Mr. Speaker, I will have to compress my long and witty speech into 10 minutes now.
We are debating the budget implementation bill, Bill C-50. It is a bill that would implement the recent budget, but it also has some other legislation piggybacking it in a way that, for the most part, the official opposition objects to, and I will explain why.
Taking a broader look at the economy, there has been a lot of talk about whether the economy is doing well or not. I am actually a bit more positive about the economy. To be sure, there is a huge difficulty involving manufacturing. In central Canada it has severely impacted a number of localities and there may be more impacts. Generally across the country, however, the country is making jobs.
I took a look at the economic data for the area I represent in the greater Toronto area and Ontario and the statistics are pretty good. For the last month that we looked at, employment was up; the participation rate in employment was up; the unemployment rate was down; the number of social assistance cases in the greater Toronto area was down; inflation is down; the prime rate is 5.75%; commodity demand, all up. For a buyer that is not so good. For a seller, and generally Canada is a seller of commodities all around the world, those prices are up. There are a lot of good things to say about the economy.
I am not a doom and gloom type speaker at this point in time, but I will say that at this time of low interest rates and low inflation, it is absolutely the best time for the government to be showing leadership in investment and reinvestment in our economic sector, particularly the manufacturing sector. I am not seeing any leadership at all with respect to this particular issue.
The bill has provisions governing capital cost allowance. This is an incentive for business generally to reinvest in plant and equipment, but there is no leadership being shown by the government. There is no focus being brought to bear. It is simply scattering the crumbs across the barnyard and saying, “Here. Fend for yourself”.
I accept that our business does well when our entrepreneurs, our business leaders and our workers get together, focus themselves and bring about those good economic investments and impacts. However, there has hardly ever been a time in this country when the Government of Canada did not show leadership in this envelope. All of our major economic activity centres today bear the thumbprint of government leadership at some point in our history, whether it is transportation, or communications, or pharmaceuticals, or electronics, or technology, or research. All of these economic activity areas have had specific government leadership in the past that have made them successful and what they are today, and I do not see that leadership now.
The second thing I want to talk about in this bill is the Canada employment insurance financing board provisions.
I have heard in this debate, incessantly, the New Democratic Party trying to tell us here and Canadians that somehow our governments have been whacking away the money that has been contributed into the EI fund by workers and employers. I point out that the fund is not owned by, but was contributed to by, employees and employers. In fact, employers have put in a slightly greater share of that money. That fund is there; it is intact.
I am very disappointed to hear the New Democratic Party incessantly suggest to Canadians that somebody somewhere in government has stolen this money, so I thought I would look at the Public Accounts of Canada just to check. I am just one MP. There are 300 or so of us here. The taxpayer allows us to spend all this money on printing every year so that we can see the Public Accounts of Canada. There are three volumes. I thought I would go back nine years to 1999.
Where is the fund? How much money is in it? Does it exist? Did somebody steal it? How was it managed? Those who are interested can go to page 4.19, the Public Accounts of Canada, Volume I, 1999 and there it is with a surplus shown in the prior year, 1998, 10 years ago, of $13 billion and change. In 1999 it is $20 billion and change. I looked at the notes to the financial statements just to make sure it was the way it looked. There is was. It even talks about the Government of Canada paying interest into the fund at 90% of the T-bill offering rate. Every year the government under the watchful eye of the Auditor General of Canada accumulates the money in this account. It is a conceptual account but it is real. The government pays interest every year on the EI account as it accumulates. That was 1999.
I thought maybe it had changed in the interim years. I looked at 2005 and there it is, the same fund, alive and well, moving up to $48.5 billion with the same interest being paid every year. It shows the interest being paid. It shows the money being paid out in premiums and the money being paid out in employment programs. There are revenues and expenses to the program and a balance of $48.5 billion.
Then I went to last year. The NDP members have been talking about this. I thought, they have to be misleading us; this is not correct. There it is again, the EI fund. The surplus has moved from $50 billion to $54 billion with all that interest being paid every year. The interest paid in 2007 was $1.9 billion. The Government of Canada, the taxpayers of Canada, have allocated $1.9 billion to be added to this fund.
I am saying to the House that members can simply not accept the NDP members' statements at face value. They are weak on facts. It is misleading. There it is for everybody to see. That again is in chapter 4 of the Public Accounts of Canada, in case anyone wants to look at those.
I still say that this is the perfect time for the Government of Canada to be investing in employment programming, training and in manufacturing, to be leading in that for the benefit of Canadians.
The next thing I want to address is the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act sections. I am one who believes these provisions should not have been piggybacked on the budget implementation bill. There are four sections. There are a couple of legislative tweaks which I will not go into because they are fairly technical, but the ones that have caught the most attention have to do with the desire of the government to give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the legal ability to issue what are called instructions. I have served in the House for 20 years and I have never seen anything called an instruction. It does not exist. What is an instruction? Is it a letter? Is it a phone call? is it a communication? Is it an email? Is it a text message? We do not know but the government, with the collaboration of the department, wants to use a new statutory instrument called an instruction.
I have only one minute left. The time has gone far too quickly, so I will cut to the chase here and say that the government has chosen a very poor form. It is not a statutory instrument. It is not a regulation. It is not pre-published. It is not reviewed by any of the committees of the House as a regulation and it is not consulted on before it is done. It is a huge variance from the rule of law, a huge variance almost to the point of impinging on what is called the pretended power of dispensation which is part of our early parliamentary and constitutional law. The government is at huge risk in using this instrument, and so is Parliament and so are Canadians. I certainly oppose those sections of the bill.