House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.


Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope I have some time to respond at least to one of the issues, and that is the pay equity issue which was raised by my friend from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek as well as by my friend from Winnipeg North.

I would ask them to have a look at the legislation, because the member for Winnipeg North said that it got rid of the notion of equal pay for work of equal value, but in clause 394, the preamble states:

Whereas Parliament affirms that women in the public sector of Canada should receive equal pay for work of equal value.

That is what it says. It is right there in the bill.

I am not convinced it is altogether the right thing, but the government has made the obligation to live up to the principles of the act a proactive obligation of the employer to make it a provision of collective bargaining and build it into the collective bargaining process, and make the Public Service Staff Relations Board responsible for the legislation, and not make it a long legal process that takes 10 to 15 years and goes to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It is giving the Public Service Labour Relations Board the power and the authority to deal with the question. I am not saying this is perfect. I am happy to listen to the criticisms and the concerns.

My colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek put the pressure on me and pointed out all the great things that our government did between 1990 and 1995. Ontario had the most progressive pay equity legislation in the world in those years, but we also insisted that it was the Pay Equity Commission that should take responsibility for supervising and overseeing the conduct of collective bargaining and the approach and the improvements that were made.

We cannot say that the old system was perfect because the old system federally has put a tremendous obligation on individuals and on unions to take complaints to the Human Rights Commission that have nothing to do with the collective bargaining process and that delays things for a very long period of time.

I would say to my colleagues in the New Democratic Party that I have not changed my ground at all. I believe that Parliament should be committed unequivocally to equal pay for work of equal value. Let us just see if we can improve this legislation to make sure that we take account of all the provincial experiences that have taken place, that we take account of everyone's experience and see if it cannot be improved.

I can assure the member for Trinity—Spadina, who is my neighbour, that we will be looking very carefully at the provisions she has mentioned to see whether or not there are improvements that can be made. That is why we are there.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to address the House, technically a second time on the budget, since we are debating the implementation bill.

First of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. I therefore have only 10 minutes to convince the Liberals, and perhaps a few Conservatives from Quebec, that the budget is less than perfect.

It is clear—and it always has been—in Conservative philosophy that taxes must be lowered and spending must be cut—often essential spending—and after that, everything will be fine. That is the game and that has been the Conservative way since the dawn of time.

However, when a Conservative government—especially this one—faces an economic crisis, it no longer has any idea what to do. The Conservatives completely lacked vision. They were unable to predict this economic crisis and they failed to implement the necessary strategies at the right time. Of course this means assistance to manufacturers, to the softwood lumber sector, to older workers who lose their jobs and to all unemployed workers.

So, in an economic crisis, action is essential. Policies to be implemented must be effective the next day. There was a certain casualness preventing those who were penalized yesterday from benefiting right away. No time must be wasted in stimulating the economy. There is clearly an infrastructure program, but it has been talked about for years and was not implemented as thoroughly as it should have been. So, who is ready tomorrow to break out the whole arsenal of equipment in order to start work on infrastructure? Plans and specifications have to be drawn up, submissions made. That slows things down. Even if the municipalities were prepared to speed up their investment, would labour be available? This is something that was needed, but the timing needs work. To jump start the economy, this might not have been the first priority.

You know that after the October 14 election—what I would call a huge consultation—the Conservatives decided to present a throne speech and an economic statement, which nearly bowled the opposition over. The Prime Minister knowingly confronted the opposition, and what had to happen, happened. Afraid of losing power, naturally, he sought to have the House prorogued. That led to more months of waiting and inaction.

The Prime Minister returned with his budget, but it remains clearly a Conservative budget. It has a slightly red cast, because the wicked wolf had his eye on Little Red Riding Hood. And Little Red Riding Hood decided that, since it was a reddish budget, it was acceptable, even though, since then, the Liberals have been speaking against most of the measures.

We heard a speaker from the Liberal Party say there were some fairly positive things regarding employment insurance. It cannot be said that there is nothing. The Liberals are leaving themselves some manoeuvring room in order to support the budget.

Let us take a closer look at employment insurance. Perhaps 90% or 99% of the elements are missing from this reform or from the investments in employment insurance, but they find one point of interest and latch onto that.

In short, there was nothing in terms of employment insurance to help people who lose their jobs and who need it immediately. In addition to meeting an everyday need, it also provides a minimal stimulus. Given the number of jobs lost since the Conservatives arrived—over 80,000 in Quebec alone—it might have had a significant impact.

There are some major oversights in this budget, such as the environment. Many organizations have complained that the budget included next to nothing to bring about improvements with respect to greenhouse gases. Even the ecoAuto program was not renewed. Under sustainable development, not-for-profit economic organizations were abandoned. Under culture, the government did nothing more for artists. Under education, which we know is so important, transfers were not increased even though education has such a major influence, if not in the short, then certainly in the medium term.

The budget also ignored the guaranteed income supplement for the poorest seniors despite these tough economic times. There is no plan for older workers, most of whom cannot retrain. The manufacturing and forestry industries were also left out. Other oversights include struggling businesses, women and women's groups, international aid recipients, and social housing for families.

There is also some serious encroachment, beginning with the federal government's intention to interfere with Quebec's jurisdiction over securities. The budget also proposes going over the Government of Quebec's head and making direct loans to municipalities. Under education, the government is putting up $50 million over two years for its foreign credential recognition initiative.

I want to spend a little more time talking about some issues, such as employment insurance. As the Liberal member just said, employment insurance benefits have been extended by five weeks. Another relatively dangerous proposal, in my opinion, is rate setting. In its Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board Act, the government gave the board the authority to set rates. Now, however, the government is doing this itself, which rules out adding anything to employment insurance to help people who lose their jobs.

The Bloc Québécois made some brilliant suggestions, and so have others. We suggested the waiting period, reducing the number of hours required to 360, and certain eligibility criteria because, in many cases, people are not even entitled to benefits. Adding five weeks will not help people in the short term. We also wanted the government to increase the rate from 55% to 60%.

What about seniors? Did the Conservatives bother to include them in their October 14 consultation? I will quickly read a press release about the federal budget issued by the president of the Sherbrooke AQDR:

“The president of the Sherbrooke AQDR, Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées, Ms. Thérèse St-Cyr, believes that the federal budget ignores seniors. In fact, the throne speech refers once to seniors when indicating that the budget will take into account the needs of the most vulnerable. The budget refers to seniors three times. The first time is in relation to tax relief which, according to our calculations, will total between $100 and $300 per year per person, depending on income. Seniors are referred to a second time in connection with social housing. We estimate that 75 social housing units for seniors will be renewed in the next two years in the Eastern Townships. This is quite inadequate given that the needs are far greater. Finally, the budget refers to older workers affected by plant closures and job losses. Amounts will be allocated for training. These are good intentions but will not provide income. In light of this information, we declare that the federal budget ignores seniors.”

With regard to social housing, if Sherbrooke's seniors are only entitled to 75 social housing units, just imagine what they will get from the rest of the budget . Even though the government has allocated money for housing, it is seriously inadequate. It means that there is no social housing for others in the Eastern Townships.

Therefore, the government has abandoned the most vulnerable, the most disadvantaged. It would have helped a great deal if—

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

We shall now proceed to questions and comments.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is a thoughtful man and he used a very quaint and interesting analogy about Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. He also included himself as the wolf, waiting at the door to pounce. I would be interested to know who else does the hon. member include when he compares his party, and I assume himself, as the wolf ready at the door to pounce? Is the NDP included? Are the Liberals included as well in that imagery of the wolf ready to pounce at the door?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, once upon a time there was an old grandmother who was devoured by a wolf. For his next meal, the wolf had his eye on Little Red Riding Hood. The member sees that wolf almost every morning when he shaves. The Conservative ideology truly makes me think of that and the story of Little Red Riding Hood. As for Little Red Riding Hood, the member even agreed that the Liberal Party felt overwhelmed and did not want to go into an election and therefore agreed to let the wolf have his way. Those who remember the story know that someone eventually came to rescue the poor grandmother.

We in turn would like to rescue the Quebec economy. We feel that the measures proposed by the Conservative government are inadequate. The government thought it saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but it turned out to be the oncoming train that broadsided it. The economy is not recovering; rather, it is continuing to decline.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

February 9th, 2009 / 5 p.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was elected on October 14, at that point in time I already had no confidence in the Prime Minister, but I came to this Parliament nevertheless to try to make it work. I did not consider at all taking every opportunity to use it as a vote of non-confidence.

On November 27, when the Conservatives presented that fateful budget and following prorogation, we were told to return to the House and the Conservatives were told to return to the House with a more meaningful budget. During that period of time I learned from the people in the riding of Guelph that I was to come here and work, work toward a solution and not just say no, no.

I am not entirely pleased with the budget either, nor is anyone in the Liberal Party, but we are nevertheless prepared to work, work. Is there anyone in the riding of my friend who has said to him “go and work, work instead of just saying no, no?”

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my constituents sent me to Ottawa to represent their interests, and to tell the government and the Liberal Party what they should do.

We all know that there was a solution. The Bloc Québécois had given its blessing to the Liberals and the NDP to form a coalition. Now the Liberals have backed out. Why? For two reasons. The first is perhaps because the Leader of the Opposition knew that the Governor General would say no to a coalition government that was heavily influenced by all the recommendations made by the Bloc Québécois, the only party that made any recommendations to the government. Or else, or as well, there was a last-minute phone call. If the Governor General had accepted a coalition government with the Bloc Québécois' blessing, there were probably calls from Bay Street. That meant he had to back out. In order to have any credibility, he had to back out in order to continue or to begin receiving funding. This is strangely reminiscent of the former Liberal Party leader, who unfortunately capitulated to the Conservative government so many times that he also lost quite a bit of credibility during the election campaign.

To sum up, there is a new coalition, the federalist coalition, influenced, of course, by Bay Street.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing Bill C-10, which, if passed, will implement the budget that was tabled a few days ago.

First, this budget is full of smoke and mirrors. It is a sham. It throws a lot of money around, but it does not help individuals. This budget will help some multinationals, but will leave seniors, women and individuals in the lurch. Even though part 1 of the bill does contain various measures targeting personal taxes, a person will have to earn $85,000 or more in 2008 to get a $317 tax break. That is not even a dollar a day. In addition, not everyone earns $85,000 or more. On average, people earn between $40,000 and $60,000 and will therefore save about $200 or $235 for the year. That is not a huge tax cut.

As well, people who have children and earn $2,000 more than their current salary can be sure their child tax benefit will not go down. But when someone is trying to make ends meet, works hard or does overtime, he or she will make a lot more than $2,000.

Economists agree that tax cuts are not very effective. On page 239 of his budget, the Minister of Finance himself says that this tax cut will be ineffective because it is a weak economic stimulus, compared to money for low-income households or infrastructure investments.

Another measure is not so bad. The Conservative government is increasing the old age credit for seniors, who could get $150 more. All in all, individuals could get $300. Seniors who do not earn $85,000 could get a tax cut of about $100, $300 at most. That is not really much help for individuals.

There is also no help for forestry or manufacturing companies. The government likes to boast that it is helping companies, but our manufacturing and forestry companies are not turning a profit. How are they supposed to use tax credits to invest in their company? They cannot. They cannot get a tax abatement because they are not turning a profit, so this does not help our companies.

Something that comes as a real surprise is the Minister of Finance's position on his commitment to get rid of tax havens. People are not stupid. Companies make money here in Canada, then put that money into accounts in other countries. Those companies should be paying taxes here so that we can have more equitable distribution of wealth. Unfortunately, in 2007, around the time when the Minister of Finance said that he was about to take action against tax evasion, he put together an expert panel, ostensibly to examine the minister's ideas for tackling tax evasion.

All of a sudden, people realized that the panel was reversing the minister's decision and persuading him to blindly accept its recommendations not to do anything about tax havens because, it said, our companies had to be able to deal with international competition. I find that more than a little strange. Honest, hard-working taxpayers, whether they live in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada, find it appalling that these companies are granted tax exemption and can send their money elsewhere. Unfortunately, members of other parties in the House voted for this. People are appalled.

I want to draw my colleagues' attention to the single securities commission. We know that, in Quebec, the securities commission falls exclusively under provincial jurisdiction. According to this budget, the government plans to use this bill to set up a Canadian securities regulation regime transition office. That, too, is pretty strange. Quebeckers, among others, find the current Conservative government's position disrespectful, and they are wondering just how much their Liberal Party colleagues will put up with. This is a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

One group is proposing that a federal securities regulation agency be created. The report proposes various things, including various mechanisms to implement the project without agreement from Quebec and the other provinces. This expert panel is also proposing that the federal government use legal recourse. But, in response to questions in the House, the minister stated that we would have the freedom to choose whether to join a single securities commission. Does it seem that we will have the choice?

We know that in the end they will force our hand. Our companies that want to do business will also have to join this single securities commission, even if they already belong to the one in Quebec. I wonder when it will stop, this poaching that ends by forcing them to be part of a single securities commission. I find it perverse.

This is another trap in the budget. The Conservatives have a habit of that. This is the second time that one of their budgets has quietly passed another small element.

Of course, the Bloc Québécois will strongly oppose this single securities commission. Even Quebec's National Assembly came to a consensus. I do not understand how the Quebec members of the Conservative and Liberal parties can accept this when even their own National Assembly is against it. They will have to explain themselves sooner or later.

The question of infrastructure also has some traps. Our municipalities have to pay as much as the federal and provincial governments. Each will pay one third. This is not clearly stated in the document, but the municipalities have to be aware of this.

This budget proposes a collection of amendments and measures that the Bloc Québécois will vote against because they do not take the National Assembly's consensus into consideration.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget has no new funding for a child care program.

I know Quebec is blessed with a $7 a day child care program but will it not need more funding in order to have fewer children on the waiting list as it expands its good system?

Is it not a betrayal of working families to not provide one extra penny for children when both the UNICEF and OECD reports stated that Canada was at the bottom of the list in how little it invests in child care and early childhood education? Had it not been for Quebec, we would probably be way beyond the bottom of the list. We probably would not even be on the list.

Is that one of the reasons that the member is refusing to support a budget that is shortchanging working families?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for the very perceptive question. I would point out that she states in her preamble that Quebec is a leader in terms of day care. Quebec is still fighting to obtain equalization transfers, money which we are entitled to receive.

With the current budget, we will lose $1 billion in equalization payments, an amount we probably could have used to expand our day care system.

I find it unfortunate that women in the rest of Canada do not have a day care system such as ours. Women and women's groups are calling for one. But there exists an ideology that prefers to give money to women—small amounts of money—to keep them at home so that they do not pay into a pension fund and do not have some freedom.

If they were truly listening to citizens and to women, they would give them day care centres and the budget would include measures to enable women to have some freedom of choice and to train day care professionals such as those in Quebec. It would be another means of keeping the economy going.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her speech, the hon. member referred to women and women's groups. She touched on the subject. Just now, she answered a question from a member from the NDP dealing more specifically with day care centres, and so on.

Given that she once was the president of an organization which, as it happens, works with women, could my hon. colleague expand on the subject, on what is included and what is missing in the budget in terms of pay equity? That has been a long-standing problem that we would like to see go away.

Basically, the only place at the federal level where there is pay equity is in this House. The Conservative government cannot dispute that fact, because women MPs earn the same as men MPs. I would like to hear my hon. colleague on that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Sherbrooke. Pay equity is usually an issue men dare not touch. The fact is that women are on an equal footing with men and do exactly the same work, while there are often tasks that men would not perform.

That having been said, one ongoing measure in this budget which is despicable is the lack of automatic recognition of pay equity. We have pay equity in Quebec. That has gone a long way to helping women.

I think that including pay equity in a package deal of negotiations is just rotten. It ignores the important work that women do in Canada. And women will make the Conservative Party pay for that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today because this debate concerns ordinary Canadians. I do not think this is just noise for this Chamber. What happens as a consequence of decisions made here will make a visceral difference. That is probably not something we could have said for fact a few years ago in the sense that a wide swath of Canadians will be touched by what happens or does not happen in this House in the next short while.

I am speaking today, not so much in favour of Bill C-10, but out of the necessity to put forward some of the practical matters in it. On the preponderance of things that need to get done, we would rather start with this flawed bill and work in a different way, a way that I think many Canadians, when they are paying attention and when the things that happen here do matter to them, would like to believe this House is capable of.

To be truthful, there are things that we do not yet know about this bill in terms of how it will affect Canadians. However, I think it is important to lay things out for people, as I did a short time ago in my riding at a budget breakfast. A short time after the government's budget, I explained it to people in Parkdale—High Park at an early morning discussion to get their feedback. I think people came to a similar conclusion. They did not believe the budget addressed the needs of the country at this particular time. People have concerns, not so much about the motivation, but about the Conservative's conviction when it comes to the particular set of measures, whether they believe, in their heart of hearts, in these measures and whether they will prosecute in the interests of Canadians with all their being? I think very few Canadians believe that to be the case.

Frankly, some of the Conservatives who believe or have been led to believe that could happen regardless are upset about it. There is no doubt reason to look skeptically at Bill C-10 and the measures that it would put forward.

However, to get a perspective and a perspective that a surprising number of Canadians share in the sense of paying real attention to what is going on in this House is the difference between November, when the government said that its priority was to remove $5 billion from the economy and when it gave us all manner of prose and poetry about how it felt the economy was doing just fine and that it could actually cut government spending to the current point of running a deficit that most people thought was going to happen.

Mr. Speaker, before I continue, I would note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough Centre. He will probably have better words of wisdom to add to this perspective but it is an essential one.

People appreciate the kind of distinction we are drawing here, between a government changing its mind and outlook and being dragged there, no doubt, by some fairly extraordinary circumstances. I think another member of this House talked about the road to Damascus being like the highway that serves Toronto, the Don Valley Parkway being filled with Conservatives trying to change their mind, disposition and outlook on the economy. I think that is a relatively accurate thing. Whether they are driving those cars, being towed along or will actually get there concerns Canadians. It is a serious matter because the lives of Canadians hang in the balance.

One of the things I do agree with, which was mentioned by members of the other parties, is that this is not the budget in itself that will help vulnerable Canadians. For a time, I had the privilege of running food banks in Canada, a little too long ago for my liking in the sense that we started with emergency measures during a boom time in Alberta. I do not want to scare the members from there but those were the conditions that begat the first food bank in this country, and then we were in the grips of not one but two different recessions.

What this budget fails to recognize is the dignity of Canadians. It fails to put dollars into the hands of breadwinners in terms of mothers, fathers and families so they can sustain their dignity. What we should have learned from the last couple of recessions is that when those dollars are there, they will be best spent by those families. They will fall a little less further, get up that much more quickly and promote and look after themselves in a way that I would have thought the members opposite would have agreed but they could not bring themselves there.

The measures targeted for the vulnerable are light. The budget contains some money to build housing for seniors and it adds some additional weeks to qualify if one is on unemployment insurance, but it does not hit at the heart of the matter of the people who would not otherwise qualify. Many people in Parkdale—High Park work in temporary jobs and they are already feeling the pinch.

If there are members opposite who, perhaps because of their geography or their communities, doubt whether this recession is really taking a bite, I would like them to visit some of the people and families in my riding who have lost the hours and who have the least secure jobs. If there is ever going to be a reference point for us in the House, it should not be just the voting middle class. It has to be the people for whom many of the measures, institutions and programs exist. It is those who, through no fault of their own, need to depend on the measures of government for at least a short period of time.

What this budget misses in its entirety, because it has been wrestled out of a philosophy that does not quite get this point, is that if people are treated with dignity, they will do the best possible for themselves. They will live in poverty for the shortest period of time possible, but that, I have to report, is not how far we have been able to drag this government. That is not where it has gone.

That remains a measure to which the House needs to dedicate itself. It needs to find a means to bring forward provisions other than the ones being debated today. We need some of these other measures to come forward, even with the half-hearted and unmotivated, almost grousing, kind of enthusiasm from the members opposite, because many Canadians depend on the government continuing to function.

We want to address the value of this particular set of measures. We want to talk about how these measures will actually make a difference in people's lives. The way we will get to the value is the function of the House. Through committees, parliamentary officers and a variety of means, we have put the government on probation, because we recognize not only that it does not have in its target the general well-being of Canadians and Canadians who will be hurt or harmed by this recession, but also that it needs to be on a very short leash. It is not just benign reports, but a whole process of bringing forward to Canadians the actual implementation.

Last year the government did not spend $8.8 billion on infrastructure. It gave $1.5 billion back to the treasury over the last two years, and what it announced went disproportionately to its own ridings. It is not that the government that does not believe in government is suddenly converted to one that we can have faith in. It is because it recognizes that it weakened Canada ahead of this recession through the changes it made, going from minus $5 billion to plus $18 billion and paying for $16 billion of its deficit, as the parliamentary budget officer reminds us, which was a deficit built on some of the injudicious decisions it made. Tax cuts made in an untimely and non-targeted fashion lessened our capacity. However, that extra $18 billion needs to get out to the people who need it.

Infrastructure gives us cause for significant concern. In this area I do not just represent my constituents, but try to act as an infrastructure assurance office for the entire country. We will ensure that we get the information out of not just the minister and the ministry, but out of the government as a whole. There are a variety of programs that cut across ministries, such as programs in industry and Indian Affairs. The government has said a numbrt of things, and we need to make sure that a double value is obtained.

It is very important to understand that all members of this House have a duty. Their duty is not only to rapidly spend the money made available through this budget implementation bill, but also, and this is important, to get value for the money. It is really very important that all members in this House recognize this very important and meaningful responsibility.

Because we are borrowing this money, we have to make certain that we get the double value we are seeking. Yes, it is money that can be used to stimulate the economy, but it can also also be used to begin fulfilling a role in building a better Canada and in building some of the new competitive advantage. That is also going to have to be built in.

Just as we have to make sure that the vulnerable are not going to be missed, we are going to have to make sure that a government that lacks vision and imagination and has no view of the future is forced to focus on the things that will leave us stronger. That is what will justify our borrowing money to get this implemented.

Our competitive advantage is made up of the people we have. In the government's consideration, people had taken a place second to its own political machinations. It threw this country into a 60-day delay. Were it not for that delay, the disposition of the House and of the members on this side of the House would be decidedly different. We have decided not so much to give the government the benefit of the doubt as to give the people of Canada more than the benefit of the doubt. They, with timely assistance, will help us pull through. They are prepared to link up in new ways across government, industry and labour to find ways to make Canada work, despite the government's intentions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's eloquent speech in the House. We just finished debating on a panel out in the foyer.

I take some of his comments to heart about the fact that we need to get on and work with this. That is very important, so important that we proceeded before Christmas, though Christmas and after Christmas in a prebudget consultation like we have never had before.

The finance minister had asked every member of Parliament to talk to their constituents, to meet with their local chambers of commerce to find out what Canadians thought we should do. We waited intently and patiently for a response from the Liberal Party. We appreciate the fact the party is supporting the budget. However, did all Liberal members go out to meet with their constituents, like their constituents would have expected them to do? We received no written recommendations or suggestions from the Liberal Party, or the NDP for that matter.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's recognition that there may be some things to hear from this side of the House. However, very clearly, the passage of the bill, should it happen, does not negate the anti-democratic behaviour of the government. It walked away from the House, locked the doors and cancelled the finance committee. It is the committee that holds hearings across the country, records what citizens say, listens to the people and brings it back for due deliberate consideration. It is hard to understand why the parliamentary secretary, who should be responsible for that aspect of the democratic process, would be party to a annulling it, to deprecating it and saying that the Conservatives can do a better job without the committee.

It is an important principle for people to have access to how their tax dollars are spent. It was taken away from them this year. We are saying that the government has not done that great a job with the budget, but there are elements there and, I hope I heard this, a tone that the government is prepared to work hard in the future to make up for that fact.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opened his statement by saying that the bill was flawed. He is right. The bill is flawed, but his party is still supporting it.

The bill is flawed in many ways. First, is the employment insurance. If the Liberals had only asked the government to amend the five week addition at the end of the employment insurance and put two weeks at the start and three weeks at the end, that would have been a good amendment, but they did not ask for that.

I do not know how the women in the Liberal caucus can sleep at night with the pay equity portion that they are prepared to support. They should be ashamed.

I have not been a member for very long, but I watched the news this weekend. I did not know why the Liberal amendment was so weak, but when I heard the report that the Harper government had dropped the $3.5 million lawsuit-

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the member, I remind my colleague that he is not to refer to members of Parliament by their given names.

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the hon. member is saying. I understand members of the NDP had a position long ago about how the budget would look and that they would be against it.

I take the point on employment insurance. However, we have put the government on probation for the outcome of the budget, not just the measures in it, but to ensure the outcome is there and that people are adequately protected.

I look to the other parties in the House to support measures to strengthen the kind of reporting, the kind of information we need so we know what has happened. In a way we are all on probation to go beyond our political posturing and find ways to make the House measure and keep track of these dollars and see where the deficiencies may lie.

We hear mixed messages from the government today. It may be open to more things or it may not. It had better be because there are dates coming, March 23, in June and in December. If the Conservatives are not and if they want to see what Liberals will do, then they might get their chance. Probation means real measures, real progress or an alternative where the government does not continue.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:35 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to add my voice to this debate on the budget implementation bill, Bill C-10.

As I open my remarks, I want to go back to when the debate started this morning. My good friend, the parliamentary secretary, in his very eloquent speech, said that the government wanted to move this thing forward fast and it would not put up speakers. I would like Canadians to know that what he was really saying was he did not want anyone to put up speakers so the bill could be expedited and moved along.

We get paid by Canadians to be here and to debate these issues, and that is important. My heritage is Greek. Some years ago an ancient Greek by the name of Solon founded democracy. He believed in debate. It is through debate that we can move democracy forward.

If we do not have the opportunity to debate the budget implementation bill, how will we analyze what the flaws are? We cannot just take it for granted. I am going to get into some specifics.

In the morning, when I began feeling really frustrated, I went out for a walk, I cooled off and thought my good friend for Parkdale—High Park would start off and I would move forward.

Why did we choose to support the budget bill? For Canada and Canadians. Our constituents told us that we could not afford to spend an extra half a billion dollars plus for an election, when the result might probably be the same. It is the last thing they needed right now. We agreed with them. We agreed we had more important things to address as opposed to going back to the people.

We wanted to put up speakers to explain to Canadians what was happening. There are areas in the budget with which I am very pleased, and I will outline them, but there are areas about which I have concerns.

There is significant investment outlined for social housing, infrastructure and for first nations, which makes me very happy. There is targeted support for low and middle-income Canadians through the expansion of the child tax credit and the working income tax benefit. I am very pleased about that as well. There is investment in regional development agencies throughout the country.

We have grave concerns. That is why our amendment has put the government on probation. I believe the government will be reporting three times, and we will see if it delivered.

Today a friend of mine told me to read page 24 of today's The Hill Times, which states “Infrastructure money hasn’t flowed, says Federation of Canadian Municipalities”. It is not the Liberals who are complaining, it is the cities. Earlier today they referred to 1967, centennial year, where we had infrastructure unfolding right across the country, hockey arenas, community centres, and it was all wonderful. You remember very well, Mr. Speaker, and we were young at that time, it was a different country.

It was not the country we live in today. We did not have the billions of dollars in debts and deficits that are outlined here and the cities were functioning differently at that time. My parents were maybe paying $500 a year in property taxes. Seniors today are having to pay $4,000 and $5,000 in property taxes. They cannot afford any more tax increases. The cities do not have the ability to put up their one-third. The provinces are finding it difficult, as well. That is not how the program worked in 1967.

We hear what is going on in the United States. I have not heard President Barack Obama talk about one-third, one-third, one-third. If ever there were a time for a government to step in, if ever a nation needed help, it is now.

The area I come from, the former city of Scarborough, has a need. There are potholes like crazy in our streets, and there are unbelievable numbers of complaints. It is the greatest city of Toronto. What is happening? We are downloading to who? Through property tax increases, maybe so the cities can come up with the one-third, one-third, one-third.

I am concerned primarily because in the past the government, with all due respect, has made a lot of announcements. This is not Liberal bias. According to the papers and the statistics, the government is not delivering the programs. Let me give one an example.

When we were in government in 2006, we announced funding of $25 million for the necessary infrastructure for the Canada film festival. I was there with the former senior minister, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, Susan Kadis, a former member, Tony Ianno, the former member for Trinity--Spadina, and several others. We cut the cake, pictures were taken and we announced the funding. The funding was confirmed in that Liberal budget.

In the last election the Conservatives announced this funding. They saw me in that picture. This funding was announced almost three years ago. This is the concern I and my constituents have. There is a lot of talk, but one has to deliver. This is the kind of accountability we are talking about on behalf of Canadian taxpayers.

Under the picture, which shows the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and his assistant Chris Day, it says, “'best estimate' the department currently has is that $3.6-billion of the funds have been”, and this is the key word, “allocated”.

The Conservatives told us that this money had already been given. The key word is “allocated”. This is a quote from the executive assistant, Mr. Day. What does that mean? Allocated means it could come on the 35th of the month or maybe the 37th of the month five years from now.

The parliamentary secretary has asked why the Conservatives do not have input from the Liberals. We took a difficult situation in 1993 upon ourselves as a Liberal team and made those tough decisions, as a party, and we allowed Canadians to judge us accordingly.

The Prime Minister has said that he is an economist. He said during the election that he ran his own business, but he did not know what business he ran. He compared himself to our member for Markham—Unionville, who is an economist. He has hands on experience. He worked for a bank. I would like the Prime Minister to tell me where he applied his economist experience. This is the time he should be proving his experience.

We did not go out knocking on anybody's door. We made those decisions on our own. We consulted right across the country. Before our budget, all my colleagues held extensive consultations. I held them in Scarborough with my other colleagues from Scarborough. We brought information. We were receptive to input from the opposition, but these are different times. These are times that call for bold and tough decisions. These are times that call for pulling up our socks and being honest with Canadians.

I will tell the House of concerns that people have brought to my attention.

For example, the United States today is talking about green jobs, a green economy. Every day when the Minister of Human Resources answers questions in the House, she says that the government has invested money in training for future jobs. Have those future jobs been identified? Before investing in training, the jobs need to be identified. I have a human resources background. Before I go into the water, I want to know that I can swim.

The minister talks about retraining people. For what jobs are we retraining? We have heard the government talk about high-tech jobs, but we have also heard about high-tech companies laying people off right, left and centre. Bombardier was mentioned the other day.

The government has talked about investing in the Canadian Space Agency. That is wonderful. How many people will be retrained to become robotic engineers?

If the Conservatives have identified these new jobs, then I ask them to please let us know so I can inform my constituents who are getting laid off as well.

It boils down to credibility.

A friend of mine knew I was going to speak today so he brought me an article that was printed in the Toronto Star, on Sunday, October 5. I know I cannot use names because I do not want to be reprimanded. The article headline reads “[the Prime Minister's] tactics mislead voters”.

Canadians are worried about that. As much as we want to give the government the green light on its budget, to a degree there is a gut feeling that we are being misled somewhere. That is why it is important for speakers to get up in the House. That is why this debate is important, so we have the opportunity to express our views on behalf of our constituents.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. A little earlier the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that the NDP did not offer any proposals on this budget. Our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, met with the Prime Minister and explained to him very clearly the outline of what we believed should have been in the budget.

When I returned to this House, I came back here following the election planning on working hard for the constituents I represent, as did every member of this House. We will all recall that day when the budgetary update was tabled in the House and the glee with which the finance minister presented it. Here he was, looking at a situation where he thought he could finally nail the Liberals. That is what he was up to. There is no doubt. Then we wound up with a prorogation.

Earlier today, now that we are back, I hear the member for Parkdale—High Park talk about working together and how things are flawed. I just want to say what the constituents back home are saying. They are saying that this business of probation is just nothing more than Liberal spin because the government just cannot get the job done.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know there was not a question, but there was something I picked up that is very important. The member said that when the finance minister came back and presented his budget, he said it was to nail Liberals.

Let me clarify for the record, the Conservatives were nailing democracy, not the Liberals. They were nailing the NDP as well. They were taking away, through some of those proposals, the ability for democracy to unfold. The NDP is upset because the Conservatives said it did not offer proposals.

Let me close with this. I know the NDP is going to say that we are upset still. We are not upset. We have overcome it, on behalf of Canadians.

When the NDP did make proposals for our budget of 2005 for housing, post-secondary education, infrastructure, seniors, the environment, et cetera, and we accepted them, the NDP reneged on it. It betrayed Canadians. So we find ourselves today where we are and the NDP should not complain.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that I have, and I think he raised it in his speech but I wonder if he could elaborate on it, is the fact that a lot of the spending that has been promised simply has not happened and when it does happen, it is in a way that is highly partisan and not in fact targeted where it needs to be; that is, on stimulus. We can use the most recent example of infrastructure where we see over three-quarters of the money going just to Conservative ridings. We can point to other examples where infrastructure money was not spent or, in the area of which I am a critic, where we are seeing the money that was allocated for crime prevention not being spent.

Given the fact that the Conservatives were really dragged, kicking and screaming, to the position where they were forced by the opposition parties to introduce the budget they did, I wonder if the hon. member could talk about what measures he would like to see and maybe about the amendment to ensure the Conservatives are held to account.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. The Prime Minister rode the wave on credibility and fairness. The amendment that the Liberal team has put forward is to hold the government to account three times a year. We want to see if indeed that money is being well spent, and he is right. The Conservatives have left unspent $88 million for disaster relief and crime prevention. That is a shame when all this money was allocated. The problem is applications, stumbling blocks, nitty-gritty, timeframes, et cetera. When an area has a need, when we need to hire more police officers, there should be no obstacle.

I believe that the Conservatives should implement certain proposals in terms of taking certain bugs out of the system so that there are no foul-ups like other programs in the past or that indeed the money goes where it is supposed to go and is spent where it is supposed to be when they allocate these moneys. The frustration that people feel, and I used the program for the Canadian Film Festival earlier on that my colleague brought up as an example, is what is we are talking about.

If we have allocated the money for, let us say, a recreation facility, or if we have allocated the money to hire more police officers, for example, or if we have allocated the money for a disaster area, get that money there. People cannot wait. We do not want another Katrina issue, where money was announced by Mr. Bush and a year and a half, two years later, people were still hurting.

We want action now. The nation needs action now. The world needs action now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are 750,000 children living in poverty, 1.5 million Canadians cannot find decent housing, and 130,000 were thrown out of work just in January alone. This is the worst financial collapse in history and the planet is in crisis. What does it take for this country to change direction?

We had hoped for a budget that would bring about a green economic recovery where no one is left behind, a budget where funding for those who dedicate their lives to educating and taking care of our children in early childhood education centres would finally be a priority, where working parents could rest assured that they would not have to add their names to a waiting list as soon as their children were conceived in order to secure a child care space.

There are parents like Susanne in my riding who said, “I'm currently on 25 child care wait lists. I have been on many since 2007 when I was only a couple of weeks pregnant. I have put down many deposits to get on the wait list. I have toured the child care centres. I follow up regularly and with only a couple of months left in my maternity leave, I still do not have day care. My husband and I are already planning to take time off work, which is not really affordable right now”. Susanne is desperate.

We had hoped that those who have diligently paid employment insurance through their entire working lives would be able to get back that money when they need it most without having to become destitute first.

Yes, the New Democrats have a vision of a country where our artists and cultural institutions that enrich our lives would at last receive the funding they deserve and the image of the starving artist would be a myth.

In these tough times we need green jobs that would promote wind, solar, geothermal energy that would offer us a unique opportunity to save our planet, create jobs, burn less and save money. Yet, we have nothing of the sort in the Conservative-Liberal alliance budget.

We thought that these dreams would at long last become a reality when the Liberals signed on to the requirements we placed in the coalition accord, but I guess the Liberals were just too afraid to take charge. My colleague is right. They backed out and instead they support a Conservative budget that they said is flawed. They refuse to change the direction of this country. They have given up hope. They would not want to take charge.

Perhaps there is a reason. I remember in 2000 the former Liberal government came to Toronto and said, “Here is all this money for Union Station”. Not a penny of it came to Toronto. The Liberals promised millions for the waterfront. Not a penny of it came. Perhaps that is why the Liberals are afraid to take charge. That is why they do not want any change. They have given up hope.

The New Democrats are not about to do the same. We are striving to push for more action. We are striving to push for a real budget that would not leave anyone behind.

We do not believe that the 325,000 unemployed workers, this year alone, are really too lazy to find jobs. In Toronto, seven out of ten unemployed workers do not qualify for employment insurance after having paid into it all their lives. Are they benefiting from a lucrative system, I ask?

We heard from the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development who said on January 30, “We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it”. It reminds me of a former government, the Mike Harris government. The same finance minister of that government said that these unemployed mothers are at home and just drink beer and watch TV. They are lazy and they do not want to find a job.

That is the same kind of ideology that is now saying that there will not be one extra unemployed worker who will get employment insurance in this country. These unemployed workers are being ripped off because they contributed. It is an insurance program. They put their money in and now they need it back. Instead, they will not get it

Members should remember that 65% of women are still ineligible for employment insurance. When we talk about the most vulnerable, the unemployed workers who are left out and left behind, they are by and large women.

That is why New Democrats believe there should be a standard 360 hours eligibility across the country, and the unemployed should get at least 60% of their earnings for up to $600 a week, for a much longer period of time than what we have now. Perhaps the minister needs to experience unemployment herself to truly understand what an increasing number of Canadians experience when they try to navigate the broken EI system.

Here are more reasons why the Conservative-Liberal budget deserves a failing grade.

There is no action to cap huge credit card interest rates and transaction fees. Working Canadians are struggling to pay their mortgages and put food on the table. Canadian consumers paid over $4.5 billion in hidden credit card fees last year alone. We all pay at the check-out counter to cover the cost of these corporate credit card benefits, even if we do not have one. It is totally unfair.

New Democrats want the banks to be required to prove, through independent audits, that their credit card and other interest rates and fees do not amount to gouging, with a public report issued by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

If we look at the environment, Canada lags behind dramatically when it comes to spending on the environment. The budget plan includes funds for clean energy; however, the Conservative-Liberal definition of clean energy includes nuclear and even coal-burning energy, and untested carbon capture technology.

What this budget bill does do is eliminate proper environmental controls for new infrastructure programs and projects. Degrading our environment is fine as long as maybe private companies can make money because right now the private sector is supposed to be building these public infrastructures, or else there would not be any matching funds.

Speaking about greed, this budget continues to reward big companies such as Imperial Oil, which had a 22% profit increase last year. All these companies will receive $60 billion in corporate tax cuts, so for every $60 going to companies, $1 goes to the unemployed. Those are completely wrong priorities and this is what our country does not need right now.

Green industry will get a cut in funding. The funding to advance science research also has been cut. Much of the infrastructure funds that have been talked about at length in this House would not flow to cash-strapped cities because they cannot afford to cost share it. The city of Toronto, for example, needs at least $7 billion to purchase new street cars and implement its plan called transit city, but it just does not have those kinds of funds to match the federal funds.

We talked about the most vulnerable. The most vulnerable are the kids who go to bed hungry. Many of their parents right now earn less than $20,000. In this 500-page budget, not one single penny will go to these families that earn less than $20,000. They will not qualify for the increase in the national child benefit supplement or the Canada child tax benefit.

The poorest kids get absolutely nothing. What a shame. How could the Liberal Party say that it meets its test of protecting the most vulnerable? If the kids are in families that earn less than $20,000 are not the most vulnerable, who are the most vulnerable? I just do not understand the Liberals' logic.

Campaign 2000, a campaign to end child poverty said:

This is macho-economics that leaves women and children off the lifeboat in this recession!

With the lack of purpose for action in this budget, it's certain that rates of child and family poverty will increase and the federal government will be left with no capacity to respond. [The Minister of Finance] may have purchased new shoes for this budget but it's about time he found his soul.

This is a soulless budget because it does nothing for children. Taking care of children should be our first duty. There is not one single penny in this budget to support child care or early learning. Already both UNICEF and the OECD have said that Canada ranked last in our investment in early childhood education and we continue to do the same in this budget, even though investing in children is good for Canada, good for the economy.

The report by Dr. David Butler-Jones on the state of public health in Canada notes that for every dollar invested in children during their early years, government saves $3 to $9 in future spending on health, criminal justice and social assistance.

It is good for the economy. It is good for our children. It is good for our productivity. It is good for working parents. However, the budget has nothing in it for early learning and child care.

There is also no action to improve public pensions or shore up employers' pension plans. There is hardly anything for seniors.

The budget ignores the skyrocketing tuition and debt loads for post-secondary students. They cannot find a job. It is difficult and they do not have the money to pay their student loans right now. Why are we not looking at forgiving the interest and the principal for the time being? That means university graduates will still be saddled with thousands of dollars of debt as they enter a shrinking workforce.

What is in the budget is punishment. There is punishment for students, making it more difficult for obtaining student loans by putting an overwhelming onus on students to provide documentation, while making it easier for the minister to retroactively punish students. Imagine that. The government is punishing students in this time and as part of the budget implementation bill. I do not know how punishing students can stimulate our economy.

Working mothers are feeling the pinch with this Conservative-Liberal alliance budget. They are being left out in the cold with no options. One mother wrote to me:

I can't afford to pay for afterschool programs for my kids, plus put the 2 youngest in fulltime daycare while l work 9:00am-5:00pm, because I will be charged over $500 a week. I can't quit my job because that makes absolutely no sense...I moved in with my sister to help me get on my feet and if I don't work I can't save to get a place of my own. I can't afford to pay the regular rates for daycare because it takes my whole pay. What is a mother in my situation to do?

I was always proud to say Canada is a country of equal opportunity, the best place to live. However, it seems like I have to swallow my words because it has become so hard to live in Canada. Rent is too much, pay is too low, childcare expenses too high, tuition too high, not enough assistance for honest working people and disappointment every way you look at it.

This budget does nothing to help that working mother.

Shame on those members who are standing idly by and voting in support of this sadly inadequate budget. As they watch thousands and thousands of families fall into a cycle of desperation, despair, unemployment and poverty, I hope they remember the words of single parents, working families and unemployed workers who cannot get ahead because this budget offers absolutely nothing for them.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

6:05 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her analysis of the budget and what she thinks is a failure of the government to implement anything with regard to social programs.

I would like to remind the hon. member that when the Liberals were in power and brought in the budget with the cities agenda, the agenda for child care and the agenda for Kyoto, it was the NDP that joined hands with the Conservatives. The NDP members are the ones who threw away the chance for the vulnerable. That budget had a cities agenda which the cities had demanded and a child care agenda involving 125,000 child care spaces. These were provisions which their leader had asked for and got in the budget.

Now with respect to this budget, which is a hodgepodge of a lot of things, is the member trying to put the vulnerable back into an election? Does she want to spend $360 million on another election so that money would not go to the vulnerable?