House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member who represents a beautiful area of the country, Wild Rose in Alberta.

I would like to get back to his statements about strong government action.

What we have seen right across Canada over the last 20 years is a huge erosion of middle-class incomes.

As the member well knows, under the Alberta Conservative government, farm receipts have fallen to the lowest in the country. In fact, many Alberta farmers are in a net loss position as a result of right wing economic policies. We also see right wing economic policies now at the federal level having the same kind of impact right across the country, which means that fewer Canadians have faith in our political system, and that is why we saw a record low turnout during the most recent federal election.

As a new member of Parliament, is my colleague ready to push his government to take strong measures, including rolling back this bloated $50 billion corporate tax cut?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned tough times. If we want to see true tough times in this country, we would put the NDP in this place over here.

My colleague mentioned tax cuts. I would be hard-pressed to believe that removing tax cuts would be the proper way to stimulate the economy. Our government foresaw what was coming which is the reason for many of the tax cuts that we put in place, both for businesses and individuals.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. I would first like to congratulate you on your election as a member and as Speaker. I look forward to working with you and the other members of the House.

I would also like to join my New Democratic Party colleagues in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the leader of the Bloc Québécois.

I want to thank the citizens of West Nipissing, French River, Rayside-Balfour, Valley East, Onaping Falls, Folyet and the communities surrounding Nickel Belt who have elected me as part of the second largest New Democratic caucus in the history of the party. I humbly acknowledge the trust they have shown in me and the responsibility they have given me. I assure them that I will work unstintingly and will not disappoint them. I am honoured by their trust and I am determined to be here always to stand up for them.

In addition, I would particularly like to thank my wife Marie-Claire, my daughter Johanne and my son Michel for their support and encouragement. It is because of them that I am here.

I am honoured to be here with those of my colleagues who have been elected for the first time, and I am eager to get to work with them.

We are facing one of the most significant events of our times. Across the globe, we are seeing banks collapsing, companies faltering and people losing their jobs. This is just the beginning.

Ordinary Canadians are worried. They were looking to the Speech from the Throne to give them an indication of the direction the government would take to deal with this problem.

There were some positive items. I welcomed the general tone of the speech, with its call for co-operation and its conciliatory language. If the government is able to back up this new tone with action, then we are likely to see a productive Parliament that works for all Canadians.

The nods to the environment, the expansion of the retrofit program and the mention of a continental cap and trade program show that the government is slowly coming around to some of the policies Canadians have been demanding. The people of Nickel Belt understand and appreciate cap and trade. Decades ago, in a necessary effort to protect our environment, Inco was required to cap its sulphur emissions by a specific day or be fined. It capped its emissions. The environment is recovering from years of damage due to sulphur, and it is important to note that Inco did not leave town.

Yet even with these elements, most of the speech was too vague and indirect. It did not match the urgency or the depth of what is required to protect working families in this economy. Canadians were hoping for more from the throne speech, and New Democrats were expecting more.

There was no indication of how the government will reverse the growing doctor deficit. Five million Canadians do not have access to a family doctor and have to rely on clinics and emergency rooms for their basic care. For example, in my riding we face a health care crisis. Ambulances are backed up at the emergency room with ill patients, while beds in the hospital are taken by those who would be better served in long-term care facilities.

We need to know why FedNor has not stepped up to the plate in terms of requested funding for such a facility in Chelmsford. Such a facility would significantly ease the burden on our acute care hospital.

Although consumer bankruptcies in September were 20% higher than in August and although unemployment is projected to rise next year to 7%, there was no mention of how the government is going to fix the EI system. Recent rule changes to employment insurance mean that an unemployed person must exhaust savings before EI is even available. We need to make sure money will go right back into the local economy to create jobs, keep small businesses afloat and put food on the table.

In northern Ontario, we are already seeing the effects of the slowdown. Because of the low price of nickel, Xstrata has made changes to its plans for the lifespan of two major mines. First Nickel has suspended operations at its Lockerby mine in Nickel Belt, resulting in the layoff of 140 of its 160 workers.

We need bold and strategic measures for our economy. The 21st century is new and different, and tired old 20th century solutions will not work anymore.

First, let us introduce financial regulations that would protect consumers in this economy. Even though strong regulations have kept our banking sector comparatively stable, effects from global market turmoil are unavoidable. Stronger oversight is needed to track the $75 billion already given to secure banks. If assistance is given to any ailing sectors, taxpayers need a full accounting and, where appropriate, an equity stake in return. The federal government can protect consumers by ensuring that credit card companies stop hiking interest rates on cash-strapped families who miss a payment.

Second, let us invest in the new energy economy for 21st century prosperity. We do not have to choose between economic growth and fighting climate change. We can choose a new energy economy. We can put a price on carbon and harness the sun, wind and water. Canadian innovation can make us leaders in renewable technology and create green-collar jobs. We can begin creating thousands of jobs right now by energy-retrofitting our homes and buildings.

We can support our local businesses and agriculture. In my riding Don Poulin Farms, which recently could sell its potatoes to local stores, is now forced to ship its product to Toronto corporate chains. These chains then ship the product right back, to be sold in local stores.

Using resources to transport food over greater distances forces local farmers into hardship. It is environmentally damaging, it is an additional cost, and it could result in unnecessary job losses in Nickel Belt.

Third, let us invest in private sector enterprise and innovation through our research institutions. Our universities and colleges should lead the world in practical innovation. They have proven they are up to it. We must do more through incentives for job creation, better support for research and development, and innovation funding. A good start would be to allocate funding for the Centre of Excellence in Mining Innovation in northeastern Ontario.

Fourth, let us make strategic investment in infrastructure and in the real economy. Let us commit to an ambitious plan to partner with our communities to repair our crumbling cities, invest in public transit, and build affordable housing. We can ensure that our publicly owned transit systems are efficient and effective.

In my riding it is nearly impossible to find an apartment that is both available and affordable. The roads are among the worst on the continent. We have relied on raw resource exports for too long. We need credit guarantees for viable companies in forestry and mining and we need them now.

Fifth, but certainly not the least important, is to invest in our social infrastructure. Without a national skills training strategy to address our skills shortage, we will only compound the length and depth of the economic downturn.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

In the United States, pensions are guaranteed up to $50,000. We have to have pension insurance plans to protect seniors today and in future generations. We can create more jobs in child care and in caring for the elderly, increase the number of doctors and nurses and provide better opportunities for members of the first nations.

The government has got to respect the 62% of Canadians who voted for change. This parliament has been asked to set aside its differences and overcome its traditional partisan quarrels. However, that does not mean giving the government carte blanche, which is what Canadians have denied it.

The government has to make compromises and the opposition has to be constructive. If those conditions are met, I am convinced that this parliament will be able to rise to our expectations and to the expectations of all Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:25 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Nickel Belt for an excellent speech that brings some common sense to the House. Unfortunately, that is something that we do not find here as often as we would like. After a few weeks here, he has had the opportunity to see some of the Conservative government's economic impact and lack of action. He has also seen the impact on northern Ontario of the softwood lumber agreement and other Conservative Party policies that the Liberals supported.

I would like to hear his comments about the impact on the constituents in Nickel Belt from all of these policies and the government's lack of economic strategy.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:25 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the government does not change the employment insurance rules, many people in northern Ontario will suffer. In fact, this week in Coniston, another company, Northern Heat Treat Ltd, was affected. It had been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Forty employees were laid off and now it operates only eight hours a day, five days a week. Changes must be made to employment insurance to help these people.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too welcome the member for Nickel Belt to the House. Although we are in quite different parts of the country, northern Ontario versus the west coast of British Columbia, I would ask the member to say a little bit more about forestry.

In my riding, forestry companies are going out of business because they simply do not have access to lines of credit or to loan guarantees. These are viable businesses, and British Columbia has a long and proud history of being a forestry producer.

I ask the member to talk about the importance, both to my riding and his, of making sure these forestry companies have ways to stay in business, because once this economic downturn is over, we know that forestry companies and workers will add substantially to our local economies.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

November 27th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, forestry is also very important in Nickel Belt. The $1 billion giveaway the Conservative government gave to the United States has not helped the Canadian forestry business.

We hope that in this session of Parliament, the Government of Canada will help the forestry industry right across Canada by guaranteeing some loans.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great humility and reverence that I rise in this honourable chamber to address it substantively for the first time.

I offer first my most heartfelt thanks to the people of Vancouver Kingsway for allowing me the privilege of representing them. I will do everything I can to justify their faith.

I must express my profound appreciation to my family, whose love and support sustained me, as well as to all those who volunteered on my campaign. Without their contributions I would not be here.

I extend also my most sincere congratulations to all of the members of the House on their elections. Whichever party they belong to, their dedication to their communities and their commitment to their country are worthy of our deepest respect. They certainly have mine.

I will share with the members of the House a little of what Vancouver Kingsway is about and of what I heard the citizens of our great riding express in the last federal election.

Vancouver Kingsway epitomizes Canada. It is a wonderful mosaic of diverse cultures and vibrant communities. It has boundless optimism in what our society can attain and should be.

It exists in the markets of Victoria Drive, where we can hear commerce conducted in the energetic cadences of Cantonese and Mandarin. It lives in the community halls of Fraser Street, where we can see the cultural expressions of every province and state of the Philippines, Pakistan and India. It is found in the small businesses of Kingsway, where we can meet hardworking Vietnamese and Korean entrepreneurs, and indeed entrepreneurs of every nationality imaginable.

We can see it in our wonderful network of neighbourhood houses at Collingwood, Cedar Cottage and Little Mountain, and in the Multicultural Helping House. They are all engines of social development and cross-cultural bridges.

It can be witnessed in countless citizen groups, such as those active in Riley Park, Kensington and Norquay, whose residents devote their time and talent to developing livable neighbourhoods that work for everyone.

What we can see in these and every one of the communities of my great riding is people living, working and celebrating in cooperation and tolerance. As an integral part of the tapestry of our nation, Vancouver Kingsway thrives with energy and life.

There is also great need in the riding I represent. Fully 50% of Kingsway families survive on less than $50,000 of total household income, and tens of thousands of families survive on much less than that. The average citizen earns just over $21,000 a year. It is a challenge to survive on such an income in an expensive city like Vancouver.

There are 6,000 families headed by single parents, primarily women. There are 24,000 children and youth deeply concerned about their futures, a full quarter of whom live in poverty.

There are thousands of immigrants who are underemployed, living in economic difficulty and separated from their families. There are seniors who live in deprivation, disabled who live in isolation and homeless who live without hope.

However, the citizens of Vancouver Kingsway are resilient, resourceful and positive about our future. They have spoken loudly and clearly in this last election about their needs and desires. They have articulated what they expect from their federal government and from all of us who were elected to guide the policies of our nation.

The people of Kingsway want affordable housing so that every person in our community can live in dignity, safety and security. They need more co-ops, more rental stock and more non-market housing of all types. They want their federal government to re-enter the housing arena in this country. There are perfect opportunities in my riding to to create affordable housing at sites such as Little Mountain and the soon to be vacated RCMP headquarters.

They need quality child care that is accessible, stimulating and affordable. In these tough economic times, they want a national child care program that will help Canadian women and men cope with the challenges of raising healthy children. They desire good jobs that will allow them to support themselves and their families, jobs that are safe and valued, jobs that give a fair return for their hard work.

They want to protect our environment, address climate change and build a sustainable economy for our children and for future generations. They hope the federal government will lead and partner with them to help retrofit their homes and buildings, and that it will develop clean energy from solar, wind and geothermal sources.

They require a strong education and skills training system that is available to everyone, regardless of income. They know that a well educated society is critical to their own, their children's and our society's future.

They yearn for an immigration system that is fair, fast and effective, one that sees foreign credentials recognized, families united and immigrants better supported to succeed in their chosen country. They need more public transit, quality public facilities and a strong public health care system.

They want the federal government to support our arts and culture sector. They favour a strong public broadcaster, support for institutions such as the CBC Radio Orchestra and Ballet British Columbia, and they want our visual performance and creative arts to flourish. They realize that a worthy nation values its culture as well as its economy.

They want a society that takes care of our seniors, nurtures our children and protects our vulnerable. They believe in a Canada that is peaceful, just and a model of mature behaviour on the world stage. While they support our men and women in the military, they want us out of Afghanistan, out of combat and back into peacekeeping.

The good people of Vancouver Kingsway sent me here to bring these goals to the attention of the Government of Canada and to work immediately, tirelessly and forcefully to try to achieve them, and I am both honoured and committed to do so.

There is one issue that is of special interest to the citizens of Vancouver Kingsway, which must be drawn to the attention of the House, and that is the issue of democracy. In short, they want to send the clearest message possible that the votes of our citizens must be respected at all times and in every way. They stand firmly against those who subvert democracy by crossing the floor and strongly against those parties that would put their political interests ahead of the democratic expression of our citizens.

All citizens of our country owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands of Kingsway residents who stood valiantly and unceasingly for the integrity of our political system and for democracy in our country.

Beyond that, the citizens of Vancouver Kingsway also want real democratic reform in our nation. They want our government to respect the fact that Canadians have chosen a minority Parliament and to recognize that compromise and co-operation are expected for the betterment of our country. They want proportional representation so our Parliament will finally and accurately reflect the votes that we cast.

In addition, like most Canadians, the people of Vancouver Kingsway are concerned about their economic futures, their jobs, their savings, their mortgages and their pensions. They want us to ensure that the interests of our middle class, our working families and our small business sectors are protected and supported.

Although there are some measures in the Speech from the Throne that are positive and for which I give the government credit, unfortunately the real concerns facing the people of Vancouver Kingsway have not been adequately addressed, but I will work hard to convince the members of this Parliament that the measures I outlined and others are not only greatly needed, they are the right ones to put our economy back on a solid base.

The citizens of Vancouver Kingsway work hard and they believe in a country that rewards effort and initiative, but they also believe in a nation that is compassionate, fair and committed to social and economic justice.

Several decades ago, Tommy Douglas exhorted Canadians to “take heart, because it's never too late to build a better world”. Such a sentiment is particularly apt today and the citizens of Vancouver Kingsway want us to get started on that task. I look forward to contributing in every way I can to this noble goal.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I want to get on the record the bizarre actions related to the north in the throne speech, which primarily ignored the north.

There was a lot of bluster in previous speeches about northern sovereignty and a lot of those promises were never kept, but in this throne speech all that was missing. There were two minor references. I think the government figured that out after the throne speech. Now the PMO has written sections of members' speeches with a bunch of old items that they had promised to do.

Even the Prime Minister mentioned two items. He talked about pollution, but he never rescinded the suggestion that the Conservatives made over a year ago to allow dumping in the Arctic. I have a private member's bill against that. He also talked about icebreakers, of all the nerve, because that was a promise he made to northerners to get elected, that there be three icebreakers, and now it is down to only one icebreaker.

Would the member support us in our efforts for the north, that the promises should be kept? Not only are two of the icebreakers gone, but the planes promised for Yellowknife are gone. The ice-strengthened supply ships have all been cancelled. It is great to make promises but if they do not follow through, it does not really help northerners.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I join with the hon. member in both the tenor and particulars of his question.

It is extremely important for government to keep its promises. This is reflected strongly in Vancouver Kingsway, where the citizens of my riding watched a member of Parliament cross the floor to the other side, notwithstanding he had indicated he would not do so.

The question of protecting the environment in the Arctic is of pivotal concern. I, too, was concerned by references in the throne speech to exploiting the oil and gas resources in the Arctic, which I think is reminiscent of Mr. George Bush's attempts to drill in the Arctic. The environmental considerations there ought to give us pause.

I also believe the member raises a good point in the government failing to keep its promise on the three icebreakers. It is our job in opposition to ensure the government speaks honestly and with integrity to the people of our country, and I will join with any member of the House in that endeavour.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Vancouver Kingsway on his recent election and all the hard work he has done on behalf of his constituents.

Many members in the House will know that Ed Broadbent introduced a motion in 1989 to reduce child poverty. A recent Campaign 2000 report speaks to the fact that British Columbia continues to report the highest provincial child poverty rate despite strong economic growth. The throne speech completely disregarded child poverty and, in particular, first nations children in poverty.

The report goes on to say that the long-term benefits of a poverty prevention strategy will be felt by all Canadians. It speaks to the fact that as we invest in child and family poverty, we have savings in justice, health care, education and many other aspects of government spending.

Could the member could comment specifically on what he would see as important elements in a poverty-reduction strategy for children and families in British Columbia, his riding and in Canada?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, poverty is an extremely critical issue in my riding. As I mentioned in my inaugural speech, one out of every four children in my riding lives statistically below the poverty line. Children do not live in poverty by themselves. They live in families. That means there are thousands of families in our ridings that are poor.

In 1989 the House made an all party commitment to try to eliminate child poverty by what I think was the year 2000. We did not meet that goal. It is very important that we in the House recommit ourselves to that process.

I listened to the government in the throne speech and in the answers in question period. It talked about how the economy was in decent shape and about the steps the government had taken. It is taking credit for making things better for Canadians. That is not the experience for many of the children and people in Vancouver Kingsway, British Columbia or across the country.

We need a strong employment insurance program. We need better transfers to the provinces so social supports are present for all families. We need to protect Canadian jobs—

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Avalon

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the voters of Avalon for giving me this opportunity to represent them. They have given me their overwhelming support and for that I will be forever grateful.

I also want to thank my workers and my family who helped my campaign. In particular, I want to thank my wife, Susan, who is my dedicated soulmate, my friend and my CFO in my campaign. She kept everyone on their toes.

I want to also to thank my mom, Erma, and my family and friends for helping me achieve this goal. Without their hard work and dedication, this would not be possible.

As I went bay to bay, shore to shore and door to door during this campaign, I met many friends, old and new. I renewed acquaintances. I made some really good new friends for the first time. Those friends were former Conservatives who came over to work on my campaign.

This is a very humbling experience speaking in this chamber today. I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for Don Valley West today.

We are all here for the same reason, to make our communities, our province and our country a little better place to live.

The people of Avalon sent a message in this election, and that message was on the Atlantic accord. The people were upset that a promise made to our province had been broken. That message was simple.

On that important issue, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did exactly the same thing. He stood up for the people whom he represented and they recognized that.

Now we must put that behind us and we must move on in a new spirit of co-operation with the provinces and municipalities. We must work together. The government mentioned this in the throne speech, and I will quote from it. It states:

Our Government will also take steps to strengthen the Canadian confederation. It will respect the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories and will enshrine its principles of federalism in a Charter of Open Federalism.

Hopefully the federalism that the government has proposed is to work with the provinces and not be confrontational.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

That would be quite a change.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

It would be a change.

My riding of Avalon has seen great growth and in the regional economy things are going well. The new construction of Vale Inco hydromet plant at Long Harbour will be an exciting thing for the people of Avalon and Placentia Bay.

As their member of Parliament, I am committed to working co-operatively with individuals, businesses, community groups and municipal and provincial governments to build and advance our strength and to assist in overcoming the challenges together.

The throne speech is short on details, but we must focus on important issues for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to explore some of these and make some suggestions to the government.

Infrastructure for communities is dear to my heart. As a former municipal councillor in the town of Conception Bay South, I have seen first-hand how communities need infrastructure. Water, sewer, roads and recreation facilities are very important to municipalities around our great country.

We need to look at breakwaters for communities like Hant's Harbour to provide protection for fishing vessels.

We need to look at new wharf facilities for places like Ferryland that just lost its wharf.

We must look at recreational facilities for growing communities like Conception Bay South, Bay Roberts, Carbonear, all areas throughout Conception Bay.

Another issue is the penitentiary that was promised by a Conservative government over 25 years ago for the town of Harbour Grace. We have not seen it. The government has not come through on that promise. It dangled the carrot there time and time again. This type of politics has to stop. The government must come clean with the residents and move forward and put the penitentiary in Harbour Grace.

We need clean drinking water and suitable roads for communities like Trepassey.

We need to work together on these issues.

The fishery is another issue that is important to me. We have not heard the government talk about an early retirement package for fishermen or plant workers. It was something that we committed to in our platform and it was something that I heard about when I went around door to door. We must work co-operatively with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador so such programs can proceed and workers can retire with dignity.

The year 2009 will bring many challenges to the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. With most fish exports going to the United States, it will be hard as these markets are under stress and duress in these economic conditions. It will take the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure adequate compensation is there for this industry as well.

It is nice to cast a life ring to the auto sector which is important, but we must not forget the fishing industry.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has done considerable work on the fishing industry renewal process and would expect the federal government to cooperate and make the industry better for all involved.

Another issue that has been talked about for many years by the government, when it was in opposition and now when it is in government, is custodial management. It has been and continues to be an important issue to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Conservative government has provided only lip service to this problem with overfishing continuing to happen on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. I hope we can work in cooperation to put adequate enforcement measures in place to prevent the unnecessary exploitation of our fish stocks.

I would like to deal with two issues now: protecting our environment and finding clean sources of energy. In the Speech from the Throne the government said under “Tackling Climate Change and Preserving Canada's Environment”:

Our Government will set an objective that 90 percent of Canada’s electricity needs be provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind power by 2020.

This is where I would like to go for a moment. We talked about a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill. This is something that our province has been after for a very long time. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has written the federal government on two occasions when it talked about promises and commitments to our province. I would like to read an excerpt from the premier's letter because it makes the point. It states:

The Lower Churchill is recognized as the most attractive, undeveloped hydroelectric project in North America. The project's 2,800 MW will be enough to power 1.5 million homes, potentially displacing between 13 and 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, accomplished without significant reservoir flooding. The project could significantly strengthen the national electricity network while greatly adding to security of supply in eastern Canada.

This is a nation building exercise when we look at the Lower Churchill and getting a loan guarantee. In these economic times a loan guarantee would be the best thing to stimulate jobs by building this particular project. We need to work on that and we have not seen any action.

In a response, the Conservative government said that it supported the proposal in principle and believed it was important for Newfoundland and Labrador to have greater control over its energy mix. It said, “A Conservative government would welcome discussions on this initiative and would hope that the potential exists for it to proceed--”. That was two years ago in 2006. What have we seen? No action on this particular issue.

This is something that I want to encourage the government to do, start to move forward, and get this project started. It is also important for the economy.

As I mentioned earlier, it is also important for the environment in my riding in particular. I mentioned the new hydromet plant that is coming to my district from Long Harbour, Placentia Bay, which is a great news story.

However, this project is going to require huge amounts of energy to make it happen. The need for that power from the Lower Churchill to get into the grid and get a line into the province of Newfoundland is important for one important reason, the Holyrood generating station. This is a thermal generating station that burns fuel in a boiler, to convert water into steam. It has been using bunker C fuel for many years and now the plant burns No. 6 heavy fuel oil at a rate of 6,000 barrels per day. The problem is that is creating a lot of emissions into the atmosphere. It is the number seven polluter in Canada.

We have an opportunity to guarantee that we get clean hydro power from Labrador into the grid and into the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to take this Holyrood generating station off line. They have done a lot of great work at Newfoundland Hydro in trying to reduce emissions but we need to do better.

In closing, I would like to talk about children, students and seniors. During this time of economic downturn and times of restraint, we must not forget about the most vulnerable in society, those who cannot look after themselves. Children must have adequate compensation for their daily essentials and for their families to acquire adequate child care. Students must be able to avail themselves of adequate financing for education and be ready to accept the responsibility of our future leaders. We must not forget about them. As Liberals, we care about the less fortunate in society.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his first response to the Speech from the Throne. Clearly, the member knows his community very well. As he read the Speech from the Throne he was looking to see where his particular community was reflected, and he was not seeing a lot in there.

When it comes to issues dealing with the social infrastructure needs of this country, some of which he alluded to, where does he see the needs in his particular community for more investments over and above the environmental issues that he recommended?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, infrastructure is very important, it is vital to many communities. When we look at social infrastructure, in my mind that means recreation facilities and allowing young people a place to go to spend time with their peers, friends and families.

It is important to look at social infrastructure, recreation facilities, new rinks, new curling facilities and fields for children to play. Many of the old recreation fields in my riding are overgrown because they have not been looked after.

We need to look at the social side of things, and we need to look at the infrastructure that we provide the communities in my riding and across the country. We are not alone. People from many of the areas in my riding are coming to the bigger centres, but we need to look out for the smaller centres and keep connected with rural Newfoundland and Labrador and rural Canada. It is very important that we look at the infrastructure needs of the communities.

We have not seen it in the throne speech, so we need to look at what is going to come down. In times of economic downturn, we need to look directly at what the government is going to provide in infrastructure for communities to get things moving.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech and I noted that he talked about the potential of the Lower Churchill generating facility.

The member may be aware that the generators for the Upper Churchill generating station were built in my riding of Peterborough. We happen to have a lot of expertise in my riding when it comes to hydroelectric power. We have built the generators for massive hydroelectric programs all over the world.

The member spoke about infrastructure. The government has established a massive infrastructure fund, and I am sure he is well aware of that or in time he will become aware of it as he gets more accustomed to this place.

The problem with the Lower Churchill facility is with transmission licensing to get that power through to markets. I am wondering if he is aware if the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador or Newfoundland Hydro have an agreement on transmission with Hydro-Québec. As he knows, that is what would hold up this project.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, International Trade.

The hon. member for Avalon.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the infrastructure program that the government has put in place, moneys have not flowed to the communities. I am familiar with that infrastructure program.

When we talk about the Lower Churchill facility and transmission, it is absolutely very important that we look at a national transmission grid, an east-west national transmission grid to get that power to market. That is something we really need to look at. It is not only Canada. We can look at providing this electricity to all of North America. It is very important that we focus on that. It cannot happen unless the government moves forward with a loan guarantee.

I would encourage the member to go back to his colleagues, move forward so people in my riding can get employment, for people in his riding to get employment, and get this project moving sooner rather than later.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.


Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous pleasure and a great privilege to rise and speak for the first time in the House. I begin by congratulating you on your election. I pledge that I will do my best to honour the traditions, protocols and etiquette you have suggested to make the House more congenial, and the Parliament more effective.

It is a great honour to represent the people of Don Valley West and the communities of Leaside, Thorncliffe Park, Flemington Park, Don Mills, Lawrence Park, North Toronto and York Mills. I thank them for their support in the recent election. I thank them for putting their faith in me and letting me be their voice and vote in this Parliament.

I also thank my campaign team, who put their faith in me and taught me how to be a winning candidate. They tolerated me on my worst days in what turned out to be lengthy by-election and election processes. Don Valley West has come to expect the very best of its representatives, and I particularly thank my predecessor, the hon. John Godfrey. His work on issues important to all Canadians, such as child care, the city’s agenda, and especially climate change and the environment have set a high standard for me to reach. I can only hope to serve my constituents and my country with as much intelligence, grace and principled conduct.

The task at hand is the debate on the Speech from the Throne offered by Her Excellency the Governor General last week. As with every throne speech, there was much hopeful anticipation about the government’s agenda for this Parliament. It might surprise the hon. members opposite and perhaps some of the hon. members on this side of the House that I found a number of laudable elements in the speech as it was read. In fact, it was much less brutal than one might have expected following the heated rhetoric of the last campaign.

While exceedingly short on specifics, the throne speech did manage to cover a number of the bases one would hope to see covered in such a speech. Specifically, I was impressed that the government seemed to indicate that, despite all evidence to the contrary, it might actually believe that government can and should be a force for good in people’s lives, and that it is appropriate for government to intervene, act and ensure that our future, particularly our economic future, is protected. The government might actually believe that it is right for governments to work as partners with business and industry to stimulate the economy, and that it is sometimes necessary to finance some of this economic stimulus to ensure that countless Canadians are not needlessly hurt by the dramatic decline in our economy.

What surprises me about this recognition is that it is simply not even close to what the hon. members on the other side of the House were telling voters during the election, week after week in the recent campaign. In fact, during the campaign, the Conservatives ran against incurring deficits and un-budgeted spending while continually denying that Canada was heading toward a recession.

There are two possibilities as to why the government has so radically shifted its position with respect to the economy, and neither of them, frankly, is pretty. First, it is possible that it completely misread the international economic indicators visible to most of us. Second, it is possible that it failed to see that the domestic economic policies followed in their first mandate, policies of irresponsible tax cuts and bloated government spending, have left the government completely incapable of responding quickly or well to the situation. I am talking about incompetence of the highest order.

The Prime Minister himself declared, “This country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G-7 countries”.

He said that just days before the recent election, again boldly declaring that we are not going into deficit. Those statements were made only six weeks ago, and were made in the face of reams and reams of evidence to the contrary. All this from one who claims to be or have been an economist.

If this was done truthfully but naively, it smacks of utter and complete incompetence. If it is not incompetence, ineptitude or mismanagement, I fear it may be a far more serious problem for the government. If it is not incompetence, it is deception or misrepresentation. The campaign run by the Conservatives was disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.

One of the main reasons I entered public life was to raise the ethical bar. Canadians want politicians to say what they mean and to do what they say.

Voter apathy, civic cynicism and outright disgust with politicians is based on political leaders refusing to say what they mean and, even worse, failing continually to do what they say. Voters are increasingly savvy and are simply tired of politicians telling them what they think they want to hear and then turning 180 degrees and doing something completely different.

At the core of the Speech from the Throne lies bear the ethical reality that shapes the government. It is a government that will say anything, do anything, promise anything to get elected and simply cannot and will not be trusted by Canadians. The throne speech reveals at its core that the government is morally bankrupt. It has lost its moral compass.

My comments thus far have been only on what the speech says, not on what has been left out. It is a speech that reveals the Conservatives to be morally adrift, to lack imagination and creativity, and they continue their hidden agenda of dismantling the social framework that defines Canada. However, it is what the throne speech is not saying that is more important.

Where is the national housing strategy? That is what the people of Don Valley West are looking for.

Where is the will to tackle family poverty and child poverty, the poverty of too many of our seniors? That is what the people of Don Valley West are asking for.

Where is funding for youth initiatives, arts and culture, post-secondary education and women's programs? At door after door, that is what the people of Don Valley West told me they wanted.

Where is the recognition that the immigration system is broken and that newcomers to this country are more than economic units but also add to the beauty and the wealth of this country in numerous ways? That is what the people of Don Valley West want to hear.

Where is the commitment to shouldering our share of international aid and restoring Canada's position on the international stage as peacekeepers?

Where is the care for our veterans, old and young? That is what the residents of the veterans wing at Sunnybrook hospital are asking me about.

Where is the imagination that is going to help the poor and those who will be displaced by today's economic reality as it descends upon us, just as the government has emptied the cupboard?

These are the concerns of the people of Don Valley West. That is why they elected me. That is the voice that I bring to this place. That is what my party offers and that is what I pledge to work on.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member on his maiden speech and on addressing the House on a very important issue. It really is a matter of respect for Parliament and Canadians on how this political environment has evolved. The member mentioned it in his speech and may want to amplify a little about credibility and the responsibility of a government to provide peace, order and good government.

If he could please comment on that, it would be helpful.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The question has been asked, but I think we will leave the answer until the House has quieted down a little.

It being 4:10 p.m., pursuant to order made on Tuesday, November 25, 2008, I now invite the hon. Minister of Finance to make a statement.

Economic and Fiscal StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario


Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I wish to table the government's economic and fiscal statement 2008.

I am pleased today to present the government's economic and fiscal statement and to set out our key short-term and long-term objectives as we prepare for the next federal budget. I present this statement at a time of unprecedented deterioration in economic and financial systems around the world.

Without a doubt, here in Canada and around the world these are difficult times that require difficult choices.

It is important to recognize how quickly and radically things have changed. The cascading effect of the international credit crisis was sudden and devastating. The unexpected credit crunch in the summer of 2007 and the recession brought on by the plummeting American housing market have now affected the whole world.

Today the International Monetary Fund expects global growth to be the weakest since 1993. The speed at which the crisis has intensified and the damage it has brought to countries around the world have been extraordinary. All countries are struggling to cope with this crisis.

The Euro area is in recession for the first time since its creation in 1999. It has been joined by Japan. There are signs of a prolonged downturn in the United States with a sharp decline in U.S. consumer spending and almost 1.2 million jobs lost since the beginning of this year. There is a lengthy list of American institutions that have either collapsed or required a bailout or takeover, all in a matter of months: Citigroup, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, AIG, Wachovia. Financial rescue efforts are under way in the United States and similar ones are happening in countries throughout Europe.

The crisis has laid bare some serious flaws in many aspects of the international financial system: non-bank institutions that were not properly regulated and were relying on borrowed money; financial institutions lacking enough capital to withstand the financial market turmoil; and a dangerously short-sighted tendency to underestimate risk in good times. The mistakes of some are today being felt by all.

We have not been spared by the ensuing global economic downturn. No one in the world could have guessed how serious this economic crisis would be. The volatility of the global economy is unprecedented. It has affected Canada and has resulted in decreases in economic growth. The Canadian economy has not been tested like this for a generation.

Economic projections are now much lower than at the time of our last budget. Private sector forecasters expect real GDP growth of just 0.6% this year and 0.3% next year. The same private sector forecasters are now widely expecting a technical recession with negative growth in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.

No government at any level can guarantee the future. In fact, given so much uncertainty, no one could unconditionally guarantee the fiscal projections contained in today's statement.

We will be faced with tough choices as we prepare our next budget, in the face of the deteriorating international economy. Those choices must be part of a clear plan to protect our future.

Last week’s Speech from the Throne laid out a five-pronged plan to protect Canada’s economic security—a plan that will define the choices we make. Along with our international partners, we will reform global finance. Here at home, we will ensure sound budgeting. We will secure jobs for families and communities. We will expand investment and trade, and we will make government more effective.

We were fully aware that difficult times were ahead when I presented our economic statement last fall. We planned for it. We made choices to put Canada in a stronger economic position.

In fact, since 2006, we have reduced the federal debt by $37 billion. We have reduced taxes by almost $200 billion over 2007-08 and the following five years. We have reduced the tax rate on new business investment, leading to the lowest level in the G-7 by 2010. We have made historic investments in job-creating infrastructure. We have invested in science and technology, education and training.

Our government, from last year to next, will have doubled the level of federal funding for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure projects.

Canadians and Canadian businesses will pay nearly $31 billion less in taxes in the next fiscal year thanks to the tax reduction measures introduced since 2006. That is equivalent to nearly 2% of Canadian GDP. This is a substantial fiscal stimulus, stimulus with staying power.

Unlike other countries, Canada is providing tax relief that is sustainable and permanent, tax relief that is helping Canadian families every single day.

We took action when it was necessary. Our performance has shown that it was worthwhile. However, our actions did not isolate us completely from the rest of the world. Global conditions have deteriorated as 2008 has unfolded. We had to take further extraordinary steps in the financial sector to respond to a global credit crunch we did not spark yet which threatened to engulf us if we failed to act. Once again, we had a head start over other nations.

Our financial system is considered to be the world's soundest by the World Economic Forum.

The International Monetary Fund concluded Canada’s financial system is mature, sophisticated, well managed and able to withstand sizeable shocks. We have acted to keep it that way. We have protected its stability, so that Canadian businesses and families would continue to have access to credit. Businesses need credit to invest or to meet their payrolls. Families need it to take out mortgages and loans. These are basic and vital components of the Canadian economy.

We took steps to maintain the availability of longer term credit with the purchase of mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This innovative measure is allowing Canadian financial institutions to continue lending to consumers, homebuyers and businesses at an affordable cost.

Our government also created the Canadian Lenders Assurance Facility. The facility offers insurance on a temporary basis on wholesale terms borrowing by Canadian financial institutions. This backstop ensures that our financial institutions are not at a competitive disadvantage internationally.

We increased the borrowing authority of Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada. The combined boost of nearly $4 billion that we introduced will mean more lending choices for Canadian businesses.

We announced new rules for government guaranteed mortgages this summer to prevent a U.S. style housing bubble, rules that are in place today.

Our sensible Canadian approach is paying off. Our country will come out of this economic crisis in a strong position because we are going into it in a strong position.

Faced with threats from outside our borders, we answered with leadership from within. The result is a fiscal position that is the best of all G-7 countries.

The next fiscal year will be difficult but Canadians can be fully confident that we will overcome whatever hardships may lie ahead in 2009 and beyond.

Like governments, families face economic challenges beyond their control every day. When they face challenges like those, families must adjust their priorities. Just like governments, they must make tough choices—tough, but pragmatic. They make choices that give them flexibility to weather the storm.

Their choices are made with the future in mind. To protect the future they want, they make sacrifices today. Our government will take the same approach. We will protect the future by maintaining strong, fiscal and financial management.

We take no pleasure in saying that, despite our best efforts, this may not be enough to keep a small surplus on the books, but in situations like this it would be misguided to simply engineer a surplus just to be able to say we have one.

Today's statement lays out a plan that keeps our budget balanced for now. However, in the weeks ahead we will determine the extent to which we will inject additional stimulus to our economy, joining the efforts of our international partners.

Any additional actions to support the economy will have an impact on the bottom line numbers in our next budget. These actions or a further deterioration in global economic conditions could result in a deficit. We do not take the potential of a deficit lightly. The thought of a long term structural deficit would be even more serious, one that the government is unable to climb out of, even when the economy improves. The days and years and decades of those chronic deficits are behind us and no matter what 2009 brings, they must never return.

Our goal must be to ensure the strength of the economy—to protect jobs, to encourage investment, and to help business grow. We must do that while protecting the long-term fiscal position of the government, so that when the economy improves, we return quickly to balanced budgets. Today, our government is announcing a series of measures designed to strengthen Canada’s fiscal position in an uncertain time. These measures will enable us to plan on a balanced budget framework, while recognizing potential downside risks.

We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror. Canadians have a right to look to government as an example. We have a responsibility to show restraint and respect for their money. Canadians' tax dollars are precious. They must not be spent frivolously or without regard to where they came from.

Canadians pay taxes so governments can provide essential services. They trust the people they elect to serve society with that money, not serve themselves. The truth is that tax dollars have been supporting political parties for a long time. For example, we take advantage of reimbursements on our election spending. Canadians also receive a tax credit on their donations to political parties. This is a generous allotment of tax dollars to politicians. It ought to be sufficient for all of us but we ask for much more in the form of a $1.75 subsidy for every vote we receive in an election.

Canadians pay their own bills and for some Canadians that is getting harder to do. Political parties should pay their own bills, too, and not with excessive tax dollars. Even during the best of economic times, parties should count primarily on the financial support of their own members and their own donors.

Today our government is eliminating the $1.75 per vote taxpayer subsidy for politicians and their parties effective April 1, 2009. There will be no free ride for political parties. There never was. The freight was being paid by the taxpayers. This is the last stop on the route. There will be no free ride for anyone else in government either.

The same principle will apply to the rest of the federal administration. We are directing government ministers and deputy ministers from every single department and agency of the government to rein in their spending on travel, hospitality, conferences, exchanges and professional services. This includes polling, consultants and external legal services.

In the broader fiscal picture, we will expand the actions under the new expenditure management system we put in place in 2007. We will use this systemic approach to help keep spending growth on a sustainable track. Under this new system, the government has been reviewing all departmental spending. The government already examined department spending of $13.6 billion in 2007 and is examining $25 billion in program spending this year.

For the first time in nearly 15 years, the government is also expanding this business-like, multi-year review to include corporate assets, crown corporations, real property and other holdings. The review will take a careful approach on the sale of any asset considering market conditions and ensuring fair value can be realized for the benefit of taxpayers.

Our government expects to save over $15 billion over the next five fiscal years under the new expenditure management system. This system will be an invaluable tool to help us maintain balanced budgets, along with the other steps announced today.

As indicated in last week’s Speech from the Throne, the government is also introducing legislation to ensure predictability in federal public sector compensation. Our government values the contribution and hard work of our public servants. They must be fairly compensated for their work on behalf of Canadians. They must receive equitable compensation for the work they do on behalf of Canadians. We must bear in mind that their work is also paid for by Canadians.

We will introduce legislation to ensure that the pay for the public sector grows only in line with what taxpayers can afford as the economy slows. This legislation would put in place annual public service wage restraints of 2.3% for 2007-08 and 1.5% for each of the following three years. This restraint would also apply to members of Parliament, senators, cabinet ministers and senior public servants. The legislation would also temporarily suspend the right to strike through 2010-11.

Another issue we intend to address is the litigious, adversarial and complaints-based approach to pay equity. Since the mid-1980s, Canadian taxpayers have paid over $4 billion in pay equity settlements. These settlements were the result of pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. These complaints were filed after agreements on public sector wages had already been reached through collective bargaining.

New complaints continue to be filed, sometimes for the same groups that have already received past pay equity settlements. These represent large potential costs to taxpayers. This costly and litigious regime of double pay equity has been in place for too long. We are introducing legislation to make pay equity an integral part of collective bargaining.

We are also bringing certainty to the growth of equalization. We have put its growth on a sustainable path. A new, three-year moving average that puts growth in equalization in line with nominal GDP growth will bring fairness and stability to both the provinces and the federal government, while reflecting changes in the Canadian economy. We are ensuring that equalization will continue to grow, because it is a key federal program for providing support to provinces.

We are also protecting the Canada health transfer and the Canada social transfer. Provinces must be able to plan accurately, especially when it comes to some of the largest expenditure items in their budgets: health care and social services.

These transfer payments will continue their built-in growth of 6% for the Canada health transfer and 3% for the Canada social transfer. We will ensure that any new measures to support the economy are carefully chosen and targeted for maximum benefit. In preparing for the 2009 budget, we will ensure spending is as effective as possible and aligned with Canadian priorities.

Infrastructure is an example of such worthwhile spending. Investment in infrastructure creates jobs for today and for the future. It creates essential links between communities and regions. Next year's increase in infrastructure spending will be our largest and will push the total amount to over $6 billion in stimulus to the economy.

Our government is committed to expediting our historic, $33 billion Building Canada plan to get projects moving as quickly as possible, in particular for the upcoming construction season. We will work with provinces and territories to identify a limited number of key infrastructure projects across Canada by January 2009.

These investments will help keep Canada moving forward as the world economy slows.

Quickly deteriorating circumstances in the financial sectors in other countries have contributed to this slowdown. Here at home, we must have the flexibility to respond quickly and decisively and protect our financial system from global risks.

Our government is proposing that the Minister of Finance be granted additional flexibility to support financial institutions and the financial system in extraordinary circumstances. This is consistent with the additional powers we provided the Bank of Canada earlier this year. It is also in keeping with the action plans we agreed to with our international counterparts at the G-7 and G-20 meetings.

These proposed measures include authority for: funding in the unlikely event there is a draw on the Canadian Lenders Assurance Facility; Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation establishing a bridge bank to help preserve critical banking functions; an increase in the borrowing limit of CDIC to $15 billion to reflect the growth of insured deposits, the first increase since 1992; the power to direct CDIC to undertake key resolution measures to ensure financial stability, when necessary; and the legal ability to inject capital into a federally-regulated financial institution to support financial stability on terms that would protect taxpayers.

These are additional tools in our tool box. I hope we never have to use them. But the lessons of the past couple of months have shown us that we have to be ready to deal with every kind of risk, even the unlikeliest ones. With these measures, we will be ready. We are taking steps to help Canadian seniors. Our seniors built this country and deserve to live with dignity and respect. Many seniors are understandably concerned about the impact of the sharp decline in the markets on their retirement savings.

Registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs, and their associated withdrawal requirements are of particular concern. Last year our government raised the age limit for converting a registered retirement savings plan to a RRIF from 69 to 71.

I have heard from seniors about two issues they are dealing with today. The impression among some is that assets in RRIFs must be sold in order to meet withdrawal requirements and the recent steep drop in market value of some of those assets. There is no requirement under the tax rules to sell these assets to meet the RRIF minimum withdrawal requirements and seniors should not be left with the impression that there is. Assets may be kept intact so that they can grow in the future.

To help deal with this issue, last week I wrote to all federally-regulated financial institutions and asked them to ensure that in-kind distributions are accommodated at no cost to clients or that clients are offered another solution that achieves the same result.

These are exceptional circumstances and we are taking further action to allow RRIF holders to keep more of their savings in their RRIFs. To help seniors cope, today I am proposing a one-time change that will allow RRIF holders to reduce their required minimum withdrawal by 25% for this tax year.

For example, an individual otherwise required to withdraw $10,000 from his or her RRIF in 2008, the required withdrawal will be reduced to $7,500. If the individual has already withdrawn more than $7,500, he or she will be permitted to re-contribute the excess up to $2,500 and claim an offsetting deduction for the 2008 taxation year.

We are also addressing the immediate consequences this financial distress has dealt to Canadian workers who contribute to federally regulated pension plans. Based on what has happened so far, and under current rules, the decline in value of these plan assets would trigger substantial payments at the worst possible time for struggling companies.

The money these companies would need to use for pension top-ups could otherwise be used for further investment and growth.

The government is proposing to allow plans under federal jurisdiction to double the length of time required for solvency payments, from five to ten years. Companies that pursue this option must meet one of two conditions: the agreement of pension plan members and retirees by the end of 2009, or the securing of a letter of credit to cover the five year difference to protect pensioners.

Today's announcement will give these companies one more option they can use to cope with these extraordinary circumstances.

To deal with longer term pension concerns, we will soon be launching consultations on issues facing defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans with a view to making permanent changes next year.

Since pension plans are regulated either federally or provincially, our government will coordinate our efforts with our provincial and territorial counterparts to create a pension system able to withstand whatever future challenges come its way.

This subject will be high on the agenda when I meet with my provincial and territorial colleagues next month.

While helping Canadian workers save, we will also help the businesses that employ them, in particular, with their ability to borrow. We will increase the supply of credit available to export-oriented manufacturers, including the auto sector, as well as small and medium size businesses.

On top of a recent $2 billion increase to the borrowing authority of Export Development Canada, today I am announcing a $350 million equity injection that will support up to approximately $1.5 billion in increased credit for Canada's export business. The export sector has been hard hit by the financial crisis. EDC will now be able to add to the nearly $80 billion in exports and investment it helps make possible for Canadian enterprises, including $4 billion for the auto sector alone.

The government will also inject $350 million in equity in the Business Development Bank of Canada to assist small and medium size companies. This new injection will increase BDC's lending ability by about $1.5 billion and comes on top of a $1.8 billion borrowing increase announced earlier this year.

We will also move forward quickly on the securities regulation front. Our cumbersome and unwieldy system of 13 securities regulators is a glaring flaw in Canada's world leading approach to promoting financial stability. The government will soon receive the report of the expert panel on securities regulation. The report is expected to outline the best way forward to improve the content, structure and enforcement of securities regulation in Canada. We will act on it quickly. We invite all participants to join us in improving our regulatory system.

This government came to office looking years down the road. Our country is better off today thanks to exactly such an approach. Short-term problems will not distract us from continuing to focus on the horizon. At the same time, we are far from finished confronting unheard-of global economic and financial threats. There are warning signs ahead that we must heed if we are to remain a global role model in an uncertain time.

We will address our immediate external challenges the same way we will reach our longer term goals: by continuing to manage tax dollars wisely and by investing strictly in the essentials and focusing on what ultimately matters, the longer term prosperity of all Canadians.

These are not easy times but we must not forget that our country has been through plenty of hard times before and we will get through these ones the same way.

Our government will respond to the challenges of the upcoming year the same way we are seeing this year to a close, through the values Canadians themselves hold dear: prudence and restraint, combined with hard work and a focus on the future.

The greatest histories are always written in the toughest times. I believe that we are in the midst of writing some bold new chapters in our country's long success story: an unfolding account of new accomplishments by a country that is compelled to grapple with global hard times and that will emerge even stronger because of them.