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House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill.

It is my pleasure to make a brief speech on behalf of the residents of greater Moncton, my riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and the people of Atlantic Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the budget on behalf of Atlantic Canadians. We are all in this place representing various areas of the country and I want to point out what is a glaring absence of any policy, of any care or of any words related to the hopes, the aspirations and the mere existence of Atlantic Canada.

In the budget speech we all received a document entitled, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”, delivered by the Minister of Finance who, like many in this House, has Maritime roots, in fact New Brunswick roots, which I know he is proud of. Nonetheless, in his speech of some 19 pages there was not one word toward Atlantic Canada, which is what we might call exhibit A.

Second, we in Atlantic Canada laud our coastal brethren in the Pacific for their initiative with respect to the Pacific Gateway and we understand that it is vital to Canada's economic growth and future. I could probably speak for all members of the Atlantic Liberal caucus when I say that we are happy there was mention of and movement toward forming and making stronger the Pacific Gateway, but there was not one mention of the term “Atlantic gateway” in the budget speech, the Speech from the Throne or the budget documentation.

We have a right arm and a left arm. We have a ying and a yang. In this place, we represent a country with three coasts. Economically, we have a Pacific coast but we also have an Atlantic coast and that coast deserves and is acting on a provincial level toward the crystallization of an Atlantic gateway, both port-wise and inland. No one need take my word for it. There are various provincial governments of all political stripes. We have a whole rainbow of colours of governments in Atlantic Canada now. We have a provincial NDP government, a provincial Conservative government and provincial Liberal governments. It is not partisan when I say that there is good work being done by all provincial governments on the Atlantic gateway and yet the federal government appears not to want to mention anything of it in its recalibration document. In fact, there is no real effort toward sustaining or helping the Atlantic lobster fishery which is in crisis.

I want to take a few moments to speak to other entry point aspects. Moncton is an area that is clearly inland and it is the hub of the Maritimes. It is a transportation centre. For a long time, after being one of the first airports to be transferred to a private authority in Canada, has been at the cutting edge of having small or mid-sized community transportation issues made important. The Greater Moncton International Airport handles over 500,000 passengers a year. It puts itself into the same category, with the same aspirations, hopes and struggles, as places like Abbotsford, Charlottetown, Mont Tremblant, Fredericton, Saint John and Kelowna, the airports that are not, frankly, Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal.

There are challenges presented to those points of entry, which is why, in the budget document beginning at page 299, there is the strange term called “strategic review savings”. To many people, this might go unnoticed, but we need to be clear that those are cuts to budgets. If they were cuts to budgets of Air Force One and the PMO's plane, maybe we would not have a big problem, but they are cuts to things like CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Those are the fine men and women who, until I suppose a month ago or so, were not very well-known until a certain visit by a former cabinet minister to Charlottetown. However, they are the people who administer security in our airports. They perform a very vital function in flowing traffic for commerce and ensuring security, which needs to be top of mind for all of us.

In the 2011-12 budget, $12 million will be cut to the services, followed by a further $15 million in 2012-13. The government gives lip service to the notion of airport security. When the focus should be on ensuring security personnel in our airports, the only safety measure the government is able to employ is body scanners and there is no indication that the body scanners will be deployed in mid-sized airports. It is of crucial importance to people, like I say, in Abbotsford, Charlottetown and Moncton to ensure the flow of passengers continues.

The presence of body scanners suffices for the government while it cuts personnel. How will that help on the issue of security and with respect to the flow of goods and persons on a commercial level? For many of the airports in Atlantic Canada, it will be crippling. Frankly, the government is abdicating its responsibility in this regard to protect Canadians. We can forget about commerce, Atlantic Canada gateways and the importance of emerging economies, the real point is that there is an offloading of the costs of security to the citizens.

While the government talks about tax decreases and easing the burden for Canadians, what is happening through this budget instrument is that the Conservative government, in claiming to prioritize security in Canada, is hiking airport security fees to the passengers while simultaneously reducing the budget by some $12 million to $15 million for CATSA, the agency providing security. In the end, the Canadian traveller will pay.

Canadians already pay up to $17 in security taxes per flight and the government is proposing to raise it on some flights by over $8. It may not sound like a lot but for some people travelling across this country it may be the difference between some people choosing to stay home, to not travel through an airport or not to use the Moncton airport, for instance, especially if there is one scanner employed for over 500,000 passengers. We do not know what the future holds but there is certainly no emphasis on small and medium-sized cities and their airports in this budget and, as I mentioned, not a word about the issue of the Atlantic gateway.

The government claims to care about Canadian security but it is cutting funding to CATSA and expecting taxpayers, Canadian citizens, to cover the shortfall. It is another instance of a hidden tax. It is another incidence of untruthfulness in a budget document. It does not even provide sufficient funding for airport security in terms of personnel and there will be cuts of people employed at Canada's airports.

Another issue with respect to security, an issue of importance to the Greater Moncton International Airport and other airports, is the work of the Canada Border Services Agency. The disregard for the security and safety of Canadians citizens shown in this budget has been furthered by the fact that the CBSA cuts, which total $6.5 million in this year and $54 million in 2011-12, show a complete disregard for the need for service at our airports and ports. How will CBSA deal with the budget cuts?

I want to know where the champions of Atlantic Canada are. Where are the Allan J. MacEachens? Where are the Don Jamiesons? Where are the Roméo LeBlancs? They are not in the House or in the government. They are not on the government side because Atlantic Canadians have been told, along the lines of a famous 1997 speech given by the prime minister, that Atlantic Canadians should come to the House and mind their spots. They should just mind their place, follow the rules and be quiet about their aspirations.

It is no longer time for Atlantic Canadians to accept the ignorance of the government toward their dreams and aspirations. It is no longer time for them to be quiet about the future of Atlantic Canada. It also is not time for the Government of Canada to omit the words “Atlantic Canadians” from a budget document. We will not stand for it and I urge all members of the House to take that to the government during the budget debate.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I have spent many a summer in my colleague's riding and it is certainly one of the most beautiful ridings in this country and it has great lobster.

He made some comments about there being an absence of policy in this budget and several times said that there was no mention of Atlantic Canada but I believe the policies of this budget affect the entire country.

I would like the member to comment on some statistics that have been put out that indicate that Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7, that Canada's decline in the real GDP was virtually the smallest of all G7 countries, that Canadian labour markets have fared much better than the U.S. where job losses are proportionately three times larger than Canada, and that Canadian domestic demand growth has rebounded more strongly than all other G7 countries since the beginning of 2009 and led Canada out of the recession in mid-2009. Other statistics tell us that Canada has weathered this recession much better than any other country on this planet, and we should be proud of that.

Whether the member is correct or not, I would like him to comment as to whether or not these policies affect the entire country, which includes Atlantic Canada.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member was doing so well up to beaches and lobster.

He is correct that the fundamentals of the economy, which were put in place by a good friend of many of us on this side, Paul Martin, and the resistance of a former government to things like bank mergers, which most people on the other side agreed with at the time, are largely responsible for the fact that we did not do as badly as some other economies.

The point is, and I will use an aeronautical analogy, had someone been doing something else other than just being on auto pilot, like those members were, we might have avoided racking up such a huge deficit. To turn the argument over on my friend, a huge deficit does affect everybody in Canada and probably will affect the regions more.

When we get down to budget deficit slaying, the people of Atlantic Canada know they will be the ones to suffer. They know that budget deficits need to be dealt with and ACOA and the other shoes that may drop, Marine Atlantic, who knows, these will be the first things that the Conservative government will look at because it cares not for Atlantic Canada.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, for many years Canadian workers and small business owners have jointly contributed into the employment insurance fund. However, instead of receiving some of these insurance funds when unemployed, many workers, whether they are from Moncton or Toronto, end up not qualifying as a result of the former Liberal government changing and tightening the EI rules.

This budget empties the employment insurance account of roughly a $57 billion surplus, which is money that was paid by workers and built up throughout the years. It is grossly unfair.

The hon. member is a member of the Liberal Party. How could his party possibly agree to a budget that ripped $57 billion out of the hands of unemployed workers?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, EI is a pressing issue for all of those who need access to it, whether it is in Toronto, Moncton or elsewhere.

We on this side prefer to take a calibrated approach to EI reform. My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour leads the charge with respect to improvements to the EI program, which so far have been completely ignored by the government. There are people in need and people who need access to EI. There are people who need a longer term of EI.

The way to look at this subject, rather than just being outside the palace all of the time throwing snowballs, is to try to get into the palace and change the way we deal with EI, which is what we on this side are doing. We are coming up with constructive arguments toward sustainable, sensitive EI reform that will help all Canadian workers, whether in Atlantic Canada or elsewhere.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak against Bill C-9, which would bring into legislation a number of measures already announced in different ways and means motions or previous budget documents. It also spells out a number of measures originally presented as part of the most recent Speech from the Throne.

As the New Democrat consumer protection critic, I will devote the majority of my time to discussing the provisions contained within Bill C-9 that relate to the credit and debit industry. However before my analysis of the credit and debit sector provisions, I would first like to address two measures contained in Bill C-9 that are extremely concerning. The first is environmental assessments, and the second is the employment insurance fund.

With regard to environmental assessments, and in keeping with our party's concerns about the oil sands, the measures contained within Bill C-9 are very worrisome. If passed, Bill C-9 would exempt certain federally funded infrastructure projects from environmental assessments, going well beyond efforts by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to streamline the environmental assessment process.

Bill C-9 also would allow the minister of the environment to dictate the scope of environmental assessments. It would also weaken public participation and enable the removal of assessment of energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Eighteen months ago, the Conservatives came out with their now infamous economic and fiscal update. Within this update, they gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which had been in place for 100 years, and the Liberals supported them. Now the Conservatives are trying to finish what they started by doing away with environmental assessments for most projects that receive federal funding. Several provinces have rather weak legislation and no way to conduct real inspections and assessments. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was the only way some provinces could have an assessment done.

The second measure I would like to address, before going into my analysis of the credit and debit provisions, is the measure introduced regarding employment insurance. If passed, Bill C-9 would empty the employment insurance account, which held a surplus of roughly $57 billion, money paid by workers and businesses, built up over years of Liberal and Conservative rule. First the Liberals took the $57 billion from the employment insurance fund and transferred it to the government's general revenue fund, and now the Conservatives will finish off the job they admonished the Liberals for.

There is a fundamental difference between the employment insurance fund and the government's consolidated revenue fund. All Canadian companies and their employees have contributed to the employment insurance fund. If a company recorded a loss, it did not matter. It still had to contribute to the employment insurance fund. Only a company with enough profits to pay tax was required to fork over corporate taxes into the general revenue fund.

In other words, the same companies, primarily the forestry and manufacturing industries, which suffered greatly because of the high dollar, for example, that had not turned a profit and that did not have to pay tax, could not benefit from the $60 billion in tax cuts given to the most profitable companies, and yet each and every one of these companies paid for every single one of their employees and every employee contributed to the EI fund.

The manufacturing and forestry companies that were already suffering believed their contributions would be used for a very specific, precise and dedicated purpose. This means that those who paid, who suffered because of the high dollar, supported the rich, particularly those in the oil industry in western Canada.

Now I will move on to discuss the measures relating to the credit and debit industry in Canada. I would like to share with the House the opinions of various stakeholders in the credit and debit industry on the government's latest measures released in the budget.

The Credit Union Central of Canada appreciates the overall intent of the draft code as stated in its purpose. However, and that is a big however, it believes that the draft code should give additional consideration to protecting the interests of Canadian consumers, to ensure they are provided with transparency, flexibility and the opportunity to make an informed choice when using debit and credit services, and of course to preserve a competitive, balanced market that includes a strong Canadian-focused payments delivery channel, as provided by Interac.

The Credit Union Central of Canada continues by stating that the most significant concern of Canadian credit unions regarding the draft code is the combined potential of provisions 5 and 6. They negatively impact the future of Interac debit services and the viability of Interac itself. They believe that providing merchants with the ability to set priority routing for debit services will exacerbate the concerns put forward by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and that aggressive marketing practices and the dominant market positions of Visa and MasterCard may cause debit card processing fees to skyrocket and may ultimately lead to the end of Interac.

The CUCC believes that provisions 5 and 6, as currently written. will make it easier for Interac to be overwhelmed by targeted pricing strategies of the much larger international payment card networks. Provision 5 reads:

Merchants will be allowed to provide discounts for different methods of payment (e.g. cash, debit card, credit card). Merchants will also be allowed to provide differential discounts among different brands.

Depending on how this provision is interpreted and applied by merchants, consumers may find that it becomes hard to tell the difference between discounting and surcharging, particularly if there is no requirement for the discount to reflect or relate to the merchant's cost for the transaction or payment card network.

Provision 6 reads:

Merchants can decide whether they will accept multiple forms of debit card payment. In such a case, merchants can choose the lowest-cost option on transactions involving co-badged debit cards.

The draft code states:

When a consumer uses a co-badged debit card with a merchant who accepts both debit products on the card, the merchant will decide which debit payment option is used for the transaction.

By unintentionally facilitating a significant threat to the future viability of Interac, these provisions may ultimately hasten a reduction in competition and choice of debit services available to Canadian merchants, consumers and card issuers.

Canada's payment card industry is one of the most successful and stable models in the world, due in no small part to the unique role of Interac and its national infrastructure for the provision of debit card services. Interac has become a valuable national utility that Canadians trust and depend on to provide universal, cost-effective debit services and is uniquely positioned to design and deliver services suited to the Canadian markets and in the interests of Canadians.

The principle of protecting the public and consumer interest should be primary and should be reflected in the rules of conduct and operation for all parties involved in providing debit and credit services, including the payment card networks, card issuers, acquirers and merchants. We believe the draft code, as written, places consumers at a disadvantage. It does not acknowledge the consumer as an equal participant and party to debit and credit card transactions, and several of the code's provisions either do not adequately protect consumer interests or protect the interests of merchants at the expense of the consumer.

Option consommateurs, a not-for-profit association dedicated to the defence and promotion of consumers' rights, is also concerned about the adoption of the code of conduct for the debit and credit card industry. According to Option consommateurs, if adopted as is, the voluntary code would give more power to merchants, to the detriment of consumers.

It also argues that whenever consumers make a purchase, they must be able to freely and transparently choose their preferred payment method from among those offered by merchants. However, the voluntary code allows merchants to require the payment method of their choice.

Furthermore, the government should prohibit surcharging on the payment method in order to make it easier for consumers to compare prices.

In closing, the measures contained within Bill C-9, mainly the gutting of our employment insurance fund, the removal of environmental checks on government infrastructure projects and the implementation of a flawed code of conduct that would negatively impact consumers, are just some but definitely not all of the reasons why our party cannot support this budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I think it was reprehensible behaviour that the credit card companies raised the rates for individuals during the recession, the time Canadians needed it least. They also raised the fees for companies. I got all sorts of complaints from small businesses.

The chartered banks, which I have a great respect for and am a big supporter of, also unfortunately raised the rates for businesses and individuals for their loans. I commend the government for providing liquidity to the banks, but they did not pass it on.

I assume that, because the member deals with this topic, he got from a lot of his businesses this questionnaire from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business about the fairness and oversight needed in the credit and debit industry. I got a lot of them. I agree with him that the budget is not sufficient to deal with this. I wonder if he would like to comment further on that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I too have many small businesses in the riding of Sudbury, and they have been coming to me with their concerns about both Visa and MasterCard entering the debit market.

We had a voluntary code of conduct that was presented in November, and of course prorogation stopped the process in which we were supposed to have a discussion when that voluntary code of conduct assessment ended. When the toothpaste is out of the tube, we cannot stuff it back in.

Many small business owners are concerned about priority routing. Many of them are concerned about how this will impact consumers' choice. That is, if consumers come into their place of business, whether they will be able to even use their cards and whether the businesses will be able to take their cards.

Consumers are very concerned about the interest rates that we have seen on the credit side as well. When they go in there, they want to use their card, but now they are starting to hesitate because of the interest rates.

On that side, we also see small businesses having interchange fees increasing. In some cases they have a negotiated rate of 1.6%, but when we start getting all of these new cards in place, the premium cards that the companies are putting out, those negotiated rates go out the door and they end up paying about 2.6%, sometimes even 3%, on the interchange fees.

More needs to be done. We need to have an honest discussion and debate about this, because more needs to be done to help consumers—

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation, and he is absolutely correct when it comes to the whole issue of the credit cards and the fees.

The government constantly acts against the interests of consumers. Whether it is in the air passenger bill of rights issue, where it sided solidly with the industry, with the airlines, or in this case. Not only is the government acting against the interests of consumers, but it is actually acting against the interests of small business.

We have seen, as the member for Yukon has experienced, letters from small businesses, and I have seen some figures that are just astounding as to how much credit card costs have been assumed by businesses over the last year or two. It has doubled and tripled for a lot of small businesses.

Now the Conservatives are basically adopting their laissez faire attitude to the very people, the small businesses, that they purported to represent all these years. It is a big joke that they would suggest that they will come up with voluntary guidelines and somehow these business-oriented credit card companies will somehow take it easy on the consumers. It is absolutely nonsense, and I would like to ask the member to comment further on that point.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and commend him on the work he did on the airline passenger bill of rights.

There are so many things we need to implement in this budget to actually help consumers and small businesses, but let us look specifically at small businesses and how they are being affected by these credit card companies and the big banks. The interchange fees they are paying are costing them thousands upon thousands of dollars every year. What is that doing? That is stopping them from hiring another person, from expanding their business, from growing their business. That money is then going to the credit card companies who are making billions and billions of dollars in profits.

We need to implement a code of conduct now, not a voluntary code of conduct. That lacks teeth. If it is voluntary and we choose not to do it, what is stopping people from actually implementing it? We need the code of conduct now. It should not read in the budget, “only if necessary”. It is necessary now. Ask any small business in Canada.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, today I will be debating Bill C-9.

The Bloc Québécois is against this bill, and I will explain why. I will also talk about what has been excluded from this budget.

First of all, my colleague from Hochelaga did a tour of all the ridings, including mine. During his visit, he met with various organizations: an organization representing women, another representing non-profit groups, farmers, employment insurance recipients, as well as experts on social housing and homelessness.

It was noted that the budget does not offer anything to women, who represent about 52% of the population. As women, they are responsible for the family. A number of single mothers must find housing on minimum wage or with minimal government assistance. These women need social housing assistance. Since no money is being invested in social housing to help these women, we are seeing increasing poverty.

It was clear that the gap between the rich and the poor will widen even more because of this Conservative budget. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

It is also clear that the majority of caregivers are women. Our employment insurance system allows them only eight weeks of special leave, which is not much. These women who decide to stay at home to help their family will lose their jobs or quit them temporarily. But being a caregiver does not come with a contract. No one can know whether the person being cared for will pass away within six weeks. It is impossible to know.

Furthermore, the court challenges program was very important to women, who cannot afford to pay lawyers $1,000 an hour to defend a job.

That is why we are against this budget, particularly because of its impact on women.

This budget is also silent on the subject of moneys owing. The government owes Quebec $2.2 billion for harmonizing its tax with the GST. Considering Quebec's latest budget, which is a controversial attempt to deal with some financial difficulties, I sincerely believe that if the government were to truly take its responsibilities and stop scorning the Quebec nation, it would transfer that $2.2 billion to the province. That money would pay for the social programs that Quebec has chosen to implement, such as $7-a-day daycare for single mothers who want to go back to work or return to their studies. That costs money. It provides direct assistance to women.

In general, women who have part-time jobs are eligible for employment insurance. If a person who earns $9 per hour three days a week gets 55% of her salary, she will be living below the poverty line. I have much more to say on the subject of women, but I will move on to other matters.

Our seniors are our library. These are the people who built our society, who educated us and who raised us. These people have been forgotten. I am talking about the guaranteed income supplement.

I meet women who are living off their old age pension, which is $500 per month. How is anyone supposed to pay for housing, food, clothing, electricity and medication on less than $7,000 per year?

Not helping these people spend their retirement years and the last years of their lives in dignity suggests a truly narrow vision. It is unacceptable. Stranger still is the fact that when these people owe the government money for taxes, it does not take long for the government to collect. However, when it comes to helping vulnerable people, most of whom are women, the government just forgets. Apparently, it is a little more complicated to help these people than it is to collect money from them.

Just as unacceptable is the discrepancy between what this government promised when it was in opposition and what it is doing now that it is in power. That is what we call selective memory.

They talk about voting for power. I have power from my electors, the power to defend their values and needs in the House, be it in terms of agriculture or otherwise.

We asked for just over $625 million for the agri-flex program. The government gave nothing. They are simply holding consultations, but meanwhile nothing is being fixed. While they are travelling around Canada visiting farms, nothing is being fixed.

It is the role of government, which the public trusts, to fix what is broken. If the Conservatives are not able to fix what is broken, they can just stand aside and let us have our own country. We will fix our problems without always having to be at the mercy of a centralizing government that does not share our values. It is not that our values are better or worse, they are simply different.

The government could have found other ways to get money. In 2008, when we came back after the election, the Minister of Finance said that Canada had no problems. I do not know what colour his glasses were, but all of a sudden everything changed. This is the same minister who was once Ontario's finance minister. Things did not go well at the provincial level either. I wonder if it is mere coincidence that this happened twice or is it just a lack of knowledge?

The Bloc is doing a thorough job. It visits its electors every week, every month and every year in order to find out what they need. It would have been easy enough to get money from tax havens, which are worth $3 billion. That amount would help many young families with limited means.

Also, Quebec's equalization payments should be restored. We pay 25% of the bill and the $3 billion would have been a tremendous help to Quebec. In addition, there is the $2 billion for the GST, and Hydro-Québec's $400 million still locked in the federal government's coffers. This money has not been returned to Quebec. All these items add up to $6, $7 or $8 billion. It is as though this money was owed. It is not an amount owing, it is a right. This money belongs to Quebec and must be returned to Quebec.

There is also the matter of Quebec's responsibilities, in health, for example. The population is aging. Money is being transferred in small doses, and is not flowing very quickly into the population. For that reason, we must make intelligent investments and the money we send to Ottawa must be returned. This is taxpayers' money, money from people in my riding. They are experiencing difficulties or are going bankrupt because the money is not being returned. They have to feed their families and pay their bills.

This bill will mainly help banks and the oil sands industry by providing tax credits to oil companies and all the rest. I find that unfair.

Quebec has chosen to provide social programs such as a child care program, among others. That is the choice that we have made and we cover the cost.

Government expenditures must be cut. The government says that it cut 245 positions, phantom jobs that were already empty. They are abolishing 245 jobs, but creating 300 others to manage other things. I may not be a mathematician, but I do know how to do the math. When you get rid of five people and then hire 300, that makes an additional 295 hires.

There is also a great deal of duplication. There are officials at the Quebec ministry of health and officials at the federal health department. This is something that should be looked at in order to better manage public funds.

I will leave some time for members to ask questions, which I welcome. The Bloc Québécois is opposed to this bill and I am proud of that because it is not a good bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the member talked about women's issues. I would ask her if she has confidence that the government did an analysis of the budget implementation bill and the throne speech so that they correctly reflect gender support.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, the answer is clearly “no”. The government seems to have a 1940s mentality, from a time when women were valued only for their cooking and cleaning. This is the 21st century. We have women entrepreneurs and business leaders, and others who take care of their families and all kinds of things. This is a very backwards-thinking government when it comes to women. Whether the government likes it or not, women are active in politics and we will practice politics as women.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased that the member spoke about the tax havens. She made reference to $3 billion. I am not sure where that figure comes from, but I would be very interested in finding out. I would like to be able to question one of the government members on the bill, but we have not heard one speak for the last couple of days. I am not able to ask them, so I will have to ask the Bloc member.

In terms of tax havens the whole issue became public a couple of years ago when an employee of one of the Swiss banks sold some of the bank's computer back-up tapes containing the names of all of the former nationals to the German government. The Canadian government and other governments became aware of citizens using these tax havens. As a result, Canada offers an amnesty. A lot of people in Canada were nervous and started voluntarily paying their taxes. To me, this just promotes tax havens as a risk-free venture because people know they can invest in tax havens and as soon as they start to feel the heat on them, they can voluntarily declare their taxes and get away with it. The question is when is the government going to step in and take tougher action?

Under the bill, if I could ask one of the government members, they do talk about applying provisions of the Criminal Code to serious crimes related to money laundering and terrorist financing to tax evasion. I am wondering if there is a connection between that measure and what we are talking about in terms of tax havens.

Could the member give us a little more background about the $3 billion?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

Canada's five biggest banks released a financial report on the use of tax havens, which allowed them to save $2.4 billion. That is just the banks, to say nothing of the oil companies. Tax havens shelter 79 subsidiaries, thereby cheating Canada out of $2.4 billion in tax revenues.

Wikipedia lists the countries that are tax havens and anyone can access that site. If someone wants to invest money, they should consult that site. It indicates where to invest, even in the United States.

It is easy for people to shirk their fiscal responsibilities when countries allow it and accept it. Furthermore, the government, whether Liberal or Conservative—not progressive, but regressive—sees no problem with investing our financial capital there, since people are still making money in Canada.

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Hochelaga has only one minute.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, it is too bad that I have only one minute to speak.

I visited my colleague's riding this week. The member spoke at length about seniors and the people who are our living memory. These people are left out. In addition, high speed Internet access is absent from this budget.

My colleague is from a very beautiful riding, the second most beautiful riding in Canada, and I wonder if she can tell me how Internet access could have benefited her constituents, particularly seniors.

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is right.

This government wants to close Canada Post outlets, which mostly serve rural areas where Internet service is not accessible.

How can we help people isolated in rural areas when they do not have access to either mail or the Internet?

Money is available, but it comes with little and Conservative Party pictures and logos. Maybe there is a shortage of photographers or pictures. Money is often announced, but it does not go anywhere.

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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak briefly to Bill C-9, the budget bill, and what this means to most Canadians.

My constituents of Don Valley East are concerned, as in general this budget has very little positive impact on the average Canadian. Instead they feel the budget is providing businesses greater profits on the backs of average hard-working Canadians. For example, the budget does not provide any real relief for the unemployed or any hope for those who are in imminent danger of losing their employment.

Currently 1.5 million Canadians have lost their jobs and more will lose their jobs due to the inaction of the government. Young people are especially vulnerable. The current unemployment rate for youths is 16%, the highest it has ever been. The government needs to develop a strategy to get these Canadians back to work. It is very simple. If people work, they can spend and with that spending, they can enhance the economy.

The one thing the government has boasted about is the stimulus plan, the economic action plan. I would like to do a reality check on the action plan. So far the stimulus plan of the government has only created photo opportunities for ministers, a feel-good advertising campaign, which is all talk and no show, and false promises of jobs.

The question being asked by many Canadians is this. Where are the jobs that the government claims it is creating, the full-time well-paying jobs? A reality check, after the first year of the stimulus plan, is there are very few full-time well-paying jobs for Canadians.

The minister responsible for infrastructure and his officials are unable to verify either how much of the stimulus money has been spent or the numbers of jobs that have actually been created. How could they? They do not track the job numbers. The question my constituents are asking is this. Where are the thousands of jobs that the government is claiming it has created?

We understand the government spent about $250 million on advertising. How much did it spend on job creation? It was $9.4 million. If one does the math, the proportion is 1:25, $1 on job creation, $25 on advertising. That does not create jobs. The government needs to be more strategic in job creation and needs to spend less on advertising.

To add insult to injury, we have learned that more than $1 billion of this stimulus plan in the last budget did not even leave the federal coffers. How can that be possible? By not spending the money, the government can claim it managed the deficit. Talk about manipulating the public. How can Canadians trust it?

The government also lacks an economic antenna and fiscal credibility. Just last October, the Prime Minister claimed there was no recession, no economic crisis. The Prime Minister claimed that he would never create a deficit. It just goes to show that the Conservatives have never balanced a budget. The last time they did it was during the time of Prime Minister Borden, which was when the Titanic sank.

What are some suggestions that the government can do? It could extend the home renovation tax credit, with a new emphasis on energy efficiency and retrofit and build affordable housing for Canadians across the land. These are really the social determinants of the health of Canadians.

The government could invest in eco-energy retrofits and research and development to create value-added jobs. Canada has the technology and the know-how, but it needs a government to provide a conducive environment, not a government that cannot think beyond ideology, like it did with the Avro.

The government has a reverse-Midas touch. It kills everything that is good and progressive for Canadians, like the popular eco-energy retrofit program.

It is also a well-known fact that the most effective economic multipliers that provide stimulus are infrastructure. For every dollar that is invested, $1.60 comes back. In housing, the yield is $1.50 per $1 investment. Investing in the unemployed gives back $1.60.

Instead of doing the logical thing, what does the government do? It brings in a payroll tax. Increasing EI premiums, which is a payroll tax, kills jobs and is not an efficient way for the government to collect revenues. Canadians cannot figure out how the government can be so economically obtuse. A payroll tax of $13 billion to small and medium-sized enterprises is not an incentive for businesses to create jobs.

Officials from finance tell us that a percentage change in GDP equals approximately $16 billion and that its impact on job creation is around 0.6%. This means that $16 billion would create 96,000 jobs. However, the government's investment is only one-quarter of that, so how can it claim it is creating thousands of jobs? This is a plain falsehood.

One of the biggest losers of the stimulus program has been the women. They have not benefited from the stimulus package. Women have only seen a small part of the action in the Conservative government's economic action plan.

As the federal government rolled out the budget, a new study by Queen's University Professor Kathleen Lahey argued that men were seeing a disproportionate share of the benefits of Ottawa's record spending over the past years. Professor Lahey says that the top question for the government this week should be what budget 2010 will do to ensure that women receive a fair share of the benefits of these costly initiatives. Women have only seen a small part of the action in the Conservative government's economic action plan.

The study notes that of the $9.4 billion spent to date on stimulus, only $572,475, that is, 0.00006%, has gone to upgrade women's shelters, when nearly triple that amount has been committed to upgrading three animal shelters in Canada. While the care of animals is something very close to my heart, I believe the care of abused women should take precedence.

As I mentioned previously, the government has decided to massively increase EI premiums in 2011 for both the employees and employers. This impacts women and youth who are trying to seek employment or getting back into the workforce. How imposing a payroll tax helps stimulate the economy boggles one's mind.

The government also has proven itself to be an incompetent fiscal manager. In 2006 it inherited a $13.2 billion surplus, which carried over to the following year to about $9 billion. Today we find ourselves with a $56 billion deficit. When we add that up, it works out to over $70 billion in three and a half years that we have lost. That is shameful. If the government can claim it is an economic manager, I shudder to think what it would do next.

The government is putting a burden on every Canadian adult and child to the tune of $3,000, a burden on some who have not even started walking, let alone working.

What does the government have to show for this massive mismanagement of finance? There is nothing for seniors, women or the unemployed. There is no social housing, nothing for the homeless, older workers or informal caregivers.

What about the environment? Yesterday we learned that Alberta was facing a huge shortage of water. Why? Because of the lack of rain and snow. Climate change is a science that the Conservative government still refuses to accept.

What about R and D? The government let the space agency funds lapse and got rid of the government's leading scientists.

The budget does nothing for most Canadians. It is truly unfair to those who are most vulnerable and who care about the environment or the future. It affects the public service and programs of Canadians. The budget reinforces my belief that Conservatives are not here for average Canadians. They are only here for their ideological friends.

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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, buried in the budget implementation bill is a clause that would provide exemptions on any federally-funded infrastructure projects from an environmental assessment.

The federal Toronto Port Authority wants to construct a tunnel crossing a portion of Lake Ontario, linking Toronto to the island airport, thus enabling the airport to increase its air traffic dramatically. This proposed tunnel is extremely controversial and expensive, and Torontonians will be shut out of the consultations because there will not be a federal environmental assessment on the impact the tunnel will have on the water and air quality if this budget bill passes.

Furthermore, this environmental assessment exemption would allow for uncontrolled and dramatic expansion of the polluting tar sands projects without environmental assessments.

Not only will the budget implementation bill degrade the air quality of the Toronto waterfront, it will also increase greenhouse gas emissions, causing more climate change and global warming.

Given those terrible consequences of the budget implementation bill, how could the hon. member and her party allow this bill to get through the House of Commons?