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House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I am seeing quorum.

The hon. Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is interesting that one single Liberal in the House can call quorum and--

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

An hon.member

That's democracy in action.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

One single Liberal is all there was.

Anyhow, Mr. Speaker, back to this exciting budget. This is exciting because these initiatives are simply a handful of the many positive ones contained within this bill that would help create jobs.

Furthermore, I am very pleased to see that the bill is striving to create the right conditions for Canada's economic success by not just creating jobs but also working to respect the taxpayers. We are a government that is working for all Canadians and we are committed to keeping taxes low. In fact, under this government, taxes have been reduced 120 times since 2006. We are continuing to keep taxes low because, unlike the opposition, we know that higher taxes would kill jobs. It is a fragile economic recovery and it sets Canadian families back.

I know our government's tax relief for families and job-creating businesses has been extremely important in my riding, and I am proud of our record on that issue.

The bill goes far in providing critical support for our communities. In particular, I am pleased to see the commitment to legislate a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in a tax fund, the gas tax fund, that would provide predictable infrastructure funding over the long term.

I believe that this builds upon the many projects that our government invested in during the first phase of Canada's economic action plan. These were important and necessary projects. They created jobs and they contributed to economic growth. Many of these projects will be well used for many years by communities across the country.

I would like to bring to the attention of my colleagues the many measures in this bill designed to assist Canadian families. Canadian families stand to gain much from this next phase of Canada's economic action plan. In particular, there is the new family caregiver tax credit that would assist those Canadians already striving to care for the infirm and their dependent relatives.

As well, Bill C-13 would remove the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of financially dependent relatives.

Finally, we are introducing the children's arts tax credit for recreational and developmental children's programs.

We understand how difficult making ends meet can be for Canadian families. Our government desires to make life easier for families, which is precisely what the initiatives in this budget are outlined to do.

I wish to speak to something of tremendous importance in my riding in the province of Saskatchewan that is addressed in this budget. It is the important measures in Bill C-13 that invest in education and training.

Our government recognizes the importance of a well-educated and talented workforce in today's modern economy, especially within the context of a highly competitive, global economy where education and skills are of the utmost necessity to guarantee success. Bill C-13 invests in education and in training so that Canadian workers are the best equipped to tackle the challenges of today's work environment. We are ready to build on Canada's reputation as a world leader with a strong, well-trained and well-educated workforce that is flexible to meet the labour needs.

To accomplish this, I am proud to see that Bill C-13 contains a number of important measures. In particular, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development, in higher education and in new technologies. We are extending tax relief for skills certification exams by extending the scope of the tuition tax credit. We are forgiving loans for new doctors and nurses who choose to live and work in remote and rural areas, which frequently were underserved. We are doubling the in-study income exemption so students can earn more while at school without negatively impacting the loans. The last measure alone would assist nearly 100,000 students.

These are investments so fundamentally important to Canada's economic prosperity that we will see benefits not just now but in the future and for many years into the future.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, investments are both very necessary and are extremely welcome.

Our government fully understands the importance of remaining competitive in the global economy. We recognize the role played by investments in innovation and education. The bill, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, is clear and concise. It is a plan for tackling the challenges faced by Canada's economy.

It is important that the bill be passed. It is important because our government can then continue to build on the highly successful first phase of Canada's economic action plan. The government remains committed to the principles that served Canadians well during the recent global economic downturn. We have emerged from that downturn and our economy is showing very positive results. It is necessary that we be allowed to continue down this path. In the next phase, we will continue. We will continue to support job creation. We will lay the groundwork for economic growth and, importantly, we will do this while assisting families, investing in education and innovation, and supporting communities and keeping taxes low.

I am proud of the work we have done. I am proud to be supporting the bill. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to the two speeches of the members opposite and I am disappointed to see them clinging to analyses based on data from two, three or four years ago. This gives results that may not still be valid. If I had applied the same logic, I would have given up before the election campaign had even begun and I would have never won my seat.

In my work as the small business critic, I apply a detailed analysis of the current reality. That is exactly what I did during the last election campaign to the point where I was practically announcing that I had won.

I am trying to understand something. I was able to beat my Conservative opponent, and my Bloc Québécois opponent finished third despite the system of public financing of parties. The system works and it is fair. Why is the government trying to go backward so that elections can be bought?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, if the member is asking if public financing helped him get elected, I am not sure if that is the reason he was elected. I do not believe that is the reason any of us were elected. We were elected because we had good platforms. I do not know why the member was elected, but we on this side of the House were elected because we had a platform. We had an economic action plan that in a time of global uncertainty has been what Canadians have wanted. They wanted to have financial security. They also wanted to have safe communities, something that we have been offering families in particular. We have dealt with the provinces and fixed the fiscal imbalance. As everyone knows, there was an imbalance there and we fixed it through our transfers, making sure there are always transfers available for the health and social needs of our provinces.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is Feeding Toronto's Hungry Students Week. We feed 110,000 children every morning, but some 40% of elementary students and 62% of secondary school students do not eat a nutritious breakfast. One in five Canadian children lives below the poverty line, which can lead to poor nutritional status and poor health outcomes. Hungry children cannot learn. Their learning capabilities are affected by how recently they have eaten. Malnutrition in early life can limit long-term intellectual development. The right to safe and adequate food is a right of every individual.

Does the hon. member think the government should be working with the provinces and territories to establish a national nutrition program so that no child goes to school hungry?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, our government has done much for food safety.

Our government has provided $100 million on a cash basis over five years for targeted investments in inspector training, additional science capacity, and electronic tools to support the work of front-line inspectors. Canadians will benefit from this improved safety.

We also support agriculture. It is important to provide safe food to our families in urban and rural areas.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would submit that perhaps one of the reasons that many of the members opposite were elected is that in certain constituencies voters were tired of the Bloc Québécois.

It is clear from the speeches we have heard today that the NDP has not yet got its act together to put together an economic policy.

The member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges went to great lengths to outline the 12 factors underpinning competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum. He did not mention that virtually all of them are referred to in Canada's economic action plan, nor did he mention that the World Economic Forum has rated our financial system the best in the world.

The member did say that many of the ideas we put in our budget and our economic action plan were stolen from the NDP. We know that is not true, but would the minister not agree that on the opposition backbenches, there are some signs of hope and that maybe a rebellion will eventually open up against their front bench--

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We need some time for the minister of state to respond.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am certain they will. Every idea we have, such as supporting job creation, strengthening our families and communities, investing in the economy, and the economic action plan that we provided for Canadians, are things that the NDP is demanding that we do. I am sure those members will be voting for our economic action plan.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I relish this opportunity to stand and talk again about a topic that I raised in the House on September 27, which was Canada's Asia Pacific strategy.

As a result of my own experiences working in the Asia Pacific region over the years, I have a continuing interest in this topic. I worked and lived in Indonesia, I worked and lived in the Philippines. I have done study tours and other kinds of exchanges and projects in other places in the Asia Pacific region. However, my specific reason for raising this topic was sparked by my attendance at the Business Council of B.C. Asia Pacific conference, which was called “Realizing Canada's Asia Pacific Opportunity”.

I would say, with regret, I was the only member of Parliament who was at this conference in Vancouver. Because the House was in session, we could not all be there, but it would have been very educational l think, particularly for members of the government, to be there and hear what was said about its Asia Pacific strategy.

This was a gathering of business leaders, not leftists, not critics of the government, but people working in business in the Asia Pacific region. The Minister of Heritage did come and give a short speech about the Asia Pacific strategy, but as I said, otherwise I was the only one there through the conference.

The keynote speaker was the president of the Asia Pacific Foundation, Mr. Yuen Pau Woo, who complimented the government on two parts of its Asia Pacific strategy. He said that it had done a good job in expanding our forestry exports, in particular to China. He said that the government had a good focus on infrastructure development to help improve our port facilities to encourage trade. However, what he went on to say that this was not enough for a true strategy to develop Canada's trade relations over the next years with the Asia Pacific. He emphasized that there was a real need for an Asia Pacific strategy which focused on human capacity development.

He was really talking about three things.

First, he said that Canada needed to identify and build on its comparative strengths. He said that the government seemed to believe it had done that at the Asia Pacific strategy when it focused on energy and resources. However, what he said, very interestingly, was he thought we were missing the most important comparative advantage that we had in Asia, and that was the depth of our human connections. In Canada we have a very large Chinese Canadian community. We have a very old Japanese Canadian community. We have a very new and growing Filipino Canadian community. On the west coast, we have a very strong Korean Canadian business community.

He said that the narrow focus on infrastructure and resources missed the biggest opportunity we had, which is to develop and strengthen those personal contacts that will actually lead to further business opportunities.

The second thing he said was that Canada was failing to recognize Asia as the region which was the new power centre of the world and that we needed to develop our cultural and not just our trade understanding of Asia.

Third, very specifically in the area of human capacity building, he said that Canada needed to build our network of human relationships. We do that through language training, cross-cultural communication training, international business education and in building those enduring human relationships, through exchange of international students, through study tours. Those kinds of things were completely absent from the government's Asia Pacific strategy.

Therefore, I rose to ask the question of the minister as to why we had this narrow focus and when would the government turn to this broader human capacity and relationship building strategy that business leaders so overwhelmingly endorsed in Vancouver on September 23.

7:05 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I, too, lived in the Philippines, so I welcome the member to this place.

Our government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. We believe that to be one of our main focuses. We continue to focus on the economy, creating jobs and economic growth to benefit hard-working Canadians. That is why we are continuing to deliver free trade leadership.

Our Conservative government and most Canadians understand that international trade is a kitchen table issue. What I mean by this is that Canadians intuitively understand that expanded trade is the key to their long-term financial security.

Despite the NDP's ideological opposition to free trade, we will take advantage of trade opportunities that are crucial to Canada's long-term economic success.

Trade accounts for almost 60% of our annual GDP, and one in five Canadian jobs is directly or indirectly dependent on trade. That is why our government is committed to securing and deepening access to traditional markets, like the United States, and broadening and expanding access to more markets, like the European Union, India and the other fast-growing countries of Asia and the Americas.

Asia is projected to account for half of the global gross domestic product in the coming decades and we are witnessing dramatic growth in our trade with this region.

Our exports to China have surged some 70% in the past half decade and China is now Canada's second largest merchandise trading partner and our third largest export market. China is now the world's second largest economy after the United States, therefore, it is important that we continue to strengthen our commercial trading relationship with this powerhouse market in order to create opportunities for Canadian businesses, workers and their families.

That is why we are focusing on the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative. As the demand for Canadian exports to Asia-Pacific markets continues to grow, so do the opportunities for Canadian workers and companies. This innovative approach to the transportation network brings together the key transportation, labour and logistics providers across our supply chains to facilitate pan-Pacific trade.

We have partnered with all four western provinces, municipalities and private sector partners to support strategic infrastructure projects with over $3.5 billion in the Asia-Pacific gateway. This includes federal contributions of over $1.4 billion. These investments are saving time and money for businesses on both sides of the Pacific, resulting in Canadian companies tapping into new and expanded markets. This will generate new business opportunities and will create thousands of jobs for Canadians by increasing our trade and related services.

By strengthening our overall transportation system, we are improving how we move freight from North America westward across the Pacific to Asian nations.

Equally important, we are making it easier for people to travel to and from Canada through liberalized air agreements with Asian countries, such as China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Indeed, one of Asia's largest airlines, China Southern Airlines, recently launched a direct service from Guangzhou, China to Vancouver.

Last, budget 2011 allocates $10 million over two years to develop and implement an international education strategy that will reinforce Canada as a country of choice to study and conduct world-class research.

Innovative and outward-looking colleges and universities are key partners in developing a diverse, skilled and internationally focused workforce. This international education strategy will strengthen our engagement with emerging economies and ensure greater collaboration between Canadian and foreign institutions.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the parliamentary secretary's comments and his discussion of international education initiatives.

There are three institutions in greater Victoria, one and a half of them in my riding, since one has two campuses. We have really been providing leadership in the area of international education. We have the Peter B Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria with its very innovative international business specialization in its MBA program.

We have the Royal Roads University, which is entirely in my riding, with its BA in international hotel management, an MA in international intercultural communication and an MA in global management.

Finally, where I taught for 20 years, we have Camosun College with an Asia-Pacific program that tries to engage first and second year students in the Asia-Pacific region.

The problem is that the government talks a good line on the international educational aspect but, in the Asia-Pacific strategy, the funding for those initiatives is missing and a long commitment to growing those relationships and that understanding is narrowed down to infrastructure and resource trade.

I would like to see the government's strategy expanded along the lines of the speech given by the president of the Asia-Pacific Foundation in Vancouver.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, we welcome that advice from my colleague across the way.

Many of those institutions are under provincial jurisdiction, so I hope he also shares that advice with our colleagues on the provincial side.

I will say again, though, that our government has seen the need to invest in the infrastructure projects under our direct jurisdiction that are going to help increase trade, jobs, and the exchange of goods and services and ideas across the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

We are working hard to seize on every opportunity to expand our trade and cultural linkages with our international partners in the Asia-Pacific region and we will continue to do so.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House this evening to follow up on my questions to the Minister of National Defence a few weeks ago. The questions were on the minister's precedent-setting opportunity when he called a search and rescue helicopter off the tarmac in Gander to come and pluck him out of a fishing lodge on the Gander River.

We see the scarce resources of our search and rescue capabilities following the closing of sub-centres in St. John's and in Quebec City, yet the minister, at his will, can get search and rescue to come take him off a river in Gander. He was only 12 nautical miles from Gander. It was not as if he was deep in the woods and had to plan on taking half a day to get out of there. He was only 12 nautical miles from the airport.

One of the questions is about how he got to the lodge in the first place. Did he come in on a boat or in a quad? He could have gotten back in the same way within 20 minutes. He just wanted to impress his fishing buddies.

To elaborate on my question, I know the parliamentary secretary is going to talk about training and how we all participate in parliamentary internship programs and how a great program it is. I think it is great. I have done it myself. I spent a whole three days with the Canadian Forces at CFB Greenwood and I had a great time. I learned a lot.

However, how can the minister learn anything in 30 short minutes? He obviously did not have time to see the search and rescue capabilities. They just came and hoisted him off the river and then brought him back to Gander. He did not really have time to participate in an exercise.

The minister had called Gander. CFB Gander said it was way out of protocol. He was not satisfied with that, so then he called their superiors and got them to call Gander to force the search and rescue plane to come pluck him off the river, which was absolutely abusing his position as minister.

These questions need to be answered. Canadians deserve a lot more from their elected officials in regard to this.

Another thing is that the minister is going to say he cut his vacation short and that he had to go to an important announcement. That is fine, but announcements do not just pop up overnight; announcements are planned well in advance. The minister knew full well that he had to get back for an announcement. He was not cutting his vacation short.

Let us get into the details. When was this announcement planned that he had to get to all of a sudden, and had to call in a Challenger jet? The Challenger was waiting for him, and it was total abuse of taxpayers' money.

The other part of my question was about how the minister did a phony spending announcement during the election. The day before the election was called, the minister flew to St. John's, and $20,000 later, he made an announcement. If it was not so ironic, it would be funny, because back in 2005 this same member, the member for Central Nova, asked the same question. He said,

Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister spent the summer burning jet fuel in the Challenger making phony announcements, his cabinet ministers were touring the country in limos tanked up on taxpayer dollars.

The same guy did the same thing five years later, but it is okay now. Now that the Conservatives are in power, they are saying they are allowed to do this.

Is it not pretty hypocritical that five or six years ago in this place, the minister criticized the government of the day for doing that, but now that the Conservatives are in, they can get away with it? What is the real deal here, Mr. Parliamentary Secretary?

7:15 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker—

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I will just make the subtle reminder to the member for Avalon that normally questions are directed through the Chair to other hon. members.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin a substantive answer by simply noting that the low tone of the remarks we just heard in that rant, which the hon. member tried to qualify as a question, is what gives some hon. members, and certainly the party to which the hon. member belongs, a bad name in the eyes of Canadians. I would put the hon. member on notice that this kind of unfactual insinuation is not going to wash with Canadians. It did not wash in the last election and it will not wash in the future.

However, I would like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight on the use of government aircraft. The Minister of National Defence is the lead minister for search and rescue in this country, and he attaches enormous importance to his role in this respect and to understanding the work that is done each and every day by the men and women involved in search and rescue, including by the men and women of the Canadian Forces, who are just one element of the overall solution.

Canadians are fortunate to have one of the most effective search and rescue systems in the world. We can be forgiven for forgetting that fact in the wake of dozens of questions by the other side casting aspersions and alleging abuse that is simply not there.

A vast network operates across this country to ensure that appropriate resources are available to respond to incidents that may arise anywhere. We have 18 million square kilometres of responsibility. The hon. member may know that is 13% of the earth's surface, an area of land and sea greater than the size of continental Europe.

The Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard work very closely together to coordinate responses to more than 8,000 incidents per year. The forces are proud of what they do and they take advantage of all opportunities to welcome senior officials and government members to showcase their capabilities, as the member well knows. I am grateful to him for coming clean in saying that he took a trip with the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron in Gander, Newfoundland in July 2010, a trip that was even longer than the minister's trip, which was under an hour we are told.

However, there has been no question from this side or any side about the appropriateness of that. Indeed, members of this House have a duty to understand the operations of the Canadian Forces, above all, the members of the Standing Committee on National Defence. And the Minister of National Defence, with statutory responsibility for these forces, has a responsibility to know their work intimately. Fortunately, he does and is dedicated to his job; he does not take it lightly. And, fortunately, he has committed to doing this job seriously and to knowing the work involved as no other minister in recent years has known it.

While the 103 Squadron was pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities, obviously the visit would have been terminated had an incident arisen and those resources been required elsewhere. I do not want to single out the member. Many members have taken part in these sorts of demonstrations. However, for the Minister of National Defence, there is a special responsibility, and the government is committed to ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the people, equipment, infrastructure, and readiness required to defend Canada and Canadians, including in the field of search and rescue.

On the Challenger flights, I just have one thing to say. The hon. member opposite, representing the great riding of Avalon, should know better than to ask about this issue when he represents a party that had the highest rate of use of Challengers, and, probably, abuse from time to time, in Canadian history. This government has reduced that rate of use by 80%, and I think those facts speak for themselves.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is quite rich. I say to the hon. member that we will not be bullied, and if he wishes to refer to what is “unfactual”, the facts are that the minister was on a vacation. The facts are that the minister called a search and rescue plane to come and remove him from that vacation. Those are the facts of the matter.

Also, the member should get his facts straight. I was at CFB Greenwood when I did an exercise that took three days. I spent a whole day with the search and rescue squadron at Greenwood. We did daily briefings. They showed us all of their gear and their exercises and maneuvers, and those kinds of things. It was not done by a phone call from the minister to come to pick him up and to spend a half-hour of his time with the search and rescue squadron in Gander.

So the member should not try to pull the wool over our eyes that this was all planned and all good and that they were doing it all for the great cause of our Canadian Forces. That is absolute malarkey.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear to all of us in the House at this point that the member has lost his sense of perspective on this issue. He has not as yet answered the question as to why it is fine for him and many other members to follow the rules, participate in the search and rescue exercise, but not fine for the Minister of National Defence, who is responsible for search and rescue in our country, to do the same.

We on this side can well understand why the NDP asks so much about this. It opposes so much of what the Canadian Forces does, such as the operation in Libya, the operation in Afghanistan, Canada's economic action plan, the procurement of equipment, the minister's commitment to doing his duty to fallen soldiers.

What we cannot understand on this side of the House is why a Liberal member, whose government used these assets five times more than this government, is questioning the commitment of the Minister of National Defence to knowing his job as the lead minister on search and rescue and his minimal use of Challenger aircraft to get to places in Canada.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:22 p.m.)