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House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments.

I would like to avoid having a dialogue at this moment and allow other members of the House to ask questions.

The hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River is standing to ask a question. He has one minute.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker,--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster is rising on a point of order.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the Standing Orders say that when a member has risen for questions and comments and no other member has risen, that member must be recognized. I rose and asked to be recognized. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, you are now asking members from the Liberal Party to ask questions among themselves. That is not in accordance with the Standing Orders.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I appreciate the good advice that the hon. member is giving me. I would like to remind him that I have been more than generous toward him, today and on other occasions.

I also do not like to have members of the same party asking questions of members who have just spoken, but I have to deal with the cards that are dealt to me.

Right now I am recognizing the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River. Unfortunately, the one minute has now been cut in half.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for promoting a wider, open debate. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has had a lot of air time.

I just wanted to comment and there may not be time for a reply.

The bill contains a provision in relation to the immigration act that creates something called an instruction, which goes into the envelope of statutory instruments and regulations, but it is not either of those things. It is a new approach. It is different. It sounds expedient, but it may vary from rule of law. I am curious if the member, who has the floor now, has a view about the use of such an instrument in this circumstance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Very quickly, Mr. Speaker, regulations are a much better way to go. That is the present practice. It allows scrutiny, transparency and accountability. Let me also just close off by saying that the temporary foreign worker issue is particularly egregious in the bill. My simple feeling on that issue is that if individuals are good enough to work here, they are good enough to live here, become Canadians, and help build the country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-50. I want to touch on a number of issues, one relating to the widening income gap that we are seeing in Canada. On another issue, I want to touch on some solutions that my colleagues and I have proposed.

I also want to talk about what the government could have done with some of the money received from Canadians other than continuing to subsidize large oil and gas companies and other big corporations. I also want to speak about the changes to the immigration act, as they will really touch some of my constituents who come into my office to speak to me.

The latest census figures paint a grim picture of our economy. While incomes for the richest 20% of Canadians have increased, the poorest have become poorer and meanwhile the incomes of those in the middle have just simply flatlined. This is according to the recent Statistics Canada report.

This corporate wealth grab is the result of a well orchestrated partnership with neo-liberal governments of past decades. The Thomas d'Aquinos have syphoned off all the benefits. We hear a lot about the trickle down effect. I am sure that it might make sense if it were not for the sponges at the top that are preventing any kind of trickle down.

In Victoria alone, according to recent research published from a “Quality of Life Challenge” report, parents need to make almost $16.50 an hour just to earn a basic living wage. It reports that 27.2% of families in B.C.'s capital fall below the acceptable living standard line. What is more alarming is that the research reveals that the majority of parents had 70 hour work weeks, the equivalent of two full time jobs. This is up 10 hours from last year.

What we see also are young people, aboriginal and immigrants, who are marginalized and trapped in part time, unstable, low paying McJobs, despite the government's rhetoric about job creation.

It is important for all of us in the House to talk seriously about the living wage. Victoria's housing costs are among the highest in the country. While the unemployment rate is the lowest in nearly four decades, I concede, employment trends are toward more low wage, part time and more insecure jobs that support the service sector, including tourism.

The labour pool will continue shrinking as the boomers retire and not many families with children can afford to live in Victoria. Only a small number of new immigrants make their homes in my riding. Young people tend to move away.

When more people are paid a living wage, the quality of life in the community improves. That is well known. A healthy economy attracts families, businesses and tourists. A living wage begins to close that income gap that we are seeing and reduces the number of people who are disadvantaged because of poverty.

In the study that I mentioned, expenses for a family of four were calculated on approximately $4,600 income per month. The rent took the largest bite with about $1,300, approximately 28% of costs, but it was closely followed by child care which amounted to approximately $1,000 a month, and then food and transportation costs. However, we know that food prices are rising exponentially.

This is where the government's neo-liberal approach is failing Canadian businesses and families. The federal government's absence from the table to make housing more affordable in Canada is inexcusable. The government's inaction in establishing national standards for child care and providing multi-year funding is adding to the crisis that families face.

These are all actions that we know would help working families and small businesses.

A couple of months ago, I met with some mayors of rural communities in the province of British Columbia. They told me that the absence of a national child care system and stable multi-year funding from the federal government were creating serious problems for those communities' ability to attract new businesses, because business owners know that they will not be able to attract employees.

High living costs are impacting businesses as well. They are having difficulty in attracting employees to our own high priced city and retaining them. Despite historically low unemployment and new sources of wealth creation, poverty in British Columbia's capital region, particularly among the working poor, is unacceptably high.

I was intrigued to read in the Statistics Canada report a couple of weeks ago that in 2007 British Columbia had its second best year for retail sales since 1995. That was a 6.7% increase over the previous year in Victoria, yet Victoria's downtown shopping centre, with its report of double digit sales growth for most of 2007, showed that the actual number of shoppers going through its doors was flat.

There is something wrong there. Or if it is not wrong, it is at least interesting that businesses have higher sales but fewer shoppers. Perhaps this indicates that fewer shoppers were simply purchasing more. This could be explained by the fact that in Victoria more than 30% of residents live below the poverty line and are unable to shop for anything beyond the very basics of food, transportation and so on.

This percentage could be reduced if more people who want to return to work were able to do so. At the moment, they are hampered by the fact that affordable day care, for example, is simply not available in the capital city of British Columbia.

Another recent report, from the University of British Columbia's Human Early Learning Partnership, highlighted an immediate need of 13,000 child care spaces for children from infant to school age. These numbers clearly cry out for a high quality national day care program to be put in place.

Along with high quality child care, education and skills training must be the starting point in breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy and ensuring Canada's competitiveness in the knowledge economy. Yet since 1995, when the then Liberal government initiated devolution for training to the provinces, Canada has remained leaderless in setting national standards or certification and qualification systems.

An OECD report,“Beyond Rhetoric: Adult Learning Policies and Practices”, states:

Governments' influence over national legislation and public resourcing policies is perhaps the most important way it can express clear commitment to supporting integrated policies for adult learning.

We need government policies, legislation and regulation that facilitate adult learning. We need financial incentives that encourage firms to invest in their workforce or incentives for individuals to engage in learning. All of this was cut by the Conservative government in last year's budget, at a crucial time when we know that many Canadians still lack the fundamental skills they need to move ahead.

Basic skills training and equitable access to education obviously remain a low priority for the government. Many Canadians come to my office and tell me about training needs and the difficulty in accessing programs. According to a recent Canadian Council on Learning report, 30% of Canadian workers reported in 2002 that there was job related training they needed or wanted to take, but they were unable to do so.

Although I realize this represents partly the former government's under-investment in training, important issues remain. Not enough is being done, and certainly not in this budget, to address the problem nationally.

Along the same lines, many families have spoken to me about the high cost of education. Without a meaningful investment in student grants for students of low income and middle income families, the Conservatives' transfer of funds from the Millennium Scholarship Foundation to a government-administered grants system will do nothing to improve access. If it is essential to our prosperity, why are we not doing more?

Not only does the lack of skilled workers affect ordinary Canadians' ability to cope, but it is impacting businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up Victoria's business community, face greater barriers. Some small business owners have told me that poaching is a real problem for them. If the Conservatives chose to act on the employability report recommendations, it could help address these issues.

The employability report was tabled several months ago. If the government decided to implement these recommendations, it could help reduce the problems associated with poverty and also help small and medium-sized enterprises. I would like to mention a few of these recommendations. One of them recommends:

that the federal government provide funding to assist individuals who agree to relocate to enter employment in occupations experiencing skills shortages.

That is exactly the type of recommendation submitted by my colleague for Hamilton Mountain to the government. Another recommendation proposes “a national agency for the assessment and recognition of credentials, especially foreign credentials”.

Yet another calls on the government to consider:

expanding and restructuring the apprenticeship job creation tax credit and the apprenticeship incentive grant to encourage growth in apprenticeships and the completion of apprenticeship training generally.

Several recommendations seek to make access to education more equitable. At present, low to middle income families find it quite difficult to pay the very high tuition fees charged by Canadian universities.This employability report recommended that the federal student loan interest rate be considerably reduced or simply eliminated.

At present, students from low to middle income families have less access to education than students from rich families. Although the government has announced some changes and improvements to the administration of the student loans system, which I certainly applaud, there remain many bureaucratic and administrative problems to be resolved. We recommended the creation of an ombudsman for student loans to promote the better use of the loan system.

Various recommendations of this type would help solve the problems faced by many Canadians with respect to precarious jobs and would also help small businesses facing labour shortages.

I also wish to take a few minutes to speak about the changes to the immigration act that the government has proposed. These changes are going to encourage queue jumping. They are going to make family reunification more precarious and that is of serious concern.

I want to give members two typical cases. I could give many cases, but these two really illustrate some of the basic problems.

We are all aware that there are problems with the huge backlog of applications that has accumulated over the last decade, and these problems must be solved. However, they should not be solved by simply accepting that we have an immigration policy that becomes totally arbitrary, withdrawing it from the purview of Parliament and putting it in the hands of one person, the minister.

The son of one of my constituents, for example, still has not received a visa after many years. We have contacted the Canadian embassy in Nairobi. When it did not respond to our emails, I called the ministerial inquiries division and asked it to check into the situation. I was told that Nairobi was waiting for the medicals to arrive from the doctor, but when we spoke to the constituent, she said that she had called the doctor's office and had not heard back.

The message is that this reunification of a mother and a son has taken an unacceptably long time. This is not a problem that we will solve by simply making the kinds of changes that render our immigration policy totally arbitrary.

We need that family reunification clause. It is an important aspect of our policy, a longstanding policy that Canada offers to families we welcome in our country to allow them to better settle here.

I would like to give a couple of other examples. Back in 2004, one of my constituents and his wife began the process of applying to sponsor her parents from the Ukraine. It took two years before the application was actually received in the embassy in the Ukraine, which was November 2006. They continue to wait. My question is, why does it take so long to reunite a family?

I see that I have a couple of minutes left and would like to end by touching just briefly on the environment. The 2008 budget does not take decisive action to tackle climate change. It continues to reflect a regressive approach to the issue, focusing on such measures as carbon sequestration to further increase the development of the tar sands rather than a comprehensive program to reverse climate change.

Just in the past few days, we have seen Ontario and Quebec get together to put in place measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, as have B.C. and Manitoba. As the Globe and Mail stated, the country's most populous provinces “are turning their backs on Ottawa” by setting up a cap and trade system.

Faced with the government's inaction, Canadian premiers are giving up on Ottawa. For example, Quebec's and Ontario's use of 1990 emission levels as a baseline for setting caps contrasts with the government's baseline, which is 2006.

The Minister of the Environment said just today in the House during question period that Canada must actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I wish he would actually take action to do that rather than maintain the Conservative government's intensity based targets--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member's remarks. She covered a great deal of territory and a lot of points.

I want to address the immigration component of her remarks. I suggest that the backlog she describes, while it is real and while it numbers some 800,000 or 900,000 people, is not necessarily a function of anything that Canada has done wrong. At least in part, the backlog is there because of the increased demand in coming to Canada.

Canada still is taking 250,000 to 300,000 new Canadians every year. We continue to generally meet our immigration targets. I am not so sure if we have even asked Canadian communities if they would be in a position to accept another 100,000 or 200,000 per year. That is a whole other question. We now take about 300,000 per year and can our Canadian communities absorb more than that?

We are really looking at a way to manage the increased demand for entry to Canada. I am curious to know whether she believes the measures in the four sections in the budget implementation bill will manage to address that issue of higher demand and increasing the backlog, which some people can regard as an inventory of immigration applicants wishing to come to Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion we are not going to manage to receive a higher number of immigrants simply by making the rules more arbitrary, as the government is proposing. Not only that, I recall the minister stated that the new rules would not apply to applications prior to 2008, so I do not know what will happen to that backlog.

What I find more worrisome about the government's way of approaching the problem is it seems to be turning immigrants into economic units. That is deplorable. Immigrants have contributed and continue to contribute much to the fibre, the quality, the diversity and the richness of our country. Simply reducing that population to becoming economic units to fill jobs is not the way to go.

Family reunification, as I described earlier, is an important component that we must maintain. There may indeed be a skills shortage. As I tried to also express, there are many measures the government could take to address the skills shortage that may exist in the country. Simply short-cutting to bring in workers on a short term basis, with no commitment to their well-being in the long term or their stay in Canada, is not the way to go.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Victoria served on the committee that looked at Employability in Canada: Preparing for the Future, a report that was tabled in the House. The report talked about the barriers to employment for aboriginals.

Part of what was included in the report was the fact that poor health, poverty, unsuitable living conditions, including inadequate housing, racism and discrimination, had a direct impact on the social, education and occupational achievements of aboriginal people.

Then there were numerous recommendations, including the fact that the government should take immediate steps to strengthen the commitment to provide high quality, culturally relevant elementary and secondary education to aboriginal students and that it should also support indigenous controlled post-secondary education institutes.

Could the member comment on the Conservative government's failure to address these in this current budget implementation bill?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, this was a very important component of the study we did. The government has been remiss in investing properly not only at the primary and secondary school levels, but also at the post-secondary level for first nations. We noted in the report that the government has not adequately financed post-secondary education for first nation students.

One of the recommendations was to put in place a number of programs to better support them, for example, mentorship programs and skills training. The latter could help first nations build capacity as well.

At least 15 recommendations touched specifically on issues on which the federal government had been remiss, and it is shameful to admit that. These recommendations would go a long way toward helping first nations. They were endorsed by many of the first nations people who spoke at committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has a background in municipal affairs. One of the issues we find in northern Ontario, in terms of ensuring that an economy can grow, is the fact that the burden for tax has been handed over to municipalities, such as water rates, sewer rates, increased taxes on local businesses and so on. The federal government has walked away from infrastructure as have the provinces walked away from some of their infrastructure requirements. The fundamentals of building an economy are roads, sewers and communities that can actually keep up.

From the hon. member's experience in the Victoria region, could she comment on the transfer of a massive amount of debt onto homeowners and businesses?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is one of reasons that led me into federal politics.

As a councillor in the municipality of Victoria, I saw the download that happened over the years by a former Liberal government in an attempt to cut costs at the federal level. It simply passed the costs on to provinces and municipalities. This led municipalities across Canada to an infrastructure deficit. I have stopped counting in the past couple of months, but it had reached the $85 billion mark and that was for sewage treatment plants, storm water disposal and community centres.

The mentality of the Conservatives seems to be putting more money in the pockets of people pockets, which we all appreciate, but those members have to remember that individuals cannot build schools, hospitals or sewage treatment plants. We get this infrastructure from taxes.

The government has been remiss in its responsibilities in helping municipalities cope with these issues.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, almost two months ago, I rose in the House to discuss the serious concerns my constituents had about the proposed changes to Canada's immigration laws in Bill C-50.

It is with great frustration that I rise in the House again with the same concerns.

The government has had ample time to listen to the many people who have spoken out on this issue and to the changes that it wants to make, yet it has refused to listen. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was recently in my riding. Instead of listening to my constituents and instead of bringing the message from my constituents of Newton—North Delta to Ottawa, she tried to impose the orders from Ottawa on those constituents. In fact, she did not even care to meet the general public there. She only met her Conservative loyalists to relay her message and to look good.

It is not only my constituents of Newton—North Delta who are concerned. In fact your constituents, Mr. Speaker, of Ottawa—Orléans are feeling the same way. They want you to bring the message from the grassroots to the House of Commons, not the other way around.

Another incident happened. When the minister was to meet the South Asian media on this issue, some people gathered where the minister was supposed be so they could express their concerns to her. What happened? As usual, following the Conservative policy and plan, the minister cancelled the event to meet with the media because she did not want to face those constituents. She met only with her preferred people and left out the South Asian media.

On another issue, when an election spending scandal issue was in the House, the Prime Minister did the same thing. The minister is following the lead of her leader.

We should be clear that the government has never tried to make an honest, open attempt to improve our immigration system. The Prime Minister has always wanted to sneak these changes through the back door by including them in the budget implementation bill, a confidence measure.

Those who had hoped for a change of heart over the past two months have been sorely disappointed. There was never any public consultation on these changes before they were introduced in the House of Commons. The only real public consultation these changes received was from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The committee heard from a number of witnesses over extended meetings last month. Its conclusions were disheartening.

First, the committee reiterated how fundamental changes to our immigration system should be made. Changes need comprehensive and meaningful consultation. That did not happen. Changes should be introduced in stand-alone legislation. That did not happen. The committee should be given clear and detailed explanatory information. That did not happen. It is almost as if the government is trying to prove that these changes are being made in bad faith.

Nonetheless, the committee continued its work, and I commend its well thought out conclusions. The committee concluded, as I have, that these changes would not fix the backlog of applications. The changes would only apply to the applications and requests made on or after February 27, 2008.

The changes will not speed up the processing of the 900,000 applications made before then. This point is worth repeating. The government claims that it introduced these changes to reduce the backlog but they will do no such thing. Even when we look at the record of the government on reducing the backlog, the record is very clear. Under its administration, the backlog of applications has increased by 125,000 applications. The changes could even result in longer waiting times for these people as new applicants are prioritized.

The committee also found that the proposed changes cut at the heart of Canadian values. Canada is known around the world for its commitment to fairness and equality and yet these changes jeopardize the predictability and fairness of the current immigration system that we have in place.

The changes would give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration discretionary powers to prioritize who will get into Canada and to direct which category of applicants may be returned without even being processed. This discretion lacks transparency and creates uncertainty for prospective immigrants. It takes oversight and accountability away from Parliament. That is not unusual when it comes to the accountability of the government. On every issue the government has failed to prove that it is accountable to Canadians.

No person should be subjected to that kind of arbitrary power, which the minister is trying to skew. People are worried that they could do everything right and obey every law but still be rejected out of hand. The minister claims that the intent of these changes is more modest. The problem is that our country is ruled by law, not intentions.

We are opening the door to the kind of abuses that are completely unacceptable in a country like ours. If we open the door to these abuses, where will it stop? Even the attempts at openness proposed in the new law are nothing more than red herrings. The Conservatives say that the government will publish new instructions for prioritizing applications in the Canada Gazette, but publication will only occur after the instructions have come into effect, leaving no opportunity for consultation.

It is sad that the government did not try to hold a consensus among all parties to reform our immigration system. We all agree that the system is in dire need of reform. We have a backlog of more than 900,000 applications of people who want to immigrate to Canada. This backlog leaves applicants waiting for years to hear back from us.

At the same time, many parts of Canada also have severe labour market shortages. Within the next decade, British Columbia will face a potential shortfall of 350,000 workers. Even though the government is trying to bring in the temporary workers to fill those positions, it is not working.

Every day in my riding of Newton—North Delta small business people come to my office with complaints and getting frustrated with the government's policy because only one out of ten applicants are successful in coming here as a temporary worker.

Small businesses, particularly manufacturers, are facing competition from giant forces like India and China. They cannot compete when it comes to the labour force. On top of that, they have a shortage of people. They have spent millions of dollars in capital investment but the government is doing nothing to help them with the shortage of labour they are facing.

The record on that one is very clear as well. If we look at the government's record over the last two years on bringing immigrants into this country, it brought in 36,000 fewer immigrants to meet the needs of those businesses. It is very important to have those permanent immigrants coming into this country because in the next decade the only way we can meet that demand is from those permanent immigrants. Those are the ones who will create the local economy. On the other side, temporary workers will come in for eight months, earn money and then go back to their countries. They will not be contributing anything to the local economies.

Over the next decade, particularly in British Columbia, over $100 billion worth of new infrastructure projects are planned or under way in British Columbia but many are delayed due to the lack of workers. The opening of Cloverdale Trades and Technology Centre at Kwantlen University was delayed because it could not find enough tradespeople to finish the job. It is hard to believe that a trades school could not find enough trades workers to finish its own building. This is how bad the situation is and the minister and the Conservative government are not waking up to this issue.

On top of that, our aging population makes these challenges all the more important. For the first time ever, over half of our workers are over 40 years of age. The ratio of those aged 65 and over to those of working age from 18 to 64 will start rising from the current level of 20% to 46% by 2050. The bottom line is that Canada cannot survive without immigration. All of our population growth and labour market growth will come from immigration over the next two decades. Without immigration our economy will collapse.

This is not rocket science. Canada should match its labour market demand with the labour supply that is waiting to immigrate. The backlog represents a tremendous opportunity to do that. There are two ways to actually solve the backlog. We can either eliminate applications or add more officers to process them faster.

The choice is very clear. Does the minister want to eliminate the applications to catch up with the backlog instead of hiring more immigration officers to process those applications expediently so we can bring in those immigrants and meet the demands of the labour shortage in places like British Columbia and Alberta?

The government has the money to hire more officers but it has been unwilling to do that. The government found money for boutique tax credits, money to reward their friends and money to bribe voters in swing ridings but it cannot find the money to bring in immigrants to meet our labour market needs and meet the needs of small businesses that are going out of business because they cannot find competent people right here in Canada.

It is not that the government cannot invest more money into the system. It is that it has chosen not to do that. This is the right time to make that investment and for the government to listen to the opposition members in this House and to those businesses and Canadians who know exactly where the problem is, not the minister who has no clue what she is trying to get into.

If the government had any integrity, it would withdraw section 6 of Bill C-50 and begin a real consultation on a different way to fix the challenges facing our immigration system, but I do not think it will, and I cannot support that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Oil Imbalance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with almost perverse fascination to my hon. colleague's speech for 20 minutes while he talked about the need to have integrity in voting and how the government needs to listen to the opposition on this issue of immigration.

The issue of immigration is paramount to the future development of our country and it needs to be debated and brought forward. As my hon. colleague points out, something this important should not be slipped into a budget vote.

However, when a government does something that will affect so many Canadians and knows that it is wrong, those Canadians must turn to their members of Parliament. It is a role of each member in this House to stand up at certain times and say that we cannot allow this, that this is not the way it is done. Sometimes those votes come at a cost. Each of us, as a member of Parliament, has had to make decisions that we know will cost us personally.

This is a situation where the government brought this bill in because it knew that members of the Liberal Party would be more interested in saving their own jobs than representing their countrymen, the people in their regions and in their ridings. The government knew that the members opposite would not stand up when the time came so it felt free to do what it wanted.

I find it absolutely appalling that the member would stand and say that the government did something wrong. The government is doing something that it believes it can get away with, and it is doing that through the collusion of that party.

Last night we had a vote in the House but I would never say whether people were there or not. My glasses were off so I could only count six or seven people at a time. I cannot say whether the member actually stood and voted but he is paid to vote. He is paid to stand in this House and represent his constituents. He is not paid to come after the fact, shrug his shoulders and say that it was a terrible thing but that he could not afford to lose his job, that he could not afford to go to an election or that he could not afford to stand and challenge the government. He is paid by his constituents to be there for these votes that are so crucial.

If this is such an important issue, and I believe it is, then we need to say that we will not stand for it. Whether or not the government is threatening confidence, his job as opposition is to either stand and challenge the government or to roll over and stop complaining.

Where has the member been on these votes?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for expressing his opinions. My record on voting is very clear on this particular bill. I consistently have been opposed to the legislation. If the member for Timmins—James Bay was that concerned about Canadians, he should think about 2005, when his leader, the leader of the NDP, just to gain a few more seats in the House of Commons, brought down the Liberal government.

In regard to those policies that are very near and dear to the NDP, the member for Timmins—James Bay should have advised the hon. members not to bring down the Liberal government. Then we would not have been betrayed with Kelowna, Kyoto, the child care agreement and now this immigration policy.

Let me tell the House that it is that party, the NDP, that is trying to ruin this country's fabric because it wants an election every day.

This is not about wanting an election every day but about making and bringing in change and there is only one party that is the natural governing party of the country. That is the Liberal Party. I can tell those members that when the time is right we will be out there asking for a verdict from the voters, not from the NDP.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it is possible, but I would suggest, quite frankly, that my colleague put aside all partisanship, disregard all of the parties in the House and respond simply as an elected representative of the people and his constituents, just as I am.

He spoke very eloquently about immigration. I myself spoke yesterday about part 6 of Bill C-50. When it comes time to vote, at the end of debate on this bill at third reading, why would he not actively vote in the interest of his constituents of whom he so eloquently spoke? Why would he not speak out against this bill? As far as I understood, the member expressed nothing but concerns, just as I did in my speech yesterday.

Why would he not rise in this House to vote against this bill that he is criticizing? That is how I see it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I thank the member sitting on this side of the House for the suggestion, I would also like to tell the member that I have consistently opposed the bill and the Liberal Party has stood up consistently against these changes.

We will bring in an alternative immigration plan that will work for all Canadians. When it comes to me personally, I can assure the hon. member that I will consistently keep on opposing the legislation, because it is not good for Canadians, Canada or British Columbia, and it is not good for Quebeckers.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to listen to my colleague.

I have one very short question. What do we call this party that has sat in the House for decades?

We have listened to the party positions of the previous Reform Party and then the Canadian Alliance, which now have morphed into the Conservative Party, and those parties made it clear they were opposed to women's equality rights and the rights of official languages minorities. The Conservatives had every intention of abolishing the court challenges program if and when they ever came to power. They did not support any kind of government financial support for early childhood development and child care spaces. They were opposed to the agreement that the then Liberal government signed with 10 provinces and 3 territorial governments. They were opposed to the Kyoto protocol.

Knowing that was the position of the then official opposition, that other party cooperated with the official opposition to bring down a government that clearly had shown it was in favour of the court challenges program and actually had brought it back to life and that also was in favour of early childhood and child care spaces, the Kyoto protocol and the action plan on official language minorities.

Then that other party turns around and says it is the party of the people. What do you think of that kind of party? I believe it is called the New Democratic Party--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine is experienced in the House and knows not to use the second person when addressing another member.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

What does that member, my colleague, think of such a party--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

That is fair enough. We have heard the question. The hon. member for Newton—North Delta has the floor for one minute.