House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.


Bill C-377—Climate Change Accountability ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my point of order today relates to Bill C-377, which is on the notice paper and which was reported back to the House within the last week, I believe on April 29. It will come forward on Monday for your rulings in selecting what amendments would be in order.

The provision for making that determination is in accordance with the Standing Orders, and specifically with Standing Order 76.1(5). I will only read the first sentence because the rest of it is not particularly germane. It states:

The Speaker shall have power to select or combine amendments or clauses to be proposed at the report stage and may, if he or she thinks fit, call upon any Member who has given notice of an amendment to give such explanation of the subject of the amendment as may enable the Speaker to form a judgment upon it.

Flowing out of that particular Standing Order, the procedure and House affairs committee some period back made a proposal to be brought forward in the form of a resolution. There was a note attached to that, Mr. Speaker, which you made some reference. However, the note, and I will quote the initial sentence of it, which is by way of explanation of how Standing Order 76.1(5) is to be interpreted, states:

The Speaker will not normally select for consideration by the House any motion previously ruled out of order in committee and will normally only select motions which were which were not or could not be presented in committee.

You made further rulings with regard to that, Mr. Speaker, in a ruling that affected, first, myself and then the member for Mississauga South. In response to the report from procedure and House affairs, you made these notes. I want to quote in terms of setting the criteria. First, in terms of what the considerations would be, you said, “past selection practices not affected by this latest directive will continue to apply”. We have a history of how we deal with amendments at report stage. You went on to say:

For example, motions and amendments that were presented in committee will not be selected, nor will motions ruled out of order in committee. Motions defeated in committee will only be selected if the Speaker judges them to be of exceptional significance.

Then you went on and referred members to pages of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

You further went on, Mr. Speaker, and said:

Second, regarding the new guidelines, I will apply the tests of repetition, frivolity, vexatiousness and unnecessary prolongation of report stage proceedings insofar as it is possible to do so in the particular circumstances...

I want to quickly add that the amendments being proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley are not frivolous or vexatious and do not meet that test whatsoever.

In the two decisions you have rendered in this regard, Mr. Speaker, one, as I pointed out, affected myself when I was first here back in November 2001. It was a situation where I was unable, because of conflicts of being at two committees at the same time, to get my amendments put forward. You ruled at that time, acknowledging the difficulty on my part, that I did have difficulty in moving these amendments and the Chair, in those circumstances, would give me the benefit of the doubt and allow the amendments to move forward, and they in fact did.

Then there was a second ruling by yourself, Mr. Speaker, in January 2003, involving a request from the member for Mississauga South for amendments to be selected by you. At that time, you made two points, the second of which I think is more relevant to the circumstances we have today. The first one recognized that our parliamentary system was party driven and that the positions of parties were brought forward to committees through its officially designated member. The Chair also recognized that some members may want to act on their own. You then went on to say, Mr. Speaker:

Consequently, the Chair is of the opinion that certain motions by the hon. member for Mississauga could not be presented during the clause by clause study in committee and should therefore be studied at the report stage.

In combination, those two rationales, Mr. Speaker, were to the point that if motions could not have been presented at the time when we normally would in committee, then you would normally allow them to be selected at report stage.

I argue today that this is exactly what we are confronted with here. In that regard, the history of what has happened, and I will go to the two reports that have been issued from the environment committee, because that is where Bill C-377 was considered, is there was an initial report, the third report about two or three months ago, which indicated that there were significant difficulties in process at that committee, to the extent that it felt compelled to bring the report forward. I would refer you to the report, Mr. Speaker, when you make considerations as to my point of order.

The second report with regard to Bill C-377 and the environment committee was the sixth report from that committee, and there were several points. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the third paragraph of the report, indicating that in fact work had been done on Bill C-377 in committee, that certain clauses had been adopted, others were postponed because of, to use the term in the report, “a prolonged debate of over twenty hours on clause 10 which led the Committee to an impasse”. In effect, what was going on, in the terms that we more often use in the House, was a filibuster by the government. Therefore, the report was passed back here from the committee.

I also would refer you, Mr. Speaker, to emphasize the effect of what was going on there and the degree of the impasse, to the fifth paragraph of the report, which states, “Given the impasse, the Committee opted not to consider the remaining clauses and parts of the Bill and adopted the following motion”. Out of consideration of time, I will not read that, but in effect the motion reflected that certain sections were reviewed, some were amended, but there were outstanding amendments that were never considered, and the final paragraph sets out which ones those were.

The motion was adopted by the committee, that the bill be sent back at that stage. Therefore, some have been amended, others have not even been considered, and others had been considered, but with no opportunity for amendments to be made.

The amendments proposed by our member are very clear. They are not frivolous.

I also want to make one final note. There were minority reports to the sixth report, and in that, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made it very clear to the committee so there was no misunderstanding, and I was there at the committee and also made a similar statement, that we would be moving amendments at the report stage, subject to the determination by the Chair as to whether they should be selected or not. It is not like the committee did not understand that these amendments would come forward and that they would be pursued at report stage.

In summary, I believe it is one of those opportunities. We did not have the ability to move these amendments at committee. It is appropriate that you consider them, Mr. Speaker, and select them at this time.

Bill C-377—Climate Change Accountability ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like the opportunity to review the points made by my friend. They have been quite lengthy, thorough and detailed, and it was not until halfway through that I was able to familiarize myself with even the bill he was discussing.

However, in terms of an opportunity to make amendments to the bill, I will draw attention to the fact that the committee, in returning the bill, did so well in advance of the deadline established in the Standing Orders; a motion of the House for consideration of that particular private member's bill.

Therefore, while there may have been a decision by the members of the committee, including the New Democratic member, to return it here in haste, they cannot then rely on that as a reason why they did not take the opportunity to make such amendments at committee. However, I would like to have the opportunity to come back and submit on this further.

Bill C-377—Climate Change Accountability ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would urge haste on the minister in those circumstances since the bill is up for debate, I am told, on Monday at 11 a.m. Therefore, he will want to exercise due diligence.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Friday, May 2, 2008, by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the admissibility of the amendment to the motion for third reading of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, moved by the hon. member for Western Arctic.

I would like to thank the government House leader for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East for her intervention.

The hon. government House leader contended that the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Western Arctic was inadmissible because it sought to provide a mandatory instruction to the committee. He was of the opinion that the use of the words “with a view to making sure that” in the amendment constituted a mandatory instruction on how the committee should dispose of the bill.

The hon. member for Vancouver East, for her part, felt that the proposed amendment was clearly permissive. In her opinion, the words “with a view to”, contained in the amendment, support that argument.

As stated in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice on pages 672 and 673, regarding amendments to the motion for third reading of a bill:

The purpose of such an amendment may be to enable the committee to add a new clause, to reconsider a specific clause of the bill or to reconsider previous amendments. However, an amendment to recommit a bill should not seek to give a mandatory instruction to a committee.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice also mentions further on page 793, with respect to instructions to committees of the whole, which also applies to standing committees:

Instructions to a committee of the whole dealing with legislation are not mandatory but permissive, that is the committee has the discretion to decide if it will exercise the power given to it by the House to do something which it otherwise would have no authority to do.

The issue before us today is to determine if the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Western Arctic meets the requirements as set out in our rules and practices, and more specifically, if it indeed constitutes a mandatory instruction to the committee.

There are many precedents of similar amendments to the motion for third reading that have included the words “with a view to” combined with various action verbs akin to “making sure”. For example, amendments moved in the past have used the verbs “to ensure” on November 8, 2001, “to change” on January 31, 2003, “to eliminate” on March 4, 2004, and “to incorporate” on June 22, 2005, and all were ruled admissible. In fact, with time, this has become an established and accepted form for an amendment at third reading that seeks to recommit all or certain clauses of a bill.

In reviewing the texts of the amendment and of Bill C-33, I find that the amendment does not, in my view, infringe on any of the principles that I mentioned earlier and that form the basis of past practices of the House. The amendment asks the committee to reconsider a clause of the bill, taking into consideration certain issues, but it does not specify that any amendment is required or exactly how the committee should modify the bill to attain that objective. In my opinion, the text of the amendment provides the committee ample discretion in how it wishes to reconsider the particular clause in question.

As such, I declare the amendment in order. I thank the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for bringing this issue to the attention of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before the debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Charlottetown had the floor and there are 10 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, when I commenced my comments before question period, I talked about what I consider to be the seriousness of this issue. I talked about the statistics that were released by Statistics Canada last week. I talked about the consequences to this country, our society, the economy and the people who live here if this trend is allowed to continue. I talked about the need to come forward with a national, comprehensive poverty strategy in conjunction with the 10 provinces and 3 territories.

I have listened to the debate here today. Some of the comments do disturb me somewhat when we talk about hard-working Canadians. I want to remind members in the House that many of the people who are in poverty or in the low income cut-off range are hard-working Canadians.

I talked about what I have seen from the government over the last two years and four months, with program cuts that have been right across the board. I talked about the gutting of the early childhood programs that did exist, the cutting of some of the supports that are so needed for low income Canadians, such as public transit, affordable housing, and the cutbacks to the literacy programs.

I also mentioned what I consider to be the destruction of the fiscal framework and the inability of the government to respond to situations that come up on a day to day basis. We have one before us today: the situation in Burma. It is a crisis. I believe there are 22,000 people deceased. It is expected that another 25,000 are missing, presumed to be deceased or badly injured. I believe the announcement by the government was a support package of $2 million.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2008 / 3:25 p.m.


John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I certainly do not want to belittle the tragedy going on in Burma, but the member may want to check his numbers. I think he said that there are 25 million deceased and another 22 million missing. I think the numbers are much smaller than that. As I said, I am not trying to belittle the issue but perhaps he would want to check that.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite correct. There are 22,000 deceased and 25,000 missing, I believe. I am talking about numbers in the vicinity of 50,000 people. I apologize for that. I thank the member across for pointing that out to me.

Again, I was making the point that it just shows the inadequacy of the government's response because it really does not have the capacity to deal with these issues when they come up. A lot of economists are saying these days that we are either in a deficit or heading for a deficit similar to what we had in 1993, which was corrected.

I want to reiterate my support for our leader's announcement of his initiative, what I refer to as the 30-50 plan, to attempt to reduce general poverty rates by 30% and child poverty by 50%. Basically it is a three-pronged approach. It would create the “making work pay” benefit to encourage working independence. It would alter or change the non-refundable child credit into a refundable credit and improve the Canada child tax benefit. It would also, of course, provide for an increase in guaranteed income supplement payments. These are all good initiatives. I certainly support them.

I also support some of the initiatives that are going on in other provinces. I believe the province that is a little ahead of the curve on this particular issue is Quebec. It started seven or eight years ago with, I believe, Bill 112. It has what I consider to be a reasonably well advanced poverty reduction strategy. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador adopted a strategy a little over two years ago. I understand that the province of Ontario is well advanced in its strategy. I do not know exactly what is going on in the other seven provinces. I understand that there is very little going on in some provinces.

Then the debate will be, and I can hear the questions now, what is the role of the federal government? Some will say there is no role for the federal government. Some will say this is of no concern to the Government of Canada. To that I say that there is a role for the federal government. If the government has no role, then that is not my vision. That is not my agenda.

I suggest and I submit to the House that there is a very real role for the federal government. It is a role that the federal government has played for many years. It started with the old age pension, continued with the baby bonus, as it was called then, and continued with the guaranteed income supplement, the child tax benefit, the Canada pension plan and medicare. These programs were started, maintained and enhanced by various governments of different political stripes. So to that I say that there is a role for the federal government.

However, that is not what I am seeing now. I am seeing a withdrawal. I am seeing an ideology that is withdrawing the role of the federal government in the support of Canadians from coast to coast.

I ask myself where this vision, this agenda, comes from. Because even members of the Conservative Party to whom I have talked do not talk like that. They support these programs. I submit that it comes from our Prime Minister. It was his vision before he became Prime Minister. He created this vision of walls in an open letter to the premier of the province of Alberta. The Prime Minister said that he should disengage that province from the Canada Health Act, that he should disengage the people who live in that province from paying federal income taxes, that the province should set up its own police force, and that the premier should establish a wall or a moat or whatever one wants to call it around that province.

I want to say clearly that this is not my vision of this country. This country has to be led by a government that has a pan-Canadian vision and speaks for all Canadians from all walks of life, of all income brackets, living in all areas of this country.

In closing, I am talking about the gap that exists and is growing every day, the gap between upper income Canadians and lower income Canadians. It is increasing. I think it is going to be very troubling to this country. It is an issue that this government should consider very seriously. It is an issue that is not being considered or, I suggest, is being neglected at this time. If this issue is allowed to continue, the consequences will be troubling for the country and the people who live here.

At the end of the day, after the debate and after everything is said on this particular motion today, I do hope that this is an issue that this government will move on. I hope we will see a pan-Canadian strategy that works closely in collaboration with the strategies developed by certain of the provinces, and with other provinces, which I hope will develop similar strategies, so that this issue will be moved on in the days, months and years to come.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member. We have all heard the census figures of recent days showing this widening gap between the rich and the poor. He forgot to mention that the centre is lagging behind. Middle incomes have stagnated.

With the wealth of resources that we have in Canada, how can it be that the middle class is only marginally better off today than it was a generation ago? Why is it that young people entering the labour force today are making less than their parents were a generation ago with more stable jobs? This has not just happened over the past two years.

The answer lies in the detrimental and regressive policies of successive past governments. I wonder if the member would respond to those comments.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the comments. I believe the census that came out last week showed that those in the 20% stratum at the top were up 16%, the lower stratum was down in excess of 20%, and the middle stratum I think had moved by 0.1%. This is in constant dollars since 1980. There has been basically no movement for the middle stratum.

The member across makes another point: the generational war. Young people today are not making the same income in constant dollars that people of that age were back in 1980. It goes back to the policies of this government. There has been very little done for people who are trying to pursue a post-secondary education. Also, in regard to the supports, whether they be for housing for low income people or public transit, name it, they are not there. The system is just going to get worse. I believe that if these trends are allowed to continue, the situation will get worse. That is why this issue has to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

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

I rise today to talk about how an unbalanced economic agenda that is heading in the wrong direction is hurting the lives of people in Surrey North. I want to talk about perception and about reality.

As we stand here today, we are in the position of having seen the strongest economy in 40 years, low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment in many places, and strong economic growth. The perception would surely be that Canadians are doing well and they should be doing well, but what is the reality? Let me tell the House about the people in the city of Surrey and my riding of Surrey North. The reality is that they see an ever-widening gap between themselves and others--not narrower, wider--in spite of what they are told about the great economic times we are in.

Let the good times roll. Let us look at what concurrent Liberal and Conservative policies have really meant to Surrey North. The times have certainly rolled, but they have rolled back.

What do people need to be safe and healthy and contributing citizens? A job, and an economic policy supporting jobs not just in Alberta but throughout the country.

Let us start with finding a place to live. How does someone who is single and earns minimum wage do that? For someone in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia in Surrey North who earns $8 an hour and works a full week, the after tax monthly earnings are $955.20. So that person takes that paycheque and goes out and tries to find a place to live. The average Surrey basement suite or small apartment is $791 a month. If the person were to rent that, the person would be left with $144 for food, bus fare, and probably second-hand clothes. Heaven forbid if that person were to have an emergency of any kind.

Currently, Surrey needs 2,000 transitional housing units and 5,000 permanent units of affordable housing. What kind of economic policy would ignore a national housing strategy? People in housing can contribute. People who are living on the streets are not able to be part of anyone's economic housing policy. We are told that having a job is a cure for poverty. In no way is that the case in Surrey North.

Our food bank sees 14,000 people, a large number of whom are from Surrey North and 42% of those people are babies and children. The Prime Minister has said that the number of children living in poverty is probably only a quarter of the number that is quoted. I would like him to go to the food bank with me and tell that to the mother whose little girl said to her “Mommy, I'll try not to eat so much”. He should try telling her that those numbers are over-estimated. That is what his economic policies are doing to people. Little children are having to say, “Mommy, don't worry, I won't eat so much”.

There are people who work but they have to live in homeless shelters. They are earning minimum wage. They are trying. They are living in homeless shelters because they cannot afford a place to live. They get up in the morning and they go to work. They are using the food banks because they have no place else to eat. What kind of let the good times roll does that look like for the people in Surrey?

There are middle class residents in Surrey North who sit around the kitchen table and talk about their futures. They may be people in apartments or people in their own homes. They worry about not being able to pay next month's mortgage. Why? Because people are facing job losses and they are being ignored by the government. I am talking about manufacturing jobs.

Everyone forgets that manufacturing jobs are also about the wood industry. In the wood industry, when every single sawmill on the Fraser River closes, people are out of work. In the riding of Surrey North there are many, many, many people who are out of work. There is no retraining. There was nothing in the budget for the pine beetle epidemic. Those manufacturing jobs in the wood industry are completely gone. Untargeted tax cuts certainly are not helping those people at all. They may be helping people in the tar sands, but they are not helping the people in Surrey North who worked in the wood industry.

Those people are also worrying about whether they can send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education. When the NDP amended the 2005 budget to remove $4.6 billion in tax cuts and put that money toward housing and post-secondary education, the Prime Minister found it to be completely irresponsible. For those middle class people in Surrey North sitting around their kitchen tables, it is absolutely not irresponsible. It was a bit of help, but they still have a very long way to go because of the tuition costs. They know that many of them are not going to be able to send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education.

The government's economic policy also ignores children. Surrey North has a reading standard that is lower than the average in British Columbia. That should not be a surprise. We have a poverty level that is higher than the rest of British Columbia. A child who is not nourished cannot learn. That is not a secret to anyone. There are children who are going to school hungry. It is no wonder our reading standards are below the provincial average.

In conclusion, there may be economic policies that are being celebrated by Conservatives across the country wherever they may live, but in Surrey North there are more people living in poverty than in most other places. We always have had more children living in poverty than the B.C. average. They are children who learn less well than other children because they are poor, because they are not sleeping, because they do not have safe places to live. There are people living on the streets who are very interested in contributing to their community, but it is very hard to be part of an economic policy when people who are working have to live on the street because they cannot afford a place to live.

This is where an unbalanced wrong-headed economic approach takes us. Those people in Surrey North are not seeing the good times roll.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to contribute to the debate and speak in favour of the NDP motion.

I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Surrey North for splitting her time with me.

The motion points to an ongoing tragedy and crisis that is occurring in our country. It is something that, quite frankly, is being masked by booms in some parts of the country and terrible poverty, unemployment and devastation in other parts of the country.

I want to draw the attention of members in the House and people who are watching the debate to three very telling reports that came out last week. These reports are compiled. They are not biased. They are put together by our statistics gathering body, Statistics Canada.

Of the three reports last week, the first one tallied the loss of manufacturing jobs. This year so far, Canada has lost 55,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in our country.

These are the value added jobs. These are the jobs that take our raw materials, that take the labour power that we have and it puts them together to add value to create products that we use in our country and export abroad. These are often the better paid jobs. These are the jobs that often have union representation. They have more security. They have benefits for the people who are employed and their families. Often they are jobs with a pension so that when the person retires, there is some security.

These are jobs that in my parents' generation, people joined for life. My father worked for one employer for 44 years. That was the norm in his generation. Today we have a disposable workforce where people are called in temporarily and then they are disposed of, and corporations try to pay as absolutely little as possible and have as little responsibility as possible.

The loss of manufacturing jobs is contributing massively to the poverty that we are facing in our country.

The second study last week confirmed that our economy is slowing. For the first time it confirmed what we have all suspected, that there is a decline. Certainly, when one looks south of the border, there is real concern and, in some quarters, fear that we might be in for a recession.

We are seeing what is happening to the real estate market south of the border. For many families the only savings, the only equity that they have is in their homes. There is a lot of concern across Canada.

There is concern also that our economy is so linked with that of the U.S. Most of the goods that we produce here are exported to the U.S. When we look at the tourism and hospitality industry, much of the influx of tourists is from the U.S. There is real concern about that will mean for our economy.

The real impact of the bad economic news last week was in the third study, which detailed a growing income gap that in a country as wealthy as Canada is nothing short of shameful.

The studies show quite clearly that this is not just over the last couple of years, as some members of the opposition would have us believe. This is over the last 25 years. This is over a period of record growth, surplus budgets, an opportunity when we ought to be expanding and increasing opportunities and benefits for all Canadians.

The studies show that between 1980 and 2005 median earnings for the top 20% of income earners increased by 16.4%. Median earnings for the bottom one-fifth fell by 20.6%. Those in the middle are working longer and harder, are treading water as fast as they can, but are not getting any further ahead.

When I talk to people in my riding in Parkdale—High Park in Toronto, that is what I hear. When people sit around the kitchen table with pencils and paper to figure out how they are going to pay their bill, they cannot make ends meet. It does not matter whether one is a minimum wage worker who can work full time year round and never get enough money to support oneself and one's family, or whether one is a two income homeowner who is house poor and struggling to make ends meet, and cannot afford the thousands and thousands of dollars that child care is costing because of neglect by the present and previous governments over the last 25 years.

It is especially hitting young people. It is especially hitting children. It is especially hitting newcomers to Canada. It is shocking to see that in 1980, 25 years ago before the study was completed, newcomers were earning about 85¢ on the $1 compared to other Canadians and that was for men and women, but by 2005 men were only earning 63¢ on the $1 and women's income had dropped to 56¢ on the $1. These statistics were for newcomers to Canada.

Really, it is a betrayal of the Canadian dream where newcomers come here to get a middle class life, to get a good job, and they end up driving taxi or delivering pizza in spite of having tremendous credentials. We have the best educated taxi drivers and pizza delivery people in the world.

The government emphasizes its temporary worker program, where people are good enough to come here and temporarily work without knowing they would be paid lower wages, without knowing their full rights, and without getting any representation. They are good enough to work but then they are gone. They cannot bring their families here. They have no commitment to our country. I think that is a real betrayal to the contribution that newcomers have historically made to our country.

This growing gap is best illustrated by the fact that the highest paid CEO today earns in only 13 hours what a full time minimum wage worker would earn in the entire year. That is a spiralling gap, spiralling inequality, and it betrays the kind of country that Canada aspires to be.

While seniors have done relatively well compared to some other groups, mainly because of their pension and savings income, the poorest families are falling farther and farther behind and the number of children living in poverty has remained unchanged throughout the last 25 years. This is in spite of, as I said before, years of growth, surplus budgets, and the opportunity to really advance our country and make a difference.

It is shocking to see families bringing their kids to breakfast clubs and community kitchens in Parkdale—High Park. It breaks one's heart to have kids coming for a free breakfast because they do not have any food at home. It is a real betrayal to our communities that this is happening.

We are struggling in Parkdale—High Park. A food bank recently closed. We are struggling to try to get another one up and running. We do not want to have food banks that people rely on. People need a decent income. They want to go to work. They want to support themselves and their families, and the government is betraying them by not giving them the opportunity to do so.

We have a waiting list for affordable housing of 75,000 people in Toronto. We have seen people who simply cannot afford the rents that they are being charged. When people are thrown out of work, they cannot rely on EI. Only about 20% of unemployed people in Toronto receive EI benefits, as opposed to 80% 20 years ago.

The present government and I dare say previous governments have focused on corporate tax cuts. They have squandered our fiscal capacity instead of investing in people.

I want to conclude by saying it is about time, after 25 years of squandered opportunity, that the government started listening to the hard lessons that people are learning around their kitchen tables and stop listening only to the boardroom tables. We have seen enough inequality. We want to make social progress for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Parkdale—High Park for her tireless defence of manufacturing jobs in this country and the need for them.

My own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan and the riding of Vancouver Island North, over the last several months, have been rocked by the number of forestry layoffs. Last fall, in the economic update, the Conservative government talked about the crisis in manufacturing and forestry and then promptly proceeded to ignore it. In the recent budget we know that any real help for manufacturing and forestry was largely absent.

In my riding workers are running out of employment insurance because of an administrative anomaly, which means their unemployment rate is tied to the Lower Mainland where the economy is much healthier than it is on parts of Vancouver Island. After a very short period of time workers are running out of employment insurance benefits and with the economy in the forestry sector being in the state it is, there simply is no work available in their area.

Could the member tell the House what kind of efforts she thinks need to be made in order to ensure we continue to have healthy, vibrant forestry and manufacturing sectors in this country?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let me say we know what does not work. We know that across the board tax cuts to corporations with no strings attached, no commitment to jobs, no commitment to investment, and no commitment to this country does not work.

It lets companies off the hook with no obligations for the money they get from our tax dollars and rewards those who are already extremely popular. The banks seem to be doing very well. It rewards the oil and gas sector. My goodness, it is doing extremely well. We have seen it gouging us at the pumps every day.

That fuels what our currency has become, which is a petrodollar. It fuels the rising Canadian dollar. It is not only caused by the oil and gas sector but that is part of it. It turns its back on the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.

We do not need to shovel money back to the companies that are already very profitable. We need targeted support and investment for those industries that are in crisis. If a company is saying it is bidding for a new product and wants to get products sourced in Canada, the government can help the company with that. When the forestry industry is in crisis, as it is now, and where we are seeing plants shut down in single plant communities across the country, they need help.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's party often talks about its commitment to working families. I would like to point out some of the things that the government has actually done for working families, important steps like cutting the GST, introducing the working income tax benefit, introducing the universal child care benefit, increasing the basic exemption, and lowering the lowest tax bracket. We have taken all of these important steps.

The NDP voted against these important steps but has introduced several private members' bills, one of which was Bill C-265 that was dealt with in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Bill C-265 would have basically cost the average worker in Canada a little more than $100 per year.

My question to the hon. member is this. How can she justify to working families her opposition to the important steps that we have taken to put more money in their pockets and, as well, how can she justify to those same working families the NDP's proposal to add a little more than $100 to the EI bill that they pay through their hard work that comes off of their cheques?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I question how saving a couple of cents on a cup of coffee helps someone who cannot afford to pay $1,000 a month in rent for a substandard apartment in downtown Toronto. That fails to persuade me.

I would ask the member, how can he support his government taking $55 billion from the moneys that have been paid by working people and employers across this country to the EI fund? How can he justify that when the benefits have been denied for the vast majority of unemployed people across Canada?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would like to state at the beginning that I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou. I am pleased to rise in my place today to respond to the motion from the member opposite.

There is no doubt that Canada is facing a number of economic challenges. The U.S. economy, our main market for exports, has experienced a slowdown, especially in the housing sector. Worldwide economic growth has slowed as a result of the turbulence in the international credit markets.

However, we face these challenges from a position of strength, and the facts show that the Canadian economy has more than held its own against the U.S. and other world economies. We need look no further than the spectacular numbers on job growth to see this.

So far this year, under this Conservative government, the Canadian economy has created more than 104,000 new jobs, with more than 14,000 new jobs in the last month alone. Over the past 12 months, 325,000 new jobs have been created. Since we came to government in 2006, more than 771,000 new jobs have been created.

I should also take this opportunity to remind hon. members that as a result of this job growth, we have not seen unemployment this low in Canada for 33 years. Furthermore, these are good-paying jobs for Canadian families from coast to coast.

Despite the radical socialist rhetoric of the NDP, Canadians are better off under this Conservative government than any other time in modern history. Full time jobs account for the vast majority of all new employment in the provinces. Since January, full time employment has risen by over 94,000 people. Just think of the number of families that are now working.

Coming from Oshawa, automotive manufacturing is very important to me, and this government is responding to help. Automotive sales and consumer spending is up, in large part due to the government's fulfilled promise by cutting the GST by two percentage points, something the NDP voted against.

The Canadian economy continues to expand and the finances of Canadian businesses and households are strong. Inflation remains low, stable and predictable, and public debt levels are being reduced to levels that have not been seen in this country's history since the 1950s.

This Conservative government has worked to create the conditions that will let the private sector do what it does best: create jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

Eighteen months ago, the government released “Advantage Canada”, our long term economic plan for making Canada a world economic leader.

There has not been a federal government in recent history that has done more to increase the competitiveness of Canada's automotive sector, address the most pertinent issues head on, and attempt to resource Canada's economic advantage in spite of the decline in the U.S. economy.

Canada's auto sector is the single largest manufacturing activity in the country and accounts for almost one-quarter of our merchandise exports. It directly employs over 150,000 workers, including approximately 10,000 workers in my riding of Oshawa.

The Conservative government's approach to the automotive sector is built on four pillars: a positive business climate; an integrated North American auto sector, investment in auto research and development, and the development and implementation of a new automotive innovation fund.

Our strategic economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, creates this first pillar, a positive business climate, by lowering taxes, cutting red tape, investing in critical infrastructure and fostering the best educated, most skilled and most flexible labour force in the world.

The simple truth that the NDP will never understand is that if Canada is not fiscally competitive, it will not attract new assembly mandates; and if Canada does not attract new mandates, more good-paying automotive jobs will be lost. That is why budget 2008 delivered over $1.6 billion in fiscal benefits for the automotive sector over the next five years, including over $1 billion in tax relief by 2013.

The second pillar of the Conservative government's approach aims to preserve and support the deep integration of the North American market for vehicles and parts.

Canada's auto industry is not an island. Since the days of Oshawa's Colonel Sam McLaughlin, we have succeeded because our automotive industry has been integrated with the United States and has enjoyed easy access to the American market. Vehicles that we produce as Canadians are not the vehicles that Canadians necessarily buy. Canada exports about 85% of its production to the U.S. because we are good at assembly.

For years, Liberal majorities refused to address the tyranny of regulatory difference. After years of indifference and inaction by the previous government, I am proud to say that this Conservative government is changing this reality.

We agree with the recommendation of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, CAPC, that Canada must move toward harmonizing regulations with our closest trading partners. That is why the government has committed to new national fuel efficiency standards benchmarked against a dominant U.S. standard and to working with the U.S. to ensure compatible safety and environmental regulations, including the just recently announced harmonization of bumper standards.

By addressing these regulatory differences that continually put Canada at a competitive disadvantage, the Canadian government will save auto manufacturers literally millions of dollars each and every year.

Integrating Canada's automotive industry also means addressing major infrastructure projects. As members know, an automotive part can cross the Canada-U.S. border several times before it is actually installed in a vehicle. Delays in just-in-time delivery cost auto manufacturers hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour of delayed delivery.

Our government, led by Prime Minister Harper, understands that the smooth operation of the border is vital--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would remind the hon. member not to use proper names but ridings or titles.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister understands that the smooth operation of the border is vital to our integrated industry and to our competitiveness, and we are tackling these issues of growing delays.

Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister raised this very important issue at the North American leaders' summit in New Orleans where he specifically raised concerns about the so-called thickening of the Canada-U.S. border. The Prime Minister talked with his counterparts about taking steps to enhance services and reduce bottlenecks and congestion at major border crossings, such as Detroit-Windsor.

Unlike the previous Liberal government and the radical socialists' plan but no actions of the NDP, our government's rhetoric is actually backed up by action.

This Conservative government has stood up for Canada's auto industry and workers by providing a plan to complete a new bridge, a productive working relationship with the United States and Michigan administrations, and at least $400 million for the new border crossing.

Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said:

It is absolutely crucial for the automotive industry to be assured that the border crossings are reliable and predictable in order to accommodate just-in-time delivery on both sides of the border. ...This investment will help support the existing automotive manufacturing in Windsor and across Ontario, and will help make the province more attractive for future jobs and economic growth.

The third pillar of our government's approach speaks to the importance of investing in R and D. Canada carries out world-class research but to remain competitive we need to be a world-class, technology based nation that attracts and retains highly qualified graduate students and is a magnet for world-class automotive experts who will lead these efforts.

The federal government has committed, through its science and technology strategy, to strengthen industry driven R and D partnerships between the private sector and universities, polytechnics and colleges. As an automotive producing nation, we must continue to strengthen such world leading institutions as AUTO21.

Accelerating global competition, evolving consumer preferences and climate change are driving the need for huge investments in state of the art assembly plants, as well as leading edge and green automotive technologies. The future will depend on attracting these investments to build the vehicles of the future.

However, if Canada is to do this, we need to go one step further. This is where the fourth pillar comes in. The U.S. and Mexican governments provide extensive support to attract this kind of new automotive investment. Our government is committing to doing its part.

Canada's new automotive investment fund, announced in budget 2008, allocates $250 million over the next five years to lever large scale, private sector R and D innovation. By the way, the NDP voted against that. Specifically, this fund is designed to support large scale, strategic investments in vehicle assembly, powertrain and R and D operations that focus on innovation and environmental technologies. The fund will target areas in which the Canadian auto industry has already secured a world-wide reputation, a reputation that we will build on as we retool for a new, environmentally conscious, fuel efficient age.

We are looking for investments that will align with the new realities of the global auto industry. We will help design and build a 21st century automotive industry, one that will sustain Canadians jobs in an environmentally sound future. We will assess each project on its business case, working in partnership with other levels of government. Investments will comply with our international trade obligations.

Before concluding, I would like to contrast the concrete action taken by our government with that of previous governments.

In 2004, CAPC levelled a scathing critique of the previous Liberal government's inaction in five key areas: large scale investment incentives; infrastructure, like the Windsor-Detroit border crossing; innovation; regulatory harmonization; and human resources.

Furthermore, the previous Liberal government did not take a proactive approach to encourage business to invest in new machinery and equipment that would allow it to be more productive and innovative. Rather, the Liberal government relied on an underappreciated Canadian dollar to sell goods to the U.S. This approach likely led to the closure of three major auto assembly plants between 2003-05 and the loss of approximately 3,700 good paying auto jobs.

In just two years, this Conservative government has addressed most of the challenging automotive issues head on to ensure that Canada remains internationally competitive. In two years we have moved forward on the CAPC recommendations and I am very proud of that.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday at the finance committee we had both big labour and big business. It was an interesting conversation with respect to Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, and the EI issue around setting up a separate EI fund. They pointed out that this particular provision in the budget left something to be desired.

If we want to set up an EI fund distinct and separate from the government, we need to put in about $15 billion. The reason we need to put in about $15 billion is because when unemployment times are bad we want to be able to reduce premiums and when employment times are good we want to actually increase premiums. There is this sort of counter-cyclical effect. We would not, in effect, be taxing businesses when they are strained in economic times.

I wonder whether the parliamentary secretary would be interested in amending the budget provision bill so that instead of setting aside a mere $2 billion, which would do absolutely nothing, the government would put aside $15 billion so the EI fund would act in a counter-cyclical manner and would cushion the bad times and help in the good times. It actually was a recommendation that was made by actuaries in Canada.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like my hon. colleague to know that the EI chief actuary determined it was $2 billion.

This government will not take any lectures from the Liberals on the EI fund. If we remember correctly, under their management it basically went into general revenue and was not managed the way it should have been. That is why we are in need of changes. This government wants to look after workers and put the changes forward that need to be put forward.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about the NDP radical socialist plan. I want to talk about what my radical socialist plan would mean.

It would mean that 100,000 children in B.C. would not be living in poverty. It would mean that first nations children on reserve would have access to the same level of care as the children off reserve have. It would mean that 1,500 homeless people in Victoria would not be living on the street and would have access to affordable, quality housing. It would mean that forestry workers on Vancouver Island would have employment insurance beyond the limited number of weeks that is currently available to them so they would be able to maintain their homes and their families.

How does the government's particular plan address the fact that people are living in poverty, the forestry sector is in crisis in British Columbia and the Auditor General is saying that the Conservative government has simply failed to deal with children and welfare?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question because it gives me the opportunity to contrast the radical socialist policies of the NDP and the common sense policies of our government.

The NDP's policy for business is basically what it wants to do. We have heard the NDP members say that they want to increase taxes on corporations. In other words, they want to tax them to death, then regulate them to death and then increase taxes on the general population so they can subsidize certain businesses that are NDP friendly.

That is not our plan. We believe the best social program is jobs. Unemployment right now in Canada is at a 33 year low. If the member actually knew what she was talking about, she would realize that Ontario is the number one area in North America for automotive manufacturing. We produced over 2.5 million vehicles last year. As a matter of fact, Canadians only use 8% of the North American production but we produce 17%. We are batting above what we should be doing. If the NDP had its way, automotive companies would be paying higher taxes.

What that member does not realize is that we are in a globally competitive environment. Automotive companies do not have to invest in Canada. They can invest in the United States and in Asia. Without getting competitive on a global nature, those jobs will leave. Who then will pay for the social programs that the NDP claims it believes in?

Thank goodness Canadians will never see an NDP government.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to respond to the motion by the member for Sault Ste. Marie.

The member is concerned about jobs and the economy. I would remind him that the unemployment rate has not been this low for 30 years. Indeed, 325,000 jobs have been created during the past 12 months.

I also want to point out that family income is increasing steadily. In fact, real family income has increased twice as quickly in the five years between 2000 and 2005 as it did in the previous 20 years. The low income rate dropped from 15.7% in 1996 to 10.5% in 2006. That represents a great achievement.

However, as members of this House have discussed many times, there are industrial sectors where current economic conditions have muddied the waters. It is now recognized that the United States is in a recession. That was caused, in large measure, by the collapse of the residential mortgage market, which, in turn, had major consequences for the forestry sector. In addition, the rise of the Canadian dollar and higher energy prices have dealt a severe blow to the Canadian manufacturing sector.

On numerous occasions in recent months, this House has debated motions concerning the effectiveness of government programs to help communities and older workers affected by these economic conditions. The government has survived these motions.

We have proved many times that this House has confidence in the government’s programs. These include the $1 billion national community development trust and the targeted initiative for older workers, which has proved very effective in assisting workers in need.

But let me remind members of this House of certain facts as we prepare for a vote of confidence on the member’s motion.

Let me remind them that agreements under the national community development trust have been signed with all provinces and territories. Provincial and territorial governments will use those funds to provide occupational training, to prepare community transition plans and to carry out infrastructure projects to help diversify the local economy.

May I also remind members that the targeted initiative for older workers has been extended to March 2012, and that the total investment for this initiative has been increased to $160 million.

I want to remind them that we provided a billion dollars in tax relief to the manufacturing and processing sector in Canada by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance period.

I remind them as well of the new labour market agreements we signed with British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Manitoba. They will make it possible to provide training to people who do not qualify for employment insurance. Further agreements are currently being negotiated with other provinces and territories and will be signed in the coming months. The funding provided under these new agreements amounts to a total of $3 billion over six years.

Our government is clearly taking action to help the people who work in certain key sectors that are going through difficult times. Contrary to what the hon. member’s motion says, the government is reforming employment insurance. We are helping Canadians who have lost their jobs retrain for others. We are helping Canadians who are not eligible for employment insurance.

In response to the motion of the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, I hope that we can rise above the kind of debates we have heard over the last few months as the opposition parties attacked the government. The hon. members know all about the national community development trust. They know all about the targeted initiative for older workers. They also know all about the tax relief we have provided for manufacturers and processors, as well as the changes made to employment insurance.

I want to remind them, though, of all that the government is doing to ensure that the next generation of Canadian workers has the skills needed for a knowledge-based economy.

We are taking care of older workers and communities dependent on industries that are experiencing difficulty, while at the same time we are preparing the next generation to meet the challenges of the future.

Our goal is to create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. We talk about the knowledge advantage, and it is our youngest people who will be the basis of it. We are giving the next generation of Canadians a chance to excel in the knowledge-based economy by investing massively in post-secondary education.

We made some major commitments in the last federal budget to encourage young people to pursue post-secondary studies and invest in lifelong learning. By post-secondary education, we mean college and university as well as learning a trade.

We improved the Canada student loans program. We spoke with students. Their message was very clear: they need immediate, ongoing financial assistance. And we listened to them.

We introduced the new Canada student grant program, which will come into effect in the fall of 2009. The 2008 budget provides for an investment of $350 million in 2009-10, rising to $430 million in 2012-13. Students from low- and middle-income families who qualify for student loans will automatically be given a grant. It will cover all years of an undergraduate or college program.

The grants will be based on family income, and unlike the Canada millennium scholarships, they will help students in technical schools to continue their education, as well as students in colleges and universities. If a student comes from a low-income family, he or she will be given a grant of $250 per month. If the student comes from a middle-income family, he or she will receive $100 per month. Students will receive this money for each year they are in school. In the first year alone, we believe we will be able to assist 245,000 students. And let us be clear, these are grants, not loans.

This government will invest over $123 million in financial aid to students in the next four years, and $350 million in the Canada student grant program in 2009-10 alone. We will be investing in post-secondary education under the Canada social transfer through transfer payments to the provinces. Transfers will rise to $3.2 billion and will continue to rise by 3% per year until 2013-14.

We are also helping students and their families to save for their education and pay tuition fees and other expenses, through tax measures totalling $1.8 billion, which includes registered education savings plans.

This government is investing $2.7 billion in research and other related activities. This will allow us to prepare a new generation of Canadian workers to take their place at the head of an economy that runs on innovation and knowledge.

To conclude, we know that even with a dynamic economy, some sectors have been hard hit. We have taken measures, by using the tax system, by investing in communities and by introducing a program to help older workers, to meet the needs that are there.

But in the meantime, we are helping a new generation of Canadians to take their place in the new economy, a generation of workers who will have the training, the knowledge and the skills to meet the challenges to come.

It is to this government’s credit that it has introduced and administered a broad range of programs and projects to address the present economic situation, while at the same time building the economy of tomorrow.