House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.



1 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough Southwest.

The Speech from the Throne has hit the nail on the head in that it told us that we are in a crisis. I have heard the word “recession“ being used in speeches made by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, and that we are theoretically in a recession.

What all of us need to do, therefore, is to come together. We all agree that the political parties should come together for the benefit of all Canadians. We must pull together in difficult times. This is not a time for political partisanship; it is a time for political parties to work together, to develop a clear plan and decide where we are going. I am making a positive statement. I think we would all like to work with the government to deal with this problem.

Many Canadians are going to be affected. Jobs are going to be lost. One of my colleagues mentioned housing. There are many people who still do not have housing. Middle-income families cannot find housing. People in rental housing are finding that as their landlords fix up their houses, their rent increases and suddenly they cannot afford to pay the rent and they are thrown out into the streets. There is a need. When jobs are lost, people lose their homes. An increased number of people need housing.

Some of the social needs will have to be discussed as we talk about what we are going to do in this crisis, the needs of people who lose their jobs, how they are going to get their kids to school, how they are going to put food on the table, and how they are going to put a roof over their heads. That is an important piece, and that linkage was missing in the Speech from the Throne.

I do not want to say that I told them so, but I think we told members of the government about two years ago that this was going to happen. Everyone saw the writing on the wall. One does not have to be an economics professor to see the writing on the wall that the manufacturing sector is going down.

As of January 2007 in my own province of British Columbia 45 mills had closed in the forestry industry. That means that whole towns like Mackenzie, where 4,500 people live and were totally dependent on the 1,500 people who worked in that mill, now have nothing. People have walked away from their homes because they cannot sell them. They cannot give their homes away. Ghost towns are being created in my part of the world. We saw this happening way back in 2007.

Questions were asked in the House about what we would do for the automobile sector and the loss of jobs in that sector and the loss of jobs in forestry. No one is blaming anyone for the loss of jobs in forestry. The pine beetle has created a great deal of the problem, and it is not something we can fix. It will take about 75 to 100 years to rebuild the forest that has been decimated by the pine beetle. It is not as if we could sell any prop-up to the forestry sector in British Columbia.

We might be able to assist the automobile sector. I think we should seriously consider what we do, because we cannot afford the loss of jobs. When people lose jobs, the government has to spend money, through employment insurance and social assistance to help them with all of their needs. It is not in anyone's best interest to see jobs being lost in this country, never mind the human tragedy of people not having work and not being able to take care of themselves and their families.

This was known. It was known that job losses were happening. Questions were asked over and over again. We were told, “Don't worry, be happy. It is not a big problem. It will look after itself. Things are fine”.

We also saw much spending. The government's actual income was going down, but the spending was increasing. Anyone over 10 years old knows that if we spend more money than we have in our hands, we are going to get into a deficit. We have seen this happen.

Having said I told them so, I think we need to talk about what we do. The government cannot continue to blame this solely on the collapse of global markets and on the problems that are going on around the world. There was a lack of foresight, a lack of vision and a lack of ability to strike when we saw things happening so that this would not come to pass.

This country was lucky. We had strong economic fundamentals. Before the Conservative government came into power, we had had nine balanced budgets. There was a $3 billion contingency fund that was set aside for a rainy day. Why did the Liberal government set aside money for a rainy day? We had seen the peso crisis. We had seen the Asian flu occur. We had watched SARS. We had seen 9/11. The government had to find money suddenly to deal with these emergencies.

That taught us to put aside some money. We all know we need to put aside money for a rainy day. If we have spent the money that we had put aside for a rainy day and then it rains, we get very wet. The problem when a government mismanages the economy is that it is not government that gets into trouble, it is Canadians.

Government coffers can be written on a piece of paper, and there can be talk about deficits and balance sheets, et cetera. For ordinary Canadians, however, the reality is that they lose their jobs, they have no money, they cannot find work, and they do not know what to do. These are the hardships we are talking about. There is a need to be not only fiscally responsible and to manage the economy well for reasons of suggesting that the government is a good manager, but also to protect citizens.

We need to talk about where we go from here. Unfortunately the Speech from the Throne was short on a plan. Those of us on this side of the House would like to see a plan. We would like to see a comprehensive, integrated, immediate medium- and long-term plan that says that we are going to move forward. We cannot go back and do some of the same old things that were done in the past.

We are moving into a new industrial revolution, a different kind of revolution. Canada is a small nation of only 32 million people. There is absolutely no way we can compete with huge populations such as those in the European Union, Asia, India and China. We cannot compete. We do not have enough workforce to do the kinds of manufacturing jobs that are going to those areas, because in some countries people can still be paid $5 an hour and make a living, have a home and feed their families. That cannot be done here.

We have to think about where we must go. We have to think about how we can become smart. We are moving, as most countries such as ours have, passed the industrial revolution and into the 21st century. We need to move into what is known as the new, creative, innovative economies. It is the new, creative, innovative revolution. To do that, we have to consider what we must spend on in order to build for tomorrow. As everyone knows, we need to have emergency money to prevent people from falling through the cracks and to invest in new economies. The question is how we can do that.

We need to look at things such as arts and culture. The Conference Board has said that last year, the creative economy, and arts, culture and film are part of that, directly and indirectly put $84.6 billion into the gross domestic product of this country. That is a little over 7.4% of the GDP. It created 1.1 million jobs, not only directly in the arts and culture industries themselves, but in the spinoffs of tourism, restaurants and other service and retail industries that help people generate more income and more jobs.

Yet we saw the short-sightedness of the government in cutting this economy, and economy which a country such as Canada is going to have to look at moving forward into. Today the arts and culture industries are not merely about acting on a stage, making music, creating CDs or creating films. It is also about the technology that comes with that. We all know that digitization, iPods and everything that we look at in the new technologies have been spun out of the creative economy. They have been developed and spun out of arts and culture.

The important thing about arts and culture is that at a time when we need to band together, it is an important tool for social networking. We heard today that people must come together and that Canadians will rise to the occasion. Yes, we know that Canadians will rise to the occasion, but in order to rise to the occasion, spend money, buy more cars, and keep the economy afloat, people have to have money to spend. If they do not have jobs, they do not have money to spend.

We are prepared, on this side of the House, to work to make sure that we create the necessary safety net and a long-term plan, but we would like to see a plan. We are asking for a plan, a real plan, a substantive plan that we can look at, that we can critique, that we can agree with or disagree with. However, there needs to be some scaffolding to hang our hats on, to be able to build something new.

We cannot wait any longer. We now have the problem. We could have prevented the problem, or at least buffeted it better. We did not, so let us not cry over spilled milk, but I would ask the government to please give us a plan that we can work with and see where we go for the benefit of all Canadians.


1:10 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for a very well thought out speech.

The member is very interested in the forestry and cultural industry. She mentioned that the current situation could have been avoided. Canada could have buffered this R word, the recession word, had there been good economic policies.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that the current government spent $40 billion more than it received in revenue and this was due to bad economic policies and tax gimmicks. Could the member tell me how the good people of British Columbia, the people in the forestry industry, will be able to buffer this recession now that we do not have a $3 billion contingency reserve that the Liberals had when they were in power?


1:10 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals were in government, we had discussed that the pine beetle was a fact and that there was nothing we could do to roll back that problem with the forest gone. We had talked about setting up new economies for the people in that part of British Columbia. We had talked about developing the economies and working with the communities. Many of them had ideas to look at new economic technology, to move into service industries, and to do other things so that people who could not rely on the forestry industry any more for the next 75 years would be able to move forward.

No one is asking for a bailout for the forestry industry. We are asking to give people the human capital, to get the retraining the people need, put some money into creating new technology and new economies for the people in that area. They are very innovative people. They want to work and they have plans to do this. I have seen the plans. The plans have been there for two years.

The government has said in both of its budgets in 2006 and 2007 that it was going to put money into this. That money has not arrived. The money is not there. We could have prevented that. That was three years ago. Things could have been done then so that people would be ready when a crash hits and they would have some work. They would be able to start building anew. We do not just suddenly react when a crisis comes. We have to deal with it beforehand if we see it coming. At least that is what I think, as a physician, one should do, and that is what one tends to do.


November 24th, 2008 / 1:15 p.m.


Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise in the House of Commons for the first time and respond to the Speech from the Throne.

Please allow me to begin by thanking the constituents of Scarborough Southwest for their support and confidence in electing me as their representative to the House of Commons. It is an honour and a privilege to serve them.

I also want to thank my campaign manager, Pierre Cyr, and Earl Provost, my campaign chair, who mobilized a team of fabulous volunteers. Their dedication and hard work made this day possible. In addition, thanks to my many friends and family for their support.

Finally, I would like to thank the two most important men in my life: my son Eric, and my husband George, who has been there for me every day. Not only is he my best friend, but his love and support was instrumental in my being elected to this honourable House.

While the official opposition has signalled it will not defeat the throne speech, it is not because it contains a plan to deal with our country's current crisis, but because our country needs a cooperative and collaborative Parliament to effectively deal with the serious challenges we are facing.

In fact, as a new member, I am disappointed in the past policies of the government that contributed to the economic instability we are experiencing, and the fact there now appears to be no plan to restore Canadians' confidence in our economy.

The Speech from the Throne focuses heavily on preparing Canadians for the difficult times ahead. Due to Conservative mismanagement of the economy, we are indeed facing very difficult times.

The government did not just inherit a $12 billion surplus from the previous Liberal government, it inherited a multi-year Liberal legacy of fiscal prudence and balanced budgets. In two and a half short years, the Conservatives managed to not only squander this sizeable cushion, but also destroy the culture of strong fiscal management that the Liberals, in partnership with all Canadians, had worked so hard to create and maintain.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, the Conservative government is unwilling to admit that its policy decisions played no small role in where Canadians now find themselves.

The previous Liberal government understood that in a global economy, meaningful tax reductions for all Canadians, measured in consistent national debt reduction and a viable contingency plan, can insulate Canadians to many economic woes that start beyond our borders and are not within our control.

Governments, fundamentally, have a responsibility to its citizens to be prepared for such circumstances, to ensure that Canada is in the best possible position to meet these unforeseen challenges. The previous Liberal government understood this and successfully managed Canada through a number of crises by prudently maintaining budget surpluses.

During the election, triggered by the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister vowed that Canada would never fall into deficit. Now that the election is over, the Prime Minister has issued dire warnings to Canadians that a deficit is not only unavoidable but may be economically the only option available for Canada.

The government is claiming it foresaw this economic downturn over a year ago. If that is the case, why did the Prime Minister make a commitment to all Canadians just five short weeks ago to never fall into deficit if he knew that promise could never be fulfilled?

Canada ran a deficit for the first three months this year, and as the Speech from the Throne so clearly points out, we are headed into deep deficit once again. This deficit is not the result of the global credit crisis but the direct result of choices made by the government. It was the Conservatives' choice to increase spending to the point that the government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history. It was its choice to cut taxes in a manner that has eroded our tax base.

As the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, said in his report, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions”. This analysis is coming from the Prime Minister's own appointee and clearly flies in the face of the story the Prime Minister is trying to sell. This is a fact that has negatively impacted all Canadians.

I also find it disturbing that the Speech from the Throne failed to acknowledge the issues facing Canada's most disadvantaged, the people who will be hardest hit by the downturn in the Canadian economy. It makes no provision for Canadians living in poverty, including some 800,000 children.

Also ignored by the government is the issue of affordable child care. It is not surprising, considering the current government, with the help of the NDP, dismantled the previous Liberal government's national child care program. I am sure the government hoped this issue would fade away after deciding to cut cheques instead of dealing with this serious problem. A monthly cheque is not child care, nor does it create a single day care space. Hard-working families need safe, accessible and affordable child care.

The speech also fails to address the challenges faced by our seniors. Seniors who are financially crippled by the government's decision to tax income trusts are now having their savings ravaged again by the current economic crisis and they do not even merit a mention in the speech. We need a plan to protect our seniors.

There was no mention of poverty, child care or seniors. The government has a responsibility to help Canadians through the current crises: those who currently live in poverty, those who are on the edge of poverty, struggling working families, those who have already lost their jobs and the thousands who will as our economic crisis deepens.

The Conservative government's Speech from the Throne is simply an infomercial designed to sell Canadians on the idea it is not to blame for our current problems rather than what a throne speech should be, which is a blueprint for future economic prosperity, justice and fairness for all Canadians. Liberals understand that and Canadians understand that.

As a member of the official opposition, I understand that Canadians want Parliament to work together and in partnership with the provinces and municipalities from coast to coast to coast to effectively tackle the challenges facing our country. Liberals are committed to ensuring that Parliament takes action on the economy in a way that will best help Canada through these difficult times. Canadians deserve nothing less.


1:20 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on her maiden speech. She did a fabulous job. One would think she was a long-time member of Parliament.

As she rightly pointed out, there is nothing substantial in the Speech from the Throne. There is no plan. There is no plan because there is no money in the government coffers. That, as she rightly pointed out, is due to the fact that the Conservatives did not have a proper policy in place or that their policy was so ideologically driven that they could not save for a rainy day, like the Liberals did. Therefore, they now have nothing. This is a made in Canada recession.

As members go door to door and talk to their constituents, what does the member think the trust factor is with the Prime Minister. He has broken every promise regarding the recession and he is now claiming there is going to be one. He claimed a week before the election there would be no recession. He was quoted at the Canadian Club that there would be no recession. Where is the trust factor?


1:25 p.m.


Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, right now there is no trust factor. I have been receiving emails from hundreds of my constituents with respect to the current economic crisis, particularly seniors. I am alarmed by the number of seniors who do believe that during this period they will lose their homes. These are hard-working people who provided the foundation for our economy over the past few years and they are seeing it frittered away. They do believe this was a made in Canada recession and they are concerned that there is no contingency fund.

As we all know and as most bankers and economists would point out to average families, we should always have a rainy day fund. Quite frankly, I think we are seeing a monsoon season.


1:25 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too, welcome the member to this august chamber. I think she will find this chamber to be a very rewarding experience.

I want to focus on the heart of her comments which hinged upon her allegation that our government somehow squandered the surpluses that we had. One could compare government to a family's finances. A family may have a line of credit at the bank or some other obligation that it must deal with but suddenly it finds itself with some extra money. It could set that money aside in a rainy day fund but the interest that would be paid on the rainy day fund would be less than what the family would be paying on its line of credit.

The sensible thing to do, the thing that I and thousands of families across Canada do when they have some extra money, such as a bonus from their employer, is to apply it to their line of credit where the interest rate is higher.

Unfortunately, the member did not even mention the fact that our government actually paid off $40 billion in public debt. Basically we paid off money against the mortgage that would have saddled future generations. It was very responsible.

I would ask the member to comment on how she can allege that money was squandered when $40 billion was paid off against the national mortgage.


1:25 p.m.


Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a former banker, I do agree with debt reduction but I do not believe that Canada's debt, before the surplus was used to pay it down, was unmanageable.

My constituents have likened it to two people who get married and buy a house. They take out a mortgage and sacrifice everything. They have no life and they have nothing of consequence. They want to pay off the mortgage but in the meantime they have no quality of life. They cannot maintain the house when the roof gets leaky or the foundation falls apart. At the end of the day, the mortgage is paid off but the house needs to be razed. They then must go back into debt to rebuild it at today's prices.

The easy answer to the member's question is that debt reduction is not the only thing that is absolutely critical in this country and I think we are living it now.


1:30 p.m.


Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for Welland.

I would like to thank the constituents of Thunder Bay—Superior North for electing me to represent them in Parliament. It is a great honour and an even greater responsibility. After over 30 years of working for myself in my own small businesses, I now work for my constituents, many thousands of them.

I would also like to thank the Thunder Bay New Democrat volunteers who never stopped working hard for NDP representation in our riding since the days the hon. Ernie Epp and the hon. Iain Angus diligently served this House.

I especially would like to thank my wonderful family, Margaret and Michael Hyer, who offered unfailing support over five years and three elections.

Northwestern Ontario helped to supply the raw materials that built Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto: furs, timber and materials that helped to build a prosperous Canada, but it is northern Ontario now that needs help from Ottawa. Our citizens and our small towns feel forgotten. We feel that in our time of need, Ottawa has forgotten where we are, who we are and what we need.

As I knocked on thousands of doors over five years, I heard a lot of anger and a lot of worry. Thousands and thousands of resource jobs have been lost in northern Ontario, mostly in forestry, woodlands and mills. I heard anger and extreme worry in the forest-dependent towns whose mills and woods operations have closed, like Longlac, Nakina, Beardmore, Red Rock, Nipigon and many of the mills in Thunder Bay. Others are on the edge, like Terrace Bay, Marathon, and the two remaining mills in Thunder Bay.

Since October 14, I have been hard at work on many issues related to making life better for families in our region. Some examples include fostering value-added forestry, exploring potential energy from wood opportunities and meetings on regional issues related to mining, health care, highways, freight rail service to Greenstone and bringing back VIA Rail to Thunder Bay and the Lake Superior north shore.

My assistants are already working hard in Thunder Bay on helping many of our citizens with their local needs. However, many of the needs of northwestern Ontario can only be met by this House and by our federal government working together to invest, to create and to re-create healthy communities, families, the environment and the economy.

In our riding, more than 20% of our citizens are members of first nations. We want them to have more than mere payoffs for residential schools. We want them to join the economic and political fabric of Canada.

Many others in our riding are Métis. These descendants of the fur trade marriages want to be recognized at the federal table.

In our riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North, we have a cultural oasis in a sea of wilderness. We have, per capita, more symphony seats than Toronto. We have more seats at live theatre per capita than Montreal. We have a fine visual arts scene from aboriginal art to traditional art, to avant-garde; eye-popping works. We have those because our citizens and our previous governments helped us to build a cultural foundation. Let us please not cut arts funding. Let us increase it so that arts in Thunder Bay, northwestern Ontario and all across rural Canada can continue to grow.

In Thunder Bay—Superior North, we have skilled, hard-working craftspeople, tradespeople, a labour force with experience and flexibility. We need support for innovation, for finding new ways to make new products from our forests. We do give thanks for the investments in Thunder Bay for molecular medicine and technologies.

Not everyone will get back to work. We need the government to protect their pensions, their homes and their savings, if they are pushed into retirement, through both wise investments and stringent regulations. If they are laid off in mid-career, we want an EI system that serves and protects them, not a system that adds layer after layer of regulations to avoid paying them so that the finance minister can balance his books. We must stop taking the workers' money from EI. It is their money, not the government's.

As in pretty much every riding in Canada, just over half of the citizens in my riding are women. They want the status of women office back. They want respectful attention to both equity and equality.

In our riding, about 35% of us do not have a family physician, myself included. Persons in need of many services must fly to Winnipeg, Toronto or Hamilton for treatment. Persons in need of psychiatric services get brief diagnoses in pills, not time and therapy and healing.

When Tommy Douglas and Lester Pearson worked together to create our then marvellous health care system, it was funded 50% federally. Today the federal share is well below 20%. We need the federal level of government to restore its long abandoned promise to be equal partners with the provinces on health care.

If our Prime Minister tells us he cannot meet these needs due to the impending deficits, we urge that he retrieve some of the money he gave to his friends in the banks and the oil companies in huge tax breaks.

I have a special plea for the Minister of Industry. We have a specialized mill in Thunder Bay that makes fine printing papers. It is called Thunder Bay Fine Papers. Under previous absentee owners, it was mismanaged. It has been bought and reorganized under new management, local Thunder Bay management. It needs the help of the federal government. It and the families in Thunder Bay need the help of the Minister of Industry, perhaps through FedNor. It is a unique mill. It makes value-added speciality fine printing papers for books, magazines and high quality brochures. It is almost 100% Canadian owned with most of that ownership right in Thunder Bay. It has secured a special, favourable 10-year labour agreement with CEP union. It has dramatically improved its energy and labour efficiency. It has gone from 6.9 hours of labour per tonne of product under the previous owners down to 2.8 hours of labour per tonne, putting it into the top 25% of efficiency in North American mills, and it has several years of orders.

The Province of Ontario has stepped up to the place for the following assistance: a loan guarantee of $25 million, a forgivable grant of $1.5 million, as well, the Ontario Heritage Fund has contributed another $1.5 million.

It is within the power of the Minister of Industry to save this mill. It is within his power to save over 600 direct jobs in a city of 108,000 people, as well as many hundreds of indirect jobs in Thunder Bay, plus securing many jobs at Bowater, also in Thunder Bay, which is the source for the Kraft pulp that goes into these fine papers. All told, it is within his power to save several thousand direct and indirect jobs in Thunder Bay, to save several thousand families in Thunder Bay from the hardship and worry this Christmas.

If theMinister of Industry, the Prime Minister and their government, whether through FedNor or through some other means, choose to show that they do care about value-added forest products, that they do care about forestry workers in northwestern Ontario and that they do believe that a targeted investment in Thunder Bay is important, then here is what is needed: first, a loan guarantee of between $20 million and $30 million for Thunder Bay Fine Papers to get it through its start-up cashflow crunch; second, that they direct our Canadian government agencies to buy from printers who specify Canadian produced fine papers, instead of the offshore papers often used at present.

I am a wildlife biologist. Biologists combine two strategies for saving endangered species. Second, we make a long-term plan for sustainability but first we move quickly for a short-term survival strategy to hold on to a dwindling population.

Mr. Speaker, please tell the Minister of Industry that we have an endangered forest industry in Canada with an especially endangered population of forestry workers in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario. We urge him to show that his government does care about our forestry workers and does care about northwestern Ontario.

We need to move quickly to secure these jobs at Thunder Bay Fine Papers in Thunder Bay and in resource dependent communities across all of Canada.

Once again, allow me to express my pleasure at joining the House and I look forward to working with all parties to show that we can work together to reinvest in the kind of Canada that we all seek and that Canadians citizens want and need from us.


1:40 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member and welcome him to the House. I also congratulate the people of Thunder Bay—Superior North for their wise choice in the election.

The question I have for my colleague is very specific to the mill he mentioned as a central piece to his first speech in the House, a central piece as it is not only symbolic but a practical example of what government can and cannot do.

The choices that are available to government in this time of economic upheaval are critical for people in his riding and many of our ridings across the country. The choices made between a $50 billion tax cut or specific investments or helping seniors to protect their pensions are choices being made in this place right now.

As the fiscal update comes, the mini-budget, specifically for the people of Thunder Bay—Superior North, what will the member need to see to garner his support and the support of the people he represents, knowing the government is on task and is aware of the realities for people in northern Ontario and in communities like his across the country?


1:40 p.m.


Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, to reiterate, people in northwestern Ontario have lost faith in the Government of Canada. They have lost faith in the Conservative government. They believe that the Prime Minister does not care about the forest industry and forestry workers and seems not to care about the average worker in Canada. We hope that is an incorrect assumption on their part.

There is a real window of opportunity in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario for the government to demonstrate to the people of northwestern Ontario that it does care about their plight.

After helping to build a better Canada for several centuries, this is a microcosm of the situation in Canada today. Does the government care about the average worker or does it care only about large, multinational corporations in a so-called free market system?


1:40 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate our new friend from Thunder Bay—Superior North and welcome him to this place.

After hearing his first speech and his reference to the shocking lack of doctors in his community, it is similar across the country but it seems particularly terrible there.

We heard a lot of talk today about deficit and deficit spending. My colleague referred to the fact that corporate tax cuts for the big oil companies and banks were scheduled over the next number of years at the rate of about $14 billion a year. It would probably be a good idea if the government rescinded those.

I heard him also talk about loan guarantees. On the weekend past, I was in the Dewildt Chrysler dealership in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek talking to the owners about the problems they were having. Earlier today a government member talked about the number of auto sales. Where the issue is for the folks in these businesses is the restocking of their vehicles. They have been selling in fairly large numbers, but they need the investment money for restocking, bringing in the next models that they are going to put on the market.

Another member spoke as well about the rate of unemployment being 6.1%. Those were figures well over a month and a half ago and I am sure they are dramatically worse. Could the member tell us if the figure has been dramatically worse in the last six weeks in his riding as it has in mine?


1:40 p.m.


Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know the hard numbers on unemployment in Thunder Bay—Superior North. I know that for northern Ontario, for northwestern Ontario, for the small communities throughout northwestern Ontario and for Thunder Bay we are well above the national average and the national average is well above what is acceptable in a modern economy.

We remain hopeful that there will be targeted investments in industries that can be renewed or created throughout the north to ensure stability, safety and confidence for the average citizen throughout northwestern Ontario.


1:45 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also join in the growing chorus in congratulating you on your re-election to the chair. From the election last Tuesday, we heard a resounding call for more civility and decorum in the House and I am sure you will uphold this mandate.

I also join my fellow New Democrats in offering my congratulations to the Prime Minister, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the Bloc. I would also at this time like to thank my constituents in Welland for their trust and faith in me to send me to this place to represent them. I will be forever in their debt and forever grateful.

I would also, at this time, like to take an opportunity to thank my family. When I came to this country as an immigrant child with my parents, my father had no work. We came from Glasgow. He was a ship worker. He came to this land to build ships. Within six months, he found himself without a job. The decision for him, my mother and the four children they had at that time, myself included, was “Do we stay in this great land or do we home?” My father's decision, which was extremely hard because there was no other family here to support us, was to stay.

It is with regret that I stand in my place today unable to say these words to my father directly. He passed away one year ago of multiple sclerosis. However, the decision my father took all those years ago enabled me to be in this place. For my father and my mother, I will be forever grateful.

I have been married for 29 years and there has always been a partnership with Peggy and I and our three kids. I thank them for their support and their love over this time. Without that, it would not be as meaningful as it is today to be in my place.

For my fellow first time MPs, I am honoured to have been elected along with them. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting down to the work that Canadians expect of us.

It is clear that we are now facing an economic crisis unlike anything we have ever seen in modern times and for some, I would dare venture to say, never seen before. We would have to look to our grandparents, perhaps even our great grandparents, for those members who are young, to get the history of what happened once before in our great country.

These are extremely troubling and very anxious times for Canadians, especially from my riding of Welland. Last Wednesday's Speech from the Throne was an opportunity for the government to set out a bold action plan for Canadians. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Canadians are looking to Parliament to help alleviate and lessen the impact of the economic crisis we face today. To do this, we believe there are five priorities that we need to undertake.

First, the government needs to create an economic stimulus package to help protect and create jobs. If we want to head off something worse than a recession, we need to ensure that people are working and making money.

Second, we need to protect the pensions of those hard-working Canadians who built this country for us and allowed us to enjoy the fruits of that country. We need to ensure that their pensions are protected and that they never again slip into debt and into poverty.

Third, we need to immediately suspend the $7.3 billion corporate tax cuts scheduled to take effect in 2009. It seems ludicrous to give away billions more to profitable corporations while the rest of the economy suffers. It seems to me that the least we can do is invest in our own folks, not invest in corporations that take a tax cut and head to Mexico, like John Deere.

Fourth, we want to see legitimate steps to fight climate change. Not only is this a potentially greater crisis than the one we face in the economy, but it can indeed be part of the solution and part of the remedy. By creating green collar jobs, we have the potential to help solve both our problems simultaneously, the economic crisis and the climate crisis.

Fifth, we need to bring in meaningful democratic reform and a more open, accountable and co-operative minority government. There is currently a democratic deficit in our country with millions of Canadians feeling left out of our electoral process. At the same time, we are looking for strong signals that this minority Parliament will be more productive and less divisive than the last one.

The five priorities are not outrageous. Nor are they unreasonable. We felt that by introducing some or all these issues we could work with the government in bringing about the solutions that ordinary Canadians are demanding of all of us.

Listening to the Speech from the Throne last Wednesday, I was pleased by a number of elements. I liked the overall tone of the speech. It was conciliatory and open to collaboration.

The Prime Minister mentioned that he wanted to work with the other parties in the House and asked for our suggestions. I believe our suggestions are meaningful. However, asking for advice and then not using it is like an empty promise. I suggest we find a way to make both sides of the House understand that if we are going to collaborate, it means listening to the other side.

I was enthused by the Speech from the Throne with regard to the development of a continental cap and trade system and the invitation to work with the government on an energy retrofit program was encouraging. We have been calling for these initiatives for a number of years. I look forward to seeing further details and hope to be able to support them.

Also, the new language around the new world-class research facilities is promising. Canada has first-class researchers and innovators and it is about time we harness that energy and innovation. Brock University and Niagara College, which are in my riding, are talking about new biochemical industries and bio industries. In fact, the president of Brock University is extremely enthused about it. I look forward to the innovation and this sense of working with new innovators who will come forward, as in the details in the Speech from the Throne.

While all this is well and good, most of the speech was shrouded in vague language with few details and an actual action plan. The Speech from the Throne is the action plan of the government. It is supposed to show the strategic direction of the government. Yet I did not get a sense of that last Wednesday. Canadians were hoping for more and New Democrats were expecting more.

Being an MP from southern Ontario, I was looking for details on how the government would address the growing instability in the manufacturing sector. One area was in the industrial heartland of Ontario, and I did not hear anything.

The crisis extends beyond the auto sector. In southern Ontario one looks at that sector and says “auto”. To be truthful, that is not exactly honest or absolutely true. What is really true about that manufacturing heartland is that it is extremely diverse. The difficulty is we are seeing numerous industries fail, or left to fail or simply pack up and move on.

CanGro was an operation just outside my riding in the Niagara Peninsula. One of its largest products was canned fruit. The Niagara Peninsula is synonymous with tender fruit. CanGro was the last canning factory east of the Rocky Mountains and it was let to slide away about four months ago. Now the peach growers in Niagara have nowhere to send their peaches. In fact, the peach trees have been torn out of the ground, producing no more peaches. That is a shame.

Also in my riding is a place called Horizon Milling. Most people would probably remember it better as Robin Hood flour. The new Horizon Milling decided to buy the corporation from Robin Hood. Its first act of business was to lock out its workers, demand concessions from its retirees and workers, left them out on the street for 15 months and closed it. It is an absolute shame. It was a mill that had been in operation for 60-some-odd years, where grandfathers, fathers and sons had worked one after another in Port Colborne. That is unfortunate.

My riding is in the fourth oldest region in the country. Seventy per cent of young folks under the age of 30 leave the region of Niagara because of their inability to find work. If we continue down the road that is plotted for us today, I am afraid perhaps all young people will leave Niagara to find opportunities elsewhere. We need to stop that hemorrhaging. We need to find a new path. We need to come up with ways to ensure the survival not only of the manufacturing industries that exist today in my riding, but to also start new ones, with new innovation technologies and new ways of employing them.

We need new ideas and a compromise from all parties. If the government is serious about cooperation, I suggest it work with all parties to come up with a made in Canada plan that will not only pull us through the current situation, but leave our country stronger and more competitive to deal with the new realities of the 21st century.


1:55 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was thrilled to listen to the member for Welland. I am excited that our region now has another strong advocate for the manufacturing sector, for jobs, and above all for workers and for pensions.

I was interested to hear the member touch on the John Deere plant. As we all know, John Deere was actually a profitable plant. It took the broad-based corporate tax cuts the government has been offering. It took that money, but nonetheless the profitable John Deere company closed its doors and sent the jobs to Mexico.

Clearly the thrust of the throne speech, which was all about offering an increase in broad-based corporate tax cuts, is not helping the companies that most desperately need the help. In fact, as members know, if a company is not making any profits, it is not paying any taxes, so it does not benefit from the tax cuts.

I wonder if the member for Welland could elaborate a little further, because I know workers in his community of Welland have already been paying for the economic crisis we are in, much like ours in Hamilton. They have paid with their jobs. They have paid with their pensions. They have paid through inadequate access to EI, and of course they have paid to bail out the banks.

I think the member would agree that it is time to start helping out workers in Welland. Could he share some concrete examples of how we might be able to do that?


1:55 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right about the tax cuts. John Deere amassed those tax cuts and used them to ship its manufacturing facilities to Mexico. It shipped a few odd jobs to Wisconsin, but the vast majority went to Mexico.

John Deere had been in the city of Welland for close to 100 years. By its own admission it was highly profitable and highly efficient, with a great workforce. It said in a statement it issued last year that it had a commitment to Welland, yet within nine months it made another announcement to the effect that it was closing the door without any discussions with anyone. It did not even say thank you very much for the tax cuts before moving on.

I talked to a young couple. The husband worked at John Deere. They were in their late twenties or early thirties, not much older than my own children. They told me they had thought they had finally found a secure job in an agri-region, because John Deere was the shining star of the region. When all the other manufacturers were losing jobs, this one was actually hiring. What I saw on their faces was desperation. They were asking me, “What will we do? Where do we go next? What will become of us, our friends and our families when we have to leave?”

It is absolutely heart-wrenching to see a young family in that situation, wanting to stay in their community and to be close to their family. They want to raise their children so that the grandparents will have the opportunity to see those grandchildren. They are looking to us in this House to find ways for them to stay in their community by creating jobs for them and not letting them disappear, and not letting the John Deeres take the corporate tax cuts the Conservatives are giving them and head south to Mexico.

Northern Ontario Excellence AwardStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, on my first occasion to speak in this hon. chamber, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of the great Kenora riding for electing me.

I recently had the honour of presenting Larry Hope with the Northern Ontario Excellence Award for the Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre, which is located in the heart of the Kenora riding.

The centre was designed with the community in mind and recognizes the local paper mill and its wood products as the main industry in the region. It is the state of the art, innovative centre for training and cultural events for the entire region. I presented the award at the FedNor-sponsored WoodWORKS! gala in Toronto which, through its successful funding relationship with the Canadian Wood Council, promotes Canadian wood products through various programs and services focused on creating market access and demand.

Congratulations to the Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre for its commitment to excellence in serving the Kenora riding.

Frank LedwellStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Frank Ledwell and to recognize his outstanding contribution to the community of Prince Edward Island.

Frank was a renowned author, teacher and former poet laureate who was dedicated to celebrating and promoting the lives of Islanders. Frank’s work was honoured by many distinguished awards, including the Order of Prince Edward Island. In 2004 he was appointed provincial poet laureate for three years.

Frank grew up during the Depression, began his teaching career at the age of 16 and continued to work with the arts community throughout his lifetime. Through his kindness, goodwill and humour he inspired all whom he met. First and foremost was his family. Frank Ledwell enriched the lives of his students, his colleagues and his friends. His work will continue to inspire writers, and the attitude and encouragement he instilled in others will continue to make the world a better place.

Association Québec-France in GranbyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this November, Granby's Association Québec-France will celebrate its 30th anniversary. This association has had great success in its goal of extending the government-to-government relations between France and Quebec into civil society. Because of successive presidents who believed in their association, 500 young people have been able to spend time in France gaining experience in harvesting, renovating castles, farming and numerous group outings.

The association also organized the first Semaine de la France and Semaine de la Francophonie, which included the 2004 Franco-Fête. Its members have also organized seminars, conferences, concerts, art shows, French fashion shows, contests and culinary events.

Speaking personally and on behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to offer our best wishes to the Association Québec-France in Granby and wish it a long life.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are happy to see that gas prices have dropped. When I left Ottawa last Thursday, I noticed that gas cost approximately 75¢ per litre. However, in my riding, gas prices are higher. On Friday, gas in Elliot Lake cost 20% more than it did in Ottawa.

Most of my constituents have no choice but to drive long distances to get to work and to attend medical appointments, as there is little to no public transportation available to them. I continue to hear from frustrated constituents about unfair gas prices from Manitouwadge to Blind River, from Hearst to Kapuskasing and down to Little Current. They are tired of being gouged at the pumps.

New Democrats are asking for the creation of an investigation and prosecution office to deal with gas gouging. Canadians deserve a price monitoring agency with real teeth to ensure them fairness at the pumps no matter which region they live in.

Municipal Heritage LeadershipStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to recognize the accomplishment of the beautiful town of Aurora, the southern half of my riding, which is the 2008 recipient of the prestigious Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership.

The town of Aurora has a beautiful downtown heritage area and has purposely built amenities to attract its residents to the downtown core. The town of Aurora has diligently worked at preserving much of its heritage. I commend the mayor, the members of council, and the residents of Aurora, who have shared the unity of vision to make Aurora the worthy recipient of this award.

The Prince of Wales award was presented to the mayor of Aurora at the celebrations in Quebec City this fall. Congratulations on this achievement, and best wishes.

Michel A. ThérienStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to highlight the work of Michel A. Thérien, a poet from Ottawa, who has earned the admiration of critics as well as the recognition of several literary organizations.

Michel is an ardent supporter of francophone culture in Canada and around the world. He helped make poetry a focal point of the Biennale de la langue française. This year, he spent a month as artist in residence at the Maison des ailleurs in Charleville-Mézières, the birthplace of Arthur Rimbaud. He is the first Canadian ever to receive this honour.

Mr. Thérien's collection entitled Du vertige et de l'espoir: Carnets africains was short-listed for the 2008 Governor General's literary awards.

Michel Thérien is an excellent example of the vitality of Franco-Ontarian culture and the abundant creativity of our artists. Bravo, Michel, and may your muses continue to inspire you.

UkraineStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the victims of the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-33, otherwise known as the Holodomor. Last May the House unanimously voted to establish the fourth Saturday of each November as the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day and to officially recognize the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide.

Last weekend the Minister of Immigration was in Kiev with representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian community to commemorate this act of genocide. On November 22, Canadians all across Canada joined Ukraine in remembering the 75th anniversary of this tragic event that took millions of Ukrainian lives.

Remembrance is a living memorial to the victims and to their loss of life, human rights and dignity, and a tribute to the fact that sometimes in some places truth prevails over darkness and denial.

Trois-RivièresStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, festivities to celebrate the 375th anniversary of the founding of the city of Trois-Rivières will begin in January 2009.

Over a year ago, the city and its planning committee submitted a request for financial assistance from the federal government. Yet the committee responsible for planning the festivities has still not heard anything from the ministers in question. Time is running out and Trois-Rivières definitely does not want to have to pay the price for the apathy shown by the former heritage minister.

While the city has received $2 million from the Quebec government to celebrate this important historic event properly, the federal government has yet to respond to the local stakeholders in this file.

Trois-Rivières, the second francophone city founded in the Americas, fully deserves a financial contribution by the federal government in planning its 375th anniversary.

Visit of the Aga KhanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank God and my deceased parents with whose blessings I am here today. I would also like to thank my wife, Neetu, and my children, Jatin, Chetan, and Arisha, who support me in all I do. Finally I must acknowledge and thank the constituents of Calgary Northeast, who elected me to represent them in the House of Commons.

My riding includes many members of Canada's Ismaili community, who were pleased to welcome their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, to our city yesterday as part of his cross-Canada tour. This afternoon up to 14,000 Ismailis are expected to attend a gathering in Calgary, and nearly 50,000 Ismailis attended the gathering in Toronto last weekend.

His Highness the Aga Khan praised Canada for its commitment to pluralism and human rights, values that are shared by the Conservative government. That is why we teamed up with the Aga Khan to build the global centre for pluralism.

On behalf of the Conservative Party, I would like to welcome the Aga Khan to Canada and wish him the best of success for the remainder of his visit.