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House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. friend, the member of Parliament for Prince Albert, to explain something to me. I have asked this question before of government members and I have to admit, with all due respect, that I have not had a satisfactory answer.

The Conservatives have said to us in the opposition benches that somehow we do not go out there and ask our supporters for support and that we do not go out there and put forward what our policies are. Speaking on behalf of the Green Party, we do, and we raise money from our supporters, but that money is easier to raise because there are very generous tax rebates, and they have benefited primarily the Conservative Party. I do not see the Conservative Party showing any interest in removing the very generous tax rebates that come from the people of Canada for the donations they receive.

I would like a response to why Bill C-13 goes after the smallest of the amounts of taxpayer subsidies to political parties and leaves aside the elephants in the room, the rebates on political party spending and donations.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the rebate is something that has been a part of it. In the American system, a congressman or a senator can raise millions of dollars from whomever they want, with no accountability back to the taxpayer. I would rather take our system, which limits what we can donate. We get a tax receipt for contributing, for participating in the political process. I think it is a far fairer and safer system.

It is fair for every party. It is not just the Conservative Party that benefits from the system in place here. If the member raises funds and gets people to donate, her people will still get that tax receipt. That is the reality we are facing right now.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:15 p.m., pursuant to order made Wednesday, November 16, 2011, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour will please say yea.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #62

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I ask hon. members who are not staying for the adjournment debate to continue their conversations outside the House.

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

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 9, I asked the government to introduce concrete measures to protect families and consumers. I pointed out that, since 2004, personal debt in Canada has increased by 40% and is at an all-time high. In Quebec alone, between 15% and 20% of credit card holders cannot make even the minimum payment. Families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The government must help them.

What was the finance minister's response at the time? He lauded the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry. The finance minister replied that this infamous code of conduct, and I quote, “is working”. I would like to know how this code of conduct is working and how that success was measured. I am very curious to hear the parliamentary secretary's response.

The government is proposing to improve Canadians' basic knowledge, but by doing so, it becomes clear that the government is laying the blame on Canadian families and suggesting that they are not capable of managing their credit cards when, in reality, the credit card companies are making outrageous profits.

Just this morning there was a statement in the Globe and Mail which summed this up very well:

Looking to financial literacy to fill the void is like asking ordinary Canadians to be their own brain surgeon and airline pilots.

It is not me or the NDP saying that. It was the Globe and Mail.

Education is something that would be helpful if we did not have a system that held Canadians hostage. It is a step that puts the blame on Canadian families and does not look to the obstacle, ignorance in the system, an obstacle which families on their own cannot solve. This is where the government is expected to stand up for Canadian families, but it is not doing anything concrete.

This government program is not a program. It is just a set of good intentions. There is no way to assess the impacts and benefits.

What concrete suggestions has the NDP made? First, the NDP suggested capping credit card interest rates at prime plus 5%. The prime rate is currently 3%, so the interest rate on credit cards would be 8%. Second, we suggested banning excessive charges on credit cards, payday loans, store cards and all other forms of consumer credit. Third, we want to require lenders to disclose the real cost of credit cards and other types of loans so it is easier for consumers to understand. Lastly, we suggested putting an end to unfair transaction charges for consumers and small businesses.

What Canadians want to hear is a practical list of things the government will do to protect them from the unlimited greed of credit granters.

6:50 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, unlike the NDP, our Conservative government does not believe in punishing Canadian families who are trying to get ahead with higher taxes and reckless deficit spending that would hurt our economy and cost jobs.

The NDP has shown its pro-tax agenda by opposing our GST reductions, demanding $10 billion a year in higher business taxes that would lead to job losses, and even asking for new taxes, like a tax on everyday financial transactions.

While the NDP is promoting its high tax agenda, our Conservative government is helping families with our low tax agenda that is saving the average Canadian family over $3,000 a year.

We are also helping Canadian consumers, especially those who use financial services. Canadians use financial services products every day, whether it is by using their credit card, cashing a cheque, going to the bank, or signing a mortgage. Canadians deserve to be treated fairly when they use these products and to be provided with clear information before agreeing to use them.

For that reason, since 2006, our Conservative government has introduced key measures to address the concerns of consumers and to make financial services products more advantageous for consumers.

For example, our government has protected consumers with new credit card rules that require consent for credit limit increases, a minimum grace period of 21 days for new purchases, disclosure to the consumer and limits on commercial practices that are detrimental to the consumer; established a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry to help small businesses fight unfair practices—the code promotes fairness, encourages choice and competition and will protect businesses against cost hikes; banned negative option billing for financial products; reduced the hold periods for cheques; made mortgage insurance more transparent, more understandable and more affordable through better disclosure and other measures; and established an independent working group responsible for making recommendations on financial literacy to help consumers make informed choices.

In the 2011 budget, our Conservative government is building on our achievements by implementing other measures to help consumers such as banning unsolicited credit card cheques, protecting consumers of prepaid cards, and moving forward with the implementation of the recommendations of the task force on financial literacy, starting with the appointment of an official responsible for financial literacy in the government.

The question for the NDP is why it is opposing all of these pro-consumer initiatives and instead promoting a high tax agenda, even increasing the GST?

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the question was not answered. She answered the question for the government with a question for the NDP. What does the exorbitant interest rates on credit cards have to do with insidiously repeating that the NDP wants to increase taxes? The NDP does not want to increase taxes. I am talking specifically about the interest rate. It is a specific, targeted proposal: prime plus 5%. That is a concrete measure.

Why is the government answering concrete questions by accusing the NDP of wanting to increase taxes? That is a way of not answering the question. Again, I would like a specific answer to a specific question.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP's suggestions are just irresponsible.

If we are here to talk about keeping money in the pockets of families, whether it is by providing consumer protection or by keeping their taxes low, it is the same thing. At the end of the day, there is more money in the pockets of Canadian families. Sadly, the NDP do not understand that. It wants to keep taxing our families.

The Conservative government has ensured that families have, on average, $3,000 more in their pockets. It is that simple.

As I mentioned earlier, our Conservative government has taken leadership with many pro-consumer initiatives, including sensible measures to help Canadians entering the housing market. We constantly monitor the housing market, ready to take prudent steps to ensure its continued stability. That is why we recently took prudent and sensible action to strengthen Canada's housing market by reducing the maximum mortgage period to 30 years, significantly reducing interest payments for Canadian families, lowering the maximum amount lenders can provide when refinancing mortgages to 85% and withdrawing taxpayer backing on home equity lines of credit provided by lenders. These were prudent moves that even the NDP member for Outremont, the then finance critic, called good ideas.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, last June, I asked the Minister of Health to explain why, in the last session of Parliament, she asked the Senate to review the 2004 accord when the Senate is an undemocratic institution that is not accountable to anyone. She could have asked the Standing Committee on Health, which is made up of elected members of Parliament who are accountable to Canadians, to conduct the review. The committee is an far more democratic institution and is committed to analyzing the investment of public funds.

Canadians have a right to know where their money is going, what is being done with it, if it is being used wisely and whether their investments are being monitored. The federal government has a duty to enforce the Canada Health Act, which includes the following five principles: accessibility, universality, portability, public administration and comprehensiveness.

The provinces had to meet targets and achieve results in order to respect the agreement between them and the federal government, so that the federal government would continue to invest 6%, as agreed to by the Minister of Health.

The targets were, for example, to reduce wait times in the emergency rooms, to increase the number of professional staff, doctors and nurses, and to improve home care. There was also the issue of providing more care in the north and improving public health management.

Such were the targets and there were 67 to 70 measurable indicators. Some eight years later, there is still no news on what has happened since 2004. As we prepare the new 2014 accord, we might want to know what improvements there have been, if any, and in what areas of health we have to increase our efforts.

Why did the Minister of Health not show more leadership? It was her decision to choose who would review this accord. Why did she choose the Senate? What does the government have to hide?

This totally lacks transparency, since we have no idea or indication what is being discussed. We have no access to the witnesses and experts who could provide us with information, as this belongs to the Senate.

Again, why was there no leadership on this issue and why was the mandate not given to a democratic institution, to the members of Parliament elected by the public?

7 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, health care is extremely important to Canadians and our health care system is something in which Canadians take pride. This government is committed to the Canada Health Act and the principles of universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration it embodies. These principles represent a common vision for Canada's publicly funded health care system that ensures every Canadian has access to the hospital and medical services that he or she needs.

While health care is a shared responsibility in the country, the government recognizes provincial jurisdiction and the primary responsibility provinces and territories have for the administration and delivery of health care services. Provinces and territories are directly responsible for setting priorities, administering health care budgets and managing resources.

Since coming to office, this government has worked collaboratively with the provinces and territories to advance the objectives of the 2004 health accord. We have introduced new measures to reduce wait times, improve access to physicians and nurses and accelerate the implementation of electronic health records.

This government has also introduced further measures to support physicians and nurses in rural and remote communities, home and community care, cancer, mental health and the prevention of childhood obesity. We have done so in order to address the changing health needs of Canadians and to contribute to the real improvements in the health care system.

Parliament has a key role to play in taking stock of what has been accomplished through the health accord. Federal legislation mandated two parliamentary reviews of the accord, one in 2008 and the second in 2011.

In 2008 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health carried out a parliamentary review focused on the federal commitments in the 2004 accord. The member is able to read that if she would look that up.

Last March, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology initiated the second review to examine the report on the progress in implementing the accord. If the member remembers in the last Parliament, the opposition actually had the majority, and in the House of Commons committee it was decided not to study this. The minister was mandated for the study and that is why it went to the Senate.

As that review was interrupted by the election, the committee resumed its work this fall. Like all members, I look forward to receiving the committee's report when the review has been completed.

In the meantime, the Government of Canada's funding for health care is at an all time high. For example, this reflects the importance that Canadians place on the effective, efficient and responsive health care system. This also demonstrates the government's commitment to the health and well-being of Canadians.

As set out in the June 2011 budget, federal cash transfers to the provinces and territories through the Canada health transfer will amount to $27 billion in 2011-2012. These investments provide growing and predictable financial support to enable provinces and territories to deliver high quality health care to Canadians.

Federal funding for health care through the Canada health transfer is legislated to grow 6% annually until 2013-14 and we are committed to extending this arrangement to 2015-16. There are still two more years before the end of the current health accord, which gives us time to give proper consideration to the changing health care needs of Canadians and ensuring the long-term sustainability of our health care system.

Strengthening Canada's capacity to protect and improve the health of Canadians is of the utmost importance to our government. We look forward to continuing this work with the provinces and territories on ways to help Canadians live healthier lives.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for answering my question and trying to shed some light on this. However, this is a new Parliament this year. The Minister of Health could still have decided to give the Standing Committee on Health the opportunity to review the targets and see whether they had been met, or she could have even created a new committee. It is important for people to know where to invest and where their money is going. This also would have allowed us to hear from witnesses to get an update on the current situation.

Of course, it is interesting to read a report, but the quality of the information is not the same as when expert witnesses come and give us the information and we can discuss the situation with them and ask them more specific questions. Certainly, it is important to get an update.

I will repeat my question. Could the minister not have given the authority to a democratic institution?

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate for my colleague that the Speaker of the House has ruled many times that committees are responsible for determining their own proceedings. It is not the Department of Health that tells a committee what to do.

The Government of Canada recognizes that Canadians expect their health care system to be there when they and their families need it most. Canadians want to see their governments working together to ensure that their publicly funded health care system will deliver the high quality services that Canadians expect.

In order to meet the expectations of Canadians, this government is committed to implementing the 2004 accord by providing $41.3 billion over 10 years in additional funding through the Canada health transfer. This funding will support provincial and territorial health care delivery in the priority areas identified in the accord, and our commitment to the health accord comes with the commitment to the review process.

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is currently conducting a review of the 2004 health accord. It has been diligently examining progress across the priority areas. I, like all members, look forward to the committee's report when it has completed its review.

As I said earlier, the Speaker has ruled that committees are responsible for determining their own proceedings.

We look forward to any work that is being done and to inform Canadians about these important--

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. We will move forward to the next question. The hon. member for Etobicoke North

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the ozone layer protects us from harmful ultraviolet or UV radiation from the sun. This radiation causes skin cancer, cataracts, sunburns, and local and whole body immunosuppression. Without the ozone layer, life as we know it would not exist on earth.

It was therefore disturbing that an Antarctic ozone hole was discovered in 1985. Ozone destroying CFC refrigerants were identified as the cause. Remarkably, only two years after the discovery, these chemicals were banned under the Montreal protocol, for which Canada took a leadership role.

The protocol was ratified by 196 countries. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date has been the Montreal protocol”. A global agreement is possible when countries enter negotiations in good faith and carefully consider what we have learned from science.

Following the signing of the Montreal protocol, CFC levels in the atmosphere have decreased and global deterioration of the ozone layer has generally slowed. In fact, it is expected that the ozone layer should recover some time between 2020 and 2050.

Having said that, surprises are possible, as demonstrated this spring when a 2,000,000 km2 ozone hole was discovered over the Arctic. Because surprises are possible and because new chemicals and climate change might affect the ozone layer, we must be vigilant in monitoring our life-giving atmosphere.

Studies show that without elimination of CFCs, most of the ozone layer would have been destroyed by 2065. DNA-damaging UVs would have increased by 550%, leading to large increases of skin cancer.

Canada recently participated in the eighth meeting of the ozone research managers of the parties to the Vienna convention for the protection of the ozone layer in May 2011. There were no indications in Canada's presentation that the Minister of the Environment was planning to effectively wipe out Environment Canada's ozone group and severely curtail ozone monitoring activities.

What is also notable is that the presentation has a slide titled “An Arctic ozone hole”, meaning that Environment Canada was aware of severe ozone depletion in the Arctic well before the government began to announce its cuts to ozone monitoring and science in June. This is a shocking revelation. The document also said:

Balloonsonde networks provide critical high-resolution vertical profiles of ozone, water vapour, and temperature, and need to be maintained and expanded, since such data are critical to understanding the interactions between atmospheric composition and a changing climate.

The operative words “Agreed to by Canada”, indicate that ozones are critical. How is it possible that we are now considering optimizing and streamlining the ozonesonde network, which everyone understands is code for cuts?

A government brief titled “Ozone monitoring cuts” has now surfaced. Will the government clearly say what is being cut from the ozone program, or preferably rescind workplace adjustment letters to Environment Canada scientists, so they can continue research that protects the health and safety of Canadians?

7:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as I have assured my colleague numerous times in recent weeks, Environment Canada will continue to monitor the ozone. The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre will continue to deliver world-class services. Canada's excellent track record of providing ozone monitoring data will continue, as will our ongoing work to take concrete action to protect Canada's environment.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is not good enough.

A government brief titled “Ozone monitoring cuts” has now surfaced. We have heard time and again that the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre is not being cut, nor apparently are ozone services. These claims fly in the face of the facts that the data centre's manager's position is in jeopardy, as are the positions of Environment Canada scientists who discovered the Arctic ozone hole.

A government brief entitled “Ozone monitoring cuts” has been uncovered. Canadians expect transparency from their government. The government has an obligation to say what actually is being cut or, better yet, declare that there will be no cuts to ozone monitoring or science.