House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

—a downturn in the Fort McMurray area, the MP for Fort McMurray would be more than happy that we went ahead and passed this bill into law.

The Liberal Party believes that the federal government can significantly impact regional economic development. That is why in 2005 the Liberal government at the time invested over $800 million over five years in regional development agencies across the country.

What is interesting is that the Bloc Québécois was the only party that voted against Bill C-9 in 2005, which aimed to create the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Mr. Kevin Page, has testified before the finance committee and assured us that the Canada Revenue Agency has the capability to implement these changes and administer them quite easily. The bill does not actually do much to promote significant job growth in the regions, but it is a beginning. So we should not lose sight of the fact that it could help to stop the bleeding in regions where jobs are available but are not being filled because of the regional geographic disadvantage.

Given that this government has no real strategy to promote the economic growth of the regions, this bill is a good option.

I believe that all members of this House should support it. Personally, I will support it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my deliberation on Bill C-288 by setting the stage. I was born in a town called Thompson, Manitoba, a town of 15,000 people. Like most of the people I went to school with who chose to pursue post-secondary education, I had to leave my home community. The closest place I could achieve a post-secondary education and follow my educational path was 800 kilometres away in Winnipeg.

Hundreds of young people leave my community and communities like mine every year. Most of them do not come back. They do not come back because they go to a place to get an education and they put down roots there, whether by meeting other people, establishing a family, finding a job or liking where they are. I was one of the few who decided to come back because it was important to me to come back to give voice to the exact issues we in northern and rural Canada face: The bleeding of our population and of young people leaving to pursue opportunities that might not be supported in our region; and the challenges that we face in accessing services that Canadians in urban centres take for granted, whether health care, child care, infrastructure, recreation or basic services that so many Canadians have in abundance in urban centres.

For me and my party this bill is about responding to one of the biggest challenges that rural Canada faces, which is about losing that capital, losing that most valuable resource, our young people, that human resource which allows our communities to continue to exist, to build and prosper into the future.

The bill is fundamentally about investing in rural Canada, and as the rural and community development critic for the NDP, I am proud to stand here to say that we are supporting our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and are certainly glad to see the cooperation of the Liberal Party. I am very dismayed to see the position of the Conservative Party, a party that claims to represent rural Canada and that in fact has members of Parliament that span, certainly, the prairie region. When it comes to a bill that looks to respond fundamentally to one of the biggest challenges we face, not only are the Conservatives not supporting the bill but they are also criticizing it, this innovative step that goes to the core of encouraging the retention of young people in our rural communities. Many of their constituents would be dismayed to hear that as well.

This investment in rural Canada is a beginning and ought to be one step in a broader strategy on how we continue to build our country. Many people talk about how urbanization is the new wave and that we have so many people not simply coming from rural Canada, but also others moving from other urban centres and people immigrating to Canada, all of whom are increasingly going to urban centres.

While that may be true, rural communities still exist. Rural communities exist because people have laid roots there and because some of the most fundamental economic drivers in Canada are based there. Resource extraction, whether mining, oil and gas, or the minerals found in soil, and forestry are based in rural Canada. So much of what our economy depends on comes from rural Canada, and without people living in these communities, that extraction, that economic driver, would not exist.

What we need to be looking at are steps to invest in our rural communities. Looking at encouraging young people to come back is a key step. This needs to be followed by other steps that we in the NDP have been fighting for for quite some time, and that certainly are based on the fundamental values that our party was built on, in terms of investment in health care, for example.

The disparities between health care services in rural Canada and urban Canada are shocking. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities published a report in 2009 that discussed how quality of life in rural Canada was less than in urban Canada, which is unacceptable. One of the main ways in which it is worse is health care.

I am saddened to stand here and say that I do not have a family doctor, like so many people in my community and my region. We have fewer doctors compared with our population needs. We have less ability to access services, and certainly when it comes to acute care and specialized services.

We also do not have child care. We have fewer child care spaces than many urban centres have per population. Many young people want to make a go and stay in their communities and work in the industries that exist around them, but without those child care spaces many of them, particularly women, cannot pursue their chosen paths.

We also have substandard transportation infrastructure in my region. I rose in this House last week to talk about how I represent communities that do not have all-weather roads. In the year 2010, I represent 22 communities that do not have an all-weather road, not because they cannot have one, but because the federal government has not partnered and not been part of an innovative strategy to look at that. I am pleased to hear it has heeded the calls from the province and, certainly, at the federal level, from advocates, to look at solution around all-weather roads. I hope we will be looking at this in the very near future.

Moreover, there is the issue of recreational infrastructure, looking again at the fundamental question of the quality of life and at the need for basic services that keep people in their communities and keep them healthy and, in general, allow these communities to grow in a much better way.

Bill C-288 is part of that step and the reinvestments that we need to be seeing in rural Canada.

I would like to respond to some of the claims that I heard from the governing side today and on other occasions.

Someone commented that this undertaking would be too expensive. Speaking of offensive, I think that statement is offensive, to use that same language. It seems to me that many investments in rural Canada would be seen as being too expensive. It is too far away and there are not enough people, et cetera.

A couple of weeks ago, we saw quite a substantial flip-flop by the Minister of Industry. Organizations in my riding and across Canada were told that the community access program, which allows them to access the Internet, which many Canadians take for granted, was going to be cut. A senior's organization, The Pas Golden Age Group in Manitoba, was told that it would no longer receive money to invest in accessing the Internet. Yet after substantial pressure, and I am sure significant pressure from its own constituents, the government turned around.

Was the initial claim correct that it was too expensive to invest in something as fundamental as Internet service in rural Canada? Once the Conservatives heard the voice of reason and how fundamental this was, it seems the government realized quite abruptly that a change of course was needed.

We certainly hope that similar sentiments will be applied to this bill, in recognition that this is key to way we look at building our rural communities and the future of our country.

The other statement that really struck me was the reference to certain regions being economically depressed. What is offensive about being called economically depressed?

I come from a mining community, and I know communities where generation after generation people have given everything for the benefit of not just their community and the company there, but also for their country. We need to turn around the language where people say that Fort McMurray or some other region in Saskatchewan might be seen as economically depressed. We need to change that language because in these communities we need to be looking at alternatives. We need to look at ways of supporting the diversification of those economies and at other opportunities, rather than letting people who have given everything to our country suffer.

One step in that support for rural Canada as it builds to the future, despite the economic situation, would be to support this bill. It is a bill that gives back and gives to the future of Canada's rural and northern young people.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.


Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to once again thank the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle for introducing and vigorously defending the bill which, as we all know, had reached the Senate before the October 2008 election was called. I am also taking this opportunity to thank Liberal members who have spoken so far, whether to address the first bill, namely Bill C-207, or this one, Bill C-288. I also want to thank NDP members.

The tax credit is for a graduate who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed his studies, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a region that is facing economic and demographic difficulties. The bill provides for a tax credit of up to a maximum of $8,000 to a young graduate, for a minimum of three years.

The purpose of this legislation is to curb the exodus of young graduates towards large urban centres, to encourage them to settle in regions to undertake their professional career, and to hire, for the regions' benefit, a skilled workforce.

The tax credit applies to an individual who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed studies leading to the awarding of a recognized diploma, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a designated region where he is going to settle.

At second reading, some members pointed out that the bill should be complemented by a comprehensive regional development plan. I certainly agree with this view, but Bill C-288 is a first step that will allow our regions and our regional businesses to hire and keep a skilled workforce.

I am very grateful to all those who have expressed their support here for this legislation, and to those who came to support us at various events, including the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec (FADOQ), the Liberal member for Honoré-Mercier, and the NDP member for Churchill, who were present at the press conference organized by the Bloc Québécois to support these measures. All these stakeholders expressed their support for this concrete and effective incentive, which consist in giving a tax credit to young graduates who settle in a designated region to work there.

A similar tax credit implemented by the Quebec government has proven its worth. The program was established in 2003, which means that it is almost in its eighth year. It helps new graduates settle in resource regions, the description used by the Government of Quebec. In the first year of the program, 2,000 young people applied for the tax credit; this number has since risen to 9,000. Some regions are beginning to feel the positive effects of this program. In my region, in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, migration is still negative but has almost reached zero.

Therefore, I am asking the members of this House to help our rural areas and to help our regions experiencing economic difficulties and losing population by supporting our youth. We must stop the population drain and the exodus of youth. These are two important issues in our regions. We must help develop processing industries by providing our businesses with access to the skilled labour force they need.

No one in the House would be surprised to hear me say that the regions of Quebec, and a number of regions in other Canadian provinces, are at the end of their rope and have been since long before the economic crisis. I am thinking about northern Ontario and British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Several parts of these regions have been hurting for years. It goes without saying that a tax credit to encourage young people to settle or even stay in a region would be greatly beneficial.

Our regions are going through a real crisis and the Conservative government is not paying any attention. I hope that this time the members opposite will have a little more humility and sensitivity and listen to the cry for help coming from the regions and the young people who live there.

I am especially disappointed in the Conservative members from Quebec and even more so in the two ministers from my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, who are very familiar with this measure that was implemented by the Government of Quebec in 2003, as I was saying earlier.

Again, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec, more specifically the hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and for Jonquière—Alma who, I repeat, are well aware of the importance of and benefits derived from this legislation and this program, to pass along the message within their caucus about the positive aspects of such a measure.

For those members who do not realize, the Government of Quebec is not the only one that has adopted such programs. The Saskatchewan provincial government has had a similar program for a few years, which gives a credit of up to $20,000 over a period of seven years.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's report mentions five Canadian provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—that have introduced incentive measures to attract young people to regions that are experiencing economic difficulties or that are losing young people.

The bill addresses a very serious problem. Many regions are in a period of economic distress, which of course is only increasing the trend of youth out-migration. Indeed, the further we go from the main centres, the more the population is declining. Quebec, like Saskatchewan, has taken measures to stem the tide. As I mentioned earlier, other Canadian provinces have adopted incentive measures.

The exodus of youth and the depopulation of the regions are not new phenomena. However, for decades, they were offset by high birth rates. With the drastic decline in the birth rate, the challenge today is to keep these young people in the regions and to attract others to come and settle there. Time is of the essence because the trend has continued since the 1990s and the situation is worsening in several areas of Quebec and Canada.

At present, the population is declining in 6 of the 17 administrative regions in Quebec, including the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspé and Mauricie. The regions need young people, especially skilled young people. With youth out-migration, the population ages faster and regions become less vital. The exodus of skilled individuals reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines regions' ability to innovate. These factors affect the potential for development and could send the regions into a downward spiral that will ultimately destroy them. It is a downward spiral that cannot be stopped.

The shortage of skilled workers in the regions is not solely a matter of training. In fact, the young people from the regions are no less educated than those in the big cities. The problem is rather that young people from the regions do not live there any more. There is an out-migration of young people and skilled workers.

I would like to remind the members of the House that when the Standing Committee on Finance studied this bill, an amendment was added to ensure that this program was truly directed to the regions. Metropolitan regions with a population of more than 200,000 are excluded.

I would like each member of the House, particularly those in the Conservative Party, to take the time to study this bill closely so that they can see the positives in this measure that would help the regions and young people.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for private members' business has expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

6:30 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to continue the NDP's attempt to get answers from the industry minister on the issue of FedNor.

It seems the minister does not think northerners get it, but they do. They understand perfectly that FedNor is an in-house economic development program situated within the industry department and completely under the control of the industry minister.

Last week at the industry committee meeting, the minister's contempt and ignorance of what matters to northerners was in full display once again. Here is what the minister said about FedNor being an accountable, transparent, independent agency: “They don't care whether it's a stand-alone agency or it's a division of this or that or whether it's a director or a captain or whether we call the executive director of FedNor the Queen of Sheba. It doesn't matter”. It does matter.

Northerners understand that the four independent regional economic departments are not subject to ministerial interference. Rather, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, and the Southern Ontario Development Agency, SODA, are all stand-alone agencies with budgets and reporting obligations to Parliament.

The minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot defend and promote the other economic agencies in those regions and then in the same breath tell northerners they do not deserve their own stand-alone agency. That is simply unacceptable. It is also an insult to our communities.

The minister loves to jab the Liberals in the eye with the fact that they have only one seat left in northern Ontario because of their neglect of our region when they were in government. However, I want to point out to the minister that his party is not doing any better for precisely the same reason.

I am proud of the hard work being done by northern New Democrat MPs on behalf of our region. Our team will not let up on the current government until it gives our communities what they deserve: a stand-alone agency equal to those in other deserving regions of Canada. Nothing less will do.

We do not want the Queen of Sheba. We do not want clowns and jugglers. We do not want decisions made in Toronto and Ottawa alone. We want an accountable agency situated in northern Ontario, with decisions being made by northern Ontarians. I do not believe that is too much to ask and his government knows that. It has simply chosen to turn a blind eye to this inequality. I can assure members that northerners will hold the government accountable.

6:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, allow me to speak a little bit and highlight the great news for Canadians living in northern Ontario. I would also like to correct, if I could, some unfortunate misinformation that is being circulated about the future of FedNor.

Canada has returned to economic growth following the deepest economic recession since the 1930s. Budget 2010 aims to contribute to this recovery and sustain Canada's economic advantage now and for the future. It will do this by continuing to deliver on commitments outlined in Canada's economic action plan, by investing in a limited number of new targeted initiatives to build jobs and growth for the economy of tomorrow and by returning to budgetary balance once the economy has recovered.

However, it seems that some of my honourable colleagues in the opposition are choosing to ignore the very real positive results we are achieving for those in northern Ontario and are instead focusing on gossip. Recently, rumours about changes to FedNor have been spread recklessly, creating uncertainty in northern Ontario communities and anxiety among the dedicated staff at FedNor. I do not understand why or on what basis these rumours have started.

Budget 2010 does not affect FedNor. Its budget remains untouched. Let me be very clear, FedNor will continue to operate at full capacity in northern Ontario, and will continue to deliver programs as it has for municipalities, businesses and entrepreneurs all across the region.

Four years ago the minister announced that the Government of Canada was providing FedNor, for the first time in the organization's history, with stable ongoing five-year funding. This unprecedented funding commitment has allowed FedNor to develop and implement longer term planning, and has helped the organization deliver for the people of northern Ontario.

Since then, FedNor has invested more than $209 million in over 1,000 projects to benefit northern Ontario's economy. In addition, this government has made major investments in northern Ontario through our economic action plan, such as $31.4 million under the community adjustment fund, $25.2 million under the recreational infrastructure Canada initiative, and $36.6 million that has gone to improve infrastructure at northern Ontario institutions through the knowledge infrastructure program.

In conclusion, let me reassure my esteemed colleague that our commitment to FedNor and indeed our commitment to the economic well-being of northern Ontario has never been stronger.

6:35 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is great news coming from the other side of the House, but there is one thing missing, an independent FedNor, a FedNor that is independent from the minister's interference similar to what exists in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, western Canada, and southern Ontario. All we want is for FedNor to be independent. We want the bureaucrats in FedNor to make the decisions for FedNor, for the people of northern Ontario.

Right now the bureaucrats at FedNor make decisions and send them on to the minister, and then they sit on the minister's desk for weeks or for months. That is not acceptable. The infrastructure is there right now. It would not cost the government any more money. FedNor is there. All we want is for FedNor to make its own decisions.

6:35 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say this with any more conviction or clarity. This government stands fully behind the people of northern Ontario.

I named a couple of initiatives that the government had funded. I mentioned, of course, that FedNor, for the first time in the organization's history, has stable ongoing five-year funding thanks to this government. I mentioned that FedNor has invested more than $209 million in over 1,000 projects to benefit northern Ontario's economy. I mentioned $31.4 million under the community adjustment fund, $25.2 million under the recreational infrastructure Canada initiative, and $36.6 million gone to improve infrastructure at northern Ontario institutions through the knowledge infrastructure program.

The one thing that all of these investments have in common, the one thing that has continued to happen time and time again, is that the NDP has voted against them every single time.

6:35 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to continue my questioning regarding an issue that was raised on March 18 with the Minister of State for the Status of Women. It was regarding her ungodly behaviour at the Charlottetown airport.

At that time she threw a tantrum. There was a raucous caused by the minister who threw her boots and berated security personnel. She yelled that the province of P.E.I. was a hellhole and that she was working her stern off, as we say in the province, for those people.

The question also spoke to the matter of whether the minister had breached aviation regulations. The regulations are very clear, that if one has persistent, consistent, belligerent behaviour, one is a level 3 threat.

That was the nature of the two questions, but it speaks to a broader attitude on the part of the former leader of the opposition who is now Prime Minister, when he said that those in Atlantic Canada had a culture of defeat. He was also quoted by our premier, Premier Danny Williams, that he did not need Newfoundland and Labrador to win an election.

There is an attitude expressed by those in the Conservative Party who hold very high positions, one being the Prime Minister and one being the Minister of State for the Status of Women.

I can say as a proud Labradorian from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and as a proud Atlantic Canadian that we take offence to those types of comments. They denigrate who we are and our contribution to not only our own communities in our own region but to the country as a whole.

I would say to the Minister of State for the Status of Women that instead of having tantrums, instead of denigrating people, provinces and regions of this country that she should focus her attention on some very important issues.

She should be focused on what is happening to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, where a shelter for women in Montreal is losing its funding, a shelter that provides fantastic services to aboriginal women, children and communities.

The minister should be focused on the issues of murdered and missing aboriginal women, and moving forward to ensure that file is addressed in a proper way through a public inquiry.

She should be concentrating on the loss of funding for native shelters for women on certain reserves. She should be focused on assistance for women in third world countries.

These are the things that the minister should be focused on, not denigrating, not calling down the people of our smallest province but certainly one of our very important provinces.

6:40 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of State responsible for the Status of Women apologized. Her apology was sincere. The members of this House must accept her apology.

6:40 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, is it a fact that within the Conservative Party all one has to do is make a major mistake, make an apology, and all is forgiven? If one makes a mistake, all is forgiven.

I look at the example where the government sometimes says that an organization has made mistakes in the past and it will not fund it anymore because it has made mistakes, like the First Nations University of Canada. Perhaps all the university has to say is, “We made a mistake. We're sorry and we'll get our funding back”. Is that the nature of the consequences?

There are consequences when people take certain actions and certain positions. We are saying that the minister has not been fully accountable for her actions for what she said to the people of P.E.I. and how she denigrated that province.

6:40 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the Liberal member finds it so difficult to understand “I am sorry”. But then it is true that he is unable to apologize when he shouts at our members.

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

(The House adjourned at 6:43 p.m.)