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House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was shipyard.

Topics

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister refused to answer the question about the 190,000 jobs that he committed to in the budget, but said nothing about in his first probationary report. Let us try the finance minister.

Does he not understand that when 129,000 jobs are lost in January alone, which is one Canadian losing his or her job every 20 seconds, Canadians care deeply about this job issue? Why did the minister totally ignore the commitment to 190,000 jobs in his first report?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan was announced on January 27. We want to implement it with the stimulus that is in the first budget bill. The Leader of the Opposition says that he has told the Liberal senators to pass the bill. When? It can be passed today. It can receive royal assent. It can help the unemployed people in Canada right now.

It is very plain that this additional time for unemployed Canadians is available now. Where is the plan on the other side? Where is the courage on the other side to help unemployed Canadians?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is disgraceful, at this time of unemployment, that the finance minister is scrummed three times on the 190,000 jobs and he does not answer. Neither he nor the Prime Minister will answer the question about this solemn budget commitment in question period.

When will they come clean with Canadians on their commitment to create jobs? Do they not care? Have they given up? Why will they not come clean?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if the members opposite cared about unemployed people in Canada, the budget bill would be law by now. This is an action that is within their control.

The difference is there is a plan on this side of the House and no plan on the other side of the House. We have a bill that is ready to pass. We want it to become law. The other side wants to delay it from becoming law.

We want to help unemployed Canadians on this side of the House. The other side of the House does not care about unemployed Canadians. We have a positive plan. Those members offer nothing in terms of a plan, only a negative attitude toward those in need in Canada.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite the difficulties experienced by the forestry industry, the ministers of this government continue to state that loan guarantees are illegal. Yesterday, the President of EDC stated that the government provided loan guarantees to forestry companies. Lawyers for the Government of Canada hold the same position and stated, before the LCIA tribunal, that loan guarantees are legal.

I am asking the Prime Minister to clearly tell us that loan guarantees are legal or else to provide the section of the agreement where it is stated that they are not. He should get his facts straight.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement with the United States prohibits direct subsidies to businesses. That is why this matter is already before the courts. Naturally, we are required to defend the actions of certain governments. However, this government is determined to help this industry without jeopardizing our agreement with the United States and our access to the American market.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is telling us that loan guarantees are subsidies. Yet, that is how EDC operates. That is what it gives to the auto industry. He is contradicting the lawyers who work for him, the Government of Canada lawyers before the LCIA tribunal.

Does he realize that he is weakening Canada's case and kowtowing to the Americans? It is shameful conduct by our Prime Minister.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the auto industry's situation is completely different. We are currently subsidizing this industry in cooperation with the United States government.

We have an agreement that prohibits such measures, in the case of the forestry industry, to guarantee our access to the American market. Before the budget was tabled, I had discussions with this industry and it clearly asked us not to jeopardize its access to the American market.

We are helping this industry without putting it at risk. That is this government's duty.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's new website is a carbon copy of the first report submitted yesterday by the Minister of Finance. It does not provide any information about how the Conservatives plan to spend their proposed $3 billion special fund. If the money is not spent before June 30, it will be frozen and returned to the consolidated fund. The government must therefore know exactly how it plans to spend the money.

Why not release a list right now on that same website of which departments and programs are to benefit from the special fund?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the government has indicated how that money will be spent. It is set out in our economic action plan. There are clear criteria by which that expenditure will be governed. Treasury Board will be reviewing those expenditures. We hope to move that money out of the door after April 1, if the budget passes. I would urge the Liberal senators to get that budget passed.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government says that the money in the special fund is to be spent on initiatives announced in the budget and on increasing other expenditures.

Rather than put his head in the sand as he did yesterday when he delivered his rose-coloured glasses speech on the economic crisis, why does the Prime Minister not use this opportunity to announce that some of the $3 billion will be used to provide real support to the forestry sector in the form of loans and loan guarantees, as EDC's president suggested yesterday?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the specific vote 35, $3 billion are to be spent on the specific programs or projects that are set out in the economic action plan. It is a broad range of projects and programs on which the money can be spent.

There is also the building Canada fund and other funds to which we will have access once the Liberal senators decide to pass that budget. We would urge them to pass it because Canadians are depending upon that money to stimulate our economy.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister tried to put rose-coloured glasses on the nation, the same rose-coloured glasses that he wanted everyone to wear during the election and the same ones he wore during the economic update in November. The Prime Minister has overseen the loss of close to 300,000 jobs since the election.

Is he now ready to take off those rose-coloured glasses?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I clearly stated yesterday that Canada is part of the global recession. This recession will continue until the Americans can gain control of the problems in their financial sector.

At the same time, the International Monetary Fund said today that Canada is in a better position than many other countries to combat fiscal turbulence and the global recession and that Canada has solid management of its macroeconomic policies, meaning that the country was healthy as it entered the recession. We, too, have our strengths.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Brampton, the Prime Minister was accusing the opposition of holding up the estimates, but under Standing Order 81, as he should know, it is the government that brings forward the date for the vote on the estimates. What date did it choose? It chose March 24.

Either the Prime Minister does not understand the rules of the House and of his own government, or he was misleading Canadians yesterday. Which is it?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the real question is whether the NDP is interested in helping Canadian workers and families or simply in playing political games.

The leader of the NDP made it clear from the day of the election on that he had no intention of supporting the government or its budget no matter what was in it. For that reason, he did not read it and is now voting against all kinds of benefits that workers and families want. He should take off his blinders and start to be a little more positive for a change.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister really cared about the unemployed, he would put in place the four part NDP plan to fix employment insurance that passed the House with a majority of votes yesterday. However, we know he will not respect the will of the House.

Yesterday, he was using some pretty selective stats on GDP to paint his rosy picture of the economy, but the government's own finance department says that gross domestic income provides the best measure and is a more relevant indicator of change in the well-being of Canadians than GDP. Guess what? The Parliamentary Budget Officer's report today showed that when it comes to GDI, Canada is doing ten times worse than the United States.

When will the government do something about the shrinking incomes of the middle class?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP talks about employment insurance. He had demanded before the budget that the government add two extra weeks of benefits to employment insurance. In the budget, the government added five extra weeks. However, since the leader of the NDP had already decided he would vote against it no matter what, he voted against more than what he was asking for.

That just tells us how, under his leadership, the NDP has gone from a party that used to stand for something to a party that simply opposes everything.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. Congress is preparing to spend billions of dollars on new water and sewage projects. John Hayward runs a small pump-making firm in Halton Hills. He says that the buy American provisions will prevent him from getting U.S. contracts, forcing him to cut more than 10% of his workforce and to move jobs to the U.S.

Why is the Prime Minister claiming victory on the buy American file when U.S. protectionism threatens to kill thousands of Canadian jobs, just like these ones in Halton Hills?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as we all know and as my colleague across the way knows very well, the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States has produced tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of trade.

Even within an agreement like that, there will be times when an American company may legitimately get a contract in Canada. However, even more important for us, there are many times when Canadian companies get contracts in the United States.

We will be monitoring all of these to ensure the Americans play by the rules all the way.

Small BusinessOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the biggest generator of jobs in this country. They are being hit hard by this economic crisis. Tourism bookings are down. Seafood prices are falling. Retail outlets are cutting back on staff. Companies viewed as success stories months ago are now cutting operations and some are even closing their doors. People are losing jobs and people are losing hope.

When will the Conservatives stop denying and deflecting and give small businesses and their employees help from this deepening crisis?

Small BusinessOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, we, on this side of the House, are proud that we have a plan of hope for small businesses. In fact, we are ensuring that small businesses have the financing they need to continue with operating lines of credit and to continue with bridge financing. We have lowered taxes for small businesses.

We are getting the job done for small business. I am sorry the members opposite do not see hope when there is hope for this economy.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, on December 19, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development about EI claimants facing unacceptable processing delays. Last week, I received a letter from the minister apologizing for her delay in responding to my letter about delays.

I accept her apology but will the minister now apologize both to the thousands of laid-off workers who are still waiting due to her political mismanagement and to the hard-working staff at Service Canada who are bearing the brunt of Conservative incompetence?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, these are very challenging times for way too many people in this country. Too many of them have lost their jobs and are having to look to EI for support. We are increasing and have already increased the number of people who are handling EI and processing the claims.

We are working with companies to ensure the claims get filed faster so we can get the benefits to those who need them faster. We are bringing back retirees to ensure we have enough people to do this. We are getting the job done for those Canadians who need our help.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources has the same glib response to any question about delays in getting EI. In my riding, real people are suffering from this real crisis. One individual waited six weeks for EI. He was forced to apply for welfare while he waited. When he finally received his cheque, the province clawed it back and he still has no money on which to live.

Is the minister saying to the desperate people who fall between the cracks, “Do not worry, be happy. I am really trying”?