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House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this evening's adjournment debate concerns a question I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage on February 3, to which I did not receive a satisfactory answer.

I asked about cultural programs that were cut, such as Trade Routes and PromArt, which helped our artists travel abroad.

In his budget, the minister chose to spend $25 million on the so-called Canada prizes for the arts and creativity to bring foreign artists here and give them bursaries. The whole idea struck us as completely absurd and illogical seeing as our own artists have just had their funding for essential cultural activities cut by $45 million. I will come back to that later.

Now this government is spending $25 million on bursaries—some of them worth six figures, that is, between $100,000 and $200,000—for foreign artists. That money is earmarked for foreign artists, while our own artists struggle with poor working conditions and low incomes. On average, our artists earn $22,000 per year.

What is more, these Canada prizes for the arts and creativity are the brainchild of two Toronto lobbyists who have had a great deal of influence on the government. In fact, the Conservative government's budget contains a complete word for word copy of the Luminato promotion from last summer. It is pretty amazing that the government's budget would be written by lobbyists. This government claims to be transparent, but we can see that it is not. Its first step when first elected in 2006 was to pass Bill C-2 in order to distance itself from lobbyists.

What is more, the Canada prizes project is a sham. It includes a list of so-called partners prepared to support this project and help Luminato to carry it out. Obviously, two lobbyists working down in their garage cannot set up a $25 million project by themselves. The partners, some of them as well known as the Grands Ballets Canadiens and Cirque de Soleil, had never heard of this project, or had heard very little. They were, in fact, not partners at all.

I am asking the minister to explain his logic to us. Before funding foreign artists to come here to Canada, should he not be funding artists from here so that they can go abroad? Now, and there is no denying it, there is a huge hole in this department's funding, so huge that performing artists can no longer tour outside the country.

7:20 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand and speak to this question. The Bloc Québécois has no legitimacy on this issue at all. In fact, it has no legitimacy on any arts and culture issue because it continues to vote against arts and culture in Canada.

No matter how much money we put in, and our government has invested more money in arts and culture than any government in Canadian history, the Bloc has chosen to vote against artists. It has no interest in talking about the truth. It does not even have any interest in listening to the Canada Council for the Arts on the money that it is investing in promoting arts abroad.

This is really about that. It should be about truth, but it is not. In fact, it is about manipulation. It is about trying to get a partisan gain, trying to cut things up, pit people against people. That is the Bloc's game on this. Our government is investing more money in arts and culture, into artists, into festivals, into the support of artists and into the generation of new artists in our country than any government in history.

I cannot understand why the member continues to stand every day and spin the tales that she weaves. It is clearly not true.

I listened to what she had to say with respect to the Canada Prize. She said that why not just spend all the money sending our artists abroad, that why would we want to bring any artists here and that why would any artists come to Canada and be capable of winning a prize or earning any money.

Is that not the essence of trade? Is that not the essence of exporting our arts, that we might actually open our ears, our eyes, our hearts and our minds to international artists as well? Is that not something worth promoting in our country? Is it not worth promoting excellence? Is it not worth promoting that type of culture right here in Canada, that we are centre of excellence?

That is my Canada. It is not the Bloc's Canada. I do not know what the Bloc is really after. It is really just about divide and conquer. For me it is about building, it is about uniting and it is about supporting arts. Our government is about that.

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc has full legitimacy when it comes to defending Quebec artists. It was a Conservative member who publicly stated that, in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois defends culture and artists, and that this government was not buddy-buddy with the artists. It continues to prove it by making unjustified, vicious cuts to funding for artists.

This is not a fiction. We heard this at committee hearings held in recent weeks. CINARS, which represents 300 performing arts organizations throughout Canada, told the committee just how desperate the situation is. The Grands ballets canadiens will be forced to cancel important tours. INIS and Regroupement québécois de la danse also testified. This is not a fiction but a tragedy and we have to fix it.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course arts and culture is not exempt from the challenges that we see in other places in the economy. However, one thing I can say and one thing the Bloc member will never say, because she has no interest in saying this but it is the truth, is no government has ever provided more support to arts and culture in this country than the one of which I am a part.

If the Bloc brought forward its budget, although it will never bring forward a budget because it will never be in government, and if it actually saw something behind arts and culture that it would support, I would be surprised. It voted against a budget to put more support into arts and culture than any budget in history.

It is indefensible. I hope artists rise up and vote largely against the Bloc because it does not support them.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, some time ago I rose in the House during question period and asked a question of the Conservative government, given the history of a Prime Minister stating that there is no recession, given that if there were going to be a recession we would already be in a recession, and given that the Minister of Finance was coming out in November with a disastrous and completely unrealistic economic and fiscal update. And it goes on and on. My question was, how can Canadians believe the Conservative government when its numbers are always contradicted by experts?

The answer I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance was basically that there are lots of experts in here. Some have projected high; some have projected low. Then he quoted from Dale Orr, a very respected economist from Global Insight who said, “The budget overall was a pretty reasonable compromise. The best thing to do is to pass it and get on with it and get things moving as quickly as possible”.

In the 2009 budget the Conservative economic action plan claimed that it would create or maintain close to 100,000 net Canadian jobs and yet there has been no mention of that job figure since. What are economists saying to date on the rosy forecasts that were predicted and are still being predicted by the Conservative Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance?

David Dodge is calling the Prime Minister's prediction that Ottawa will be back in surplus by 2013 “totally unrealistic”. David Dodge also says the economic recovery “is not going to be as quick as everybody thinks”. He says, “I think anybody would be dreaming in Technicolor to think that you're going to get through this by the third quarter of this year”. He also says, “And the rest of the world, including the United States, is probably not going to recover as quickly coming out of this recession as it did coming out of 1982 or coming out of 1990-91 recession”.

Don Drummond of the TD Bank calculates that Canada's federal debt will swell by $81.5 billion over the next two years, which is more than the Conservative government has calculated it will increase. In fact, when the Conservative Minister of Finance tabled his budget 2009, he predicted that the debt would grow by $63 billion.

Don Drummond of the TD Bank says the government will produce an “all-time high deficit of $39.2 billion in fiscal 2009-10 and $42.3 billion in fiscal 2010-11, well above the red ink of $33.7 billion and $29.8 billion shown in the budget”.

Experts have spoken and what they are saying is that the forecasts and predictions of the Conservative government are not realistic. In fact, Canada is shedding jobs 50% faster than the United States over the same period of time. Canadians are going to want real accountability from the government with its economic action plan.

7:25 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the member opposite does not understand the problem at hand. It is also disappointing that she does not truly acknowledge that this is a global recession, one that started beyond our borders.

As RBC chief economist, Craig Wright, has noted, this was not a made in Canada recession.

Or, to quote her own leader speaking at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce just last week, “I have never blamed the Prime Minister for causing this recession. I'm partisan, but I'm not stupid”.

What is more disappointing is that the member will not admit that Canada entered this downturn in a very strong position, something that will ensure we exit it in a stronger than most position.

If the member does not believe me, maybe she should listen to the overwhelming majority of experts, experts like BMO Capital Markets chief economist, Douglas Porter, who recently declared, “Canada did go into this downturn with almost pristine fundamentals and...I think that those pristine fundamentals do suggest that Canada will hold up a little bit better than other economies and probably will emerge a little bit stronger than other economies”.

However, we must also recognize that, despite our strengths, Canada has not been immune from the global downturn and will continue to be affected.

This will be an extremely difficult year for many Canadians. We regrettably have seen and will continue to see sizeable job losses.

While we sympathize with Canadians, we believe Canadians want more from their government than merely sympathy. They want action.

Clearly, a recovery in the global economy, especially the United States, is a necessary requirement for a sustained recovery, which is why we are working with our international partners to help facilitate that.

The finance minister was in London recently with his G20 counterparts for that very reason, and the Prime Minister will continue that work at the upcoming G20 leaders' meeting.

In the interim, we will do everything necessary to help the Canadian economy. After the most exhaustive prebudget consultation with Canadians ever, we introduced the earliest budget ever: Canada's economic action plan, a plan to support job creation now while laying down the groundwork for long term prosperity by: first, reducing personal income taxes permanently; second, supporting businesses through targeted tax measures and investments; and, third, investing in major job creating projects that will improve our roads, highways, bridges and public transit, as well as improving access to financing for Canadian individuals and businesses, investing in electronic health records that will reduce errors and save lives and providing new support and skills training for the unemployed, including five extra weeks of EI.

This is a real plan. Canadian businesses, premiers and public interest groups have all supported our plan, as well as Parliament endorsing it.

It was also endorsed by the IMF, which called it “large, timely, and well-targeted fiscal stimulus...appropriately sized--well above the Fund's benchmark of 2 percent of GDP”.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the government makes a statement, makes a commitment, makes a promise and then, all of a sudden, it drops off the radar screen.

In Canada's economic action plan, in budget 2009, and I have a copy of the overview pamphlet, it states, “Budget 2009 will create or maintain up to 190,000 jobs for Canadians by the end of 2010”. A little further down, it states, “Over the next two years, Canada's economic action plan will produce a net increase of 190,000 jobs”.

We have not heard anything since then about the 190,000 jobs. Every time we ask the question during question period, the Conservatives hide from it.

Over the last two months, Canada has lost 212,000 jobs. Montreal alone lost 16,000 jobs in February.

I fail to see what the laughing matter is when I hear members of the government laughing when I make that statement. I would like to know what the government intends to do on those--

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, sadly, the Liberals have no plan to deal with the current global downturn. Criticizing our plan and talking down Canada's economy is not a plan. Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve a Parliament that understands that we are in this together and we need to work together. We have faced economic challenges before and we have always come out stronger. I am confident with our Conservative government's economic leadership, Canada will again.

To quote Forbes' annual best countries for business survey just released:

Some countries are in a much better position than others to rebound from the current malaise by attracting entrepreneurs, investors and workers.

Who are they?...Topping the list for 2009:...Canada is up four spots to No. 3,

And that is a good thing.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:34 p.m.)