is cancelled out quickly by the tax hikes on low income and middle income Canadians hidden in last year's budget, which still have not been reversed.

The Leader of the Opposition has called on the Conservatives to demonstrate a real commitment to meeting Canada's challenges by using the upcoming budget to set a long term course for success instead of squandering the budget on short-sighted measures aimed at an early election that they so badly wanted.

Because of their desperation for a majority, the minority Conservative government wasted a year cutting spending and breaking promises instead of making progress on critical challenges and moving Canada forward.

The Conservatives' reversal on income trusts cost Canadians $25 billion of their savings. Let me repeat that line to make sure it is clear: the Conservatives' reversal on income trusts cost Canadians $25 billion of their savings. The majority of those Canadians were pensioners and seniors living on fixed incomes who had invested their money and were relying on the income from those income trusts.

The Conservatives' softwood lumber deal, which they boasted was a huge success, left $1 billion dollars of Canadian businesses' money in the hands of their U.S. competitors.

The Conservatives decided to cut $1 billion from crucial social programs, despite a $13 billion surplus. I do not know how they sleep at night, knowing they had an opportunity to do so much for our country and ended up doing so little.

Now the Conservatives are on a spending spree, repackaging many of the programs that they cut and misleading Canadians by re-announcing the programs as new, in a cynical strategy in an attempt to fool Canadians. We clearly know from the polls they are not fooling very many people.

Canadians are smarter than that and they will not be fooled. They see what damage the government is doing. Look at the students summer jobs program for example. Conservatives cut that, then they put some money back. When everybody started hollering about all the cuts to serious programs that would not happen in ridings across Canada, they quickly had to do an end run and try to find some money to put back into that program.

The Conservative government's repackaged and reduced summer jobs program has left community programs across the country in jeopardy. Programs that have existed for years will be unable to run this year and many students will be robbed of valuable employment opportunities.

We have to recognize Mr. McGuinty and the Ontario government for what they have done. They rescued a Toronto camp for autistic children, which is an important camp for many young people whose parents could rely on as a good solid program for their children. It was left on the chopping block by Conservative cutbacks.

What about all the other programs that were not so lucky? I am not talking about large corporations, I am talking about small community groups that depend on government support to hire students, support they have enjoyed every summer until the government took it away.

In my riding we had many summer camp programs that not only ensured our children had a safe summer and a learning opportunity, but they also employed many young people in the riding so they would not have idle hands over the summer and find themselves getting into trouble. They would have a structured program every day of which to be part. Maybe their first job for the summer was working at one of these camps operating out of one of our local schools. In many ways we were helping in giving our young kids an opportunity over the summer to be busy and having an enjoyable summer. We were also providing a young person with a career opportunity.

Many of these people, who worked on summer camp programs across the city, ended up going into teachers college. They found that was where they wanted to go ultimately. It was a great career opportunity. Unfortunately, many of them are going to be denied that this summer. The government must undo the damage it has done. I and many of my colleagues are still calling on the government to restore full funding to all federal summer jobs programs.

On the subject of Conservative incompetence, after being caught red-handed trying to engineer a patronage program with funds destined to support cultural events, the Conservative heritage minister's paralysis is endangering the future of some of Canada's great cultural events. In its budget, the Conservative government budget announced a new program to support cultural events, which we all supported. Then it said that it would be unable to deliver it until next fall. The government has failed again. It does not seem to understand, given Canada's climate, that most of these large events take place during the summer.

Never before has a government done so little with so much. Despite the tremendous resources the government has at its disposal, the budget does little for the average working family and it does nothing but pay lip service to issues of competitiveness, the environment and social justice. It does nothing to position Canada for the 21st century.

That is the Prime Minister's Canada. I want to live in a proper Canada. We all want to have a strong Canada that provides opportunities for all our young people to move forward, takes care of our seniors and ensures that they have a good health care system for all. Clearly, that is not the direction I see us going in right now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a little confused to when she talks about wait times guarantee and asks where we have been on that. The Wait Time Alliance provided us with a report card in the spring. It gave us a B, up from a C, with respect to joint replacements. It also gave us a B, up from a C, with respect to sight restoration.

She also has said that there is nothing in the budget with respect to wait times, which is absolutely not true. Budget 2007 tackles wait times with over $1 billion in funding, $612 million in patient wait times guarantee trust, $30 million in wait times pilot projects, $400 million in the Canada Health Info Highway, which is an independent, non-profit corporation that helps advance the use of health information technology across the country.

We are spending money on health care. We are working on the wait times guarantee. Obviously it is not an easy thing to do. I think the member across the way would say that it is not easy. If it were easy, maybe the Liberals would have done something over the 13 years they were in power. Our health care system deteriorated under their tutelage.

We are working on these issues. We have tackled these issues. We have budgeted for these issues. We are making a difference.

Is the member saying that the Wait Time Alliance does not know what it is talking about?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we keep hearing about this 13 years. I remind the member that when we took power in 1993, we thought we were taking over from a reasonably fiscally responsible government. However, we found that we had a $42 billion deficit, that our country was at the point of bankruptcy. Imagine Canada being at a point of bankruptcy as a result of the previous Conservative government.

Canadians and our government had to make significant cutbacks to the provinces, to our social transfer, to try to get our house in order. It was in the last five or six years that we were starting to reap the benefits, as those members are now, with a $9 billion surplus.

We had already signed agreements with the provinces and had invested in a 10 year program on the whole issue of health care. We invested a lot of money. If wait times are going down now, they are going down as a result of the good work and planning that we with the provinces.

Those members should not try to take any kind of credit for any reduction in the numbers. They are not adding anything extra with the budget. They are continuing on the same Liberal plan. I am quite proud of what we have done.

The reason the Conservative government has money to invest in all of their programs is because of the work that we did and the good administration on this side of the House when we were government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member does not like to hear about 13 years, but I am going to say it again. The Liberals had 13 years in power and they were just about to take off. They were suddenly going to right all the wrongs.

They talk about the deficit that they assumed. Study after study has proven that the deficit was merely the interest on the previous Trudeau debt. McGill University very specifically said that former Prime Minister Mulroney's government had the best financial record of any government in the last century in Canada. Those are the facts. That is what the studies demonstrate, but the Liberals do not like to hear that.

I will tell the House something else about which the Liberals do not like to hear. The member mentioned health care. Health care wait times doubled under the Liberal government. That is a fact. Health care wait times under this government are going down.

The Liberals do not like facts. They do not like to hear about increased spending for things like health care. I do not even think they like things like the ecotrust fund, which will help the provinces clean up their act. The Liberals did nothing on this. The Liberals do not like to hear about the fiscal imbalance. They do not like to hear that Dalton McGuinty is very happy with this budget, and he is a Liberal in Ontario.

They also do not like to hear about promises from people like John Tory, a man who will keep his promises on things like autism, and deliver real treatment for kids in Ontario with autism, something the Liberals have never done and never would do.

I am really quite offended that the Liberals would stand in the House and vote against the budget, a budget that is good for post-secondary education, a budget that is good for families, a budget that is good for health care and a budget that is good for Canada.

Why is the member voting against it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member that his side of the House voted against a national program on the issue of autism, something we all care about very much.

He seems to have a lot of energy to expel when he is in here, and I am being positive when I say that.

I am really proud of what we accomplished over 13 years. That is the reason why Canada is doing so well now. If we start going downhill, it will be because the Conservatives' priorities are not the priorities of Canadians.

I remind the member that over the last campaign his leader made all kinds of promises. He promised that he would not tax income trusts. He promised to honour the Atlantic accord. He would say anything and do anything to get elected. Now that he is in power, he has found out he cannot do that. A promise is being broken every week. The Conservative government and the Prime Minister cannot be trusted.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her presentation today. The energy coming off the other bench today is something else.

There are all these nuggets that come from the other side in the midst of debate. Yesterday the member for Wascana was in the midst of debate, talking about the cuts to students. We know the community groups have been devastated by the cuts to students. We know that cuts to the summer student job placement program have students hurting.

The member for Peterborough talked about all the good things the government is doing for students. The Conservatives have ripped about half the jobs away that students had last year.

The government House leader indicated that the government had put more money into students this year than it did last year. That is because the government botched the program so badly. It had to face the uproar across the country from coast to coast. Therefore, it had to go back to try to straighten it out and put the fire out. The Conservatives ripped the guts out of community groups and they tore the hearts out of students, and it is costing them money. Maybe they have put more money in the program, but that money has to come from somewhere.

There is an envelope of money in HRDC. I know she has communities within her riding that rely on HRDC programs. Is there a fear that they will be hurt because the government botched the student program so badly that it had to take money from other programs? Is that at risk?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been hearing for the last several weeks, as many other members have, about the amount of programs that are not receiving funding under the summer career placement program.

When we talk about building a strong Canada, we have to start at the beginning, which means we have to start investing in everything from early learning at zero. We have to provide children with the chance to have great opportunities for learning. We need to invest in our children and our programs.

The summer career placement program, the youth internship program are small examples of the things that were cuts. Another example is $5 million were cut out of the Status of Women Canada. It was helping women through advocacy and giving women a voice.

Many of these programs continue to be cut. Clearly, Canadians will see the impacts. That is why the polls are reacting the way they are.

I am very proud, and I will repeat it again, of everything that we did as a government. Canada is in the shape it is in today because of the work that we did and our Liberal government did.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the bill. I think New Democrats have made it amply clear that we oppose the bill.

I will talk about Bill C-52 from a couple of different perspectives. I think some of my other colleagues have talked about health care, transportation and some of the needs of Vancouver Island north. I will focus on some other issues in British Columbia and talk about first nations, Métis and Inuit people in our country.

Many of us are well aware that a number of major issues are facing British Columbia, including housing, improving the provincial infrastructure and strengthening the B.C. economy. Although people will note that the B.C. unemployment rate is quite low, a number of communities are going through enormous transitions as a result of the softwood sellout.

In many of our forestry communities jobs have been lost. Last week there was an announcement in Port Alberni of another 185 jobs being lost. I know a number of the mills on Vancouver Island have faced curtailment because they could not get fibre supplied. Although some communities are doing quite well, a number of our communities are in a great deal of difficulty.

Under the new 10 province standard for equalization B.C., falls above the cutoff and will not receive equalization. Despite the increased needs, the budget does not address such things as affordable housing. I will talk briefly about Nanaimo in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan.

In a November 8, 2006, paper called “Advancing Social Development in Nanaimo: Directions for Moving Forward”, an organization in Nanaimo undertook to survey a number of groups that provide services. A couple of startling things came out of that which were tied to housing, employment and income.

One of the things that was noted was respondents cited the high levels of poverty, including child poverty in Nanaimo. They also stated that the community was becoming more polarized between rich and poor, with the latter having few options to improve their economic circumstances. This relates directly to housing.

One of the respondents to the questionnaire said, “Shelter is a basic need. It is the foundation upon which stable lives are built”. Respondents cited the increasing cost of housing, both owned and rental. They also cited the increasing incidence of homelessness and raised concerns about the kind of stock of market rental housing. They also noted that the market rental housing and the house vacancy rate had decreased from 3.4% in 2002 to 1.4% in 2005.

What that adds up to is an increasing number of people in Nanaimo—Cowichan cannot find a place to live.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I am sorry, but I have to interrupt the hon. member at this point. The hon. member will have 17 minutes left in a 20 minute speech whenever the House returns to this bill.

TradeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, in 13 years the previous Liberal government did little on trade and allowed Canada to fall behind.

Our government has delivered by concluding free trade negotiations with the four countries of the European Free Trade Association.

This is Canada's first free trade association in six years. The previous Liberal government negotiated for nine years but failed to get an agreement. Under Conservative leadership, Canada has secured a deal.

This is also Canada's first free trade agreement with European countries and represents an important step in strengthening commercial ties with the European Union. This follows a successful trip by the Prime Minister at the EU summit, where he announced Canada and the EU will look at closer economic integration.

Our government is also committed to closer ties with Latin America. Our new free trade negotiations with Colombia, Peru and the Dominican Republic will help strengthen our competitive position in the Americas.

Thanks to the leadership of our government, Canada is back in the game.

Sri LankaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I continue to hear from my constituents who are very concerned about their family and friends living in Sri Lanka.

Increased violence in Sri Lanka has led to people being displaced, and we are hearing about terrible human rights abuses.

Recently a UN envoy and Nordic truce monitors have also raised significant concerns about human rights abuses amid renewed civil war.

It is time for the Canadian government to step up and take on a leadership role in finding a resolution to this conflict once and for all.

Canadians expect their government to take action without delay in light of these atrocities and will accept nothing less.

It is essential that we act now to ensure an immediate end to the violence which has cost so many innocent lives.

Élie-Carrier Community CentreStatements By Members

11 a.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, for 10 years, the Centre communautaire Élie-Carrier in Coaticook has been offering various activities to seniors.

Many seniors are faced with the same reality of isolation and solitude, and this concept of leisure activities, approved by doctors, is a winning formula that is attracting more and more participants.

By offering an outing, a network of contacts, varied and accessible activities, lectures and plays, the Centre communautaire Élie-Carrier gives seniors an excellent opportunity to have fun and break out of their isolation.

Congratulations to Maurice Salois, founder of the project and former president, to Micheline Michaud, current president of the centre, as well as to all the volunteers. We wish continued success to the centre, so that it can keep offering our seniors a better life.

Atlantic AccordStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, in 2004 the government made a promise in the Atlantic accord to exempt for 14 years offshore oil and gas revenues from Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland and Labrador's equalization calculations. It was a good deal, a done deal, and now the government is hell-bent to make it a broken deal.

Atlantic Canadians are furious and will fight tooth and nail to force the government to honour its signature on this political and legal document.

In this House we have challenged an Atlantic minister, any minister, to fight for the Atlantic accord, but so far neither the member for Central Nova nor the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl have shown the guts or the integrity to stand up for their constituents or for their region.

We want to work with the government across party lines, across jurisdictions to fix the broken promise, but make no mistake, Atlantic Canadians will continue fighting until the budget is fixed and the Atlantic accord promise it kept.

David Suzuki FoundationStatements By Members

June 8th, 2007 / 11 a.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a speech on Monday, David Suzuki alleged that the David Suzuki Foundation was being “hounded by the current government” through Revenue Canada audits, due to his criticism.

However, Stephen Hazell, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said that the trend predates the current Prime Minister's government. He said, “This is something I would not blame the Conservative government for”.