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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recovery.

Topics

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-51 and I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Brampton South.

I oppose this bill for one simple reason. Along with my Liberal colleagues, I have lost confidence in the Conservatives' ability to govern this country and guide it through difficult economic times back to a robust, strong economy. Through its budgetary actions over the last year, the Conservative government has failed Canadians by its incompetence and divisive tactics. We can no longer support a government whose failed policies have hurt Canadian families and their interests.

Over the last 10 months, the Liberal Party has tried to make Parliament work and focused on helping Canada through this recession. We tried to work with the government. We insisted on a stimulus package and fought for effective changes to employment insurance that would help Canadian families. However, we have lost confidence and trust in the government.

Let me count the ways. There is a record deficit that was revised from a surplus, from $34 billion to $50 billion to $56 billion in less than a year. The government has failed to plan for the H1N1 flu by delaying the ordering of flu vaccines and sending body bags to communities rather than assistance.

There are 450,000 more unemployed Canadians today than there were a year ago. The Conservatives' fiscal update recently said that another 200,000 plus Canadians will join the ranks of the unemployed in the coming year. The government has done everything to turn the hands of time back on women's equality, especially regarding pay equity.

Harper's broken promises not to raise taxes are an issue. Those are some of the—

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I believe I heard the name of the Prime Minister. We only use titles or riding names.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

My apologies, Mr. Speaker.

Bill C-51 deals with the Nova Scotia offshore petroleum resources. It would bring certain payments for Nova Scotia's offshore petroleum resources outside the framework of budget bills. This means that in addition to the one time payment the province receives of $174 million, in future years the payment would be automatically sent to the province rather than needing to be passed annually in a budget bill.

Regardless of the details of this change to revenue sharing, the Conservative government does not have the kind of track record on federal-provincial relations that breeds confidence in its ability to treat provinces fairly.

The Conservative government has demonstrated time and again that its promises to Canadians, whether promises not to raise taxes, promises not to tax income trusts, or promises to protect Canada's fisheries, are meaningless.

No province is more aware of the Prime Minister's willingness to break promises than Newfoundland and Labrador. Time and time again the government says one thing and does another. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians well know this with the promises on the equalization formula and Goose Bay. Promises made, promises broken.

Another challenge is the Canadian fishery. The government never meant a word of its promise to reform NAFO to better protect our fish stocks.

The amendments to the NAFO convention failed to adequately protect fish stocks off the east coast of Canada and would create substantial new problems which could eventually compromise Canadian sovereignty and allow foreign patrol boats to establish and enforce catch and quota regulations within Canada's 200 mile zone.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know too well the divisive politics of the Conservatives as we were hit earlier this year with a broken promise regarding the $1.4 billion that was taken away from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with changes to the equalization formula.

During the government's first two years in office, the Prime Minister did not once convene a meeting of first ministers, preferring instead to leave provincial and territorial leaders outside of the federal government's plans to lead the federation. When he finally did meet with them, he promised to send them a letter of suggestions on how they could stimulate their economies.

This politics of division and heavy-handed federalism is unfair and has been the hallmark of the Conservative government. Canadians are tired of politics of division and isolation. Canada works best when federal and provincial governments work in partnership, in the best interests of all Canadians. That is how the Liberals have governed in the past, by striking agreements with the provinces and territories on things like the universal child care agreement, creating plans to address health care issues, and the Kelowna accord.

On the home renovation tax credit, the Liberal Party has expressed its full support for this tax credit. This credit is part of the budget plan already implemented by Parliament. The Canada Revenue Agency is already working toward the home renovation tax credit.

It would be far more prudent for the government to have included the home renovation tax credit in previously introduced budget implementation legislation along with the rest of its flagship programs. It is disingenuous for the government to tell Canadians that this tax credit is at risk while at the same time running hundreds of ads promoting the use of the program.

In my view, this is the kind of political trickery that the government plays so often to manipulate voters. That the credit is at risk is simply untrue. The Liberal Party is fully in support of the home renovation tax credit and Canadians will not be fooled by attempts to divide them to think otherwise.

With respect to the CBC, this legislation would adjust the borrowing authority that applies to the CBC substantially, permitting the national broadcaster to borrow up to $220 million in order to cash manage through the coming year as it develops a new strategy. Current legislation restricts the amounts that the CBC can borrow, allowing the broadcaster to access loans only up to $25 million.

It was the current government that only a few months ago refused to step in and meet the broadcaster's request for bridge financing to deal with the shortfall in revenues during an economic downturn.

Not only did the Conservative government refuse to provide the CBC with the bridge financing it required to maintain 2008 staffing and service levels across the country this spring but it went so far as to vote against a motion put forward by the Liberal Party recognizing the indispensable cultural role of the CBC in providing national, regional and local programming in Canada.

This challenge to the CBC came at a time when its success and audience share of the market was growing. Every week almost 80% of English Canada uses the CBC. This success comes despite the fact that the CBC is the worst financed public broadcaster in the industrialized world.

The government long argued that funding the CBC was a waste of taxpayers' dollars and used the pretext of tough economic times to launch an assault on this national institution by withholding the bridge financing the CBC needed to ride out the economic storm without job and programming cuts.

In fact, the government went so far as to withhold approval of the annual top-up funding for the broadcaster forcing the CBC to make dramatic job and programming cuts to meet its government forced budget cuts of $63 million.

Had it acted in the spring and made additional financing available to the CBC, the government could have saved jobs and crucial cultural and regional programming that has now been lost. Instead, the government's inaction has forced the CBC to come up with an alternative plan to weather the economic storm.

As a crown corporation, the CBC cannot access loans from the private sector. Because of this and because of the refusal of the government to provide the network with $125 million in a bridge financing request, the CBC had to look elsewhere to find the financial security and flexibility it needs at this time.

Through the bill, the government is allowing one of our most valued cultural institutions to mortgage future stability by selling off assets, monetizing future lease revenues so that the CBC can access the cash it needs during this economic downturn.

The sale of assets means that the CBC will be forgoing future revenues to deal with the short-term economic pain caused by the government's unwillingness to step in and mitigate the fallout of the economic downturn. There is little doubt that members of the government do not value the CBC.

One final point is with regard to the Canada pension plan. The bill makes an accounting change that will reduce the amount older workers are penalized by choosing to work after the age of 65. These changes will be made on a go forward basis and seniors currently collecting their pensions will see no real change in their benefit amounts as a result of these accounting differences.

While ensuring pension policies are actuarially neutral is a responsible step for any government to take, it would be wise for the government to face up to the fiscal realities our seniors are facing in so many parts of our country and look toward providing meaningful support to seniors.

With one in three Canadians retiring with no retirement income savings beyond the core mandatory government programs of CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, governments need to consider making more than cosmetic and accounting changes to ensure Canadian seniors can access benefits they need as they age.

We can do better. We must do better for Canadian seniors and for all Canadians.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech. I am a little shocked to begin with. I am glad that she did finally get back on topic.

We are actually debating the budget implementation act, not whether or not the House has lost confidence in this government because obviously it did not. We survived a confidence vote last Thursday.

I think it is time that all hon. members of the House move on beyond that. I am sure they have not, but I think we should all move on beyond that and actually deal with what is more important to Canadians, and that is ensuring that we survive and recover well from this economic recession.

I then listened with shock to the hon. member's comments about the CBC, suggesting that we had cut funding to the CBC. This is a business plan that the CBC has asked for. We have put that in place.

Before we actually managed to elect a Conservative government, why did the Liberals cut the CBC's budget in three consecutive budgets?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thought it was most important to give the reasons why I was not supporting Bill C-51 which included the fact that I have no faith in the government's ability to move us through these difficult economic times.

Regarding the CBC, it was the government's inaction that forced the CBC to make cuts to its programming and to ask for these changes so that it could borrow money. It is as a result of the government's inaction that has caused the CBC to make these moves. That is the reason why this has been so challenging to the CBC. That is one of the reasons why I will not be supporting Bill C-51.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-51 implements the first-time home buyers' tax credit, and that is an ongoing government program.

However, the home renovation tax credit, which is much vaunted and touted by the government and much advertised, is only planned to be a one year effort. How many people were projected to take advantage of this program? Why is it not an ongoing program if it is so popular? Given the big advertising budget the government has allocated to this program, I am just wondering whether it will spend more on advertising than on tax credits.

On that basis, I would like to encourage the government to make an announcement very shortly that it will extend this program on an ongoing basis.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the opportunity to comment on the amount of spending the government has made on advertising the program. As my hon. colleague commented, perhaps the government is spending more on advertising the program and speaking of the benefits of the program than it is on the tax credit itself.

Canadians should be encouraged to continue to make investments in home renovations, to continue to stimulate and put more money into the economy, especially during these difficult economic times.

There are a lot of people in the construction industry who are unemployed. We would like to see more work for those people. If we look at the infrastructure program, for example, only 12% of that money is actually encouraging work right now. There are a lot of construction workers available for home renovations.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague who is a fabulous member of Parliament with a strong background.

She is familiar with biotech. Folks who were in to see me last week said that the government is turning a blind eye to what should be done to encourage that industry.

Employment insurance, which is not in the bill, needs some more robust work. The hon. member has people in her area who do not qualify but who should quality. I wonder if she could comment on that.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, on the employment insurance issue, recently a person came into my office and told me that he had worked 17 years in the mining industry. He had uninterrupted service in the mining industry, but unfortunately in November last year he lost his job and does not qualify for these EI changes. The EI changes are simply not enough.

Regarding biotech, the government has turned its back on the biotechnology industry by not giving it some assistance during these difficult economic times with regard to ensuring that it has access to funding.

If Canada wants to move forward in the knowledge-based economy, if we are sincere in saying we want to be an innovative country, then much money needs to be put into the knowledge-based sector to ensure that we lead in this area rather than weakly follow others.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-51, an act to implement certain provisions of budget 2009. The Liberal Party opposes the bill as a matter of confidence. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and it has come after making a legitimate and honest effort to work with the Conservatives to do what is in the best interests of Canadians. Yet, time and time again the government has demonstrated that it is not interested in cooperation and it is not interested in compromise.

After the last election, the Prime Minister found that once again Canadians would not trust him with a majority government. He initially accepted their judgment, but after Parliament was recalled and the Speech from the Throne was delivered, he made it clear that he was in no mood for cooperation. The economic update that was delivered surprised everyone by its partisan tone, and it did nothing to help deal with the economic crisis. In fact, what the Globe and Mail wrote on November 28 sums up the Conservatives, in terms of their strategy, during the first economic update:

For an economist, [the Prime Minister] can certainly see a political opportunity faster than an economic mess. In the fiscal update yesterday, the government should have concerned itself with rallying the people - and the Parliament - of Canada behind a vigorous response to the global economic crisis. Instead, the proposals put forward by...the Minister of Finance, amounted to fiscal gerrymandering.

After the election, [the Prime Minister] promised a new co-operative, less partisan approach to governing. He pledged to work with the opposition to deal with the economic crisis.

The most significant item in yesterday's update, however, was a manoeuvre that had nothing to do with the economy, and could needlessly plunge the government into chaos....

By destabilizing their own government, the Conservatives have placed Canada at a competitive disadvantage against other states.

Through gratuitous partisanship, they have turned an economic crisis into a political one.

They should withdraw their cynical attempt to rewrite election rules and concentrate on what matters--

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I do apologize for interrupting the hon. member's speech. I am sure he is going to get to the point of debate at some point, but I have been listening for about two minutes and he has not even addressed what we are debating. It is not about confidence. It is not about Globe and Mail articles. It is about passing a piece of legislation that we have promised to pass. If the Liberals want to stand in the way of that, that is fine, but let us talk about the subject we are discussing today, the budget implementation act two.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The member is making a point of relevance. I know the member for Mississauga—Brampton South would want to speak to the bill. It is traditional for budgetary bills to have a wide swath of what is in them and why members might support or not support it, but I do hope the member will be mindful of the rules of relevance.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the frustration and concern. As we all know, the opposition called their bluff and the Conservatives were forced to come up with a real plan to deal with the recession. That plan, which the government promotes as Canada's economic action plan, would never have existed if the Prime Minister had a majority government. It is important that we remember that.

After forcing these major concessions from the Conservatives, the Liberal Party then agreed that we would act in good faith and support the budget only after amending the motion to provide for regular reports to Canadians on the progress of its implementation. We put them on probation because we wanted to give Canadians the accountability that they deserve and to make sure that the government would actually follow through on its commitments.

It is almost Thanksgiving. The construction season has wound down and there are still virtually no infrastructure projects under way. An entire construction season was wasted at a time when we were supposed to be stimulating the economy. It is hard to create jobs and get the economy moving when only 12% of the announced projects were under way before September. In fact, it is not just infrastructure. Spending is not getting out the door at all. The entire so-called action plan is simply a listing of one failure after another.

For example, take the $12 billion secured credit facility that the Prime Minister promised for the auto sector. None of the money has gone out. Out of the $1 billion green infrastructure fund, only $71 million, or less than 1%, has been allocated. Of the $2 billion municipal infrastructure lending program, only $80.6 million, or less than one-half of one per cent, has been allocated. Of the $400 million set aside for housing for low-income seniors, only two projects totalling $5.35 million have been announced. The government's own report states that only $350 million of the $1 billion community adjustment fund has been “committed”. I could go on and on. The list gets greater and greater.

One can see that the Conservatives are unable to get the stimulus money out the door. They are spending tens of millions of dollars running campaign-style ads on taxpayer dimes.

I do not know how they can justify spending $40 million to tell us about an action plan that is not actually working and which they cannot implement. Let me put this in perspective. They only spent $6.5 million to warn Canadians about the very real danger of the H1N1 virus. To add to the confusion, the Prime Minister spent the summer making announcements, but 14 of those 16 announcements were for regular, non-stimulus infrastructure projects that either will not begin for years or had been planned for years before and were long delayed by the Conservative government.

It gets worse. Not getting money out and wasting taxpayer dollars on meaningless advertising is just the beginning. The money that the government has spent is being directed in a very partisan manner. In Ontario, the Conservatives promised 15% more dollars on average to their own ridings. That amounts to $13.1 million from the infrastructure stimulus fund and the recreation facilities fund combined, compared to the $11.1 million average for Liberal-held ridings.

In the stimulus program for rehabilitation of the community recreation centres, 18 out of the top 20 ridings by number of projects granted in Ontario are held by the Conservatives. Of course, the government tries to claim that this is all a coincidence and that things just happened to work out this way. However, it is very difficult to keep a secret of this nature.

I assume the member opposite would love to hear this quotation from the National Post, which summed it up by saying:

--the nominated Conservative candidate in the Ontario riding of Markham-Unionville...said on live television that the reason his riding has not received federal funding for a medical testing centre is that the Member of Parliament is a Liberal.

That is not getting the job done for all Canadians. That is buying votes. Canadians expect their government to make informed and prudent decisions and not turn their trust into a Conservative rewards program. Beware of Conservatives bearing gifts because with one hand they giveth and with the other hand they taketh away.

The same Prime Minister who said that he would never raise taxes is quietly implementing a $13 billion payroll tax that kills jobs and acts as a disincentive to employers. Perhaps I am giving him too much credit by taking him at his word. He is the same Prime Minister who pledged that he would never tax income trusts and then did so anyway, hurting seniors and many others who invested their life savings simply because they believed the Prime Minister when he said, “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”.

I was elected by the constituents of Mississauga—Brampton South to fight for their interests in Ottawa. What I have seen is systematic deception and incompetence on the part of the government. Too many of my constituents are losing their jobs. Despite being a prosperous part of the greater Toronto area, the unemployment rate in my riding hovers around 11%, compared with a rate of around 6.5% when the Conservatives came into power.

There are 450,000 more unemployed Canadians today than there were a year ago and according to the Conservatives' own report card, another 200,000 Canadians will join them in the coming year.

That is why the Liberals oppose Bill C-51. That is why the Conservatives have lost our confidence. We can do better. Canada can do better. We look forward to ensuring they are held to account.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was great, unfortunately, it was on the wrong bill. I thought he was supposed to be talking about Bill C-51. In that vein, I would like to ask him a question about something that does apply to the bill, which is the home renovation tax credit.

I understand his party supports the home renovation tax credit and has said that if the Liberals become the government, they would certainly honour the program. However, has he not noticed that the Conservatives have only made this a temporary program? The first-time homebuyers' tax credit was brought in as a continuous program, but the renovation tax credit is only a one-year event. In fact, they have spent as much money advertising the program as they are probably going to give out in tax credits.

Does he think the government should make a commitment to extend this program beyond one year?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind my hon. colleague that the premise of opposing the bill is predicated on the fact that we have lost confidence in the government, and it was very important for me to articulate why we had lost confidence. We put the context in place by saying that the current government had clearly demonstrated that its so-called economic action plan was not being properly implemented.

With regard to the home tax credit, we do support it. We understand it is an important initiative. However, the bigger issue here, the point of debate for us and the reason why we oppose the government is we have lost confidence in it. That was clearly demonstrated in my remarks when I talked about the fact that infrastructure money was not getting out and the money that was getting out was being used in a very partisan way. The government is using taxpayer money to advertise its very ineffective action plan. Canadians have a right to know and deserve to understand what is going on, and that is why we are opposing the bill.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I congratulate the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South on his role as small business and tourism critic for our caucus. My question for him is with reference to his critic portfolio.

When it comes to tourism in particular, how are the government's policies negatively affecting the small businesses and the tourism industry?

The member mentioned a couple of promises that the Prime Minister did not keep. One was he called for fixed election dates, yet he called the last two elections. How does the member feel about the Prime Minister calling elections in the midst of the economic crisis?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The parliamentary secretary did raise a point of order about relevance, asking members to stick to the topic of the bill before the House. The member for Mississauga—Brampton South is rising to answer the question, but we should be mindful of the rule on relevance.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will very quickly answer the questions of my colleague.

Many Canadians have lost faith and trust in the Prime Minister when he breaks his promise on fixed election dates.

With regard to tourism, which is a very important part of our economic recovery, imposing these restrictions on, for example, a NAFTA partner like Mexico does not help promote business. Nor does it help promote two-way trade. That has hurt our tourism industry and it has caused a great deal of job losses in the industry as well.

However, more important, the Prime Minister talked about the fact that he would not raise taxes. At the same time, the Minister of Finance announced a $13 billion EI premium increase, a payroll tax hike, which effectively would harm small and medium-sized businesses. These businesses are the engine of our economy and they help generate the economic wealth and the jobs created in our country.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, my question will be very short, once I get over the fact that the hon. member just said he would oppose this budget implementation bill. One of the most important pieces of the bill is the home renovation tax credit, which he said he supported.

Would he square that circle?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are playing partisan games. They are trying to mislead Canadians. Clearly the budget implementation bill is not a reflection of one or two initiatives, which obviously members of the House support. It is a reflection of a loss of confidence.

What the member fails to realize is the fact that this inaction plan, as I refer to it, has not delivered. Only 12% of the funds have gone out and it has gone to Conservative ridings. It has compounded the situation by further losing out on the construction season, with jobs not being created.

That is why we oppose it.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss Canada's economic recovery act. This vital legislation will implement key measures from the economic action plan, our targeted road map to save and protect jobs today, while preparing us for the economy of tomorrow, along with other important economic initiatives.

Since January, we have been putting our plan in place as quickly and effectively as possible. We have done so because our Conservative government understands that Canadians are concerned about their jobs and their future, the very same Canadians I represent in communities all across my beautiful riding of Huron—Bruce.

I want to assure those Canadians that this plan is working. Along with their help, our plan is boosting Canada's recovery by focusing on the economy and promoting economic stability. In so doing, we are helping Canada emerge from the current global recession as a more competitive economy.

Do not take my word for it. Look at the recent IMF world economic outlook, a report card on the global economy. It forecasted Canada to have the highest growth of any G7 country in 2010. The World Economic Forum's 2009-10 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Canada as the 9th most competitive economy in the world, a big jump from 14th under the previous Liberal government in 2005-06.

Under the 2009 Forbes magazine's best countries for business ranking, which looks at business conditions in over 100 economies around the world, Canada has rocketed up four spots to number three.

Listen to how respected BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders raved about Canada. She stated, “Nowhere is immune, but by most key measures, the Canadians are coming out of this crisis in a league of their own”.

Indeed, Canada entered the current global recession on a strong economic fiscal footing. Our Conservative government paid off $37 billion of debt, giving Canada one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in the G7, while simultaneously cutting taxes and making key strategic investments.

As BMO economist Doug Porter remarked in an interview with CBC Newsworld earlier this year, “Canada did go into this downturn with almost pristine fundamentals. Those pristine fundamentals do suggest that Canada will hold up a little better than other economies and probably will emerge a little stronger than other economies”. We are seeing that evidence today.

Our Conservative government is not, however, merely content to ride on our past achievements. We are building on our strengths to ensure Canada's economy remains in poll position for the recovery throughout Canada's economic action plan.

Canada's economic action plan is targeted, effective and timely. It is a plan that is supporting struggling communities and industries, cutting taxes, building new roads and bridges, helping the unemployed and much more. In total, the plan is providing $61 billion of stimulus to create 220,000 Canadian jobs. On top of these measures, over 160,000 Canadians are benefiting from work-sharing agreements that are allowing companies to continue to provide jobs to their employees.

Canada's economic recovery act is an extension of that plan. Not only will it implement numerous key measures from the plan outlined in budget 2009, but other new initiatives to support ongoing economic stability and growth. I understand the Liberal leader, before even reading the act, decided to oppose and vote against it, as he continues his singular obsession with an election, no matter the cost.

I am proud to say that while the Liberal Party of Canada pushes for an unnecessary election that could threaten Canada's fragile economic recovery, our Conservative government is pushing forward for Canadians in support of economic recovery.

While Liberals seemingly did not bother reading the economic recovery act before rushing out to denounce it, let me highlight the key measures they have decided to blindly oppose.

Through the economic recovery act, we are creating new opportunities for our construction and resource sectors with new tax credits.

To help alleviate some of the fees associated with buying a house, fees that often serve as a disincentive for young people entering the housing market, and to encourage first time home ownership, we have introduced the first-time home buyers' tax credit. This would provide up to $750 in tax relief to help with the purchase costs of a first time homeowner.

If I may add from personal experience, I bought a home a few years ago for the first time. This tax measure would have been a very appreciative measure. I can appreciate that families are looking forward to this new tax credit.

The first-time home buyers' tax credit has worked, as illustrated by the strong existing home sales in Canada largely driven by the entry of first-time home buyers. An entry spurred on by first-time home buyers' tax credit and another key element of Canada's economic action plan, the increase to $25,000 to the amount first time home buyers can draw from their RRSPs. Members do not need to believe me, but this was stated in a Canadian Press article from September:

...thanks in part to government incentive programs, particularly for new home buyers, the market has bounced back.

Earlier this year, Ottawa increased the amount first-time home buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs from $20,000 to $25,000, and implemented a tax credit for first-timers....

Again, this is a program I was fortunate enough to take advantage of several years ago. It was a tremendous opportunity to put toward the purchase of my home and I am very proud to see our government's action enhance this so that other young couples who are looking at purchasing a home can use this system.

While it is important that young families can enter the housing market, it is also important that they and all Canadians can add value to their homes. Another housing measure in the economic recovery act would help do just that, the home renovation tax credit, or HRTC. It is estimated that the credit would provide approximately 4.6 million families with up to $1,350 in tax relief on eligible renovation projects undertaken before February 2010. Without a doubt, the HRTC has been an overwhelming success.

The Globe and Mail hailed it in a glowing editorial declaring that the HRTC:

...has proven one of the more successful of the government's stimulus measures, helping create demand for services and supplies.

While I travel throughout the riding of Huron—Bruce and talk to home builders, home building supply firms, the home building supply companies are very busy. The people who work in the inventory section are swamped and very busy. One would never know there is a global recession going on. Contractors are booked. These are the initiatives that we took to ensure our economy is moved forward. This is definitely one of the great measures brought forward.

The HRTC is putting tradespeople to work and giving a boost to those who produce and sell building materials. A report from the Globe and Mail states:

“Home Hardware Stores Ltd., Canada's largest independent seller of building materials, is getting a boost from the government's renovation tax credit”, spokesman Rob Wallace said....

The company's eastern, central and western warehouses all are reporting higher shipments to more than 1,000 independently owned stores...

“We're ecstatic,” said Mr. Wallace. “We're far ahead of where we expected to be.”

Those are results for Canadians. A report from the Sault Star in northern Ontario stated that by most accounts, the HRTC move has worked. It went on to state:

“There's no doubt that it has brought a lot of people out of the woodwork to do renovations that they normally wouldn't have done,” said Andrew Walton, sales manager at Northwood Window & Door Centre.

John Patrizio, general manager at Rona Cashway Building Centre said that the building store has been busy with customers planning to take advantage of the 15% tax credit that covers projects that were started after January 27 or will be started before February 1, 2010.

Bob Boissonneault, assistant store manager at Home Depot, said that the tax credit has generated more spending. “A tonne of people have taken advantage of it”.

Clearly, the temporary nature of the credit is providing an incentive for homeowners across Canada to continue to invest in their biggest and best asset during these challenging economic times. One wonders why the Liberals have opposed this measure and this act, and one wonders why they took this position even before taking the time to review the act.

Another key measure that the Liberals are opposing in the economic recovery act is enhanced support targeted for those who need it most. For low income Canadians who receive social assistance, landing a job can cost them dearly in both higher taxes and reduced income support. The working income tax benefit, or, as it is known, WITB, helps to reduce the financial disincentives faced by these individuals.

Originally introduced in budget 2007 by our government, the landmark WITB is a refundable tax credit that helps make work pay by supplementing the earnings of low income workers to help ensure that these workers are financially better off by getting a job. For low income working Canadians with disabilities, facing even larger barriers to workforce participation, the WITB includes a generous disability supplement.

The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has called the WITB “a welcome addition to Canadian social policy”...it “fills a long-recognized gap in Canada's income security system”. Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management said that it was “very helpful to the working poor in our urban centres”.

The economic recovery act would enhance the WITB by $580 million in 2009 and subsequent taxation years. It is expected that more than 1.5 million Canadians would benefit from the enhanced WITB for the 2009 tax year. As a member of the human resources committee, we have heard nothing but favourable comments about the WITB initiative.

That is not all the economic recovery act is about. It also would provide Canadians with more flexibility to improve their quality of life, even during difficult times. Our Conservative government understands Canadians, particularly those nearing retirement who are worried about their pensions. Uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets is a concern for all Canadians, especially older Canadians who have worked hard and saved diligently for their retirement years and rely on their pensions and savings.

The economic recovery act would not only help maintain the quality of life for seniors, it would actually improve it during these difficult economic times. For example, the act would strengthen the Canada pension plan by implementing a number of reforms, reforms that were unanimously supported and recommended by the federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers in their tri-annual review of the CPP last May.

The reforms include the following: removing the work cessation test in 2012 so that people may take their retirement pension as early as age 60 without the requirement of a work interruption or earnings reduction; enhancing the retirement pension calculation to allow up to an additional year of low earnings to be dropped from the calculation; and enabling a person under the age of 65 who receives a retirement pension and continues working or returns to work to contribute to the Canada pension plan and thereby create eligibility for a new post-retirement benefit.

The Canada pension plan reforms would ensure that older Canadians across the country have the support they need to adapt to a changing economy. Furthermore, our Conservative government is also continuing to move forward on pension issues. Earlier this year, we held national consultations on improvements to federally regulated pensions to inform of key changes to be released shortly.

Moreover, as only approximately 10% of pensions are federally regulated, we are also working with provincial governments, forming a research work group and arranging a national summit of finance ministers later this year to further look at the larger issue of retirement income security in Canada.

I would also like to take a moment to quickly review other vital initiatives in the economic recovery act to help provide the stability our economy needs, initiatives include: helping farmers by extending the existing tax deferral available in regions affected by drought; ensuring that the province of Nova Scotia continues to receive a meaningful net fiscal benefit from its resources by resolving the crown share saga after decades of neglect by the previous Liberal government; improving transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars by mandating that all federal departments and crown corporations produce quarterly financial reports; ensure dependability for public broadcasting by increasing the borrowing limit for the CBC; and promoting global growth and co-operation by giving small and low income countries a bigger voice at the IMF while strengthening Canada's commitment to debt relief.

Canada's economic recovery act would provide a balance between stimulating our economy for the short term and building our capacity in the long term. In every region of Canada, families and businesses are paying less tax and unemployed workers are receiving better support and new training. Major job creating infrastructure projects are breaking new ground. Colleges and universities are benefiting from new investments, and Canadian households and businesses are seeing improved access to financing.

Our Conservative government's economic recovery act would provide much needed stability for our country's economy. It is timely, targeted, temporary and cost-effective and it would lay the foundation for long term growth.

The Liberal leader would rather look at narrow, partisan self-interests and force an unnecessary election, jeopardizing the recovery and inviting a prolonged session. Now is not the time for political games but a time to recognize that our economic recovery remains fragile. We must stay focused and we must stay on course. We need to continue to implement Canada's economic action plan, supporting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

As the Calgary Herald editor noted:

...the Canadian economy, when compared with outcomes in peer nations, vindicates [the Prime Minister's] claim to sound [fiscal] management...[the Liberals'] promise to vote against him can only be seen as a self-interested reach for power, at a dangerously sensitive time in the nation's recovery. It is irresponsible, as well as widely unwanted.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I can only stand here and shake my head after listening to those remarks. To even suggest that the government has sound fiscal management is so far from the truth it is unbelievable.

We have a Prime Minister who has taken a surplus that was left to him by the previous government and has driven this country into its biggest deficit in Canadian history. In fact, it was in deficit before the global recession started. The government just does not want to admit it.

I am absolutely shocked that the member for Huron—Bruce, which is the biggest hog-production sector in Canada, would get up and nary mention a word about hog producers. He talked a little about helping farmers. Does he think the Ponzi scheme, established by the President of the Treasury Board, will help Canadian hog producers?

Let me explain the scheme to him. Perhaps he just does not know because he is talking from the speaking points from the PMO.

Does the member support the fact that farmers will go and get a loan from the bank that is guaranteed by the Government of Canada, which is a start, at least it is guaranteed, but the first condition of that loan is that producers must pay back the advance payment program they received from the government last year, which is an unsecured loan from the Government of Canada? Farmers will be left indebted to the chartered banks or other credit institutions and in the process they pay off the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada gets its money securely and farmers are left further in debt with no hope and no future.

The government has been an absolute disaster for the farm community. How can the member for Huron—Bruce, which has a big hog-producing population, support such a Ponzi scheme exercised by his Minister of Finance?

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Malpeque has never been short for words, as we all know. He does, however, support farmers as I support farmers.

He did come in late and the unfortunate thing is that we are actually debating Bill C-51 today. The support we are providing in Bill C-51, which he voted against, would provide support to farmers in drought and flood regions. In a way he is actually talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue.

I think the member for Malpeque has an issue with the fact that all members of our government worked with pork producers, listened to pork producers, and delivered results in conjunction with them.

Just Friday, the final announcement came out, and today hog producers across this great country are talking with their banks. They are working on their transitional progress. They are looking at ways to market their products not only in Canada but also around the world. Our pork producers produce some of the greatest pork in the world.

I would encourage all Canadians to support their local producers, to buy Ontario, to buy Canadian, and not listen to the rhetoric from the member for Malpeque.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it took the member for Huron—Bruce a while to get to Bill C-51 as well in his speech, but when he did he dealt with some of the statistics that I am looking for on the home renovation tax credit program and the first time homebuyers program.

I would like to ask the member how many first time homebuyers have taken part in the program? I realize that at the end of the day we will not know until the year is up as to whether or not this program has been of benefit. The question is whether or not the program is the motivating factor for first time homebuyers in the first place, or it may be just because house prices have dropped and first time homebuyers are jumping into the market.

On the issue of the home renovation tax credit, my colleague mentioned that 4.6 million Canadians will be taking advantage of it. I wonder if that is a projected figure or whether he knows that to be the case.

I wanted to ask him too whether he would intervene with the parliamentary secretary and the minister to make certain that the government announces an extension of this popular program?