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House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my statement by addressing yesterday's announcement by Xstrata Nickel that it would be laying off 686 permanent workers in Sudbury.

In July 2006, as part of Swiss-based Xstrata's takeover of Canadian owned Falconbridge mines, the company made a commitment to the Minister of Industry that it would not lay off a single Canadian worker for at least three years. Neither Xstrata nor the Minister of Industry dispute this agreement. In fact, a copy of the agreement can still be found on Xstrata's website.

Yesterday, when the hon. member for Sudbury and I asked the Minister of Industry if he was going to stand up for Sudbury and put an end to Xstrata's layoffs, we received a less than adequate answer. The Minister of Industry made comments regarding commitments to continue the operation of nickel rim by Xstrata. This is of small comfort to the hundreds of families who have found themselves with a pink slip instead of a paycheque this week.

For every job in the mining sector there are at least four spinoff jobs within the local economy that are lost. These layoffs will be devastating to the communities in Nickel Belt and greater Sudbury.

When a foreign company takes over a Canadian company certain commitments are made. These companies must be held accountable by the Government of Canada. What good are rules when they are not being enforced? What is to stop other foreign companies from reneging on their commitments? The government has set a dangerous precedent and Canadian workers will be the ones to suffer.

In the government's budget implementation bill, the government has set out to loosen foreign ownership legislation by amending the Canada Transportation Act. It would increase maximum foreign ownership levels by a whopping 49%. In this economic recession we need to protect Canadian companies from aggressive foreign takeovers.

As I was reading through Bill C-10, page after page, I became more and more shocked. Each new announcement was more meanspirited than the first. The Conservatives have held nothing back. As soon as they secured Liberal support, they filled the implementation bill with attacks on pay equity, the environment, collective agreements, debt burdened students, and employment insurance pilot programs.

I urge members of the Liberal Party to carefully read the full 551 pages, or at least the summary of the bill, before supporting it. I think many of them would be surprised to see what their leader is more than happy to let slide in order to prop up the neo-conservative agenda.

Under the guise of modernizing pay equity programs, the government is removing the rights of public sector workers from making pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. For decades, Canada has been moving forward on recognizing the rights of oppressed groups and now, with these measures, we are moving backward. Shame.

Women in traditionally female positions have been fighting to have pay equity recognized. They have educated employers, the government, and the public about the need for equal pay for work of equal value. The government is simply being meanspirited by going after this group of workers whose contributions are undervalued.

Next, the government has set out to allow certain projects to be approved without completing a thorough environmental assessment. Again, the government is using the guise that this will speed up infrastructure spending.

If the government was serious about speeding up infrastructure spending, it would abandon the flawed building Canada fund that requires municipalities and provinces to seek out private investments and match federal dollars. The municipality of greater Sudbury has a growing infrastructure deficit of $480 million.

Many municipalities are uneasy, and rightfully so, about partnering with private, profit-driven companies to build public infrastructure, like water treatment plants. Greater Sudbury has planned a Levack water treatment centre, but has been unable to secure adequate funding. This project is shovel-ready and legally must be completed. This water treatment centre is greatly needed in my riding of Nickel Belt.

A much more efficient and direct way for the government to invest in shovel-ready projects would be through increasing the direct gas tax transfer to municipalities. We have heard from municipalities throughout the country how appreciated this transfer has been. This transfer was secured through the negotiations of the 2005 NDP-Liberal budget.

This budget implementation bill goes after debt burdened students. I am not sure why the government has decided to go in this direction. There is no logic to it. Students and recent graduates are going to be the drivers of our new economy. As a country we should be encouraging post-secondary education. There are no measures to relieve students. The minister will only provide debt relief should a student die or disappear. I am sure students struggling to make student loan payments will be thrilled to learn this. This is truly shameful.

Could the government not provide more significantly relief for student loans especially during an economic recession? The government bailed out the banks that administer the loans. Surely, it can spare more than crumbs for our students.

One area in which I have several questions for the minister is in regional economic development. The government has announced in its budget the creation of the southern Ontario economic development agency which is expected to receive $1 billion over the next five years. The New Democrats campaigned on the creation of such an agency and we are pleased that it is included in the budget. My questions concerns FedNor and how it will be impacted by this new agency for southern Ontario? Will any of the workers employed by FedNor be laid off or transferred to the south as a result of this newly created agency? Will SODA be an independent economic agency or one that is hidden under many layers within the Department of Industry like FedNor? Will any of the infrastructure funding within the budget be administered through FedNor and will the application process be streamlined in response to the unprecedented need in northern Ontario for infrastructure projects?

During this recession the government has an opportunity to make FedNor a fully funded independent economic development agency similar to ACOA. This would increase its funding and mandate. Then maybe worthy projects like the centre for excellence in mining innovation and the long-term care facility in Chelmsford would finally receive the funding they deserve. Now is the time to make these changes.

The last issue I want to raise is the employment insurance program. The employment insurance program can be a great economic stabilizer. Unfortunately, after a decade of Liberal gutting of the program only 40% of workers can qualify for employment insurance benefits despite paying into the insurance policy for years.

The Conservatives had an opportunity in the budget to broaden the employment insurance program to help absorb some of the fallout from the economic recession. Instead, not one additional worker will become eligible for benefits despite a record 7.2% unemployment rate across the country.

Laid off workers will still need to wait two weeks before they become eligible for benefits. The government should know that the hydro bills and mortgage payments will not wait two weeks. Instead of treating laid off workers with dignity, the government has insulted them by refusing to reform the employment insurance program for fear that it may become lucrative for individuals to stay home and not look for work. Shame.

The government has also ended a pilot project that was examining the effects of extending benefits. I am not sure why it would do this except to punish laid off workers and their families.

Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill, goes well beyond the budget and sneaks through the backdoor to bring neo-conservative measures that have nothing to do with stimulating the economy. The government and the Liberal Party should be ashamed of its contents. The attacks on women, students, workers and the environment have gone too far.

This bill is just another reason why we in the NDP caucus have lost confidence in the Conservatives.

The Liberals have given the Conservatives the very blank cheque Canadian voters refused to give them in October. The Liberals have sold out Canadians and their families in exchange for propping up the Conservatives. This budget fails to protect the vulnerable, safeguard the jobs of today or create the jobs of tomorrow.

As part of the real, effective New Democratic opposition I will be voting against this bill.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I am perplexed. As a northern Ontario member of Parliament that is certainly not what we heard in our riding and it is not what we heard in other parts of northern Ontario that go as far as the borders of the hon. member's riding. I guess if he had spent some time looking through the economic plan he would have noticed that FedNor in fact has never been stronger and more invested in by the government. Is it true, with respect to the building Canada fund, that his constituents and stakeholders are saying that building infrastructure in northern Canada and for that matter in Canada is a bad thing?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I am also perplexed as to why the member for Kenora does not understand the budget. I do not think he has read it.

There are obviously a lot of projects in northern Ontario that are shovel ready and would create employment. For example, in my riding there is the long-term care facility in Chelmsford which would create 160 permanent jobs. FedNor is not funding that project. There is the water treatment plant in Levack which I spoke about. It is ready to go.

The Conservative government wants the municipalities to get funding from private agencies. In these economic times, private agencies are not funding these projects. These projects are so important they should not be funded by private companies.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad the member raised the concern about the projects. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer, when he was before the finance committee on February 5, according to the answer from the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, reported that the government has experienced significant delays in delivering funds related to planned infrastructure. For example, in 2007-08, the last year for which data is available, Infrastructure Canada lapsed 50%, $1.1 billion of the $2.3 billion in its non-gas tax related funding. Lapsed in government jargon means promised but not spent.

My concern is that we have the same situation for the current fiscal year, 2008-09. There are approved infrastructure programs and funds are ready to go, but they have not been delivered to the municipalities.

Does the member have any idea why the government does not want that money to flow in the current fiscal year? Does it have anything to do with trying to make the current fiscal year look a little better than it really is?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, unfortunately I cannot answer the question as to why the government is delaying the funding of these projects, but maybe because of the Liberal-Conservative coalition the hon. member from the Liberal Party could ask the Conservative government. After all, the Liberals are supporting the Conservatives, which is something I just cannot understand. I just cannot believe the Liberals would attack the budget and then stand up and support it.

Maybe the member from the Liberal caucus could ask the coalition government why the funds are not flowing to the municipalities that need them. They need the funds now.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I understand the member for Nickel Belt has several projects in his riding that are shovel ready and are very important to his riding. I am really interested to know why the member would not support the budget with the infrastructure funding the government is providing in the economic action plan. Why would the member not support the budget? Maybe he should stand up for his constituents and support the budget.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, we are not supporting the budget because of the past history of the Conservative government. In the past, the Conservatives have promised funds to the municipalities and have not delivered the funds. We do not expect the Conservatives to deliver the funds. There are other reasons, such as pay equity for women. The budget attacks women and in attacking women, the government is also attacking children. The budget attacks foreign ownership. It attacks students.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget implementation bill, a bill which for all intents and purposes summarizes the budget.

If the budget had been tabled a few weeks ago, it would have been one of the biggest compilations of misleading figures ever to be referenced in this chamber. Why do I say that? Let us go back to last year's budget, tabled only nine months ago, with a projected surplus of $2.3 billion for 2007-08. When the finance minister was questioned on this number, he repeatedly said that Canada's fiscal foundation was solid and that we would not see a deficit this year or even next. He stood by his numbers and statements in spite of the fact that most reputable economists were saying that the minister's projections were dubious at best.

We all remember the 2008 election campaign ad in which the Prime Minister pulled on a sweater vest, looked into the camera and paraphrased George Bush and John McCain in telling us that the economic fundamentals of this country were strong, which implied that Canadians need not worry about the global economic crisis that was quickly approaching our shores, and that to this day, the course attitude was the correct course of action.

What the Prime Minister did not explain to Canadians during the election campaign was that while our economy was on solid footing thanks to 13 years of strong Liberal stewardship, only three years of Conservative rule emptied the government coffers at a time when the sheer enormity of the economic crisis that began in the U.S. would hit Canada and the government would have to react.

While the Prime Minister was extolling the virtues of inaction to appear strong and win an election, our economy was losing jobs and slowing to a crawl.

We Liberals repeatedly questioned the finance minister and the Prime Minister for over a year as to why they had not included a contingency reserve for economic downturns in their projections. They must have thought the request came from outer space, because the finance minister and the Conservatives claim that contingency reserves for economic downturns were only necessary when they were cooking the books. Well, the minister did not just cook the books, he threw them directly into the fire.

I even questioned the Conservatives' lack of a contingency fund due to the fact that in their own 2008 budget documents the government provided a table indicating that for each 1% decline in GDP growth, it would result in a direct hit of $3.3 billion to government revenues.

In June 2008, only three months after the tabling of the budget, the Governor of the Bank of Canada had already predicted a substantial decline in GDP growth.

Why mention this? Well, given the inaccuracy of the finance minister's figures last year, we have to question whether we can trust them this year. The question is an honest one. Unfortunately the only response by the minister was to deplore the rate at which the economy changed.

Had he taken the trouble to listen to the Bank of Canada and the Liberal Party last year, he would have known that an economic downturn was in the wings and that a contingency reserve in the budget would have given him more manoeuvring room to protect Canadians' jobs, investments and pension plans.

The minister cannot say he was not warned. In addition, when he and the Prime Minister say they are concerned about the current state of the economy, I can only conclude that they are demonstrating bad faith, incompetence or the inability to listen.

Only a few months ago, during the election campaign, the Conservative members spoke up to defend the government's figures and to say that the economic crisis would have no impact on Canada. The Prime Minister went so far as to tell Canadians to take advantage of the deals on the investment market. What is more, barely a few weeks ago, in an economic update, when the government should have provided the latest figures and adjusted its sights, it continued to refuse to recognize the facts.

Now I turn to this year's budget and the question becomes, how can we not support a budget that spends $60 billion over two years at a time when stimulus is needed? The problem with the budget is that the Conservatives cannot stop themselves from grandstanding simply because it is good politics.

However, when we look at the budget in detail, we see that the Conservatives are providing every man, woman and child with an additional debt burden of $1,000 each. In the case of my family, the Prime Minister is borrowing $4,000 on my family's back and is giving us back less than $500. Some families who earn less money are getting back less than $300. Good politics, bad policy; this is the story of the Conservative government over and over again.

What about return on investment in the case of services Canadians will enjoy? This is a different kettle of fish, because a conservative generally opposes this kind of spending. So, in order not to offend voters, who want good services and expect to benefit from them, spending must definitely not assist or support social programs.

The Conservatives have cut taxes, but have done so without a plan. They took symbolic action on behalf of workers and those having difficulty making ends meet instead of improving the income tax system to better suit the needs of a modern economy. They opted for the easy way out by putting forward a whole slew of clever tricks intended to do nothing more than fill the pockets of their supporters while running up the country's debt.

Governments must keep some funds in reserve in order to provide services. However, as the Conservatives do not believe in services, why bother with issues so annoying as retaining surpluses, when it is easier just to buy votes?

And there is worse. When the Prime Minister realized that he had emptied the piggy bank and the polls were still not giving him the majority he so coveted, he plunged into a spending frenzy, flinging a fistful of dollars wherever he thought he might be able to buy votes. There was no considered planning here. Pleasing came first and foremost. The result was fewer food inspectors to protect Canadians, crumbling nuclear facilities, failure to use infrastructure investment funds and the loss of Canadians' savings.

The problem is that we have reached a point where action must be taken immediately. Stimulus is needed and bickering among ourselves is petty and counterproductive.

This budget proposes $60 billion in stimulus over the next two years, which is a significant amount. I do not like how all of it is being spent and I do not agree with every line item in the budget, but I think it is a fair compromise. The Prime Minister has been given a chance by the Liberal Party to clean up this mess, but we will be watching. The Conservatives have one last chance. We are doing this for the sake of Canadians and in order to restore some sanity to this Parliament.

There will be the usual complaints from the NDP members that the spending in this budget does not go far enough, but I have come to expect that from them because, to them, too much is never enough. Our choices are simple. We could hold up the business of this chamber indefinitely by trying to get our way on everything; we could bring down the government, which would hold up business once again as a coalition is formed or an election runs its course; or, we could get down to business and propose reasonable amendments to the budget that demand nothing more than what is manageable at this time of economic crisis.

It is a minority government, so we will hold it accountable. The money the Conservatives are spending is my money, everyone's money, money that belongs to all Canadians. Now that we are satisfied with the overall direction of this budget, we Liberals only want to address the Prime Minister's credibility problem. There will be no more double-talk. The budget is a binding set of policy proposals which the government must implement effectively and in good faith. The Liberal Party will support this budget on the condition that the three fixed dates for the government to report to Parliament to review the government's performance in implementing the budget is respected. We will test the government on how it implements the budget, how transparent the process is and how the Canadian economy is reacting to the budget. Failure in any of these categories will result in the loss of confidence in the government.

The Prime Minister has to answer to Parliament and I am glad to say that my leader is now the head coach. No more tricks, no more deception; the rules are simple: listen to the coach, produce results, or get benched.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I think my colleague and the House would agree that the government has come a long way since the budget update, which was presented in the House a few months ago. It does not seem that long ago, but it is.

I listened last night, and I am sure other members did as well, to President Obama. He talked about the emergency nature of the global crisis in which we have found ourselves. The member has balanced his comments against that reality and has indicated the emergency nature of it and why we must respond on behalf of Canadians.

I know the member comes from an urban community in Montreal, similar to Toronto. The Toronto mayor has talked very positively, on the one hand, about the many benefits and multipliers that come from the infrastructure and the investment in our social capital, the people.

Is the member satisfied, on the basis of the experience of Montreal, Toronto and urban communities across the country, that the cost-sharing arrangements as put forward can be met by municipalities? If they cannot be met, and we have heard that some cannot, then the stimulus possibilities will be negated and held back.

Has the member given any consideration to a concept that, through CMHC, municipalities that need their one-third share could borrow it and in good times start to pay it back, the kind of accounting process that would allow municipalities to add and take up the opportunities in the stimulus package?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for York South—Weston has become a good friend and is a very hard-working member of Parliament.

If I take the required time I need to try to answer his question, I will not have enough time, so I will try to address part of the question by looking at it from the Montreal point of view.

I know the city of Montreal has challenges in terms of its many projects. I had a meeting with the local borough mayor and he provided me a list of all the projects that were ready to go tomorrow. Part of the problem is finding adequate funding. There are all kinds of projects, whether it is construction of parks, or rinks or the renovation of community centres. Some roads need to be restructured so traffic flows more easily in certain parts of my riding that have traffic problems. There are all kinds of needs.

There are enough projects ready to go. The question is whether there is enough money. This is the challenge the mayor faces. He knows he has to deal with the Quebec government as well as the municipalities. Is there an openness? We have to look at the bill, but we have to get to work on it. I am a member of the finance committee, which will study the bill and amend it, if need be, so we can get the money flowing.

The secret is not to tie up the money, but to get the money flowing. Whether the bureaucrats are holding it up or there is lack of funding, we have to find a way to make these funds available. Whether it is to have municipalities borrow extra money or have private industry come in, we need to get these shovel ready projects off the ground. Although I speak for my municipality and city, we hear the same from not only across the country but from across the globe.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to respond to Bill C-10 implementing the Conservative government's budget.

A number of hon. members have already voiced their opinions on the budget and have raised a number of concerns on various questions. With the budget implementation bill, the Conservative government wants us to approve the changes in equalization payments to the Government of Quebec set out in the budget, which would mean a loss of $1 billion by Quebec in the first year alone, and perhaps even $2 billion in the second. What is more, the budget implementation bill lays the foundation for the creation of a pan-Canadian securities commission, to which the Quebec National Assembly is opposed.

As well, there will be more unemployed people in the coming months. The bill offers no reforms of any kind regarding accessibility to EI nor does it abolish the waiting period. Worse still, the Conservative government is proposing lower taxes for individuals with high incomes, but in no way does it propose a true economic recovery plan.

The budget also proposes eliminating one provision of the Income Tax Act that prevents companies from using tax havens to avoiding paying taxes. This means that the government is encouraging companies to go outside Quebec and Canada for purposes of tax evasion.

The budget also opens the door to deregulation of foreign investment, which is liable to favour foreign takeovers and does not take the economic interests of Quebec and Canada into consideration. As for the funds allocated by the budget to social housing, they are poorly distributed because their targets are unclear, as evidenced by the community development trust. Finally, by imposing working conditions on employees, the bill ignores public sector salary negotiations and agreements.

For the Bloc Québécois, respecting collective agreements is of vital importance. Similarly, the budget has totally ignored a whole series of items of the utmost priority to numerous Quebeckers. Worse yet, the Conservative government has introduced an ideological budget, with no concern for its minority position.

Last October, Quebeckers asked us to continue our work here in the House of Commons, to represent them and to defend their interests and values here in Ottawa. They are worried about this budget.

In particular regard to the situation faced by the people in my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the Conservative government has completely missed the boat. There are no promises to improve employment insurance or set up a program to help older workers. The forestry industry is getting only a few crumbs to deal with the ongoing crisis.

I want to take advantage of this opportunity to speak once again about the plight of the forestry sector in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. For years now, I have been constantly raising the awareness of the members of the House about the difficult situation facing forestry workers. Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is one of the biggest forestry regions in Quebec covering 85,688 km2, which is 17% of the entire Quebec forest. More specifically, 23 of the 49 municipalities in my region depend on the forest economy and qualify as single-industry communities.

In all, more than a third of the jobs in the manufacturing sector are related to forestry. Several sawmills in the riding of the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec) and hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean have ceased production. This is the case of Louisiana Pacific Canada Ltd. in Chambord, which closed down for two years and Arbec, which closed its sawmill. Several other companies are continuing with reduced workforces.

For many communities in my region and riding, the economic crisis arrived several years ago. However, the budget provides only a scant $170 million for the entire country, including Quebec, to come to the assistance of this hard hit industry.

The forestry crisis afflicting Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and several other areas of Quebec is far from being resolved. Many people predict that 2009 will be even more difficult than the last few years. Ever since 2006, the Conservative government has left the forestry industry to its own devices, endangering thousands of jobs. The budget tabled by the Conservatives does nothing to correct the situation, even though the Bloc Québécois has suggested some solutions that would really do something to help this industry.

First, the government should restore the forest economy diversification fund. When the previous minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec axed the $50 million diversification fund for regions affected by the crisis in the forestry industry, he really dealt it a hard blow. This program made it possible to assist the affected communities and the working people in the plants. It was clearly a mistake to cut this assistance. The government could have taken advantage of the budget to announce that it was going to reinstate this program with additional financial resources.

Second, the Bloc Québécois has proposed that a loan and loan guarantee program be created to help finance investments in production equipment. This would provide support for businesses that wish to update their production equipment or simply enable their businesses to expand. Once again, this measure is not included in the Conservative budget.

Third, the Bloc has suggested giving tax credits to companies in the manufacturing and forestry sectors to help them develop new technologies and to encourage hiring. Sadly, there is no such measure in the budget.

Lastly, the Bloc has for several years been calling for an income support program for older workers. These workers are in a state of despair because there has been no assistance for them. Entire communities are being affected by these lost earnings. The Government of Quebec has made efforts to help older workers, but those efforts will be inadequate as long as Ottawa does not do its part.

Employees over 55 have a hard time retraining. That is a fact. They are not getting the help they need. Yet this program would cost only $75 million a year for the entire country.

These four measures are aimed at helping the forest industry make the transition toward secondary and tertiary processing and promoting the use of wood in commercial and public buildings. This transition would lead to high value added manufacturing and make sure that every tree provides more jobs. This would increase the demand for wood on the domestic market in Quebec and Canada and reduce wood exports.

In closing, the Conservative government's ideological budget shows how little it cares about the 21,000 jobs that have been lost in the forest industry in Quebec since April 1, 2005, including nearly 4,000 jobs just in my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I have spent a lot of time in the Péribonka area, pursuing beautiful ouananiche, and I hope to get back there soon.

I have two blunt questions for the hon. member.

First, could he explain why the Conservative government seems to have abandoned the forestry industry across Canada, as well as in his area, and why it seems to feel that this industry is not worth investing in any more and that we should just let it die?

Second, could he speculate as to why the Liberals seem to have joined the Conservatives in this propping up of the budget, rubber stamping it and allowing our forestry industry, one of the most important industries in the history of Canada, to decline?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, in response to his question about why the government abandoned the forestry industry, I would say that this government made ideological choices. It said—I am speaking for Quebec—that it was not going to help the forestry industry because that was an issue for certain regions, but that it was going to help the auto industry and certain other industries at the expense of the forestry industry.

Quebeckers should have received more than just a share of the $170 million over two years for all of Canada, including Quebec. Quebeckers account for 30% of the labour force, and that money is going to be distributed per capita. That is a great injustice that simply should not be.

Now I will answer the question about why the Liberals are supporting the budget. Like the Conservatives, the Liberals were asked to help the forestry industry and the softwood lumber industry. Let us not forget that, at the beginning of the crisis, which started a few years ago, they, like the Conservatives, failed to help the forestry industry.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I could not hesitate to correct the record on something that was so blatantly misleading regarding the softwood lumber industry and the whole lumber sector.

It is this Conservative government that ensured that the $5 billion for the softwood lumber agreement were returned to Canada. It is this government that has maintained the funding for pine beetle extrication. It is this government that put a stimulus into the budget of 15% so that people would actually participate in renovating their houses, which would primarily go to the forestry industry by way of the lumber.

I just wanted to ensure the record was corrected and ask the hon. member why he would misrepresent the case with the forestry industry.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has about one minute to respond.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, with respect to what really happened with the forestry industry, members will recall the outcome of the softwood lumber crisis of a few years ago: we gave the Americans a billion dollars.

Yes, the softwood lumber industry was at the end of its rope. Industry representatives asked us to support the measure even though we ended up giving the Americans a billion dollars. However, we always called for loan guarantees, regardless of whether the Liberals or the Conservatives were in power. If those governments had offered loan guarantees to companies in the forestry industry or to sawmills, they would have been responding to a need. Those demands are still on the table. Both the forestry industry and the mills still want the same thing as before.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, in the past I have made a statement to the effect that the measure of a country's success is not an economic measure but rather a measure of the health and the well-being of its people. I believe that is the important issue in this budget and that, in this time of our country's financial duress, we need to keep our eye on the condition of our people, particularly the most vulnerable.

We bandied the term accountability around quite a bit so I thought the members would be interested to hear my definition of accountability. To me, it means to be able to explain and justify one's actions or decisions in a manner that is true, full and plain. That is a high mark for almost anyone to hit, but today, in this time of financial duress, it is time for our parliamentarians to step up to the level of accountability so that all Canadians have hope for tomorrow and for the future, rather than fear.

We need to deliver that hope, which is why this Parliament is sitting now and why many members have lamented that the House's business was disrupted by prorogation and by a fairy-tale November economic statement that was clearly not true, full and plain and did not reflect the reality.

Another election was not in the best interests of the people. It was a partisan issue and that is why the opposition stepped forward after that economic statement which was unacceptable not only to the opposition parties but to Canadians as a whole.

The economic statement was very rosy. It projected surpluses throughout the five year period when all the private sector economists and all the pundits who had looked at the fundamentals knew that the country was facing some serious problems.

That is one of the reasons that an amendment was proposed to the budget and why it was adopted by the government. It is important to understand that the principles of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, those who are unable to help themselves, had to be included in the budget.

Unfortunately, I have heard far too often in this place that we would rather people just kept the money in their pockets rather than paying taxes to the government. What the budget does not take into account is that there are people in our society who are unable to care for themselves. They do not have the means and they do not pay taxes but they do need the government to assist them, whether it be a social safety net or with the goods and services that they need to sustain themselves.

That one proviso in the amendment protects the most vulnerable in our society and the growing vulnerable, those who will lose their jobs. Some 230,000 Canadians have already lost their jobs, more than are projected to be created by the budget.

The second two issues concern jobs. The challenge right now is jobs. The measure of success of the budget will include our performance on the job side: saving existing jobs or reducing the job loss in existing businesses and industry, as well as creating new jobs in the emerging and highest probability areas where new jobs may be created.

Finally, it is with regard to a plan for getting out of deficits. It is unfortunate that the government has squandered, through its reckless spending and fiscal imprudence, a $14 billion annual surplus that it inherited in 2006. It is gone.

I wrote down a few things that reminded me of the things that paint a picture of what the Conservative government has presented to Canadians since it took office in 2006. I remember statements by the Prime Minister about the cultural industry. He said that it was a subsidized whiner. When does a prime minister use that kind of language?

The first thing the Conservatives did in forming government was to develop a 200-page binder on how to make committees dysfunctional, which they were successful in doing in a couple of cases, the procedure and House affairs committee, as well as the justice committee.

The government taxed income trusts when it promised not to do that. The $25 billion of wealth, particularly of retirees, was wiped out. A 31.5% punitive tax is still there. It should be gone and replaced with something that protects Canadian investors. The government passes it on to offshore investors who are the ones getting the most benefit from income trusts.

The government sued the former leader of the opposition over the Cadman issue. It voted non-confidence in Elections Canada. It broke its own legislation on fixed election dates. Our election was not supposed to be last October 14. It was supposed to be October 19, 2009. Why was the legislation broken? It was broken because the Prime Minister thought Parliament was being dysfunctional so he called an election.

When the Prime Minister gave a speech on that bill he said that no prime minister would ever be able to use partisan objectives for calling an election, that every Canadian would know the election date. It did not happen. The legislation was broken and it was the government's own legislation. Go figure. It is amazing that it had to happen.

Everything that the government brought forward was made a confidence vote. It meant that if those legislative measures were defeated we would go into an election. How is it that everything is a confidence vote? It was politically motivated. The government was trying to take advantage of the political vulnerability of other parties. That is not the way to put the interests of the people ahead of partisan interests. It is quite the reverse and yet the government purports quite the opposite.

I could go on but I think people get the idea of where we are now.

Where are we today? Stock evaluations are low. Markets are down about 40%. Emerging markets have lost about 60% of their value. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's assertions that our banks are strong, the credit crisis exists in Canada and the government itself is coming forward to take some of the pressure off by taking over asset backed mortgages.

Housing is not only stalled but prices have plummetted. Bankruptcies are up 50% year over year. We now have 230,000 jobs lost, more than the 189,000 that the budget purports to create.

Eighty percent of our trade was with the U.S. but now the protectionist rhetoric has put us on our heels again. The auto industry has been crushed. The forestry industry is dwindling. The shipbuilding industry is virtually dead. It paints a picture that Tory times are tough times, and that is the reality. With all of the signs of the past year, the government insists that the problem is elsewhere, that it is the U.S. and that we are strong and everything is fine.

That is not the case. When one is a trading nation and the other nations it trades with, particularly the United States, are in difficulty, the nation needs to recognize that fact and bring it into the reality of its fiscal management, policies and the way in which it governs.

In December, the Prime Minister said that there would not be a recession in Canada and that we were fine as long as we did not do “stupid” things like running a deficit. Look at where we are now.

In October, he suggested that the market represented some good buying opportunities for Canadians. The stock market has gone down a further 20% since he said that. In November, the government's failed economic statement promised us surpluses for the next five years. Twelve days later, the Bank of Canada announced that we were in a recession. In December, the Prime Minister admitted that the government would run a deficit of $20 billion to $30 billion. In January that was amended to say that it was closer to $40 billion. Once budget 2009 was tabled, we saw that the government was running a deficit even in the current fiscal year of 2008-09.

It goes back to the issues of accountability, credibility, being truthful, plain and honest with Canadians, not to create fear but to say that we understand what is happening. My concern is not so much about the economic measures and numbers but more about the condition of the people. I do know that when people lose their jobs and problems occur in a financial sense, it creates stress, depression, desperation and bad things happen. It affects a person's mental and physical health and it affects their families and interactions. It means that the cost of health care and social services programs will go up. It also means, as was shown in the 1990 recession, that there is a very positive tracking between the level of unemployment and the level of crime. I hate to say this but it shows that there will be a level of crime. It will mostly be property crime because people are desperate.

Many of those costs will be borne by the provinces but they have had no increase in terms of transfers to the provinces to deal with these inevitable areas. The government has not seen it far enough. On page 219 of the budget bill, members will see the government's minuscule plan to return to surplus. It is simply, “We hope”.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, the last part of the member's address dealt with closing the accountability loop. He became more precise when he talked about the social interconnection between high unemployment and the trauma that Canadians would be facing, issues related to criminal activity and other activities in response.

I wonder if the member, who has had a great deal of experience through his membership on the public accounts committee and certainly from having been in this House a long time, could give the House some insight into how he sees the ongoing monitoring of expenditures under the stimulus package, particularly in the social programs that he talked about. I wonder if he could give us an idea as to how that could be linked to the invitation that the government appears to have put out, which is that if the stimulus package does not work it is prepared to reinvest or find other mechanisms that would come to grips with stimulating the kinds of programs that would meet the kinds of issues to which the member has alluded.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the experience that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has had, in looking at the last reported year 2007-08, has to do with rolling out money. Indeed, in 2007-08, with regard to the infrastructure investments, for example, only half of the money actually went out. Some $2.2 billion never went out. It lapsed. It meant that it was promised but not spent.

What I and, I think, the member are concerned about is the government saying that it will do things but never gets the money out there.

With regard to the social side, the budget does not address the concerns that the member has articulated. It means that this budget is not a finishing point for me. It must be a starting point. We need to change some things down the road. I hope the monitoring mechanisms, to which the member referred, the quarterly reporting and the work of the chair of the government operations and estimates committee, will bring to Parliament the evidence necessary to show that Canadians are being served in the areas that help those most in need.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is rising again— like all the other Liberals before him and like those who will come after him—to tell us that it is not a good budget. Each one of them will present an argument on a specific subject and will make comments such as: this budget does not live up to their promises; it is too little, too late; there is an obvious lack of transparency; that it is a fairy tale; that it takes a partisan approach; and that those who will suffer are ignored by this budget.

If my colleague, and all the other Liberals, truly believes what he says why is he going to vote for this budget?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, if this were simply a partisan issue, I would vote against the budget because it is not as good as it could be and should be.

We have already had some false starts. In the economic statement back in November it was clear the government was going in the wrong direction. The member is well aware that the opposition parties came forward with the conditions under which the government should come back with another budget and deal with matters such as the stimulus for infrastructure and for job growth and job protection, as well as for dealing with the vulnerable, dealing with EI. We asked for those things. They are now here. It is not a perfect budget.

The member, all hon. members and Canadians ought to ask themselves if they really think that going back to the electorate, having another $300 million election and putting Parliament out of work for another two or three months would be in the best interests of the people. I and I think most hon. members in the Liberal caucus came to the conclusion that having another election would not solve anything and all it would do would be to make things worse.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, since this is the first opportunity I have had to rise while you have been in the chair, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment and tell you how proud I am as a woman parliamentarian and a fellow British Columbian to see you in the position that you hold today.

I am speaking today on the budget implementation bill. A number of issues have been discussed already in the House around the inadequacies of the budget that the government has put forward. The budget does not adequately address the very desperate needs of Canadians from coast to coast to coast in this critically uncertain economic time. People are losing their jobs and families are very concerned about being able to hold on to their homes.

The government is also doing something else. The government had committed not to bring in unnecessary confidence motions, yet in the budget bill the government is adding items that have nothing to do with the budget. It is bringing in through the back door things that are more ideologically motivated and really have nothing to do with stimulating Canada's economy.

The Conservatives are taking away women's right to pursue pay equity under the Human Rights Act. They are opening up Canadian industry to more foreign ownership. They are almost putting a for sale sign on Air Canada. They are making punitive efforts to go after students who are carrying student loan debt. The budget overall totally fails to protect the vulnerable in our society, to safeguard the jobs of today or to create the green technology jobs needed for tomorrow. It does nothing to protect the vulnerable in society, the people without homes, women and children. There is nothing in it for child care.

Some of the things in the budget implementation bill which have nothing to do with stimulating the economy are the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to streamline the approval process. More authority is being given to the minister to allow construction without environmental assessments. Pay equity will no longer go through the Canadian Human Rights Commission. With regard to foreign ownership there are changes to the Investment Canada Act so that only significant investments will be reviewed. A new national security provision has been added, which is rather worrisome. Members will remember the debate we had last year in the House of Commons about RADARSAT-2. I have mentioned the Canada student loan changes.

Collective agreements are being cut. In fact, the government on that side of the House that always talks about crime and community safety is rolling back the increases that were given to the RCMP only in June. If the RCMP cannot trust the Conservative government, I do not know how other Canadians can.

Another issue is employment insurance. The necessary changes have not been made to the two-week waiting period. In my community people are waiting up to eight weeks for their first cheque. As we all know, less than 40% of working Canadians qualify for employment insurance and the government has made no changes to that.

I want to take a moment to talk about the process my community went through in the lead-up to the budget. We were asked by the government side and by Canadians to consult with them about what they wanted in this federal budget.

In my riding we sent out thousands of invitations to British Columbians to participate in a community forum. Large advertisements were placed in the papers and emails were sent. Each of the three city councils and councillors were invited to attend. A non-partisan facilitator who has a lot of experience, Ted Kuntz, was present, along with other facilitators.

On January 3 there was a snowstorm in my community. We do not get snowstorms in New Westminster—Coquitlam very often, but even then the room was full of people from the community, community organizations and interested people from my riding who wanted to have some of the hard discussions around what they would like to see in the federal budget. We broke down into small groups with the facilitators and came back with recommendations. I want to talk about the kinds of things that activists, city councillors and mayors in my community thought should be in the budget.

They noted that from 2005 to 2008, homelessness in the city of New Westminster has risen 53%. They noted that homelessness in the Coquitlam area, in the tri-cities had risen 157% from 2005 to 2008. They noted that average rents in New Westminster had gone up 28% in the last six years alone. All of us from B.C. and from the Vancouver region know how unaffordable ordinary housing is for families. They talked about needing a national affordable housing strategy, and of course we did not see that in the budget. There is a small tax credit for people who want to renovate their cottages and for people who want to put new grass around their homes, but there is no national housing strategy. Canada at one time had a housing strategy that was the envy of the world. Nations came from all over the world to look at how we developed our housing strategy, but no longer. That speaks to why we have so many people on the street today.

My community also raised the issue of transit. They would like to get out of their cars and get around our community and to downtown Vancouver with rapid transit that would be ecologically more sustainable. They talked about the Evergreen transit line which, by the way, is mentioned in the budget as the priority for British Columbia, but all it says in the budget is that it could be funded. There are no hard dollars attached, no real commitment at this point to the Evergreen line.

They talked about the desperate need in my riding for seismic upgrades to our schools. Madam Speaker, you know, because you live in the same province as I do, that we are in a very dangerous earthquake zone, the worst seismic hazard zone in all of Canada, in fact. Fifteen schools in my riding rate high on the need for vital upgrades to make those schools safe for our children in the event of an earthquake.

They raised the issue of public safety. They noted that Canadians had been promised in the 2006 election an additional 2,500 RCMP officers for municipalities across the country. We have not seen that either. My community in Coquitlam has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to population in the entire country. Instead of delivering on this promise, the government is rolling back an agreement on wage increases for the RCMP. I submit that could further demoralize the force and make it even more difficult to recruit the RCMP officers that we need.

Child care was a huge item mentioned because the demand far outstrips the supply in my community. Five hundred and twenty requests for child care placements were denied in the city of New Westminster in 2007 alone. Average full-time child care spaces cost families about $700 a month which is far too high.

They talked about the green economy. They talked about shipbuilding. They talked about salmon. Salmon is almost a cultural icon in British Columbia but is also very much a part of our economy. They also looked for promises on addressing the pine beetle infestation that has affected British Columbia. Douglas College tuition has increased by 78% in the last five years.

It was a terrific consultative process. Out of that process came the “Community Blueprint for the Federal Budget, New Westminster--Coquitlam--Port Moody, Economic Investment Considerations and Priorities”. We have heard over and over on this side of the House how New Democrats have not put any effort into what they wanted to see from the Minister of Finance. This document was put together by the community members, the community leaders and ordinary citizens in my communities of New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody and was delivered to the Minister of Finance in advance of the budget being tabled in the House. However, we did not see our needs reflected in the Conservatives' budget.

Therefore, today I would like to seek unanimous consent to table this document, the community blueprint for the federal budget from New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody, and have it added to the public record. There have been some discussions with different parties, indicating that I would be asking for unanimous consent, and I hope I have that.

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to table the document?

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION ACT, 2009Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Dianne JohnstonStatements By Members

February 10th, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of our lives. Parliamentary spouses deserve much credit, but they seldom received any recognition.

One special hero was Dianne Johnston, the beloved wife of Dale Johnston, the former member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin. On January 7, cancer claimed Dianne's life. An MP's spouse for over 12 years, Dianne was a confidante, soulmate and a source of moral support for Dale as he tackled the challenges that come with this demanding job.

While Dale made the long weekly commute to Ottawa, Dianne kept the home fires burning on their farm. On weekends, she accompanied Dale as he made the rounds of constituency activities. She patiently listened and applauded hundreds of speeches and campaigned alongside Dale with vigour. Dianne's charming nature and infectious sense of humour were appreciated by all those who had the good fortune to meet her. She will be truly missed by everyone who knew her.

As we send our heartfelt condolences to Dale and their daughters, Dalene and Michelle, let us all take time to thank our spouses for their dedication, their love and their support.