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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is this Prime Minister and this Minister of Finance who have delivered record amounts to support infrastructure in this country. What did that member do? He refused to even read the budget and is saying he will vote against it.

Let us look at the what the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said:

[T]he federal government took concrete action to create new jobs, fight the recession and invest in a safer, greener, more competitive Canada.

The premier of the Northwest Territories came forward with his infrastructure plan, and within three hours this government approved it.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday our government outlined a strong plan to confront many of the challenges facing Canadians. Can the Minister of the Environment tell this House what action this government is taking to build a greener Canada, and what targeted investments we are making to improve Canada's environment?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the question and for all of his hard work with respect to this file.

The budget has confirmed our continuing commitment to the environment with initiatives such as a new fund for green infrastructure, support for eco-energy retrofits, a dedicated fund for clean energy projects, including renewable energies, major investment as well for energy retrofits for social housing, and advanced dollars on federal contaminated sites. That is quite a list, quite a record.

Equalization PaymentsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance just referred to a transition arrangement with Nova Scotia. I understand this is a verbal agreement for a $75 million payment.

I have two questions. Will the minister table the details of this $75 million verbal agreement? Is the transition payment for only one year, or will there be a payment for each year until the equalization deal expires in 2014?

Equalization PaymentsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the agreement was reached with the premier of Nova Scotia. It follows on our discussions at the beginning of November 2008. The commitment of our government was that we would ensure that total cash payments in 2009-10 are no lower than in 2008-09. I have already read to the House the approval of the premier of Nova Scotia. I can assure the member opposite that the sum involved is budgeted.

Equalization PaymentsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, we hear of the Prime Minister making side deals with one province while deliberately harming another. The Conservatives are sending a clear message to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they simply do not count by taking $1.5 billion away from them, money that was already agreed to.

What moral authority does the Prime Minister have for not voting the way people wanted him to?

Equalization PaymentsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador will still receive a projected $1.2 billion in offset payments between 2009-10 and 2011-12. It is still open to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador if it chooses to enter into the O'Brien formula, as has been done by others.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the usual Thursday question about procedure in the House. I wonder if the government House leader would inform us of the details that he expects to deal with in the House tomorrow and through all of next week.

In particular, we would be interested to know when the government intends to bring forward its budget implementation bill. We would appreciate the government's assurance that that bill will in fact deal precisely and exclusively with matters raised in the budget and not, like last year, attempt to bootleg a whole bunch of other issues into the budget bill illegitimately. It would be useful for the expeditious work of the House if the budget bill focused on the budget and did not try to deal with a whole bunch of other items.

Finally, with respect to the standing committees which are now being struck, particularly for the purpose of considering the supplementary estimates, will the government ensure that all ministers will appear in person before the appropriate committees to defend their estimates before the middle of February?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I note that it used to be called the Thursday question, not Thursday questions, but I will try to deal with the items that my hon. colleague raised.

This afternoon we intend to continue with day two of the budget debate and dispose of the subamendment at 6:30 p.m.

Pursuant to the Speaker's ruling yesterday, following the vote on the subamendment, there will be an emergency debate on the transit strike that is presently ongoing here in Ottawa.

Tomorrow will be day three of the budget debate, following which the question will be put on the Liberal amendment. Pursuant to Standing Order 45(6)(a) that vote will be deferred to Monday, February 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Until the House votes on the Liberal amendment we cannot continue with the debate on the budget, so we will interrupt that debate and call the Canada-European free trade bill for Monday.

Tuesday will be the final day of the budget debate.

Wednesday's debate will be the continuation of the Canada-European free trade bill.

Thursday, February 5 shall be an allotted day.

On Friday, February 6 we will begin debate on the budget implementation bill. I ask my hon. colleague to be patient and see what is contained in this terrific budget implementation bill when it comes forward.

I would add that, as everyone is aware, the transit strike in Ottawa has gone unresolved for a very long time. The government is considering measures to resolve the matter and discussions between parties are ongoing. Clearly, those discussions may have an impact on the business which I just laid out. When I have more information on this particular subject, of course I will return to the House.

As is always the case with our Conservative government and our wish for transparency and openness, all of my ministerial colleagues will try their best to adjust their schedules to be available to the standing committees which hold them accountable.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the questions that were asked by the House leader of the official opposition I would also like to ask a question of the government House leader. The visit of the newly elected President of the United States, President Obama, to Canada is on February 19 and is something that is much welcomed and much anticipated. However, as the government House leader knows, February 19 is not a day that Parliament is sitting, but I am sure that all members would want to hear the President. I would like to ask the government House leader if he would agree that February 19 be designated as a special sitting day so that all members may receive and hear the new President of the United States in this House on his first visit to Canada.

I ask the government House leader if he would designate that as a special sitting day.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to my hon. colleague, I think that this is the type of thing that should be discussed between House leaders. I find it more than a little ironic that we were about to undertake yet another House leaders meeting where all four of the parties get together to try to deal with issues of importance to the House of Commons and this chamber.

Certainly, in the case of the much anticipated visit of President Obama, he is coming to Canada on his first foreign visit and we are very pleased about that. The details of that visit quite naturally will be worked out between the two leaders' offices, between the office of the Prime Minister of Canada and the office of the President of the United States.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the President of the Treasury Board, in response to two questions by my colleagues from Victoria and Ajax--Pickering, responded to the issue of cutbacks on RCMP officers with the following, “The cutbacks apply to everyone”.

I am wondering if the minister would now be prepared to table the supporting documents to demonstrate that senior RCMP managers not only retain their bonus eligibility and increased pay, but also their merit bonuses. I think it is important to ensure there is clarification of that statement.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I guess we will hear further about tabling of documents in due course. I am not sure that the minister referred to a document so I am not sure it is within the jurisdiction of the Chair to demand that some document be tabled at this point.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today for the first time to participate in the budget 2009 debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Leduc.

I will begin by thanking the good constituents in Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me on October 14 and allowing me to represent them in Ottawa. I would like to thank my family for their hard work and support and I would like to thank all of the dedicated, hard-working volunteers. Without their generosity I would not be here today.

A synchronized, global recession is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. On January 27, the hon. Minister of Finance delivered Canada's economic action plan. This plan will stimulate the Canadian economy to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long term growth. Our government built this plan after one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We heard Canadians' concerns about their jobs, savings, families, businesses and communities. We listened to their concerns and we took their advice.

This government is taking action. Budget 2009 will benefit Huron—Bruce dramatically. Over the past few years, we have continued to see the economy in southern Ontario deteriorate. For example, the unemployment rate in Ontario has risen in recent months and has been above the national average for unemployment rates for two years. In spite of these realities, southern Ontario benefits from a number of economic advantages, including high education levels, large and prosperous urban centres and a close proximity to the United States marketplace.

However, the weakening U.S. and global economies have resulted in plant closures and slower economic growth that are creating hardships for workers and families in southern Ontario.

On Tuesday, in response to Ontario's economic challenges, the Minister of Finance announced $1 billion for a southern Ontario development agency. This is good news for Huron—Bruce and all the ridings in southern Ontario. This agency will provide programs that support economic and community development, innovation and economic diversification with contributions to communities, businesses and non-profit organizations. It will help workers, communities and businesses in southern Ontario position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as economic growth recovers in Canada and around the world.

In addition to the regional programs, the Canadian skills and transition strategy will help to strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhancing the availability of training and freezing EI rates at the lowest payroll tax in the world. This government has taken action to provide a broad range of financial support to help individuals and their families in difficult times, not only in Huron—Bruce, but across Canada.

These initiatives will support Canadians in the short term as well as help them find long term job prospects with investments in training. Budget 2009 has extended the work-sharing agreement by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. In addition, for two years we will increase EI entitlement benefits by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks from the previous 45 weeks. To help workers who participate in longer term training, this government is investing $500 million over the next two years to extend EI benefits. This will help an additional 10,000 workers.

We are doing more. This government is also investing $1 billion to enhance the availability of training delivered through EI programs over the next two years. We are also helping individuals who do not qualify for EI training, such as the self-employed or those who have been out of work for an extended period. Over the next two years, this government will invest $500 million in a strategic training and transition fund to support these individuals.

Since being elected in October, Huron—Bruce has experienced plant closures, layoffs and numerous people out of work. These programs will go a long way in Huron—Bruce to help our hard-working constituents retrain and get back into the workforce.

Budget 2009 also announced new measures for the agriculture industry. Farmers in Huron—Bruce continue to strive to develop innovative, high-quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In turn, farmers provide a strong economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work.

The Canadian farm sector has not been isolated from the current economic downturn. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agriculture flexibility program, AgriFlex, that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives both federally and in partnership with the provinces, territories and industry. This program will help the agriculture sector improve its competitiveness and respond to market challenges. In addition, the government will invest $50 million over three years to strengthen slaughterhouse capacity in various regions of the country to support the livestock sector.

Budget 2009 also announced proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loan Act to help make credit available to new farmers, support intergenerational farm transfers and modify eligibility criteria for agriculture co-operatives. Without a doubt, this government has taken action. This budget ensures that many of the key concerns that Canadians had are addressed.

In addition to the building Canada plan, this government announced an additional $7 billion in infrastructure spending. This investment will create jobs and revitalize our transportation network with repairs to our roads, bridges, highways and rail links across the country. Huron—Bruce is a good example of this investment, with $750,000 allocated for pier rehabilitation to the South Hampton Harbour. We are doing more.

Budget 2009 also includes tax cuts for low and middle income families. The basic personal amount of taxable income will be raised from $9,600 to $10,320 per year. This will allow Canadians to earn more before they have to start paying taxes. This government has also increased the first and second personal income tax brackets to allow earnings to be taxed at a lower rate. This will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.

We have effectively doubled the tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the welfare wall and into gainful employment. We have also created a home renovation tax credit that will provide incentives of up to $1,350 for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.

This budget also provides numerous investments in social and affordable housing to provide Canadians with quality housing at affordable rates. These investments will help lower income families and individuals access safe, affordable and quality housing, build a stronger future and help to create sustainable communities. We will invest $1 billion to upgrade up to 200,000 social housing units across this country.

Budget 2009 will also invest $400 million for the construction of social housing units for low income seniors and $75 million over two years for the construction of social housing units for persons with disabilities. These investments will provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our society while providing short term stimulus relief to the Canadian economy.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that we are taking action to address the economic crisis for all Canadians. It is only through a strong economy that Canadians can create the quality of life and standard of living to which we all aspire within the context of today's economy.

Budget 2009 demonstrates the government's continued commitment to the economy and this country. This is the responsible federal leadership that Canadians rightfully demand and deserve. This is real action and real results for the Canadian economy.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the points the member raised was the matter of freezing EI rates at the current levels. For the lay person that may sound like a good thing, because we are not going to increase them, but the fact remains that the EI fund remains operating on an annual surplus.

EI rates have been going down each and every year for the last dozen years. Reducing and continuing to reduce EI rates will lower the payroll burden for companies, which pay 1.4 times the amount of the premium paid by employees, and also put more money into the hands of employees. I hope the member understands that freezing EI rates would basically hurt companies and employees.

There was a story on the news last night about a worker who spent 14 years with an employer. He had uninterrupted work and paid his EI premiums throughout. He switched jobs due to layoff, and there was a gap in his employment record. After some years he was laid off again, but he did not qualify for benefits.

Would the member share his views on whether that kind of employee should participate in benefits from a plan that he has paid into for so many years?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the hon. member that the Minister of Human Resources has taken an unprecedented approach to this budget with respect to employment insurance. She consulted with numerous groups from coast to coast. She heard recommendations, and they have been implemented in the budget. I am speaking of recommendations such as a five-week extension for EI payments and tremendous benefits to people who have lost their jobs, such as dollars for retraining and dollars for self-employed people who have a child. These are the kinds of actions the government has taken.

Let us also not forget the tremendous opportunity we have for retraining. It is important that people who have lost their jobs, such as colleagues I used to work with at Wescast Industries in Wingham, Ontario, be given the ability to get retrained so that they can get back into the workforce. These people are hardworking people and the backbone of this country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently when he spoke of our tremendous plan to bring Canada out of this recession quickly during this very difficult time. He mentioned some of the great things that are happening.

However, I would like to talk about the difficult choices we have to make. Our planning is basically the beginning of a new deal to get Canada out of this recession, but some of the choices we made go against the grain.

We as a Conservative Party and a Conservative government prefer balanced budgets and modest surpluses, but during certain times deficits have to be incurred in order to get out of a particular difficult situation.

I ask the member to reflect on those difficult choices and to talk about them. Perhaps he could think of some other governments that had difficult choices to make. I ask the member to talk about the choices we made to maintain certain types of funding that in previous times would have been cut back.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member what this government is not going to do. We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of provinces and municipalities, as the previous government did. We are not going to make cuts to health care, as the previous government did.

This government is committed to Canada. We are committed to health care and to our communities from one coast to the other.

That is why I was encouraged to see this government take a bold process and go from coast to coast in a collaborative approach to get feedback from all stakeholders in communities. We have put forth a budget that is truly an economic action plan that all Canadians can be proud of, especially the people of Huron--Bruce.

That is what this government is going to do.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise today to address the economic action plan for Canada that was introduced by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday of this week.

I think all members of this House can agree that these are extraordinary times in terms of the global recession in which we find ourselves. We all know that the first signs probably started with the housing crisis in the United States, but it then went on to the financial markets crisis. Around the world, financial institutions that had been in existence for decades found themselves completely insolvent.

The reality is that we are in unprecedented times, and unprecedented actions are required on the part of governments around the world. We have seen the United States Congress acting today in terms of their stimulus package.

We have to recognize that actions taken by past governments, actions by our government and by governments of other political stripes as well, have placed Canada's financial system and fiscal situation in much better positions than is the case in other countries.

In terms of our financial system, the IMF has recognized that our system of governing banks, the Bank Act, is certainly much better than that of our colleagues to the south.

As well, although our fiscal situation in the 1980s and the 1990s--our debt-to-GDP ratio--was probably the worst in the G7, it is now the best in the G7. That improvement is a credit to successive governments, and certainly to our government for paying down $37 billion of debt in the last two and a half years. I think that is one of the Conservative government's proudest achievements.

However, we have to recognize that times are extraordinary, and rapid changes are going on. If members think back to the late summer and early fall, the main issue was the rise in gasoline prices, partly caused by the rise in crude oil prices. At that time of rising crude oil prices, the investment bankers in New York, some of the smartest people in the financial sector, were saying oil prices would never go below $60 a barrel. Now we have oil prices between $30 and $40 a barrel.

Therefore we have a very fluid situation, as the minister mentioned in his budget speech. We have to act now, but we have to realize that projections are going to be fairly fluid, and we will have to react very quickly.

We have put forward an economic action plan in terms of investing in infrastructure. People like Dale Orr have recommended that accelerating infrastructure projects, especially smaller infrastructure projects, can act as a stimulus and can act as a counterbalance in terms of the decreased spending.

As well as accelerating infrastructure projects, we are building on the gas tax transfer that was made permanent by our government. We are investing in roads, bridges, water, and waste water facilities. We are also expanding the definition of infrastructure to look at broadband and telecommunications, rather than looking at infrastructure only in the traditional sense. There is investment in people through retraining, ensuring that those who suffer unexpected jobs losses have the assistance to see them through these tough times. Unfortunately the last two months of 2008 showed a decline in the number of jobs in Canada, a trend that had not been present in the first half of 2008.

In the time remaining I would like to address some of the tax policy issues, some of the changes for small businesses, and some of the things we have done for manufacturing. Then I will talk about some of the finance and credit issues.

In terms of tax policy changes, the previous speaker mentioned some changes we have made to the basic personal exemption. We have raised that exemption, which obviously creates tax savings for all Canadians, especially those at lower income levels. The marginal rates of taxation certainly help people in the lower and middle income ranges.

We are raising the level for the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, as well as the Canada child tax benefit. Those programs, which were introduced by the former government, are certainly valuable in terms of providing benefits for lower-income families with children.

There is also the working income tax benefit and the increase to the age credit amount for seniors to ensure that they have the funds necessary to survive these times.

In terms of small businesses, we have moved the rate of taxation for small businesses from 12% to 11%. We had moved the income eligible from $300,000 to $400,000; in this economic action plan we move it up to $500,000. There is increasing access to credit for small business through proposed amendments to the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada. We are providing $30 million over two years for the Canada business network, and allocating $200 million over two years to a program that I think works very well, the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program.

Small businesses across the country tell me it is a very effective program, not only at providing needed funds but also at providing mentorship and advice to smaller companies to ensure they can grow into that mid-sized level.

In terms of the manufacturing sector, our industry committee did a report in February 2007. In the March 2007 budget the minister introduced a two-year manufacturing writeoff. Our committee had recommended five years. In 2007 the minister put it in place for a two-year period. In the 2008 budget he extended it for three years. It was initially at a declining rate, but in this budget he has put it so that we have the full five years. We will have it for 2010-11.

We will have the full five years in terms of the two-year writeoff for manufacturers. This means they can upgrade their machinery and equipment much more quickly. They can write it off much more quickly, so not only can they become more productive, but by accessing new machinery and equipment, they can also obviously become more environmentally sustainable.

This is why organizations like the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association have responded very positively to this budget and to this economic action plan.

Financing and credit is the other issue they raise, and they raise it very strongly, as did other small business organizations. I want to thank these organizations, industries and businesses across Canada for raising this issue, because if companies do not have access to credit, they will simply not be able to survive or exist.

In response we have established the extraordinary financing framework, which provides up to $200 billion to improve access to financing for Canadian households and businesses. It commits an additional $50 billion to the insured mortgage purchase program, increasing the overall size of this program to $125 billion. Lenders will be provided with stable, long-term financing, allowing them to continue lending to Canadian consumers and businesses.

The extraordinary financing framework delivers $13 billion in additional financing by increasing the flexibility and capacities of the financial crown corporations, CMHC, Export Development Canada and BDC. This includes at least $5 billion in new financing that will be delivered through enhanced cooperation between these financial crown corporations and private sector financial institutions under the new business credit availability program.

We have created the Canadian secured credit facility, with up to $12 billion to support financing of vehicles and equipment for consumers and businesses.

We have extended the deadline for issuing guaranteed instruments under the Canadian lenders assurance facility, which helps ensure that lenders are not put at a competitive disadvantage when raising funds in global markets. This was agreed to at the G20 meeting, and our government has certainly acted upon it.

We have established a new Canadian life insurance assurers facility to guarantee wholesale term borrowings for life insurers, modelled on the Canadian lenders assurance facility.

We have facilitated the provision of extraordinary liquidity to financial institutions by the Bank of Canada, as required, through the modernization of the Bank's authorities in Budget 2008.

I should note that the Governor of the Bank of Canada has certainly acted to complement the actions of our government. We have certainly introduced a plan for fiscal stimulus, but the Governor of the Bank of Canada has been very proactive in terms of trying to combat this recession through monetary policy. If we have learned anything from the mistakes of the past, from the Great Depression of 1929 and the 1930s, it was that monetary policy must not be tightened. The supply of money cannot be tightened when a recession period is entered. The governor has acted to lower interest rates to try to ensure that money is available through the system. He has also acted in terms of trying to provide as much confidence to the markets as possible.

We have also added a ten-year maturity to the Canada mortgage bond program to raise supplementary funding for financial institutions.

I know these measures sound very technical, but they are designed to ensure that money flows through the financial markets to companies so that they can pay their workers, and flows to individuals so that they can continue to borrow for mortgages, for car loans and for their needs. These measures are to ensure that the system continues to work as it should.

As a government, we have acted in this area. Our actions have certainly been warmly received by the Chamber of Commerce, by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, and by other organizations that see the need for businesses to continue to operate because we have this supply of money going through the system.

I look forward to questions from my colleagues.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative budget, rubber stamped by the Liberals, had virtually nothing for forestry across Canada, and especially in northwestern Ontario. Tomorrow the fate of Thunder Bay Fine Papers may be decided in court in Thunder Bay.

The Minister of Industry has ignored this issue. I have repeatedly called his office and urged him to take action to save this unusual and unique mill, urging him to do what it takes to save Thunder Bay Fine Papers. He does not seem to care.

This mill is the only mill in Canada that makes the coated, value-added, glossy papers that we all use and appreciate for fine art, for coffee table books and for the political flyers that we all send to our constituents at election time.

How can we get the Minister of Industry to save the mill, to save thousands of jobs in Thunder Bay, to save the only mill in Canada that makes this kind of fine paper? How can we get the minister to notice, to care and to take action?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it is a very serious one. In fact it has been an area in which our government has acted.

If the hon. member looks at the budget, it provides $170 million over two years for the forestry industry to cope with the tough times. The forestry industry will be very open in saying that it has a perfect storm in terms of the decline of housing starts in the U.S. It is a perfect storm for the industry, coping with the changing dollar volatility over the last number of years. We have acted by providing $170 million over two years.

The capital depreciation, the rate at which we can write off capital, was one of the strongest requests of the forestry industry in the last five years. That has been put in place, that five year term for a two year write off for equipment. The forestry industry has asked for that and we have acted upon it.

If the hon. member does not want to take my word for it, I will quote the Forest Products Association of Canada directly.

The government has clearly heard the message and embraced our vision of becoming the producers of the best quality, most innovative and greenest forest products in the world. And it understands that in order to get there Canada needs to attract investment and secure the jobs of nearly 300,000 skilled Canadians forest workers and the communities they work in.

Finally on this issue, it asked for an extension of the employment insurance work share program. That was acted upon in this action plan as well. The government has delivered, especially for the forestry industry and the workers and communities across Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question of my hon. friend, who does a very good job as the chair of the finance committee. I congratulate him for again being appointed to that position. It was an inspired choice.

We all know there are some parts of the budget that are very good and some that are wanting.

First, how can municipalities that do not have the one-third of funds access the funds the government is putting forth so they can have the infrastructure projects they need?

Second, we know that in this international contagion, this tsunami that has wafted across the global financial market, we need to have not only domestic regulations, but also international regulations that will enable us to prevent these things from happening.

Could my hon. friend tell us whether his government will push forth the single securities regulator for the country? What will his government do to work with other nations to prevent this economic tsunami from happening again? Common oversight; common regulations.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not yet elected to the chair of the finance committee, but I certainly hope to be. I hope he will encourage his colleagues on that side of the House to vote for me on Tuesday morning.

With respect to the infrastructure, obviously there are a lot more funds for infrastructure. We have made the gas tax funding permanent. We have to look at it as a full partnership between the federal and provincial and municipal governments. It is fair to say that all orders of government ought to contribute to infrastructure projects going forward.

There are some financing provisions, as the hon. member knows, in this economic action plan, which I encourage all municipal governments to look at and on which to work with the federal infrastructure minister.

I am meeting with the mayor of the town of Devon tomorrow. I encourage members across the House to meet with their local representatives as well.

On the second point about the common securities regulator, the member is 100% right on that issue. That is something upon which our government has acted. It is certainly something on which we would hope all federal parties agree.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget on behalf of my constituents of Brampton--Springdale, a budget which impacts seniors, families, children, women and men not only in my own constituency of Brampton--Springdale but all of Canada.

In a time of growing economic crisis, many Bramptonians, like many other Canadians across the country, are suffering. They have been hit with the loss of their jobs either in the manufacturing or the auto sector, in the retail sector or at assembly plants.

If we take a look at my riding of Brampton--Springdale, the Chrysler plant has eliminated its third shift, the loss of 1,100 jobs. Eleven hundred families were impacted overnight. The Simmons factory has closed, with hundreds of other Bramptonians losing their jobs. ABC plastics has closed, and the list goes on and on when it comes to people losing their jobs and companies closing their doors.

The result of these people losing their jobs as companies close their doors is that thousands of families out there are struggling to make ends meet, whether it is that single mother worrying about how she will put food on the table for her children, or that father wondering how he will care for his family, or that family struggling to find a child care space, or those seniors having to make that very difficult choice of either filling up the medicine cabinet or their gas tank or their fridge.

We have known in the last month alone that over 100,000 Canadians have lost their jobs. I only have to go to an email that I received a short while ago in my office, which states:

“I have never written to any politician before but I write to you today out of desperation. After working for 22 years at a company I was told last week I was being let go. I have never known another job other than the company I worked for. I thought, when I was let go and the company was closing its doors, I would be able to apply for EI. I have just learned the wait period is for two weeks and then there is a massive backlog of another three weeks. Now almost four weeks later, I am without pay and I really don't know where to turn. I actually don't know where I'm going to be buying the next carton of milk for my baby. I know as I write to you I won't be able to get any money from you for the food that I so desperately need, but I am asking you to please tell your colleagues, your fellow MPs, that there are so many people out there like myself who were employed for years and years at one company and have been let go. All of us are looking for hope. We are looking for hope for a brighter future and a better tomorrow”.

Then there is the story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, my constituents who came in to see me a few hours after they were informed that their company, ABC plastics, was closing its doors. They had been laid off. As I sat with both of these individuals, I learned that they had worked as well for almost two decades at the same company. They were left on that day without any direction or resources as to how they would go on to rebuild their lives. As fathers, they were concerned about how they would feed their children, and as husbands, how they would support their families.

The story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla is like the stories of many other Bramptonians and many other Canadians across the country who are struggling. It is these Canadians, these Bramptonians like Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, who were looking to this budget, who were looking to the government of the day for the leadership, for some action and really for a sense of hope for a better tomorrow.

As time has gone on, we have seen that the Conservative government of the day mismanaged the economy. The result is absolutely no leadership and then no action plan to help those people who are so desperately struggling.

We look once again at the area of Peel, where the issue of poverty and the gap between those who are rich and those who are poor continues to increase. We look at the issue of social housing in my riding, which has a wait list of more than 13,000 individuals, more than 30,000 people. The wait time to get into a housing unit is 21 years. It is these people on that wait list who were looking to the Conservative government and this budget for a sense of hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow.

Let us take a look at the number of people who are accessing emergency shelters. In 2006 over 11,776 people accessed the emergency shelter in Peel. The region provided a total of 111,812 bed nights to those poor people, to those residents who are so incredibly desperate.

Unfortunately, the budget has delivered absolutely nothing for affordable housing and homelessness. We thought, and many of us hoped, that the budget would provide for a national housing strategy. There is absolutely nothing.

Canadians had seen, through previous Liberal governments, eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canadians were given a sense of hope with having one of the best economic records in the G8 and one of the highest employment rates and the lowest unemployment rates.

As my colleague so eloquently described it, as the tsunami hit the global financial markets throughout the world, many of the other G8 countries acted. They acted on behalf of their citizens and on behalf of their nations to provide stimulus packages. What did we have in Canada? We had the Prime Minister of the day denying there was an economic recession. We had the Prime Minister and the Conservative government denying there was the possibility of a growing crisis. We had thousands of people losing their jobs, having the door shut in their faces. We had seniors struggling to make ends meet, to pay their energy bills and their mortgage payments. They received absolutely no hope from the government.

The government told us there would be surpluses. A few months later, when the budget came out the other day, we all learned Canadians would be inheriting an $84 billion deficit.

Then the government promised a stimulus to help create jobs with infrastructure spending. One only had to read the fine print. Mayors across the country got ready because they heard about possible infrastructure spending. They presented their wish lists of shovel-ready projects, wish lists that were presented by municipalities and cities like Brampton which had a wish list that included the Trinity Common Terminal refurbishment project and the AcceleRide bus rapid transit projects. However, when they read the fine print, even though cities like Brampton have a wish list, which have been included in the city's 2009 budget, in order to access the infrastructure spending provided in the budget they must come up with the money. Many of these municipalities do not have the money.

We realize that the list submitted by the Brampton municipality would create an extra 21,000 jobs, jobs that are so desperately needed by many of my constituents. I hope the government will look at an action plan to ensure it provides the support to municipalities that do not have the opportunity to give some of the funding.

Before I go forward, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Let us look at some of the initiatives that were left out of the budget. When constituents lose their jobs, they look to EI for hope. However, the budget does not provide increased accessibility to EI. There will be no reduction in the wait time before an individual can receive EI benefits.

Those people were looking to this budget for hope. Unfortunately, they did not receive it. This is why our leader and my Liberal colleagues have put the Prime Minister and the government on probation to ensure that there is accountability, to ensure the funds that have been promised do not just look great as words on paper but are delivered to the municipalities and to the people who so desperately need them. Canadians across the country and constituents like mine in Brampton are looking to government. They are looking to all parliamentarians, regardless of their political stripe, to put aside their partisanship. They are looking to us for hope.

I think by working together in a spirit of cooperation, in a spirit of collaboration, we have an opportunity to give those people, who are struggling to make ends meet, the hope that they so desperately need for a brighter future and a better tomorrow.