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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, respecting its participation at the 32nd European Parliament-Canada Interparliamentary meeting, held in Brussels, Belgium, November 9-13, 2009.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-434, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (day parole — six months or one sixth of the sentence rule) be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is no unanimous consent.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 9th, 2010 / 10 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table.

The first petition calls on the government and Canada Post to maintain and improve its network of public post offices and to consult the public and elected officials.

These several dozen signatures show that citizens in my riding and across Quebec are frustrated about the potential closure of rural post offices.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling in this House a petition that calls for the adoption of my bill, Bill C-343, which would allow victims of crime and their families to receive their fair share of employment insurance. This petition was signed by more than 800 people in my riding and from across Quebec.

These signatures show that citizens are concerned about the plight of victims' families and that they want the government to act as quickly as possible.

Assisted SuicidePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions again, following yesterday. I will be presenting thousands of names in opposition to Bill C-384, the bill that deals with euthanasia. I have been asked to present these petitions to the House of Commons, calling on all members of Parliament to vote against Bill C-384.

Halifax Convention CentrePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition today from residents of the riding of Halifax and the surrounding areas about the view from Halifax Citadel National Historic Park specifically. The petitioners say that if public funds are used to build a convention centre on two specific city blocks in downtown Halifax, the towers would actually block the view. They are asking government not to provide funds for development that would block the view of the centre harbour and George's Island from the Halifax Citadel National Historic Park. They look forward to the minister's answer.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today on behalf of residents of Selkirk—Interlake and around Manitoba, asking the government to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition with a large number of signatures.

The petitioners state that over a billion people around the world need animals for their livelihood and that many people have pets. They are asking the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 8 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan is working and is helping to keep all Canadians working. Our plan is expected to create or maintain 220,000 jobs by the end of 2010 with an estimated 130,000 created or maintained to date already. This does not include the 225,000 jobs that were saved through our expanded work sharing program, a program that has been used by companies and manufacturers in my riding to ensure that they kept their employee base in place.

We are in the middle of the largest federal investment of infrastructure over the past 60 years. We are putting Canadians to work in some 16,000 projects across Canada and are building better roads, bridges, public transit, colleges, universities, recreational infrastructure and much more. We are providing the sector help by training Canadians who are out of work and helping businesses avoid layoffs to keep Canadians working.

Statistics Canada recently announced that Canada's economy for the second straight quarter grew by 5% on an annualized basis in the fourth quarter of 2009. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in almost a decade.

Household spending is increasing thanks to our tax cuts for Canadian families. Spending on homes continued to rebound with help from our temporary home renovation tax credit last year. Infrastructure spending increased, supported by stimulus projects underway right across the country.

Our plan is ensuring that we will lead the global recovery. Not only was Canada at the head of the pack of the G7 countries for quarterly economic growth, we also had the strongest growth in domestic demand. What is more, in the coming year the International Monetary Fund predicts Canada's economic growth will continue to be at the head of the G7 pack.

There is a lot of great stuff that is in budget 2010 and I want to highlight a few of these areas. In the budget we are injecting another $19 billion of new stimulus to create and protect jobs. We are securing our economic recovery and sustaining our economic advantage through a number of measures.

Personal income tax relief will save Canadians $3.2 billion in personal income tax. This is happening through adjustments in the federal tax brackets. We are enhancing the working income tax benefit. There are going to be higher child benefits for parents, and lower taxes for low and middle income seniors.

There is also a lowering of the corporate tax rate to 15% in 2012 that is planned through this budget. That is moving toward our goal of having the lowest tax rate on new investment in the G7 at a 25% combined federal-provincial corporate tax rate making us one of the most competitive countries in the world to have business.

More importantly, that lower corporate tax rate also helps all of our small businesses that are up and down our main streets in our small communities. Those are all family operations, whether they are restaurants, convenience stores or maybe the local hardware stores. All those businesses rely on making sure that they continue to have a lower tax burden. That is going to help them to create more jobs and make them more profitable in the long-term.

We are also improving the taxation on the universal child care benefit by allowing single parents to choose to include it in their own income or a dependent, thereby providing treatment similar to single earner two-parent families. We are going to continue to support families.

We are going to continue support for the housing market through the first time homebuyers tax credit and additional access to registered retirement savings plan savings to purchase a building or a home.

We are also going to enhance the working income tax benefit which will reduce the welfare rolls by making work pay better for many low income Canadians. There is also $340 million in targeted tax relief in this budget for our seniors.

I want to jump into what this actually means in the province of Manitoba. In Manitoba we do have a thriving agriculture industry. I am a farmer myself. I was a cattle producer. One of the main investments we are making through budget 2010-11 is an investment in cattle processing facilities.

One thing that has happened over the last number of years is that we have been dealing with the BSE situation. Because of that we have had to have increased SRM removals that go beyond and above what other competitors do in the international market so that we can have access to more trade opportunities and more beneficial market opportunities for our cattle producers across this country.

Through the AgriFlexibility fund we are going to give $75 million to help our processors look at new technology to deal with things like the enhanced feed ban, like SRM removal, trying to develop some way to generate some income from these buy value credits that right now are just being thrown away as garbage.

Essentially we want to ensure that if they can make a little more money off those buy value credits that will be returned to the producers, especially for those who are selling a lot of cows because the animal is over 30 months of age and dealing with this major fall down in the marketplace.

We have already seen some government dollars being used in facilities like the new Keystone plant in Winnipeg. We are also looking at supporting other regional processors throughout the province.

The funding under this new slaughter program includes a slaughter improvement program that will increase by $10 million to support the introduction of new cost effective technologies. There is an additional $25 million targeted at processing plants that only handle animals over 30 months of age. There is also $40 million to support the development and commercialization of innovative technologies related to the removal and use of SRMs, specified risk materials, to reduce those handling costs and create potential revenue sources for these materials.

With my involvement in the environment committee and, of course, having both Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake, I was encouraged to see that we will be investing $190 million to support a cleaner and more sustainable environment to help meet our climate change objectives.

Some other things in the budget include $100 million over four years to support clean energy generation in Canada's forestry sector through the new generation and renewable power initiative. I know that many of our old forestry plants are looking at perhaps moving to a more sustainable energy production. This will help them to become more competitive. This funding will help reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions as well by supporting their development, commercialization and implementation of new emerging clean energy technologies which could include everything from biofuels and renewable electricity and biomass which we seem to need to look at more as being in the area of biomass and using that to replace some of our other dirtier energy sources.

There is also the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment for additional applications involving heat recovery and district energies. The more we can become efficient the better we will be as an overall industry.

There is $60 million over two years to continue to implement the government's action plan to protect the Great Lakes by cleaning up areas identified as being the most degraded. Of course we already have a strategy for Lake Winnipeg and the entire Lake Winnipeg basin to identify those problems as well.

There is $38 million over two years for Canada's invasive alien species strategy to reduce the risk of invasive animal and plant species being introduced to Canada. With the movement of fishing equipment back and forth between our boundaries and the introduction of new species that are coming into our basin, it is even more important today that we protect the ecosystem that we have in our freshwater systems.

There is also up to $11.4 million over two years to deliver meteorological services and navigational services in the north to meet our commitment to the International Maritime Organization.

There is $8 million for two years to support community based environmental monitoring, reporting and baseline data collection in the north. Another $18.4 million over two years to support the government's annual report on clean environmental indicators, such as clean air, clean water and greenhouse gas emissions.

This keeps building upon what we are doing in resources under our Canada economic action plan, like the $1 billion for five years for the clean energy fund and supporting clean energy research, development and demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage.

There is $1 billion over five years for the green infrastructure fund for priorities such as a green energy generation and transmission infrastructure, carbon transmission and storage infrastructure.

There is $380 million in dedicated new resources for the ecoENERGY for homes retrofit program to support Canadians making their homes more energy efficient.

Manitoba wins big time through the new budget because we continue to increase equalization and transfers to the provinces. Manitoba gets another $924 million in this budget compared to where we were in 2004-05 under the previous Liberal government. That is $3.8 billion that Manitoba will receive this year: $1.8 billion through equalization; $953 million through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $50 million from last year; and $405 million through the Canada social transfer. Therefore, Manitoba continues to get more money.

If we look back at the previous government when it was facing its fiscal challenges, it cut equalization, health transfers and social transfers and provinces like Manitoba suffered under that government. Under this government, we are ensuring that we continue to deliver those services to Manitoba. We know that will be great for all Manitobans.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I am concerned about is what Canada will look like as we move down the road. During the last recession three things happened. First, the crime rate in Canada increased, particularly property crime, and it had to do with how people would pay the next bill. The second thing was that the demands on the health care system increased enormously because people were stressed out and had all kinds of consequential problems. The third thing was the significant demand on the social network, the social programs that are delivered through the provinces.

The common element through those three things is that those are services that are all delivered by provincial governments but the budget does not deal effectively with transfers to provinces anticipating these problems. The issue is not so much for me as to how we get the deficit and fiscal house back in order. It is how at the same time we ensure people do not fall into a situation in which they cannot help themselves.

Does the member consider the issues of the increased demands on our policing services, our health care system and our social services network when there is nothing in this budget to address those needs of Canadians?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is kind of rich coming from the member of the opposition to suggest that during this recession there will be this huge increase in demand. We know that in the last recession when the Liberals were in government, instead of adjusting for the increased needs in social assistance and health care, they decided to slash the economies of the provinces by cutting back on equalization and health and social transfers. As I just stated, we will not do that. We are increasing the overall equalization, social and health care transfers to all provinces, which will be a major way to help those provinces deal with any increased needs.

When the previous Liberal government went into its deficit fighting, not only did it cut equalization, social and health care transfers, but it cut, slashed and burned our military budget. In this budget, we will continue to address that and help our Canada first defence strategy. We will slow some of that growth but there will still be increases of 20% compared to where we were when we took over the Department of National Defence from the previous Liberal government.

National Defence will continue to grow. We will continue to meet the needs of our military personnel, allow them to keep their equipment up-to-date and keep increasing their personnel to deal with the challenges they face around the world and do such a great job representing us as a country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government is bent on reducing corporate taxes. In fact, it has reduced corporate taxes from around 40% and is projected to go down to 15%. The members may applaud that and if they were getting results as a result of the corporate tax reductions then that would be well placed, but the fact is that business investment, rather than going up as a result of corporate taxes, has actually gone down. No better sources than Statistics Canada and Finance Canada which indicate that business spending on machinery and equipment has declined as a share of GDP and total business investment spending has declined as a percentage of corporate cashflow.

Why does the government keep doing things that do not work?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona must have missed the fact that a recession occurred which slowed down the economic growth of businesses and the entire economy. People actually draw in and that is why there is a recession. Maybe someone needs to sit down with him and explain how recessions work and how businesses need to think hard about what they will do as investments and wait for a recovery to happen.

We are starting to witness that recovery and we know businesses will continue to invest and create jobs. Tim Hortons is a great example of where it has now moved its corporate headquarters back to Canada from the United States because this is the place to be creating jobs.

We know we will see more of that happening. I see what is happening in CentrePort in Winnipeg, as the hon. member across for Elmwood—Transcona understands. We are seeing a lot of interest coming not just from Canadian companies but companies around the world that want to make CentrePort their place to set up for manufacturing.

What we are doing right now in eliminating the tariffs for manufacturers for all their inputs, as well as the accelerated capital cost allowance, ensures they will be not only more competitive but they will want to look at growth and expansion and create more jobs right here in Canada. That is a great news story for all Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my friend from Selkirk—Interlake for his speech and for his answers to the questions that he faced.

We have heard members of the NDP stand and say that this terrible Conservative government will lower taxes. We say, with a great deal of pride, that is correct. We will lower personal income taxes and we will keep the GST down as we lowered it in the past. We will keep corporate taxes down so our small businesses can be competitive and survive. We will not do what the Liberals did and just simply boost taxes in order to meet this deficit.

The government has said three things in this budget: that the stimulus will end, that the targeted spending growth restraint must happen and that there must be a review of government. Is this just a good news budget or does it tell Canadians that there must be a slow down in spending?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing from people across the country that they do not want ongoing deficits. This budget is responsibly attacking that and we will keep spending under control.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Mississauga—Brampton South.

I am very pleased to speak to the budget and to mention a few of the concerns that I have as we move forward in an interesting session.

There is an old saying that to fully understand where we are going, we must first know where we have been. Today I am going to focus on where we have been and a bit on where I hope we are going. Never has a saying been so appropriate. With that, let us take a moment to look back on the time the current government has been in office.

In 2006 the government inherited a national fiscal situation that was unmatched in the entire world. We had a budget surplus of more than $13 billion. We had just completed the fifth year of a five year $100 billion income tax cut. We had just allocated $5 billion to create a new national child care and early learning strategy, the first new national social program in more than a generation. Interest rates were low. Employment numbers were good. Our tourism and manufacturing sectors were growing in leaps and bounds.

In short, as a result of more than a decade of prudent fiscal planning under Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, Canada was the fiscal envy of the world. Then in 2006 this all began to change.

I want to be fair. I fully understand that the current economic slowdown is a global phenomenon, and so do Canadians. I understand that Canada needed to put extra resources into our economy, a move that contributed to increasing expenditures. I understand that putting money into infrastructure helped our communities and our cities, and helped to stimulate the economy. Again, it was a move that contributed to the spiralling deficit. What I do not understand is the total lack of foresight and preparation before the crisis hit.

As children many of us were taught the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The fable concerns a grasshopper who spends the warm months singing away while the ant works to store up food for winter. When the winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and upon asking the ant for food is only rebuked for its idleness. The story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving while times are good so as to prepare for the hard times ahead, something that was not done by the current government.

While I am deeply concerned about the fact that the government has now unveiled the largest deficit in Canadian history, I am even more concerned with the total lack of prudence, preparation and long-term planning exercised by the government in the months prior to the global economic slowdown.

In 2006 Canada boasted the largest fiscal surplus in its history. That standing was achieved after many years of prudent Liberal leadership. Sadly, that surplus was eyed with hungry glee by the incoming Conservatives who thought it was Christmastime.

Despite Paul Martin declaring that Canada had cut up its credit cards, the current Prime Minister immediately called the banks and increased our national limits. Despite professing to be an economist, in just three short years his government has taken Canada from a position of unmatched fiscal strength to a place where the government is already spending the tax dollars that our grandchildren have yet to pay, never mind earn. In all of our newspapers across Canada, most economists, with the exception of one, have recognized this as a recipe for disaster.

Imagine if Canadians adopted these kinds of fiscal practices within their own households, spending wildly beyond their means, promising to pay minimum credit card payments by eliminating only small and insignificant daily expenditures, and eliminating all savings and future planning. Imagine if the plan to fix current problems was simply to make more money. We do not have to imagine it because the government has adopted exactly that kind of a plan.

For the most part the 2010 budget says the economy will grow at such a pace that our deficit will simply melt away without any real work on behalf of parliamentarians or Canadians, or effort on the part of the government.

The government has made a few symbolic steps to trim away expenses, but I am surprised to see that the Conservatives still do not seem to get it. With respect to freezing MPs' and ministers' budgets and salaries, do that; we all have to contribute to bringing down the current deficit, but those are simply optics.

Canada now has a $56 billion deficit, a number that is substantially higher than the $39 billion predicted just a few short months ago. Again, it does not seem that the finance minister and the Prime Minister have their numbers right, or they are simply wearing rose-coloured glasses.

It is also worth noting that in October 2008, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, just prior to an election day, said that we were not going to have a recession and that of course they would never run a deficit. How can Canadians possibly trust the finance minister when he paints that kind of rosy picture and they are given the kind of lines that were given in the budget and throne speech?

Notwithstanding this and despite the ballooning shortcomings of the budget, the document fails to act by delivering nothing on pensions, and we all know the concern about people's pensions. There is nothing on climate change, or very little at most. There is nothing on health care, which is extremely important especially going into some difficult times and given our aging demographics.

What about the veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder that I am hearing about in the veterans committee? There is nothing that identifies that problem. There is nothing for new Canadians or to close the immigrant success gap which we also know is important. The sooner newcomers begin to work, the faster they are able to pay taxes and contribute to the economy.

I say that I am surprised, but I certainly should not be. Prior to being handed a $13 billion annual surplus, the last Conservative government to balance the budget was the government of Sir Robert Borden back in the early days of the 20th century. Past practice has shown us that every time the Conservatives get into power we end up with huge deficits, but Sir Robert Borden clearly knew how to handle both. It is true that despite being the leader of a minority government, as Sir Robert Borden was, and despite the fact that he too was battling a global calamity, he made fiscal prudence a priority. I wish his modern-day successor across the way would adopt that focus.

Unfortunately, despite being awash in this new debt, the government has delivered nothing of substance on many of the issues that Canadians care about. Worse yet, it seems to have turned its back on the very plan that it unveiled just a day earlier in the throne speech.

In the throne speech the government promised to get serious about protecting pensions. Despite that promise, there is $10 million in the budget to encourage volunteerism, which is very important, but there is nothing concrete to fix pensions except commit to do more consultation. In the throne speech the government committed to make job creation a priority but in the budget it did nothing to stop its $13 billion payroll tax hike that is going to kill 220,000 small business jobs.

There is a difference between prudence and recklessness and the word is courage. It takes courage to make the tough decisions and the finance minister's first move was to hop on a private plane. It took courage to make difficult decisions when the Liberals were in power. It takes courage to set a hard course and to stay on it. It takes courage to be honest with the Canadian people and to plan long term.

The Liberals clearly showed that they know how to deal with these issues. I would hope the Conservative government would look at just how it will balance the pressures of dealing with a $56 billion deficit and at the same time recognize the pressure that Canadians are facing throughout this country while they are unemployed and trying to support their families along with the pressure of the issue of pensions.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member for York West's remarks, and I applaud everything she said. What she said about this budget's shortcomings is absolutely right.

I would like to know what the member thinks of the fact that the government chose to create a seniors day to recognize their contribution instead of improving the guaranteed income supplement, which is something that we and seniors have been asking for for a long time.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that there are still a considerable amount of seniors across Canada who are living below the $18,000 cutoff line. I would much rather have seen the $10 million the Conservatives are earmarking for volunteerism, as wonderful as it is, go toward increasing the GIS. The maximum today in GIS, OAS and so on is $14,000. We are not talking about billions of dollars. We are talking about a certain amount of people who are still only at $14,000. The amount should be brought up to $18,000 so that people in this country, especially seniors, are not living below the poverty line.

It would have been a much better use of very scarce dollars. If the Conservatives did not do it now, I doubt there will ever be an increase in any of it.