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House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cuts.

Topics

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the token member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie. After 18 years in the House, has he actually been of any real use to our Quebec nation?

I would like to remind him of the facts. The situation in Ontario is different from that in Quebec. Ontario is going to pass a federal harmonization act but Quebec has decided to have two distinct taxes, the QST and the GST.

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, he is the most comical of the token Quebeckers. He drove around in a truck during the election campaign, with this result.

Getting back to the GST, Paul Martin said in 1996:

...the federal government does not owe Quebec any money for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST. Provinces are eligible for payments when they lose more than 5% of their revenues by harmonizing.

Ontario did not lose anything and its revenues will even rise. Despite that, it is going to be compensated. Why will it be compensated when, as Jean Charest says, Quebec has harmonized its sales tax?

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member with his 18 years of token service to Quebec, his 18 years of incompetence, that Quebec still has full control over the establishment and administration of this value added tax.

Quebec administers its own sales tax system and the GST for the federal government. In return, the Government of Canada has paid Quebec $1.77 billion over the years.

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, in 1991, Quebec was the first to harmonize its sales tax with the GST. The federal government congratulated itself on this, but offered nothing in compensation. The Atlantic provinces received $1 billion in 1997 because they were losing revenue. Today, Ontario, whose tax revenues will increase with harmonization, will be receiving $4.3 billion.

Will the government acknowledge that, regardless of the party in office, the recipe is the same: any excuse is good to avoid giving Quebec its due?

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would thank this member, because one good turn deserves another. I would point out that Quebec did not adopt the federal legislation on the harmonized sales tax, that it did not sign the comprehensive integrated tax coordination agreement and that the Quebec sales tax and the GST remain quite separate.

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I think that it would truly be the end of things if the Government of Quebec adopted federal legislation.

The Minister of Public Works and Government Services, in his role as token Quebecker, yesterday justified the unjustifiable by describing money received by the Government of Quebec for the administration of the GST as compensation. There must be someone in government honest enough to admit that this is not the compensation sought by Quebec for harmonizing its tax with the GST.

Instead of misleading the public, will the federal government do the only reasonable thing? Will it compensate Quebec and give it the $2.6 billion it seeks?

Goods and Services TaxOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the best thing the Bloc could do for this House would be to go back to its headquarters in Quebec City, to express its opinion there, quite simply, in the National Assembly.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, in January, the Conservatives tabled a weak stimulus package that fell far short of what the G20 was recommending to stem the worldwide crisis. As a result, Canada will lose more than twice as many jobs in 2009 than the government said that it would create in the entire year.

Considering that the OECD projects Canada's unemployment rate will hit 8.8% higher than the industrialized average, instead of lecturing other countries, why will the Prime Minister not finally recognize that we need to do more here in Canada to protect and create jobs and to help people who are losing their jobs?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, speaking of doing more, I would remind that hon. member that his party put forward not one suggestion in our prebudget consultations. The people who members of the NDP represent expected them to put forward their positions, as did the folks who members of the Liberal Party represent.

The NDP put forward nothing and then it suggests that what we have done, our economic action plan, is not enough. I do not understand where the member is coming from.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have put forward proposals to fix the EI system to help people who are being left in poverty. They were adopted by this House but are being ignored by the government.

Now the Prime Minister is heading off to the G20 meeting with another clear instruction from the House, which is to make poverty reduction a top priority. That is what the House wanted him to do.

The G20 represents 85% of the world's economy. Canada should be playing in role on the world stage around poverty alleviation.

Why will the government not respect the unanimous will of this House to put the issue of poverty reduction front and centre at the G20?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this government has always put poverty reduction as one of its primary goals. In fact, we are actually doubling our aid to Africa. We see the opposition voting against all of our positions that we put forward.

We have been front and centre, leading at the G20 and leading at the G7, in order to get our own country's finances in place so we can continue to help those less fortunate than us.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the third month in a row, Canada's gross domestic product has declined. In January, the number of people with jobs dropped by 117,000. This is the most significant drop since March 1991. The Conservatives are beating all Brian Mulroney's records for economic mediocrity.

Why is the government refusing to acknowledge that its economic plan is inadequate and that more must be done to help the middle class, here in Canada, right now?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan, which the member and that party voted against before they even read it, provides increased support for Canadians to help those who have lost their jobs to be able to retrain for jobs of the future. We are providing extended EI benefits for those who have lost their jobs. We actually have a plan, an extraordinary financing framework, that puts money in place so people can actually borrow money again to keep their businesses going and hire new employees.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, one factor making this recession worse is the government. According to its own reports, the Conservative government decided to not invest $1.2 billion in infrastructure funding it had budgeted for this fiscal year ending today. By their own calculations, that represents 21,000 jobs that could have been saved or created this past year. With matching funds, it would have been 60,000 jobs. Meanwhile, thousands of construction workers have lost work.

Is the government just incompetent or is there a reason it will not help Canadians get the jobs they need?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is always great to hear from the member for Parkdale—High Park. His sunny disposition and always seeing the glass half full is always welcome from those of us on this side of the House.

We are working aggressively with the Province of Ontario and provincial governments around the country to identify projects that can move forward quickly. We have made outstanding progress in the last three months and the next three months will be even better.

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, sadly, that is pretty thin gruel for people who are not working. In fact, this is a pattern of incompetence by the minister and his predecessors.

In the last three years, the Conservatives have failed to use over $3 billion in approved funds for infrastructure spending. If it had actually invested the money, over 150,000 jobs could have been created across the country.

Will the government today apologize to Canadians for how poorly it has done in creating jobs and for making the recession worse? Will the minister agree that he is responsible so that Canadians know exactly who it is that failed them?

The EconomyOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, many times the lapse will be rolled over. Quite often, when we identify and commit to funding support for a given project, such as the subway extension at Spadina in the city of Toronto, it does take a period of time before the shovels can go into the ground.

For new funds that we announced as part of our economic action plan, we have agreed to fast-track them and only support projects where that can begin and be completed in the next 24 months.

We are cutting red tape to ensure that this stimulus can be of benefit to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are committed to working hard and getting the job done.

FinanceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2007-08 the Conservatives let $7.6 billion in Parliament-approved spending vanish into thin air, just to increase their surpluses. For example, $1.2 billion for defence was not spent. We have now come to the last day of the 2008-09 fiscal year.

What amounts approved by this Parliament have still not been spent because the Conservatives are trying to reduce their deficit at workers’ expense?

FinanceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely reject the premise of that question. If we are talking about cutting budgets on the backs of other folks, we all remember in the 1990s when the Liberals cut transfer payments to the provinces. In our prebudget consultations we talked to some of those finance ministers in the provinces who were absolutely devastated that any federal government would push that onto the backs of the provinces. We refuse to do that.

FinanceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is wrong when hard-working citizens of Markham need to work twice as long as other Canadians to be eligible for employment insurance. Everyone except the government agrees, including the OECD, which today projected a 10.8% unemployment rate and called on the government to do more to help the unemployed.

Do we need millions of unemployed Canadians roaming the streets before this uncaring government will do the right thing and fix employment insurance?

FinanceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member for Markham—Unionville that the EI system we now have, with the variable rate, was instituted in 1997 when his government was in power. The unemployment rate then was 8.4%, a full 0.7% higher than what we have today.

What we have done is add a number of initiatives, calculated at over $4 billion, to help those who need help most when the economy is going the way it is today.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the two week waiting period has existed since 1971. However, what the Minister of National Revenue, another token Quebecker, does not say is that workers did not pay premiums if they did not qualify for the plan, something which was changed by the Liberals in January 1997. Since then, premiums have been paid from the first hour worked, but the waiting period has not been eliminated.

Instead of coming to the defence of the Liberals, should not the token Quebecker for revenue instead be working for justice, to get rid of the waiting period?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, in this time of economic difficulty, it is important to protect those who lose their jobs. Therefore we organized consultations, at which people asked us for more protection during this period. We feel it is better to offer them five more weeks of employment insurance, at a time when they could devote much more time to finding work, than to eliminate the waiting period.

I am also pleased to hear the hon. member acknowledge that this waiting period has existed for a long time, namely 38 years.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the OECD says that Canada is not doing enough. It says that unemployment will increase dramatically between 2010 and 2011. Therefore the social safety net has to be improved and reinforced.

Does the government not think that eliminating the waiting period might be a good way to provide assistance to the unemployed, and also to jump start the economy?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the hon. member is also thinking not only about protecting those who lose their jobs, but also about what we are putting in place in our action plan to support economic activity. We will be investing $12 billion in the building Canada program to create vast work sites in Canada and in Quebec.

In addition, we are providing a tax credit of $1,350 for people who want to renovate their houses. This will enable manufacturers to offer job opportunities to their workers and to stimulate economic activity within their companies. These are two measures we are introducing to support economic activity in Canada.