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House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I want to remind the hon. member for Burlington that he ought to be addressing the Chair, rather than the other hon. members in this place.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Western Arctic.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to question my hon. colleague, someone with whom I have worked in the House before, someone who must understand that we are all elected here. We are all elected to Parliament. We have come to it with different allegiances. Here we have the opportunity to decide the fate of this Parliament. We are all parliamentarians.

My question for the hon. member is this: if his party was so insistent on holding power in a minority position, why was his party not making arrangements with the other parties to secure their support to allow the government to continue with its work? Why did his party let this happen the way it did?

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a tremendous respect for the member opposite who asked me the question. I have been on trips with him, and I have said to the member many times that the one thing about the New Democrats is that they at least have principles. At least they believe in something. We do not necessarily agree on things, but at least we have principles, and they stand.

What happened to those today? What happened to those principles over the weekend? They have gone away so that their leader, who will never have any influence in this place the way it is set up, gets six members of a coalition cabinet.

I am disappointed in a few things here today, of course, but I am disappointed most in the New Democrats. They have lost my respect in the sense that they had principles for which they stood. One knew what a New Democrat stood for. With Liberals, one can never tell, but one could with New Democrats. One knew they wanted to go in a direction different from what we think is right in terms of our perspective on economic leadership, but at least one knew. Today, one does not know, because they have made a coalition with the Liberals, supported by the Bloc. Who knows where they stand? It is very sad for this country.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments. We have served on committees together, and I have a great deal of respect for him today. However, he seems pretty excited about things, and I want to make sure I do not make him more excitable by asking this very simple question.

Will he acknowledge that the Prime Minister’s party received only 36% of the vote in Canada? I do not know what happened in Burlington. I congratulate the member, but 36% is not a majority. The Minister of Industry on the other side once won an election by 20- or 30-some votes. He was no less an MP than others who won by big landslides.

We do not carve up democracy by percentages. We follow a system. Is he repudiating the Westminster system? Does he think that the Minister of Industry, when elected that last time, was less a minister than any of the others who had big landslides? Was he less than the member for Wild Rose, who had every man, woman and animal in the riding voting for him? Is he less of a minister?

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my speech did not get the member from the opposite side excited.

The member is right. We got 37.6% of the vote. We have 143 seats in the House.

The election happened on October 14. I think they should remember that October 14 was three or four weeks ago. If they were really concerned that we were not the government for which the people had voted, why did they allow our throne speech to pass?

In the throne speech just last week, we laid out what we were going to do. The opposition passed it on division, allowing us to continue to govern. They had to give us a chance to do it, but they did not. Over the weekend, they decided to have a coalition. They worked out some backroom deals. They worked something out on a piece of napkin upstairs, toasted it in the parliamentary restaurant, and then announced it today.

It is unbelievable. It is undemocratic, and it is not Canadian.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the members opposite present their case today. Obviously the Christmas spirit, or at least the rush of Christmas, has hit the members opposite. They are already starting to plan their little shopping lists of all the things they are going to squeeze out of a coalition government. Whether it is necessarily right for Canada or Canadians, everybody is going to be in there taking a little piece of the pie.

We just watched a news story in which they were talking about how they are going to spend $30 billion on a stimulus package. Nobody has any idea how that will be done, but I am sure that if they listen to the comments made here today, they will find a reason to spend that $30 billion and perhaps another $30 billion.

I ask the member to comment on that intention, and on the fact that everybody else in Canada is being asked to tighten his or her belt and be responsible and accountable, while the members opposite are planning to spend $30 billion without a plan.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is why the prudent steady hand of a Conservative government is needed. You are going to have three different kingdoms on the other side trying to spend taxpayers' money under the idea that it is stimulus. It is not their money. Of course it is not their money; it is taxpayers' money. Well, we know what that is.

The New Democratic Party thinks that it knows best for everybody. We know that for sure. That is the way the New Democrats have talked in every election, and everything in this House has been all about that. That is how the New Democrats talk about things.

We do not know where the Liberals stand. Whether it is $30 billion or whatever it takes, they will spend it here or there. We know they do not have a plan.

What really irks me is that the wish list for the Bloc will be all about Quebec. It will have nothing to do with what is good for Canada, and it is--

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I would like to remind all members of this House that they ought to be addressing their remarks to the chair. I know there is a lot of excitement in the room today, but I would appreciate your keeping me an important part of this conversation.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor West.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. I know you had a campaign for Speaker and now you have been ably selected.

Although I have spoken in the House of Commons a number of times on different issues, it is the first time I have had a chance to give a speech. I will begin by thanking the residents of Windsor West for re-electing me. It is an honour and a privilege to serve in the House and I thank them for their confidence. I also want to thank the volunteers and the many people who gave up their time to ensure the campaign was successful.

I particularly want to thank my family, my wife, Terry, my daughter, Alexandria, and my son, Wade who I miss every day but I know that the work we do in the House of Commons can make a difference for their future.

One of the things I want to focus on in terms of my speech is the fiscal update. It was disconcerting, when the update came forward, to see the lack of action on a stimulus package and the lack of commitment for the government to do so.

In particular, the auto sector in my region has been struggling for a number of years and we have been seeking solutions for reinventing the industry in many respects. Over five years ago we put together a green car strategy with Greenpeace and the CAW to look at modernizing the auto industry, ensure we would protect jobs and that we would environmentally improve not only the emissions but also the way we design and make the vehicles.

It is important to note that there have been those who have described the current condition of the auto industry as one where we need to work toward a bailout. I would counter that with regard to history. History has shown that in the past when there has been support for restructuring, for example Chrysler, the United States was very assertive, as was Canada, in providing leadership. From that, if we look at a plant like mine inWindsor West where it produces the minivan, it has been doing that for 25 years now because of that commitment. What happened is that taxpayer money that went into providing credit at that time, a dividend was paid back to them. The taxpayers of Ontario and of the United States actually reaped millions of dollars as the company bought shares back.

That is important to note because it is not about providing a blank cheque, as those who have made innuendo that would see this diminished opportunity.

Canada is totally different from the United States. Last year in the United States they moved rapidly. They worked together on an energy bill that contained $25 billion for the auto industry in the United States to move it to new technologies, greener technologies. There also has been political support to say that they want to save their industry. It has been very overt there, whereas here we have been very passive and having to catch up.

If we compare that American $25 billion set aside for loans and other types of research and development and we look at the Conservative government's last budget, the Conservatives actually cut money from the auto industry. They had the ecoAUTO rebate program which was a terrible program. When it was put in place they actually subsidized vehicles made in Japan, Korea and other parts of the world. Our taxpayer dollars went out to those other production facilities as purchasing of those models.

Instead of reinvesting that money, the government decided to cut that outright. What it kept was the tax on the auto industry which it rolled into a $50 million a year fund, for $250 million over five years.

We can see the big difference of what was happening in United States versus what was happening here in Canada.

Likewise, we know that when the U.S. automakers went to Washington it was a debacle. They should have, and rightly so, gone to the table with a proper plan but they did not have that and were reprimanded for that. However, there was a clear signal there that they would be drawn back because the workers' interests were more important.

It is not the fault of auto workers in this country because the management did not move quicker to greener technologies, nor is it their fault about the liquidity problem the United States has been facing.

During the election, the Prime Minister explicitly said that we did not have the same problems here and that we did not have the same housing issues. In fact, we saw housing properties drop in my riding during that time, so he was wrong again. What the Conservatives failed to tell Canadians is that 85% of our auto sales go to the United States. When the United States has a crisis there needs to be action here when we have that type of connection to its market and its economy. The consequences are obvious as we have seen the market dry up.

What did the government do? It provided billions of dollars in support to the Canadian banking industry but did nothing for our automotive sector. It is interesting to note that the interest savings that should have been passed on were never passed on.

Let me give an example of where we could have seen some better muscling in of the industry. A good example is with respect to interest rates. We did nothing with conditions of interest rates.

Let me talk about my bank. I am offended with TD Canada Trust right now and if it were not for the good service provided by the people in the bank I would leave that banking institution. It provides car loans at 4% above prime. It will make more money on a car as it is financed through the system. Some credit unions have car loans at prime or prime plus 1%. This rate lessens the cost for the consumer and also ensures that a bank's profits are not a priority. The priority should be the workers and the companies so they can be profitable.

There has been no discussion about some of the facts regarding investment in this industry as it affects the Canadian economy. I want to highlight a couple of important things, especially when it comes to innovation.

The industry has invested more than $35 billion in Canada over the past decade which accounts for more than 17% of overall manufacturing investment. We did a study in the industry committee and one of the things that was obvious was that the oil and gas sector, which seems to get the lion's share of attention and support from the government, put less than 1% of its money back into research and development in Canada. The money is basically sucked out of this area and it does not come back to us.

R and D in Canada is already low compared to other industrial states. Canada is around 8% but it should be higher. However, when we look at the oil and gas sector, it is abysmal and yet it continues to get the support of the government. This is the time when we should be reinvesting in those sectors that have had some trouble, not always through the fault of their own and not through the fault of the worker, and that is important to note.

The Minister of Industry, along with others, have made several comments about auto workers. In trying to negotiate with the CAW, the industry minister was basically trying to negotiate through the media instead of sitting down and meeting with the CAW and its leadership. They waited for a number of days for a response to their letter but the minister never responded. He instead went public demanding that the CAW to do its part.

I want to correct the record so that people know that the CAW has been doing its part and is willing to do its part. It has shown a lot of progressive work that has landed this investment here.

We do know that auto wages are 50% higher than the Canadian average but they have nothing to apologize for. Productivity is even higher. It is a $300,000 value in productivity added per worker, which is four times the Canadian average. The workers know they need to be productive onsite. They have actually lowered their per vehicle hour assembly rate so it is even lower than some of the offshore auto market suppliers, such as Toyota and others. Our workers have been able to reduce their auto assembly hours, whereas Toyota's hours and costs have gone up.

Real wages in the auto sector are falling. Labour costs are approximately 7% of the total auto assembly cost, which is actually low. Wages are higher in Germany and Japan. It is not that auto workers here are in a different situation. It is simply that auto workers in Germany and Japan get paid more.

It is important to recognize that the big three auto companies and their unions have already come to the table with $900 million worth of savings through restructuring and by changing their agreements. They are doing their part today for the economy. What is missing is the fact that the federal government has not done its part. There is no national auto strategy and no sectoral strategy. There is only a corporate tax cut that does not help the auto sector because it is not making money right now.

On top of that, the government is phasing out the capital cost reduction allowance. It is going to reintroduce a tax on the auto industry, and that is unacceptable. We have men and women who are the best in the world and, through no fault of their own, they are unemployed. It is time for a national auto strategy and the time is now.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems to envision some form of large scale intervention for the auto industry in particular.

I wonder if the hon. member might enlighten the House as to which tax he would intend to see increased or the extent to which deficits would have to be encountered. He did not say a number but I envision something in the range of $30 billion or $40 billion, or maybe back to the NDPs election platform, of somewhere in the $50 billion mark. I wonder if he might enlighten the House on what way he would go forward to raise that kind of massive injection.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. His office is on my floor so I know he works late, and I respect his work in the House of Commons.

When we look back in history, it has not cost taxpayers when they have reinvented the industry and worked on it. That is why I went through very specifically the situation with the Chrysler minivan that has now been produced for 25-plus years in my city. It is one of the biggest exports the country has. It is clear we have to ensure those conditions.

We are talking about loans. We are being very specific that we want it tied to research and development and a new green economy. It is important to discuss regaining some of our market share out there.

In terms of a plan, those are the elements to which we have to look forward. In terms of dollars, it would be a loans program because that would be the most appropriate.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome back my colleague. I have a couple of questions too. He speaks about the banks and how government should moderate them. It would be of interest to the member that the financing companies of the car businesses got out of that because they could not afford it any more. If the hon. member thinks he can move in and regulate banks, I wish him good luck with that.

A lot of the speculation going on outside now is the money that is going to be spent by the new coalition government, which is around $30 billion. I know the NDP has a philosophy about corporate tax cuts. Its members do not agree with them. A $50 billion package was put on the table in the last budget approved by the House. The Liberals want the corporate tax cuts to stay.

How can the member go back to his communities and fight for the car industry, knowing that the current government has given a $50 billion stimulus package from which the automotive industry has benefited as well as the manufacturers of parts and subsidiaries of automotive companies? Where does the member find the balance in the sense that $30 billion more will be spent by his new government—

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Windsor West.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke to the issue with regard to banks. It provides me some additional opportunity to interject some facts that are important for the discussion, especially given the fact the member has admitted again, like his party, that there is no role for regulation with the banks, which is absurd. This is part of the responsibility of the Government of Canada.

The Conservatives talk about distancing themselves further when the banks have received over $100 billion of support from provisions of the federal government.

Specifically, we have federal government CMHC purchases, pooled together mortgages from the banks, $75 billion; a bank account that offers short-term credit through PRA to banks, $50 billion-plus; the Bank of Canada offers short-term credit through PRA to private money markets, $5 billion; the Bank of Canada established a new term loan facility to assist banks and others, $8 billion; and the Bank of Canada releases treasury bills to investment dealers, $10 billion. Also the federal government agrees to guarantee loans to private banks and the Bank of Canada accepts asset-backed commercial paper as collateral. What do we get from that? Not a single thing.

The banks instead have said that they will raise credit card fees on his constituents and he does not care. That is unacceptable.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this discussion on the country's economic situation and to do so on a day of historical importance, a day when Canadians have seen unprecedented collaboration among parliamentarians and a new degree of co-operation that bodes well for the future. In fact, it gives people great confidence and hope.

It is just minutes after a formal declaration was made by the three opposition parties in this House. The Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc have come together to indicate their will to form a government and to support a government and create a Parliament that in fact addresses the real needs of Canadians, not a government that ignores Canadians at their time of greatest need, at a moment in the history of this country when government and Parliament have an obligation like never before to be there for the people of this country.

I do not need to tell members that we are in one of the most serious economic crises this country has ever faced. We have not seen the end of it and already people are worried about their jobs, their homes, their savings and their pensions. People are worried about how they are going to support their families, how they are going to make ends meet. People are wondering how they will deal with the ravages of an economy that is out of control, where people are being left in the cold without hope of security in the future.

That is how important this is today. That is why we are here in this House today on an unprecedented basis working together as New Democrats, as Bloc Québécois and as Liberals, saying to the government that we no longer have confidence in it, that we do not believe the government is able to address the concerns of Canadians.

In fact we all thought that the Conservatives had heard Canadians during the last election. We thought they recognized that the Conservative Party only received 37% of the votes and that the Conservatives needed to cooperate in this place. Instead they chose to ignore the ravages of the economy. They chose to ignore the needs of Canadians. They chose to proceed with an economic statement that has no stimulus, that has no protection for people, that has no understanding of the real needs of ordinary people in this country.

In fact, as my colleagues raised in the House today, we saw on one particular issue regarding equality for women, pay equity, the government chose to use its economic statement to pursue a pet project of its own, to kill pay equity in this country.

It is not just what is in the economic statement. It is the fact that at the recent Conservative convention in Winnipeg, which I and some members from the Bloc witnessed, Conservative Party members, sponsored by the caucus of the Conservative Party here in Parliament, put forward a motion to change the definition of pay equity from equal pay for work of equal value to take it back to 30 years ago and define it as equal pay for equal work. That is not pay equity. We have to understand what is in this economic statement. That is not equality for women.

We are standing here united in the belief that this is the precise moment when we have to ensure equality for everyone in our society, for women, for people living with disabilities, for our first nations. This is a time when we need to be working with Canadians so that they can help themselves to ensure a decent future for themselves and their families.

Let me say in the little time that I have left that we had the belief that the government understood some of that and was going to come to this House with an economic statement that addressed those very issues. Instead, as some of the commentators have said, they woke up to a disturbing reality, an affront to reason and public policy, that public reason had been discarded and the economic challenge had been ignored.

Whether we are talking about economists in the business sector, economists in the labour movement or grassroots organizations, every one has come to the conclusion that the government did not address the economic situation of the day. It ignored the realities of Canadians and in fact chose instead to attack those very people and organizations in our society with whom we must work to build a stronger society.

Economic and Fiscal StatementGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When the House resumes, the hon. member will have five minutes remaining in her time.

It being 6:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)