Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand in the House and debate private member's Bill C-288. I want to make one comment before I begin. My discussion in the next 10 minutes will be focused on the bill in front of us. It will not be all over the place, as was the discussion of the member from the Liberal Party a few minutes ago.
The proposal in Bill C-288 is to grant preferential treatment for a select group of new graduates in designated regions. If the bill becomes law, it would set out different regions that selected new graduates would work in and they would receive a benefit. As previous speakers have noted, this bill was originally introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-207, where after an in-depth study that exposed the bill's numerous shortcomings it was soundly rejected by the House of Commons finance committee.
As a member of the finance committee in both the previous and the current Parliament, I can say that the bill was thoroughly discussed.
It was revealed in the last Parliament that there were a number of major problems with that bill. In fact, the Liberal Party members of that committee also felt the same way and had gutted the bill at that particular time.
Therefore, I was a little bit surprised when the member from the official opposition got up today and said that party was in favour of it. However, he did qualify it by saying that some people are in favour of it. Hopefully the information will get out to all their members and they will see the light of day and not support the bill going forward.
Nothing has changed in the interim. Essentially, this is exactly the same proposal as in the last Parliament, with exactly the same flaws. As a result, I and the rest of the Conservative members cannot support the bill.
As previous speakers have outlined, there are many problems with this proposal. They include the following.
While the proposal attempts to compel new graduates to settle in designated regions, it does nothing to create new employment opportunities or economic development in these regions.
On this point, all this bill does is say that an area is under-serviced or needs help. It does not create any jobs or provide any incentive for business to create jobs. It simply identifies the area. This bill would say to a new graduate that an area is underserved and it would ask the new graduate to stay there in exchange for an $8,000 tax credit. In theory, the bill would try to attract back home those people who are leaving a region that is under-serviced.
This bill does not do any of that. It does not provide young people the opportunity they are looking for.
I have two young people of my own. One will be graduating from high school this May and will be entering university in the fall to do her four years. We are from Burlington, in southern Ontario. That region will not be identified, so my daughter will not get the same benefit as somebody else in her graduating class because that person happens to be from a designated region. There is also no guarantee that they will have a job to go to, yet the taxpayer of Canada would still give them a tax credit for living there. I do not think that is accurate.
It is poorly targeted, and no particular skills or occupations are singled out. The list of designated regions is based on a list that is nearly 30 years old and outdated. For instance, it lists Saskatchewan and Manitoba as economically depressed regions.
Mr. Speaker, let us take your home province of Saskatchewan. In terms of any of the economic factors today, we are all suffering from the worldwide recession, of course, and our economic action plan is in place to address that. However, there are areas of this country that are doing better than others, and Saskatchewan is one of those areas. It is unbelievable that this bill would identify it as a designated area.
Let us take the skills and occupation aspect and consider, for example, a person who graduates with a degree in fine arts, maybe performing arts. I am a big fan of performing arts. Last Friday, we turned the sod on a new performing arts centre for Burlington, which this government has helped with $4 million in support.
However, my point is this: If I have gone through school for performing arts and want to become an actor but my area is under-serviced, I can go home to that region whether there is a job in the performing arts or not and I would be entitled to an $8,000 tax credit. It does not make any sense that the jobs are not identified. The skill sets are not identified or the occupations that they are looking for.
This is not fair to other regions. It is not fair to other graduates who are not able to attract this tax credit just because they are from a certain area or they move to a certain area.
This country was built on the mobility of labour. People moved to where jobs were available, where growth was happening. In my view, the government cannot have a law or policy that restricts the mobility of labour, that encourages a lack of mobility of labour.
I want to use my own family as an example. When I was very young, my father who was starting out in his career in his early twenties had to make a decision to move from an area of Ontario that was doing okay but was not seeing growth. There were job opportunities eight hours away, an eight-hour drive to the other side of Ontario.
My father made the decision, for the betterment of himself and his family, to make that move, to move to where the job was. That is what the country was built on. That is why people settled the western provinces. That is why there has been growth in Ontario. That is why there is growth in Newfoundland and Labrador; people are coming back to that province because there are opportunities there. People are coming to Saskatchewan these days because there are opportunities in Saskatchewan.
We cannot have the taxpayer of Canada supporting one region over another and trying to keep young people there just for the sake of saying we have young people in the area.
The member from the Bloc talked about every part of the country being deserving of the same level of service. Every graduate of a university, college or training program deserves the same level of treatment as every other graduate. That is why the bill is a flawed concept.
In the previous Parliament, this concept came forward through a private member's bill and made it to the finance committee. The finance committee, through its study of the issue, looked at all the implications of having regions, based on data that is outdated, data that is 30 years old, treating individuals differently from one province to another, from one region within a province to another, that it was just not fair, it was just not accurate, and it is just not the way that Canada has built itself up as the country we have here today.
Mobility of labour is very important to me. This approach does not look at the investments that we have been making into economic development. It is economic development that drives jobs. It is the money we have spent on organizations, whether it be on the east coast or the new southern Ontario development agency. That agency was announced in our economic action plan that was just passed in the House and we are hoping the spending has happened through the other place.
It is these organizations that help businesses and individuals create employment. It is the creation of employment and opportunity that will attract bright young people, the future for our country, the development of our country.
It is that type of investment by this government and by the provinces in their own economic development activities that will support businesses, support individuals by creating new jobs and creating wealth that will attract young folks.
It is not a tax credit. We will not get young people deciding to stay in one region or another because they get a tax credit. Of course they will use it because it is available, but it will not be in their decision-making aspect in terms of why they should go there.
Young people today, including the members of my own family, want an opportunity for growth. They want an opportunity to serve their family.
I cannot support this private member's bill.