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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economic.

Topics

The EconomyOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Canadians who are suffering right now are not fictional. They are real and they are in real trouble because the government spent the contingency reserve and eliminated the capacity for the government to help Canadians during an economic downturn.

Why on earth, during the good times, would the Conservative government spend the cupboard bare so that it did not have any capacity to help Canadians today during the bad times?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, once again, it is not Liberals' money. It is taxpayers' money. The Conservative government does not believe in overtaxing Canadians just to build a slush fund so it can have its March madness as happened in Liberal years. We also will not transfer the costs of a potential deficit of this financial struggle we are in onto the backs of the provinces as the Liberals did during the 1990s.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons budget officer was very clear yesterday when he blamed the pending Conservative deficit on “previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions”. The Conservative policies he refers to are bad tax and big spending policies. In fact, the Conservatives have increased government spending by 25% during their time in power.

If the Prime Minister saw tough economic times on the horizon over a year ago, as he said he did, why did he spend so recklessly during the good times that he eliminated and gutted our fiscal capacity to help vulnerable Canadians today during the tough times?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I might remind hon. members that the hon. member's seatmate in budget 2004 actually increased spending by 15%. The Liberals are making wild accusations about increased spending from this side of the House. The only reason that the government had to increase spending was to pay back the provinces the Liberal government's cuts to transfer payments. That is not fair. We do not treat provinces like that. We do not treat Canadians like that.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, we cannot know where we are going if we do not understand where we have been. So it is with the deficit: Canada's new Conservative deficit.

To fix it the government must be honest about where it came from. Private analysts like Global Insight and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an officer created by the current government, all say Canada's new Conservative deficit is caused by mistaken Conservative policies.

Will the government explain what logic led it to eliminate both the prudence factor and the contingency reserve from the federal budget?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, once again, I will remind the hon. member that there was no legislated contingency fund. It was a surplus that was driven by Liberal policies that overtaxed Canadians. Canadians do not want to be overtaxed. We heard that loud and clear during the campaign this year. Canadians thanked us for cutting their taxes. Canadians thanked us for taking 700,000 people off the tax roll.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, 10 consecutive balanced budgets, the biggest reduction in debt, and the biggest tax cuts in Canadian history. That is the Liberal record.

The government says Canada's new Conservative deficit is just temporary, not structural, but its spending is structural. Its tax laws are structural. Killing the contingency reserve is structural. Canadian pensions, savings, jobs and economic security are now in jeopardy because of its mismanagement and it has no plan. When will the government produce a discernible plan to protect Canadians from its failures?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, speaking of failures, I believe that is why we have a Conservative government.

People soundly rejected the policies of the Liberal government, a Liberal government that transferred the costs to the provinces. During the nineties, the Liberal government slashed transfer payments for education, for social programs, for health. That is why we are spending more money trying to rebuild the damage that was created by a former Liberal government.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister admitted that his throne speech did not contain any specifics about dealing with the crisis, and his Minister of Finance has warned us not to expect any concrete measures in next week's economic statement. That kind of laissez-faire attitude is totally unacceptable.

Instead, will the government listen to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who has recommended specific actions to be taken immediately, and announce emergency measures to address the crisis? Time is of the essence.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my hon. colleague back to the House and congratulate him on his re-election.

In answer to his question, I would suggest that he wait, like the rest of us, until next Thursday when he will see some concrete measures and some improvements on how we can deal with the financial situation that we are faced with right now.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have already been waiting far too long.

Since the government seems to have run out of ideas, and since the Prime Minister said, yesterday, that he was open to the Bloc Québécois' suggestions, then might I suggest that the coming economic statement include loans and loan guarantees, as well as refundable tax credits for research and development to provide the forestry and manufacturing sectors with the funds they are in desperate need of now?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in fact, we have taken many of those measures. It would be good if the hon. member would go back to budget 2008 and recognize what we did for investments in research and development and what we did with the billion dollar community development trust fund for those communities that were struggling at the time.

We will be discussing this in more detail. The finance minister will be tabling the fall economic update next Thursday.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, when asked what he planned to do to help seniors who have seen the value of their RRSPs drop significantly following the stock market downturn, the Minister of Finance mentioned a letter that he would be sending to financial institutions asking for more information about asset transfers. Clearly, the minister did not understand.

What we want to know is what he himself plans to do to help seniors deal with this crisis.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this government is very concerned about the plight in which seniors are caught. It is a very serious matter. Seniors are concerned about their futures, their investments and their retirement funds. That is why the minister yesterday wrote letters to all federally regulated financial institutions to ensure that seniors who were transferring money out of their RRSPs into their RRIFs could actually do that without consequences.

The finance minister is ahead of the opposition by a long shot.

The EconomyOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the minister seems to be out of ideas, might he reconsider the Bloc Québécois' suggestion to raise the age at which seniors are required to roll their RRSPs into RRIFs from 71 to 73?

The EconomyOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, not only did we address that in the last budget by raising it from 69 to 71 when seniors could rollover their RRSPs into RRIFs, we came up with a novel idea, and that was a way for taxpayers to save their money tax-free. That is in the tax-free savings account.

We are encouraging seniors, when they are rolling out of their RRSPs, to open a tax free savings account that they can benefit from tax free.

SeniorsOral Questions

November 21st, 2008 / 11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, GM has just announced hundreds more layoffs, adding to the already volatile situation facing Canadians. Seniors are seeing their hard-earned pensions evaporate as the TSX falls day after day. Mutual funds take a hit with every point lost on the markets, yet the government has done nothing to protect the savings of Canadians.

Will the government protect pensions before there is nothing left to protect?

SeniorsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, regarding the auto industry, the minister has said that we need to see a plan from automakers and unions for the industry's long-term success. No one wants to be back where we are at a year from now.

Legislators in the U.S. said the same thing yesterday. They sent automakers back and told them to come back on December 2.

We need to see a solid, accountable business plan from automakers and their stakeholders.

SeniorsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, to add insult to injury, soon if people fall behind in a couple of payments, they will face a punishing 5% increase in credit card rates. The finance minister's response was another ineffective letter. The minister has failed to protect consumers on ATM fees, on outrageous text messaging fees and now on credit card interest rates.

Why is the government not standing up for Canadians? Why is it letting profitable banks exploit the pain of average people?

SeniorsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

In fact, Mr. Speaker, we are very proactive on this file. We have raised the issue with the banks, although the banks are their own governors. They decide how credit card fees are set.

We can encourage that. The finance minister was very successful in his interventions with the banking sector, but we do not regulate fees charged by financial sectors, nor should we.

SeniorsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not being proactive if the government is leaving generations of Canadians behind, with no action on protecting seniors' pensions and no action on credit card hikes. Today Campaign 2000 is again forced to demand urgent action to combat poverty. Over 760,000 children, nearly 12% of all Canadian kids, live in poverty.

Where is the government's national poverty reduction strategy? Why is there no action for the poorest of Canadians, yet there are huge tax cuts for the richest of Canada's CEOs?

SeniorsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear that we want to work with our colleagues in the House to eliminate poverty.

That is why we have taken the many steps we have to ensure families, and especially children and seniors, are in a much better financial position. That is why we introduced the universal child care benefit. That is why we have lowered the GST, which, by the way, helps the lower income people the most. Certainly people who are not paying taxes would not benefit from tax cuts in the way the GST cuts help them.

We are doing this because we want to eliminate poverty.

SeniorsOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, in this economic crisis seniors across Canada have seen their savings and pensions decimated. Seniors face uncertainty about how to pay their bills, their heat, their groceries and the government has offered them nothing: no plan, no action.

Since the Prime Minister offered his gratuitous stock tips that there are buying opportunities out there, the market has fallen by 20%, 765 points alone yesterday. The government's dithering and bad management only serve to prolong the anxiety and fears of seniors.

Where is the plan?

SeniorsOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there are so many people wanting to answer this question that we have to decide who will stand up first.

Let me remind the hon. member and the House that it was this Conservative government that established a minister responsible for seniors issues. That was never done before in the 13 years under the Liberal government. Talk about a lack of respect for seniors.

We put a minister in place to look after seniors issues. We have allowed them pension income splitting.

SeniorsOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, if there is a minister for seniors issues, where is he or she? For goodness' sake, the Prime Minister has demonstrated that he is incompetent in managing the nation's economy and as a stock tip adviser, he is a disaster.

Canadians have not seen this much carnage in the markets since income trusts, on which the Prime Minister misled Canadians.

The report from the Desjardins Group says that Canadians are going to have to push back their retirement by six years. Seniors deserve real answers from a minister or, indeed, anyone on that side.

What is the government going to do to now protect seniors? Where is the plan?