House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the following. In Donnacona, I had the opportunity to attend a demonstration held by employees who were worried their plant would shut down. That plant is now closed. In Shawinigan, I also met with workers where 530 jobs had been lost.

Because of these job losses and beyond just the numbers, we are seeing families, women, children and communities that are falling apart. I see it in my riding, in Trois-Rivières. The paper mills are also experiencing difficulties. I would like to ask my colleague whether the Conservative members from Quebec are insensitive, or whether they are not acting because the caucus is dominated by western Canada and by right-wing values that we do not share?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague raises an important point. In my opinion, this is merely a question of right-wing ideology. For anyone who belongs to that party or subscribes to that ideology, there is no point in having good intentions. We saw the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean who had promised to save everyone in the forestry industry, but voted to force them into poverty. He voted against both motions we presented last fall to introduce a program and revitalize the forestry industry.

The other Conservative members from Quebec also voted against those motions. Yet they are all grappling with the problems described by my colleague. It is not unique to her area, where the workers are being equally hard hit by plant closures. My hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, whom I referred to earlier, must also deal with the closure of the Jeffrey mine, which will mean laying off another 200 workers or more in July.

We could go from one riding to the next, including ridings such as Louis-Hébert and Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, for instance. It is shameful. In that riding, people can no longer even go see their MP. He ran off. People call me and want me to go meet with them, which I did last year. I am going to return there. Their MP is running away from them. He is hiding because he cannot defend the positions that he votes for here. It is completely shameful and does not represent the will of his constituents.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague for his eloquence and, more importantly, for the passion and heart he has put into this issue, which is obviously a much more emotional one than some others.

He mentioned our visit to Mégantic—L'Érable to meet with workers from the areas of Plessisville and l'Érable. He described what happened at that meeting requested by these men and women, particularly the women who used to work in the textile industry, because the member for Mégantic—L'Érable was refusing to meet with them a second time. In a previous meeting, he tried to explain his government's position but, beyond that, he wanted nothing more to do with these women. That was it; they had become unimportant, useless to borrow a word he uses all the time. It is totally unacceptable for a duly elected MP to behave like that.

In my constituency office, I deal with the concerns of people from that member's riding, who is part of the cabinet in a way, in his capacity as secretary of state. He is a pseudo-minister. That is pretty outrageous. I would like my colleague to tell us what makes the representations and demands of these people useless, to use the word of the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, whenever these people came to us, we did our best to represent them here and to try to change things for the better. Perhaps I can talk about this some other time.

The question is a very relevant one. To say that these situations are useless and insignificant is to refuse to assume one's responsibilities, when in fact our primary responsibility as MPs is to ensure that there are measures to support these people, particularly the most vulnerable ones, when they are faced with a problem.

We talked about the plight of older workers, but the same goes for older people who qualify for the guaranteed income supplement. They were deprived of $3.3 billion. This budget still does not even recognize that the government owes that money to these people. The government still owes guaranteed income supplement benefits to 43,000 Quebeckers. The government is depriving them of that money. That is truly scandalous. It is the same thing with the misappropriation of the employment insurance fund. We are talking about $54 billion. That money belongs to the unemployed.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Pontiac Québec


Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my speaking time with my colleague, the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.

At lunchtime today, I had the privilege of addressing the Outaouais chamber of commerce to outline the government's budget plan and principles. As we know, most businesspeople experience the daily reality not only of the constraints and obligations imposed by corporate budgets but also the possibilities created by such budgets.

Of course, the Canadian government's budget is much more complex than that of the companies and institutions whose representatives I met at this luncheon today. Nevertheless, the budget unveiled by the Minister of Finance last week and the budgets that our businesspeople and family heads may be preparing have something fundamental in common: when the goal is fuzzy, the means to achieve this goal cannot be efficient. In other words, both in the House of Commons and in the chamber of commerce, a clear vision and a specific plan are required. Above all, courage and determination to follow through are necessary, even when the times are hard, and especially when they are.

From the three budgets we have brought down since we took office, it is clear that our government is following a specific course based on sound principles.

The first principle is the following: Canadians are overtaxed, and Canada's debt load is too high. From its inception, the Conservative Party has voiced that conviction. Now that we are in government, we are taking decisive action to reduce the tax burden of all Canadians and pay down the national debt.

The steps our government has taken to date will produce $200 billion in tax relief this year and over the next five years, $140 billion of which will be for individuals. Never in the past 50 years has this country seen a lower tax rate.

In addition, taxes will continue to decline, thanks to our tax-back guarantee. So, as we pay down the federal debt, interest savings are being returned to Canadians in tax relief. Because are reducing the federal debt by more than $37 billion, including $10.2 billion this fiscal year, personal income tax reductions provided under the tax-back guarantee will amount to $2 billion.

We have reduced consumption taxes, income tax, corporate taxes, excise taxes and even taxes on savings through our new tax-free savings account.

The tax-free savings account is the single most important personal savings vehicle since the introduction of the RRSP in 1957. It is the first account of its kind in Canadian history. It is a flexible, registered, general purpose account that will allow Canadians to watch their savings grow tax-free.

These measures will result in a rather significant improvement of the financial situation of all Canadians. And we are not stopping there. Over the coming years, our government will continue to reduce taxes and to repay the debt.

Our government also believes that we, as individuals, businesses and public administration, must live within our means. That is why we are currently conducting a thorough review of the expenditures of every federal department. That program review is also designed to improve the services provided to the public, and to ensure that these services reflect the priorities of Canadians.

We have reformed the employment insurance program so that it will adequately fulfill the role for which it was created. From now on, any surplus will be used to reduce EI premiums, and not to help out the government.

Here is another Conservative principle: initiative and effort are the best instruments to ensure the economic progress of society, and the financial security of individuals and families. Without private businesses and individual responsibilities, we simply cannot support a strong and sustainable economy. The government wants to ensure that Canada is a country of choice to launch a business and to make it grow.

Reducing our overall tax burden at the federal level is providing a terrific shot of adrenalin for the national economy. Actions taken by the government since 2006 are providing $21 billion in incremental tax relief to Canadians and Canadian businesses this year. This is a significant and substantial economic stimulus equivalent to 1.4% of Canada's GDP. As a share of the economy, this is significantly greater than the stimulus package offered by our American neighbours.

Given the increasingly stiffer international competition, we must take measures to encourage investments and to increase our competitive advantage.

Some may know the old joke, “How do you start a small business in Canada?”; the answer being, “Start with a big one and just wait”.

We are experiencing the opposite. And the best way to ensure that our businesses can maintain their viability, expand and conquer new markets is to relieve them of excessive taxes and regulations. That is why we abolished the federal tax on capital—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

I hate to interrupt the minister, but it is 2 o'clock. He will have three minutes after question period to conclude his speech.

Statements by members.

Official LanguagesStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government works hard for official language minority communities and we are taking concrete action to ensure the vitality of French and English in Canada.

In the last throne speech, we undertook to propose a new strategy for implementing the next phase of the action plan for official languages.

The Prime Minister and the minister of Official Languages announced last December the appointment of Bernard Lord as special adviser for consultations on linguistic duality and official languages. In the 2008 budget, our government reaffirmed this commitment.

I am pleased to announce to this House that the report on the Government of Canada's consultations on linguistic duality and official languages has been submitted to the minister.

This report and the consultations that took place will shape the development of the next phase of the action plan for official languages.

International Mother Language DayStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, February 24, I joined members of my community to raise funds for a monument in Toronto commemorating International Mother Language Day. UNESCO declared February 21 of each year International Mother Language Day. It is meant to represent the solidarity among languages and multiculturalism.

The monument will be a symbol of the 325 major languages, through which more than six billion people engage in dialogue, inspiring tolerance and understanding while helping to preserve culture, heritage and diversity. Toronto, a city which is one of the most multicultural in the world, will now join only Tokyo and Sydney in commemorating both the diversity and solidarity that language creates with an International Mother Language Day monument.

As the chair of the Canada-Bangladesh Parliamentary Friendship Group, I am proud to represent this initiative which was inspired by the language movement day that took place on February 21, 1952 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. This initiative is embraced fully by the Bangladesh community in my riding of Beaches—East York. The monument has been designed by a local Bangladeshi Canadian architect, Nazmul Jaigirdar.

I applaud the International Mother Language Day monument committee for this initiative and symbol of diversity and togetherness.

Concept MatStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, a Matane business, Concept Mat, was recently awarded two prizes at the Trophées Innovation 2007 gala in Montreal.

Concept Mat earned accolades in two of the five categories, specifically, “innovative product or technology—residential” and “innovative product or technology—sustainable development”.

The company broke new ground by creating environmentally friendly walls made of soya vegetable oil and recycled plastic. Expanded with water, these walls are air tight, have superior soundproofing qualities and are even recyclable.

The eco-concept walls are mildew resistant, emit no harmful substances for the ozone layer and have the advantage of being fire retardant.

This business from my riding is a good example not only of ecological innovation, but also of sustainable development.

Congratulations to the management and staff at Concept Mat in Matane.

The BudgetStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the budget that the Conservatives introduced last week does nothing to help the 10,000 people in the forestry industry in B.C. who have lost their jobs in the last year.

Communities across my riding, such as, Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers, the Hazeltons and Terrace have all lost because of the government's sellout in the softwood lumber negotiations. Add to that the pine beetle devastation and what we have is a perfect storm.

Tonight, when the Liberals help the government pass this bad budget and give nothing more than help to their Conservative buddies in the oil sands and across industries that do not need the help, resource communities across this country will suffer. That is why I will not be supporting this budget.

On behalf of the people who sent me here, I cannot support a budget that does nothing to meet the needs of people in northwestern British Columbia.

Tackling Violent Crime ActStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, how many times have we seen a violent criminal get off with a light sentence only to reoffend? How many times have we watched repeat offenders prey upon our communities?

This past Thursday, Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, received royal assent. This legislation makes changes to Canada's Criminal Code that will protect Canadians against those who commit serious and violent crimes. It was finally passed after being delayed by the Liberal dominated Senate for three months.

The Liberals attempted to water it down. They could not resist coddling the criminals. Their supporters, the defence lawyers, thought that ambiguity in law would mean more billable hours. Liberals do not want a streamlined judicial system.

Canadian families need real protection against serial criminals. The new law strengthens the Criminal Code by bringing in tougher mandatory jail times as well as better defence from adult sexual predators by increasing the age of protection from 14 years to 16 years.

Canada's government has made streets safer for the public and life harder for criminals.

Medal of BraveryStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, on Friday I had the honour to attend a very moving ceremony at Rideau Hall where Her Excellency the Governor General presented decorations of bravery.

Among the 41 heroes honoured was Wayne Russell of Williams Harbour, Labrador. On January 2, 2006, Wayne rescued a fellow snowmobiler who had broken through the ice just a short distance from the small isolated community, which by the way is my hometown. He raced to the scene on his own snow machine, broke through the ice and nearly ended up in the water himself. He was able to get close enough to throw a rope to the victim and secure him until a boat could bring both of them to safety.

For his selfless courage, Wayne was awarded the Medal of Bravery.

I congratulate him and the other recipients of the decorations for bravery. They are an example to us all of how the worst of circumstances can bring out the best of our humanity.

Bloc QuébécoisStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly asked members of the Bloc Québécois to talk about their record here in the House. The reality is that the members of the Bloc Québécois simply raise their voices to mask their powerlessness.

The Bloc is all talk and no real, concrete action for families, workers and seniors.

I cannot help but conclude that the Bloc Québécois record in 18 years is lighter than a blank sheet of paper. In fact, the Bloc Québécois could carry on for another 118 years and never advance a single major issue, resolve a single problem or pass a single bill. The only thing gaining ground with the Bloc members—and everyone knows it—is their pension.

I am proud to be a Quebecker who can take action within a government that delivers the goods for Quebec families and workers.

I invite the Bloc members to listen to their supporters and pack up. Now there is a party that is not limited to defending their interests, but can take action in their best interests.

Lydia AngiyouStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my gratitude and admiration for a woman from Ivujivik, a small village in northern Quebec, who received a Medal of Bravery for risking her life to save the lives of children in her village.

In February 2006, Lydia Angiyou confronted a polar bear to protect her son and his friends. When she saw the bear approaching the children, Ms. Angiyou ran towards it. In an attempt to scare it away, she yelled and kicked at it, but the bear swatted her back in the face. Alerted by one of the children, a neighbour rushed to the scene, armed with a rifle. Seeing Ms. Angiyou wrestling with the bear, he fired a few warning shots. The sound diverted the bear’s attention from Ms. Angiyou just long enough for the man to fire again and neutralize the animal.

Once again, I have nothing but admiration for the courage shown by Lydia Angiyou.

The BudgetStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, February 26, the House of Commons witnessed a third straight budget that provides lower taxes, less debt and continued emphasis on individual Canadians' needs and goals.

This is in sharp contrast to the Liberals' demand to raise the GST, the NDP's call to spend, spend and spend some more. We cannot forget the Bloc Québécois members, who whine because, unlike Conservative MPs, they cannot deliver for their constituents.

Conservatives have worked to put individuals ahead of bureaucracy. In this budget we chose to emphasize a savings plan to allow Canadians to put $5,000 each year in investments out of the reach of big government forever. It is a measure that will give Canadians more freedom to control their destiny, a plan that stops the taxman from taking what rightfully belongs to the people of Canada.

The GST is down. Income taxes are down. The debt is down. While the opposition may not like these changes, this is good news for Canadians because it means that in the end, Canadians' take home is up.

Health CareStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's emergency rooms are in crisis, a crisis so bad that fire marshals were recently called to the Royal Columbian Hospital in British Columbia. They said that the level of overcrowding is so dangerous that it cannot be tolerated.

This is not an isolated problem. It is a chronic national, lethal, systemic crisis that has to be rectified immediately. As an emergency room physician, I have had to treat people in hallways, on chairs and benches without the privacy and dignity these patients deserve.

The underlying problem is a lack of funds for hospital beds, chronic care facilities, and outpatient treatment health care workers. Canada's emergency room physicians are desperately trying to get the federal government to act in the name of patient safety but with no success.

Now, the current Conservative government has wasted billions of dollars leaving little room for federal spending on health. This is appalling. Will the government give an emergency injection of cash to tackle the ER overcrowding crisis, or will it simply stick its head in the sand and ignore this crisis? It is a matter of life and death.

The BudgetStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, last week was a great week for Souris—Moose Mountain, and Estevan in particular. It was also good news for Saskatchewan and the country of Canada as a whole.

Budget 2008 allocated $240 million to Saskatchewan to set the stage for world leading technology to occur in carbon capture and storage.

It positions Estevan, Saskatchewan, the city in which I live, for a $1.4 billion investment to ensure clean coal can provide a source of electricity for Saskatchewan's booming economy.

It is a positive step to reduce greenhouse gases and to improve our environment. It will provide for a reduction of nearly 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per day, or a reduction of approximately one million tonnes per year.

Also, the town of Pangman in my riding produced a hero in the name of Barry Kessler who last week was awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery. The award was for his heroic actions on August 30, 2004 when he rescued a farmer and neighbour by pulling him from a burning tractor.

We are proud of Barry and congratulate him.

International AidStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative budget is deeply flawed, with massive giveaways for the wealthiest and crumbs for the poorest of the poor.

In the 1990s the Liberals dragged Canada's international development assistance from 0.53% down to 0.23% of gross national income.

In 2005 Parliament adopted unanimously an NDP motion committing Canada to meet our 0.7% ODA obligations by 2015 in accordance with the millennium development goals. The New Democrat budget infused crucial funding toward those goals.

Three Conservative budgets bring us no closer to meeting our global poverty reduction obligations. Development aid is stagnant at 0.3%.

While Conservative senators block the more and better aid bill, Bill C-293, successor to the NDP bill, Bill C-243, undermining transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, the world's poorest of the poor suffer along with Canada's reputation as a caring nation.

Centres of ExcellenceStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, the network of centres of excellence is supposed to be a national program of partnerships between the public, private and academic sectors to help commercialize research across the country. Yet Atlantic Canada was shut out of the last round of awards, even though an excellent project proposal on wind energy made it to the final cut.

This project had the financial support of the government of Prince Edward Island to the tune of $4 million and would have been located at the Wind Energy Institute of Canada at North Cape, P.E.I. We would have been able to build on that success story.

The limiting of Atlantic Canada to a peripheral role sends a very negative message. How can we ever catch up economically if the federal government refuses to invest in the region in an area where the province is prepared to step up to the plate and in an area where we have an advantage?

Are we being written out of any meaningful role in this country? Of the last 18 awards, Atlantic Canada got one.

I call upon ACOA to provide the funds required to establish the centre of excellence in North Cape now that it is painfully obvious the national selection process will never give us a fair hearing.

Social HousingStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very worried about the future of our most disadvantaged citizens. Social housing is seriously lacking for thousands of men, women and children who do not have decent homes.

A number of federal spending programs on social and affordable housing will end in March 2009. What will happen after that time? These federal commitments for cooperative housing, which have been an effective solution since the 1970s, are expiring, although no renewal process has been proposed by this government. March 31, 2009, will also mark the end of the homelessness partnership initiative.

People who work in the field are disappointed that the Minister of Finance decided to ignore the recommendations made by the United Nations special rapporteur, who denounced the housing conditions endured by too many families and called on the federal government to invest the money needed to ensure a long term renewal of the programs.

The Conservatives are insensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Status of WomenStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, women around the world will be celebrating their international day. This year's theme is, “Strong Women, Strong World”.

We will remember the pioneering Canadian women whose determination made it possible for women to be recognized as people.

Nevertheless, let us not forget that a Canadian woman today earns just 71¢ for every dollar a Canadian man earns.

Let us not forget that this Conservative government eliminated the court challenges program, which helped women.

Let us not forget that this Conservative government abolished the law commission.

Let us not forget that this Conservative government cut 12 of the 16 Status of Women Canada regional offices.

We salute Canadian women and call on this government not to make any more decisions that will hinder their progress.

EthicsStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have been inventing false smears against our government for a long time. Normally they do not have the guts to say them outside the House of Commons. Well, this time they got sloppy.

Without any proof, they have made outrageous accusations of criminal activity. This devastatingly defamatory attack is absolutely false, is contradicted by Chuck Cadman's own words, and the Prime Minister is demanding a full apology from the Liberal leader.

The real question is, if they thought there was a crime, why did the Liberals hold back this attack for more than a year, until after their climbdown on the tackling violent crime act, until after their climbdown on our budget, until they were forced into months of humiliating back downs on votes here in the House of Commons?

Why is it that the Liberal leader had to fall into a period of leadership crisis before he threw this smear out in the House of Commons and outside this place? Why will he not stand up now and apologize?

Lena JacobsStatements by Members

2:15 p.m.


Blair Wilson Independent West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the remembrance of Lena Jacobs who passed away on February 23, 2008.

Lena Jacobs, mother of Chief Gibby Jacob, was born on the Mission reserve in North Vancouver, British Columbia on February 9, 1910. At age 98 she was the eldest member of the Squamish First Nation.

Yet, we rejoice in her life. We will remember and treasure her love for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and for her wisdom and knowledge of her community.

Mrs. Jacobs instilled her teachings and values of her culture and language upon her people, and she will be greatly missed. She was one of the few fluent speakers of the Squamish First Nation language.

She is remembered for her active role with the Squamish First Nation, Your Grandchildren's Upbringing Elder Language Authority program, and as a loyal member of Saint Paul's parish.

Mrs. Jacobs was a lady of courage and dedication. She was a loved and respected elder whose legacy will continue to thrive for generations to come.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has tried everything to avoid answering questions about his party's million dollar bribe. He has even resorted to threats of lawsuits. Well, it is going to take much more than the threat of a lawsuit to stop us from getting to the truth.

Is the Prime Minister willing to change his story? Is he ready to tell the truth?

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that in the past several months, as the problems of the Liberal Party and its leader have mounted, they have engaged in more and more extreme accusations, going to the point last week of publishing on their website a series of false and unfounded allegations of criminal misconduct on my part.

The truth is that this will prove to be in court the biggest mistake the leader of the Liberal Party has ever made.