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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

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the jobs and economic growth act, which implements many key measures from budget 2010, is a key component of Canada's economic action plan. As members likely know, Canada's economic action plan represents our Conservative government's aggressive response to the global economic storm. It is a plan that is helping to protect and boost our economy.

More importantly, it is a plan that is working. Last week, for instance, Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010. This not only represented the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade but also the strongest first-quarter economic growth among all G7 countries. Benoit Durocher, an economist with Desjardins, said:

It’s one more indication of the vitality of the Canadian economic recovery....The measures to stimulate the economy are bearing fruit.

Even better, both the IMF and the OECD predict that Canada will lead the G7 in growth through this year and next year. Additionally, Statistics Canada also reported last week that 24,700 net new jobs were created in May, which was the fifth straight month of job gains. This also represents the eighth month of job gains in the past 10 months. Overall, since July of last year, Canada has created almost 310,000 net new jobs.

Canada's economic growth and continued job creation is proof that Canada's economic action plan is indeed working. With numbers like these, it is not surprising that Canada's economy has been singled out for praise and envy way beyond our own borders. In fact, in a speech in Calgary, former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently said:

I want to compliment Canada; you didn't get burned as bad as everybody else did because you had a more disciplined environment....You have a pretty successful private economy here....

Jim Cramer, a popular financial commentator in the United States on CNBC, recently called Canada “perhaps the world's most stable financial system”. The influential magazine The Economist recently called Canada “an economic star”, further noting that:

....Americans may cast envious glances across their northern border. Despite its umbilical links with America, Canada’s economy suffered only a mild recession and is now well into a solid recovery...[Canada's] economy is set to perform better than that of any other rich country this year.

What is more, the OECD itself also recently singled out our economy for praise, exclaiming:

....Canada looks good—it shines, actually....Canada could even be considered a safe haven.

While it is encouraging to see Canada's economy on the right track, a testament to our government's strong economic leadership, the larger global recovery remains fragile. That is why the economy must remain paramount for Parliament, and that is why we need to fully implement Canada's economic action plan.

We must stay on the right track for Canadian families by following Canada's economic action plan both to ensure a strong recovery, and equally important, to support the coordinated global efforts that are under way. We have to stay the course. We must pass the jobs and economic growth act.

The jobs and economic growth act will build on Canada's economic advantage with its measured and ambitious proposed initiatives to, for example, eliminate tariffs on all manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment; to eliminate the need for tax reporting, under section 116 of the Income Tax Act, for many investments by narrowing the definition of taxable Canadian property; to implement important changes to strengthen federally regulated private pension plans; to implement the one-time transfer protection payments to provinces; and to enforce the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry through regulatory power, if necessary. Further, it would enable credit unions to incorporate federally, not just provincially; would stimulate the mining industry by extending the mineral exploration tax credit; would implement an enhanced stamping regime for tobacco products to deter contraband; and would ensure fairness for Canadian taxpayers by closing tax loopholes. There is much more.

During my time today, I would like to highlight three of the aforementioned initiatives. Specifically, I am going to speak to the proposed implementation of the one-time transfer protection payment to provinces, the proposed power to enforce a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry through regulatory power if necessary, and the proposal to enable credit unions to incorporate federally.

First, the jobs and economic growth act includes important support for provinces and territories across our country, support that underlines our strong and ongoing commitment to them. This support also demonstrates our commitment to not repeat the mistakes of the past, when transfer payments to the provinces and territories were dramatically cut in the 1990s under the previous government. As the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently pointed out:

Canadians can't afford to relive the nineties...when federal...budget deficits were shifted on to their property tax bills, or paid for with cuts to local services.

That is why we have made a commitment to the provinces and territories that they can count on our support and our ongoing support. Total transfers to provinces and territories will increase by $2.4 billion in this fiscal year, bringing total federal support to $54.4 billion, the highest level in our history.

Equalization payments to provinces for 2010-11 will total $14.4 billion. In fact, the Canada health transfer will grow to $25.4 billion, and the Canada social transfer for 2010-11 will reach $11.2 billion.

Our government has restored fiscal balance through long-term and fair transfer support to provinces and territories with total transfers increasing by over 30% since we formed government. This unprecedented and growing federal transfer support will help to provide the services and programs for our hospitals and our schools that Canadians rely on.

In addition to that significant federal support, budget 2010 also confirmed that our government will provide one-time payments to protect those provinces that may have faced a decline in the total transfers in 2010-11. This will ensure that all provinces receive at least as much support through major transfers this year as they did last year. This is in recognition of the short-term economic challenges facing provinces as we emerge from this global recession.

Accordingly, the jobs and economic growth act authorizes over $500 million in 2010-11 transfer-protection payments to affected provinces. Specifically, they are to Nova Scotia, at $250 million; to New Brunswick, at $80 million; to Newfoundland and Labrador, at $8.4 million; to Prince Edward Island, at $3.3 million; to Manitoba, at $175 million; and to Saskatchewan, at $7.3 million.

I note that these vital transfer payments cannot be made until the jobs and economic growth act receives royal assent. The over $500 million in transfer-protection payments, our ongoing government support, and our commitment to maintain support for provinces and territories has been well received throughout this country.

Listen to the Canadian Medical Association, which has welcomed our ongoing commitment, noting that:

Canada's doctors are pleased to see that the federal government isn't planning to balance the budget on the backs of Canadian patients. As we saw with the cuts to health care in the 1990s, the supposed cure ended up being much worse than the disease.

Listen to the presidents of 13 leading Canadian universities, including the University of Ottawa's president, Allan Rock, who wrote in an open letter to major Canadian newspapers right across the country:

The maintenance of federal transfers to provinces in Budget 2010 is...critically important.

Listen to the provincial governments themselves, like the NDP finance minister of Manitoba, who announced that she was pleased to see the commitment to maintain transfers, remarking:

[T]hey are going to keep the level of payments to the province at the level they committed to....[T]hat was good news for us.

A second aspect in the jobs and economic growth act that I want to highlight are the provisions that would allow the government to enforce a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry, with the authority to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks, if required.

Recently, concerns about the practices of card issuers garnered considerable attention and concern in numerous respects, including everything from business practices to marketplace structure. That is why in November 2009, we released for public consultation a proposed code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada.

The initial proposed code was based on ongoing discussions with small businesses, retail merchants, and consumer associations across our country. During the 60-day comment period, all Canadians were invited to submit their views on how best to monitor compliance with the proposed code.

This past May, after carefully reviewing the tremendous feedback resulting from our public consultations, our government announced a finalized code of conduct. Under the code, small businesses and other merchants will be provided with clear information regarding fees and rates. They will be given advance notice of any new fees and increases. They will be able to cancel contracts, without penalty, should fees rise or should new fees be introduced. They will be given new tools to promote competition, and in particular, they will have the freedom to accept credit payments from a particular network without the obligation to accept debit payments, and vice versa.

I note that the reaction to the code of conduct has been overwhelmingly positive. The Retail Council of Canada heralded it as “a solid victory for merchants across the country and a major step toward addressing imbalances in the Canadian payments system”.

The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors applauded it as an important win for both merchants and customers. It said:

[T]he Government of Canada deserve[s] a great deal of credit for taking critical steps towards developing a Canadian payments system that is competitive, fair and provides clarity for both merchants and customers.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business added:

The Code...will help increase transparency and restore fairness to small businesses and consumers in their credit and debit card transactions....A finalized Code constitutes an important step and is timely as we enter the summer season that is so vital to so many businesses, especially coming out of a recession....These developments will create a better future for merchants and help ensure a fair and transparent credit and debit card market instead of just letting large industry players call all the shots.

A Vancouver Sun editorial also cheered and said:

[W]e were pleased to see the code of conduct for credit and debit cards....[It] is an important step toward allowing merchants to have some control over costs and to maintaining a relatively low-cost cashless purchasing alternative that benefits consumers and retailers alike while still allowing for competition between providers....This should be an important change in the retail landscape...

The jobs and economic growth act will help ensure the success of the code of conduct for credit and debit card industries through legislative provisions for monitoring compliance and regulating the industry, if necessary. Specifically, it will enact the payment card networks act, which will give the government the power to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks and their participants, if and when necessary. It will also expand the mandate of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to supervise payment card network operators. It will include monitoring their compliance with the code of conduct and any regulations introduced under the new payment card networks act.

For this reason, it is vital that the jobs and economic growth act be passed as soon as possible.

A final and third aspect of the jobs and economic growth act I would like to spotlight is a proposal to enable credit unions to incorporate federally. Canada has a fine tradition of community-based credit unions, and many Canadians have decided to use credit unions for the majority of their financial needs.

That is why our Conservative government is proposing to create a federal legislative framework for credit unions to promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector to enhance its financial stability. Allowing credit unions to grow and be competitive on a national scale will broaden choices for consumers and approved services for existing members.

For that reason, the jobs and economic growth act will provide existing credit unions and those desiring to establish new credit unions the option of conducting the business of a credit union and serving their members and communities under a federal charter.

I note that organizations such as Credit Union Central of Canada have long called for this legislation.

A recent report by Moody's Investors Service emphasized the importance of this provision, as it will “lead to credit unions having a stronger national presence”.

Tracy Redies, chief executive of B.C.'s Coast Capital Savings, one of Canada's largest credit unions, has even called it historic legislation that “will lead to enhanced competition. It will provide potentially a true national alternative to the big five Canadian banks”.

In my speech today, while I have spotlighted but a few select key items in the jobs and economic growth act, it is very clear that through this legislation our Conservative government is continuing to show the economic leadership that Canadians expect and deserve.

As the jobs and economic growth act implements key measures of Canada's economic action plan, which are vital to secure a sustained economic recovery, it would be entirely irresponsible not to complete the plan's implementation. We must finish the important work that we started in 2009-10. To do otherwise would only serve to endanger our fragile recovery.

Given that, I ask all members in the House to give this key legislation the support it deserves.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments by the member for St. Catharines on Bill C-9. I know the member and his riding of St. Catharines, Ontario well. When he reflects on what he has heard in the committee meetings, it strikes me that those reflections are rather selective.

I know the people in St. Catharines are profoundly worried about their pensions. At the committee meetings, there was a huge call for pension reform with respect to protecting pensions in cases of commercial bankruptcy and increasing the CPP. People are profoundly worried about seniors falling into poverty and the need to enhance the GIS. Yet there is nothing in the budget about those things.

What is in the budget is the finalization of the theft of $57 billion from the EI fund, something that is also of huge concern in the entire Niagara Peninsula and across the country. Representations were made to the committee about that as well as the privatization of Canada Post, the sell-off of AECL and protecting the environment.

If the member feels as strongly as he indicated today about some aspects of the budget, last night why did he not support severing some of the other key items like EI reform, like the sell-off of AECL and the privatization of Canada Post so we could deal with those as stand-alone matters and he could truly represent the interests of his constituents?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I serve communities separated only by a small stretch of highway called the QEW. St. Catharines, the riding I represent, was hurt in the last number of months because of the recession specifically with respect to manufacturing. Niagara and St. Catharines depend largely on manufacturing to move themselves forward in terms of having strong local economies. In fact, at one point, those communities were second or third highest in the country, with a 10.4% unemployment rate.

Because of this action plan, because of what we decided to do in 2009 and 2010, St. Catharines and Niagara are proving, on a small scale in the country, that this plan works. They have moved from 10.4% to 9.1% to 8.6% unemployment. They will get below the national average before this year is done.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from St. Catharines for his very timely comments on the economic action plan. His community has been very hard hit and he has already articulated how it has rebounded as a result of the initiatives within our economic action plan.

Quite often we hear criticism from the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc that we are not doing enough or doing too much, but the proof is in the pudding. When we look at the pudding, we find the proof. What is the proof? It is a 6.1% increase in economic growth in the last quarter. We have the safest banking system in the world. Since July of last year, we have created 310,000 new jobs in our country, many of them in the Niagara region and in St. Catharines.

Exactly what kinds of jobs have been created in the riding of my colleague from St. Catharines and what are some of the great announcements coming out of his riding?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought I was just about to hear the infamous “a proof is a proof is a proof” quote, but he did not go that far.

However, I want to thank the member for Abbotsford, who has given me the opportunity to further talk about the benefits the riding of St. Catharines and the Niagara region have received because of this recovery plan.

We are building a new bioresearch facility at Brock University, which will consist of over 110,000 square feet. Why are we building it? Because it is the manufacturing of the future that the community of St. Catharines and Niagara will be able to deliver on. Brock University is on the cutting edge of how to do this. It received stimulus funding and that project will be completed by March 31, 2011. There are hundreds of jobs at that facility, which is now currently being constructed.

We can talk about the new performing arts centre that will be built in the downtown of St. Catharines. That will help rejuvenate the downtown.

For the first time in a long time, job advertisements are not getting the type of response they used to because people are working.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly of all the things that do not belong in this 880-page budget implementation bill, the smoking gun, the item that stands out the most, is the issue of the Canada Post remailers.

The fact is the government introduced that measure in Bill C-14 and in Bill C-44 over the last couple of years as stand-alone bills in the House and were rebuffed by this Parliament. It was unable to get it through.

Now the government has snuck it in under Bill C-9 in the hopes that its Liberal allies will close their eyes and vote for it or avoid the vote and allow this to pass.

How can the member, with a straight face, claim that this is a pure budget implementation act when he knows it is not?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know one thing that this 880-page document will not include, because it never has been included, is the support of the NDP. We have put budget after budget forward that have put people back to work in our country and the only thing they never have included is any type of support whatsoever from the NDP.

The 880-page document clearly outlines exactly what will happen with Canada Post and those remailers. What would it do? It would help, it would preserve and it would maintain 10,000 jobs in the sector. The NDP is going to vote against that. I would be ashamed if I had to go back to my riding and say that I cost the country 10,000 jobs.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the member for St. Catharines elaborate a little further on some of the key benefits to the credit unions?

Huron—Bruce is a rural riding and the credit unions play a key part, whether it is loaning to agriculture or to small business. They do a tremendous job. They are completely tuned into the communities.

Could the member for St. Catharines elaborate a little more so Canadians can hear what a tremendous opportunity this is to grow the credit unions?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hard-working member for Huron—Bruce, who really has done an outstanding job in his time here since being elected. He has put Huron—Bruce back on the map in our country and in Parliament. It is good to see him here today to ask a question on the credit unions, which have a huge impact on his riding and ridings like his across the country.

NDP members are crying out. They are the ones who think credit unions should be allowed more opportunity and they are ones who are voting against it.

Being able to give credit unions the opportunity to work under a federal charter is the right thing to do for our country.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in knowing what the member plans on telling unemployed people in his riding when they find out that Bill C-9, among other things that do not belong in it, would empty out the EI fund and affect the hard-working people across Canada who depend on that fund when they hit on hard times. People in my riding have seen their jobs dissipate without the government's support when it comes to the forestry industry or the issues around manufacturing?

What is he going to tell those workers in his riding who are looking for EI in those difficult days?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two things.

First, in the last two months General Motors announced in St. Catharines $480 million worth of investment at General Motors on Glendale Avenue, which will help preserve and create 800 jobs. That says something about how much manufacturing means in the riding of St. Catharines and where things are going.

When she speaks about EI, and I realize she was not here when this budget passed, let us not forget that we passed the budget that moved the whole board of EI away from the way it was being run. It is run independently and has a minimum of $2 billion to ensure that what the Liberals did with EI reform would never happen again.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Based on our rules, I believe it is inappropriate for a member to say whether or not a member was here. In fact, I am not even sure what he is referencing in terms of my absence with respect to the budget.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the member lets me, I will explain. It was passed in a budget when she was not elected. I would never refer to her as not being in the House. In fact, I know she is in the House a great deal of the time and does work hard. It was not a reference to her attention or membership here. It was in reference to a previous budget when she was not elected.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for clarifying that.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing the House that the Senate has passed the following bills to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, Maternal Health; the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Oil and Gas Industry; the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

The House resumed 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 third time and passed.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Windsor West.

It will not surprise members that I am speaking in opposition to the Conservatives' budget implementation bill at third reading. We in the NDP moved 62 amendments to the government's budget that would have immeasurably improved the bill by taking out the most contentious sections and allowing them to be dealt with in stand-alone bills. Sadly, with the complicity of the Liberals, all of them were defeated in this House last night. I therefore have no choice but to vote against the unamended budget bill.

It is worth reminding people at home who may be watching this debate today what is at stake in this bill and specifically what changes we tried to make.

There were six groups of amendments that dealt with Canada Post, AECL, the National Energy Board, environmental assessments, employment insurance and the air travellers security charge. The NDP amendments would essentially have deleted all sections relating to each of these categories. Frankly, these sections should never have been in the budget bill in the first place. Each piece is of such importance that all six should have been brought forward as separate bills subject to separate scrutiny by this House and in committee and subject to public hearings with affected stakeholders.

In fact, the law explicitly states that if the government is contemplating the sell-off of a Canadian asset like AECL, then it has to be brought to the House of Commons as a bill. Instead, the government buried it on page 556 of the budget. AECL is the largest crown corporation in Canada and it is completely irresponsible for the government to sell it off without any transparency and without any accountability.

We should not be giving away our nuclear crown corporation to a foreign company in a fire sale. Over the course of AECL's life, Canadian taxpayers have put $22 billion into building the company. The only public estimates of what the government might receive in a sale suggest that we would be lucky to get $300 million if we sell it now.

The process has been shrouded in secrecy since the beginning. The government commissioned a report from Rothschild on how to proceed and has never consulted Parliament on its contents. Now the Conservatives are trying to push the sale through the back door by burying the groundwork in Bill C-9, the budget bill.

Parliament and Canadians need to be consulted and involved in the process. Otherwise, if the government simply gets its way, Canadian taxpayers are going to get ripped off and high-paying jobs will be lost.

That is why we put forth our amendments in the House. It is imperative to separate out the AECL privatization measures and force the government to bring them forward in a stand-alone bill. The proposed sale of AECL must be closely studied, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that the government cannot just force it through in a budget that is being used as a Trojan horse.

The same is true for the sections dealing with environmental assessments and the National Energy Board. Here, too, the government is using omnibus budget legislation to weaken Canada's environmental protection laws. These are non-financial matters and they do not belong in the budget.

The government's approach is becoming a bit of a pattern. In last year's budget bill, the Conservative government gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This year's budget bill takes aim at the act that is most important in protecting our environment. This is not about streamlining the process. It is being gutted. These changes will undoubtedly result in damage to our environment, and Canadians will be on the hook to clean up the mess. Putting these costs on future generations is not conservative, it is unconscionable.

What is most galling is the process by which this law is being eviscerated. Parliament, in its wisdom, has prescribed that a review of the law and recommendations for reform be undertaken this year by a designated committee. This comprehensive review is already slated to come before the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has stunningly dubbed such a review as “frivolous”. So it comes as no surprise that the government has chosen instead to short-circuit the process that would hear and consider the views of interested stakeholders and other concerned parties and fast-track changes through its budget bill.

Bill C-9 transfers reviews of major energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The effect is a diminishment of public rights, including clear access to intervenor funds and lessened requirements to consider environmental factors.

Also, the Minister of the Environment will be empowered to narrow the scope of any environmental assessment with political considerations potentially influencing decisions.

Finally, one of the key triggers for federal assessment, federal spending, is significantly exorcized with almost all federal stimulus funded projects to be exempted.

Addressing long-term liabilities from unmitigated environmental or health impacts should not be shunted aside for short-term political gain from streamlined or fast-tracked project approvals. Canadians will pay the costs.

Similarly, Canadians will be paying the costs of the ill-conceived erosion of Canada Post's exclusive privilege to handle international letters. I have had the privilege of speaking at length on this issue twice before in the House, so I will try to be brief today.

At the heart of the issue is that international mailers, or remailers as they are commonly known, who collect and ship letters to other countries where the mail is processed and remailed at a lower cost. In doing so, they are siphoning off $60 million to $80 million per year in business from Canada Post. Yet Canada Post needs that revenue to provide affordable postal service to everyone no matter where they live in our huge country. In fact, one ruling of a Court of Appeal in Ontario stressed the importance of exclusive privilege in serving rural and remote communities and noted that international mailers are “not required to bear the high cost of providing services to the more remote regions of Canada”.

Canada Post won this legal challenge against the remailers all the way to the Supreme Court. What is the so-called law and order government doing in response? It is standing up for the international mailers which are currently carrying international letters in violation of the law. The Conservatives are allowing them to siphon off business from Canada Post and they snuck the enabling legislation into the budget bill. Once again, the budget is being used as a Trojan horse and the Conservatives are hoping that no one will notice. Well, New Democrats noticed and that is why we moved to delete all of the sections related to international mailers from Bill C-9.

We also noticed of course that the government is imposing a new tax on Canadians through this budget. This is a new flight tax that is expected to raise $3.3 billion over five years. Ostensibly, it is for better airport passenger screening, but only $1.5 billion of money raised will be going to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The rest appears to be going straight into government coffers. Even if people believe that the new security measures such as the 44 virtual strip search scanners are better than regular pat-downs, the bottom line is that the Canadian security charge is now the highest in the world without any commensurate increase in aviation safety. Whether it is called a user fee or a new tax, it is an ill-conceived cash grab by the government and deserves much greater scrutiny.

Finally, I want to talk about the changes to EI that are buried deep in the budget and I will cut right to chase. When the Liberals were in power the then finance minister took almost $50 billion of workers' money out of the employment insurance program and used it to cut taxes for his friends in corporate Canada. Since taking power in 2006, the Conservatives have continued to rob workers of what is rightfully theirs. Instead of seizing the opportunity to do right by hard-working Canadians in this budget and returning all of the employee and employer contributions to the EI fund, the budget bill before us does the unthinkable. It legalizes the theft of $57 billion. It takes the $57 billion and simply adds it to its general revenues. That is the biggest theft in Canadian history and it is being perpetrated in the House of Commons and the Senate.

That is not what we were elected to do here. On the contrary, for the last year and a half, our country has been battered by a tsunami of job losses and we as elected members have a responsibility to mitigate its impact on the hard-working Canadians who are the innocent victims of this recession. That was the original reason for creating EI. It was established so workers who lost their jobs would not automatically fall into poverty. EI is the single most important income support program for Canadian workers and we have a duty to protect and enhance it. So no, we cannot just let the budget implementation bill rob Canadians of hope by being complicit in emptying the entire employment insurance account. We cannot and will not let this pass with our consent. We cannot and will not support the bill that is so fundamentally at odds with the best interests of our constituents.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the air travellers security charge and pointed out that the tax will now be raised 50% by the government. It will be the highest tax in the world, even exceeding Holland's. The government is only spending part of that money on airport security. It will be using the extra money it is raising from Canadian travellers for general revenue.

The sad part of this whole exercise is that the international security charge will now be $25 whereas the one in the United States is only $5. For several years we have been losing Canadian passengers to American air carriers. The government is the new best friend of the American airline industry because while Canadians have been travelling with American carriers over the last three or four years because the taxes are lower on air fares in the United States, it is going to make it even more difficult for the Canadian carriers to stay afloat and remain competitive with the Americans.

How in the world is the government trying to be competitive when it does things like this?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood--Transcona is absolutely right. That new tax is nothing but a tax grab by the Conservative government. It has nothing to do with enhanced airport security. Therefore, it has nothing to do with traveller protection.

If the government were really serious about protecting travellers in Canada, it might want to have a look at the incredible bill that was brought forward by the member for Elmwood--Transcona. It was a passengers' bill of rights that would have made substantial improvements for people who use flights regularly or perhaps only once a year for travelling on vacation. For people who are stuck either at terminals or on the tarmac, his bill offered real protection to airplane travellers.

That bill was sadly voted down with the support of the Conservatives. The Conservatives voted against the bill. That is a disgrace. His bill merited support. The new surcharge on air travellers that the Conservatives are proposing certainly does not.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a follow-up question. The member raised the issue of Canada Post and the remailers, and I really think that this is the smoking gun in this 880-page omnibus bill. The Conservative government has tried to throw in a lot of things that do not really apply. The sale of AECL is one of them, but certainly the remailers is the most blatant example.

I say that because the government, independent of this measure, introduced the remailer issue under Bill C-14 and Bill C-44 over the last two or three years. It presented them in this House. These bills were debated in this House and they were not passed by this House. It could not get these bills through.

Seeing a weakness over on the Liberal side in the opposition, the government has thrown everything into this bill. Things that do not belong have been thrown into the bill because the government knows that the Liberals will go along with it and pass it through as law.

Would the member like to make some comments on that point?

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, I of course agree. The road down to privatization of Canada Post should never have been in the budget bill. Twice before we have seen this in the House as stand-alone bills. That was an appropriate way to present the matter to this House. Of course the opposition rallied. We made sure that those two bills did not pass, but that too is a part of democracy.

The member for Elmwood--Transcona is also right that basically, the Liberals sold out the workers at Canada Post. Last night we had an opportunity in this House to delete the sections of the budget bill that dealt with Canada Post. We had that opportunity. Unfortunately the Liberals voted with the government so the sections remain in the budget bill.

I find one thing absolutely incredible about that. I have been in this House listening to speeches about the budget at second reading. We have been at committee with the bill. We are now here at third reading. I have heard Liberal member after Liberal member get up and say, “We care passionately about protecting Canada Post. We are with you, CUPW. You can count on us”, and last night, when they had the opportunity to show which side they were on, what did they do? They voted with the government. They sold out the workers at Canada Post and they led us down the path of privatization of Canada Post.

It was an absolute disgrace and I was ashamed on their behalf last night in this House.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege always to rise in the House of Commons, but sadly Bill C-9 is coming to a conclusion with most likely its passage and I would like to speak against the bill for a number of different reasons.

It is an omnibus bill, so it is a bill that has several additional chapters added on to it. The government has chosen the Americanization of our legislature in many respects. It is similar to state and Congress bills that have riders and pet projects that are added to pass legislation in the United States. What has happened here is that cabinet ministers' pet projects and agendas are moved separately.

I am going to spend a lot of time talking about the bill, but I am not going to necessarily attack the Liberals. I am hopefully going to appeal to the Liberals and the progressive forces who are there to come forward, to change their ways, and vote against the budget.

The reality is that the Conservative government will not fall on this with the G8 and G20 coming. To declare these things as confidence, Canadians would be upset in many respects. Normally those issues that we are talking about should be going to legislation and should have the full debate.

This is a high water mark in terms of what is happening to Canadian democracy and also the repercussions of what is being proposed. I have already seen this.

I saw the thousands of jobs that have been lost, as well as thousands of workers thrown out on the streets in the strike, for example, at Vale Inco in Sudbury. The government changed the Investment Canada Act through a previous budget document, which has now resulted in a foreign takeover that is locking workers out from a fair deal, whereas we could have had a significant difference had that legislation gone through the normal process.

Viewers across the country really need to understand that the government has grouped together and piled on a series of significant social policy changes that are even outside the scope of the discussion of whether or not we should be building fake lakes, whether we should be spending money on employment insurance, whether we should be giving corporate tax cuts, or whether we should be increasing pensions and the politics around that.

This is about a further add-on of legislative changes in hundreds of pages that do not receive accountability. They do not get the input of Canadians. They are excluded from that, whether they are the individuals sitting at home who want to contribute when the government talks about changing Canada Post, who live in a rural community and perhaps would be losing that service, or whether they are in the city and dealing with smog and the environment, or whether they work for an organization actively trying to push for change to public policy. They are being denied the right and usual process in the House to change our ways about doing things.

We are also missing, which sometimes happens in the House, resolutions at the table, with debate in the House, and at committee with witnesses and all those things.

The Liberal Party, by not making a stand on that, is providing this window of opportunity for basically a bully government to get its way, to change public policy through the back door. It is afraid to do that and knows it cannot do that through the democratic process democratically that we normally have.

That is a significant departure from what we have had in the past. We have had this happen a couple of times recently with the Conservatives with regard to the Investment Canada Act and we have seen the hollowing out of the country. We have seen the debacles that have resulted with U.S. Steel, and as I mentioned, Vale Inco. As well, we have a series of divestments in the mining industry that otherwise would have had greater scrutiny.

We have seen the loss of Nortel. That is all because the Investment Canada Act was changed without due process. Pensioners were ripped off, employees have lost their jobs, and we have lost the opportunities of RIM, for example, to become a greater Canadian iconic company that could have brought in some of the technology from Nortel because the government changed the process and created a new process without diligence.

We have seen that happen with the Immigration Act. Canadians are upset about the Immigration Act no matter which way they feel about it. The Conservative government is responsible because it has been fiddling with it without having the proper process.

That is what is unacceptable. It is a watershed moment when it decided to pile it on even further and farther which will cost significantly down the road when we look at the Environmental Assessment Act that is going to be changed.

If we do not have the proper process in place or accountability, if people peddle their pet projects or get permission to avoid the process, we could end up hurting our economy and the environment, and I have seen that happen before.

I saw the government's short-natured approach when we looked at the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It was changed in a budget bill. We heard significant uproar from native fishermen, anglers, and a series of other groups who had no opportunity to consult.

Now the government has decided to up the ante. We just need to look at what the government is going to do with AECL, our nuclear power industry. It is important to note that 30,000 value-added jobs are in this industry in Canada. AECL has demonstrated that it is one of the most reliable operators in the world. It has demonstrated that it can actually be a progressive force for nuclear energy, but also making sure that it is not connected to weaponization.

AECL has led the way in many respects and it is now going to be sold, probably to the lowest bid. The government is desperate and it is trying to make up for the deficit. Everyone knows that so bids will come in low. That is unacceptable because billions of dollars of taxpayers' money has been invested in AECL.

I come from the auto industry. That industry has seen the loss of many value-added jobs. The manufacturing sector has lost many value-added jobs. The forestry sector has lost many value-added jobs. The effect is not only the bang at the moment when people are sent home and do not know what their future will hold but it also has an echo effect on the community, when their EI runs out or when they no longer have a pension or benefits so they cannot afford to send their kid to college or university.

We are undermining ourselves significantly by not doing the proper planning. It is frustrating when we see some of the things that are happening.

There is a big stink right now with regard to the $2 million fake lake, which is now being called a pavilion. Let me put some perspective on this $2 million lake that is being built in Toronto and is going to be filled in after the summit.

The government only has $8 million in this budget for the Great Lakes, the most important natural resource on this planet. It provides freshwater which is not only a commodity but essential to our everyday living and our farming communities. This is causing regional conflict across this country. It will be the new gold of the future.

The government is providing $8 million for the Great Lakes, yet in Toronto it will dig a hole, fill it with water, put out some Muskoka furniture, add some screens and some fences, and it is going to cost $2 million. This fake lake is probably going to get more money than Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake St. Clair. It is going to get more than all the Great Lakes. This fake lake is getting $2 million and meanwhile $8 million has to be divided up even though we know freshwater is one of the most significant things that we have.

Lake levels are down right now and that is affecting our economy. We have already witnessed that fact. The shipping port through Windsor and that area is one of the busiest in the world. It has actually had to lessen the loads to make sure that they can actually get through. A whole series of other issues related to dredging are going to emerge. Environmental contaminants occur as a result of dredging. We will lose the use of our waters, whether we use them for pleasure, recreation or the economy.

What do we get from the government in this budget? We get $8 million for that and $2 million will go toward something that will be dug out, filled with water, carved up, and then three or four days later be filled back in.

We have to borrow this money as the government has raked up a record deficit. We will have to pay interest on that money. Whether it be the money for corporate taxes, the tens of billions of dollars that will have to be raked over until 2014, whether it be $6 billion for implementing the HST, we will have to pay interest on that.

Everything we do right now counts because we do it at a premium. We do it at an extra cost, and interesting to note is that it is being done on a credit card. The government's solution is to try to change the channel.

I ask the Liberals to think about this because it is significant for our economy and for our democracy. Now is the moment to call the government on the carpet.

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4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on a really excellent speech. He touched on many of the issues that really do separate us from supporting this budget and supporting the kind of Canada that we see with the Conservative Party. It is a Canada where people are not engaged and where their right to be involved in decisions about how their environment is affected by projects is taken away by this budget bill.

One of the most important aspects of our society that has developed over the past 40 years is our ability to stand up and say that we do not like what is happening in our neighbourhoods. Governments in the past have seen it in their wisdom to make sure that citizens, through organizations and individual effort, were given support to make those arguments in front of environmental assessment panels.

Now that we are switching many of these projects over to an agency like the National Energy Board, that ability will be gone. The ability of citizens to get the resources to present coherent arguments at environmental assessment panels will be gone. It is a basic fundamental right that Canadians have fought for and have got out of governments in the past.

How does my colleague see this particular effort, that has gone forward from the Conservative Party, fitting in with—

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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Windsor West.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. This is basically out with the new and back in with the old. Today in the House of Commons, the Conservatives used one of their questions to talk and brag about Brian Mulroney. At the same time, they have spent a lot of time trying to distance themselves from Brian Mulroney.

Something interesting is happening here, especially with these agencies that are going to get more power. We have seen that the Prime Minister is incapable of resisting the temptation of putting political hacks and special favours into these commissions as well the senate. The people from the former Alliance and former Reform Party, and those who have signed to the Wildrose Alliance Party must be thinking this is déjà vu all over again.

Now we have record spending with less accountability. Now we have a system put in place again that brings in some of the old practices and takes away the elected officials' capability to respond to them.

We have to really wonder about all of those people who talked about those issues and felt them so dearly that they even brought some of the members of Parliament here to flip-flop and cross the floor. Why would they continue to support this when they are bringing back the old and throwing away the new?