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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the budget implementation act and, along with my colleagues, I intend to vote against this bill. It is very problematic.

The budget and the budget implementation act would basically strip away the government's fiscal capacity and place a rising burden on individual taxpayers.

We have seen corporate tax giveaways rising while the individual burden proportionately is increasing through this budget and it is destroying any semblance of balance between the taxes paid by large corporations, many of which are very profitable, and the taxes paid by ordinary Canadians.

We know that the kinds of across-the-board tax cuts that the government is bringing in continues the pattern, unfortunately, of previous governments, which is of giving back moneys to the most profitable companies. Who has been making the big profits in this country? Certainly the banks have been digging in with both hands and have been extremely profitable. The oil and gas companies have seen their profits skyrocket with the rising price of oil. They are doing extremely well and these corporate cuts just fuel their profits and support. It subsidizes a sector that, quite frankly, should not be getting subsidies.

What is the impact here? The impact is that the proportion of tax revenue coming from large corporations will go down by 12% but the percentage paid by individual Canadians, the average person who goes to work every day and pays taxes, their share will be increased by 14%. In other words, individual Canadians will be paying a greater share of creating the fiscal capacity that we have in this country to pay for the programs and services that we all want to enjoy.

This growing imbalance is increasingly squeezing the average person at a time when personal debt is at an all-time high. Salaries are flat. More and more people are working full time and still below the poverty line. Individual savings are at a real low point. Most people do not have savings for a rainy day.

To summarize, what we are seeing in this budget is that for every dollar that the government is spending in services, programs and infrastructure, it is spending $6 on corporate tax cuts. Six to one is the ratio of spending in this budget. We disagree with it and that is why we have opposed it.

As I said, these tax cuts are shrinking our fiscal capacity. What does that mean? It means that we are not spending in the areas that we ought to be investing in, in spite of some of the very pressing needs that we have in this country.

What could we have done with the money that the government is spending in corporate tax giveaways? We could have created 1.14 million child care spaces. We could have done that to help working families that are so squeezed when both parents are trying to make ends meet and still care for their kids.

We could have added 74,000 hybrid transit buses that are clean, new and more accessible and, my goodness, even Canadian made. We could have put these on our streets, created a lot of jobs, kept a lot of people in work, created new jobs and created a big demand for all the auxiliary parts and services that go into this production.

We could have created 12.1 million units of non-profit affordable housing. Would that not have been something? That would certainly clear up the 70,000 families that are on the waiting list for affordable housing in my city of Toronto alone.

We could have invested in 25,000 MRI machines to help with some of the backlog in our health care system. We could have invested in our health care system so that Canadians could get the timely, efficient, good quality care that they need. We could have invested in annual health services for 10 million patients and made sure that our seniors, or anybody who needs health care, have the services in a timely fashion.

We could have helped with undergraduate tuition for 11 million students. That would have made an enormous difference for young people starting out in life rather than saddling them with an oppressive mortgaging of their future. We could have invested in their education and helped them get the kind of start that they ought to be getting in a country as wealthy as ours. We could have forgiven 2.1 million graduates of their student loans.

Unfortunately, supported by the opposition, the government has decided not to invest in all of these pressing priorities, whether it is child care, housing, health care, or the arts, many of the issues that are of concern to people in my riding of Parkdale--High Park.

Another choice that the federal government made was to undermine one of the core adjustment programs that working people in our country need and that is our employment insurance program.

This program has already been significantly undermined by previous governments. It used to be our strongest program to help working people when they lost their job and needed to get into a new job. This program used to provide funding for unemployed workers. Some 80% of unemployed workers used to get EI to help them through their transition.

As a result of cuts made by the previous government that significantly undermined who would get benefits and the level of their benefits, we find today that more than three-quarters of laid off people in the city of Toronto and about two-thirds across the country do not get employment insurance benefits. This is shocking. Is there any other insurance program where an individual cannot access the benefits even though he or she has paid the premiums? This defies logic.

Working people and employers across the country have been paying into the EI fund for some time, resulting in a surplus of $57 billion. Previous governments, as well as the present government, have used that money to pay down the debt or for other programs. People who have been paying into the fund and ought to be getting the benefits are in fact being denied the benefits.

What is the Conservative government doing? Rather than saying there is an imbalance between the money paid in and the abysmal level of benefits and services available as a result of the inadequacy of the EI program, the government has decided to take, or steal in fact, the $57 billion and set up a separate account that will not be accountable to this Parliament. That is shocking. That is a disgrace. That is a dishonour to unemployed workers across the country.

The decision by the government to change the immigration act and put so much discretion and power in the hands of the immigration minister is a terrible betrayal of the hopes and dreams of newcomers who want to come to this country.

Our system is far from perfect. There have been too many cutbacks in the system that have created a backlog. But too many people are now going to be denied the opportunity to come to this country because of the changes in this budget implementation act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Parkdale—High Park comes from an urban Toronto riding. She has given a strategic overview of what the main elements of a comprehensive strategic economic plan would be.

She mentioned child care. She talked about transportation, affordable housing, the health care system and MRI units. These are all of the things that would have been possible had there been a different tactical approach with respect to not touching the GST but dealing with low income earners and attempting to reinvest through them to give them the ability to meet their account problems and a whole variety of concerns that they have.

There is one area that I share in common with the member and that is the whole area of affordable housing and the existing housing stock. One thing she did not mention was how important it is to invest through the residential rehabilitation assistance program on old buildings that have structural needs and mouldy conditions, and are a health concern.

I wonder if she would like to take a moment to outline how that approach through the residential rehabilitation program, which has been cut in fact, would have an impact on her riding which is similar to mine.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. Not only was there no new money for affordable or social housing, for renovating or retrofitting existing homes, no money for a strategy to reduce homelessness, but there was no commitment to renew funding for the residential rehabilitation assistance program or RRAP funding.

This funding has been used across the country to take substandard housing, these bachelorettes in Parkdale in my riding, and convert them into more liveable housing.

It is shocking to see the number of people, who not only are homeless on the streets of Toronto but who live in such deplorable housing conditions. I see children living in apartments that are water damaged or mouldy. The apartments are cramped, dark and really substandard.

I do not think this program and others did the job. The national housing strategy has been abandoned. What this country needs is a massive investment in housing. We have a national housing crisis. We could have used some of this money and some of this fiscal capacity to invest in housing. Meanwhile people are being evicted.

People could be living in safe, secure and affordable housing. Instead, we are seeing so much of it shovelled to those who already have so much. It defies logic and it defies any kind of humanity to approach our budget this way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is only one thing I would like to address, even though there were many issues in the hon. member's speech.

I am greatly surprised with the issue that the NDP brings up over and over. It is its objection to paying down debt. It is my distinct belief that when people borrow money, it is because they do not have enough for what they want to do. I would like to blame the Liberals from the 1970s on. They drove this country into huge debt from which we need to escape.

The reason I think it is strange for the NDP to have this stance is that people who have more money than they need invest it and buy Canada savings bonds. People who are poor cannot. They are the working poor usually. They still pay taxes. We have a transfer of money from the poor to the rich when we have national debt. We need to get rid of that debt in order to stop that transfer. I am surprised that the NDP does not support the paying down of debt.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course, we agree with paying down debt.

It is a question of balance. We do not need to be the most aggressive debt payers of the G-8. To me it defies logic that people would want to completely pay off their mortgage, but have a big hole in the roof and be unable to keep the rain out. It is a question of balance. The debt should be paid down, but we also invest in our society and in our economy today to ensure that we take care of people.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand again in Parliament and speak about the types of issues that the Conservative Party brings forth within a budget.

We have an amendment now in front of us dealing with Bill C-50 to separate some of the immigration issues that are extremely important to Canadians right across the country and in my riding as well.

We think it is absolutely imperative that the heavy-handed legislation that has been introduced through the budget process be taken out.

For myself and the constituents I represent, the situation with immigration is horrendous. The backlog means loss of productivity and loss of sense of identity for many people across the country. We need to change that, yes, but to change it as it is proposed, where we could arbitrarily choose those we wish to reward with the benefits of a properly working immigration system is really wrong.

We need to keep it democratic and we need to keep it fair across this country. That is why we have put this amendment forward and that is why we will continue to not support this bill as long it contains this type of effort.

Having said that, I would like as well to talk about the budget and the budget implementation bill. In reality, I have actually been harangued by many in the Conservative Party about my position to not support the budget. So, I would like to explain that to people and get it on the record.

The other day the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the member for Macleod, claimed that my constituents were extremely disappointed with me for not supporting the budget. I do not understand why he would say that, but he continued by saying that a member from the Northwest Territories who did not support a northern residents tax reduction was really failing his constituents.

When we look at the record, we will see that for the past eight years I have been fighting, in three elections, to put forward the concept that fairness within the northern residents tax deduction needs to be addressed.

In this Parliament, I have been consistently bringing this issue up and putting it on the order paper. I have worked with my constituents across the Northwest Territories and in the other northern territories to raise petitions and to bring attention to this issue.

It is nice to see that the Conservative Party has picked up on the issue, but it did not get the job done. A 10% increase to the northern residents tax deduction is simply a convenience to the Conservative Party so that it can say to the electorate “We did this”, when in fact what was required and was asked by all my constituents, whether they be labour, whether they be the chambers of commerce, or whether they be the legislative assemblies, was a 50% increase just to keep up with inflation for the past 20 years.

The Conservative Party did not get the job done in this budget with the northern residents tax deduction and it should be ashamed to try to fool Canadians into thinking that it did.

The Prime Minister was in my riding, in Yellowknife, a number of weeks ago. What did he do? He stood and harangued me for not supporting the budget. The Prime Minister took the time to tear into the member for Western Arctic because I did not support the budget. The Prime Minister used the northern residents tax deduction as a convenient tool to try to increase the electoral chances of his party in my riding. What a shame-faced effort that was by the Prime Minister.

That is the kind of common approach that I see this Conservative Party taking on so many issues for the north. It talks big about what it is doing for the north and yet everything it does has a hidden touch to it; it turns out to be less than what is expected.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development came up north the other day and talked about what he had done for crime prevention, with the new fund he set up for police procurement in the north. He is offering up $800,000 over five years to the Northwest Territories, an amount which the minister of justice in my territory admitted was only 70% of one police officer position.

In a territory that has extreme problems of distance, the cost to move police services across a vast area the size of one-sixth of the whole country of Canada, the government has offered up 70% of a police officer over the next five years to answer our needs. After the kinds of incidents in the north of over the last year with police, the troubles policemen have had, having to act on by themselves because they simply do not have the resources to implement the proper procedures used in normal situations and we this is what we get. Once again, the Conservative Party brags about a program that really amounts to nothing.

Then we go back to previous budgets wherein the Conservative government brought forward a new formula funding agreement, which at the time it touted as being very progressive. Once again, it was established that the funds would go to the three northern territories, not on what it would cost to provide services in the north, but on a per capita basis. Costs in the north are rising daily. The expanding economy in western Canada is driving up the costs to everyone to a great degree.

After the wonderful work the Conservative Party did with the new formula financing agreement, the territorial government now says it is $135 million short. It will have to cut positions and very particular things that it needs to do to provide decent services within the Northwest Territories. Therefore, we have a problem right now.

When we talk about the Northwest Territories, it is an area where money is being made. We in the Northwest Territories want to see devolution. We want to see revenue sharing from resources, which is an important thing for us, but we do not want to be shorted on that as well.

When the Conservative government announced that it would continue the $500 million socio-economic fund to be set up for the pipeline, what did it say about it? It said that the fund would not be available until the pipeline was guaranteed and that the fund was okay because it would come out of the royalties that would be accrued to the Mackenzie gas project. That is not a subsidy. That is simply giving us the money that should be ours.

If the Conservative Party is providing this fund to the north to mitigate socio-economic activities will come as a result of industrial expansion that will favour southern Canada, it should take that money out of the revenues that accrue to southern Canada, not the ones that come to the Northwest Territories. That is unfair. Once again it shows the nature of the Conservative Party when it comes to funding the north and giving it a fair share.

What about the Norman Wells project? Oil has been pumped through that pipeline from Norman Wells for some 20 years. Right now, the federal government will not put it on the table in devolution. It will not put the revenue from that project on the table. The Conservatives say that it is their money, that they traded royalties for ownership of the pipeline, that they own 33% of the pipeline and they will not share it with us in the Northwest Territories. They say that they will not give us our fair share. What kind of deal is that? What kind of respect for the Northwest Territories is that from the Conservative Party?

Would the Alberta MPs who sit in the House be satisfied with this kind of arrangement for their provinces? I do not think so. I think they would be up yelling like I am right now.

When it comes to the diamond mines, when the original environmental assessment was set up, the benefits the Northwest Territories were to receive were employment and business opportunities based on a certain rate of production. Some of the mines are exceeding their production by 50%. Do we see the government standing up for our interests in this? No. It continues to let it go, with bigger profits and bigger taxes that will accrue to the federal government. Where does that leave the people of the Northwest Territories?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I listened with apt attention to my friend who has the riding just north of mine in northern Alberta. He asked me to say something as an Albertan MP.

I noticed he was a little nervous about the security of his own riding after the Prime Minister visited it and made some great announcements, and I understand his nervousness. However, some of my constituents received an increase in the northern living allowance. After 20 years, that is the first increase in the northern living allowance. I am very proud of our government for that increase.

As well, I want to let the member know that yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the minister of transport in the Northwest Territories. He is very happy with the federal government. He is very happy with the initiatives we have taken. He is very happy with the money we have invested in the building Canada fund and the other issues in the Northwest Territories.

Has the member had an opportunity to speak with members of the governing body for the Northwest Territories and talked to them about how happy they are with the Prime Minister and how excited they are with this government for the steps it has taken to help them after nothing was done by the previous Liberal government?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's riding is next to mine, a riding from which I do get some things. They come in by air, by water and from the development that his riding depends on for its economy.

When the Conservative Party dealt with the capital gains exemption in the last budget, and it had been 20 years since it was increased, it said that it was fair, that it would raise it by 50%. That was the amount of inflation taken out the benefit over that time. What is different about the northern residents tax deduction? Why did we only get 10%? Is that because we are second class citizens up there? Is that because we do not deserve that kind of benefit, that we are not working hard, that we are not contributing to Canada? I do not think so. I think it is because the Conservative Party is treating the north badly.

I spoke to my minister of transport the other day, as well. He is a very positive guy. He would be positive at any time. I certainly hope that his positive nature will not be affected by any more trips to Ottawa to meet with the Conservative Party. If it is, I will have to try to encourage him to keep his smile, to keep working hard for the people of the Northwest Territories.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I might have a little history check for the hon. member regarding the budget. He talked about the northern allowance. I also remind him of a few other promises the government made when it was in opposition.

The now Minister of Veterans Affairs and Prime Minister both said that if they were elected, they would compensate everybody in the agent orange file from 1956 to 1984. They came out with a package that even the Liberals would not have accepted, and they asked for a public inquiry. It is not done.

The Prime Minister, in a letter to a widow of a veteran, said very clearly that if the Conservatives were elected, they would immediately extend the VIP to all widows of World War II and Korea, not only some. The budget came out and 30% additional widows will get that coverage, while 70% of additional widows need not apply. Why would the government say “all” and only give it to some?

The former defence minister and the current defence minister said to our veterans who had been in Nevada for the atomic testing that the government would have a package very soon for them.

The agent orange people are now in court against the government. The atomic veterans have gone to court. The veterans facing the SISIP clawback are in court. Why do these veterans who fought so hard for our—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have to cut off the hon. member there to allow the hon. member for Western Arctic a chance to respond.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, when we are dealing with the Conservative Party, we are dealing with a party that is penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to turning out things for Canadians. The Conservatives will give away pounds to the corporations. They will turn their pockets inside out for the corporations. However, when it comes to turning over dollars to hard-working Canadians across the country, to the veterans, to all those types of people, the pockets shut, a nervous look comes over their faces and we do not see the generosity they have shown to many of their corporate friends.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Karen Redman

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred to the end of government orders today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Accordingly the vote stands deferred until the end of government orders this day.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCanada Marine ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-23. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now put Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motions in amendmentCanada Marine ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-23, in Clause 15, be amended by replacing line 36 on page 7 with the following:

“subparagraph 25(a)(iv).”