This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

7 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

Madam Speaker, let me review what we have done on several points, including timely delivery of benefits. We do take the issue very seriously. Our government is taking real action to help vulnerable and unemployed Canadians through these tough economic times and we will continue to do so.

I would remind my hon. colleague that our government is making unprecedented investments to help those who, through no fault of their own, have suffered from unexpected job loss during this time of global recession. Among other things, we have extended EI benefits by five weeks. That is more than double the two weeks advocated by the opposition and members of her party. Those weeks will help when the help is needed the most.

We have extended the EI work sharing program. Thankfully, through our efforts, more than 120,000 Canadian jobs are being protected. That number continues to grow as we continue to work with Canadian employers to share costs and keep Canadians working as various organizations take steps to adapt to the changing economy.

We have also invested $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 for those who do not qualify for EI. With respect to managing the substantial increases in EI claims, we have invested more than $60 million to help manage and process claims quicker while cutting red tape for employers.

We have hired additional staff and added more resources to ensure that the system can cope with the demand that is being made on the system. We are monitoring the effectiveness of these measures to ensure that they are effectively helping Canadians.

That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the Liberal 360 hour, 45 day work year scheme. The opposition members can say what they want about this scheme, but the fact is that this is an irresponsible proposal that would result in a massive increase in job-killing payroll taxes that would hurt workers and businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

Do not take it from me. The Liberal member for Kings—Hants said that payroll taxes and EI taxes in particular prevent businesses from hiring people. He also said, “Payroll taxes, especially EI taxes, are a tax on jobs”. He said that on October 16, 1997 in the finance committee, and that is so true.

How the Liberals can claim that this 45 day work year is a good idea now is hard to understand. This irresponsible proposal will certainly not help any Canadians find new jobs or get new skills and that is what is needed. It will not help Canadians who have already suffered a job loss. No, it will simply add billions to the tax burden of hard-working Canadians and employers at the worst possible time.

Let us see what others are saying about this proposal. In the Vancouver Sun on May 26, Harvey Enchin said:

The Liberal option not only seems illogical but it would raise the federal deficit -- and probably taxes -- while doing nothing to address the fact that many of the jobs that have been lost are not coming back.

That is the issue. He went on to say:

The Conservative government is right to reject it.... The federal government is on the right track with investments in skills training and transition programs.

That is what we are doing. In spite of the irresponsible ideas coming from the opposition, our government will continue to help Canadians get through this tough time. We are doing it in a responsible manner. We are going to be sure that benefits are delivered when they ought to be delivered. We are going to ensure that we are using the funding to maximize the returns on those benefits and ensure that people have jobs not only for today but for tomorrow, when they become available and this economy turns.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, that is a case in point of a government that has lost touch with the people. Clearly, we have a colleague across the way who will go on ad nauseam about investments the government has made without recognizing that the issue here is not about whether the government has put money into this or that program. The issue here is that there are people out there who are entitled to receive EI and it is not happening. They are having to wait as long as 70 days and that is a serious issue.

The member stands and talks about the money the government puts in and plays politics with this very important issue and takes exception to something the Liberal Party is proposing, but I want to talk about the individual Canadian. I want to talk about the people who cannot make ends meet. I am here to talk about the fact that there are Canadians out there who are going hungry, who cannot buy medication and who really need the government to acknowledge that this is a serious issue.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, obviously we take this issue very seriously. That is why we have invested such significant sums of money to provide extended benefits for longer periods of time. That is why we have invested heavily into skills training and upgrading. That is why we have invested significantly to ensure that those who do not even qualify for EI are able to get assistance. That is why we have invested $60 million to ensure that we can enhance processing and processing times. That is why we have invested the money into resources and people to be sure that we can process those claims quicker, notwithstanding the large volumes of claims and notwithstanding the state of the economy.

We have done some very responsible, constructive things. However, what we will not do is what the opposition proposes, which is to have a 45 day work year that would add dollars to payroll taxes and increase payroll taxes. It is something that businesses and people do not need at this particular time in the economy.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, today in Atlantic Canada, thousands upon thousands of fishers and plant workers are worried about their jobs, worried they will not have money for their families.

The lobster fishery has all but closed, with prices the lowest they have been in 25 years. The cost of harvesting is greater than the prices the fishers can command for their catches. The cost to these fishers' families when boats remain tied to wharves for lack of commercial viability is greater still. Brokers and buyers have either halted or drastically reduced the buying of lobster.

This means that fishers and their crews are without income in what could be their busiest time of the year. The lobster fishery is in crisis. Unfortunately, it is not alone. The crab and shrimp fishery are in crisis as well.

Tom Best, in Petty Harbour, told me recently that crab fishers are not making enough money to make boat payments, let alone make a living. Just last week, processors stated they would not buy any shrimp this summer. Plants will not be able to open. Fishers have nowhere to sell their catch.

Earning enough to qualify for employment insurance is unlikely with the possible amount of catch impacted by ice delays, dwindling plant operations and rock bottom prices.

The government has all but ignored the fishery. This multi-billion industry is under direct federal jurisdiction. Yet, the minister has not addressed what she is going to do to help. Instead of heeding calls to make meaningful changes to provide immediate relief to fishers, such as ending the collection of licence and monitoring fees, the government seems to be hoping that the problem will go away.

Instead of taking a proactive approach, investing in product research and development and industry infrastructure, such as lobster holding bins, for example, the minister refuses to take action on these serious issues. Instead of investing in the fishing industry through rationalization and restructuring projects, such as what the United States is doing, the government is squandering opportunities to impact competitiveness.

In response to a question I asked the minister last month, the minister tried to pass off a marketing announcement, which consists of funding that is worth less than 1% of the industry's multi-billion dollar annual value, as some sort of plan.

While it is true that this marketing initiative will stand to positively impact the sector down the road, it does nothing to help the lobster fishers or crews today. The fact is that fishers of the lobster, crab and shrimp industry cannot break even in this economic climate with the prices so depressed, and their families are without any meaningful help from the Conservative government. The pressure on these families is mounting daily. Fishers and fishing communities have waited long enough for their concerns to be addressed by the government. They need real action now.

This is not a failed or unviable industry; it is an industry in the midst of temporary downturn. Now would be the perfect time to act by implementing government supported capacity reduction in warranted areas. Now would be the perfect time to reduce restrictive regulatory burdens and ensure cost savings to the fishery. Now would be the time to act in securing credit for the hard hit industry.

I ask the minister to recognize the serious problems in the industry and to start to address them.

7:10 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her interest in this issue. We agree with her that the current economic downturn has had a big impact on the Atlantic lobster fishery, like many industries across the country. However, the current challenges facing the lobster industry are multi-faceted.

What we are confronting is a difficult marketplace as a result of the state of the world economy. The issue is not with the fishery. Rather, the problem is with weakened demand, which contributed to a significant drop in prices. Foreign demand for lobster has nosedived. As a result, the prices paid to harvesters have also fallen, and as a result, the industry is hurting. Our government understands that. That is why our government is working hard to help the lobster industry deal with the current decline in market demand.

On May 22, the government announced we would be directing $10 million from the community adjustment fund to the Atlantic provinces and Quebec for activities to improve marketing, assist in innovation, and develop new products and technologies in the lobster industry. This funding will be provided through ACOA and Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions.

Federal and provincial governments and industry are currently collaborating to create a lobster development council that would be aimed at increasing domestic and international market access, as well as addressing market access issues, including obtaining eco-certification.

On February 27 of this year, the Atlantic lobster industry received a significant marketing boost of over $455,000, largely provided under the Canadian agriculture and food international program and with contributions from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This funding has resulted in world-class market promotion of Atlantic lobster in international markets.

The current economic situation is also creating difficulties for the industry to access capital. To help alleviate this challenge, budget 2009 provided many measures that improved access to credit. For example, the Business Development Bank of Canada received $250 million in capital to increase the market's lending capacity. Budget 2009 also invested a further $100 million in the bank to create a time-limited working capital guarantee.

To support greater collaboration between the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Export Development Bank and private sector financial institutions, this government established the business credit availability program and allotted up to $5 billion in new financing.

Canada's economic action plan also established a new Canadian secured credit facility to support financing vehicles and equipment.

Budget 2009 increased the Business Development Bank's paid-in capital limit to $3 billion so that it can benefit from future injections of capital.

The consensus among stakeholders is that conservation cannot be assured unless the issue of excess harvesting capacity is addressed in a meaningful way. The solution must necessarily involve self-rationalization. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made licensing flexibilities available to harvesters in order to promote reductions in catch capacity and to support economic viability. These flexibilities are lobster partnering, where two licence-holders can work the same boat; and licence stacking, which is investment by a single licence-holder in a second licence.

This government also continues to work with lobster harvesters on market access issues. This includes increased calls for fishery eco-certification and product traceability, among other things.

The lobster industry is a cornerstone of the regional economy. This government will continue to work with other federal departments, provinces, harvesters, processors, distributors and others to collectively improve sustainability, competitiveness and long-term viability of the lobster industry.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, there is an expression in Newfoundland and Labrador about who knows the mind of a squid, and I think it applies to the comings and goings when the Conservatives are looking at what they are going to do to help a very serious problem within the industry, and not just lobster.

We have right now in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador a shrimp industry worth millions of dollars that has not yet opened. We have a crab industry in peril with very low prices, with the possibility that the catch the fishers are bringing ashore will not even be able to be processed. We have inshore workers, inshore fishers, offshore fishers, plant workers, and processors united in calling for the government to do something to assist the industry.

I appreciate what my colleague is talking about with some investments in marketing dollars. I support the investments in marketing dollars. However, that is for next year. When we do not have catch to market, it is not going to put food on the table of fishers or plant workers today.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments, but she is ignoring all the things that we are doing, many of which I have outlined in my previous comments. Under the community adjustment fund, we are supporting communities impacted by the current economic downturn. She needs to see how that is going to play in the industry and help real people.

We are working with provinces and industry to develop a lobster development council to address the key issues here that are causing the lower prices, facilitate access to capital, develop a marketing campaign with the provinces, and reduce lobster harvesting capacity and costs through self-rationalization and other ways.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the lobster industry and is determined to work with all stakeholders to help them both weather the current economic storm and improve the foundation for a sustainable future.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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 7:18 p.m.)