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House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wonder how the member will explain to those who would actually benefit from this budget implementation bill that he will vote against it, more particularly when he says that he does not like the fact that the EI premiums are limited.

We froze the EI premiums during the difficult economic times, but his party's way is different. His party voted for and asked for a 45-day work year that would have added billions of dollars of costs to the EI program, increasing the premiums. As well, when the Liberal Party was in government, it took $50 billion, give or take, from the EI fund.

Would the member answer this: if the Liberals had not taken those moneys from the EI fund, is it not true that there would never have been any need for an increase in EI premiums?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the hon. member was listening to my speech and I am not sure he knows much about EI premiums, because I do not think his statements make much sense.

The problem is with the government's policy on EI. I agree that in the long run we must balance the EI books. However, the Conservatives' system of balancing it very quickly, over two or three years, carries the consequence that they will be raising EI premiums during a recession, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

The Conservatives held off for a year or two by freezing premiums, by overriding their system, but now they are going sharply up in EI premiums just when the Canadian economy is at greatest risk.

I have spoken to many experts on the EI system. All of them, the actuaries and all the others, agreed that it makes no sense to rebalance the EI books so quickly, because it means that premiums would be raised just at the time when Canadian workers and the Canadian economy are at their most vulnerable.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about EI premiums and how sharply the government is raising the premiums. The other side of this is that fewer than 40% of unemployed Canadians can actually get access to the EI benefits that these premiums pay for.

Given that the International Monetary Fund reminds us that growth is going down and unemployment is going up, does the member not think that it is time to revisit the level of benefits and access to benefits for all Canadians so that we can restore EI a point of actually providing insurance for Canadians who lose their jobs through no fault of their own?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her point. However, those are two separate subjects.

I stand by what I said: now is not the time to raise employment insurance premiums. I suspect she would agree with me on that issue, but I will not put words in her mouth.

I also agree that there is an element of unfairness with regard to those who receive benefits and those who do not. Coming from Ontario, I recall statistics showing that it was particularly difficult for Ontarians to qualify, so I do think there is potential for reform in the area that she describes.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I are fortunate enough to have a former minister who has already reviewed a budget in order to create some room to stimulate the economy without creating an even bigger deficit. This government has spent more than any previous government. Even before the recession, it plunged us into a deficit and eliminated the surplus that had been accumulated.

Could my colleague tell us how we would be able to avoid increasing payroll taxes—which certainly should not be done during a recession—and avoid increasing the deficit too much, while carefully managing public finances?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. There are certain things that the government could do, but it will probably not do them. For example, it could restore corporate taxes to their previous levels, call for tenders for the fighter jets or refrain from building so many prisons. That way, we could finance some things, but it is not likely that the government will do things that way.

Since a slowdown is inevitable and it is not likely that the Minister of Finance will meet his deficit objectives, if we were to return to a balanced budget a few years later than expected, it would be acceptable in light of economic situation. I think that is what the head of the IMF said.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my hon. colleague, who was once a minister of revenue, has any tips or tricks he could share with the current government regarding the speed of adjustment to the new reality. When the facts change, how quickly can one change course?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. The speed at which we should change our course depends on the speed of the changes in the world. The world has changed dramatically. As I already said in my speech, some 10 months ago, everything was fine and people were not nervous; they had confidence. Now the opposite is true. For that reason, I think the government needs to change its course rather significantly and quickly.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member believe that the purchase of fighter jets without a competitive bidding process constitutes standard practice? Would the member describe it as something that is likely to reassure Canadians regarding this government's management abilities?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

As a former defence minister, I know without a doubt that we need those jets. The question is not whether or not we should purchase these jets, because we need them to defend Canada, to defend our territory. Rather, the question is whether there should have been a competitive bidding process. I am very much in favour of a bidding process.

The government is not being honest when it ignores the fact that the cost of these jets has doubled and that a competitive bidding process would have saved it at least a few billion dollars. That is what the government should do.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Crowfoot.

I am pleased to speak to this bill regarding keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing, which is the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It is a plan that will support Canada's economic recovery and promote job creation. It is a plan that will support communities and invest in education and training. It is a plan that will help Canadian families and respect their hard-earned tax dollars.

This bill is a low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a continuation of the prudent fiscal policy that has been at the foundation of our Conservative government's economic agenda. Our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth.

While many governments in the developed world are dealing with turbulent financial problems and unsustainable debt crises, as was mentioned earlier today, Canada has become a leader on the international economic stage. We have the strongest job creation record in the G7. Nearly 600,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009. We have a renewed AAA credit rating by Moody's. We will have, according to the International Monetary Fund, the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the next two years. Forbes, the influential business magazine, has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business.

These fundamentals will help us to create jobs and grow the economy as many Canadians want and would expect from us.

While this is indeed positive news for Canadian businesses and the Canadian economy, we must remain cognizant of the fragile economic situation in Europe and the United States. The Canadian economy is mutually connected with the economies of the world. We are not isolated from the potential economic problems that remain outside our borders. That is why we must stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan so that we can continue the positive economic growth and job-creating agenda our government has spearheaded thus far. This new piece of legislation will promote Canadian job creation and economic growth.

With the introduction of the temporary hiring credit for small businesses, we are providing this one-time credit of up to $1,000 to encourage small businesses to expand their workforces and hire new skilled employees. All of the steps we have taken are to that end to ensure the economy continues to grow and ensure that the jobs are out there. This hiring credit is precisely what small businesses have been calling for and our Conservative government is delivering results. It will encourage small businesses to hire more workers, which will translate into employment insurance savings by lessening the burden on the EI system.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has declared this initiative as particularly important and went further to say that it will make it easier for small businesses to create jobs. Indeed, small businesses are the engine of job creation in this country. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture cheered it as well by saying that it welcomes the news for farm operations that are looking to expand.

Our Conservative government is also supporting the Canadian manufacturing sector. We are extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for two years so that companies can write off investment in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. This will allow them to grow their businesses and procure top-of-the-line equipment that will bring them to the forefront of international technological innovation. They will do this at a time when it is needed most.

This legislation is also doing more to support local communities. We are legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund in order to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. This is something municipalities have been calling for year after year. They want to know they have this source of funding to do the many projects that are necessary to provide the infrastructure for continued economic growth. We are ensuring that cities and towns support and invest in infrastructure priorities that are important to them.

Our Conservative government supports local input and local decision making. Making this investment permanent and annual will benefit towns and communities in my riding and, indeed, in the many ridings from coast to coast to coast.

Our Conservative government is also enhancing the wage earner protection program so that workers are covered and protected from employer bankruptcy and receivership. This is a program that has been very well received and utilized.

This legislation will also help families by way of the new family caregiver tax credit in the amount of $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children.

We all know many people who are faced with the daily struggle of taking care of ill parents, spouses or children and need some additional help. These individuals also have to go to work. They have to pay their bills and send their children to college or university. Through the family caregiver tax credit, our Conservative government is committed to assisting and supporting these caring individuals who have sacrificed incredibly for the benefit of their family.

The Canadian Cancer Society has called this new tax credit:

...a good start in providing more support for all family caregivers.

We welcome the tax credit and other measures in the budget as a step in the right direction.

Our Conservative government also recognizes the economic benefits that come with investing in education and training. We are supporting universities, colleges, skills trades and apprenticeship programs.

The legislation forgives student loans for new doctors and nurses in underserved rural and remote areas. A portion of the federal component of their Canada student loans, $40,000 for doctors and $20,000 for nurses, will be forgiven so that these doctors and nurses can practise and support the rural communities of our country that need them the most.

It will not only assist students who are riddled with student debt, but it will ensure that rural and remote communities, communities that form a large part of my riding, get the adequate medical services they deserve and require. This measure has been very well received in my home province of Saskatchewan. Our premier has publicly applauded it by saying:

Doctors in rural Saskatchewan is a huge issue and one that we're dealing with in terms of training seats and expanding the number of countries from where we can attract foreign trained doctors and the physician recruitment agency. But help from the feds is a welcome thing.

This legislation also includes a tax credit for volunteer firefighters. That is why I have some difficulty with those who say they are not going to support the budget, because we are giving benefits to certain segments of society that require the help. How do those members say to those people that they are not going to support them with the benefits that they need at this time?

The credit for volunteer firefighters plays a critical role in their serving of their communities. They put themselves at risk for the safety of their neighbours and the protection of their communities. The least we could do is address their concern.

This legislation recognizes the importance of this life-saving work by establishing a new volunteer firefighters tax credit. This will be a 15% non-refundable tax credit on an amount of $3,000 for volunteer firefighters. This has been enthusiastically received. In the words of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs:

We were delighted with its proposal....This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country, which will in turn help protect Canadians and our communities.

This is precisely the kind of thing we should be doing.

The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing bill helps support Canada's economic recovery. We must be prudent in the way that we approach and manage the Canadian economy so that we can continue on the path of positive growth while at the same time remaining cautiously aware of the potential economic troubles in other countries of the world.

Our Conservative government, through the economic action plan, has maintained steady control of the Canadian economy. Our plan is working and we must continue to stay the course and meet the needs of Canadians as they require from us as a responsible government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, one of the hon. member's colleagues asked our finance critic a question. He said that the oil sands were creating a lot of jobs and that, in fact, the oil sands were stimulating the entire Canadian economy.

I would like him to comment on a situation created by this government—the situation where all of our crude oil is sent to the United States. As a result, thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians have lost their jobs. This is particularly true in my riding where thousands of people lost their jobs because of the closure of two refineries in the past few years. I would therefore like him to comment on this issue.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, creating the conditions for people to invest is always important. We have lower taxes right across the board to make our country one of the best places for investment to take place.

Deloitte Canada had this to say:

...budget [2012] further cultivates Canada’s position as an attractive business destination for global enterprise. By choosing to proceed with planned corporate tax rate reductions, the government sends a signal that Canada is friendly to investment — both foreign and domestic.

In terms of what is happening in the oil sands, the jobs that are created there are jobs for everyone right across the country. For every job that is provided, material needs to be supplied, contractors are required and goods and services need to be done. That is what propels the economy. That is what generates the kind of activity that we need across the country. We must not get in the way of it. We must support it.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noted that my colleague made reference to the temporary hiring credit for small business. I wonder why it is not a permanent hiring credit because, after all, small and medium businesses are the engine of the economy. They do create jobs, whereas the big banks and the big oil companies that have had permanent tax breaks have not created the kind of jobs that the government suggests. Why not make it permanent?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, this credit helps those who are affected by the current situation and we will deal with the situation as it goes forward into the future.

We not only did that but we also froze EI premiums when the economy required that. If members of the New Democratic Party had their way, they would have increased the EI account by probably $4 billion or more dollars by some of the things they wanted to put in, like the 45 day work year.

The Liberal Party at one point took up to $50 billion out of the EI account, which cleaned out the balance. We said that would not happen again, which is why we have decided that benefits must equal the premiums. That is the principle that we have in place. It is a good principle and we will continue with that.

Where there is a need, we will take action to ensure that employers and employees are not overly burdened.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the NDP talking about shipping raw bitumen to our southern neighbours. Does the NDP support increasing our refining capacity in Canada?

I would like to ask the hon. member just how many jobs we have actually created through the economic action plan.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, despite what was happening in other parts of the world and despite what was happening south of the border, we were able, through our economic action plan and the steps we took, to recoup the jobs that were lost because of the economic uncertainty. In fact, over 600,000 net new jobs have been created since 2009 and many of them are full-time, meaningful jobs.

We invested billions of dollars with respect to skills upgrading and training during that difficult time so people were well positioned, not only to return to jobs but to return to better jobs to ensure they could earn a decent wage and support their families.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to again stand in this House and speak on behalf of the constituents of Crowfoot to Bill C-13, Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act.

The legislation that we are debating today introduces our Minister of Finance's key elements of the next phase of Canada's economic plan, a low-tax plan for jobs and growth.

My constituents of Crowfoot know that our Conservative government is focused on creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Under the leadership of our Prime Minsiter, Canada has the strongest economy and the strongest job growth record in the G7. We have created nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

The International Monetary Fund, IMF, projects that Canada will continue to be among the nations with the strongest economy and the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the next two years.

However, Canada is not immune to the global economic turbulence. Bill C-13 provides our government with the means to stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

One of the features of Bill C-13 is a temporary hiring tax credit for small business. It would make it easier for small businesses to hire workers or enhance wages. This is precisely the kind of measure that Canadian workers need at this time. This would create new jobs and help save the jobs presently had by the workers across this country.

Hard-working, tax-paying Canadians raising their families need stable and predictable employment to see them through this difficult economic time. The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act would help support Canada's economic recovery.

I just want to touch on a couple of highlights of Bill C-13.

First, it would expand tax support for clean energy generation to encourage green investments. According to what opposition members have said today, they will vote against that, the opportunity to enhance green investments and clean energy generation.

Second, the bill would extend the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector.

I had the privilege in the past Parliament to chair the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and international Development. At that committee, we studied a number of bills, such as Bill C-300 and others. I know that the Canadian mining sector contributes over $300 billion to Canada's GDP each year and over 300,000 Canadians are employed in the mining industry.

The mining industry stimulates and supports economic growth, both in large urban centres and in remote rural communities, including numerous first nation communities across the country. However, again, the opposition members say that they will not support that.

Mining accounts for 19% of Canadian goods exports and $5.5 billion in taxes and royalties paid to the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The industry also generates considerable economic spin-off activity. There are more than 3,200 companies that provide the industry with services ranging from engineering consulting to drilling equipment. In addition, over half of the freight revenues of Canada's railroads are generated by mining.

Many Canadians are not aware of the large role that Canada's mining sector plays in our economy. However, it is important to nurture Canada's mining industry.

Bill C-13 also would simplify custom tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for all businesses.

Most Canadians do not know that Canada is a nation built by trade. We do more than $1 billion a day in trade flowing over the Canada-U.S. border. While many Canadians understand the important role of trade, they do not realize that trade just with the Americans amounts to $1.8 billion a day.

Since 2006, our Conservative government has been working diligently to boost Canada's access to markets, not just across the border with the neighbours closest to us, but all around the world, and we are having success.

I look in the House today and I see our agriculture minister who has been working hard at his desk here all afternoon. I commend him and our trade minister for the amount of work they have done around the world to open new markets and give, whether it is our agriculture sector or our manufacturing sector, the opportunity to market their goods in many of those countries. Yes, we are having success.

The agriculture producers, the farmers, who I represent work hard every day to take advantage of the opportunities that the Minister of Agriculture and the government are providing. We could feed the world from where I come from in Alberta and from the west, so we welcome all customers, and that includes the new customers. The more the merrier. We pledge to fill all the orders that our Minister of Agriculture and our Minister of International Trade can find for our agricultural sector.

The bill would extend the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years to support the manufacturing and processing sector. Bill C-13 would extend this well received measure from one of our previous budgets. Our Minister of Finance has been fighting the effects in Canada of the global economic recession since 2009. Canada's manufacturing and processing base has been using this measure to create and save jobs. They still want this accelerated capital cost allowance and our Conservative government is glad to give it and to be in a position where we can allow it to continue.

We are eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees in order to give older workers the option of staying in the workplace. We know that Canadians are healthier and they are living longer than ever before in our history. In economically difficult times, older workers sometimes want to choose to stay working for another year or two and make some extra money for their families or for themselves in their retirement. This contributes to economic growth. Older workers have a great deal to contribute and our government is giving them the go-ahead. However, it sounds like the opposition will be voting against it.

There is a very important initiative in Bill C-13 for the constituents in my riding. The government would provide a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long term infrastructure funding for municipalities. Unlike the Liberal governments of the past, our government has returned gas tax revenues to jurisdictions where they were raised. We deliver these revenues to local jurisdictions earlier in the year than ever before so they can plan for the building in the summer season. This allows local governments to free up other funds in their budgets and get more accomplished through the calendar year.

In my riding of Crowfoot, we have many small county municipal governments and they rely on these funds. When I attend those council meetings, they let us know how much those funds are needed and appreciated. In some cases, the amounts of revenues in small villages or communities seem small but it makes projects possible and it allows small communities to grow when it spurs on local employment.

There are a number of other initiatives in Bill C-13 for creating and saving jobs and helping Canada's economy. Over the course of the debate on this bill, other speakers from this side of the House will detail some of these initiatives.

Bill C-13,, as already mentioned by the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, introduces the volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters. When the opposition talks about tax credits for those who do not need it, well we are talking about the volunteer firefighters of my constituency.

The bill would increase the ability of Canadians to give more with confidence to legitimate charities by introducing a package of integrity measures designed to help combat fraud and other forms of abuse. I know that the people in my riding are very charity minded. My constituents are generous and engaged in many charitable projects. They appreciate this initiative to ensure their efforts are not in vain.

Bill C-13 has help for families. It introduces the new family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types to help with dependent relatives.

This is a good bill. I appreciate the number of opposition members who have been here to listen to the debate today.

When we are in opposition, it is not always about opposing. It is about standing up and supporting families in tough times in the economy. We would appreciate members' support.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his remarks.

In my riding, families are becoming increasingly poor. They are making use of food banks on a regular basis. This is a phenomenon that is becoming more common everywhere in Canada. While the Conservatives are saying we have the strongest economy, I believe that we have an economy that is creating more and more difficulty for families.

Could the hon. member explain why, despite tax reductions, more and more families are struggling? Also, what does this bill do to end unemployment among young people?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank this new member for her question. I have watched her across the way today. She has tried to stand on a number of occasions and I am glad she had her opportunity today.

One of the things that our government is committed to doing in the new part of this budget implementation, Bill C-13, is to get rid of the taxpayers' funding of political parties, the millions of dollars that go to the NDP, the Liberal Party, the Bloc, and to all parties. We are saying it is time that political parties raise their own funds to free up all these millions of dollars to invest in families and put back into cutting taxes and creating jobs.

The member talks about many of the families in her riding who are without and do not have a job. It allows us the opportunity to create jobs for these families and to ensure there is a breadwinner in those homes and in those families.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member was talking about the benefits of trade with the United States. Over $1 billion a day is cited. We have President Obama and many other American politicians now promoting and saying “buy American”. At the same time we have a Canadian Prime Minister, though many would suggest a “governor” might be more appropriate, who says not to worry about buy American, we will go ahead with the perimeter security deal and it is no problem as we will affix our signature and allow that to go forward.

Given the member's speech and how he has recognized the importance of trade between our two countries and what is happening with the buy American, why would his Prime Minister not hold fast in terms of signing off on the perimeter security, so we can protect our economy and those hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs that are dependent on that trade that he talked about so much in his speech?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, to the contrary, the Prime Minister has been very clear and our Minister of Finance, who was elected the greatest finance minister in the world, basically, have said just the opposite. They have said that now is not the time. An economic global downturn is not the time to begin protectionist efforts. I think that message has been given to the Americans. It has been given to every country around the world. It is the time for us to enhance trade. It is not the time to circle around and look inward and say we are only going to deal within.

In fact, even as we speak, the chair of the international trade committee and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade are in the United States sitting down with Congress, sitting down with key players and spreading the exact message that this member from Winnipeg talks about. I agree.

I will tell members what we will not do. We are not going to get caught up in the same thing and say we are going to negotiate this and until they do we are going to cut them off here, cut them off there, no more cattle going back and forth, no more energy going. We are not going to tie our trade. We are going to enhance our trade because that is where the answer to getting out of this economy is, especially for Canada, that is so dependent on exports.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget.

It is always interesting in a context to hear what the governing Conservatives have to say. The member who just spoke was quite interesting at the end. He said, “This is how we are going to get out of this economy”. I think he is quite right. We once had a balanced economy in Canada and the Conservatives have been taking us out of that balanced economy.

I believe what he was trying to say is that this is how we will get ourselves out of these economic problems. But in fact, what the Conservatives are doing with the Americans is a continuation of a series of mistakes that they have made in international trade over the years.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to set a certain standard for reciprocity. Instead, when the Americans came to rough times, they established for themselves buy America programs, which is a flagrant violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the governing Conservatives have turned out to be a bunch of pushovers. They do not even stand up for what has already been signed that would have been in Canada's interests.

Last week, we had another example, with the Keystone pipeline. Instead of providing that we would apply the normal rules of sustainable developments, such as internalization of costs and polluter pay, they are going to export jobs without adding any value here. It hearkens back to a day when we used to export raw logs to the United States and then import furniture. That is the same kind of economy that they want us to have today. That is their lack of vision.

Governing is about vision. Governing is about establishing choices. We have heard them have a series of consultations over the past three years about pensions. We often hear them say that it is not fair that people in trade unions should have good pensions. It is what we call in French “le nivellement vers le bas”, we are going to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator instead of bringing everyone up.

A country as rich as Canada should not let people who have worked all their lives arrive at retirement age without a proper pension. Instead of removing the pensions, as they are now doing and fighting case by case to remove pensions as collective agreements come up for negotiation, we should, together, be fighting for a fair deal for all Canadians and a proper decent pension, because that is also part of sustainable development. Otherwise, the young generation of today is going to be stuck with that bill also.

The Conservatives, by their choices, are now leaving the largest environmental, economic and social debt in our history, and they are leaving it in the packsacks of the young people who are in university now and telling them that they do not have a choice, that they cannot do anything about it, and that is the only way things are going to be.

They have provided tens of billions of dollars in tax reductions to Canada's richest corporations, in particular, the chartered banks and the oil companies, and they have so little to show for it. They have this little piecemeal approach: they are going to announce this thing here and this thing there. Overall, their approach to the economy has been damaging.

What they have done, and it has been documented well by Statistics Canada, is the same mistake that has been done in other countries over the years. In Holland, in the 1960s, when large sources of gas were found off the coast, it was quite pleased. The Dutch said, “This is going to bring in a lot of money from other countries”. They were never so right. However, at the same time, the guilder went through the roof and their exports dropped because other countries could not afford to buy their products.

That is the same thing that we are doing now. We are bringing in an artificially high number of U.S. dollars into Canada. Why artificially high? Simply because we have never internalized the environmental costs; a basic principle of sustainable development.

By doing that, we have brought the Canadian dollar to heights that it has not seen in decades, and that has killed off our manufacturing sector. Just in Ontario, over 250,000 good paying manufacturing jobs have been killed by the choices of the Conservatives. In Canada, the total number is closer to 500,000 manufacturing jobs lost.

That is why we say that they have destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built up since the second world war, with the different sectors: the primary sector, with our forests and our mines, the manufacturing and processing secondary sector, and of course an important service sector.

However, as those good paying manufacturing jobs are being killed off, not only are we leaving, because of the errors of the Conservatives, the biggest debt in our history, in terms of the ecology and the environment, we are also leaving year by year, now, the largest economic debt.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe.

That is the essential error that the Conservatives have committed since they came to power nigh six years ago. They have had nothing but concern for how quickly they could exploit the tar sands.

Let us not make the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. No one who realizes the importance of that industry in our economy would say we should ever shut it down outright. People who are calling for that are not thinking any further than the end of their noses. We cannot say we will stop an industry that represents such an important part of our GDP.

What we can do is apply basic principles of sustainable development to that industry. It would have a salutary effect on what we just described, in other words, this artificially high Canadian dollar because of the large number of U.S. greenbacks that we have taken in. That is artificially high, as I say, because we have not included the real costs. We are leaving the costs for cleaning up the soil, the water and the air to future generations. That is the environmental debt, and the tar sands is but one example.

When we realize that Keystone is but one of several pipelines that have been rapidly approved by the Conservatives, others would be the Alberta Clipper, Southern Lights, there are several that have been approved, each of those pipelines is exporting at the same time tens of thousands of jobs. We are in such a rush to get the raw bitumen into the pipeline that we do not even realize that all the processing, manufacturing and transformation will take place south of the border. They will be making more money and getting more jobs from our raw resources than we are ourselves.

That is a fundamental economic error that the current government is making and one that shows where the its priorities are. The concrete result of that is a little bill like Bill C-13, where we have a sprinkling here and a sprinkling there. It is trying to show that there is some activity.

The real world is that an existing infrastructure, a federal obligation, a federal infrastructure like the Champlain Bridge in Montreal, we learned today, will now be a toll bridge. This is the same bridge that is used in an agglomeration of over four million people. It is not just important as part of the lifeblood of the island of Montreal and the greater Montreal area, it is extremely important for all of eastern Canada. When trucks come through from Toronto or points west going to the Maritimes, they all go through Montreal, through the island and over the Champlain Bridge. That infrastructure is a crucial economic infrastructure for all of Canada.

We found out today that because the Conservatives have given away tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to the banks and the oil companies, hard-strapped families who have trouble making ends meet, who have trouble getting to the end of the month with what they have, will now have a new bill, a bill that will be slapped on them by the Conservatives because there is no money left. They will have to pay for something that was a public infrastructure that will become a private property. It will become for profit and the public will again be stuck with the bill. Again, the result of choices by the Conservatives.

This is a clear illustration of the errors committed by the Conservatives. They have been committing the same error for six years. The failure to apply basic principles of sustainable development has caused us to import an artificially high number of U.S. dollars. As a result, the value of the Canadian dollar has increased and it is more difficult for our manufacturing companies to export because our exports have become too expensive.

We are in the process of committing a well-documented error made in the Netherlands in the 1960s, when they discovered large gas deposits. The term “Dutch disease” is used to describe what happened.

The Conservatives preferred—it was their choice, their priority—to give tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the clear result of that is that families who are already unable to make ends meet are being taxed again in the form of a royalty that would be paid to the private partners who are going to build the new Champlain Bridge, when that infrastructure, which is vital to the economy in eastern Canada, is currently being used free of charge by the people who live on Montreal's south shore.

That is the Conservative approach at work. The Conservatives can stand up and pat themselves on the back and claim that their Minister of Finance—just listen to what the Conservative member who spoke before me said—was voted the greatest minister. Get real. That does not exist.

We believe that the Conservatives have made serious mistakes in the choices they have made and their choices are having an adverse effect on the Canadian economy.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and for talking a little about university students.

I will attempt to explain for my colleagues the reality faced by my generation. We are told that we are lucky to be working. We come out of university with debt and we are told that, not only are we lucky to have a job, but that we are lucky to have a full-time job because they are becoming harder to find. Full-time, permanent jobs, with a pension and benefits, are disappearing and youth unemployment is rising. I would like my colleague to comment on that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised a very important point. In fact, these 500 well-paid jobs that allow a family to make a living and that come with a pension are disappearing. They are being replaced by precarious, lower-paying jobs that are often part-time, especially in the service sector. That is the reality.

Although we respect the people in these jobs, the pay is not enough to raise a family and there is often no pension. For that reason we are saying that another social debt is being added to the burden of today's students. Sustainable development takes into account environmental, economic and social aspects, which contribute to the social debt being left to future generations. That is a mistake.