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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

Privacy CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Privacy Commissioner on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act for the year 2007.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Natural ResourcesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources entitled “Canada's Forest Industry: Recognizing the Challenges and Opportunities”.

Business of SupplyRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to designate Thursday, June 5 as the last allotted day in this supply period.

DarfurPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have yet another petition from Quebec, signatures collected by STAND, the university organization for Darfur, to stop the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

They note that since 2003 over 400,000 people have been killed and an incredible 2.5 million people displaced. They say that Canada has a responsibility to work with the international community to stop the killing, the rapes and the displacements.

The petitioners want us to know that every signature on this petition represents 100 people who have murdered in Darfur.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition in which the petitioners note that in federal criminal law an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes.

They also note that the vast majority of the public supports laws to protect unborn children from acts of violence against their mothers that also injure or kill a child in the womb.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation that would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers.

HealthPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions on behalf of Sherbrooke-area citizens.

The first deals with the health system and touches on many of its problems, such as the lack of doctors, notably family doctors. The petitioners are calling on the Canadian government to put more effort into health care.

I took the time to explain to them that health is within Quebec's jurisdiction, and that should the federal government give the provinces money for health, it must be done in such a way as to respect provincial jurisdictions, including Quebec's.

Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., which has offices in Sherbrooke and the surrounding area.

The petitioners are calling on the government to support this company that respects labour laws, health and safety laws and environmental laws. They are also asking for help and support for companies that want to expand overseas.

In addition, they asked me to tell the government that instead of trying to sign free trade agreements with small countries—which will not produce significant results—it should be signing agreements with organizations such as the European Union, which would help Bombardier as well as other companies.

The thousands of people who signed this document are calling for government support of the economy and international trade.

AgriculturePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition today from citizens mostly from Calgary and area.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to ban terminator seed technology to ensure that these seeds are not planted, field tested, patented or commercialized in Canada.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

June 3rd, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to present Bill C-50 at third reading, a bill that proposes to implement certain measures from budget 2008.

This year's budget further illustrates the responsible leadership of this government. This is a budget for uncertain times when a strong and steady hand and focused leadership is needed.

Building on the government's 2007 economic statement, budget 2008 is balanced, focused and prudent in order to ensure that Canada remains strong and secure amid global economic uncertainty.

To that end, budget 2008 continues reducing debt and taxes, focusing government spending, and providing additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

Today I would like to touch upon some of the key measures in the budget that are included in Bill C-50, including as it relates to citizenship and immigration and specifically as it impacts on my constituency of Souris—Moose Mountain. In doing so, I will demonstrate how the government is providing strong and responsible leadership.

I will also demonstrate that our priorities accord with those of Canadians. We are reducing debt, strengthening Canada's tax advantage, investing in the country's manufacturing heartland and investing in priorities that matter to Canadians.

By carefully managing spending and continuing to reduce debt, the government is ensuring that its programs provide value for money, are sustainable and keep the tax burden to a minimum.

We are also ensuring intergenerational equity. This means that we should not ask our children and our grandchildren to pay the freight on the spending excesses of the past, such as by the previous Liberal government in the March spending madness that took place where budget surpluses were used for continual and additional spending.

That is why we are reducing the federal debt by more than $37 billion, including $10.2 billion in 2007-08. As a result of our aggressive debt reduction plan, by 2009-10 personal income tax reductions provided under the tax back guarantee will amount to $2 billion, which will continue to grow into the future.

Our government is also working to create a tax advantage for Canada. The measures we have introduced since taking office will provide almost $200 billion in tax relief over 2007-08 and the following five years. That is $200 billion left in the pockets of Canadians to further increase their business and their initiatives, which will produce more jobs.

As the Minister of Finance has said, our government is meeting the challenge of global economic uncertainty with a plan that is real, a plan that is responsible and a plan that is working.

Budget 2008 builds on past action by proposing what is the most important, federally driven, personal finance innovation since the introduction of the registered retirement savings plan, and that is the tax-free savings account. This flexible, registered, general purpose account will allow Canadians to watch their savings, including interest income, dividend payments and capital gains grow tax free. Yes, tax free.

As a new general purpose savings account, the tax-free savings account will provide an additional tax efficient savings vehicle for Canadians that complements existing registered savings plan, such as the RRSP and the registered education savings plan.

In other words, Canadians will have access to a complete set of tax efficient savings vehicles to meet their various needs: for their children's education, for their retirement and for their own immediate use purposes during life.

An important point to emphasize is that a tax-free savings account will provide greater savings incentives for low and modest income individuals. Neither the income earned in a tax-free savings account nor withdrawals from it will affect eligibility for federal income tested benefit credits, such as the Canada child tax benefit, the GST credit, the age credit, the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits.

In fact, in the first five years it is estimated that over three-quarters of the benefits of saving in a tax-free savings account will go to individuals in the two lowest tax brackets.

The government has taken another action to help those who need it, including Canadian seniors, for example.

Many seniors live on a fixed income. They often find it difficult to make ends meet. That is why our government has provided significant tax relief for seniors and pensioners. This includes a doubling of the pension income amount to $2,000, with an increase in age credit amounts by $1,000.

The tax relief also includes increasing the age limit for maturing RPPs and RRSPs and, for the first time ever in Canada, pension income splitting for seniors and pensioners. For a one-pension working family of two, the savings will be incredible, into the thousands.

However, we can and must do more to support our seniors. Budget 2008 therefore proposes to increase the guaranteed income supplement exemption to $3,500 from the current maximum of $500. This will benefit seniors with low and modest incomes who choose to continue working. We must also remember that the interest they earn on their tax-free savings account will continue to help them. Moreover, this initiative will help these seniors live their retirement years with dignity and the respect they deserve.

Our government is also investing in Canada's manufacturing heartland. It is committed to helping Canadian communities in need. Just this past February, members will recall, Parliament passed the government's $1 billion community development trust to support communities and workers suffering from economic hardship. Among other things, this funding could support job training to create opportunities for workers, community transition plans that foster economic development and create new jobs, and infrastructure development that stimulates economic diversification.

Budget 2008 also demonstrates responsible leadership by helping to create the conditions for our businesses and entrepreneurs to invest and thrive at home and abroad. To that end, budget 2008 takes targeted action to help important Canadian industries. For example, it proposes to provide $250 million for an automotive innovation fund. This initiative, being led by the Minister of Industry, will help Canada's automotive sector adapt to the challenges of the future and remain a key component of Canada's economy.

Budget 2008 also proposes to extend temporary accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for manufacturers and processors for three years, on a declining basis.

This government continues to invest in the priorities of Canadians, one of these being a desire to live in a safe and secure community. This government takes seriously the responsibility of protecting Canadians. Budget 2008 provides funding to protect Canadian families and communities, building on the important investments this government has made in previous budgets.

Bill C-50 proposes to implement a measure from budget 2008 that will provide funding to provinces and territories to support them in recruiting 2,500 new front line police officers. The bill proposes to set aside up to $400 million in 2007-08 to be paid into a third-party trust for provinces and territories, allocated proportionately, to meet this objective.

There is little doubt that the environment is another priority for Canadians. Canadian participation in the earth hour event in March was strong evidence of that. People, not only across the country but around the world, turned off their lights to make a statement about helping find new ways to reduce their impact on the environment.

One of the budget measures contained in Bill C-50 is a proposal to set aside $250 million for a full scale commercial demonstration of carbon capture and storage in the coal-fired electricity sector and for research projects to accelerate the deployment of the technology. Carbon capture and storage presents an opportunity for Canada to develop and benefit from world-leading technology that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On March 15, the Prime Minister of Canada visited my constituency of Souris—Moose Mountain to formally announce the budget provision of $240 million to the province of Saskatchewan for carbon capture and storage and clean coal technology. The province of Saskatchewan confirmed plans to use the funds at the Estevan Boundary Dam, located just south of my home city of Estevan, Saskatchewan.

This federal funding will help leverage an estimated $1.4 billion of investment into clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage. This project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated one million tonnes per year.

I wonder if NDP members realize that by voting against the passage of Bill C-50 they are voting against this critical investment that will result in the equivalent of removing millions of cars from the roads. This project has the potential to provide a solid base for enhanced oil recovery, more jobs and significant economic spinoff.

SaskPower is developing what it is calling one of the first and largest clean coal and carbon capture demonstration projects in the world. This commercial demonstration of state of the art carbon capture and storage technology will make Canada a world leader in clean energy production. Benefits from this project will extend to enhanced oil recovery initiatives.

At the premiers conference in Prince Albert, the premier of Alberta stated in the Saturday, May 31 issue of the Leader-Post that the carbon capture and storage technique is “the quickest, most rapid way of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

In the same article, Premier Wall said that Saskatchewan already is a centre of excellence in terms of carbon capture and storage, with the Petroleum Technology Research Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, and its Weyburn-Midale pilot project, the largest carbon dioxide storage in the world.

Encana's facility located near Weyburn, Saskatchewan is Weyburn's flagship project, with a seven year record of demonstrating CO2 storage on a commercial scale. At this time, Encana receives CO2 from Beulah, North Dakota, using it for enhanced oil recovery, and is presently touted as the world's largest CO2 sequestration project and the largest commercial scale carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery project in Canada.

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre in Regina is actively involved in the Weyburn project. The potential for southeast Saskatchewan is phenomenal. CO2 can be compressed and piped to storage locations. The geological formation for CO2 storage exists in southeast Saskatchewan. It is waiting for expanded, innovative thinking and brave initiatives on the part of all affected parties.

Budget 2008 provides a capital cost allowance rate for compression and pumping equipment on CO2 pipelines of 15% and an increase in the rate from 4% to 8% on CO2 pipelines transporting CO2. It is this type of initiatives that the NDP would be voting against.

It sounds exciting. It sounds invigorating. It is the kind of action and leadership that are required of a government, that enhance and encourage the enterprise, the initiative and the ambitions that Canadians possess and that partner with others like the province of Saskatchewan, SaskPower and industry to ensure projects such as this can take place.

Kevin Hursh, a consulting agrologist and farmer based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, stated in a National Post article on May 31, 2008:

In a lot of small and large towns, [in Saskatchewan] you can hardly find a house to buy and if you do, the price has increased dramatically. Older houses that no one wanted a few years ago are being gobbled up and renovated. Even houses in old farmyards are in demand.

He added that there is an optimism in the agriculture and grain industry sector that has not been seen before. He stated:

People are moving back to Saskatchewan and it isn't only the cities that are benefiting. Rural Saskatchewan still has problems, but there has been an amazing reversal of fortunes. Local governments are scrambling to switch from survival mode to a growth mode.

Our economy and its continued growth will depend on a flexible and responsive immigration system to ensure we have the skilled workers and the tradespeople that our country needs. Neither Canadians nor prospective immigrants benefit from an immigration system that, due to its dysfunctional nature, forces prospective immigrants to wait for up to six years before their application is looked at, let alone processed.

The current system is especially problematic, since in a few short years all of our net labour growth will come from immigration. That is why changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act were included in budget 2008. “Advantage Canada” in 2006 identified that Canada needs the most flexible workforce in the world, an issue that is critical to Canada's future.

A new and more efficient processing system is desperately needed, a system that is responsive both to the needs of newcomers and the needs of Canada. Canada faces serious international competition in attracting people with the talents and skills we need to ensure our country's continued growth and prosperity.

Compared to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, Canada is the only country that does not use some kind of occupational filter to screen, code or prioritize skilled worker applications. Compared to other countries, Canada's system is just not flexible enough.

The legislative changes that we propose will prevent the backlog from growing. With the growth of the backlog halted, the government also has allocated additional resources to reduce the backlog. Among other things, our government has committed over $109 million over five years to bring down the backlog.

Part 6 of Bill C-50, when combined with these non-legislative measures funded in budget 2008 and beyond, will act to control and reduce the backlog and speed up processing. The government will be required to consult with provinces and territories, industry, and government departments.

These consultations will include getting assurances that if the regulated professions are prioritized, commitments from provincial regulatory bodies will be obtained, to ensure that individuals brought here will be allowed to work in their chosen fields soon after arrival. The instructions must respect our commitments to provinces and territories regarding the provincial nominee program and the Canada-Quebec accord.

These proposed changes are part of a vision that involves creating a more responsive immigration system, one that allows us to welcome more immigrants while helping them get the jobs they need to succeed and build a better life for themselves and their families. Their success is our success.

Urgent action is required. Part 6 and all of budget 2008 delivers this much needed action.

The bill we are debating today illustrates just how our government is prepared to meet the challenge of global economic uncertainty. We have a realistic plan for Canada, a plan that is working. There is no way we are going to slide back to the days of high spending, high debt and higher taxes, as some would have it. Canadians do not want that and neither does this government.

Rather, as reflected by the measures proposed in Bill C-50, our plan is taking us down the right road, a road that requires focus, prudence and discipline, yet at the same time it is a road that is very refreshing, exciting and invigorating, a road that will point the way forward for Canadians for years to come. To all Canadians, it will be like a breath of fresh air.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from the Conservative Party, although I will make the comment that the highest debt load and biggest deficits in Canadian history were under a Conservative government, the former Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. For the member to pretend that somehow the Conservatives know how to manage money I think is a bit far fetched.

I want to get to the reality of this budget. The Conservatives now have been in power for over two and a half years and what we have seen is a steadfast erosion in good, quality, family-sustaining jobs in Canada.

A study came out two weeks ago which indicated that the Conservatives have managed to kick out of the country hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs that pay over $20 an hour and replace them with minimum wage jobs in the service industry, jobs that are temporary and part time. Like some kind of economic magicians who cannot handle their magic wands, the Conservatives have taken Canada decades backward to the time of minimum wage jobs by kicking manufacturing jobs out of the country.

Therefore, my question is very simple. Right across the country we are seeing a hemorrhaging of good manufacturing jobs due to Conservative policies. We are seeing that the only thing the Conservatives can come up with are minimum wage jobs that are not family-sustaining jobs, that are part time and that do not come with benefits. Will the member admit that the budget has already failed because what we are seeing for most Canadian families is a steady pushing back of their incomes and a steady pushing down of overall wages in Canada?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, quite the contrary, the Conservative government is managing the economy very well. It is managing the continued growth of the economy and jobs very well. If the member will recall, there was a Globe and Mail article that indicated the types of jobs that are actually being created. They are not the Tim Hortons or burger-flipping type jobs. They are jobs in management. They are jobs in various sectors.

The economy remains strong. Interest rates are low. Inflation remains within the targeted range. Disposable personal income continues to go up. The unemployment rate is at a 33 year low. Employment is on the rise in every region of the country. More than 750,000 new jobs have been created. The taxes that people pay are at an all-time low. Debt is being paid down. Spending is under control. We can remain focused with prudence, or we can pretend that it is not working. All the indicators show that the economy is on a solid foundation. Notwithstanding what is happening in the global situation, we appreciate that has some impact on our economy, as well, but we have addressed those by strategically targeting and we are helping to overcome those, while the rest of the country continues to grow. There are many sectors of the economy in various provinces, like Saskatchewan, that are doing exceptionally well.

It is very important to point out that more Canadians have more dollars in their pockets today than they have had in a long time. Indeed, the income taxes that people work so hard to pay have been going down proportionately every year, into the thousands of dollars. It is important for Canadians to be able to keep some of that money to use on their own initiative to further invest in our economy to create yet more jobs. Certainly it will not be through going the route that the New Democratic Party is talking about. I would urge the member and all hon. members from his party to support this particular budget because it has a number of innovative initiatives that need to go forward to ensure our economy continues along the line that it has been doing in the last little while.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member is talking about some sort of fiscal balance or an approach that is striking balance within the economy, why has the government chosen to continue with a subsidy to the most profitable part of the economy, the oil sands? There is a $1.3 billion or $1.4 billion subsidy that will continue this year, next year and into the year after that, going to a part of the economy which is making absolute record profits with the price of oil being at an all-time high.

This does not make any fiscal sense nor is it prudent at all when other sectors of the economy are struggling just to keep their doors open. There was another announcement from GM today. The government, in a sense, is regionalizing the country. It is breaking it into its component parts rather than maintaining a cohesive unit where various components of the country's economy are presented as a unified force rather than advancing certain interests that are narrowly geographically defined.

How is it that the member's government continues to justify an obscene and perverse subsidy to an industry that does not need it and has not asked for it? Certainly the money could be used much better in other places, whether it be the auto sector, the wood manufacturing sector, just about any other manufacturing sector within our economy, rather than in companies that simply are making profits that were unimaginable in previous economies.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the big oil companies to which the member referred, the member should have noticed that we took away the accelerated capital cost allowance. This is actually a tax hike for big oil companies. We transferred that benefit to manufacturers in Canada as I described earlier. The member surely is aware that more than 19,000 net new jobs were created in this country last month alone, this despite the slowness of the United States economy.

Since this government took office, employment has increased by 832,000 people. There are some single industry communities in particular which need help. That is why the Prime Minister announced the community development trust fund of $1 billion to help communities in parts of the country that have met some difficulties, but there is specific assistance for those in the manufacturing sector. A whole host of programs have been developed to ensure they continue. There is $250 million over five years to support strategic large scale research and development projects in the automotive sector, to develop innovative, greener and more fuel efficient vehicles. This funding will contribute to a more competitive Canadian automotive sector and will help Canada achieve its environmental objectives.

There is a whole host of other programs, such as: $9 billion in tax relief including broad based tax reductions, as well as temporary accelerated writeoffs for investments in machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and processing; $1.3 billion per year in additional funding to the provinces for post-secondary education and training to create a more highly skilled workforce; more than $1.5 billion over three years through budget 2006 and budget 2007 to support Canada's leadership in science and technology; and of course, $33 billion over seven years in infrastructure investments that will continue to ensure that we have the infrastructure to ensure that our economy continues to grow.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned some of the tax cuts in this budget bill. It is important to point out that the largest most targeted tax relief in the last two budgets has in fact been for the manufacturing sector, in particular, $1.3 billion in last year's budget and $1 billion in this budget with respect to the two year writeoff for capital cost allowance so companies can invest in new machinery, so they can improve their productivity over a very short period of time and compete at the dollar parity they are facing today.

The second thing I want to point out is there are comments made about the service sector which unfortunately are very pejorative and in fact are incorrect. According to Statistics Canada, and the NDP is free to survey its website, the average service sector wage rose from $14.97 to $17.54 between 2000 and 2007. This was the fastest growing sector, in terms of percentage per annum of the labour force surveyed, growing by 3.1%. I know the NDP likes to say that they are only McJobs, but the service sector includes financial services, the life insurance sector, health professionals and teachers. That is what the service sector is. This is what the industry committee is studying.

I encourage the member to talk to his colleague from Parkdale—High Park so he gets a broader view of what the service sector is in this country and how important it is. That is what the service sector is. It is intricately linked with the manufacturing sector and other sectors. We should be proud of all workers in this country, rather than use pejorative terms like the NDP is choosing to do in this debate.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for drawing attention to what should be painfully obvious to the NDP, but we do know what we do not need. We do not need the type of economic policy the professor across the way would have, which would max out the national credit card and pay for it with a new carbon tax. It would kill jobs. It would drive up the cost of everything, gasoline, diesel, home heating oil. It would reduce the standard of living for all individuals and families. Those are the kinds of things we do not need. We need the types of programs that will ensure the economy goes forward, that jobs are created, good quality jobs as my learned friend has indicated. The NDP should wake up and get behind us and support the initiatives we are taking in this budget because it will certainly help all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to split my time with the member for Willowdale.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is there unanimous consent?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the third reading debate on the budget implementation bill. I will divide my comments between the budget per se and the immigration provisions.

On the budget per se, our leader said at the time the budget was presented that this was not a very significant budget and it certainly was not worth going to the people in an election on such a minor budget. Most of the money had been spent in previous actions, but there were a number of items in the budget with which we took exception.

First of all, we had recommended that rather than pay down $10 billion in debt, the government pay down $3 billion in debt and devote $7 billion to an infrastructure fund. We were highly conscious of the fact that Canada faces an infrastructure deficit in excess of $100 billion. This would be an investment in the future not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren. As an important byproduct, it would have created many jobs across the country. Sadly, the government chose not to take this advice and this opportunity has now disappeared.

I also have some reservations about the EI enterprise. First of all, it is an exercise in bureaucracy. Experts have told me that to set EI premiums according to some formula, we do not need to set up some vast new enterprise which is a waste of taxpayers' money. It can be done in a much simpler and more expeditious way.

I am also concerned about the fact that the surplus in that new enterprise is only $2 billion, which will force the agency to increase EI premiums by a substantial amount just at the moment when the economy may be going into a recession. This is a counter-cyclical bad policy. As actuaries and others have said, there should be a larger surplus so that the EI account is balanced over the cycle rather than year by year.

Coming now to the immigration provisions, we on the Liberal side are strongly opposed to these provisions. First of all, the government is simply saying, “Trust us”. It does not tell us anything about what it is going to do. All of the power rests with the minister to do whatever she wants to do. The mantra of the government is, “Trust us”. Our view is that given the record of the government, there is no reason that any Canadian should trust the Conservative government to do anything, let alone make very important decisions on immigration.

One of the other concerns I have with the immigration provisions is that the government put virtually no more money into the immigration budget. Any serious attempt to deal with backlogs, waiting times and processing times is empty if there is not more money to hire more people to do the interviewing and the processing.

When the government effectively puts no more money in and it says that certain groups will be fast-tracked, that automatically implies, logically speaking, that some other groups will be slow-tracked. The Conservatives do not admit to that. They do not fess up to that point, which is fairly basic. In saying that they will fast-track the economic immigrants, they are implicitly, while not admitting it, saying that they will slow-track the family reunification immigrants.

We on this side acknowledge the importance of the labour shortages and the economic immigrants, but at the same time we believe in balance, which the government does not believe in. We do not think that fast-tracking of economic immigrants should be carried out on the backs of family reunification immigrants. In brief, I think what we are seeing is the commoditization of immigrants, that immigrants are seen not as people but as commodities by the Conservative government.

Therefore, we oppose these provisions. If we oppose them in large numbers, there may be an election. If we oppose them in small numbers, we are sending a message to the people of Canada that when a Liberal government is in power, we will replace these immigration provisions with a better policy which will certainly involve a certain amount of funding and which will certainly involve policies that address both family reunification immigrants and economic immigrants, and do not favour one group at the expense of the other.

The next issue I would like to address is the stewardship of our economy by the government. Not so long ago on May 12, the finance minister said, “The factors behind the current American malaise are not likely to be duplicated here”. Then he went on to describe how Canada was doing so terribly well compared with the United States that was doing so terribly bad. He talked about our financial institutions being strong. He talked about us not having a subprime mortgage crisis. He talked about us not having a housing slump. He probably mentioned the resource-based nature of our economy which is causing a boom in western Canada and other parts of the country.

How is it then that the most fundamental indicator of the health of the economy, the indicator that tells us whether we are in recession or not, that is to say the growth of the gross domestic product, that in the first quarter of this year Canada's GDP went down and the U.S. GDP went up? That shocked everyone because some people believed the finance minister that the Canadian land is strong and the U.S. land is weak. How come it went up and we went down?

Not only that but Canada had the weakest first quarter of this year of any G-7 country. These are facts. These are not government spin. So Canada had the weakest first quarter of 2008 of any G-7 country. We are technically half way into our first recession in some 15 years. Yet, the government blathers on about the land is strong and everything is fine.

We have the weakest first quarter of any G-7 country. Consumer confidence, it was reported yesterday, has plummeted to the lowest level in seven years and business confidence is weak. Only today 1,000 jobs were lost in Oshawa, thanks in terms of the General Motors plant. Maybe that will wake up the Minister of Finance because a lot of those people actually live in his riding.

What is the answer? Yes, the Minister of Finance is right, Canada has these advantages. We do not have a subprime mortgage crisis. We do not have a housing slump. We do have a strong resource sector. Then why is Canada doing so badly relative to the U.S. and other G-7 countries in the first quarter of 2008? I will give the House the answer. It is the bad stewardship of this economy carried out by the Minister of Finance.

First of all, he said that Ontario is the last place to invest. It seems this morning General Motors was listening. General Motors announced today that it will not be investing in Ontario. It is closing that plant. I think it is the height of irresponsibility. Whatever the differences in policy view between the federal government and the provincial government, it is the height of irresponsibility for any finance minister to trash the business climate of any province, let alone his own province, telling people that it is the last place to invest.

People are starting to listen. It is irresponsibility, irresponsible on his part, and he should retract that comment. He should apologize for that. He should say the truth which is that Ontario is a great place to invest, not the last place to invest which is what our Minister of Finance said.

He is ideologically rigid. We have hemorrhaging jobs in manufacturing. He is ideologically opposed to any government investment in or support for the manufacturing sector. We saw the consequences of that this morning. We will see many more consequences of that down the road. He is not in the pothole business, so he is not wanting to put money into infrastructure. We disagree with that.

We have hemorrhaging jobs in manufacturing. His laissez-faire policy, ideologically motivated, is not to provide any direct support for the manufacturing sector and we are seeing the consequences of that today.

Last but not least, the minister inherited a $13 billion surplus, the biggest inheritance in Canadian history and in just over two short years he has taken Canada to the verge of deficit. Some say we are in deficit. He spent like crazy during the two first years when times were good to the point where Andrew Coyne, hardly a Liberal hack, labelled him the biggest spender since Confederation. Having spent like crazy--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. I did try to warn the hon. member, but if he never looks at the Chair, I cannot warn him.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Peterborough.