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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

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree completely that there are more efficient mechanisms to deliver infrastructure to the municipalities and I think sharing the gas tax revenue is a wonderful idea in that regard. It is a program that already exists and it can flow money more quickly. It actually allows the municipalities to get those moneys flowing and working faster.

I have in fact met with some of the mayors in the Lower Mainland. I met with the mayor or Burnaby, as a matter of fact, two weeks ago. I have meetings coming up with the mayor of Vancouver and the mayor of Richmond, who represent different parties, by the way.

Their message is the same. They are saying that in order to access these federal infrastructure funds, they have to match them. Municipalities generally do not have surpluses sitting there that they can put forward to attract this money. Therefore, one of their problems is that if they want this money, they will have to come up with it somehow, and they will be forced to either borrow the money or raise their mill rates, in which case they will have to raise taxes on their citizens.

I think it is rather deceptive of this government to crow about the tax cuts it is making, only to turn around and compel mayors of this country to raise taxes on their own citizens in order to access the money that this government brags it is making available.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about the implementation of the budget this afternoon.

First of all, this budget is unacceptable for Quebeckers. They were expecting great things compared to last January's budget. The Bloc Québécois acted very responsibly and submitted a highly detailed brief containing very realistic measures. These measures would have directly helped the people of Quebec. We thought that we would see these recommendations in the budget. In addition, all of the parties in Quebec's National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion. That motion listed what they wanted to see in this budget for Quebec.

Many people lost out in this budget. First, modifying equalization calculations would deprive Quebec of more than a billion dollars next year and more than two billion dollars the following year.

We had great expectations for economic development. The Conservatives cut the program for NPOs in the regions. This program had proven its worth, and Quebec's economic development organizations helped to ensure that businesses grew and jobs were created in our regions. The Conservatives cut this program. We were expecting, since our country was gripped by an economic crisis, to see new funds and even see this program reinstated since it was such a great help to Quebec's regions.

Over the past months, the elderly have seen their savings and investments melt away. A number of elderly people live below the poverty line and have no other choice but to rely on programs such as the guaranteed income supplement. This budget contains absolutely no increases for seniors living below the poverty line. As well, they are still waiting for retroactive adjustments owed to them. And there is nothing in the budget announcing new money for the elderly who desperately need it.

A recession also means job losses. Easing employment insurance eligibility criteria would have been a boon to the growing number of people who will be losing their jobs during the current economic crisis. The government should have enabled as many people as possible to draw on these benefits. The system should also have been improved by allowing those who lose their jobs to collect benefits immediately. Eliminating the waiting period would have been the best measure for these people.

Many of the people losing their jobs are over 55. They have dedicated their lives to the companies that are closing their doors. Many of these people over 55 do not have high school diplomas, and it is becoming more and more difficult for them to retrain. We were looking for improved training assistance and, for those who cannot retrain, an older worker assistance program. During the 2006 election campaign, the Conservatives promised to bring back an older worker assistance program. The Conservatives even mentioned an older worker assistance program in their throne speech. Yet a program to help people who cannot be retrained does not appear in this budget.

Once again—I know I am repeating myself—when plants close, many people 55 and over are forced to empty their pockets, liquidate their RRSPs and sell their houses as a last resort. These older people have to use up the money they saved over the years to use upon retirement. That is not the kind of help we should be giving these people who have contributed so much to our society.

Struggling companies will get no help in this budget. There are measures to help companies, but no refundable credits. The government's measures will not help companies recover if they do not pay taxes. Tax credits are fine, but they only help companies that pay taxes, and to pay taxes, companies have to make a profit. Companies that are on the verge of closing their doors and declaring bankruptcy are the ones running a deficit; they do not pay taxes. I would really have liked to see refundable tax credits for these companies among the proposed measures.

It is all very well to help the financial institutions, but the fundamental need is to help businesses to be viable so that they can keep their workers. Then we would not be seeing the banks repossessing houses and we would not be needing to help the banks deal with a crisis. Levelling up instead of down would allow companies to stay afloat and thus allow people to get and keep jobs in them. That way they could ling their homes and their spending power and get the economy rolling.

With the measures announced in this budget, this segment of the working class will get no help if they lose their jobs.

I represent communities and a riding where there is a great deal of agriculture. At this time people are very disappointed with the budget, because they were expecting help for struggling farmers. The introduction of a $500 million program over five years does not meet the need, because it excludes risk management. The agriflexibility program does not respond to the numerous demands from Quebec stakeholders and even the Quebec agriculture minister. We know that, had those moneys been allocated, and if they had included risk management, they would have enabled the Government of Quebec to improve its agricultural revenue stabilization program. The Bloc Québécois called for risk management to be included in a program that would really help the producers, who badly need it. It would have enabled many Quebec farms to be productive and we are know that the very foundation of an economy is its raw material.

I am very disappointed to see that agriculture is dying, not only in Quebec, but across Canada as well. In my riding, more than 25% of jobs are directly or indirectly linked to agrifood or agriculture. We are experiencing huge problems in agriculture at this time, and there are no measures in this budget. The Conservative government has let down the farmers in my riding and in Quebec as a whole.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to comment on how the infrastructure funds in the budget would affect her riding. While she is thinking about her answer, I want to make a point on infrastructure that I have made in the past, but I want to make sure it is on the record and that key members hear it. I have been speaking about this for about a year, although I have not mentioned it recently.

I became worried very recently when I heard officials say that there is no policing or delineation of how much infrastructure funding goes to municipalities and first nations. The people of these municipalities have been very well treated in the past in programs by governments. There is a significant amount of money in the budget for infrastructure and they are very happy about that, but they are worried that it is not going to them. There seems to be no plan to make sure that municipalities and first nations, who have to deliver so much infrastructure to their communities and have the smallest tax base to do it, may not get their fair share.

I know that the people who can do something about that are listening. I want to make sure it is on the record so that the very generous funds available do get to the municipalities and the first nations that really need it so they can deliver infrastructure at the local level.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Yukon, for his question. The infrastructure program, as it was presented, will indeed help Quebec, but it will not solve everything.

Furthermore, when I talk about assistance, it is conditional assistance, as we know that the municipalities and the Quebec nation must also put in money, since it is a tripartite program. Many municipalities need to rebuild their infrastructures at this time, but do not have the means to put up a third of the funds needed to access these programs.

As we all know, the surplus is in Ottawa. In this budget, we would have liked Ottawa to invest more than the municipal or Quebec governments in the infrastructure program.

I must add another point. The Bloc Québécois would have liked to see this money transferred to Quebec, especially since, we must not forget, the municipalities fall under Quebec jurisdiction.

Furthermore, Quebec would have been in a better position to run this kind of program. But again, although the infrastructure programs and the money announced are positive measures, only the municipalities that have the resources can take advantage of those measures, which is pathetic.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member two questions.

The first one is on environmental assessments. We now know the government intends to add to the budget that was tabled originally, provisions that will decrease the ability to conduct environmental assessments on certain federal projects. Specifically, amendments will be made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to so-called streamline the approval process and give more authority to the minister to allow construction without further environmental assessments. I would like to get the hon. member's comments on that.

The second one is on pay equity. The government once again is attempting to remove the ability of the women of this country employed by the public service to pursue pay equity claims before tribunals and courts. I would like to have her comments on that as well.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, regarding the environment, we all know that the federal government, the Conservative government, is setting us back by about 100 years. It is a 100 year set back in terms of the environment. We have become the laughing stock of the entire planet, because of the Conservative government's failure to act on the environment.

As for my colleague's second question, pay equity is a very important issue and it is appalling to see the Conservative government trampling on women's rights in this area.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Arts and Culture; the hon. member for Windsor West, the Steel Industry; the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Employment Insurance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada reported that Alberta personal bankruptcies soared by 27% throughout 2008. In December 2008 alone, personal bankruptcies in Alberta rose 106%. This comes on the tail last week of the reported worst one month job losses on record.

No group is suffering more in the downturn of the economy, certainly in the jurisdiction from which I come, than temporary foreign workers, a program that the government introduced and emphasized when it included changes to the immigration bill, nefariously, in the last budget that it tabled. Again it is putting in inappropriate measures.

I want to share what my constituency office reported to me just last night. Just last night, three cases came in on temporary foreign workers who had been encouraged to come to our country under this program and are now out of work and have been abandoned.

A family of five from Germany came to Canada under the temporary foreign workers program. The father was laid off and is not able to find employment that meets the narrow criteria of the permits under that program. He was offered alternative employment but is unable to accept it because it is not “carpentry” work. This family is not able to afford the plane fare back to Germany. These people are currently at the mercy of their landlord who is graciously allowing them to stay. They are using the food bank. The other two examples are exactly the same. A worker from India and a worker from another country came to Alberta, were promised jobs and were laid off. There has been no assistance offered to them and there is no opportunity for alternative work.

This budget invests paltry little in creating new well-paying jobs that these persons could fill. Others across Canada are being laid off daily, likely as we speak.

There is no money whatsoever going into the new emerging green economy that every other nation in the western world and other nations are adopting. We are losing ground and we are losing our competitiveness. While we argue about whether the government is adequately caring for people who have been laid off, it is stridently refusing to provide any money to move these workers into a new economy where they could flourish and prosper.

Energy jobs in Alberta are not declining due to environmental red tape as the government would suggest. Quite the contrary, they are disappearing because of the Conservatives' failed policies.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created in other nations due to the new green economy that they have embraced, that the International Energy Agency has embraced, that the United Nations has embraced, that has been embraced worldwide, that President Obama who will be visiting us soon has embraced. We are missing a golden opportunity to exchange policies. We could have open free trade and exchange green products, technologies, awareness and skills.

The budget document purports to be transforming Canada into a new green economy and yet no new money is being provided to foster these technologies. There is zero money targeted to develop, and most important, to actually deploy the renewable energy which creates jobs on the ground. This is despite recent analyses that Canadians could actually meet the majority of their electrical and energy needs through new green energy. There are fabulous reports coming forward, one in Ontario and one in Alberta. As the hon. Minister of the Environment reported, he would like to move toward meeting the majority of Canada's electrical needs from green energy. The reports are showing that we can do it through real green energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and virtual power, instead of the Conservatives' so-called green energy, which is just more dirty coal-fired power and tar sands.

The abandonment of this sector which is just getting started in Canada and getting a competitive edge, means not only lost economic opportunities to businesses but a lost competitive edge. Many of these businesses are located in my own constituency. Through their own means companies have started up industries to install alternative lighting to save energy. Industries are now operating across North America helping public facilities in the United States and Canada to retrofit public buildings and train their maintenance workers to run these buildings. All are lost opportunities because the government has blinders to the new economy.

What the government is also blind to, and it was evident in the House today, is the lack of understanding of where the world is moving, including our neighbour to the south, the United States of America.

How many references are in the budget on climate change, on giving money to address it? A singular reference. Not one new regulatory trigger has been tabled by Parliament, the single most important measure to actually move us toward the green economy to ensure we do not incur the massive liabilities incurred through climate change. Not one new regulatory trigger and no fiscal incentive are in the bill. The government touts nuclear power as the singular solution to Canada's energy security and climate change goal, and that is absolutely appalling.

Where is the money to develop an energy security policy for Canada? The United States of America has had such a policy strategy and actual legislation in place for some years. Is Canada only going to become the means to meet the United States' energy security, or is the government finally going to move forward and allocate monies so we can move toward developing a strategy for the benefit of Canadians, not just simply to mine our resources and send them south?

On sustainability, the government also says it does not pick favourites, it has broad-brush tools. Well it has picked favourites. In its so-called clean energy fund, it picks out one technology for the coal-fired power industry and for the tar sands, and that is to pour yet more millions of dollars down the well into testing a technology that we have no idea if it works.

The so-called long lists of non-emitting power sources, where are they? They are not being encouraged in any way by the budget.

The government talks about the money it is putting into research and technology. Let me tell members what is being done with research and technology. The Conservatives talk about their innovation fund. I have had calls from across Canada, including leading edge academics who say their money is disappearing. It is being so-called streamlined. What that means is a path from money being put into creating jobs for leading edge scientists and their burgeoning associates and it is going into buying equipment offshore. It is absolutely shameful. Again, we had the opportunity to be leading edge, developing the technologies, marketing them, but this is absolutely lost.

There is nothing in the budget on water. If we talk to any Canadian or anyone around the world and ask them what their most critical need and concern is, they will tell us it is their disappearing water. It is the fact that water is becoming contaminated.

In my jurisdiction, where we think we have plentiful water, already we are finding water over-allocated in southern Alberta. We are finding a crisis in northern Alberta where the water is declining because of climate change. The glaciers are depleting. There are a good number of people in Canada who depend on those glaciers for their drinking water. Farmers depend on that water to feed their cattle. The industries of Alberta depend on that water, yet there is not one cent, despite the fact there is a clear regulatory mandate on the government to manage water for the benefit of Canadians.

My colleague who spoke earlier asked a question of our colleague from the Bloc about the issue of the intrusion into the budget, nefariously, of amendments to laws. This is absolutely reprehensible. The same kind of measure that was done with the immigration act in the last bill has been repeated with critical environmental laws.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act is one of the most important acclaimed laws in the world. That law was the centrepiece of one of the most important Supreme Court of Canada precedents, which clearly declared that the federal government had clear jurisdiction over the protection of the environment. Now with one fell blow, with zero opportunity for consultation, the government has put that into its budget bill, in a Bush type gesture, so there can be no consultation. Conservatives are taking away the right of affected Canadians, including our first nations, to have the opportunity to discuss the implications of these changes.

These changes are exactly what the government is doing by saying that environmental law is simply red tape. Nefariously, through the budget bill, the government is taking away the opportunity for citizens to come forward and express concern when there are intrusions in their lakes or their rivers—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of State for Democratic Reform on a point of order.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I was asked a question in question period, dealing with voter identification. After question period, there was a big kafuffle about my answer.

You may recall, Mr. Speaker, that there were problems with the microphones and with identifying me. In that confusion, I said there was “all party support” for the voter identification bill, but that is not what I meant to say. What I meant to say was “all party report”. If I had more time, I would have certainly recognized the fact that the NDP did not support the government initiative. Other parties did, but not the NDP.

I regret the confusion. I assure the House that it will not happen again.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his clarification.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology)

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that there has been a rumour going around that the NDP has failed to read the budget. We have just received absolute fact about that. That NDP member has not read the budget. If the member has, she is completely distorting what is in it.

I could cite all day long what this government has done with science and technology.

At the University of Guelph, we have funded a research project that pulls methane gas out of cow manure and what is left is turned into subflooring. That sounds pretty green to me.

At the same university, we have also funded a research project which uses plant fibre as a replacement for oil in asphalt. It sounds pretty green to me.

We are also funding ways to decrease the use of water in the oil sands.

If the member would just read the budget, she would know these are good things for Canadians, but of course the member has already made up her mind. There is no point in having a debate with her because she plans to vote against those green initiatives, and that is shameful.

Will the member now admit that she did not read the budget, or if she did read it, she misunderstood it?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand the budget whatsoever. It is my understanding that the monies already allotted for alternative energy will continue, but no new money has been allotted.

It is very clear in the budget that the government is using a streamlining mechanism to take money from programs that do the innovative research and that employ researchers to do the work, including in the Arctic, and simply transferring that over to the innovation fund to buy equipment.

I do not consider that new funding toward a new green economy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, two government members have talked about science and technology, but I want to put on the record a point that two professors made to me about cuts to the granting councils, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. In 2009-10 it will be $17.7 million. In 2010-11 it will be $43 million. In 2011-12 it will be $87.2 million.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too have been contacted by academics and researchers in my riding.

In addition to the information provided by the hon. member for Yukon, who it is always a delight to hear from, the government is also cutting research monies for the Arctic, at a time when is saying it is going to invest money to ensure the sustainability and environmental protection of the Arctic.

We are taking away money that goes to researchers who look at the impact of industrial activity on the land and on the water, not just in Canada but around the world. These researchers look at the impact of the downfall that falls into the Arctic, contaminating the water and coming out as the north melts. That money is being diverted into building a facility for which they will have absolutely no use.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's point is well taken. I would like her to comment on the following question. The government is not introducing real ways to produce energy without greenhouse gas. On the other hand, we are still talking about research. We have nothing against research, but Canada has been conducting research for 25 years. We are ready to produce. There is no money in the budget for production.

The budget includes money to reduce the amount of water used for the oil sands. But the companies told us a few months ago that they will never be able to use less than six gallons of water per barrel of oil, so we are not going to produce greener energy that way.

I would like to know how far along we are in our search for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear in the budget that the government does not understand our potential to compete in this new green economy. What we are missing is the opportunity to actually deploy technologies that have been invented and developed in Canada, particularly in the Maritime provinces.

It is most regrettable that the majority of members from the government did not take the opportunity to attend the presentation, which I had welcomed them to last week, where very cogent, factual information was presented on these very possibilities.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill. Earlier, when the budget was tabled, I spoke about the agricultural community. Today, I would like to focus on what many people in my riding, Richmond—Arthabaska, have talked to me about: this government's inaction on employment insurance accessibility.

Part IV of Bill C-10 pertains to the change in the employment insurance system. The measure the Conservative government decided to take is not bad, but all it did is increase the regular benefit entitlement by five weeks from 45 to 50 weeks, which the Bloc Québécois had long been calling for.

But I wonder why the government decided to set a time limit for this measure? It says this measure will be in effect until September 11, 2010, which means that it is not permanent. All the government did was increase the regular benefit entitlement from 45 to 50 weeks, and it set a time limit on this measure to boot. That is all there is in the budget about this issue.

As far as accessibility is concerned, I have heard comments from a lot of people when I have been out and about on the weekend, or in my riding office on a Friday, about what is in the budget or more so, what is not. It is all very fine to talk of investing in this or that, but the budget must always be looked at as a whole. Overall, no one can say that everything in the budget is perfect, but neither can it be said that everything in it is bad.

However, on the employment insurance issue, frankly it is obvious that we are dealing here with a government that has no sensitivity and no intention of helping people who, in the midst of a time of economic crisis, will end up without a job and with a waiting period imposed on them. More than 50% of people are not eligible for EI even if they have contributed. This situation remains. In a period of crisis, it is worse than ever, which I will demonstrate in the minutes allocated to me.

This bill does not improve accessibility to employment insurance in any way. Still today, the majority of contributors to employment insurance are not entitled to benefits. More than half the people who lose their jobs do not have access to employment insurance, even though they have contributed to it.

The Bloc Québécois has proposed some improvements. My colleague from Chambly—Borduas has introduced a bill, and I will come back to that. We have been proposing very specific improvements for ages, ones which in fact come from the public and from organizations that deal with employment insurance recipients, or at least people who ought to be recipients. As I said, many of these are unfortunately ignored. These are often women who work part time, such as single parents. Or they are young people new to the work force who have not accumulated sufficient hours to access employment insurance. They are also heavily penalized. These are the people telling us there need to be improvements.

One of the main demands is a reduction of the minimum period of qualification, to 360 hours worked, regardless of the regional unemployment rate. As well, increased weekly benefits to 60% from 55%. And we called as well for the abolition of the waiting period, but that we did not obtain.

Especially in times of economic crisis, people must be able to obtain employment insurance benefits as soon as they lose their jobs rather than having to wait for a certain period. If they received their benefits immediately, they could help keep the economy rolling. Someone who is unemployed will look after their basic needs first and will not allow themselves much in the way of luxuries. They will buy food, pay the rent and do only what is necessary. This measure would allow people to help keep the economy going.

We also propose eliminating the distinctions between new entrants and re-entrants to the work force.

We have to eliminate the presumption that people who are related to one another do not deal with each other at arm's length. We should also allow the self-employed to opt into the system on a voluntary basis. Finally, benefits should be calculated based on the 12 best weeks.

People, especially organizations who advocate for the jobless and the unemployed, have been calling for such measures for a long time. We will table a bill in an attempt, once again, to have the House adopt such measures. This very day, my colleague for Chambly—Borduas came back with a Bloc Québécois bill to improve the employment insurance system.

We know that only a few months ago, the Conservatives denied that there was an economic crisis. We were all in an election campaign. Last September, they felt that there was no problem and no recession on the horizon. The Conservatives had some concerns, but nothing serious. Canada would be protected from everything happening in the world. Our closest neighbour, the United States, was in the midst of an economic catastrophe, but we, we would get through it unscathed. That is what we heard during the election campaign. Luckily, people are not stupid and they knew that if our American neighbour was coughing, we were going to catch its cold. And that is exactly what is happening. I am not happy about that; it is just that we have a responsibility here. The government has an even greater responsibility because it is the one making the final decisions about how to stimulate the economy and mitigate the effects of an economic crisis.

When we deny it, pretend that nothing is happening and put on our rose-coloured glasses, during that entire time, nothing is being done to help the people who lose their jobs during an economic crisis or the industries that are having an increasingly tough time exporting to the United States. The Americans are having problems and will buy fewer of our products. It is a domino effect. We could not close our eyes and pretend that everything was fine.

The economic statement that followed was a real joke. It was an ideological statement. I have always felt that the Conservatives came up with it because they saw that the Liberals' election results were mediocre. They figured that the Liberals would try to build themselves back up because they had been through a difficult campaign with disappointing results. They had debts—$18 million, some said. At the time, a leadership race was likely. Now the Liberals have decided to get themselves a new leader without going through that process—apparently there is to be a convention in May. Nevertheless, it is clear that, at the time, that is what the Conservatives were seeing. They decided to take advantage of it and kick the Liberals while they were down to make sure they stayed there.

So the Conservatives came up with an economic statement that did nothing to stimulate the economy or mitigate the effects of the crisis, as I was saying earlier. Instead, they chose to bring in measures that made pay equity negotiable, even though it is a right. A right is not something one negotiates. The Conservatives also raised the political party funding issue. Things like that were not the breath of fresh air people needed to deal with the harsh and painful economic crisis.

It has to be one thing or the other: either the government had no idea what was going on at the time and chose to be optimistic—if that is the case, I would suggest that the government is incompetent—or it wanted to hide the truth from the people. In the end, reality always catches up, and that is what happened.

Now the government cannot deny January's unprecedented surge in unemployment, which rose from 7.3% to 7.7%. That is a two-year high. In January, 26,000 jobs were lost in Quebec. Canada lost 129,000 jobs. I am very worried about this because I am from a region with a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, manufacturing businesses, and that sector has sustained heavy job losses. In January, the manufacturing sector lost 101,000 jobs.

This bill does nothing to improve access to employment insurance. Now we are asking the members of the House to support the Bloc Québécois bill to make up for the government's inaction on this issue.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion regarding the striking of a special committee on Afghanistan. I move:

That a special committee be appointed to consider the Canadian mission in Afghanistan consisting of 12 members which shall include 6 members from the government party, 3 members from the official opposition, 2 members from the Bloc Québécois and 1 member from the New Democratic Party, provided that the chair shall be from the government party; that in addition to the chair, there shall be one vice-chair; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party's members of the committee no later than February 10, 2009; that the quorum of the special committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least one member of the government party and one member of the opposition be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee have all the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada, subject to the usual authorization from the House.

That the committee shall:

(a) meet regularly with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, National Defence and Public Safety and senior officials so that the special committee can make frequent recommendations on the conduct and progress of Canada's efforts in Afghanistan; and

(b) review the laws and procedures governing the use of operational and national security exceptions for the withholding of information from Parliament, the courts and the Canadian people with those responsible for administering those laws and procedures, to ensure that Canadians are being provided with ample information on the conduct and progress of the mission.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.