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House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and bring forward once again on the floor of the House the situation with the Sydney Harbour dredging project.

To recount, this question was asked back in May when there was an opportunity that presented itself to realize something for which the people in the broader Cape Breton area had been advocating for a number of years, and that was the dredging of the mouth of Sydney Harbour.

At that time, a contractor was in a position where he was able to book time and schedule the dredging. Hence, missing that window of opportunity would further drive up the cost of this project. The attributes of this project are well-documented and have been discussed in the House before.

I think the project will get done, but the cost will rise if the government continues to drag its feet on this. With the municipality on board and the province now committed to this project, I hope this project will get done.

More specific, what concerns the people in Cape Breton is this. We worked for a great number of years to have the tar ponds cleaned up. We had a legacy of steelmaking in Sydney, which had an incredibly negative impact on the environment. Therefore, we worked hard to get the money set aside so we could get the tar ponds cleaned up. That project is moving along, but still there are a number of years left.

The talk now is that the government might look at taking money out of that project and putting it into the dredging project, which would be a terrible mistake. We are this close to cleaning up the tar ponds. It would be terrible to mess with that money now. I ask the government today to make that commitment not to dip into the tar ponds fund for the cleanup, because the cleanup will happen.

The second issue is this. I recognize my hon. colleague from Restigouche and the great work he did as the ACOA critic. I would like the government respond as well to a piece of information he received under an ATIP, which indicated that the government had made $174 million in announcements through the Atlantic Gateway program. To date $788,000 have been spent, a fairly significant discrepancy.

Could the government explain the commitment to the dredging, without dipping into the tar ponds fund, and could it explain the discrepancy between the $174 million announced and the $788,000 spent?

5:35 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I do have to say that I am a little surprised that the member would raise this issue this evening. I am also surprised that it even made it to the late show because, of course, the late show is supposed to be for questions that were not answered in the House, and this question was very clearly answered in the House. The minister answered it very clearly and the hon. member decided not to hear the answer.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will answer it again. However, one question needs to be asked here, and the question specifically was on the dredging of Sydney Harbour, so the question does need to be asked, since the member got off on the tar ponds. I will say that it was a Conservative government that finally started the process of cleaning up the tar ponds.

However, with regard to the dredging of Sydney Harbour, one need only look at the 13 years that the member's government was in power to see that it never even considered dredging Sydney Harbour. If it ever gets dredged, I am sure it will be a Conservative government that does that as well.

I do thank the member for his question because it gives me an opportunity to come here tonight and perhaps straighten out some of the misunderstanding around this issue.The government recognizes there is a lot of interest. I have met with a number of individuals from Cape Breton on Sydney Harbour, so we recognize that there is a lot of interest around dredging Sydney Harbour. We also know that it is a complex and costly undertaking that requires the involvement of all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal, as well as the private sector.

The Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has had a very productive meeting with representatives from the province, and he will continue to work with them and any other stakeholders involved.

I would remind the member opposite, however, that our government has made historic and unprecedented investments in Cape Breton, and this is outside of the tar ponds, which was our government's initiative. We have 14 projects through the community adjustment fund worth $6 million, 41 projects through the recreational infrastructure Canada fund worth $2.9 million, 64 projects in the innovative community fund worth $22.2 million and $2.6 million investment through the Atlantic innovation fund. When leveraged with other levels of government and private investment, this becomes $4.5 million. I could go on and on.

What should be clear to the member opposite is that while the Liberals are busy playing politics with this issue, on this side of the House we are trying to get things done.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I received the same response from the member that I received from the minister that day, which is a total misrepresentation of history. In 2003, the money was allocated for the Sydney tar ponds. We went into a full panel review and the review came out bulletproof.

All those guys did was announce it. It would be like my paper boy coming and delivering the Cape Breton Post and taking credit for the editorial. Those guys cut a ribbon. The work was done, the money was booked and it was not borrowed money. It was budgeted money, the money that those guys have spent. It will be our children and our grandchildren who will be paying.

All I want to know is whether the Conservatives will clean this up. It must be cleaned up. They know it will be cleaned up. We will certainly clean it up. However, they should not be doing it with tar ponds money.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Again, Mr. Speaker, I cannot quite understand for the life of me where the hon. member is coming from, where he gets all his information, where the tinfoil is too thin and the conspiracy theories are flying left, right and centre.

I want to be totally respectful because we do share a common interest. We are both Leafs fans and he made an analogy to that in his question. I do not want to continue this on too long because the season opener is tonight. They are playing the Habs and no one would want to miss that, so I will bring this to a close.

I can honestly say that the member's new-found interest in dredging Sydney Harbour quite amazes me. The member's party sat in government for 13 years and refused to even consider dredging Sydney Harbour. He did not sit there for 13 years but his government did. I have been here since 1997 and during that time the only consistent advocate for the dredging of Sydney Harbour has been the MLA for Cape Breton North, Cecil Clarke.

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on May 14 I asked the government a series of questions related to the damage it has inflicted upon Canadians with respect to its economic mismanagement. The basic thrust was that the Conservative government operates on a policy of borrow and spend.

Canadian families are struggling with debt loads that even the OECD has found to be the highest in the industrialized world. While the government claims the economy has created jobs, the fact is that those jobs are either of short duration or of lower quality than Canadians require. As was mentioned in question period today, there has been a serious net loss of jobs since the Conservative government came to power.

The fact is that this government has been the biggest spending government in Canadian history. It has had the biggest deficit in Canadian history and it is growing. It has taken the country from surplus to deficit and seems to have no real direction.

We have a government that, instead of actually dealing with problems, somehow believes in the purchase of untendered stealth fighter aircraft costing $16 billion. We have a Prime Minister who is bringing on his staff an individual who represents interests that will benefit from the signing of the contract for that same fighter aircraft.

To sum up the mismanagement and how the government is borrow and spend, there are $16 billion for untendered aircraft, $9 billion for additional prisons, $30 million in additional costs for a census that will provide less reliable information, and a $6 billion tax cut for corporations that already pay the lowest corporate taxes as compared to much of the world.

Let us look at a sector that I know well, and that is the agriculture sector. Farmers in this country are leaving the industry at about 3,600 annually. The government said it would live up to its commitment when it advanced payments under the advance payments program as emergency assistance to the livestock industry. It committed that livestock producers would not have to pay back those moneys until “conditions improve”. Instead, the minister has now announced a payback. The government is insisting on a rapid payback, regardless of the kinds of circumstances producers face, and that is going to drive many producers into default.

This is a government that shortchanges our critical food inspection system. CFIA's own auditor has clearly pointed out that imported foods coming from other countries around the world do not meet the same kinds of safety standards as Canadian domestic foods do. Worse, Canadian producers are required to meet a regulatory regime in Canada, with production standards and the materials they have to use, that actually makes our farmers less competitive with imported products. That is wrong. It is time the government stood up for Canadians.

I again ask the government, why is it borrowing money from our grandchildren, basically, to give corporations cuts in taxes when they are already the lowest in the world?

5:40 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Malpeque for his rambling question. I guess it was somewhat on the economy. That is what I was prepared to answer.

Most of his comments here tonight were very much fact free. He alluded to a net loss of jobs since the Conservatives took power in January 2006. Let me set the record straight. It is publicly laid out that there have been 950,000 net new jobs since January 2006, coincidentally that is how long the Conservatives have been governing.

I would encourage that member to get his facts correct, because there will be some people watching this tonight who might actually think that the member had his facts straight when he did not.

I was very disappointed and a little sad to hear the Liberal member spew the tired Liberal tax-and-spend rhetoric that hearkens back to the failed economic policies of the 1970s. We all remember who was in power then.

It is a clear indication that the Liberal Party, especially under their current leader, has shifted to the extreme left of the political spectrum. We hear it in the Liberal leader's language and in the way he lashes out at the private sector. We saw it again this evening. They are lashing out at private businesses as if they are an enemy.

We see it in the Liberal leader's economic policies supporting tax increases, like the GST hike that they would like to put back; a carbon tax that was alluded to today; and punishment of job creators with higher taxes. Clearly, this is a Liberal leader whose unending devotion to a tax-and-spend philosophy would harm the Canadian economy and kill jobs.

However, this is not a debate about the Liberal plan to punish businesses with higher taxes, or a debate about the Liberal plan to hike the GST or bring in a job-killing carbon tax. This is a debate about jobs. The Liberals do not understand that the private sector creates jobs and drives Canada's economy. That is why they want to take more and more money away from businesses and from taxpayers in every part of this country, including in Malpeque, and funnel it into bigger Liberal government schemes.

That is a recipe for disaster. That is a recipe for driving away investment and killing jobs. I know the LIberal Party does not understand that higher taxes kill jobs and harm the economy, but it is a fact.

I ask the Liberal Party to listen to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which said:

Businesses are increasingly making decisions in a global economy, so it is crucial that the federal government remain visibly committed to reducing corporate tax rates. Staying the course on reducing the corporate income tax rate is essential to attracting investment, enhancing Canada's competitiveness and creating prosperity.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary, and it amazes me how the parliamentary secretary reinvents history.

It has always been Liberal governments that took Conservative deficits and brought back surpluses. The government that sits in power today was left with a surplus of $13 billion, and it blew it. It spent it all away.

What is it doing today? It already has the biggest deficit in Canadian history: $54 billion for this year and probably going higher. It is going to borrow and spend. It is going to borrow money to spend $16 billion for untendered aircraft. It is going to borrow that money from our grandchildren. It is a borrow-and-spend government.

I think it is time the government did something for middle class Canadians, for Canadians who want to care for their aging parents, something along the lines that the Liberal leader has asked for.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again, the member was rather fact free in his rebuttal and what I am assuming was a question.

I remind those hon. members who are still here about the dangerous tax-and-spend rhetoric that the Liberals continue to spew. Here is another fact: the Canadian Manufacturers reflected on what the Liberal Party's plans may be by saying:

Canadian business investment needed to sustain an economic recovery is threatened by [the] Liberal Party Leader['s]...pledge to scrap planned corporate tax cuts...I do not think we can afford the uncertainty right now if you want companies to make big investments in Canada.

According to respected academic Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary, “If the federal opposition parties get their way, these remaining corporate tax reductions will be put off, reversing our march to more job-creating”.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 5:50 p.m.)