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House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was growth.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

HaitiRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. I will hear her submission now.

HaitiRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that you can be uncompromising on such matters, but I want to emphasize the fact that five days from today, five months will have passed since the terrible earthquake in Haiti, and Canada's Parliament has not done anything about the crisis. Canada's Parliament must formally acknowledge the crisis and exert pressure where it can and must.

In Haiti, over a million people are living in camps lacking all modern conveniences. And now the rain may trigger epidemics and landslides. This catastrophe is about to become even more catastrophic.

We need to know what the government has done and how much money it has spent. I decided to ask because last week, I found out that two months ago, the international community promised $10 billion. So far, only $55 million of that pledge has been paid out, and only by Venezuela.

Parliament must acknowledge the situation immediately, find out what is going on, and ensure that it can take action and intervene because it has not yet done so. Haiti is a special responsibility, as Paul Martin said. It is Canada's special responsibility because of the close links between Haiti and Quebec and between Haiti and the many Canadians of Haitian origin and their friends.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to listen to the voice of reason.

HaitiRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île for her remarks. She has presented compelling arguments on the subject, but the problem is that this situation has been going on for several months. If a crisis truly meets the criteria in the Standing Orders for an emergency debate, that is one thing, but I do not believe that the member has made a strong enough case for us to consider this the type of crisis to which we can apply the Standing Orders.

In my opinion, this matter is not proper to be discussed at this moment. I would point out that there is an opposition day this week. Perhaps this matter could be the subject of a discussion during the opposition's allotted supply day.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak in strong support of the jobs and economic growth act.

The jobs and economic growth act and budget 2010 are key components of Canada's aggressive plan to protect and grow our economy through Canada's economic action plan. As everyone in the chamber would agree, our economic action plan is on the right track in getting results for Canada's economy and Canadians.

Indeed, Statistics Canada recently reported that over 24,000 net new jobs had been created in May. That was the fifth straight month of job gains in Canada and helped show yet again that Canada's economic action plan is working.

Clearly, our Conservative government is on the right track for Canadian families. Since July 2009, employment in Canada has increased by 310,000 jobs. We have seen eight months of solid gains in the past 10 months.

What is more, under our Conservative government, Canada's economy is leading the way internationally. Statistics Canada also recently announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010, the strongest in the G7. Even better news is that both the IMF and the OECD are forecasting Canada to have the strongest economic growth among the G7 and all major advanced economies this year and next.

In the words of John Manley, the former deputy prime minister under the former Liberal government and the current president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

It used to be said that when the United States sneezes, Canada catches a cold. This time it was different: the impact of the recession was not as severe in Canada as it was on the other side of the border. Nor have we suffered as badly as Europe....

Meanwhile, the consensus among international forecasters is that Canada will lead the G7 this year and next in economic growth.

Clearly, we have a lot going for us....

Nevertheless, we must remain cautious. The larger global recovery remains fragile. While Canada's recovery appears strong, we cannot lose focus. The economy must remain our number one priority.

As a recent Toronto Sun editorial noted:

—the job growth numbers support [the] Prime Minister['s]...contention Canada's economic recovery is among the strongest in the world. You only have to look at the economic carnage in Greece...to appreciate that. What politicians of all stripes on Parliament Hill need to remember is that for average Canadians, the economy is job one.

Our Conservative government agrees. That is why we are working to fully implement Canada's economic action plan through the jobs and economic growth act and helping ensure a sustained recovery continues throughout the country. That is why I would like to spend my time today stressing the importance of the many budget 2010 items that are being implemented through the jobs and economic growth act.

As we know, budget 2010 delivers year two of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that has delivered and will continue to deliver $61 billion in effective stimulus, boosting economic growth and supporting Canadians and their families during the most severe global economic recession since the 1930s. At the same time, the plan is helping build Canada's economic advantage well into the future.

The economic action plan, including budget 2010, is making a real difference in communities across Canada. It is protecting and creating jobs, building and improving vital infrastructure and housing, and further strengthening our highly competitive tax system.

Let me spotlight some specific budget 2010 measures in the jobs and economic growth act, measures that Canadian families are relying on and that underscore the need for all parliamentarians to support this act.

As we recently celebrated tax freedom day on June 5, I would like to highlight certain tax breaks we are implementing through this important legislation. Before that, let me note for the information of the chamber that tax freedom day was three weeks earlier under our Conservative government than under the tax and spend Liberals when it was June 26.

Since taking office in 2006, our Conservative government has cut over 100 taxes and reduced the overall burden to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. All that translates into total savings for a typical Canadian family of over $3,000 per year.

We are building on our proud record of tax relief in the jobs and economic growth act and will help more and more Canadian families keep more of their hard-earned money where it belongs, in their own pockets.

One such measure seeks to improve the universal child care benefit by ensuring single parents receive comparable tax treatment to single-earner two-parent families. This change will ensure that single parents are not disadvantaged. Moreover, and more importantly, it will provide nearly $200 in tax relief for each child under six that a single parent may have.

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has applauded this tax relief as well by stating:

I am pleased that the government has recognized that single parent families have been unfairly penalized through an excessive tax clawback....

I further note that this also fulfills a promise our Prime Minister and the Conservative Party made during the most recent election campaign.

We are also building on our proud record of tax relief for job-creating businesses in the jobs and economic growth act with measures such as extending the mineral exploration tax credit. Canada's mining sector and the people it employs represent a key economic sector. By supporting the ongoing development of Canada's mining sector, we are supporting important benefits in terms of employment and investment in infrastructure, especially for Canada's more rural and remote communities.

As noted in budget 2010, flow-through shares permit businesses to relinquish or flow through tax expenses associated with their Canadian exploration activities to investors, who can then deduct the expenses in calculating their own taxes. This allows job-creating businesses to attract the investment they need to grow and expand.

The mineral exploration tax credit is an additional benefit available to individuals who invest in flow-through shares equal to 15% of specified mineral exploration expenses incurred in Canada and renounced to flow-through share investors.

Through the jobs and economic growth act, our Conservative government is proposing to extend the eligibility for the mineral exploration tax credit for one year to flow-through share agreements entered into on or before March 31, 2011. I note that this particular measure has been very well received throughout Canada.

The mayor of Timmins, Ontario, Tom Laughren, has noted it “will definitely benefit our region”.

The Mining Association of British Columbia, or MABC, welcomed the extension and other budget 2010 measures, noting:

With British Columbia's mining industry emerging from recent economic challenges, MABC is encouraged by this federal budget's initiatives that will help ensure that recovery does not falter.

The Mining Association of Canada, MAC, also added its support, remarking:

These continue to be economically challenging times for our industry, and MAC is encouraged by budget initiatives aimed at maintaining the course....MAC views the federal budget 2010 as being appropriate for the times as global economies recover from turbulence.

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada also added its voice extolling the extension as it promotes exploration which is critical to Canada's economic recovery and long-term growth.

Finally, even the NDP member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay was forced to admit it was positive for northeastern Ontario. The member also told his local paper, the Northern News that the retention of flow-through mining tax credits continues, and that is something he has been pushing for. For that reason alone, one would think the NDP member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay would reconsider his opposition to the jobs and economic growth act.

On top of supporting our mining sector, this bill also takes a step to assist Canada's manufacturing sector and the many Canadians whose jobs depend on its continued health.

The jobs and economic growth act implements the budget 2010 pledge to make Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturers by eliminating all remaining tariffs on productivity-improving machinery and equipment, and goods imported for further manufacturing in Canada.

I am proud to say that this will make Canada the first country in the entire G7 and G20 to be able to make this claim. This important initiative will be a significant incentive for our manufacturing sector.

It is estimated that this commitment alone will create 12,000 jobs, diversify trade and boost Canada's manufacturing sector as well as its overall productivity. It means that Canadian manufacturers will be able to import goods for further production in Canada by Canadian workers without the red tape and paperwork of tariffs and the costs of complying with discouraging customs rules.

Our Conservative government's campaign against tariffs will give our manufacturers across the country a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by lowering production costs, increasing competitiveness and enhancing innovation and productivity. With that said, it is little wonder we have heard such overwhelming positive reaction to it across Canada. I would like to take a moment to share a small sampling of that reaction.

The C.D. Howe Institute explained:

Eliminating all tariffs on inputs is an absolutely brilliant move. Tariffs are just plain dumb in imposing costs on businesses. It certainly inhibits productivity growth and the ability to compete. And it is a superb message...in terms of attracting investors but also in taking a leadership role in establishing an agenda aimed at trade liberalization and broad-based economic growth.

The Belleville and District Chamber of Commerce in Ontario applauded the move as a positive step that will allow manufacturers to be competitive, and stated:

Our local manufacturers work on global competitiveness. They have to be competitive and this will allow that to happen.

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council added its praise as well, because it will help manufacturers by “reducing their input costs and therefore improve their productivity and competitiveness”.

The Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership called it “a big deal” and stated:

This is just a fabulous story. Improving productivity is key for Canadian manufacturers seeking to sell on the international market. Much high technology equipment must be imported from Europe and Asia, so eliminating tariffs helps to make it more affordable for Canadian manufacturers.

The Canadian Apparel Federation welcomed the move as well. It said:

Canadian firms can be successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace because they have a proven record of delivering quality, fashionable merchandise on a quick replenishment basis to their retail customers throughout North America. Eliminating duties on our raw materials allows Canadian apparel manufacturers to do so on a cost-effective basis.

Even the Canadian Meat Council, which represents Canada's meat processing industry, praised the announcement, saying:

[It] helps Canada's meat processing industry modernize their operations and better compete globally through the elimination of tariffs on a range of machinery and equipment....

Finally, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters had the most glowing reaction to this important announcement. I will quote it at length:

Removing tariffs is a good thing for Canada. Eliminating manufacturing tariffs is a bold move by the government. Tariffs tie up goods at the border and cost importers time and money. With the removal of tariffs it frees up that time and saves importers big money. Tariff reduction would make it easier to bring in internationally imported machinery used in the manufacturing sector and allow Canadian businesses to update or replace older models and become more effective.

Again, that was but a small sampling of the extremely positive reaction to the landmark measures in the jobs and economic growth act, to make Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturers.

I could literally have spent my entire 20 minutes for this speech relaying the outpouring of positive accolades. However, there is more in the jobs and economic growth act. While the economic action plan is without a doubt a measured and powerful response to an extraordinary challenge, it was never meant to be a permanent one. The action plan contains a built-in exit strategy to ensure that its measures are temporary.

Moreover, our government is committed to winding down temporary stimulus spending by March 31, 2011, as scheduled, as the first step in the government's strategy to return to balance.

Even more, our Conservative government will lead by example through belt-tightening of its own. As noted in budget 2010, we are freezing the operating budgets of the bureaucracy. To build on that, the jobs and economic growth act would freeze the salaries of the Prime Minister, all ministers and members of Parliament, and senators.

As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation noted, “It's good to see politicians leading by example”.

In my remarks here today I have presented only a few highlights of the jobs and economic growth act. Clearly, we need to fully implement Canada's economic action plan. We must ensure that it stays on track, and we can, with the passage of this important legislation.

I call on all members to put aside partisanship and to help enable us to have a stronger economy well into the future. I call on members to help to ensure that in every region of Canada families and businesses are paying less tax and that unemployed workers are receiving better support and new training and can see hope for more jobs in the very near future.

That is why I urge the House to support the jobs and economic growth act as the next step in Canada's economic recovery.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, does the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar believe that her Conservative government has the constitutional power to remove from the public treasury the estimated $57 billion that employees and employers have paid into the employment insurance account? Does her government think it has the right to do that?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I think the real issue here, and what is most important to Canadians, is that they see that our government is delivering on a two-year plan, Canada's economic action plan. It is a plan that is working. It is a plan that is without doubt a measured and powerful response to an extraordinary challenge. Our government is moving to implement the remaining stimulus measures in Canada's economic action plan to help secure our country's economic recovery, to encourage growth, and to create jobs.

This legislation contains measures to restrain and focus spending, to create a more competitive environment for business, and to help ensure tax fairness for Canadian families. The jobs and economic growth act aims to contribute to Canada's advantage now and in the future.

I could go on, but I believe that all of the proposed changes I just mentioned are great reasons to support Bill C-9.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I commend the hon. member for her remarks, and I am confident that as Parliament's rising star, she will have a very substantive answer to my question.

While she talks a lot about cutting taxes, and while certain taxes have been cut, there has been one massive tax hike undertaken by the current Conservative government, which is four years in a row of employment insurance premiums rising at the maximum amount permitted by law. This is often referred to as a job-killing tax hike, to the point where the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says that this will cost the Canadian economy 200,000 jobs.

I would ask her, then, at this time of a weak economy and in recessionary conditions, how she can justify such a massive job-killing tax hike.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, our Conservative government understands that Canadians expect this government to keep our economy growing and balanced. Canadians understand that the economic action plan is helping to secure our country's economic recovery. It is helping to encourage growth and to create jobs.

Bill C-9 contains excellent measures that restrain and focus spending. If the member would like a reason to support this legislation, then perhaps he would like to know that Bill C-9 proposes many good things. For example, it proposes to regulate national payment card networks and their operators, if necessary; to enable credit unions to incorporate federally and operate as banks; to streamline environmental assessments for infrastructure projects; to increase competition in telecommunications by removing existing restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian satellites; and to stimulate the mining industry, as I mentioned in my speech, by extending the mineral exploration tax credit for just one year.

This list surely provides an excellent rationale for supporting this important piece of legislation.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that the member would be talking about competitiveness in relation to Bill C-9, when the bill and the government have increased the air travellers security charge by 50%, making the charge the highest in the world. What this is doing, at $25 for international flights versus $5 for the Americans, is making our airlines uncompetitive vis-à-vis American airlines. The government is actually helping American airlines at Canadian airlines' expense as Canadians book with American airlines for their flights.

How in the world can the member claim that the government is keeping Canada competitive when it does things like this?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, all one has to do is read through the proposed legislation, to read through Bill C-9, to see that we are introducing a number of proposals that will keep Canada very competitive. Again, the Conservative government understands that Canadians expect this government to keep our economy growing and balanced, which is why we have included so many important measures in Bill C-9.

The bill contains excellent measures that restrain and focus spending. The list I went through in my speech surely should provide an excellent rationale for supporting this excellent piece of legislation.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-9 is a very important bill that makes sure that this country keeps on the growth path that this government has created through our economic action plan. Everyone in the House has to admit that this country is doing much better economically than most countries around the world, and it is because of this government. I want to thank the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for her hard work on the finance committee. She is doing a great job.

We are making some changes to the universal child tax benefit to allow greater fairness between single-parent and two-parent families. I would like the member to explain why that is important to Canadian families.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to answer my colleague's question. Once again, this measure seeks to improve the universal child care benefit by ensuring that single parents receive the same tax treatment as single-earner, two-parent families. This measure ensures that single parents are no longer treated unfairly and that they are not disadvantaged. It will, more importantly, provide nearly $200 in tax relief for each child under the age of six a single parent may have. I believe that this is such an important measure that it would behoove all members of Parliament to support this very important legislation.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which the Liberal Party will oppose.

I notice that the member for Burlington just a few minutes ago spoke about Canada doing relatively well compared to some other countries, and certainly that is true. Compared with, for example, Greece and other countries, Canada is doing well. The point I would make is that to the extent that we are doing better than other countries, it is despite the actions of the Conservatives. It has all to do with the legacy of the previous Liberal government.

There are two reasons why Canada is doing relatively well. First, we have relatively strong banks. Second, we have a relatively favourable fiscal position. Members should ask themselves why each of these two points is true. If they were to go back a few years, they would notice that the previous Liberal government said no to the trend toward deregulation of banks that was taking place in the U.K. and the U.S. The Conservatives of the day said to deregulate. The Liberal government also said do not. The Liberal government also said no to bank mergers, and the Conservatives of the day pushed us to allow those bank mergers.

Because the Liberals stood firm on bank deregulation and said no to bank mergers, both things the Conservatives had the opposite view on, our banks today are relatively strong and solvent.

Second is the fiscal position.

As we all know, the Liberals in the mid-nineties inherited a $43-billion Conservative deficit. We proceeded to eliminate that deficit and paid down the debt over 10 long years. The Conservatives came to power, inherited a $13-billion surplus, and frittered it away by overspending, such that we were in deficit or approaching deficit before the recession even hit. Notwithstanding Conservative mismanagement, the fiscal legacy they inherited was so strong as to leave Canada in a relatively good position compared with other countries. Yes, Canada is doing better than Greece and certain other countries, but it has nothing to do with the Conservative government and everything to do with the legacy it inherited from Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin.

I would now like to turn to a quote from the current public safety minister, when he was in opposition. It appears that he did not like bills that contained many disparate, unrelated items. Here is what he had to say:

While past practice has often demonstrated that logic is not essential to the legislative process or for the legislative provisions themselves, there is a clear logic to grouping together the diverse provisions of this bill. It is a Machiavellian logic motivated by the politics of cynicism. It is a logic that raises the spectre of the worst of the American legislative process.

I remind the House that this was said by the current public safety minister when he was in opposition.

Maybe the Liberal Party pushed the envelope a bit far in the bill on which the public safety minister was commenting, Bill C-15 at the time, but in the end, we split the bill into two distinct sections and allowed all MPs to vote their conscience. In fact, the Liberal Party split that bill despite having a majority government at the time.

Bill C-9, the bill we are currently debating, is exactly as the public safety minister once put it. This bill does have a clear logic. It is a Machiavellian logic motivated by the politics of cynicism. It is a logic that raises the spectre of the worst of the American legislative process. However, this is by no means a recent problem.

Recently, and this will appeal to those in the House who have an interest in history, I came across a paper called “The Vote”, which was published around the time of the first world war in England. One article from 1917 lamented the diminishing power of the House of Commons as the cabinet assumed more of that power.

Specifically, the article, written in 1917 in Britain, stated:

The chief cause of the diminishing power of the House was the growth of the Convention regarding every proposal brought forward by the Government as one of confidence.

The article continued:

Sixty years ago the Government frequently accepted defeat on matters of detail and continued in office, amending its proposals in accordance with the will of the House. The present habit is seriously harmful. When Members now go into the division lobby, it is not a question whether a proposal is good or bad but whether or not they shall defeat the Government.

Today, 93 years after that article was published, we have a similar, in fact, only slightly different debate in Canada. Today, there are some bills which the government accepts defeat on and does not resign, but instead the government has crammed a whole series of unrelated measures into a 972 page budget bill, which it knows is treated as a confidence measure. It wanted the debate to be about whether we would go to the polls rather than about whether the measures were good or bad for Canada. It is this kind of cynical tactic that would make the younger version of our Prime Minister turn his back on the current version.

This is one reason why the Liberal Party opposes the bill, because it has so many unrelated items crammed together into one package. However, the budget also provides a clear contrast between a Liberal approach to the Canadian economy versus the Conservative approach. Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal policy is to freeze corporate taxes going forward.

It is true that in the past, when we ran surpluses, Liberals brought down the corporate tax rate substantially. However, that does not mean at a time when Canada is already relatively competitive, we should go deeper into deficit to further cut corporate tax rates. This is why we have a clear policy, in contrast to the Conservatives, that we would freeze the corporate tax rate, thereby generating some $6 billion dollars in additional revenue. Part of the revenue would go to reduce the deficit and part of it would go to support middle-class families that live in extreme difficulty and anxiety today because of these difficult economic times.

How would we provide support to these middle-class families? Let me mention briefly four ways that we would do this.

First, post-secondary education is key to Canada's productivity, key to equality of opportunity, key to filling the jobs of tomorrow. Today, with the youth unemployment rate at something like twice the national average, young people are having increasing difficulty finding summer jobs to support their studies. We believe it is critical that the government provide support to those Canadians pursuing post-secondary education. Indeed, as our leader has said for years now, if they have the grades, they get to go. Therefore, support for post-secondary education is a top priority of this party, unlike the Conservatives, who would let middle-class families, including post-secondary students, simply fend for themselves.

A second source of anxiety, which at this time of aging population that will become increasingly an issue, is care for aging parents. We believe the Conservative government is not doing nearly enough to support those Canadians who are increasingly burdened by looking after their aging parents. By definition, as our whole society ages, this issue will become more and more important as time goes by. Rather than further cuts to corporate taxes, we believe some of that funding released should be used to support Canadians in their efforts to care for aging parents.

A third area is at the other end, not only care for aging parents, but care for young children. We have committed ourselves, as in the past, to a system of affordable early learning and child care. The previous Liberal government had implemented that plan with signed agreements with all of the provinces, only to see those agreements torn up by the present government.

The final area in which we distinguish ourselves from the Conservatives on the economic front has to do with pensions. There are significant problems with the Canadian pension system. A substantial number of Canadians fear, often with good reason, that they will have inadequate resources to support themselves and their families in their retirement years.

Strong action has to be taken by the federal government to improve our pension system and to take measures to enable Canadians to save more so they will have adequate income during their retirement years. The Conservatives are ideologically opposed to any kind of supplement to the Canada and Quebec pension plan. They do not like it.

The Prime Minister, when in opposition, spoke of privatizing the existing Canada pension plan. If that is his ideological starting point, how could we possibly expect him to support a strengthening or expansion of the Canada pension plan? I simply do not believe that it will happen. Such changes have to be done in coordination with provinces. Our proposal is that we move to create a supplementary Canada pension plan in consultation and negotiation with provincial governments.

In the recent past, two provincial governments proposed such systems, but it went nowhere. Nothing to do with the Canada pension plan ever goes anywhere without strong federal leadership, which has been totally absent in the case of the government. Under a future Liberal government, we would take the bull by the horns and work very hard to provide the federal leadership necessary, in conjunction with the provinces, to improve and strengthen the Canada pension plan.

Canadians will have a very clear choice. They can choose the Conservatives, who insist on taking corporate taxes lower and lower while failing to provide any assistance for the middle class, or they can choose us, the Liberals, who will temporarily freeze the tax rate, because there are more important priorities, and it is not a good idea to increase the deficit in order to reduce corporate tax rates. We will offer more assistance for the middle class in terms of post-secondary education, care for seniors, day care and a reform of the pension system in Canada. Too many Canadians are worried that they will not have enough resources once they retire.

We are at a crossroads. Come the next election, whenever that might be, the Conservatives will stand for further reductions in corporate taxes and leave the beleaguered middle class to fend for itself, whereas the Liberals will freeze corporate taxes at their current already competitive level and use the resources not only to address the deficit but also to address the needs, concerns and worries of middle-class Canadians in terms of post-secondary education, elder care, child care and pensions.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, Mike Blanchfield and Jim Bronskill, from The Canadian Press, are claiming that no Conservative members can speak without first getting the authorization of the Prime Minister's Office or of the Prime Minister himself.

Assuming these reporters' claims are credible, does the member not think that Conservative members are not necessarily saying what they think about the budget, but instead are being told to believe in the budget in order to stay in the good graces of their leader? They are forced to keep quiet about their real feelings on the budget, because their leader is telling them to believe that it is a good budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I agree completely with her. This government probably exerts the most control of any government in the history of Canada. I would like to give an example. I asked the Conservative member a question. I said she had just received an award as a rising star and I congratulated her on that award, but I said that if she were really a rising star, she could give a substantive answer. I asked her a question about employment insurance benefits, and her answer had nothing to do with EI.

I think this shows that the Conservatives always use their PMO speaking points and have no personal opinions.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is indulging in a little revisionist history when he talks about the situation regarding the banks.

The fact is that during whole period he referred to, the banks did want to merge so they could compete on the international market with the big American and worldwide institutions. The Liberal Party was only restrained from allowing the banks to merge by the NDP voices in the House.

The current government, when it was in opposition, was for deregulation. It pushed the government to allow the banks to merge. It wanted to follow the American-style deregulation, unshackling free enterprise and let it operate in an unfettered way.

I have complimented the previous government in the past for holding firm on that issue when it looked like the way to go was to follow the Americans. However, we know it was the NDP members who pushed the Liberal government of the day to disallow the bank mergers.

I want the member to be a little fair in how he assesses the situation and to not revise history too much in the process.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with about 80% of what the member said. It is true that, at the time, the Liberals said no to the mergers and to deregulation, the Conservatives were pushing hard in the other direction. They wanted the mergers to go through. They wanted to deregulate and set the banks free. Now that we know it would have been a very bad policy, the Conservatives are wrapping themselves in the framework of strong regulation, which they had historically opposed. I agree with the member on that. I said as much in my speech.

The one area where I disagree is the notion that the NDP caused the Liberal government of the day to say no to bank mergers. I remind my colleague that the Liberal government of the day was a majority government, so the Liberal government did not need the NDP or any other opposition to say yes or no to bank mergers or anything else.

While I am sure the Liberal government of the day was grateful to the NDP of the day for supporting its position on bank mergers, I do not think it can really be said that it was an NDP initiative.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a question to do with the whole environmental aspect of the budget implementation bill. I am from British Columbia. We live in a very sensitive area. We are very concerned about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Conservative government has not ensured that the kinds of regulations to protect our waters from oil and gas drilling and from oil tankers are in place. In fact, the government has said that the 1972 moratorium on tanker traffic and oil and gas drilling has ended.

The budget implementation bill, Bill C-9, is a move toward putting in place the kind of regulations that are far more industry friendly and are far less concerned about the health and well-being of our waters.

Could the member comment on whether he sees any problems with embedding the environmental regulation within a budget implementation bill, instead of stand-alone legislation that would see fulsome debate in the House of Commons? If the legislation passed, it would be referred to a committee where we would have witnesses come forward who could talk about the impact of those environmental regulations. Then it would come back to the House for appropriate reading and debate.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, yes, of course, I believe that. One of the first points in my speech was to say that we objected to putting all these things together in one omnibus bill, just as the current public security minister had objected to a similar thing when he was in opposition. So, I agree that certain items would be better separated out.

And I certainly agree that in the light of the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada should take much greater care, in terms of the risk of spills off of our shores, whether the east coast or the west coast or the Arctic. Time after time in this House, during question period, we have asked the government that question, about the 1972 moratorium and other aspects of what it is going to do to ensure that the tragedy that happened in the Gulf of Mexico does not happen in Canada.

Sadly, it has only provided evasive answers. So, we do not have a clear picture whatsoever of what the government's policy is going to be with regard to offshore drilling and with regard to the risk of an environmental disaster.

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11 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, speaking to this bill at third reading is a problem, because we get the feeling the government is going to roll right over us—you will excuse the expression—unless everyone who is really opposed to this bill is here this evening when you call for the vote, so that we can defeat this awful bill.

I would remind the House that the lockout that occurred just before the budget was brought down was announced by the Prime Minister's director of communications, Mr. Soudas, who today has become invisible, like a ghost, but who was everywhere back then. When this shadowy figure from the Prime Minister's Office locked us out, we used the time to tour Quebec, and I have a clear memory of giving a copy of the Bloc Québécois' budget document, Saisir l'occasion pour le Québec, to the Minister of Finance, his parliamentary secretary and his office.

During our tour, which lasted over a month, we sat down with 317 different organizations and nearly 400 people and we covered nearly 10,000 km all over Quebec, in the middle of winter, to ask people their opinions and find out what they wanted to see in the budget of the Government of Canada, which they support with half their tax dollars.

We suggested a number of possibilities, but we do not see any of them in Bill C-9. It would therefore be worthwhile to remind the government and other hon. members what Quebeckers want from the budget.

We divided our work into several parts. First we wanted to ensure a lasting recovery by spending $10 billion, or $9.8 billion to be more precise. At the time, we knew that Quebec was not recovering at the same pace as everywhere else and that we needed to pay attention to this type of thing. A few months later, we are still not sure that the recovery is secure and that we will not end up back in a recession or with economic woes if the slightest problem crops up.

Of that $9.8 billion, $4.2 billion was for promoting the economic development of Quebec. Indeed, we thought that if national programs could be applied across Canada, and applied specifically to Quebec, it would cost $4.2 billion, not including what we had already proposed and is still on the table, namely, loan guarantees for forestry companies.

When it comes to the budget, comparing what has been granted to one industry to what has been granted or not to another industry shows clearly that Canada is very uneven and very unfair. Almost $10 billion was invested in the automobile industry. That is in the budget documents and no one is against it. The Government of Canada is entitled to pay out that kind of money to help an industry, as former governments of Canada were entitled to create an industrial policy to develop the oil sands and develop the west. But why stop there? Why help out one sector and not another?

No policy on loans or loan guarantees for the forestry industry has materialized. There is nothing. Forestry in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, is being ignored. There is a forestry sector out west also. It is being left to fend for itself, which is unfortunate.

There were also some programs—for example, the AgriFlex program—designed to increase the income farmers should be receiving. Nothing happened. We had also recommended $5.6 billion to help people and foster lasting economic recovery.

It is very important—and a real pleasure—for MPs to return to their ridings, meet their constituents and see what problems their constituents have.

We proposed that part of the $5.6 billion be used for an updated, comprehensive employment insurance program. We recommended, for example, that coverage be increased to 60% and that there be a single, 360-hour eligibility criterion. What is happening at present is not right. Two people working for the same company may be treated differently because they do not live in exactly the same municipality. That does not make sense.

We also asked for the waiting period to be abolished. Why is there still a waiting period? I can understand that, in other times, when information was not necessarily available instantly, they had to wait two weeks to verify that the person was who they claimed to be. Now that all information is available instantly, it no longer takes two weeks or more to verify the information. Why have a waiting period? In general, people apply for employment insurance benefits because they need the money. They need money to pay the rent and buy food. For two weeks, we pretend that the person does not exist. It is still being enforced.

We also made significant proposals with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. We want it to be automatic, retroactive and increased. There is still nothing.

We also proposed a modest $65 million to help the homeless. Unfortunately, anything can happen these days. Accueil Bonneau, a residence and outreach centre in the south end of Montreal, is closed. I was a member of the board of directors for six years, and president for four years, just before I made my first foray into politics in the 1990s. Accueil Bonneau has been helping homeless people for over 100 years, without asking any questions, not even for a name, and without telling the person they will give him or her some food in two weeks, the way the government does with employment insurance. Accueil Bonneau serves 800 meals a day. The centre is closed today, in a symbolic gesture. It is the first time Accueil Bonneau has ever closed. They have been through some real storms. They survived the ice storm and snowstorms. Accueil Bonneau even blew up about 15 years ago. There was an explosion in the basement and yet, the very next day, people were serving meals. But today it is closed. Silent. And for the government across the floor, it is also total silence. Nothing. Zero.

We also asked for funding for caregivers. We also asked for funding for housing. We asked for a total of $5.6 billion to help people, and we obtained nothing.

We also proposed that the Government of Canada stop harassing the Government of Quebec. In March 2010, as part of its budget, the Quebec government included an appendix, appendix E, that tallied up what the Government of Canada owes Quebec on a regular basis. This includes the harmonization of sales taxes between Quebec City and Ottawa, for instance.

The bill before us completes the transactions involving the harmonizations requested by the provinces and compensates those provinces, including Ontario.

The Quebec sales tax has been harmonized since 1992. Six or seven successive finance ministers in Quebec have always asked for $2.2 billion. When Bill C-9 was being reviewed in committee, we asked the officials from the Department of Finance some questions. They replied that those funds had been politically blocked and were not yet available. When parties negotiate, they must be on equal footing. At present, the one with his hand on the purse strings is the Minister of Finance, the former Ontario finance minister who, along with wanting to get his hands on the Autorité des marchés financiers, is also bleeding the Government of Quebec by cutting funding.

I have another example that has to do with Hydro-Québec and Ontario's Hydro One. Are there two other companies in Canada that are more similar than these two, which both produce hydroelectricity, transport the electricity using towers and distribute the electricity using wires? Electricity is distributed from waterfalls to houses, businesses and even here. Both corporations belong to their provincial governments, that is, Ontario and Quebec. However, because of legal intricacies whereby one was divided into two entities and the other into three subsidiaries, this has cost Quebec $250 million a year since 2008.

Government officials are talking. I have a great deal of respect for them, for I have been one myself. People can talk for a long time when their mandate is not to resolve a problem. People sitting around me here today have had long careers in the union movement and know very well that when people are given the mandate to resolve an issue, they solve it. However, when their mandate is to talk, they talk. Government officials do not have the mandate to resolve the issue of the $250 million at this time.

The government put a cap on equalization. During the election campaign in 2008 in Quebec, with a stroke of the federal pen, without any consultation with the provincial governments, the government drew a line that is costing the Government of Quebec $357 million a year. There is no mention of this in the budget speech.

There is protection money, a certain insurance policy invented in 2006. Quebec was the first province to see its revenues drop. The Government of Canada said that Quebec had received too much money in recent years and therefore demanded the $2.38 billion overpayment, in installments of $238 million a year for 10 years.

The following year, other provinces found themselves in the same situation. The Government of Canada decided to include a form of protection in the equalization formula to keep payments from decreasing. Quebec went through that, paved the way for the other provinces and then asked what the Government of Canada would do for it. The government asked for $238 million. It could tell Quebec to stop paying that $238 million per year. However, the Government of Canada subtracts it from the payments it makes each year. So there are no cheques.

Since 1991, there has been a dispute between the governments of Canada and Quebec. They went to an administrative tribunal. They went to the court of appeal. The federal government lost. That represents $137 million since 1991. The Government of Canada did not go to the Supreme Court.

In Quebec, everyone said that they would accept the decisions of the administrative tribunal and the court of appeal. The deadline for going to the Supreme Court has passed and the Government of Canada is not paying. It amounts to $137 million since 1991.

During our tour, we said that the Government of Quebec should be respected. We proposed additional spending of $16.8 billion, but, at the same time, additional revenues of $18.9 billion, meaning an additional $2 billion for the government so as not to increase the deficit.

Where was this money going to come from? We had a very logical principle: ask those who have more to pay more. For example, we proposed that anyone with a taxable income of more than $150,000, which is a lot of money, pay up for a while and contribute as well. But Canada's current Minister of Finance—Ontario's former finance minister, refused and chose to protect those people.

We spoke about tax havens and banks. We know that the minister does not want to go after his banking buddies and the friends of the member for Markham—Unionville on principle. Others have weighed in however. With all due respect to our friend, I looked at what the Royal Bank of Canada had to say. In its annual report, on page 122, it says that international earnings of certain subsidiaries would be taxed only upon their repatriation to Canada. Since there will be no repatriation, there are no taxes. It also mentions that if all foreign subsidiaries’ accumulated unremitted earnings were repatriated, they would be estimated at $821 million in 2009, $920 million in 2008, and $843 million in 2007, just for Royal Bank. I did not look at what the other banks had to say. We are telling the Minister of Finance that we must go after that money—it is written here—but he does not want to.

We did the tour and made some proposals to the government, thinking this could improve things, but the government completely ignored us.

Coming back to the matter at hand, it is one thing for a 17-page budget speech to become a 451-page document, acceptably long, with all the details, the tax measures, annexes, and ways and means motions. That is the right way to do things; it makes sense. But what the government has presented us with is an 872-page bill that has 2,208 clauses, and that talks about privatizing the AECL and Canada Post, among other things. Those kinds of things would usually be found in several bills.

In conclusion, I hope that the opposition members who sit with me on the Standing Committee on Finance, the member for Markham—Unionville, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, and our good friend, who is regularly invited, the member for Willowdale, will be strong enough to urge all of their Liberal colleagues to join us in voting against this bill.