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.


Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question.

Frankly, it is very important for governments to strike a balance between social investment and fiscal responsibility.

First of all, the Liberal government did a great deal to reduce and eliminate the deficit. Also, it invested considerably to help seniors. At the same time, it negotiated agreements with all the provinces and territories for child care, for instance. In fact, the Quebec model has been very effective.

I agree completely with the hon. member. It is important to make investments to help our seniors. That is exactly what the future Liberal government will do. It will make the investments we indicated in our announcement yesterday. We announced a very extensive program for seniors.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have two comments.

First, the member wonders why the Conservatives have no vision when they go through the cabinet room and there is a saying above the door related to vision. The reason is that they do not have all their cabinet meetings in that cabinet room, only some of them, because they are hiding from the press. All governments have.

In fact, we did an access to information to find out where the rooms were in which they had met and they refused to answer. They said that it was for security. It is kind of laughable that we all meet in public every day here, every MP, but that it would be a security concern if a subset of those had met in past meetings. That shows how secretive the government is.

My second comment is related to the announcement yesterday. It really helps rural Canadians to have care at home because sometimes they are hours away from institutions and are not be able to visit family members or take them for medical tests. A lot of costs are involved. This is a tremendous program that has been praised across the country and it is particularly helpful for people in rural and northern communities.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member represents a riding with a lot of rural and small town constituents, similar to my riding, and the fact is that access for rural Canadians to medical care for seniors is extremely important. For rural Canadians who have sick or critically ill relatives, it is absolutely essential that we make these kinds of investments, particularly with issues such as Alzheimer's, dementia and some of the other health issues that are only going to grow with the shifting demographic.

We need to make these plans for the future. It is good social policy and very important economic policy.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to congratulate my Liberal Party colleague who is now leaving the chamber, but who has been appointed official opposition finance critic. I would like to congratulate him on that appointment. He is joining us on the Standing Committee on Finance.

The Standing Committee on Finance is very important since that is where we will try to see what is in Bill C-47. It is actually somewhat discouraging. As one of my old employers said, it looks a little messy. This Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, is like a dish of spaghetti or a bowl of chowder. There are some measures from the budget— and I will talk about them in a moment—and there are measures concerning personal income tax, charitable organizations, business taxes and energy production companies. These are areas where it has been decided it is time to implement certain measures. In the standing committee, we look at those measures and we try to refine them and clarify them. At the same time, the government is taking the opportunity to bring up old business, if I may put it that way.

There are no specific clauses, but other measures have been mixed in relating to personal income taxes or to businesses. So we have to look back in time to clarify some of those things. There are also other measures that are completely unexpected and surprising, things we have never seen. We do not know where they come from. That is how things work in this kind of bill. There are measures relating to individuals, businesses and governments. So if I may put it that way, what we have is a dog's breakfast of a stew or a bowl of spaghetti with all kinds of things thrown in.

So let us try to sort it out. Obviously, the Bloc Québécois voted against the budget as a whole. Do we need to explain why? Because we realized that all of this government’s economic policies since 2006 have been focused on the needs of Ontario and Alberta. The budget has a limited capacity, and when all the credits and budget measures are aimed at regions other than Quebec, we wonder what is left for Quebec.

We voted against the budget because we saw it contained nothing for forestry, for example. There were lots of things for the auto industry and the oil industry, but nothing much for forestry or aerospace. We could find almost nothing for the environment, and zero, zilch, nada for culture. They do not care about that. And also, coming from a very urban riding in the extreme south of Montreal, I can see that there are needs in terms of social housing and homelessness. For example, we can see that in Canada, in Quebec and in Montreal, women are hit the hardest by poverty.

So there was nothing in this budget. How is it that we can say there was nothing in this budget in terms of what we are experiencing, what we are seeing? Because every year, and I did this last year, we go on a pre-budget tour. We go out and see people. We go out and meet with groups, whether they be community groups, workers, employers or organizations. We go and see everyone and we consider and analyze their expectations.

Last year, during the parliamentary lockout decreed by the Prime Minister, I travelled throughout Quebec. I had just been elected and I visited the whole province. I am going to do the same thing again this year. In the Bloc Québécois, we have made up our minds that we are going to try and seek out, rediscover, and revisit every person and every region, and even go to a place that I was, sadly, unable to visit last year.

As the saying goes, a fault confessed is half redressed. I must admit that last year we ran out of time to visit Abitibi-Témiscamingue. I shall therefore take this opportunity, in this very important speech, to announce to the House that the Bloc Québécois’ pre-budget consultations will begin on October 27, 28 and 29. I will obviously be welcomed as only my colleague from this House, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, knows how. I will go and visit him in Rouyn Noranda. It will be a real pleasure to do so. Side by side, we can sharpen our pencils and take up our pens, and our Crayolas if need be, and do the sums right.

There are some positive things about the bill we have before us. There are a few strokes of genius in it. And yes, that does happen. It would seem to confirm the high quality of the officials in the Department of Finance of Canada. I used to be an official in the Quebec finance ministry, and I could see there were some particularly worthwhile people there, too. Therefore, we are likely to pass—rather, we are going to pass—a certain number of things. For example, in the area of benefits for children, the Conservative government has finally got its head around something that families face and has been a social reality in Quebec and throughout Canada for some time, and that is that divorce sometimes—alas, often—happens. Children spend one week at their father's home and the next at their mother's. The tax system was unable to keep up with this. In any event, apparently the tax credits for benefit repayments can be split between the mother's tax return and the father's. We cannot oppose that. And that is why the Bloc Québécois, with the rigour for which it is legend, will continue to support this measure. It is precisely why we will vote in favour of this bill, so that it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for consideration and, hopefully, further improvement.

The bill also includes another measure concerning registered retirement savings plans and registered disability savings plans. Again, it is a bit late, but better late than never. The bill allows the proceeds of an RRSP of a deceased person to be transferred to the registered disability savings plan of a family member. We are also voting in favour of that fine measure.

The bill also addresses the administrative burden on charities. In my riding of Hochelaga, there are a tremendous number of charities. Why? Because there is tremendous need and because these people and small businesses are worn out. They are limited by administrative obstacles and unbelievable administrative work. Sometimes some completely ridiculous things happen. For example, one requirement was that 80% of donations received in a year needed to be spent immediately. They wonder if it is possible to save for the coming years, accumulate some of the donations received during the year and keep them in reserve to build up to a larger operation the following year. That option will now be available. Again, even though this measure came later rather than sooner, at least it came.

However, these measures do not go far enough. For example, there is still the matter of the tax-free savings accounts and the $5,000 ceiling. It was said that any interest, capital gains or dividends earned on that $5,000 in capital would not be taxable.

Three years later, they realized that some shrewd people were depositing much more than $5,000. Those people had to pay a small penalty, but given that the interest, capital gains and dividends were tax free, it was much smaller than the financial gain. So, they woke up and decided to put a stop to this practice.

Last year, the Bloc Québécois made some very important recommendations regarding wealthy people who have TFSAs. We suggested to the government that the wealthy be taxed at a much higher rate. We proposed that taxpayers with taxable income of between $150,000 and $250,000 pay a 2% surtax. That was what we recommended and continue to call for. In addition, we recommended a 3% surtax for those fortunate enough to have taxable income of more than $250,000. Naturally, the government, with its Conservative policies, rejected our recommendations.

At the same time, we asked for special taxation of the huge bonuses paid to people who sometimes earn a lot of money in a year, not because of the particular circumstances of their professional life, but because they get an enormous bonus from their company. These people find themselves with a few million dollars in their pockets, and we wondered why they were not paying more taxes.

The Bloc Québécois continues to call for these changes, but the Conservative government is not budging. Why are we recommending this? Yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Finance, we discussed the fact that people are worried, and with good reason, about the deficit and debt. People wonder where the money will come from to pay down the deficit, which we would like to do. People wonder where that money will come from. It is called tax room. Is there tax room somewhere? The answer is yes. It is to be found among those who earn more than $150,000 per year. It is to be found among those who earn more than $250,000. There is surely a great deal of tax room among those who receive a huge one-time bonus or performance pay.

We also pointed out a certain number of choices that have been made. For example, over the next 20 years, $490 billion will be injected into the army. That amounts to more than one Olympic stadium for every member of Parliament, in other words, one stadium for every member of the House of Commons and every senator in the Senate. I know. The Olympic stadium is in my own riding of Hochelaga. Just imagine an Olympic stadium in every riding in Canada, not to mention all the additional seats in the Senate. There would even be some money left over. All that is going to arms.

Could we not do something other than this kind of nonsense?

The bill has a number of particularly intriguing things in it. For example, we certainly did not expect the government to confer new powers on the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in its proposal on the pension plans of companies that go bankrupt. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions of Canada would have a certain number of discretionary powers over pension funds. That is fine for funds under the federal system, but it is not okay for those that are managed under provincial systems.

Quebec and Ontario have their own pension fund management systems. We believe that the federal government has no business interfering with them. Is that surprising? Unfortunately not. I rise regularly in regard to the Autorité des marchés financiers in Quebec, which does a very good job together with all of the provincial securities commissions. There is a Canadian body—the Canadian Securities Administrators—which represents Canada on the international level. Then there is the International Organization of Securities Commissions. Just last week there was a conference in India. Who represented the Canadian Securities Administrators? The president of the Autorité des marchés financiers in Quebec and his colleague from the Ontario Securities Commission. That exists. These people did not go there to talk platitudes. They were discussing systemic risks. These are intelligent people who are dedicated to their jobs, but they are not under the federal thumb. That is why he is trying to take us there.

The bill is silent on a number of issues, such as Hydro-Québec. There is nothing on the $250 million that was lost to Quebec because of an administrative discrepancy between Hydro-Québec and Hydro One. Once again they are changing the equalization formula without any prior notice to the provinces. We are obviously against that.

There is nothing about relations concerning all the other issues. The government owes us $2.2 billion for harmonizing the GST and the QST 19 years ago. The government refuses to tax the rich and to abolish the tax havens used by the banks. It refuses to include some points, when we know that it could do things differently.

I invoked Standing Order 31, as we say, and spoke about the vote we had on the firearms registry. The vote was said to be close, but that was not at all the case. It was 153 to 151, but that was not close, because it was not the regions against the cities. How did Quebec members from the Bloc, Liberal Party, NDP and Conservative Party vote? They voted 83% in favour of maintaining the firearms registry and 17% against. In the rest of Canada, 61% of Liberal, Conservative and NDP members voted to abolish the firearms registry. This shows that there are two societies.

Back to the budget. If they want to establish an industrial policy for the oil and automotive industries, abolish the firearms registry, favour the rich and steal from the employment insurance fund, they can go right ahead. That does not reflect our values. That is why I returned to politics. We are here to draw attention to these differences and to say that we want to be good friends and good neighbours, but that it is too bad—we are leaving.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the hon. member's last comments. He is always talking about “us” and “them”. There is always this discourse about exclusion and differences, as though it were impossible to be different, yet equal. He always seems to want things to be mutually exclusive, suggesting that Canadians outside of Quebec think one way, while people in Quebec think another way. Yet we share many values, goals and ideals.

I wonder if my hon. colleague thinks that a federalist Quebecker like me is less of a Quebecker than he is.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would very much like the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier to join us. He is one of us; he lives in Quebec. He is just as much of a Quebecker as I am, and as those across the floor are.

It is in the Bloc Québécois' nature to include everyone, even the hon. member for Bourassa. I understand he is not here today, since he is replacing Cammalleri tonight. He wants to be everywhere. The hon. member for Honoré-Mercier is included in “us”. I say “us”—royal or not—and “them” to distinguish us from the rest of Canada. I respect this country, which is one of the greatest countries in the world, but I cannot identify with it. In order to have the right to be different, I say yes to Quebec. We both have beards, which makes us different from most men in Quebec. We are no less Quebecois than any other Quebeckers because we have facial hair. I want to be very clear: the hon. member is just as much of a Quebecker as I am.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the spirit of the bill, but I will first congratulate my colleague from Hochelaga for his fine presentation, which clearly expressed Quebec's interests, objectives and priorities.

Part 7 of the bill concerns federal-provincial fiscal arrangements and the total transfer protection. Does my colleague not think that compensation for the sales tax harmonization could have been included in this part of the bill, given that we have been talking about it for a number of years?The government says it will not negotiate in public—and I agree on that—but we could have had the tiniest hint of negotiations toward an agreement like that with Ontario and the other provinces.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, with whom I work very effectively on the Standing Committee on Finance.

In terms of tax transfers, I said earlier that this bill is like a chowder, a stew, a dog's breakfast or a bowl of spaghetti. These tax transfers could have been included in the bill. The Government of Quebec, which I respect, and our colleague, Quebec's finance minister, say that Quebec is owed $2.2 billion. If I were him, I would add “for the last 19 years”. What is the current value of the $2.2 billion that we have been owed for 19 years?

With the modest interest rates over these past 19 years, it would now be worth over $5 billion, or the same amount that the Canadian government will transfer to Ontario and British Columbia, which harmonized their sales taxes. Those two levels of government had productive discussions. The governments of Ontario and British Columbia have acted responsibly. They are exercising their jurisdiction, just like the Quebec government, but they will receive $5 billion. I would have thought that Quebec would have been offered at least a hint of a solution, even just the amount it has been owed for 19 years. If the government were honest, it would also pay the accrued interest, which, in this case, is more than the capital.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, would the member address the situation on what I believe was his tacit approval of the bill and the vote to follow. He then described it as a tangled mess, a spaghetti fashion which I think was the terminology he used? I fail to see how he will untangle this mess. What appeals to him the most that would allow him and his party to vote for it?

Second, with regard to the EI solvency issue, the board has been created and $5 billion has been set aside to put solvency within the way employment insurance is handled. The actuaries, many experts and many papers have stated that in order for this to be solvent, it has to be at $15 billion. Perhaps some of his amendments could deal with the EI as well as the idea of pensions. Could the hon. member comment on that as well?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to propose amendments, the bill needs to be studied in committee. Therefore, we must voted in favour of it. I do not know what he wants; does he want me to vote for or against it?

Yes, it is like a bowl of spaghetti. The Bloc Québécois is thorough and when we look at something, we are not narrow-minded. We do not vote against a bill because it was introduced by the Conservatives or the Liberals. If a bill is good for Quebec and deserves further analysis, we vote for it. And I would like to invite him to come to the Standing Committee on Finance to study this bill.

I hope that the Liberals will also stand up and all be present in the House if they want to vote against it. As for employment insurance, I believe that the Liberals have nothing to learn from the Conservatives when it comes to shoplifting.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I have seldom heard my colleague talk at the Standing Committee on Finance. I sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, so unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to hear a speech as brilliant as the one he just gave. I will be pleased to welcome him to Abitibi-Témiscamingue on October 18, with all due honours.

That said, I have a question for my colleague. I have not heard that there is anything about employment insurance in Bill C-47. Did the government forget to dip into the employment insurance fund, or is there a more devious way of doing so? How is the government going to go about it?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry I did not visit my colleague's riding last fall. I have never had the chance to sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights or the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but I probably will one day.

There is nothing about employment insurance in the bill. The budget does allow the government to continue plundering the fund. We introduced a bill last week that would improve employment insurance and give better support to workers who lose their jobs and need employment insurance. Obviously, we voted for this bill, just as some of the Liberals did. Others, including the Liberal leader, did not know whether to vote for or against the bill.

If we had the power to make all our own laws and control all our own tax revenue, we could give the workers of Quebec an employment insurance plan tailor-made for Quebec. That plan would probably be different from Canada's employment insurance plan. That is okay. Canadians are entitled to their own plan, and so are we.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures.

The New Democratic Party does not support the budget policy of the Conservative government. Although we agree with the Bloc that this is bad budget policy, as surprising as this may seem, we are going to vote against it because we are against it.

If I understood my Bloc colleague’s comments correctly, he is going to vote for the bill because he is against it. I have not yet grasped all the nuances of his assertion, but if I understood it properly, it is because it is like spaghetti. That is his word, not mine. I imagine he does not know which end of the spaghetti to start at. We see it as a bitter pill, and we will not allow the Conservatives to force their bitter pills down our throats. This comes straight out of the budget policy they have been forcing on us for five years.

Governing means setting priorities. If we take an example from this very day, the FADOQ network was present was in Parliament today. Liberal, Bloc and New Democrat members tabled petitions signed by thousands of people calling on us to start looking after the seniors in our country.

What is the Conservative government’s priority? It has found $12 billion for fighter planes, and it has given the poorest seniors, who are receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement, a $1.50 increase. That is the Conservative government’s priority.

The NDP opposes the budgetary policies of the Conservative government, so it is no surprise that we are going to be voting against Bill C-47 which is there to put into force the budget the government brought in last year.

The Conservatives are finishing their fifth year in power this fall.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear!

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is worth bearing in mind the reasons that we now have, and we will see if they applaud this part, the highest deficit in the history of Canada. I do not hear any applause; I was just checking. They broke the previous Conservative record for the highest deficit in the history of Canada. I am waiting for the applause; it is not there.

How did we get there? It is because of some of the things in this budget bill.

For example, after the Liberals stole $50 billion from the employment insurance account, transferred it over into general revenue and made that money disappear so it would not be there when the workers needed it when the grave crisis hit in the fall of 2008, the Conservatives in this budget bill, now that the money is gone, are just putting double locks on the door.

Let us look at that, because a lot of people when they hear that will say, “What does it really matter? It was government money before; it was in the EI account. Who cares if Paul Martin and his gang of merry men transferred it over to general revenue? We cannot really say that was stealing money. It was all government money before and it is still government money now”. But there is a big difference.

The money that was put into the employment insurance account was put in by every single company and by every single worker. Why is that important? Since the Conservatives arrived, they have been destabilizing the erstwhile balanced economy that we had in this country, that we had built up with painstaking work since the second world war: a strong primary sector with timber and mining, and a strong secondary transformation manufacturing sector, and of course more and more, an important service sector in this country.

When I say they have tilted it, they have skewed that formerly balanced economy, what they have done is this. They have created the fiscal space to hand over $60 billion in tax decreases to Canada's wealthiest corporations. The argument on the other side often comes back that it is not just to the wealthiest corporations, that all corporations got those tax reductions.

That is a false argument. If a company, especially in mining, forestry or manufacturing, in those areas was not making a profit, of course it did not pay any taxes. If it was losing money and it did not pay taxes. How could it profit from a reduction in taxes? It did not.

Who got the money? Companies like Encana, those that are piling up the poison goo behind the world's longest dikes near the tar sands.

Let us look at what is happening in Europe right now with one dike holding back the poison from one aluminum factory, maybe one one-thousandth the volume of what is behind the longest dikes in the world at the tar sands. Imagine what is going to happen inevitably the day they break, because we have never internalized the cost of the tar sands. As they have their phenomenal profits the reduction in taxes goes to them as more windfall. Hundreds of millions of dollars go to just one company like Encana since these tax reductions have come into place.

How does that connect with the employment insurance account? Easy. Every company, whether it was losing money or making money, was paying into the EI account. That money was brought into general revenue to create the fiscal room to accord those tax reductions for the richest companies. In effect, that money of the workers in those companies that were losing money in manufacturing in Quebec and Ontario in particular, was being paid over to the people in the tar sands and to Canada's chartered banks. That is what the Conservatives' policy has been all about.

Look at the chartered banks with $15 billion in profits for the first nine months of this year, but we should not worry as they are planning to share it with each other. They are going to give themselves $7.5 billion in executive bonuses for the first nine months of this year. You heard that right, Mr. Speaker. That is what the Canadian banks are doing. The government continues to sit on its hands and wants to give them further tax reductions.

Now, every time we hear the Liberals with their new-found conviction that these tax reductions are a bad idea, we should remind the Liberals that they have voted every step of the way for the $60 billion in tax reductions for Canada's richest corporations.

We should remind the Liberals that they voted on the last budget to scrap the Navigable Waters Protection Act. They voted with the Conservatives to remove a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value. I know that sounds surprising, but that is what the Conservatives put in the prior budget bill. At that time the Liberals actually stood up and voted with them as the Conservatives were scrapping the environmental assessment program and policies and practices in Canada that were competent, that existed. It is a little different this time. The Liberals are doing the snake walk toward the back of the room and they are hiding behind the curtains. They do not even have the courage anymore to say they are backing the Conservatives. They simply absent themselves in sufficiently large numbers to allow the Conservatives' budgets to pass.

The effect of all of this has been to produce the greatest budgetary deficit in Canadian history because when the incredible crisis hit in the fall of 2008, the cupboard was bare with regard to employment insurance. The NDP was there, thank goodness, in the summer of 2009 to demand that the government increase the money available for EI and we got over $1 billion of that added to what was there. My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst in New Brunswick worked so hard on that file. The leader of the NDP had meetings with the Prime Minister to make sure that the money was there in the toughest times for workers.

Now we are looking at the perfecting of what the Liberals put in place in terms of robbing the employment insurance account. It was a bit rich a couple of weeks ago to hear the Prime Minister accuse the Liberals of having emptied the EI account. All we have to do is read what is in Bill C-47 to realize that now that the Conservatives have taken the money out and closed the door, they are locking the door. They are perfecting the theft that was indeed perpetrated by the Liberals, but the Conservatives are the ones who are completing the job.

There is no way for the Conservatives to avoid that any more than the Conservatives can hide from the HST, the new sales tax that is being added. There are seniors in places like Timmins and Sudbury right now who are realizing that they are going to pay $50, $70 or $80 a month more, stretched out over the whole year, for their heating. What the Conservatives do not understand is that when people are on a fixed income, they do not have another $80 a month. Yet the Conservative government here in Ottawa with the McGuinty Liberals in Toronto are foisting that tax increase on our poor seniors, especially in the northern areas who are going to pay it as heating oil prices go up as this new tax comes into force.

That is one of the reasons the NDP is proposing that we remove those taxes immediately.

It is also one of the reasons that we look at what the government is doing. It has money for the military. It has tens of billions for military equipment, but it does not have a penny for seniors.

To govern is to establish priorities. The Conservatives have been clear in their priorities. Take care of the banks. Take care of the oil companies. Do not internalize the costs of the tar sands. Let them sell oil artificially low, bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars, pushing our Canadian dollar ever higher and making it increasingly difficult, with the high Canadian dollar, to export our goods, setting up a vicious circle of job losses, especially in the industrial heartland of Ontario and Quebec.

Before the current crisis hit in the fall of 2008, according to Statistics Canada, we had already bled off 300,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, in those provinces in particular. How did that happen? The policy of allowing the blind, unlimited, uncontrolled, and environmentally dangerous exploitation of the tar sands brought in a large influx of U.S. dollars and pushed the Canadian dollar ever higher. Not only was the government giving them the tax breaks out of the money that had been put aside by those manufacturing firms, it was killing them as it continued to apply those policies.

As for the internalization of costs of the tar sands, it is a simple proposition. It is one of the basic tenets of sustainable development. If someone said that he or she had a factory that was producing widgets for a price far lower than that of other companies, people would want to visit the factory and see why they were doing so well. They would notice that they were pushing a lot of stuff out the back door. They would want to see what they were up to. But the owners would keep putting them off. In this case, people pushed and went to the back door, and they realized that the owners were taking all the garbage from their factory and putting it into the river in the back. They found that this was not the real price of the widgets, because the owners had not been paying the normal cost for disposal of the waste from the factory.

That is exactly what we are doing with the tar sands. We are bequeathing to future generations a $60-billion debt for next year, and, at the same time, we are bequeathing them the obligation to clean up the mess from the tar sands, which is one of the principal causes of the destabilization of our economy.

Do not get me wrong. Anyone who has looked at the economics realizes that, long-term, the tar sands can and will be one of the sources of wealth in this country. If exploited correctly, in a manner that is environmentally, economically, and socially responsible, according to the principles of sustainable develpment, the tar sands can be a source of wealth.

However, what we are doing now is the antithesis of sustainable development. We are behaving like a third world country. We are exploiting the tar sands too rapidly. The Americans have asked us to put in too many pipelines too fast, pipelines with names like Trailbreaker and Southern Lights. These are the pipelines that are being put in. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the application of the proportionality rule means that we could not even reduce what we are sending to the Americans through these new pipelines, unless we reduce proportionally the same amount that we are getting from them.

Therefore we continue this unbridled exploitation of the tar sands, but we have never internalized the costs. We have never paid for the garbage we are putting out there, either in greenhouse gas emissions or in what is being held behind those dikes, namely, seas of unimaginable and unnameable poison. This is not being taken care of.

If we had at least said, “From now on, you are going to develop the tar sands, paying the full cost, so that you do not leave it all on the backs of future generations”, it would have been sustainable. But we are not doing that. We are leaving it to future generations. We are skewing the balanced economy by killing off the manufacturing sector, because of the high dollar, which is directly related to this policy of the Conservative government.

Bill C-47 is to a large extent a reflection of the Conservative government's tendency to make sure that the military, the oil companies, and the banks are taken care of first and foremost. Meanwhile, seniors are left in the lurch, with new taxes on their heating oil. The government is betraying its essential nature. It is not there for Canadians. It is not there for people. It is there for the institutions, the powerful ones that put it in power and want it to stay there.

That is a difference in policy. That is a difference in priority. But at least it is clear. What is not clear is why members of the Bloc say they are against it, but will vote for it. What is not clear is why the Liberals talk against the tax decreases for the richest corporations when we know that they voted for them every step of the way. It was a shocker to a lot of people in environmental groups to see the Liberals vote with the Conservatives to scrap the Navigable Waters Protection Act, a century-old piece of legislation that was a model of sustainable development and way ahead of its time.

This year the Conservatives are scrapping the process of environmental assessment in Canada. The Conservatives would never get away with it unless the Liberals were complicit. How are the Liberals complicit? They take enough of their people behind the curtains at every vote on the budget to assure that it is passed.

The most disturbing departure from wise social policy is their removal of a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value, something that has always been considered a tenet in our society. The Conservatives provided steep fines for any union that would defend a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value, and the Liberals voted with them.

I am trying to find a synonym, because there are limits to what we can say in Parliament, to describe what the Liberals did when they voted to remove a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value. This is contrary to what they say they represent, but they could have voted against it, preserving this important right.

Soon thereafter, the Liberals presented a private member's bill that is so far down the list it has no chance of ever being adopted. Here we have an example of speaking out of both sides of the mouth. The Liberals vote with the Conservatives to remove a woman's right to pay equity, to equal pay for work of equal value. Then, when they get caught, they table a private member's bill that they point to as proof of their support for pay equity. When it counted, when they could actually have done something about it, they were not there. But when it comes to presenting a private member's bill that will produce no effect, because it will never be adopted, they are there to position themselves.

That is what the Liberals have always been about in this country, positioning themselves. They have a leader whose writings were the source of consolation for the George Bush White House on the use of torture. They termed it “enhanced interrogation techniques”. What came out of George Bush's mouth a couple of weeks later? Enhanced interrogation techniques. Who gave him that terminology? The illustrious professor from Harvard who is now the head of the Liberal Party of Canada. He is the same person. He is not somebody else with the same name. He is the same guy who wrote in the New York Times that Canadians were a bunch of wusses for not getting involved in this great war that they were planning in Iraq.

That is the Liberal Party. The Liberals are always positioning themselves and posing as people who believe, as their name would tend to suggest, in liberty, in liberalism, in a vision of openness, but every time it counts, they vote with the Conservatives to take away the rights of citizens, to decrease the taxes of the richest corporations.

What it comes down to is that every time the Liberals had an opportunity to do something real to stand up for rights and preserve the balanced economy we had built up since the Second World War, they were absent, or even worse, they voted with the Conservatives.

More recently, they have adopted the clever trick of taking turns hiding behind the curtains. We see this, for example, every time a bill is brought forward to prevent the use of scabs in labour relations. Those on the extreme right wing of the Liberals—always the same ones—rise and vote against social legislation to prevent the use of strikebreakers. That is the sad reality of the Liberal Party these days. It is a good thing that as we see the right wing crumbling in Quebec, the right wing is crumbling in the Liberal Party, and the only social democratic party in Canada, the New Democratic Party, is still here to speak for the people, to talk about social, economic and environmental equity.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, my question has more to do with the parliamentary secretary or the government than it does with this member's speech. This morning the parliamentary secretary talked about TFSA and the situation the government has found itself in with people making over-contributions. The government is stopping the over-contributions.

The question I have is, what is the government doing about tax havens? We recently discovered that last year 100 people were putting money in tax havens in Liechtenstein, and 1,800 were putting money in Swiss tax havens.

What effort is the government making to recover some of this money? Has it recovered any money at all?

I would also like to know the state of arrears in income tax and GST. Do businesses owe millions or billions of outstanding GST and taxes that are not being collected?

What is the amount of the overdue accounts that finance is dealing with, and what efforts are being made to collect from those accounts and from tax havens?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, the numbers are mind-boggling.

The OECD estimates that $6 trillion is held in OPEC jurisdictions around the world. The Tax Justice Network in Great Britain calculates it at closer to $10 trillion. Canada is losing tens of billions of dollars as a result of people hiding their money offshore.

I am happy to announce that my colleague from the Bloc, the member for Hochelaga, made a proposition in the finance committee that we should start hearing from people like Donald J. Johnston, the former head of the OECD. The Conservatives added that they wanted to hear from the OECD itself.

Always ready with a helpful suggestion, we had it adopted that we bring in Michael Wilson, a former Conservative finance minister. Michael Wilson is an interesting name to see. Everyone is talking about the HSBC scandal right now. But in the UBS scandal, which was when people started to realize how widespread all this was, there was an allegation that there was an identical practice going on here in Canada with UBS. Who was the spokesman for UBS in Canada? Michael Wilson.

We are going to have the pleasure of speaking with MIchael Wilson in the finance committee. We want to make sure that when Canadians are looking at a $60-billion deficit everything has been done to collect taxes owing. When we make the simple algorithmic calculation of how many people it takes to do the collecting and how much it brings in, it is disturbing to see that the Conservatives are firing 200 tax collectors who could have been bringing in that money and working on it.

The only country in the OECD to have worked backwards in having people take money out of the country into OPEC jurisdictions is Canada. Which government did that? The Conservative government. Two budgets ago, it actually made it easier for Canadian companies to take money out of the country and leave it in tax-free jurisdictions, the better to bring it back.

When we look at what was done with the income trusts of Canada's richest families, allowing them to take it all offshore and bring it back untaxed, we realize that for too many years what gets decided in this House in respect of taxation has been heavily skewed in favour of the richest. And it always falls on the backs of average Canadians.

Only a few bucks a year can actually be saved with a TFSA. The fact that the government is closing a so-called loophole there shows that once again that, whenever it has to do with the average Canadian, the government is more than willing to act immediately. I am not saying the loophole did not have to be closed, by the way. It is appropriate to do it, because it was aggressive tax planning. It was slipshod public administration. They had made bad calculations, and they did not realize that it was actually going to be cheaper to pay the penalty and over-subscribe.

The government's priority, as usual, is to take care of the richest in our society and let the average Joe pay the price.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the government's tough approach to white collar crime has not achieved much of a result over the last few years.

The United States has successfully prosecuted and imprisoned 1,200 white collar criminals, whereas in Canada I believe there were two convictions, both against the same person. Since the government is going to spend $9 billion developing new prisons, it seems like a bit of overkill for that one white collar criminal who has been put in jail.

Certainly, the whole government is dealing with a case of misplaced priorities on a massive scale. I would like to ask the member for his comments.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, since most of the policies of the Conservatives are based on conservative urban legend, it is easy to understand how they can come up with billions for prisons for unreported crime.

The member may remember the press conference with the Minister of Public Safety. He said that there were actually lots of criminals out there. But when asked to prove what he had just said, he said he could not because so many of the crimes were unreported. When asked how he would know the crimes were committed if they were unreported, he said that there must be lots of studies on this. Then he turned beet red and left the press conference. End of story.

It is part of Conservative branding, but their branding is being done with public money. Canada does not need billions of dollars' worth of new prisons. We had a good prison farm program where people could get back to work, learn the value of a day's work, and apply it as part of their rehabilitation.

The Conservatives do not believe in rehabilitation. They want to position themselves as being opposed to rehabilitation, which brings us back to a similar situation in the United States. There is a high rate of recidivism in the United States, because people feel they should go all the way if they are facing stiff time. The Conservatives are bringing us to that.

To stick with one of the themes of our interventions this morning, Canada had a balanced approach. Yes, real time for real crime. Yes, severe mistakes need to be punished. If we want to get people back into society, we have to invest to make sure they do not go back to prison.

The only policy left for the Conservatives is to build prisons for people who commit imaginary crimes for ideological purposes. It is insulting to see the government spending billions of dollars on prisons, almost $10 billion, when we look at how little they are spending on real things. We see seniors having to pay extra for home heating oil in northern Ontario, and being given $1.50 extra on their guaranteed income supplement. It is insulting to see billions of dollars going toward prisons and more than $10 billion for fighter aircraft that were bought without even a public tender process that might have allowed us to get the best bang for our buck.

That is the Conservatives. It is sheer hypocrisy. They talk a good game on public administration. But then they scrap the census to make sure they do not have the information to administer social and other programs correctly. They are always tipping their hand.

For ideological reasons, the Conservatives are poisoning the possibility of good public administration. They simply do not believe in government. They do not believe in applying social and other programs for the public good. They would rather destroy the source of information and have press conferences where they evoke imaginary unreported crime to justify a decision that had already been made, a decision that was totally unjustifiable.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I am always interested to hear my friends in the NDP bemoan the closure of the prison farms.

I am curious about whether the hon. member can site a single example of an individual released from prison being employed in the agricultural industry. Would he not admit that most people released from prison end up in cities where farm husbandry skills are of limited value?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, if I wanted to invent such people, I could not have done any better, homoconservatensis. These members stand up and pour out of a series of non sequiturs.

The prison farm program taught the value of a day's work, the value of working as part of a team. For a lot of people who had never been able to integrate into society, we provided them with rails that would guide them back into society through productive work.

I cannot believe the ignorance displayed in the question: to say that they did not learn animal husbandry. Enough said. Let that member get back to the barn.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Kings—Hants for sharing his time with me during this debate on Bill C-47.

This bill gave the Minister of Finance a golden opportunity to present new ideas, better management practices and a true vision for Canada's future. Instead, this bill is a simple administrative process that does not offer any hope when so many Canadian families are having a hard time making ends meet.

Canada's economy shrank because this borrow-and-spend government has failed to stimulate substantial economic growth. The Conservatives refuse to attack the real economic challenges Canadian families are facing, including record-high household debt, the exorbitant cost of post-secondary education and home care, and the insecurity of pension plans for those still working, not to mention the loss of 150,000 full-time jobs.

Statistics Canada indicated that our gross domestic product dropped by 0.1% in July, which translates into an overall contraction of the Canadian economy, while the unemployment rate in our country is 1.9% higher today than it was during the last election.

After a decade of surplus budgets under Liberal governments, the Conservatives put Canada into a deficit even before the recession by increasing government spending by 18% in their first three budgets. Their current record deficit of $54 billion is expected to get worse.

The Conservatives' wasteful and rather irresponsible spending is the primary reason this record $54 billion deficit is getting worse.

The Prime Minister's solution seems to be to borrow $20 billion more to offer a tax break to the most profitable businesses—a gift we can hardly afford to give—while ignoring the needs of Canadian families who are in utter distress.

How have things improved for Canadians since 2006? Have these billions of borrowed dollars really helped restore Canadian families' sense of confidence in the future?

During the last election campaign, this government promised Canadians that it would never go into deficit. Since then, its road map has been littered with waste that keeps piling up.

Here are a few figures that provide a snapshot of out-of-control spending: a record $130 million on shameless self-aggrandizing publicity; $1.3 billion for a 72-hour photo shoot at the G8 and G20 summits, money that was used to buy anything and everything from a fake lake to light sticks; $10 billion to $13 billion on U.S.-style mega-prisons where all those “unspecified criminals” will be sent—the ones who will never be brought to justice—and this at a time when the crime rate is going down; $16 billion for a botched agreement to purchase stealth fighter jets involving an untendered contract with no guarantee of jobs for the Canadian industry; and $6 billion in yearly tax breaks for the country's most profitable companies, a tax cut well beyond our means.

Can anyone deny that this frenzy of waste demonstrates that this government has absolutely no sense of the very real financial concerns of middle-class families that are having an increasingly tough time making ends meet?

Canadians expect their government to use public funds responsibly to provide the services they need to improve their quality of life. I understand that it is difficult to strike a balance between spending and saving in the midst of the current economic uncertainty, but that is what an effective and compassionate government must do.

Bill C-47 is the latest in a long line of opportunities this government has botched.

A look at part I of the bill—which is at the beginning—and at the Universal Child Care Benefit Act, is enough to convince anyone.

What a flagrant example of a missed opportunity. This is the kind of inaction that shows us the extent to which Conservative values fly in the face of good public policy.

The purpose of the proposed amendment in this clause of the bill is to divide the already meagre $100 benefit given to parents with shared custody, with the result being that each one will receive $50. May I remind the House that this benefit is also taxed at year's end?

The government had an opportunity to raise this amount to a level that would really have helped Canadian families absorb the cost of child care. Instead, it chose to split it further, thereby forcing families into a Solomon-style dilemma.

The fact of the matter is that this $100 child care benefit is just one drop in an ocean of ever-increasing expenses weighing our families down. Depending on where you live, the cost of child care can range from $200 to over $1,000 per month.

On average, one month's child care fees in Ontario's Chatham region total $826, while a similar child care service in Winnipeg, Manitoba, costs $395. I should point out here that the provincial government capped fees in that province.

The cheapest city on the list as far as child care is concerned is Montreal, where average fees total $205, but let us not forget that this amount is based on a law that caps the cost of child care at $7 a day in Quebec. In Quebec’s case, the province had to intervene in order to make the cost of child care affordable for all families.

Here are the average costs in other cities across Canada: Regina, $415; Fredericton, $420; Saint John, $430; Yellowknife, $605; London, $640; Kitchener, $650; Toronto, $800; and here, in Ottawa, $860.

We must not forget that those are averages, and that in many cases, the costs are much higher. Let us not kid ourselves: there are certainly cheaper places, but as with anything else, you get what you pay for.

With this bill, the government had a chance to increase the amount of the child care benefit, but it did not do so. Instead, it spent $130 million on brightly coloured signs and flashy ads. That $130 million could have funded over 21,000 full-time day care spaces for a whole year to help struggling Canadian families, including many single parents who need to provide day care for their children.

The government had a choice: spend money on flashy billboards, or offer real support to families that are struggling with child care issues. We now see this government's fundamentally mean-spirited priorities. It is disappointing to say the least.

Another clearly missed target in the bill is the complete and utter dismissal of the real and urgent problems affecting the Champlain Bridge, the most travelled bridge in the country and an essential link between Montreal, the South Shore, the Eastern Townships and, lest we forget, the United States.

The Conservative government chose a band-aid solution by investing $212 million over 10 years to repair the bridge structure. Unfortunately, when I looked into how that money has been spent up until now, I discovered that, as with most other projects undertaken through the Conservative government's economic action plan, the money does not seem to be there.

The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited had planned on spending nearly $14 million in the first year on “urgent” repairs. But the first year is over, and the corporation does not appear to have spent even $10 million. If the bridge needs urgent repairs, why is the money being sent over in dribs and drabs?

When I wrote to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in April 2009 to ask about the possibility of repairing the bridge in a way that would allow light rail transport or other forms of public transportation, he replied with the following:

First, I would clarify that provincial, territorial and municipal governments are responsible for the planning and operation of Canada's various public transportation networks. The Government of Canada does not intervene in the planning, management and operation of these networks.

That may be so, but when they are on a bridge managed by a federal corporation, the federal government has to take action.

Allocating money is helpful only if that money is actually spent on the projects for which it was allocated. I suppose the Conservatives have become so good at public relations that they think all investments end at their communications unit.

Who is blocking this important funding? It is obvious that the Conservative government is washing its hands of the Champlain bridge and no longer wants to talk about how the work is progressing. I just learned that a vital study on the future of the bridge or a secondary route is still being held up. Consortium BCDE was awarded a $1.397 million contract in late September 2009 to study the feasibility of building a new bridge in the Champlain bridge corridor. The study was supposed to have been completed in 12 months, but now its completion date has been postponed to December 2010.

I was very eager to see the results of this study so that we would finally have a real plan, a real vision for the future of this vital route over the river. Patch jobs are not the answer, as anyone who takes the Champlain bridge regularly knows. The completion of the study has been postponed for three months. Can anyone assure us that there will not be any more delays?

In its annual report for 2008-2009, The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated promised in its objective 8 to “carry out a feasibility study to construct a new bridge along the Champlain Bridge corridor” and said it anticipated awarding the contract for the study in July 2009. The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated awarded the contract two months late, and now it seems we will have to wait three more months for the results. The people on the south shore of Montreal are fed up with the delays with their bridge. I am disappointed to see that it does not seem to be a priority for The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated and even less so for the Conservative government.

A real penchant, though, for finding the silver lining in every cloud led me to examine the bill from stem to stern in the hope of finding a hidden gem. I came across part 4 of the bill, which deals with changes to the Bank Act. When I saw this short section, which is near the end of Bill C-47, I was eager to see whether the Minister of Finance had kept his word and included the changes I had suggested in the House.

On October 7, 2009, I introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-457, which made some important changes to the Insurance Business (Banks and Bank Holding Companies) Regulations to ensure that insurance brokers in small and medium-sized firms benefited from a standardization of the rules of the game. Ironically, on the same day I introduced this bill, the Minister of Finance stated that the government intended to prohibit Canadian banks from using the Internet to promote and sell insurance on their websites. This measure was in one of the four parts of my bill. I saw in it a sign that the government had reacted because I introduced my private member’s bill.

I therefore wrote to the Minister of Finance on October 19, 2009, asking him to support my bill so that the regulations could be changed once and for all.

The minister finally replied to my letter on July 29, 2010. I do not wish to dwell on the length of time it took for the minister to reply, but nine months seems excessive, particularly since he stated, on October 7, 2009, that not only would he write to the banks about putting an end to their practice of selling insurance on their websites, but also that his government would adopt a law to that effect.

In his letter of July 29, 2010, the minister advised me that “draft regulations” would soon be pre-published in the Canada Gazette to address the issue of banks using the Internet to promote and sell insurance. We are still waiting for those draft regulations. I had hoped to find these changes in Bill C-47, but, unfortunately, I have been disappointed as they have not been included.

Since the minister did nothing more than offer lip service and make a few verbal threats, the banks have already responded by trying to promote insurance on cell phones and personal digital assistants, or PDAs.

My bill expands the prohibitions against banks selling insurance. It would prohibit banks in Canada from promoting insurance products in their branches and neighbourhoods, or on websites, ATMs, cell phones and PDAs.

Once again, Bill C-47 provided an opportunity to deal with this and other pressing matters. The Conservatives are good at making promises they do not intend to keep, and we are left, once again, trying to squeeze water from a stone.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, this bill is purely administrative. It does not contain a single substantive measure, much less an innovative one.

This was yet another wasted opportunity, another example of the laissez-faire approach adopted by the government which, time and time again, has shown that it is not interested in governing.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, in preparation for the 2010 budget, the Bloc Québécois did a pre-budget consultation tour in which 317 organizations participated.

We had the opportunity to speak with the main players in Quebec's development across the entire province. We gathered and studied all of the proposals, which we then submitted to the Conservative government. The Bloc Québécois's budget suggestions were consistent with the expectations of Quebeckers, and if the government had implemented them, they would have ensured that Quebec came out of the crisis prosperous, sustainable and green.

Unfortunately, the government missed the opportunity to properly address Quebec's economic, social, environmental and financial needs. They have shown once again that, as far as Canada is concerned, it is as though Quebec does not exist. The Conservatives, backed by the Liberals, established policies geared to the needs of Ontario and Alberta, to Quebec's disadvantage. Despite all of the wonderful Conservative promises made in 2006 about taking a new approach with Quebec, the Conservative budget has not met needs of Quebec's economy.

Whether we are talking about the forestry or aerospace sectors, the environment or culture, Quebeckers' priorities have been completely ignored.

For example, the automobile industry, concentrated in Ontario, received $9.7 billion whereas the forestry industry, which is so vital for Quebec's regions, received only $170 million.

When it comes to the environment, which for all intents and purposes was ignored in the budget, the Conservative government put $1 billion towards developing nuclear power, which benefits Ontario, Alberta and oil companies. Do we need to repeat that they already enjoy generous tax benefits?

In addition, no new funding was announced for the cultural sector, which is essential to the development of the Quebec nation and its economy.

What I find the most upsetting in this budget is that it ignores the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, which is currently keeping our seniors in poverty. It also ignores the need to deal with the issues of social housing and homelessness.

The Bloc Québécois voted against the budget because it was unfair for Quebec, but does not object ideologically to all the measures resulting from it. We would rather look at the merit of each measure included in this bill during discussions in the Standing Committee on Finance and then support those that will help Quebeckers and those that we previously proposed.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of a number of initiatives in this bill. We must admit that some are acceptable, including measures to improve sharing child tax benefits. The government agrees to pay half to each of two parents who have joint custody. The bill also lightens the tax burden on beneficiaries of a registered disability savings plan, a plan designed to ensure the financial security of children with severe disabilities. It also reduces the administrative burden on charities and some small businesses, and it tightens the rules on the TFSA to prevent tax avoidance. What is more, companies will stop benefiting from double deductions for stock options.

That is where the good side of the current bill ends. The Bloc Québécois has many reservations about this bill. It confirms the Conservative government's desire to spare rich taxpayers at all cost and have the workers and the middle class paying off the deficit.

We also see that the government will continue to treat stock options like capital gains for ordinary taxpayers. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that only half the income derived from stock options is subject to federal tax.

The Conservative government could show fairness to the workers and collect $1 billion in tax by cutting off this gift.

Businesses are not being asked to pay their fair share to increase government revenue, except that they have to make source deductions to ensure that employees with stock options pay their taxes.

This bill also attests to the Conservative government's inertia with respect to the environment and the fight against greenhouse gases. Only one environmental measure is included; it encourages the production of clean energy.

The government is ignoring the Bloc Québécois' urgent calls concerning equalization payments and increased transfers for education and social programs. It is also disregarding our recommendations on income security for retirees.

I would like to go into greater detail about some of the measures in the bill that the Bloc Québécois wants to improve in committee.

First, I want to address the measures regarding income tax on charities, as included in part 1. The government proposes changing the rules on sums that have to be spent on charitable activities by repealing the rule on charitable spending, changing the rules on capital accumulation, and strengthening the rules against tax avoidance.

The Bloc Québécois believes it is vital that charitable organizations be able to focus on their activities, rather than on fundraising. Accordingly, we supported the campaign to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of publicly listed securities and private equity holdings to charities.

The proposed measures could reduce the amount of administrative red tape that charities have to deal with. However, the issue of funding these organizations remains largely ignored by this government. The survival of these organizations is especially important given that the government has slashed spending on social services.

When it comes to international aid, we cannot help but be concerned by the major withdrawal and the politics of fear imposed on NGOs by this government. This withdrawal is particularly apparent in the case of organizations whose positions do not correspond to the government's viewpoints.

In budget 2010, the federal government announced its plans to cap expenditures for development assistance, thereby confirming that it would not make the effort needed to achieve its target of 0.7% of GDP.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the important role of charitable organizations in Quebec society and around the world. Child care centres, volunteer organizations, regional recycling depots and NGOs working in international aid all need predictable, long-term funding in order to fulfill their respective mandates.

Prior to budget 2010, the Bloc Québécois demanded that the federal government stop extending certain programs on a temporary basis and stop being so secretive about its intentions regarding the funding of organizations. In doing so, the government creates uncertainty among the most vulnerable, our community groups and the charitable organizations that help them.

The Bloc Québécois is also calling on the federal government to implement a realistic plan to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GDP for international assistance as quickly as possible. If the federal government does not increase its budget for development assistance, it will greatly impede the vital work that is being done by charitable organizations in the developing world.

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a parliamentary mission to two of the poorest countries in Africa—Benin and Burkina Faso. Parliamentarians in these countries told us that they appreciate the quality of Canadian aid. However, they expressed serious misgivings about Canada's recent decision to no longer consider them to be priority countries since they are not included in the new list of countries that are a priority for our international aid. That is the result of the government's disengagement.

Part 3 of the bill deals with measures pertaining to federal-provincial fiscal arrangements. The purpose of these piecemeal arrangements, made at the behest of the federal government, is to facilitate tax sharing by Canada and Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois believes that it is high time to come up with a vigorous mechanism ensuring that Quebec receives all taxes paid in the province. For that reason, we are asking the federal government to initiate talks with the Government of Quebec in order to create a single tax return in Quebec, on the basis of an agreement similar to that for the GST, for all taxes paid by Quebeckers.

Since 1991, the Government of Quebec has collected the goods and services tax for the federal government, which compensates it for this service. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec should collect all income tax. Not only would corporations and individuals save considerable sums every year, but the reduced cost of tax collection would lead to recurring savings that, in turn, would lower pressure on public finances. Maintaining two separate structures for tax administration forces Quebeckers to pay very high administrative costs. The introduction of a single tax return by the Government of Quebec would save hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing duplication.

Part 7 of the bill, which also deals with federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, addresses total transfers, including equalization payments. The Quebec government is the loser with this bill, as it was with the 2010 budget, because the Conservatives have maintained their decision to unilaterally cap equalization payments.

Since the equalization envelope is now capped, the total amount of equalization will be calculated in line with economic growth, which will mean Quebec will lose several billion dollars over the coming years. Moreover, during this period, Quebec’s share may decline. If Ontario’s relative wealth drops in relation to Quebec’s, Ontario will receive a bigger piece of the pie while Quebec’s piece will get smaller.

There is nothing in this bill about the formula affecting a segment of Hydro-Quebec’s revenue either, which deprives the Quebec government of $250 million.

Lastly, there is nothing planned with regard to education and social program transfers. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs to return to the 1994-95 indexed level. Such an increase would mean that Quebec would receive $800 million more annually for the funding of its social programs.

The government is flatly refusing Quebec’s urgent calls for an increase in federal transfer payments, in particular in education. The growth in health and education transfers will be compromised as of 2014-15 since the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act does not allow for any further growth in these transfers beyond 2014.

Furthermore, there is no compensation resulting from the harmonization of Quebec’s sales tax under Bill C-47. Even though Quebec has been unanimously calling on the government to provide financial compensation of $2.2 billion for the harmonization of its sales tax, this has been denied. And yet, total compensation of $6.8 billion was allocated to Ontario, British Columbia and three Atlantic provinces.

As far as the main transfer payments to Quebec are concerned, the federal government must reverse its decision to unilaterally modify the equalization formula, thereby ensuring Quebec receives the money to which it is entitled. The federal government must do away with the equalization cap and treat Quebec’s water resources fairly when calculating equalization.

Furthermore, the federal government must increase the Canada Social Transfer. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs in order to return to the 1994-1995 indexed level.

Bill C-47, like the 2010 budget, completely disregards the economic situation Quebeckers find themselves in.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the Conservatives continue to fail to make this an opportunity for Quebec. The 2010 budget implementation bill includes several positive initiatives, but it is clearly not a harbinger of any fundamental change in direction on the part of the Conservatives.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned several issues, a mixed bag of all kinds of things, from the forestry sector to the auto sector to EI. However, I would like to ask him specifically about pensions and how we can help. I know he has many workers in his riding who, similar to mine, are currently living on pensions that are in jeopardy. They were called defined benefit pensions. However, because they are unable to recoup a lot of the costs when they wind up, they are not valued the same as they were before. Could he comment on that?

I also want to talk about equalization. Being from Newfoundland and Labrador, we are in a blessed position now where we do not take equalization because we are considered to be a have province, according to the per capita formula. Right now Quebec receives money from the equalization program, of which it wants more. If he truly believes Quebec will become the independent nation he hopes it will be, what will that do to average citizens of Quebec once the province achieves that independence? Will it chose to raise taxes or cut services?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Equalization, which he brought up, refers to the government's redistribution of wealth. Under the principle of equalization, the have provinces give part of their wealth to the have-not provinces. The purpose of this policy is to balance wealth. There are calculations that have to be done and checked each year to ensure that they are accurate.

My colleague made reference to Quebec independence or sovereignty in his question. I think that if Quebec became a sovereign nation, there would be no more talk about equalization. There would be no more discussions about the amount of money a given province should receive. When a nation is proud of itself, its skills and its wealth, it can govern itself by keeping all its own tax revenue instead of giving half to another government that does not necessarily redistribute it according to the same priorities.

I talked about how a quarter of the taxes paid by Quebeckers had been used to help the auto industry. Quebeckers wound up subsidizing Ontario's auto industry. We never opposed that because it is important to Canada's overall economy, but it has to be said that Quebec is contributing to all of Canada's spending and wealth.

If Quebec became independent, we feel that by keeping all our own tax revenue instead of redistributing it to suit the majority of Canadians—who never have the same priorities as Quebec—we could strike a budget that would meet the needs of Quebeckers.