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House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are facts and there are falsehoods and we have just heard the latter.

The income tax rate was 15.5% last year and we lowered it to 15%. The previous government had gotten a little ahead of itself. It changed it in the booklet but it did not change it in the act. It never went through the House.

We had a government at the time that was above the law and above Parliament. That is the way the Liberals treated this place for the 13 years they were here and that is the way they would treat it again if they were to come back.

I will repeat what I said before. We are on the best fiscal footing of the major western industrialized countries. In fact, we are the only member of the G-7 with both an ongoing budget surplus and a falling debt burden.

We have improved things for fishermen and for farmers. We have cut capital tax, corporate tax and personal income tax. We have supported families. Things are better in rural Canada than they have ever been under this party.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I missed the first part of the comments by the member from South Shore but I listened to what he asserted to be the facts. I am glad he wants to deal with the facts.

It is a fact, and the member knows it is a fact, that of the 18 different groups that appeared in Nova Scotia to make a presentation to the finance committee, 15 of them, one way or another, indicated clearly and strongly how opposed they were to the priorities of the government as reflected in the 2007 economic statement and, as they fear, will be reflected in the upcoming budget.

First, I want to ask the member if he is prepared to acknowledge that that indeed is a fact.

Second, in his propaganda reading of the PMO line on this, is it not also a fact that he ignored the pleadings of people on behalf of the anti-poverty movement--

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will have to cut off the hon. member there to allow the hon. parliamentary secretary time to respond.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly happy to at least attempt to answer that question but I am sure I will be interrupted by the opposition parties.

The reality is that the economic fundamentals of Canada are the best they have ever been.

Let us be realistic about this. We do not know what the future will hold. We do need to be prudent and cautious in the upcoming budget. We do need to take a look south of the border at what the American economy will do. And, we did listen to the presenters who came before us for prebudget consultations.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege to join the prebudget debate today and, I understand, for the next few days.

I commend my colleague, the parliamentary secretary and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, with whom I share space over in the Justice Building, for his comments. I must say that he has been a great mentor to me. He is a veteran here in the House and for a new member of Parliament it has been good to have a guy like him show us the ropes.

The topic in front of us today is something that we have been able to reflect on as we look back over the last few months to see the kind of pressures that have come to bear here in Canada and to reflect on the kind of response that we have made in ensuring that Canada's economic fundamentals will allow it to withstand the kind of pressures that we have seen, for example, from the slowdown that seems apparent in the United States.

I must say that Canada, looking back over the last decade, has not been immune to these outside economic pressures. We witnessed the drying up of the equity market that occurred in the Asian markets not too long ago, the tech bubble, BSE and SARS, various geopolitical events that happened in the world that cause our economy some ill. There is no doubt that in the future the one thing we know for sure is that this will not be the last. There will continue to be events that arise in the world economy. We know that year after year our economy continues to be ever more connected with what happens in the world. We see that in trade. We see that our dependence on a strong economy relies on good trade relationships with other parts of the world. We can all be sure that will be increasingly important. What that also brings is the greater likelihood that world events will impact our economy.

How do we prepare for that? The measures that this government has taken in the last year have been exactly spot on in what we need to do. Almost every economist will say that the best way to manage and backstop against those kind of pressures is to concentrate on fundamentals, concentrate on getting our fiscal house in order, ensuring that we are making the right investments, that we are not overtaxing Canadians and that we are reducing our debt. I would maintain that is exactly what this government has been doing the last two years, which is what has given rise to the kinds of things that my hon. colleague talked about.

We have reduced debt by some $37 billion since we took office. We have seen taxes go down. Taxes for all Canadians and businesses right across the country have been reduced by some $190 billion that has been lightened up from our economy.

What do we see happening from that? We see unemployment being at its lowest level in some 30 years.

Those are all the result of sticking to the basics.

The opposition wants to talk about programs. I will take, for example, the community development trust. This was a good program that was devised, in particular, for one industry towns where the workers were in transition and needed help and to help those towns build stronger new economies.

What do we hear? We hear that it is not enough. The opposition members would have us spend and spend. They would take us into deficit. They do not seem to talk. Let me correct that. They do think the GST should go back up to 7%. We have heard that from them as well. The GST is putting some $12 billion back in the pockets of Canadians because of those two measures, a promise we kept from the 2006 election. They would put that GST back up to 7%.

I would need to defer to some of the commentary the Liberals would bring on this question. It would be up to them to tell Canadians how they would disburse these new taxes that they would apply back to Canadians, but they have a tax and spend approach, which t is exactly what failed Canada in the past.

Our approach is to liberate the economy and that is what we are doing. We are making investments in the right areas and to have fiscal balance. We are trying to ensure that the provinces and territories are working on an even footing, that they have the kinds of resources they need to spend in their jurisdictions that is fair, predictable and consistent, the kind of proper balance needed between the two levels of government to ensure we are serving Canadians well.

We invest in the right areas but at the end of the day we ensure that the kind of economic decisions we make enable Canada's economy. What has come as a result of that? My hon. friend from South Shore—St. Margaret's has explained that in some detail.

I have had the opportunity over the last six months to participate in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. It has been a very enlightening experience listening to the testimony in committee on the topic that we are discussing on the service sector of Canada's industries. Some 75% of our economy is in the service sector, a critical sector for our economy.

The committee had several meetings on the whole issue of how the strengthening of the Canadian dollar has impacted us here in Canada. What the witnesses said supports exactly the kind of logic that we have applied, not just in our economic statement this past fall, not just in budget 2007, but going right back to when we campaigned back in 2005-06 to bring a new and better approach for Canada, and it is paying off.

This is not the time to start delving into robust, strong interventionist policies, the kind of heavy spending, heavy intervention by governments that, to be honest, got us in trouble back in the 1970s and 1980s. It was those kinds of approaches, these knee-jerk reactions to try to jump in and use public dollars to create imbalances in our economy that caused the ebb and flow to issues around inflation and interest rates.

Many members will remember that that was a very chaotic time for our economy. We have learned from that and we are doing a better job of it. This government will continue that approach. No one ever wants to see job losses in the country, but the fact is that when times come upon us where we need to re-tool, adjust and equip ourselves for the newer economy, adjustments will take place.

What we heard from witnesses who appeared before the committee is that while we may have lost some jobs in one part of the sector of the economy, we are actually gaining even more in other sectors. We may have lost 100,000 or so jobs in some sectors of the economy, in this case in manufacturing, but we have actually gained 400,000 jobs in another sector. The net gain has been positive.

Some think, in the service sector in particular, that all jobs are low paying. That has not been the experience. Every sector has its highs and lows in terms of quality employment, the kinds of jobs that can give people the livelihoods they need to raise their families, move ahead and be tremendous contributors to Canadian society. That is what we all want and that is what we are all looking for.

The fact is that times are changing and Canada needs to adjust with it. The very best way we can do that is to ensure we concentrate on giving the economy all the tools it needs to have effective job opportunities, the right kinds of investments and the kind of dynamic, competitive environment that will attract investment, and that is happening. We are seeing companies coming to Canada doing a fantastic job.

Other members have suggested that there is some kind of demise of our manufacturing sector. I have to say that our manufacturing sector is the most resilient and the strongest part of our economy that I have seen.

In Midland, Ontario in my riding, there is a sector that is 35% overrepresented on the provincial average of manufacturing jobs. Yes, they are going through some paces and they are having to make some adjustments, but they are in business and they are performing well. In other sectors of manufacturing in Canada, bigger investment is coming.

I will end with that. I invite comments from my colleagues.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are two things I want to comment on.

My colleague opposite speaks of the GST. I would say to him that he is reinventing a reality when he says that members on this side of the House have any intention of raising the GST. I do want to ask him why, when he cites economists, he does not cite those economists who said that the GST was the worst possible tax cut the government could employ, that in fact it should have been looking at income taxes?

When he speaks about government spending, I particularly want him to comment on the fact that with the Liberal government, from 1992-93 to 2005-06, program spending was 2.3% and Liberal government spending, after balancing the budget from 1997 to 2005-06, was 5.5%. With the Conservative government from 2005-07 it was 6.4% and the direct federal spending by the Conservative government was 8.6%. That is higher than any previous Liberal government since 1992.

How does he reconcile his remarks with these figures?

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, on the GST, the GST was in fact reduced to 6% last year and to 5%, which is where it is right now. We welcomed members opposite to support us in that decision, but if I recall, they voted against that. They were against reducing the GST. I assume from that they would have preferred to keep it where it was. That is the root of my comments.

On the other question, this government in the last two years has reduced debt by $37 billion. The debt is now down to $457 billion, the lowest it has been in some 25 years. At the same time, we have liberated the taxes on Canadians by some $190 billion. We have done that and we have continued to make sure that investments are in the right place.

Yes, we are investing in things like supporting our men and women in the armed forces. These are important priorities, the kinds of things that we promised we would do also.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2008 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill: Bill C-41, An Act respecting payments to a trust established to provide provinces and territories with funding for community development.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, with respect to my colleague's comments, we are very concerned around the change in the corporate tax rates in this country. The change in the rates will affect primarily businesses and corporations that have profits. One of the clear winners is the banks. The banks and the financial institutions have about 35% of pre-tax profit in this country. If we calculate those figures, what this means to the banks is about $4 billion a year by 2012 in the banks' pockets.

How does this fit with building our economy? How does this make our economy work better?

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

The short answer to the question, Mr. Speaker, is we are on track to get the corporate taxes down to 15% and we advanced the small business tax to 11% even one year quicker than we originally intended to. This puts us at the lowest corporate tax rates of all of the G-7 and the right kind of taxes to attract a competitive and dynamic environment where businesses will want to invest in Canada and create jobs.

Finally, with regard to the banks, I do not want to be an apologist at all for the banking community, but one must remember that many Canadians have investments, stocks and mutual funds invested in these kinds of corporations. Those are investments and profits that actually help their own retirement incomes as well.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak during this prebudget debate. In the coming weeks we are expecting to see a budget from the government, a government that so far has let down Canadians across the country and has particularly let down the people of Manitoba and of Winnipeg.

Two years ago the government inherited a sound fiscal record left by the previous Liberal government, a government that worked for nearly 13 years to bring our country out of deficit, a deficit, I might add, that we inherited from the former Conservative government, a pattern not uncommon to Conservative governments.

It was a Liberal government that produced eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canada had the best fiscal record of all the G-7 economies when the Liberals left office.

Times were good when the government took office and now our fervent wish and top priority is that the Conservative government now stay out of deficit. As hard times are upon us, the fiscal cupboard is almost empty. We have seen a government that cares more about posturing and power, a government that politicizes the affairs of the country, a government that often misspeaks.

The government has introduced two budgets and an economic statement. We saw a spending spree when times were good, and I would say, irresponsible tax cuts aimed to attract the voter rather than sound fiscal management.

It also managed to cut in areas that would make us more productive, such as research and innovation, or in areas that were in desperate need, such as literacy and poverty.

I want to touch on a number of issues that are of concern to the people of Manitoba and those issues that aboriginal Canadians face today that must be addressed by the government in its upcoming budget. We see a trend from the government and its fiscal record, a trend that entails mismanagement, hypocrisy, vindictiveness, and as I said before, much misspeak. There is misspeak on lowering income taxes while in fact increasing them, misspeak on program formats while in fact the government cut funds and narrowed the criteria.

When the government decided to break its promise on income trusts, it destroyed $25 billion of Canadians' hard-earned savings. This was a direct hit to the pockets of every Canadian. The income trusts policy, I would say, was based on a false premise. The Conservatives have not been able to prove the notion that income trusts give rise to substantial tax leakage and tax unfairness. It is completely false. It has been discredited by many experts.

What there has not been enough public discussion on, and my colleague raised it earlier in question period, is how indeed this income trusts debacle is affecting both the CPP and other public and private pension programs. That is something that requires further study.

I also want to note that while holidaying far away, I was stopped on the street by a resident of my constituency, whom I do not know, who complained about income trusts and the horrendous impact it had on his family's finances.

It is also troubling to hear the Prime Minister and his finance minister say that the federal government has no role to play in urban communities. We know that last November the Federation of Canadian Municipalities came out with a report entitled, “Danger Ahead: The Coming Collapse of Canada's Municipal Infrastructure”. The report outlines a, what is said to be underestimated, $123 billion infrastructure deficit that Canadian municipalities now face. The report called for a national plan to eliminate this deficit and prepare the groundwork for effective management of our infrastructure.

The shell game the government is playing with infrastructure money is really an insult to Canadians. The reality is that Liberal programs are the backbone of that funding. The reality is that of the new money the government says it is putting forward, four programs are not accessible to municipalities.

The real Conservative building Canada fund is $8.8 million, and even that is suspect, and now may be as little as $1.3 billion over seven years. That is disgraceful and duplicitous.

In Manitoba we are anxious to know that funding for the floodway will come out of the old Liberal national strategic infrastructure program, not out of provincial allocations. Bridges, roads and water are very important to Manitobans.

The environment is a priority for everyone. We have an obligation to address this issue now and for the future.

Unfortunately, we are seeing no leadership from the members opposite. The Prime Minister was quoted in the Toronto Star in June 2004 as saying, “Carbon dioxide does not cause or contribute to smog, and the Kyoto treaty would do nothing to reduce or prevent smog”. Perhaps that is another misspeak.

The government claims it has taken action on the environment, but again it is empty rhetoric and an empty plan. We have a plan. I am not going to go into any details, but we know that the carbon budget would make a difference.

The government has restricted access to the home energy retrofit program for those who need it most. There is less money in the program, narrower criteria, and those who are poor cannot access it.

We hear it over and over again from every pulpit and every podium that children are our future. Well, the government must show it and invest in children and invest in post-secondary education.

The official opposition is committed to working with the provinces to bring forth an effective, high quality child care early learning program for families, something each and every child has a right to. We have not seen the promised 125,000 spaces. We have not seen the 32,000 spaces the minister says he has created.

In my riding of Winnipeg South Centre day cares have waiting lists of 300 children. Parents are forced to leave their employment. Many are not achieving their goals of further education because they do not have the necessary supports for their children.

On September 27, the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press read, “Tories say they made child care boo-boo”. It was a big boo-boo and Canadians are paying for it.

I recently visited the aboriginal head start program in Winnipeg where the evaluations are showing they are changing the realities and opportunities for academic success for children and their families who participate in the program. I urge the government to look at this seriously.

In terms of post-secondary education, money must be available to students and universities for the direct and indirect costs of research. The government must go further than it did in budget 2007. Yes, there was money for 4,000 graduate students, and I appreciate that, and I am sure they appreciate that as well, but what about the undergraduate students? What about the students struggling to make ends meet? What about those young Canadians who cannot even access post-secondary education?

The millennium scholarship fund must be renewed. Countless Manitoba students have had their debt load reduced through this program and it has enabled them to go on to further education.

I cannot stand here and not talk about aboriginal Canadians. Members opposite treated the Kelowna accord, which dealt with the issues of poverty, education, housing, health, governance on reserve and off, with what I would call disgusting disrespect for this initiative. For 18 months it was a consultative process and all parties came up with a solution. It is a priority if we are going to close the gap.

We have seen how the Conservative government operates: income trusts; investment tax deductibility; squandering of fiscal prudence; raised income taxes for the poorest versus a regressive GST cut that benefits the rich; a relief package for workers that does too little, too late; mounting job losses; a rising dollar; a struggling U.S. economy; and a number of our own key sectors in trouble.

Even the current finance minister has not excused himself with tremendous credibility on the financial management front. I speak not just of squandered fiscal prudence and income trust debacles, but the simple management of his own office and the disregard for his own government's guidelines.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know how hard the hon. member has worked on a variety of issues, whether we talk about child care or women's issues. I have attended many meetings with the hon. member and know of her intense interest in the issues surrounding the aboriginal community.

It has been two years since the Kelowna accord was taken apart and destroyed. Has there been any progress at all in dealing with the aboriginal files?

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of ACOA on a point of order. I think I may know what he is grieving.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

I think you may, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member is an experienced politician in the House. She should be well aware that when we ask questions or present points in the House, we are supposed to be in our own seats.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member raising that point. I was just double checking. I will allow the hon. member for Malpeque to ask a question, while the hon. member for York West finds her normal seat.

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg South Centre made a lot of good points, but I know she did not have time in her remarks to make them all.

My question for her relates to the Canadian Wheat Board, which I know is centred in her city. The Wheat Board and others have done an analysis that the moves by the government will take about $800 million net out of the collective economy of farmers. It was admitted by an official of the Department of Agriculture, before the federal court on an appeal, that the Government of Canada, in terms of its Wheat Board change, had not done any economic analysis, either pro or con, on its moves.

Does the member really believe it is a responsible government when it does not do any economic analysis and, in the whole process, puts at risk jobs in her city and certainly goes against the democratic desires of farmers in the west?

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. I did not have time in my remarks to speak to the issue of the Wheat Board, which is of grave concern for Manitobans. It is of grave concern to those farmers who have been railroaded and not respected in their choice and their will on the Canadian Wheat Board.

However, a study has been done. The impact on the city of Winnipeg is profound. What is also profound is the deafening silence from members opposite, not speaking up for the impact on the city of Winnipeg and the farmers. What is the point of electing them if they cannot speak up on behalf of their constituents?

My colleague is right. Thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be lost. Many producers will be affected. It will have a profound impact on Portage and Main. Head companies will leave Manitoba. There is no speaking up on that side—

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Yellowhead.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the hon. member across the way go through her discussion and her speech with regard to the prebudget consultation, I was struck by a couple of things.

First, I will ask a short question. Does the hon. member understand the agricultural community very well? Sectors in the agricultural community have never seen better times than we have had in the last couple of years. The future looks even better than we have ever seen in the oil and grain sectors. The hog and beef sectors are the only ones going through a difficult time and the present time.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

They count too.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

They do count.

We went across Canada and listened to every Canadian we could find and asked for their input on the prebudget consultation. We never heard one word from anyone on the Kelowna accord. Yet we see it as an addendum to the supplementary comments by the Liberal Party.

Where did the Liberals get their testimony to put that into a report when we had absolutely no testimony presented before us—

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre has a very short time to respond.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate what I called in my remarks, a disgusting disrespect for the Kelowna accord.

The Kelowna accord was an eighteen month consultation process made up of the leaders of the aboriginal community from coast to coast to coast and the leadership of the provinces and the federal government. Their concerns dealt with education, health care, housing and governance. It is of profound importance for—

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kings—Hants.