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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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Local Food Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-579, An Act respecting a National Local Food Day.

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thank my colleagues for their indulgence.

This bill would give thanks to agricultural producers across this country by declaring the Friday prior to Thanksgiving national local food day. Passage of this bill would allow us to recognize and give thanks to those who produce the food that everyone across this country consumes day to day.

I hope my colleagues will support my bill. I also hope that they thank farmers in their local communities. We think of them often, but we just do not say thanks. As I sit down with my family this weekend and give thanks for my family and for this great country, I will also give thanks to all those involved in the farm community.

I hope all members will endorse my bill so we can recognize farmers at least one day during the year as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is always a nice lead-in when someone thanks farmers. As a farmer of 35 years, I would like to echo that as we do go into this weekend of thanksgiving. I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend with their families.

Back to the order of the day, I do want to take this opportunity to begin debate on Bill C-47, sustaining Canada's economic recovery act. This bill represents a key component of Canada's economic action plan, including many important measures from budget 2010.

This is a key piece of economic legislation that demonstrates our Conservative government's continued focus on the economy, as well as our strong determination and commitment to help sustain Canada's economic recovery. It is a recovery clearly supported by our economic action plan, with real support for families, consumers, businesses and taxpayers. We heard last week that nearly 23,000 job-creating projects across Canada, supported under the plan, are currently under way or already completed. The continued implementation of the economic action plan through economic legislation such as sustaining Canada's economic recovery act will help ensure Canada meets the ongoing global economic challenges head on.

Indeed, Canada has met the recent global economic storm with an aggressive and effective response that has served as a model for other countries to follow.

Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Doug Porter has declared that Canada has had “arguably one of the most successful stimulus programs in the industrialized world.

We likely will not hear that from the opposition, unfortunately. We also will not hear the opposition acknowledge that Canada has been performing relatively well compared with all other industrialized countries. The opposition seemingly only wants to talk down Canada's economy at every opportunity.

However, let us look at the facts. Canada is the only G7 country to have virtually recouped economic output and private domestic activity lost since the start of the recession. Canada is the only G7 country to have posted significant positive job growth since the summer of 2009, in fact creating almost 430,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Canada's total government net debt to GDP ratio is projected to remain the lowest by far in the G7. What is more, according to the IMF and the OECD, Canada is expected to be the fastest growing economy in the G7 over the 2010-11 period. Again, the opposition might not want to admit it, but this is the reality. Canada is in a relatively solid and enviable economic position compared with other industrialized countries. If the opposition does not want to take my word for it, which I am assuming it may not, it should listen to independent observers both at home and abroad. Let me read only a sample of the commentary that has appeared in recent months.

TD economist Craig Alexander stated, “The pace of Canada's economic revival stands out in the world”.

The Conference Board of Canada economist Glen Hodgson declared, “Canada is in a much stronger fiscal position than almost every other industrialized country”.

A Victoria Times Colonist editorial proclaimed:

The truth is that far from needing a lecture on financial management or sound public policy, Canada should be delivering one.... [T]he facts are plain. Our handling of the economic downturn has been an example for the world.

The Toronto Star, not normally known as a fan of our Conservative government, stated as well:

Canada has come through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression remarkably well--better than any other industrialized nation in the world.

Internationally, Canada has been held up as a model of strong economic leadership to follow.

The BBC said:

As Americans and Europeans face deficits and drastic government cuts, Canada's economy is recovering from only a mild recession.... The Canadians, it seems, have answers for even the toughest puzzles.... [I]n this economy, we all want to be Canadian.

The Los Angeles Times remarked:

[O]n such critical issues as the deficit, unemployment, immigration and prospering in the global economy, Canada seems to be outperforming the United States. And in doing so, it is offering examples of successful strategies that Americans might consider.... Canada's financial house is tidy and secure.

The OECD recently commented:

I think Canada looks good -- it shines, actually. Canada could even be considered a safe haven.

All that said, we cannot be complacent or smug. Uncertainty remains. Beyond our borders, the global economic recovery is far from secure. This is especially true in the United States, which is, of course, our largest trading partner, where grave economic challenges persist.

At home too many Canadians are still looking for work. Without a doubt, the economy must remain our priority. Canadians expect nothing less. That is why our Conservative government is focused on the economy above all. We are demonstrating this commitment by working to fully implement Canada's economic action plan.

We are demonstrating it through this, the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act, an act that would help Canadian families get ahead by, for instance, indexing the working income tax benefit, as well as by further strengthening federally regulated pension plans and allowing a 10-year carry forward for registered disability savings plan grants and bonds.

It is an act that would help cut red tape for taxpayers by allowing them to request online notices from the Canada Revenue Agency, registered charities with disbursement quota reform and job-creating small businesses by allowing them to file their taxes semi-annually instead of monthly.

It is an act that would help protect consumers by improving the complaint process when dealing with banks and the financial services industry.

It is an act that would close down tax loopholes by better targeting tax incentives for employee stock options and addressing aggressive tax planning related to tax-free savings accounts.

It is an act that would promote clean energy with an accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation.

In the time remaining, I would like to take a few moments to further highlight a few of the positive steps in this act that I alluded to a few moments ago.

First, I would like to spotlight the improvements we are making to the working income tax benefit, locally referred to as WITB.

Often low-income Canadians who want to enter the workforce face substantial disincentives through reduced benefits and increased taxes. To help low-income Canadians who want to work, our Conservative government introduced the WITB as an incentive to make work pay.

WITB has been successful, making work more rewarding for approximately 1.5 million low-income Canadians annually. Last year, we made WITB more generous by effectively doubling the support provided by it. Building on that action, the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act would ensure that WITB amounts would continue to be indexed to inflation on an annualized basis.

I note that WITB's introduction and recent expansions have been widely praised. For instance, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy called it an “important...addition to Canadian social policy...helping welfare recipients get over the welfare wall, and supplementing the earnings of the working poor”.

Even the Liberal Party's current finance critic, the member for Kings—Hants, has lauded our Conservative government's action. He stated:

The working income tax benefit...has helped many working families and increasing it further will contribute even more significantly to helping make work pay.

Second, I want to highlight how, in this act, we are making the registered disability savings plan, RDSP, even better for Canadians with disabilities and their families.

We know that Canadians with disabilities make significant contributions to our communities, and that is something we always look to support. Since 2006, our Conservative government has taken several important actions to that effect, including the creation of the RDSP. The RDSP helps parents and family members provide long-term financial security for severely disabled children.

The sustaining Canada's economic recovery act includes two proposals to improve the RDSP.

The first improvement to the RDSP, to which I alluded before, proposes to allow a 10-year carry-forward of the Canada disability savings grant and the Canada disability savings bond entitlement in an RDSP. This measure gives families even more flexibility, recognizing that families of children with disabilities may not be able to contribute on a regular basis to their plans.

The second improvement proposes to allow an individual who has passed on to have his or her RRSP or RRIF proceeds transferred, on a tax-free basis, to an RDSP of an eligible dependant child or grandchild.

These improvements have been well received by Canadians with disabilities and their families since we announced them in budget 2010.

Bank of Montreal Financial Group's Tina Di Vito noted that it was:

...a fantastic measure that will benefit people with disabilities and give their parents and grandparents peace of mind. ...the benefit will be huge. This will allow more people with disabilities to get the care they need. ...Canada is leading the world in showing how smart policy can help provide financial security and independence for people with disabilities.

Third, I want to look at how the disbursement quota reform in this bill will better allow registered charities to concentrate on helping Canadians in need rather than dealing with red tape.

All Canadians recognize the invaluable role that charities play in communities right across this country. Since 2006, our government has taken steps to support charities and the great work they do. For instance, we have exempted capital gains on tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities to public charities and private foundations.

We are now proposing to build on this with significant reforms to the disbursement quota for charities. The quota, which has not been significantly modernized in three decades, has become outdated and imposes costly administrative complexity and unnecessary red tape on charities. This has only served to take their time and resources away from their charitable activities. That is why we are proposing to eliminate all the outdated disbursement quota requirements except, justly, those related to the requirement to disburse a minimum amount of investments and other assets not used directly in the charity's operations each year.

Reaction to this move has been overwhelmingly positive, underlining its importance to Canada's charities.

The Community Foundations of Canada, representing nearly 200 community foundations, applauded it and said:

...a win-win situation—it has a dramatic impact on communities, making it easier for charities to serve people in need.... We applaud the government's decision to reform the disbursement quota policy.

I quote Imagine Canada:

...extremely pleased that the federal government has responded positively to our concerns about the disbursement quota. [It]...added layers of red tape and reduced flexibility in responding to the needs of Canadians and communities.

Finally, the Salvation Army expressed its support by saying:

...removal of the quota will provide The Salvation Army, one of Canada's largest charities, with increased flexibility.... [It]...will allow us to better respond to the needs of the people we serve in 400 communities across Canada.

Fourth, I want to briefly highlight a step we are taking in this bill to clamp down on a tax loophole related to the tax-free savings account, or TFSA. Since our Conservative government introduced the TFSA in 2008, it has proven exceedingly popular and has been called the single most important personal savings vehicle since the introduction of the RRSP.

The landmark TFSA, the first of its kind in Canadian history, has allowed Canadians to watch their savings grow tax-free, but late in 2009 concerns regarding the use of TFSAs in tax planning schemes were raised regarding inappropriate transactions and the deliberate use of over-contributions providing investments and non-qualified investments by a small group of Canadians to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Accordingly, we are addressing these serious concerns regarding the abuse of TFSAs and have closed these tax loopholes. This strong action to ensure Canadians pay their fair share of taxes has been loudly and widely applauded.

Tax experts, like Jamie Golombek, have underlined:

For the average everyday Canadian who is putting $5,000 a year into a TFSA account, these changes will be of absolutely no interest. It is a group of highly sophisticated traders and investors who are exploiting the rules. ...this is targeting those people making enormous amounts of over-contribution.

These are only four important steps of many in the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act that illustrate its importance and how it will help Canadian families and Canada's economy in the years ahead.

Clearly this act, as a key component in implementing Canada's economic action plan, would help keep our economy moving in the right direction. The act would help protect our economy against the ongoing global economic turmoil during this fragile period and keep Canada's economic advantage. As such, this legislation deserves the support of this entire Parliament.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my friend, the parliamentary secretary.

He talked about how much better off we are than most industrialized countries. He talked about how we have come out of the crisis quite well. He used different quotes, but he did not quote the average Canadian.

Today according to the OECD, average Canadians have among the highest debt per capita, almost $41,000. When we compare that with some countries that are in grave difficulty, like Greece for example, we find their debt per household is just over $30,000. Let us figure that out.

The member talked about tax savings accounts and all the government has done, and that is fine when the average Canadian has money to save. However, to come out of this debt, average Canadians have borrowed to survive.

What would the member say to all those Canadians who are so far in debt and who have indebted their future and their children's future? Where do they go from there? What would he say to them?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Scarborough Centre for that very interesting question.

What do I say to that? I say to my constituents and to all Canadians, thank goodness we do not have a Liberal government right now or we would be in a mess.

Personal debt, household debt, is certainly troubling. There is no doubt about it. However, for an average family of four it would be $3,000 a year higher if the Liberals had their way, perhaps more.

What I am saying is that we have reduced taxes for an average family of four by $3,000. That hon. member seems concerned about household debt. That would add $3,000 to that family's debt, a sizeable amount of money.

The most important thing that I think this hon. member has missed is the fact that we have created jobs. Many of those people would not be working if it were not for our economic action plan. There have been 430,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think what is very concerning for our party is the perception that the government is trying to portray itself as prudent at a time of recession, when it is blowing $17 billion on stealth fighters and $1 billion-plus mostly on pork barrel projects in the industry minister's riding, and it has chosen to build prisons.

In my riding of Timmins—James Bay, in Englehart, Matachewan and Kirkland Lake I meet seniors all the time who cannot afford to heat their houses. They have no other houses to go to if they cannot afford to heat theirs, because there is no plan for senior housing. They are being told that their guaranteed income supplement is only worth $1.55 a month. That is not even a Tim Hortons medium sized double-double.

Yet the government just recently announced a plan to spend between $2 billion and $10 billion on prisons, and the latest is that it is going to be $155 million to build 576 cells. That is $270,000 per prison cell, not counting what it is going to spend on prison guards and housing them. It is $270,000 on prison cells when senior citizens in my riding have no place to go.

Why is the government choosing to go with the politics of fear and wasteful spending over working to help alleviate the situation for senior citizens in northern Canada?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question the hon. member poses is about protecting seniors. That is exactly what we are doing, protecting seniors against criminals, protecting all Canadians against criminals.

Every Canadian has the right to walk down a street, be it day or night, and feel safe.

If it were up to the NDP, we would have as many criminals on the street as we do ordinary Canadians. That is not fair. We have hard-working Canadians who expect the government to show leadership and that is what we are showing. We are providing support for these individuals all across the country.

It seems to be upsetting my colleague across the floor that we are actually trying to protect Canadians both physically and financially.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is an important point of order. The member for Crowfoot says he thinks it is outrageous that the government be asked to build any kind of seniors housing. That is what he said, and I want that in Hansard record.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, that is certainly not what I suggested.

What I did suggest to the minister, as the member was heckling away, is that we do not believe it is the federal government's role to build everyone a house in this country.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. If the member for Crowfoot and the member for Timmins—James Bay want to carry on this conversation they are free to do so, but at the moment the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor is rising on a question.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if it gets any more exciting than that, we will have to start doing pay-per-view on CPAC.

I want to tone it down just a tad, if we could. The parliamentary secretary started off his speech by saying the opposition will not acknowledge the fact that we have one of the strongest economies. I will acknowledge that as long as he acknowledges the fact that the heavy lifting was done before 2006.

Let us put that aside for a while, that being said. I would like to get to the details of some of the provisions that pertain to this as it comes back to one particular issue dear to my heart, which would be pensions.

Not a lot has been raised about pensions in the past little while, only for the sake of many pensions that have been stranded through the system, but there is also another element of pensions that we are not considering. That is the people who are currently working as transient workers across the spectrum, meaning from eastern Canada travelling to western Canada. It is hard for them to start these pension plans that are embedded within a certain company.

Did the government consider doing something similar to a supplemental plan to the Canada pension plan in order for people to take it upon themselves to invest in their own pensions as a direct contribution method, nationally?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for a very interesting and great question. I would remind him that actually since 2006 we paid down almost $40 billion in debt. That is why we were in the financial situation in this country that we could afford to go into a short-term deficit.

However going back to the pensions issue, it is a good question because it was addressed in the finance ministers' meeting in Charlottetown in the spring, which put forward an idea about what we are referring to as multi-employer plans that would actually encompass those individuals that the hon. member speaks of, so that different companies in different industries could actually be part of a larger fund to be able to provide a pension fund for their employees.

It is a good question. We are working on it and we will have a report back from the officials at the December finance ministers' meeting.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan has time to ask a brief question.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that the government is protecting seniors against criminals.

Can he tell me if the government is protecting seniors against poverty? Government programs such as the guaranteed income supplement do not even provide enough money for these seniors to live above the low-income level or poverty line.

I would like to hear what he thinks about the current government's significant and serious shortcomings in this area.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have to reject the premise that we have done nothing for seniors. In fact, looking at all Canadians, since we have come to government we have taken nearly 950,000, just short of one million, Canadians completely off the tax roll, so they do not have to go through the process of paying taxes or are able to claim them back. That helps all Canadians. Less taxes leaves more money in their pockets for the issues that they deal with every day.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-47, the implementation act for budget 2010. When I speak to people in my riding of Kings—Hants in Nova Scotia or to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, they tell me they are worried. They are worried because they do not know how they are going to make ends meet. They have a mortgage to pay and they are barely able to make payments now. They are afraid of what is going to happen as interest rates rise. They are struggling to save for their retirement. Many of the people I speak with tell me they are struggling with the costs of higher education for their children.

At the same time, many of them are part of a sandwich generation, where they are not only helping take care of children but are also taking care of loved ones, elderly parents who are sick and need their time and their care. These Canadians are looking for a government to help them get through this, to partner with them, but the Conservative government has not been there for them.

Budget 2010 failed to address the challenges that ordinary Canadians are facing. It is a continuation of the Conservatives' borrow and spend policies, out of control spending, out of touch with ordinary Canadians, the borrow and spend policies that are doing nothing to create jobs, improve Canada's competitiveness, or strengthen our long-term economic prospects and opportunities.

In July, the economy actually shrank. Even more troubling, the numbers were down in the construction industries during the height of the traditional Canadian construction season. Why is this? Simply put, the Conservative government's infrastructure program on budget 2010 has not achieved what it could have achieved. It has not been working for ordinary Canadians.

Under the Conservatives' watch, decisions on these projects have been slow. All too often these decisions have been driven by politics, not economics. Under budget 2010, we have seen funding go to floating gazebos, a portable dance floor, a wine therapy centre, a glass canopy over a private business's swimming pool. This is a waste of tax dollars. This is not the type of investment that will make Canada more competitive in the global economy of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, legitimate projects have been delayed, and in some cases, refused. Communities across Canada are worried that they will be left with a bill for projects that are not done by the March 31 deadline. We are asking for the government to be flexible on that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated that between 25% and 50% of the projects will not be completed by March 31.

What I am talking about is not a new stimulus program or new funding required. It is simply for the Government of Canada to meet its commitments and promises already made under the existing pool of stimulus funds. What I am talking about is the need for the government to honour its promises to its provincial, municipal and community partners. People cannot swim in an 80% completed swimming pool. People cannot cross a 75% completed bridge, and people should not flush their toilets into a 90% completed sewage system, even in Halifax. So we are asking the Government of Canada for some flexibility to ensure that local governments and community groups are not left on the hook for incomplete projects because there have been delays due to federal red tape and inevitable delays due to the Canadian winter.

The communication agreements for these deals with municipal and community partners are almost laughably long. The Conservative government has been more preoccupied with tracking the advertising signs for each project and trying to locate these signs even with GPS than making sure that each project was on track and actually creating jobs. It has been more interested, in fact, in counting signs than in counting workers.

The Conservatives have tripled the budget for advertising to $130 million. They have a sign fetish. Tens of millions have been spent on signs for the stimulus package. There is a sign on McNabs Island in Halifax. Nobody goes to McNabs Island, but there was a project there and there is a sign. One could say it is the loneliest erection in Canada. But what has been the result of the Conservative stimulus package?

The fact is that construction numbers are down. Unemployment figures are actually quite high nationally, at 8%, which is two points higher than when the government took office. Youth unemployment is almost 17%. But those numbers do not tell the full story. In Canada, 200,000 full-time jobs have been lost. We are losing full-time jobs and they are being replaced by part-time work. So when the Conservatives talk about a recovery, what they are really talking about is a weak statistical recovery with a continued deep human recession.

Last year, Canada saw its first trade deficit in 30 years. That is troubling, because we are a small, open economy that depends on external trade for our wealth. To be buying more than we are selling is ominous for the long term.

Consumer confidence in Canada has dropped in each of the last four months. That reflects the fact that private and household debt in Canada is at a record high of $1.4 trillion. Each Canadian owes an average of $42,000 in terms of personal debt. As my colleague said earlier, this is worse than almost any other advanced OECD country. As interest rates nudge higher, Canadians are justifiably worried about how they will make ends meet and pay the bills.

It would seem that the Conservatives have run out of ideas. Either that or their ideology is preventing them from developing ideas, or perhaps they just do not believe in government. I have heard the discussion earlier on the tax-free savings account, which was developed under the Liberal government and implemented by this Conservative government. The WITB was introduced by a Liberal government and further developed by the Conservative government. We could say the Conservative government is a government of sound and original ideas, but unfortunately, its sound ideas are not original and its original ideas are not sound. One of those original ideas was to eliminate the long form census so that Canadians would not have to go to prison and languish away in Canadian penitentiaries on long form census issues, but I digress.

The fact is that Conservatives have failed to protect jobs with their stimulus. They have failed to protect jobs today, and more importantly, they have failed to create the jobs of tomorrow. What we have gone through and are going through is not an ordinary recession. What we are going through is a global economic restructuring. That is why it is important that Canada in its infrastructure investments not simply recover to where we were before the recession. That is not good enough, because the rest of the world has gone somewhere else. Wayne Gretzky, that great Canadian economist, once said that we have to skate to where the puck is going. That is what the rest of the world has done. Other countries have gone to where the global economic trends are going. They have focused on green investments. They have focused on scientific investment, on research and development, on modernizing the energy grid, on modernizing energy production and transmission, on investing in clean energy technologies so that they are competitive in the emerging global, carbon-constrained economy. Our competitors have focused their investments on science, technology and the green economy because they know that is where the jobs of tomorrow will be.

The Globe and Mail had a few things to say about the Conservative stimulus package. They called the Conservative stimulus package “a squandered opportunity”, and said:

[T]o throw billions into a hodge-podge of boondoggles and call it world-beating economic policy is a bit of a stretch

The Globe went further:

[T]oo much of the stimulus appears to have wound up feeding local egos, and wallets, without leaving an enduring economic mark.

Finally, it concludes that the stimulus package's legacy:

may be a swelling deficit that crowds out spending on the kind of infrastructure the country really needs.

A squandered opportunity indeed, in fact the Mandarin word for “opportunity” is the same as the Mandarin word for “crisis”. Other countries, our competitors, were careful not to waste a good crisis. South Korea invested 79% of its stimulus package in green technologies, creating 1.8 million green jobs of the future. China invested $218 billion of its stimulus funds toward clean environmental technologies. On a per capita basis, the U.S. put 14 times more money into green and clean energy investments than Canada, modernizing grid and building new energy production.

A more strategic approach in Canada could have been to help build Canadian competitiveness, a more energy-efficient Canadian economy, and a Canadian economy with a lower carbon footprint.

What could this have meant in terms of jobs? We could have created the jobs of tomorrow in this emerging green economy. Properly targeted, we could have greened the Government of Canada buildings, over seven million square metres of office space, creating green construction jobs across Canada. Properly targeted, we could have done more to help Canadians green their homes and to help Canadian companies green their companies and factories, which would have meant that after this recession, those Canadian companies would have been more profitable. Their bottom lines would have been bigger. They would have paid more business taxes because they would have been making more money. They would have employed more Canadians. Those Canadian households would have had more money at the end of the month to live on and to pay for their children's education. Any investment in reducing the energy consumption of a government, of its citizens and of its companies pays endless dividends for generations, notwithstanding the importance to the environment.

There was a real opportunity for us to have a game-changer here. This was a massive stimulus package and I fear it missed the mark and we will not know the degree to which it missed the mark until we see where other countries go in the next 10 to 20 years.

The 2010 budget provided no real vision.

A couple of weeks ago, the finance minister delivered a speech before the Canadian Club of Ottawa. Instead of offering an economic vision for the country, the minister debased both himself and his role as a minister of the crown by launching into a long partisan rant about the opposition. He was trying to distract Canadians from his bad economic record of waste and mismanagement, and he was trying to distract Canadians from the fact that the biggest spending, biggest deficit finance minister in Canadian history also lacks an economic plan for the future. He has a bad record and no plan for the future. He has no vision, no ideas to address the real concerns of Canadians. Canadians across the country were justifiably offended.

The National Post described it as “overcooked rhetoric”.

The Calgary Herald said:

Wave after wave of pointless and misleading provocation gushed from his podium before a Canadian Club audience which, except for the Conservative cheerleaders among them, appeared unimpressed by his fear-and-loathing diatribe. Eyes were openly rolling, whispers were exchanged under furrowed brows, groans could be heard when [the finance minister's] script soared over-the-top, which was often.

The Canadian Press said:

The attack before a Canadian Club audience, which lasted the better part of a 20-minutes, was received with stony silence by those in attendance.

Even L. Ian MacDonald of the Montreal Gazette described it as:

A clip and paste job directly from the Prime Minister's Office by the dark side of the Langevin Block

He went on to say:

Even Conservatives in the room were staring at their shoes in embarrassment

Finally, Don Martin of the National Post said:

How a government, which has emptied the public purse far into the future, ratcheted up the deficit to historic highs and bloated the bureaucracy to unprecedented size can stand for re-election as a conservative-friendly government is beyond me.

I knew those guys were not that progressive socially, and now I find out they are not even conservative economically. That is indeed unfortunate.

The fact is that the Conservatives inherited a $13 billion surplus from the Liberals, but the borrow and spend Conservative government increased program spending in its first three years of office by 18%. They spent the cupboard bare even before the downturn. In fact, they actually put the country into deficit before the downturn.

What are the borrow and spend Conservatives now spending hard-earned Canadian tax dollars on? They are spending $16 billion on fighter jets, without a fair tendering process; and $10 billion to $13 billion on U.S.-style mega-prisons despite the fact that crime rates are going down. Of course, we need those to lock up those unreported criminals who have been doing unreported crimes.

The Conservatives spent $1.3 billion for a 72 hour photo-op at the G20 and G8 summits that included $1 million for a fake lake; $300,000 for a gazebo and bathrooms that were 20 kilometres away from the summit site, so I hope they bought some Depends; $400,000 for bug spray and sunscreen; over $300,000 for luxury furniture; $14,000 for glow sticks; and millions on high-end hotels. If it were not so wasteful, we could find this funny. If Canadians were not working so hard to pay their taxes, they would probably find some humour in this. But it is tragic for Canadians who are barely getting by.

In budget 2010, the Conservatives are borrowing $6 billion to pay for corporate tax cuts during a time of deficit. We cannot afford these tax cuts. The Liberal government did cut corporate taxes and personal taxes, the biggest tax cuts in Canadian history, but it was during times of surplus. It is fundamentally different economics to borrow money today to pay for tax cuts than it was to actually provide tax cuts during times of economic surplus.

Last week, the Minister of Finance missed another deficit target. Forecasters are now expecting that the deficit will go even higher. Canadians have to wonder what they got for that $54 billion deficit. Has it protected the jobs of today? No, it has not. Unemployment is two points higher than when the Conservative government took power.

Has it created the jobs of tomorrow? No, it has not. Other governments around the world have invested in creating the jobs of tomorrow and positioning themselves to compete in the sciences focusing on the green jobs of the future.

What do Canadians have to show for this wasteful, visionless spending frenzy? They have fake lakes, floating gazebos and thousands upon thousands of advertising signs. The Conservative borrow and spend policies do not reflect the priorities of Canadians. A Liberal government would cancel the Conservatives' planned tax cut for Canada's largest corporations. We would do this to reduce the deficit and to invest in Canadian families.

Yesterday, our Liberal leader announced our family care plan. It is our plan to stand with Canadian families by helping family caregivers with the cost of caring for sick and aging loved ones at home. It includes a six-month family care EI benefit which would be similar to the EI parental leave benefit. It would allow more Canadians to care for gravely ill family members at home without having to quit their job. It would also include a family care tax benefit that is modelled on the child tax benefit. For low and middle income family caregivers who provide essential care to a family member at home, this would help ease their financial burden.

Those are the kinds of policies and the type of leadership that Canadians are looking for. This is the kind of compassion that Canadian families who are struggling to survive need.

Canada's Conservative government has been more focused on this week's polls than on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Today I have focused mainly on the Conservatives' fiscal and trade deficits but the most troubling deficit has been the Conservatives' leadership and vision deficit.

These are challenging times and it is during challenging and difficult times that countries and businesses need smart, visionary leadership. As the Conservative ministers go into the cabinet room, they may pause for a moment and look over the door where there is a biblical quotation that reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.

The nature and severity of the challenges faced by Canadians today in this global economic restructuring are so serious and so important that without real leadership a lot of the aspirations of Canadians for their themselves, their families and their futures will perish with the lack of vision they are getting from the Conservative government.

We often hear the Prime Minister use the excuse that we have a minority Parliament and that is why we cannot really get things done. I would remind the Prime Minister and the Conservatives that it does not need to be this way. Minority Parliaments have worked in the past. The Pearson minorities in the 1960s led to the Canada pension plan, medicare and bilingualism. The Pearson minorities were productive because the parties worked together to make things happen. There was co-operation, collaboration and respect.

The word “respect” is critically important because respect for Parliament means there is respect for the people who chose this Parliament. For the Prime Minister to say that he cannot get anything done, that he cannot have any big ideas and that he cannot really implement his plans for the country because of a minority Parliament is a cop-out. It shows a lack of respect for Parliament or a lack of understanding of Parliament.

If we are going to make this Parliament successful, we need to all work together and try to address this and ensure there is respect for this Parliament. We can get things done but it will take vision and ideas. The Liberal Party of Canada is offering Canadians compassion, vision and ideas and the real leadership it needs for the 21st century.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. He tried to prepare me in advance so that I might be interested in his comments.

However, I find it a little rich that a representative of a party, which voted wholeheartedly for the budget that offered nothing for energy savings and the environment, is criticizing that very budget. I will be watching very carefully how this member votes on this budget update.

I am glad the member mentioned that it was reprehensible that this budget cut all the programs for renewable energy and energy retrofits. With seniors suffering in this country and their energy bills mounting, I would have expected that this budget would have reversed that.

We heard some interesting news from the Alberta energy minister, Mr. Liepert, who said that he thinks carbon sequestration is not the answer. He said that it would be far too expensive and probably would not work, even though billions of federal and provincial taxpayer dollars have gone into.

Will the member respond accordingly with his vote on this budget?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I remember last September when the hon. member propped up the government at a time when it was not convenient for the NDP to have an election.

I know the hon. member has a history of environmental activism, which is why I cannot understand how she could have campaigned against putting a price on carbon in the last election. She knows that is one of the reasons that the environmental community across Canada has abandoned the NDP. She should also explain to the environmental community members why--

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I feel that it is necessary to clarify the record. At no time have I ever campaigned, nor have I ever spoken against, putting a price on carbon.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the NDP had a national campaign last time against a carbon tax that would have made a positive difference.

The NDP most recently came out with an astoundingly bad environmental idea to cut the taxes on home heating fuel instead of helping seniors and low income Canadians replace their energy inefficient furnaces to save them some real money and the environment. The NDP chose a cheap tax gimmick similar to the kinds of tax gimmicks the Conservatives chose.

Instead of actually helping senior citizens and low income Canadians cut their energy consumption for decades, for generations, they chose a cheap political tax gimmick more like what I would expect from the Conservatives. Those members are playing politics and that is why the environment--

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Huron--Bruce.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made many comments about green energy and the green economy. I have two specific questions for him.

Does the member and his party support federal dollars for offshore wind energy projects that may be located on our Great Lakes?

Also, does the member support the green energy act that the Liberal Party of Ontario has implemented in the province in which I reside?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think Ontario has positioned itself to be one of the most competitive long-term economies in Canada in terms of green energy, feed-in tariff approaches, as well as investment in clean energy, but more important, providing the fiscal and economic levers for Ontario's businesses, communities and citizens to participate in the green economy.

Do I support Ontario's direction in terms of its green energy policy? Yes, I do. In the short term, some of these things can cost money but, in the long term, they are real investments in the next generation of economy.

In terms of investing in wind or other alternative energy projects, generally, yes, I support those kinds of investments. However, I do think that some of the greatest areas for Canada are in the areas of clean conventional energy. For instance, in terms of biomass, if we look at the agricultural and forestry sectors and the capacity for them to become significant players in green energy, I think it is important and it is real.

I also happen to think there is still potential to invest in carbon capture and storage. In fact, if we look at the research of what the U.S. and the Chinese are putting in it, the opportunity is real in those areas as well.

In 20 years, 80% of the world's energy will still come from hydro carbon, so we not only need to invest in alternatives but we also need to cleanup conventional energy.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with our hon. colleague who said that it would have been interesting if the government's economic action plan had focused more on moving toward a green economy. But that was not the case; in fact, quite the opposite.

I heard our Liberal Party colleague talk about the importance of taking care of our seniors. Yet when I was first elected to this place in 2004, the Liberal Party was in power and we were calling for an increase in the guaranteed income supplement, as well as reimbursements to many seniors cheated out of their guaranteed income supplement for a number of years. Nothing happened. Instead, the Liberal Party at the time plundered the employment insurance fund, stealing from the unemployed, and that has continued under the Conservatives.

Last week we voted on Bill C-306. Unfortunately, most Liberals voted against the bill. With all due respect to the member, whom I know well, I have to wonder why he is talking about social measures. The closer they get to power, the more they seem to adopt the Conservatives' ideology when it comes to social programs.