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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

Certainly, during that time, the aluminum smelters and pulp and paper mills that have already reduced their emissions will see their efforts erased.

To wrap up, we believe that the Bloc Québécois is the only real defender of the interests of Quebec. Until Quebec is equipped with all the tools it needs to develop, until it is sovereign, the Bloc Québécois is the only guarantee of a strong voice for Quebec in Ottawa. That is why the Conservatives' industrial policy, inspired by its laissez-faire economic dogma, will not work in Quebec.

Our society has made certain choices and those choices do not coincide with the actions of this government in this House. The Bloc Québécois is the voice of divergence, the voice of Quebec in Ottawa. While the Conservatives make all their decisions in order to please Albertans, by granting the petroleum industry significant tax breaks—consider, for example, the accelerated capital cost allowance for businesses that work in the oil sands development—the Bloc, on the other hand, cares only about the interests of Quebec. The Bloc Québécois acts as a safeguard against the federal government. A laissez-faire attitude spells disaster for the Quebec economy and Bloc Québécois members are here to remind the Conservative Prime Minister of our nation's economic reality. In short, increasing prosperity means acting and reacting, and supporting industry to create wealth and jobs.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

I am pleased to join in the debate, and I thank the official opposition for putting the motion forward. It is a shame that the most the Liberals can do is be a paper tiger, which is what they have done today. There is paper but no claws. There is a little roar now and then, but they are not really doing anything about holding the government to account. I want to say from the outset that the official opposition owns in large part the agenda that is currently under way in this place as much as the governing Conservatives because without the Liberals, the Conservatives could not govern. Let us be clear about what is really going on here. It is an attempt on the part of the official opposition to hold off the criticisms that are coming, but obviously, it is far too weak to achieve that.

One has to ask why the national finance minister would step forward and literally attack not just any province, but the one that is the engine of the national economy, which the minister has acknowledged. It is the largest province in the country. Not only that, it is the province from which the finance minister hails. I am one of those who suffered through the speeches about what Ontario ought to do and I watched what the provincial Conservatives did. I am going to comment on the results of what happened as a result of eight years of that kind of agenda in the province of Ontario.

Before we get lost in the notion that this is all just politics, this is very serious. It is incredibly serious for our nation, for Confederation, and the minister knows that. Chantal Hébert is very quick to give the unvarnished truth about all of us, the NDP included, but what has she said about this? I am saying this to provide the context that this is not just politics, that this is dangerous, a danger that we ought not ever see again in the history of Canada. Chantal Hébert wrote in today's Hill Times, “His government is equating the leadership of the Canadian economic union with a licence to dictate the fiscal ways of other levels of government”. She also wrote, “It will not lead to the breakup of the country, but the conflict has the potential to seriously distort the practice of federalism”.

Yet, this was supposedly a government that came into office wanting to repair the damage that had been done to Confederation and to strengthen the bonds that had been stretched over the years. Obviously it was all just talk.

I was quite interested to hear the minister say that he was going to be an honest friend. Well, as honest friends go, maybe what Ontario needs is a few more lying enemies because if friends are going to be saying things like, “If you're going to make a new business investment in Canada, and you're concerned about taxes, the last place you will go is the province of Ontario”. That is what the national finance minister said on February 29 to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. How is that supposed to help Canada? How is that supposed to help Ontario? Some honest friend. There is no friendship in that and there is no honesty in it.

The reality is that Ontario is still the greatest place to invest, make no mistake about it, and we will do it over the objections of the finance minister, I might say.

It is not just about the damage to the dynamics of Confederation. It is also about whether or not the minister has any moral authority to tell any other finance minister anywhere how to run his or her jurisdiction.

I want to remind members that the current finance minister was part of a provincial government which, within the first few weeks of coming to power in 1995, cut social assistance to the poorest of the poor by 21.6%. If we add inflation in, that is 37% less buying power for the poorest of the poor. The finance minister has no right to tell anyone what ought or ought not to be put in a budget, in that he voted for an outright attack on the poorest of the poor.

The members on the government benches who are moaning and groaning and rolling their eyes should check the facts. I have never seen any member in the House take a 21% cut in pay nor advocate it for anybody else, but for the poorest of the poor.

In my city of Hamilton, 20% of people are in poverty. I am not proud of it but I am here in the hope of doing something about it. Remarks like those by the finance minister are not going to help. One-quarter of all the children in Hamilton are in poverty. Children cannot be in poverty unless their moms and dads are in poverty too. That is the kind of agenda the finance minister would tell other ministers they should have for the Canadians they are responsible for.

I remember when the same minister was going to fix Ontario. My friend, the metro Toronto chair, is here and I see him nodding as I review what happened in the past. He knows full well the kind of damage that was done to our great province.

The Conservatives were going to straighten out all the difficulties in the relationship between the municipalities and the province, much like they talk about how they are going to fix things between Ottawa and the rest of the provinces. They were going to do it in such a way that it was revenue neutral, a term of the finance minister and the Harris government, revenue neutral.

My community of Hamilton has had to go to Queen's Park cap in hand every year for the last five years to beg for $12 million of lost neutral revenue as a result of the government. The infrastructure damage and the lack of funds to repair it can go right back to the Harris-Eves government.

Because of the lack of revenue neutrality, municipalities had to spend more and more of their own scarce dollars on infrastructure and co-payments for cost sharing programs with the province. At the end of the day, every municipality in Ontario had less money than they had before the process started. Again, I see my good friend, the former regional chairman, nodding his head. That is what happened.

Much of the infrastructure crisis was caused by a minister who said, “We are not in the pothole business”. He did all kinds of damage in Ontario when he was the finance minister. Now he is here and that is what he thinks about infrastructure. On November 22 last year he said, “We are not in the pothole business”.

You can appreciate, Mr. Speaker, why we were so incensed, me in particular, having sat there and listened to that right-wing nonsense for over eight years and the government gutting my province's ability to make life better for its citizens. Regardless of what party is in power in Ontario, it has a huge job to dig us out of the hole that the finance minister's government put us in.

For the minister to stand in this place and condemn Ontario, to attack Ontario and to damage its ability to recruit investment is unacceptable and we will be voting unanimously for—

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Peterborough.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would not take economic advice from that member. Nothing of what he says is rooted in anything that any business leaders, any economic experts, anybody who is interested in building a safer, stronger, better Ontario has come forward and made a comment similar to anything the member has just said.

The member does not understand that the greatest social program that could be created is a good paying job. What will not do that? High taxes, taxes that absolutely strangle and stifle investment in the province of Ontario. The member stands for that. If the people in his riding want more unemployment, more poverty, more hardship, vote for what he stands for in the House because this will lead to that.

This party stands for more investment and better earnings for Canadians. He should stand and support us.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to stand. If the member wants to talk about jobs, take a look at the track record of the finance minister while he was the finance minister in Ontario. From January 2001 to April 2002, we lost 90,000 jobs, youth unemployment was up by 31,000, agricultural unemployment was up by 25,000 and manufacturing unemployment was up by 29,000. Those are jobs we lost while that minister was the finance minister of Ontario.

My hon. friend's comment that no business investment, no business person would listen to the issues I talked about, he should get with the times. The reality is if we talk to the board of trade in Toronto, it is the first one to say that poverty needs to be addressed if we are to continue to create an investment climate that works. It will tell us that infrastructure needs investment. Those are the kinds of things Ontario needs, not a national finance minister—

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Etobicoke North.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I share in the outrage of the member for Hamilton Centre about the comments our federal finance minister has made in relation to the budget of Ontario and the general fiscal management in that province. The member opposite talked about the cuts to programs, such as health care and education, which were gutted.

At the same time the provincial minister of finance walked away from a $5 billion deficit. He has come to this place and brought in a budget where he has whittled away the federal government surplus with which our party left Parliament, the flexibility of $21 billion. How did he do that? He cut the GST by two percentage points, $12 billion every year out of the federal treasury. That is not good economic policy, fiscal policy or public policy. He has taken the government into a position where it has no flexibility. He is the last person who should tell the province of Ontario how to manage its fiscal situation.

Do you think the Minister of Finance has political ambitions back in the province of Ontario?

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will not offer my answer to that because the Speaker does not answer questions. However, I will allow the hon. member for Hamilton Centre to answer.

I remind the hon. member for Etobicoke North to ask questions through the Chair.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hoped that question would come up since it would not cut into my 10 minute speech.

I can only figure one of two things. Either the government knows there is a serious economic downturn coming that will really hurt Ontario and it wants as much as possible to deflect the criticism from the Conservatives to the provincial government and/or it is the opening salvo in the hon. finance minister's run to succeed the current leader of the Ontario Conservatives. Those are the only two things that make sense. This does not.

The member speaks to economic competence. Let us remember the finance minister was part of a government in 1998-99 that sold the 407, which was publicly owned and publicly built, and it would not tell anyone how for much money or the details of the contract. It used all that revenue in one year, which happened to be the election year budget. It took a provincial asset, the 407, sold it, took all the money to put it in its election year budget and after that one year, it was gone.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hamilton for sharing his time with me.

I am pleased to rise and join with the rest of my caucus in support of the motion.

As a member of Parliament from the province of Ontario, I am offended by the finance minister's attacks on the province of Ontario and the hard-working men and women who do their absolute best in the face of daunting economic challenges and growing poverty in our province. These unproductive attacks are damaging not only for our economy, but also the moral of the people of Ontario. These kinds of attacks between national and provincial leaders are not good for our country, for federalism and for the future of our country.

Many times my constituents have asked me why elected leaders at different levels of government cannot get together to solve the very stark problems they face. Whether it is issues around municipal infrastructure, as my colleague previously mentioned, or whether it is issues around job loss, which is so very real to many people in the province of Ontario, my constituents want to know why political leaders cannot get together and solve these economic problems.

Political leaders cannot get together because of the recent unprovoked attacks by the finance minister. His attacks are bad for the economy of Ontario at a particularly difficult point in time. Canada is in the middle of a crisis in the manufacturing sector, and the province of Ontario relies on the manufacturing sector to sustain itself.

Ontario has been the engine of the Canadian economy. In the 19th century we were mostly hewers of wood and drawers of water. Our struggle in the 20th century was to diversify, was to become a manufacturing economy. Our predecessors in this place worked hard to bring in policies that would foster economic growth and the manufacturing sector. Here we are in the 21st century and we see many of the fruits of that investment slip away. Plant after plant is announcing closure. Thousands of hard-working people are losing their jobs. Ontario has lost over 64,000 jobs in 2007 alone.

Members on the government side have said that many jobs have been created. People who worked in an industrial workplace expected to have that job all their lives. After two decades, 25, 30 years or more, they have lost those jobs, the benefits, the pensions, everything for which they have worked. It simply does not cut it to offer someone a job at Wal-Mart or some other service sector job for the princely sum of minimum wage. The jobs being created do not meet the calibre of the jobs being lost.

I will not say the finance minister does not understand the fact that there is pressure on the manufacturing sector. However, his solution is simply not working. He says the problem is taxes. His solution is to cut corporate taxes. Over the last five years, the Canadian dollar has appreciated by 60%. A small cut in corporate taxes will not solve the problem. Worse than that, those companies especially hard hit, the ones that are not making any money, cannot even take advantage of a tax cut because they have no profits on which to save taxes.

Clearly corporate tax cuts are not the solution. Key spokespeople from the corporate sector, like Jayson Myers, have said as much, and I hear it time and time again at the industry committee.

It is also not helpful when the Leader of the Opposition says, when the Prime Minister argues that he will make tax cuts, that he would cut corporate taxes faster and further because that spurs on the government to cut corporate taxes. All that does is starve a government of the revenue that is so desperately needed so we can invest in significant programs such as solving the homelessness crisis, or the squeeze on working parents for a national child care program, or our infrastructure, which is badly needed, or to bring in a national minimum wage, which might help some of those people at the lowest end of the income level, or reduce tuition fees, which has caused so much difficulty for young people before they even get a start in life.

When those in the opposition were in power, they cancelled the national minimum wage, cancelled the national housing program. They did not bring in a national child care program. They began the rise in tuition fees. They also made massive corporate tax cuts. Therefore, they have created the groundwork for the problems today.

Also it is not helpful to Canadians when the opposition members vote with the government or when they sit on their hands and allow government budgets to pass, budgets which take Canada in absolutely the wrong direction and do nothing to help the manufacturing sector or the people in Ontario who are facing a real financial squeeze. It is enabling a government that is taking Canada in the wrong direction.

I say this for the Minister of Finance.

Where is the plan to deal with the high dollar? Where is the national buy Canadian procurement policy that most other developed countries use to boost their local products? Where is the plan to balance our trade so we do not export all our good jobs? Where is the green job strategy? Where are we positioning Canada and our economy for the 21st century? Simply, we are not.

This government has neglected the manufacturing sector. Defining requirements for public procurement and ensuring domestic sourcing of procurement is one major way to boost our manufacturing sector, boost our economy, reduce unemployment, and maintain and create good, quality jobs in services, but especially in the manufacturing sector.

One of the most shocking examples of the government's neglect of our manufacturing sector, and I categorize it as free market ideology gone wild, is to take one of our most innovative sectors, which is the space sector, and privatize some the most advanced technology that our country has produced. We are faced today with the situation where that technology is in danger of falling into the hands of the largest American ammunition producers and that the technology, in which Canadians have invested, will go for purposes that most Canadians would not support.

However, in my remaining few seconds I want to express my concern that the government is taking the wrong approach on employment insurance. By creating a crown corporation for EI, the government is ducking its responsibility for public accountability and is continuing the fine tradition of the previous government of taking billions of dollars in premiums paid by workers and employers and using them to pay down the debt rather than providing benefits for those most in need.

I support the motion. We have to start working together in a cooperative way to address the concerns that Ontarians face, not attacking provincial leaders and then standing by while the economy spins downward and spirals into unemployment and neglect.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the last two NDP speakers and of course I remember the last time the New Democrats were in government in Ontario. That government was Dalton McGuinty's high-tax-and-spend government on steroids, which in 1995 took us near the brink of being a have not province. Our government has been concerned, of course, that the same direction could happen again. I think that explains why, in the prebudget period, we had a very public prebudget submission, so to speak, that business taxes had to start coming down to create jobs now.

We seem to accept, for example, that it is okay for provinces to very publicly make their demands known for what should be in federal budgets. This may be a bit unusual, but the federal finance minister has made the case why we need business taxes cut now. Unlike the way it used to be in Ontario when Harris was cutting taxes, the federal Liberal finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, was slashing billions from the CHST. No such situation exists today.

In fact, transfers to the provinces for health care are up. For post-secondary education, they are up. For all the social programs they are up, as are per capita transfers in everything except health care spending. Our case is actually a solid one. It is one which says that Ontario could afford both to invest in social programs and to make the business tax cuts now. Proof positive is that $2.1 billion in business tax revenues, unexpected in the Ontario budget, would have paid for business tax cuts now, which could have created jobs starting today. That is the right track.

What the NDP is talking about is the absolute wrong track. The NDP took us to the brink of have not status in Ontario in 1995. That is exactly where the Ontario government is going now, on a slower track. We need better than that.

I would like to hear the member account for the high taxes and high spending that took Ontario to the brink of have not status. That was the NDP's political strength.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will remind the hon. member that NDP provincial governments have a stronger record for balanced budgets than those of any other party in the country.

I will also remind the hon. member of the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost in the province of Ontario and of those that are on the chopping block. Eleven hundred jobs just went out of the third shift at Chrysler in Bramalea and 1,200 jobs were lost at a truck plant in Oshawa. There are many more plants and jobs on the chopping block.

I would answer with another question. If this tax cut strategy is working so well, why are so many people losing their jobs in the province of Ontario?

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the member for Parkdale--High Park, one of the things that I find particularly annoying is that the Conservative government seems to talk about tax cuts as the panacea for almost everything. It is an ideologically driven agenda and argument.

Let us look at some of the measures the federal government could have done to help Ontario manufacturing, such as, for example, extending the accelerated capital cost allowance so that companies, especially with the Canadian dollar the way it is, could import technology, machinery and equipment to increase our productivity. Why did the government extend it to only one year when the planning horizon for corporate Canada is three to five years?

Second, tax reductions are good only for companies that are paying taxes. What about making these research credits refundable so that companies can take advantage of that?

These are things this government could have done and did not. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Parkdale--High Park has 45 seconds to comment on that.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly there are many measures in the industry committee manufacturing sector recommendations that this government could act on and should have acted on. When the hon. member says that tax cuts are not the solution, I agree, but I wish he would convey that message to the Leader of the Opposition, because he has argued that he will bring in corporate tax cuts further and faster than the government will. I wonder how he squares that circle with the comments he has just made.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate. I must indicate that it is actually a rather sad commentary that we need to have this debate.

The debate obviously is centring on supporting and investing in the province of Ontario, the economic engine of Canada, on the need to have good federal-provincial-territorial cooperation, and on the fact that almost a year ago, on March 19, the finance minister said that we really needed to end this unproductive bickering between the provinces and the federal government. Certainly at that time I would have agreed with him.

I am rather disappointed that over the last seven weeks we seem to have gotten into very unproductive verbal warfare with the province of Ontario. It clearly is not helpful for the province. It is not helpful for the country. It certainly sends out the wrong message when it comes to investing in this country, particularly in Ontario, which has been hard hit in a number of sectors. I will certainly go over that.

Clearly if we are going to respect not only jurisdictions but the fact that we need to work together, particularly when we are seeing bumps in the road with regard to the economy, this kind of strategy, if we can call it that, certainly does not augur well in terms of dealing with plants that are shut down and with workers who are now thrown out and need retraining. To invest in this province is critical. The messaging we have heard from the federal government has not been at all helpful.

For example, before we even get into the economy, I note that the government produced Bill C-22 on the issue of representation for a future Parliament. Again, based on the numbers and the increase in population, one would have assumed that Ontario would receive 20 additional seats. Under the legislation, we in Ontario receive 10 seats. We of course support more seats for British Columbia and Alberta, but not at the expense of the province of Ontario.

Where were the Ontario members on that side of the House when this issue came up? They were silent. That silence has been deafening. It is this side of the House and the Liberal Party that have stood up, along with the premier of Ontario, to say that this cannot go forward, that this is obviously not in the interests of the people of Ontario. Again, the members on that side, particularly the members from Ontario, have been very quiet when it comes to this particular piece of legislation. That is not in the interests of Ontario. That is not in the interests of the country at all.

The question becomes why. There seems to be a pattern developing here. Again, when we look at the issue of the economy, we look at the area of infrastructure. We know that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities released a report late last year which said that there was a $123 billion infrastructure deficit in Canada and that this infrastructure deficit needed to be addressed.

We know that the Conservative Party has always been silent on infrastructure. It certainly was when former prime minister Mulroney was in power. In 1983 when the FCM proposed the original infrastructure program, it lay dormant under that government. It was not until the government of Jean Chrétien came in that we in fact embraced a national infrastructure program whereby all three orders of government were able to contribute.

Unfortunately, however, infrastructure is not simply about roads, bridges and sewer plants. It deals with issues of productivity and issues of innovation. In order to make our cities and our communities more competitive, we need to address the infrastructure deficit. Unfortunately, the finance minister said that the government was “not in the pothole business”. In fact, as a former president of the FCM, I had not heard that language in over 10 years. I thought it was Back to the Future.

When it comes to infrastructure issues, we need to be investing, not recycling. The government proudly announced its $33 billion program, of which $17 billion was recycled money. Mayors and councillors know when somebody is trying to hoodwink them. The reality is that we cannot simply recycle. We need to make genuine investments in these areas in order assist our cities and communities so that we can be competitive, not only at home but obviously on the international stage. We cannot do that if governments only think that the role of the federal government is certainly not to be in “the pothole business”.

I can tell members that there are many mayors and councillors across this country who took issue with that and very clearly believe that at the end of the day, if we do not invest, it is going to get worse. A deficit of $123 billion is obviously one that we need to address and to address very carefully.

For the province of Ontario to move goods and services, whether it be at the border or between communities, we need that kind of support and leadership from the federal government. It is the leadership that the Liberal Party has shown over the years. We did it in 1994 with the national infrastructure program, which was renewed by successive Liberal governments, again demonstrating that we understand the issues.

We also have a national Liberal caucus that deals with cities and communities. It understands these issues. Again, there is silence on the other side when it comes to those kinds of investments for our cities. In fact, if everything were as rosy as some of the members on the other side suggest, then one wonders why the big city mayors caucus of the FCM, and others, continually say that those members do not get it. The government does not get it. Until it does, we are going to have this continual problem.

In terms of an investment issue, on infrastructure alone we know the government does not get it. We know the Conservatives do not get it on the environment. Clearly they do not get it when it comes to transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They do not get it in terms of investing in subways and buses and understanding that there is a crying need out there.

Again, we should be partners. It is all about partnership. Confederation is about partnership. It is not about “my way or the highway”. It is about working together collaboratively with our partners, whether they be the provinces and territories or the cities and communities across Canada. Again, it is disappointing that we are not seeing that kind of leadership from the other side of the aisle. This is something that we on this side have articulated. We repeatedly have demonstrated partnership when it comes to dealing with the $123 billion deficit on infrastructure.

Another thing, of course, is that we have heard the House leader refer to our premier as “the small man of Confederation”. If a government is trying to build collaborative relationships between the federal government and the provinces, then why on earth would those kinds of cheap comments be made about the premier of any province? Certainly in the province of Ontario that was not viewed very positively. In fact, it certainly demonstrated the small-mindedness on that side of the House, and again it shows that the Conservatives do not get it.

It all comes down to the fact that the Conservatives do not understand how this country works and what it means to be collaborative. Of course provinces and territories are not always going to agree with the federal government, and vice versa, but it is not done by finger pointing and name-calling. The two governments need to work together.

I understand I am going to have to wrap up until after question period because of what is going to happen next, but I thank members for their attention.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Richmond Hill will have 12 and a half minutes left when we resume debate.

We will now have statements by members. The hon. member for Saint Boniface.

Women's World Curling ChampionshipStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, a month ago I stood in the House to congratulate the Jennifer Jones team the day after they clinched the Canadian women's curling championship. Ms. Jones and her foursome hail from the St. Vital Curling Club in the heart of my riding of St. Boniface.

Today, I have the privilege to once again herald their success, but this time as the world curling champions. Jennifer Jones, Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin fought their way through the round-robin and then through two playoff games to defeat the young upstarts from China in the final on Sunday.

The last time that Manitoba won a world championship was in 1984, under Connie Laliberté, another one of my constituents.

The Jones team drew on their international experience and skill to emerge as champions, and Canadians had to be filled with pride and emotion as they watched their team walking up the ice waving their Canadian flags.

I would ask my colleagues in the House to acknowledge these four amazing Manitoba athletes and newly crowned world champions.

Quebec Social Workers' WeekStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 23 to 29 was social workers' week in Quebec, with the theme “a humanizing presence". This week aims to promote public awareness of this profession, of all it has to offer, and of the many areas in which it makes a contribution.

There are over 7,100 social workers in Quebec in the health and social services sectors, in education, in community organizations and within the legal system. Their work is based on universal and humanitarian values, and their motto is “people first”. The primary objective of these professionals is to treat each person with dignity and respect, so that they can achieve their full potential.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to honour the dedication, compassion and humanizing presence of all social workers in Quebec.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, Monday, March 31, 2008, marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Since 1998 this organization has worked tirelessly to encourage and support aboriginal people in creating and sustaining healing programs which address the sad legacy of Indian residential schools.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation helps aboriginal people help themselves by providing resources for healing initiatives, promoting awareness of healing issues and needs, and nurturing a supportive public environment.

The foundation has distributed 1,300 grants to healing programs across the country. It has played a pivotal role in healing and helping countless former students of residential schools, their families and communities.

I am pleased to note that the Indian residential schools settlement agreement, which was finalized by our government in May 2006, provides for an additional $125 million to allow the foundation to continue its important work over the next five years.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate the Aboriginal Healing Foundation on its many achievements to date and thank it for its contribution to the lives of former students of Indian residential schools across Canada.

House of Commons Security ServicesStatements By Members

March 31st, 2008 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of all my colleagues in the House of Commons to those great people who protect us and guard us on a regular basis in the House, our House of Commons Security Services personnel.

The reality is that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they stand on guard so that we and our staff in turn can do the great job that Canadians ask us to do.

Three constables from Security Services have now reached their retirement levels and I would like to mention them in the House: Edward Burke, who retired on March 16; Gerald McAteer, who retired on March 15; and Bobby McDonald, the great Bobby Mac, who will be retiring on April 24.

I ask my colleagues to stand and applaud the great men and women who wear the blue and protect us on a regular basis.

We wish the three constables a very happy retirement. We thank their families for the opportunity to share their professional lives with us.

We thank all Security Services personnel who provide a great service to us and to all Canadians.

Women's World Curling ChampionshipStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday some of Manitoba's finest athletes curled their way to a stunning victory at the world curling championship in B.C.

While the final game against China was close, Canada prevailed with a sensational performance. Skip Jennifer Jones led the women's team to Canada's fifteenth women's world curling championship and only the third gold medal on home ice.

These women have shown that teamwork, commitment and devotion can result in a world class victory.

As a fellow Manitoban, I am thrilled to congratulate Winnipeg native Jennifer Jones and her teammates Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin on winning the gold medal and bringing great pride to all Canadians, especially Manitobans.

TradeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NAFTA-gate story just got a lot more interesting.

Last Thursday we learned that the Privy Council Office outsourced the investigation of sensitive diplomatic leaks to BMCI Investigations & Security Ltd. of Ottawa, a private company. Yet, the government never said a word about this decision.

If the government is incapable of conducting its own investigation, why did the Prime Minister not say so when he announced it in the House? Why was a private company chosen and, more important, what is its mandate?

These leaks involve the Prime Minister's inner circle. Both his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, and Ambassador Michael Wilson are under investigation.

Yet, instead of operating in an open and transparent manner, the government continues to conduct its affairs in complete secrecy. In response, I have been compelled to once again write to the Clerk of the Privy Council asking for further clarification, something the Prime Minister has failed to do time and time again.

The Prime Minister is desperately trying to sweep this issue under the rug, but we will not let him.

Magdalen Islands TragedyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada offers its most sincere condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the crewmembers of L'Acadien II. On Friday afternoon, L'Acadien II broke down in the ice northeast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In the early hours of Saturday, the vessel capsized while under tow by a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

We are saddened by the tragic loss of Bruno Bourque, Gilles Leblanc, Marc-André Deraspe and Carl Aucoin, but grateful to the master and crew of the Madelinot War Lord for their invaluable assistance in the rescue of two crewmembers.

The investigations being undertaken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Transportation Safety Board will allow us to shed some light on the incident.

At such a tragic time, I think it appropriate to pray that seal hunters enjoy safety and prosperity commensurate with the daily efforts they put forth for the well-being of their family and community.

Ingrid BetancourtStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the release of Ingrid Betancourt, who has now been held hostage by FARC for six years, is all the more urgent considering that, according to the latest reports, her health is deteriorating ever more quickly.

President Uribe signed a decree allowing Colombian authorities to immediately release hundreds of FARC guerrilla fighters from jail, if rebels release former Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. French Prime Minister François Fillon said that France is prepared to accept FARC members, to speed up Ingrid Betancourt's release. According to the Élysée, President Sarkozy ordered a medical plane to be ready at all times to take Ingrid Betancourt to a hospital, if she is freed.

The Bloc Québécois joins its voice with that of the family of Ingrid Betancourt and of all those who are making the necessary efforts to ensure her release at the earliest opportunity.