House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jurisdiction.


Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In accordance with Standing Order 38 a motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been moved and seconded. Therefore the question is, that this House do now adjourn.

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

6:15 p.m.


Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 3, I rose to ask the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development a question regarding employment insurance. It was regarding the obstacles and delays in receiving cheques.

There are people in my riding who are waiting up to eight weeks to get their employment insurance cheques.

Some people wait up to eight weeks to receive their cheques, and that causes problems. Usually, they expect to receive it within two weeks. That is what they are told to expect.

When we ask Service Canada what is going on, the story is that Service Canada does not have enough resources to process the cheques fast enough. Where are the resources? Why are we not processing those cheques quicker? That is a real problem. Money is not getting to unemployed people to help them pay their rent, buy food for their families and get going again and being able to live their lives to the fullest after the blow of losing their jobs. That is what employment insurance is about. I was asking about the lack of resources at Service Canada which is causing delays in people getting their cheques.

In response, the parliamentary secretary said that employment insurance is designed to respond to regional interests. He gave a long answer describing what one region gets compared to another. The answer did not have anything to do with the question in the first place. I hope the information the parliamentary secretary received from the PMO today will answer the question that I have been asking.

Since I have more time, I want to talk a bit more about the re-announcement on EI. I will save the parliamentary secretary doing it but that is probably what he will talk about. On May 25 the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development re-announced changes to the employment insurance system to help long-tenured workers upgrade their skills to help them find new jobs. That is fine; it was a re-announcement, but it does not help a lot of Canadians who have been left out in the cold.

That is not what my question was about. It was not about reintroducing programs and the five weeks' extension at the end of the period which the government talked about. This was about getting money to individuals when they need it most, which is after the two-week waiting period. It is about getting the money to them when promised. They should not have to wait eight weeks, which causes them to have to borrow money from relatives, from banks, if they can get it, and even causes people to be deprived of the essential resources they rely on to keep their families going.

6:20 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, for a moment I thought the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming was going to say he applauded the number of enhancements we have made to the system. However, I gather he took some exception to that.

I am happy to share with the member the many helpful steps the government has taken to help Canadians during this difficult time. There is no question that there are vulnerable, unemployed Canadians. We understand that, and that is why we are taking action to make things better.

We are making unprecedented investments to help those who, through no fault of their own, have suffered unexpected job loss during this global recession. With respect to managing EI claims, which the member referred to, we have invested more than $60 million to help manage and process these claims more quickly, while cutting red tape for employers. The evidence is there month to month to show that these claims are being processed, notwithstanding the increase in the numbers of them.

This investment is on top of the many other administrative efforts we have taken to ensure quicker processing and service for Canadian families. We will continue to ensure processing can take place in a reasonable time.

We have also taken steps to provide additional help to Canadians who have been particularly hard hit by the current economic downturn by extending EI benefits by five weeks. That is more than double the two weeks advocated by the opposition, and it will be a substantial help to Canadians when they need it most.

We have also extended the EI work sharing program. Thankfully, through our efforts over 130,000 Canadian jobs are being protected. That number continues to grow because we have taken action to enhance the program, making it easier for employers to access, cutting the red tape, and making it more responsive. This program is helping Canadians in many sectors of the economy right across our country, providing employment insurance and ensuring jobs are preserved.

We are also investing $1 billion for further skills training through the EI program. This includes $500 million in skills training and upgrading for long-tenured workers and $500 million for training those who do not qualify for EI. These training funds will help Canadians gain new skills so they can succeed in the jobs of the future as our country recovers from the economic downturn and it prospers going forward.

We continue to monitor these measures to ensure they are effective in helping Canadians, and we will do more.

All of that being said, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the Liberals' suggestion with respect to EI. I say they have borrowed it from the NDP without the intention of giving it back, which would tell us a thing or two about how irresponsible it really is.

It is irresponsible in the sense that it will not help a single Canadian find a new job or keep his or her job, and it will not help a single Canadian gain any new skills. It will simply add billions to the tax burden of hard-working Canadians and employers at the worst possible time.

The Liberals are having some trouble with this scheme, as one would expect. Last year, their EI critic thought a flat hourly requirement was a bad idea that negatively affected Canadians in areas of high unemployment. Now he has flip-flopped, or at least I think that is what he has done if the Liberals want a standardized number of hours.

In spite of this lack of clarity and this ill-advised and irresponsible idea from the opposition, our government will continue helping Canadians to get through this tough time, and we will be doing it in a responsible manner to ensure it is fair and equitable and covers the needs of all who are experiencing a need at this particular point.

6:20 p.m.


Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member speaks about enhancements. I am glad that he thinks there are enhancements there, but there are still people who are waiting for their cheques. People are waiting for their cheques for longer than two weeks, four weeks, six weeks. Some are even waiting longer than eight weeks. That is where the problem lies.

It is about people who are vulnerable. They need the help right away. It is not at the end, where they get that extra five weeks. The five weeks are appreciated, but they have to get the money upfront. That is where they need it most. The money has to be invested in staff who can process the claims more quickly and get the money out.

Mr. Speaker, I will wrap it up there. However, I want to make the point that there are still 58 different regions across the country that have different ratings. I would like to think that we are all equal Canadians, not different levels of Canadians.

6:25 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member should speak to the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who says that we want to have the variance across the regions to allow for those that are in high unemployment areas to receive more benefits for less hours. Maybe the Liberals could decide which way they are going on this issue.

Despite the vast increase in the number of applications that have been made, they have been processed by and large in the same time before the increase, and that is significant. We have invested $60 million. We have hired additional staff, 900 people, and an additional 400 will be hired. We have done some administrative things to improve processing. What we will not do is go forward with the 45-day work year that the Liberals have proposed and increase job-killing payroll taxes or increase taxes.

The Leader of the Opposition said “We will have to raise taxes”. If the Liberals want to go that route, that is what we will do at exactly the worst possible time for employers and employees alike. We do not want to kill jobs. We want to create jobs and ensure people are able to benefit from the skills training that we have in our program.

6:25 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, stem cells grown on contact lenses improve the sight of people with cornea damage. Stem cells injected into the central nervous system of those with spinal cord injury allow victims to stand and walk again, and halt the disease course of multiple sclerosis.

In December 1999, the editors of Science called stem cell research the “Breakthrough of the year”.

Since then, there have been numerous announcements about developments in stem cell research and hints of promising treatments for diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's, cancer, cardiac damage, macular degeneration and type I diabetes.

Within the last five years, the Kirby report and the Romanow Commission noted the importance of new technologies and therapeutic approaches in achieving long-term financial stability for Canada's health care system.

Stem cell research has a critical role to play in the future of Canada's health. For example, every year, 1,500 Canadians suffer a spinal cord injury. The direct health care costs for each case are estimated at $500,000 over the lifetime of the patient, for a total of $750 million, spending that could be reduced by stem cell therapy.

Stem cells are the precursors of all cells in the human body and are the focus of regenerative medicine, medicine that involves growing new cells, tissues and organs to repair or replace those damaged by aging, disease or injury.

There has been intense debate over the use of stem cells. However, it is important for government to first understand and second, to educate the public regarding sources of stem cells. For example, these powerful cells can be taken from adults, harvested from bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplants are now a routine procedure, with 45,000 people receiving treatment every year. Moreover, a new technology induces human skin cells to change into stem cells, a process called “cellular reprogramming”, the 2008 “breakthrough of the year”.

Many researchers have criticized the government for shutting out Genome Canada in the federal budget and for cutting $148 million to basic curiosity-driven research, particularly because Canada is a global leader in stem cell research. Ontario and California together account for about 70% of the stem cell research currently conducted in North America.

The Ontario government is stepping up to provide more money for research, while Ottawa scales back. A few weeks ago, Mr. McGuinty announced $100 million in new funding for genomic research. The U.S. is also investing. In 2008 Massachusetts Governor Patrick signed legislation that would set aside $1 billion toward biotechnology over 10 years to turn the state into the second largest stem cell research region in the United States.

Governments are investing because regenerative medicine represents an enormous economic opportunity, $2 billion to $3 billion over the next three years.

Canada's stem cell researchers need more money, for example, money for diabetes which annually cost Canada $12 billion. As President Obama states, “Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident”. They require investment in people, research, equipment and facilities. We need investment in our world-class stem cell researchers and their work.

6:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the original question that this follow-up was supposed to be based on was a question regarding SSHRC scholarships and business-related degrees. So the answer that I prepared for her would reflect that.

This government does recognize that the skills, knowledge and creativity of Canadians fuel our global competitiveness, high quality of life, and future prosperity. That is why our economic action plan takes measures to further develop a highly skilled workforce and to ensure that Canadians' skills are well applied. Among other investments, the plan allocates $87.5 million over the next three years to temporarily expand the Canada graduate scholarships program.

This investment will support students at a time when they are facing a weakening labour market. It will provide for an additional 500 doctoral scholarships and an additional 2,000 master's scholarships, over and above the thousands of scholarships that will be awarded through the ongoing CGS program.

Let me reiterate that last point, for it is an important one. Thousands of scholarships will continue being awarded through the ongoing CGS program: scholarships across all disciplines in health, the natural sciences and engineering, and the social sciences and humanities.

With respect to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, it will award an expected 5,700 Canada graduate scholarships over the next three years. Of these, 5,200, or more than 90%, will be available in all areas of the social sciences and humanities, areas as varied as anthropology, communications, criminology, geography, history, linguistics and philosophy, to name just a few.

The other 500 scholarships are being targeted to provide additional support and encouragement to students pursuing advanced training in an area critical to Canada's economic recovery and future success. However, let us not forget that this is taking place within the context of a wide range of support for advanced skills training, support that spans all disciplines.

I would also like to underscore that the temporary expansion of the CGS program is not the only budget 2009 measure that is supporting highly skilled Canadians confronted with a weakening labour market. The budget also expands the industrial research and development internship program to offer up to 600 more internships over two years. As a result, the planned placements by the end of 2009-10 will rise from 2,000 to 2,600.

Moreover, budget 2009 also allocates additional funds to the industrial research assistance program to help firms hire more than 1,000 new post-secondary graduates. This will bring our total number of placements over the next two years from approximately 330 to 1,330.

These investments build on the significant measures in support of students announced in our previous two budgets, measures such as the expansion of the ongoing and aforementioned Canada graduate scholarships program, measures such as the creation of the industrial research and development internship program and the Vanier scholarships program.

Valued at $50,000 annually for up to three years, the prestigious Vanier scholarships stand shoulder to shoulder with world-renowned scholarships such as the Fulbright and the Rhodes. When fully operational, the Vanier program will support up to 500 of the world's top Canadian and international students each year. I look forward to the upcoming announcement of the winners of the program's inaugural competition.

Our government has increased funding so that more scholarships are available to more graduate students from all areas of study.

In conclusion, let me re-emphasize that this government is firmly committed to supporting our students.

6:30 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the broad topic was science and technology. As a former university professor, I will say, without investment in researchers and their work, there will be a brain drain.

MS affects between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians. An experimental treatment offered at an Israeli clinic may alleviate symptoms, even in patients with an untreatable form of the disease. Researchers pioneered a procedure whereby they remove a patient's own stem cells, grow them into large quantities in a laboratory and inject them back into the patient.

The government must invest in stem cell research, explore results of clinical trials and experimental technologies, which are yielding positive results here in Canada and internationally, and investigate the possibility of bringing successful stem cell therapies for MS and other diseases to Canada.

Why is there no long-term strategy for stem cells? Why did the government cut funding to Genome Canada?

6:35 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know I have only a minute. In response to that question I will quote from a couple of stakeholders who have commented on the actions this government has taken in terms of funding post-secondary science and technology research. Here is one quote:

It's a very historic day. This is one of the most important investments at the University of Winnipeg in generations. It will enable the U of W to have a world-class science complex that will be unsurpassed anywhere in the country.

That was said by Lloyd Axworthy, former Liberal minister and president of the University of Winnipeg.

Dr. Harvey Weingarten, president of the University of Calgary, said, in all his experiences with funding programs, he has never seen a program that has moved so quickly and harmoniously.

6:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, in April, I asked the government to provide a response on how it was creating jobs for Canadians and where the details for its economic recovery plan could be found. Instead of a response, I received an indication that the details I was looking for would be contained in the government's quarterly report to Parliament. Alas, as we have seen, this is clearly not the case.

It was only a few short months ago that the government said that there would not be a recession. Now Canada has been and continues to be in one of the most brutal recessions it has seen. We have seen six consecutive quarters of zero or negative labour productivity growth. This is the worst record on this economic marker since Statistics Canada began collecting data on this measure in 1980.

There have been more than 1.4 million Canadians waiting in unemployment lines across the country and near record numbers are filing for bankruptcy. The economy is performing poorly. However, instead of looking for ways to increase our competitive advantages in the global market, the government continues to reannounce funding without actually delivering it to hard hit communities.

Last fall, the government also said that there would be no deficit. In fact, in October the Prime Minister told Canadians that he would never run a deficit. In November he went on to project four consecutive surplus budgets for his government. That was November. We now know that at the time the government already knew that would not be possible.

The truth, as we now know, is that the Conservative government had this country's finances in the red by more than $2 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year. While the Minister of Finance was publicly saying that the financial picture was “on track” to meet his economic action plan, he was really crafting the largest budget deficit in Canadian history.

The government said that there would be no deficit but the deficit has now ballooned to more than $50 billion. I cannot help but wonder which track the government thinks we are actually on. Job losses are climbing, productivity is falling and businesses are failing.

Small businesses, the biggest generator of jobs in this country, are being hard hit by the economic downturn and the government is doing precious little to help. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that small enterprises represent roughly half of Canada's economic situation. They employ more than five million people or close to half of all the private sector jobs and private sector employees in Canada.

There is historical evidence to show that small businesses have been the creator of new jobs even during economic downturn. For example, small business continued to create jobs through the 1982-83 recession when large companies were having to cut back.

A recent poll of small business owners conducted by the Angus Reid Strategies group shows that the past six months have been particularly rough for small businesses. Two-thirds responded that they were stressed by the state of the economy. More than half said that their financial positions were currently on a downturn and two in five reported that the situation was getting worse.

Access to capital is a prime concern for small business. Equity markets and foreign banks have withdrawn from lending. A new study recently revealed that access to capital was the number one concern facing the biotechnology and life sciences industry, for example. The study, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that half of the survey respondents said that raising capital was their largest business problem.

What exactly is the government doing to deliver on its plan to get our economy going again?

6:40 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, although the hon. member may talk of doom and gloom, I should point out that our country and its economy are actually the praise of the world at this time. Our government is taking unprecedented action to stimulate our economy and to protect Canadians during these difficult times.

The question before us contains accusations of stalling from the very party that has done its utmost to prevent stimulus money from getting to those who need it most.

The nerve! I thought that the honourable member had heard what Canadians were saying. Canadians want their elected representatives to stop talking nonsense and start protecting them when they need it.

That is why our government tabled the economic action plan, a plan that injects $40 billion into the economy over the next two years. That is why our government tabled this plan as part of the earliest budget in history. That is why our government and our non-partisan public service have been working nonstop to get this money flowing quickly.

We condensed a process that typically takes six months into two while continuing to ensure due diligence and accountability. The results are posted for all to see at

So before the honourable member starts talking about how our government is delaying the delivery of stimulus funds, maybe she should take a look at that website.

Here are just a few examples of federal-provincial cooperation that she will find.

On April 8 the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia announced investments totalling more than $455.1 million in 29 projects at post-secondary institutions throughout British Columbia.

On April 3 the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario announced a joint investment of $500 million to reduce wait times for GO Transit riders in the greater Toronto area and get more cars off the road.

On March 26 the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec announced a partnership to improve drinking water, support municipalities and create jobs.

Canada has an action plan that is admired around the world. It is one of the largest action plans in the G7. We have had the cooperation of the provinces and territories in creating additional stimulus. I am proud to report that 80% of the projects are being implemented now, within just 10 weeks of the budget having been passed.

This government committed to quarterly reports and the latest one was tabled last Thursday. I encourage the member opposite to read it. The report shows that 80% of this year's part of our action plan has already been implemented in every region of Canada. Families and businesses are paying less tax. Unemployed workers are receiving improved supports. Major job-creating building projects are breaking ground.

While the opposition talks about an election that would delay help for those who need it now, we are focused on the economy. The opposition is focused on throwing up roadblocks instead of getting roads built.

This last weekend my constituents made it clear that they want politicians to stop playing political games and get to work on their behalf. I suspect that hon. members are hearing the same refrain from residents in their own ridings. I ask hon. members to work together to support Canadians hardest hit by the economic downturn, to work together to help communities and businesses to adjust and grow during these extraordinary times.

I stand today in this House and call upon colleagues to stop serving partisan interests and instead start serving their own constituents, those people who elected them to this job. We are cutting red tape. It is time the opposition did the same.

At a critical time like this, we do not need more roadblocks, we need more roads built.

June 15th, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, it takes a lot of nerve to stand up and say that we are not going to have a deficit, repeatedly, and then turn around and show $2 billion in deficit. It takes a lot of nerve to stand up and say there will not be a recession when we are in the midst of one. I find it highly unusual that he would use that term of phrase.

I find it interesting, as well, that the government is leaving 400,000 Canadians without employment insurance, and we are hearing a number of announcements being made but no one is actually telling us how much is being spent.

I am going to ask the government this question. How much money has it actually spent in infrastructure over the last 90 days, and how much money will it spend, not announce but spend, in the next 90 days?

6:45 p.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government has taken unprecedented and extraordinary action to accelerate job-creating investments in Canada's economic action plan.

As I mentioned already, 80% of this year's part of our plan is already being implemented. In every region of Canada, families and businesses are paying less tax, unemployed workers are receiving improved support, and major job-creating building projects are breaking ground. It is important to remember that this is a two-year plan. We will be rolling out specific projects over the coming months to ensure every region receives maximum benefits.

While the opposition talks about an election that would delay help for those who need it now, we are focused on the economy. Canada is in a much stronger position to weather the global recession than most other countries. Our plan is internationally recognized as the right response to the global recession. Our strong position allows us to respond with a bold plan now when it is needed most.

That is why we are delivering $62 billion in stimulus while still retaining the smallest deficit and debt compared to the GDP of any of the G7 countries. While the Liberal leader talks about raising taxes, we will continue to deliver relief to Canadians.

6:45 p.m.


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 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:46 p.m.)