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House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Éve Péclet

Not higher taxes, refundable tax credits.

I want to talk about this ideological—

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. There is only five minutes for questions and comments. I am sure other members may want to question the hon. member.

The hon. member for Surrey North.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague from the Conservative side talk about lowering taxes for families and seniors. The Conservatives need to get out of this Ottawa bubble and go talk to their constituents. They should look at the gas price and the cost food. They are going up. There are taxes on those things and people pay taxes on a daily basis.

This is the question I have for the member. We have seen over a period of time that small businesses drive our economy. For some reason, the Conservatives seem to be against small businesses. Why are they against small businesses?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is giving small and medium-sized businesses a temporary tax credit for one year. It is an insult to the intelligence of all Canadians to say that this is going to solve all the problems. The NDP proposed that the government give employers a rebate of $4,500 on Employment Insurance premiums, the full amount of the employer's contribution to the Canada pension plan. This would guarantee that all employers and workers would not have to pay their bills indirectly through higher premiums.

This is a positive proposal, a solution that the NDP is offering to the government, which still refuses to negotiate with us, by gagging us and passing motions to limit debate, while giving $2 billion in tax breaks to large corporations. That is what the government is doing and that is what all Canadians need to remember. The government is trying to lie to them by saying that it has created 600,000 new jobs, but this is not true. As I said in my speech, I have the figures to prove that this is completely false. We are still 250,000 jobs short of the number we had before the recession.

All Canadians must remember that this government does not have their interests at heart. Rather, the government is concerned with the interests of its friends—the oil companies and large corporations that give it money. Today, the government is trying to put the blame on the NDP by saying that all the NDP wants to do is increase taxes, but that is not true.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, that is a hard act to follow.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act. I also want to thank the constituents of the great Kenora riding for their ongoing support of the great work that the government has been doing in our vast region of more than 326,760 square kilometres.

We have 8 municipalities and 42 first nations communities, 25 of them not accessible by road. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of work that needed to be done and we were very grateful for Canada's economic action plan. I will talk a little about phase one today before I get into phase two in appreciation of some of the great things that have gone on in our region.

Pre-emptively it is worth saying that northwestern Ontarians were very familiar with the recession. We plunged into it long before most other parts of Canada. The forest sector took a very hard hit well before the rest of the country plunged into recession.

As we moved through Canada's economic action plan and started to get strategic about what investments needed to be made in Kenora, we found there were structural challenges with which Canada's economic action plan helped Kenora. I will talk about them in just a few minutes.

In phase one we had very few, if any, of our mills open. There was one left in Dryden, but unfortunately the paper production of that mill had disappeared and we needed to take action as mills were closing around the region. The Mayor of Red Lake said that there may be some sort of gold boom on, but it was not being experienced per se by folks in Red Lake, Cochenour and Balmertown.

The complement of towns that form the municipality of Red Lake were under siege. They were stretched to their limits. Getting a hotel in Red Lake would mean booking it months in advance because people were there for long-term stays. The commercial, residential and industrial capacity of the town simply was not there.

We got to work and started to build industrial and commercial development sites in Dryden and Red Lake. We felt confident that we would come out of this recession stronger than ever. Short of fixing a couple of key structural defects, Canada's economic action plan was going to make the difference.

I will give a couple of examples of that, ones that I take very seriously. I have a great deal of pride in working with town and city officers to make these dreams come true.

In Dryden, under the green pulp and paper transformation program, the federal government was able to grant just over $22 million to make capital upgrades to the environmental capacity of the processing that took place to make a world-class kind of pulp. Previously, the mill had been at 85% energy self-sustainability through its residual liquor production, but to be effective environmentally and to be a mill that the region, Canada and Domtar could depend on moving forward that number had to go up.

The green pulp and paper transformation program came in, and I am happy to report today that as of December 1 of this year, when the final phase of the installation is complete, the prediction is that it will be at more than 110% energy self-sufficient. That is great news. We are taking care of the environment and correcting a structural defect that we faced in northwestern Ontario.

The failure of our provincial counterparts to provide a competitive industrial hydro rate was a challenge for mills and any sort of production that would go on, and continues to go on. We were able to fix that.

We recently heard from AbitibiBowater and the city officials in Ignace with whom I have worked very closely. My colleague from Beauce and I had an opportunity to open a new water treatment facility there and make some upgrades as a result of some unforeseen challenges which the tundra posed. Ignace is going to have a brand new mill. It is actually an old mill, but it is going to be rehabilitated and it will be, as the officials from AbitibiBowater told me, like new. This is going to employ 100 people in Ignace within the next couple of years as the mill is rehabilitated.

They were able to do this because the city officials and AbitibiBowater felt comfortable with the great work that we had done with the foundational infrastructure pieces, such as resurfacing roads in that area and rebuilding or replacing major parts of the water and waste water treatment facility. I could go on but these are important things that Canada's economic action plan brought.

I could talk about the beautiful city of Kenora which even some of us locals are having trouble recognizing because there are so many new great facilities to celebrate our harbourfront and welcome people from around the world to our magnificent world-class city.

As I only have three or four more minutes left, I want to jump into the final part of my discussion on the budget implementation bill.

I will highlight very quickly a few of the things we are sensitive to in northwestern Ontario. Obviously there are the hiring credits for small businesses and tax support for clean energy generation. I mentioned the mill and the great work that was done. There is the mineral exploration tax credit. The ring of fire, the chromite in northwestern Ontario, represents an opportunity for first nations communities and non-first nations communities. It is one of the largest chromite reserves known to the world to date. On the gas tax fund, I was told by mayor after mayor that they were relieved that not only did we double it, but the $2 billion permanent annual investment would provide predictable long-term funding for municipalities. This is no small practical or intellectual matter. Municipalities are going to be able to use this legislated guaranteed resource as another instrument to manage their municipal affairs.

The wage earner protection program provides up to $3,400 in 2011 to workers for unpaid wages, severance or termination. We are helping families with caregiver tax credits. That can be a special burden in the smaller towns of northwestern Ontario. There is the children's art tax credit. We are removing the limit on claimable medical expenses. These are things that matter to northwestern Ontarians and all Canadians.

I want to talk about a couple of things that are making a real difference. We are forgiving the debt for doctors and nurses serving in underserved communities. The entire Kenora region is underserved in this regard. In my prior career I worked to recruit physicians. I was a nurse working in those communities. I can fully appreciate the challenges we have, but is it not great that when new doctors and nurses come out of school and if they move to our communities, they will be able to have significant portions of their debt relieved. We are very pleased with that. I encourage all my colleagues to support this policy.

We are helping apprentices in skilled trades. We are going to be twinning the Trans-Canada Highway from the Manitoba border in. HRSDC has played an important role in helping to provide the kind of skills training people will need to help in twinning that highway.

In closing, there are a number of things which have been discussed at length here today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that are particularly important to northwestern Ontario and to thank the government for the great work that it continues to do for the great Kenora riding.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with what my colleague had to say about nurses and doctors in rural areas. That is an excellent measure, but it does not address the doctor shortage.

Since there is absolutely nothing set out in the budget right now, can my colleague tell me what the government will do to increase enrolment in medical schools, decrease student debt and prioritize health care training programs? Professionals are being relocated, but there is still a shortage. Why not recognize the credentials of new Canadian citizens who have settled here? What will the government do about this shortage?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect, the member is wrong on a couple of key points.

As a general statement, improving federal financial assistance for students is a key part of the budget implementation bill. It is allowing students to make more money without penalty while they are in school, extending eligibility for Canada student loans and increasing the income threshold for full- and part-time students, giving more families access to Canada student loans.

With respect to physicians and nurses, I am glad the hon. member has given me another opportunity to speak to that.

Obviously we have 25 isolated first nations communities. We have a wonderful program through Lakehead University that is bringing doctors from all around the country. It is the benchmark. It serves one of the largest regions in the world, unbeknownst to most. That is attracting doctors to the region. When they get up there they fall in love with the north, just as I did. They love the pickerel that we eat up there, and some of my colleagues have tasted it so they would know.

We think that is an important strategy. We are providing incentives to attract people to the medical school in our region and to explore our region and once they get there, they are there to stay.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is so proud of its budget. But according to the chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, Sherry Cooper, the misplaced belief that the road to economic prosperity is paved by near-term fiscal tightening, as espoused by our own Prime Minister and British Prime Minister David Cameron last week, shows we have learned nothing from Herbert Hoover's response to the Great Depression.

Does my colleague not realize that it is dangerous for the Canadian economy to go ahead with the planned cuts?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is dangerous, and we are hearing this loud and clear from people in the great Kenora riding, is that they do not want a $10 billion tax bill. That is what is dangerous.

We heard just today that our unemployment rate is now down to 7.1%. There are 60,000 more jobs this month alone. That is a trajectory we want to celebrate.

I ask my colleagues across the floor to take a look at what Canada's economic action plan has done in their communities, such as putting up facilities and structures that have made the difference, employing people, putting people to work and increasing our tax base through higher employment levels, not by jacking up taxes by $10 billion.

That, with the greatest of respect that I can muster on that point, would be a dangerous thing.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about a $10 billion tax increase, but that is exactly what the Conservatives have done. This year with payroll tax increases and next year with payroll tax increases, it is projected that for employment insurance and CPP premiums, another $10 billion will be deducted from workers' salaries.

Why does he say that we want a $10 billion tax increase when they have already done it?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to talk about the importance of small business in the great Kenora riding.

Obviously small business is the economic engine of the country, but in our vast region, it is really what keeps our economy rolling. Providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to keep corporate taxes low for those small businesses to thrive is really the kind of dynamic economic environment the government can support for small businesses.

In that regard, my constituents are very pleased with that policy position.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, before the hon. member for Kenora leaves, I want him to know that I agree with him on two things: one, pickerel is very good; and two, small business tax reductions are always positive. However, I will tell him that the multinational corporate tax rates the Conservatives are planning would be wrong because they would shift the tax burden from multinational corporations to small businesses and individuals.

While I am speaking to Bill C-13, I would remind members that it is the Conservatives who increased payroll taxes for this year and it is the Conservatives who will once again increase payroll taxes next year. I would remind them that every economist out there, every student who studies economics, every person who understands fiscal responsibility knows it is payroll taxes and income taxes that are a drain on our society. It is simply wrong that hard-working people have to pay those exorbitant taxes, yet the multinational corporations get further tax cuts.

I remind this House that in the 1960s corporate tax rates were in the 40% range and tax rates for individuals were in the 20% range, but now they have completely flipped around. Corporate tax rates have gone down to 15% but tax rates for individuals are into the high 40% range. This is why Canadians say they are taxed too much. Add provincial and municipal taxes to that and there is outrage. Yet the Conservatives constantly say that it is the NDP that would raise taxes.

With the greatest respect, I remind everyone that it is the Conservatives who raise these taxes. That is the truth.

There is something that Bill C-13 and all the Conservatives' budget implementation bills never talk about. I have scoured the pages of all the Conservatives' budgets and not once did I see the two words “food banks”. Twenty-seven senators were appointed by the Prime Minister in one year at a cost over 20 years of $100 million. The Conservatives are still appointing their hacks and flacks to the Senate, but here is their economic action plan for the poor: there is none.

In February 2006 when the Conservatives took power, there were 604,000 Canadians using food banks, but now, 910,000 Canadians are using food banks. It is bad enough that some Canadians would have to beg for food for themselves and their families, but what is worse is that in the city of Calgary, the richest city in Canada, in 2005 a food bank opened up for veterans only. Fifty-eight veterans were there as the first customers of that food bank. The volunteers at the food bank do a wonderful job looking after those veterans. Last year over 200 veterans used that food bank in the richest city in the country.

As a person who was born in Holland, whose parents were liberated by those heroes, I say that is a sin, a shame and the fault of the Conservative government that the heroes of our country would have to do that. The ones who passed away we honour in our Memorial Chamber as we do those who are buried in over 72 countries around the world. It is a sin and a shame. The Conservatives should hang their heads in shame. As we celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and families, I can go to a store and buy food. Most of my friends and family will purchase their food at a store or go to a farm to get their food. But many veterans and their families and many other Canadians will have to go to a food bank.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you yourself have ever used a food bank, but I volunteer at one in my riding. It is the most humbling, upsetting experience to see people who at one time had a job have to stand in line at a food bank. They are asked a million questions about who they are in order to get food. This is occurring in one of the richest countries in the world. All projections are that next year there will be a million Canadians who have to use a food bank. That is the entire population of New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Is that the track record of the Conservatives? Unfortunately, yes. That is a shame. Does their budget talk about that? No.

Here is another thing about their budget. The Conservatives crow and brag about a $3,000 tax credit for firefighters. All the firefighters think that they are getting $3,000 out of that, but they are not. They are getting 15% of $3,000 to a maximum of $450. They already get a $1,000 tax credit. Therefore, it is either or. They do not tell us that in the budget.

The $500 arts credit is not $500. It is 15% of $500. It is $75. It is similar to when we buy an item and the company offers a mail-in rebate. Most Canadians will not hold onto those receipts and subject themselves to an audit to get $75. It is a myth. It would be good if they said it was $500 clear. If they said it was $3,000 clear for paramedics and firefighters that would be good. However, it is simply not true. It is similar to when they gave parents $1,200 a year to look after their own kids through the child tax benefit. That is not true at all. That $1,200 is taxable. They did not tell us that when it came out in the budget.

These are the sneaky ways the Conservatives try to pull the wool over the eyes of many Canadians. It is time to stop picking on the sheep of this country. They should not be pulling the wool over anyone's eyes. They should at least try to be honest and forthright about what they are doing. It is absolutely incredible.

I look at this issue in terms of veterans and their families. I will give the government credit in that there have been some improvements since it has come here.

I will give the government top marks for the income splitting plan on pensions, which is a very good thing to do for seniors. I personally thank the hon. members for that because I plan to use it if and when I ever leave politics. I know some of the Conservatives would like me to leave a little earlier, and I appreciate their sentiment. That is a good plan. However, it does not help anybody who is poor. It does not help anybody who is using a food bank. It does not help anyone who is homeless.

While I am speaking of the homeless, is it not a shame that a growing number of those veterans who once wore this country's uniform are homeless?

I will add an anecdote to this. A few years ago we had the consecration of the Queen's colours at the Garrison Grounds in Halifax. Governor General Michaëlle Jean came down. She was wearing a military uniform. She said one of the most poignant things I have ever heard. She said, “I am so proud as a Canadian to wear this uniform because when I was a little girl in Haiti I was afraid of uniforms”. This shows us the type of country we have.

I ask the Conservatives to stop looking after their corporate buddies, to stop the $50 million slush fund for their ridings, to stop getting gold-embossed cards, and to stop taking Challenger jets or helicopters to fly from fishing camps to lobster festivals. We call that “Dingwalling”. When the front bench starts to “Dingwall” the Canadian people it means a level of arrogance is setting in. That is when the backbenchers start getting nervous. I have been around long enough to see what happened when the Liberals did that. The government is not entitled to its entitlements, but Canadians are entitled to proper governance.

Bill C-13 does absolutely nothing for the poor and the homeless veterans of the country, or for the aboriginals on reserves who unfortunately are committing suicide at a record rate. These are the issues facing our country.

Most of us can look after ourselves and we do a good job of it. However, there are millions who deserve the government's attention. I ask that the government, once and for all, have a national food strategy so that Canadians will no longer have to line up at a food bank to get sustenance, especially during Thanksgiving weekend.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, what a load of garbage coming from the member. Whenever we have brought a proposal forward, whether it was to support our military, to support our veterans or to help unemployed people, the member and his party have voted against it every single time. He gets up in front of the cameras and feigns indignation as if he actually cares about the people that we on this side of the House are trying to help. However, when the member gets the opportunity what does he do? He stands in his place and votes against those very same Canadians that the government has been helping since we were elected. He does so on every single issue.

To make matters worse, when the NDP had an opportunity to stop a Liberal government from slashing funding for health care, for social programs and education what did it do? It cut a deal with that same Liberal government to keep it in office as opposed to throwing it out.

The member has to answer to his constituents and to Canadians why it is that every time he had the opportunity to vote for Canadians with the government he stood in his place and voted against them.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I am a six time member of Parliament, I think my constituents have answered that question well.

Let us go back to what the member said about serving Canadians. In 2005, the current Prime Minister wrote and signed a letter to Joyce Carter of Cape Breton which said that if the Conservatives formed government, every single widow and widower of a World War II and Korean veteran would immediately get VIP service. Two years after that, less than 10% of the widows and widowers had received help. Does the member think I would vote for that? Absolutely not.

The same Prime Minister, who was then in opposition, and Greg Thompson were at a meeting in Gagetown. He said that every person affected by chemical spraying in Gagetown from 1958 to 1984 would be compensated by the government. The fact is there were 300,000 people who could have qualified, but less than 5,000 received compensation.

If the member wonders why I stand to criticize and vote against them, I do it because their promises are false and hollow.

The fact is that the many veterans and people affected by chemical spraying, as well as the widows and widowers of our heroes deserve much better from the government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for talking about the vulnerable and those who go hungry.

This has been Feeding Toronto's Hungry Students Week. We feed 110,000 children every morning. One child in four goes to school hungry. 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. We know that access to safe and healthy food is a right of every individual. Canada is one of the few industrialized countries without a national nutrition program.

Does the hon. member think that the federal government should be talking with the provinces and territories to end child hunger in this country?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a sensible question. My hon. colleague is a very compassionate member of the House of Commons, as is the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who I hope recovers well from her hip surgery.

The government should not just be talking to the provinces and territories, I would highly recommend it also talk with school boards, new immigrant groups and various groups that can help. The reality is that 110,000 people in the largest city in Canada rely on volunteers for food. Teachers should be teaching; they should not be serving buffets to children, but thank God they and the parents do because without them, those kids would not have a hope.

If the member went back five years, I bet she would find that there were a lot less than 110,000. Now more and more people are having to do that. Unfortunately, that is the track record of the Conservative Government of Canada.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his explanations. He has talked about a very interesting subject, the effect of announcements made with regard to tax credits. There is a difference between refundable tax credits and those that are not. I would like him to speak more about the use of these announcements to mask credits that are not what they purport to be.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is a smoke and mirrors game. The government gives and then takes away. An example would be Bill C-55. The government moved ahead on the veterans charter and rightfully so. That was a good thing. We asked for a much bigger door, but what it did was make the benefit taxable. It calls the NDP the tax and spend party. The Conservative Party is the give and tax party.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise in the House today to once again speak on our budget.

This budget is extremely important for Canadians and the citizens of my riding. We are taking their concerns and their needs into account. Consequently, I strongly encourage the opposition to support our initiatives.

I am proud to speak to various points in budget 2011 which my constituents are eager to see implemented.

As our government introduces legislation for its low tax plan, I would like to note the support we have received from Canadians for our focus on protecting existing jobs, creating new jobs, securing Canada's recovery from the global economic recession, and improving the well-being of Canadians over the long term.

Canadians were proud to learn that Canada has the strongest job growth record in the G7. In fact, as was mentioned in question period today, we added another 60,000 net new jobs to the economy.

However, Canadians understand that we are not immune to global economic turbulence and that it is essential for us to implement the next phase of our economic action plan.

In my riding, especially, businesses are looking forward to the new temporary hiring credit, which would lessen the financial burden of additional hiring. As a rural riding, Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has a large number of agricultural businesses. I have heard from the farming community that the hiring credit is particularly good news for farm operations that are looking to expand.

That is only one of many positive examples.

Implementation of this hiring credit comes just after 2011 was designated the Year of the Entrepreneur by our government. Recognition for hard-working entrepreneurs could not be more timely because they make a vital contribution to the survival of our communities. As we all know, they are engines of the local economy and job creation, especially in the rural areas of ridings such as mine.

Our government promised to help small businesses get through these difficult economic times. Businesses in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell are not immune to these difficult times and will benefit tremendously from this measure in the 2011 budget.

Since the federal election in May, we have been promising Canadians that we would phase out the per vote direct subsidy of political parties over the next few years.

We will now deliver on that promise, which will save taxpayers up to $30 million a year. Eliminating this subsidy is what Canadians want because it ensures that political parties remain in close touch with them. That is what the opposition is afraid of. Parties will have to focus their efforts on fundraising to replace this lost public revenue. If they want Canadians to donate to their party they will need to be more relevant to Canadians. That is what the opposition parties are afraid of, their irrelevancy.

If Canadians believe in a party and its policies, they will donate their hard-earned money to see that party elected and its initiatives implemented. That is the way it should be.

Our government is committed to strengthening integrity and accountability in government and political activity. Unlike the outrageous claims made by the opposition, this will not restrict political activity to the rich.

It is ironic that in one breath the opposition accuses our government of catering to the rich and then in the next breath proposes to raise the donation limit so that richer Canadians could donate more. It does not make any sense.

The average donation from our party supporters varies between $150 and $200, which means that currently, Canadians are giving well below the limit. What the opposition is saying is not true. In reality, Canadians donating these amounts are not rich. Supporters of the various political parties are what we could call average Canadians who want to help the political party of their choice. And having a choice is important to Canadians.

Governments have a duty to use taxpayer dollars wisely and only in the public interest, especially at a time of fiscal restraint when families are struggling to make ends meet.

The fact is that Canadian families are struggling right now. That is especially true when loved ones become sick and need help getting the necessary care. The new tax credit for caregivers will allow them to get back up to a maximum of $2,000 of the approved expenses for taking care of infirm dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common law partners and minor children.

For those who have not experienced caring for loved ones with infirmities, it is difficult to imagine the pain and difficulty families can face from day to day. Over the years, I have been graced with the opportunity to meet with caregivers from across my riding. They are good people facing unexpected challenges, emotionally and financially, in order to provide for their loved ones. They play a vital role in supporting their loved ones, often elderly parents. They often must take time off from work, which further adds to their stress. Financial support is a critical component for them. Our commitment to the tax credit is a clear sign that our government understands the desire of Canadians to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

At this time I would like to highlight a third element of our keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, which is the children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.

As a father of five children, I am well aware of the cost, but also the benefits of giving children a solid foundation in the arts. My children have taken piano lessons, singing lessons and violin lessons. I have seen the arts help them to grow in confidence, self-discipline, creativity, and it has also been a form of recreation. I know that our family is not alone in this.

Thousands of parents in my riding understand the value of the arts to a child's development. Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is a riding that hosts a number of cultural events to celebrate its proud heritage, and the arts hold a very important place in those celebrations. Thousands of parents are already paying for lessons for their children even if that expense puts pressure on the family budget. We know that this type of tax credit works. We implemented the children's fitness tax credit in order to encourage children to remain active and it is working. Health experts keep telling us that children need to be physically active. They tell us we must encourage them to do so and that active video games are not enough. Our government is doing its part to offer more financial options to families in order to stimulate their children and ensure their development.

I spoke about this a lot during the May election and I mentioned it in the House in June, but I am proud to mention it again. Our government is committed to delivering a $3,000 tax credit to volunteer firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters play a vital role in serving our communities. They put themselves at great risk for the safety of our neighbours. In a rural riding such as mine, volunteer firefighters are indispensable. I have met with these firefighters time and again, and they are overwhelmingly pleased by our government's commitment to this initiative. We said we would deliver strong financial support to recognize the critical work done by our volunteer firefighters and that is exactly what we are doing.

We want to thank Canadians for electing a majority government. Doing so allows us to implement legislative measures that will help all Canadians and will help the country weather the global economic storm.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's intervention. While there are many missing pieces in the government's plan, one is the growing gap between those who have and those who have less.

The government would say that it has brought in a low tax plan, but there is a problem, and this is very important for the member's riding where there is a lot of poverty. The plan does not help those who are on the margins. We see fewer and fewer people able to make ends meet and having an arts tax credit does not mean much.

Where is the plan from the government to actually deal with the wider prosperity gap in this country? Tax cuts do not cut it. We are seeing tax credits where people cannot afford music lessons.

What is the government doing about the poor, particularly urban poor, because there is a lot of poor in his riding?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we are addressing poverty, the best way to address it is to create jobs. People want to work. They want to have a job to raise their families and they do not want to have to rely on the government to do so.

As I mentioned, we announced 61,000 net new jobs that had been created in September. Our track record, since 2009, is the net creation of over 660,000 new jobs. This is putting Canadians to work, so that they can earn what they need to raise their families.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked a minister about the need for a national nutrition program in Canada, so no child goes to school hungry. I was dismayed to receive talking points back on a completely different topic, albeit important, when 40% and 62% of elementary and secondary school students go to school hungry.

New data from the Toronto District School Board shows that the top benefits of a morning meal program are that it helps 86% of children who would not get the opportunity to eat. It improves student health by 74% and increases the intake of milk and dairy products by 71%. More powerful, 78% of grade 10 students who ate morning meals were on track for graduation compared to 61% who only ate a few days.

Does the member think that the government should be having discussions with the provinces and territories regarding a national nutrition program?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague does raise an important point that has to do with the nutrition of children and basically the raising of children. Certainly, as parliamentarians and as Canadians we want to ensure that our children have the best advantages in order to grow. But I would remind the member that as a parent of five children, and being in close contact with parents throughout my riding, parents want to feed their own children. They do not necessarily want the government feeding their children for them.

Therefore, it comes back again to creating jobs and lowering taxes. I already spoke about job creation. I would like to finish this response by underlining that through our Conservative government we have put in place tax cuts for families all across Canada, and the average saving for the average Canadian family due to our tax cuts since 2006 is $3,000 per family. That is $3,000 that parents can spend on raising their children, feeding their children and giving them every possible opportunity.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am from Oshawa and just like the rest of the country, jobs are extremely important. I was wondering if the member could contrast our steady approach that relies on reducing taxes for businesses as opposed to the NDP's approach, which has been used in Greece and other countries that are in a lot of trouble right now. They are raising taxes and increasing spending. Could he contrast those two approaches on how they work for job creation?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an excellent point and I could go on at length, but because of the time constraints I will say the following. Our measures to cut taxes for businesses are the right way to go because it leaves more money in the businesses themselves during these difficult economic times. If we want businesses to create jobs, we cannot suck money out of them through higher taxes and that is exactly what the NDP proposes. That is what the Liberals propose as well. We are on the side of job creation and job creation is what will help Canadians through these difficult economic times.