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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

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question. We should be talking about the environment, climate change and problems with the ozone layer. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is not dealing seriously with these issues that will affect more than one parliament, the work we will do here during our four-year mandate. We are talking about the future, about our children. The Conservative government has a short-term vision. It is making decisions that will harm the people living on this planet in 10, 20 or 30 years. Cuts to Environment Canada for monitoring the ozone are troubling and worrying. Once again, the Conservatives are going in the wrong direction.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the hon. member's last, very fast minute, he touched on the issue of credit cards. In the election campaign, the NDP suggested putting a cap on credit card interest rates. Could he tell us how this could help families that have huge debts?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Hochelaga for her question. Her riding is next to mine on the island of Montreal. I was beginning to address the topic of household and family debt, which is extremely worrisome. We in the NDP are not the only ones who are worried. A study conducted by Moody's said it does not make sense that Canadian families have a debt-to-income ratio of nearly 150%. That is huge. It seems to us that the Conservative government finds the debt problem staggering. However, our debt to GDP ratio is 32%, which is half the debt in OECD countries. We are doing relatively well here.

The government should worry a little less about the debt and make fewer cuts to public services, and instead help families that have huge, real debts that could bankrupt our economy if those people can no longer support consumer spending because of their debt. That is a very bad thing, in both the short and long term. Action must be taken and the NDP has made some suggestions, particularly the one my colleague just talked about.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to argue in favour of Bill C-13, which is the government's plan to keep Canada's economy growing and the job creation machine going.

It is very important that we take a step back and look at the government's overall economic action plan. We have been talking about specific elements in this plan, tax credits and other specific measures, but sometimes it is useful to take a step back and look at our overall plan, because every individual initiative in this plan is part of a much bigger plan to steer Canada's economy through what has been an unprecedented economic crisis that the world has been facing over the last 36 months.

Before I go on, I will mention that I am sharing my time with my colleague, who sits with me on the official languages committee, the member for Ottawa—Orléans.

Just over three years ago, which I remember well because we were in the middle of a federal election campaign, we witnessed some pretty unprecedented events that I have never been through in my lifetime, the kind of events that our grandparents talked about when they lived through the depression of the 1930s and the stock market crash that took place in the late 1920s. I felt like I was reliving the experiences of a generation that had gone before us. I do not think we have fully realized the results of this crisis and I think it will continue to unfold, not just in the coming weeks and months but in coming years. By the time this decade is out, I think we will be facing a very different global economic order.

The government has done a fantastic job of steering the Canadian economy through the last three years. When the recession and global financial crisis hit some 38 or 39 months ago, few could foretell the way things would unfold in the following months and years. Yet the government very quickly showed that it could be not only pragmatic but flexible. In the following six months, it worked with the provinces and our other partners in the federation to come forward with what is, arguably, the biggest investment plan since the end of the second world war. That plan, as we all know, was the first phase of Canada's economic action plan.

We delivered in some 24 months an unprecedented $60 billion in stimulus spending across this country, which played a critical role in ensuring that Canada did not slip into the kind of severe recession that we have seen in other countries, like the United States and Europe. Through the stimulus plan, we also delivered long-lasting benefits and record investments in universities and colleges across the country. As an MP from Ontario, I can say that the investments we made in Ontario's community colleges were the biggest made in that system since William G. Davis was minister of education in the 1960s and created the community college system. In the subsequent 50 years, we have never seen such a huge wave of investments into that community college system. That was delivered through the government stimulus plan, specifically through the knowledge infrastructure program.

We also ensured that the banks had credit facilities to swap out their mortgage portfolios with credit that the government would provide to ensure that the banks continued to lend throughout that time. We delivered fiscal stimulus through other measures, like enhancing the employment insurance program and introducing work sharing, which ensured that employers would not have to lay off workers in industries that had experienced severe slowdowns. We also extended a major loan and equity investment in General Motors and Chrysler, which ensured that the manufacturing industry in the heartland of Ontario would still be able to rely on the auto industry as a key component of that sector.

Those are some of the measures we made fiscally. We worked closely with the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney. We gave the bank new legislative powers to expand its mandate so that it had all the tools available to respond to any monetary threats the country would face.

Over the last 36 months or so, the results are evident. We have created over 600,000 net new jobs in the country. Our unemployment rate in our country is significantly lower than in many of the other major advanced economies in the world. Our budget deficits are significantly lower than in many of the other major developed economies, both in North America and in Europe. These are some of the successes to which we can point.

Sometimes it is useful to look to outsiders outside of Canada to get a perspective on how well we have done in the last 36 months. Sometimes we can be pretty provincial in our country. We tend to not have the perspective that others who live outside of Canada might have, others who have seen what has gone on not just here but elsewhere.

I will quote what Standard and Poor's said recently when it reaffirmed Canada's triple-A credit rating. It said that our credit rating was due to our, “superior political and economic profile and strong flexibility and performance profile”. Other rating firms, such as Fitch and Moody's, have also reiterated our credit standing in the world.

The World Economic Forum, the very well-respected organization, has ranked Canada's banking system, for four years running, as the soundest in the world. As we all know, the banking system is the foundation for our economy. We just have to look at the banking crises that have taken place south of the border, in the United Kingdom and currently in continental Europe to realize how important it is that we maintain and regulate our banks properly.

However, we are not out of the woods. The fact is the crisis from outside our shores, both in the United States, which is failing to resolve its deficit and debt conundrum, where Congress has recently failed to come to an agreement through its congressional committee, which will trigger a default plan, and the events that are currently taking place in Europe, where the contagion in Greek sovereign debt markets is now starting to spread to Italy and possibly beyond to countries like Spain and France.

All these events show that we are not out of the woods yet and there remains significant risks to the downside. That is why it is incredibly important that we stay the course and that we implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. That is precisely what Bill C-13 would do. It would continue with the government's prudent, flexible and pragmatic approach to steering Canada's economy through this global crisis.

We have put specific measures in this budget. For example, we have implemented the hiring credit for small businesses, a commitment we made during the last election. We have put in place in this bill the regime to help simplify the collection of customs tariffs in order to facilitate and enhance cross-border trade. We are extending the accelerated capital cost allowance deductions for the manufacturing sector, which has been especially hit because of the global recession. We have also put in place measures to eliminate the mandatory retirement age for workers who work in federally regulated sectors.

These are some of the things that we have put in the bill that will allow us to build on the successes that Canada's first economic action plan have put in place.

We have also made permanent, in this legislation, the gas tax transfer to Canadian municipalities, some $2 billion a year to help them with their aging infrastructure and to ensure that they can continue to maintain the infrastructure that they have built over the last number of decades. We have enhanced the wage earner protection program to help workers affected by bankruptcies or receiverships.

These are some of the additional measures that we are putting in place because we remain focused on creating jobs and economic growth.

I want to finish by making this point. In the last election, our party, our candidates, our Prime Minister campaigned on one issue and one issue over every other issue. That was that we needed to stay the course economically, that we needed to keep implementing Canada's economic action plan, building on the successes of the first plan by putting in place the second phase of the plan so we could create jobs and economic growth for Canadian families.

This bill does exactly that, and I ask all hon. members of this House to support it.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government did run on that platform and that is why most Canadians voted against it.

I want to read a small quote from one of the member's colleagues about closure. He referred to closure when he said, “It tells the people of Canada that the government is afraid of debate, afraid of discussion and afraid of publicly justifying the steps it has taken”. That was a quote by the Minister of Public Safety around closure.

Why is the government so afraid of debating this bill? I would argue that in part it is because we have the largest deficit in Canadian history. Perhaps the government does not want to focus Canada's attention on that glaring fact.

On another glaring fact, youth unemployment in our country is double the national average. Young people right across Canada are protesting that very fact. Yet we never hear the Conservative side of aisle talk about young people and employment. We hear about jobs, jobs, jobs, but the government never says whether the jobs are sustainable, whether one could raise a family—

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would encourage all members when they are asking questions to look to the Chair for guidance in terms of what an appropriate length is for a question.

The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if it is relevant to talk about time allocation. We are on the debate on Bill C-13, which is the budget act. Therefore, I will focus on the latter two comments that my colleague posed regarding youth issues.

The government has been focused on addressing the challenges that Canada's youth face. In fact, it is the reason why we have invested record amounts of money into Canada's post-secondary education system. As I mentioned earlier, and I know the member is a proud Torontonian, a proud Ontarian, the amount of money that we have invested in community colleges to help those students who want to enter skilled trades and other sectors of the workforce has been an unprecedented investment not seen since the Hon. William G. Davis created the community college system in the 1960s.

As for the deficit, I would clarify a point. It is not a record deficit in terms of the real deficit. If we measure the deficit in terms of a percentage of GDP, the deficits that we have experienced in the last three years are substantially lower than they were in the early 1990s. Measured in simple absolute dollar amounts, yes, they are at the highest number, but that is not a fair measure. On that measure, the average worker today is making about a thousand times more money than the average worker did some decades ago. We need to compare apples to apples. On the real measure of deficit to GDP, this is not a record deficit. In fact, it shows the government's prudence in this regard.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question has to do with health.

I strongly believe stem cell therapies represent a tremendous opportunity to improve and/or alleviate human suffering, reduce the economic burden of health care costs for Canadians and create new long-term jobs in the delivery of regenerative medicine. It is key to ensure that Canadians are the first to benefit from this Canadian discovery and have access to these new therapies in a safe, fair and timely manner.

Does the hon. member think that the federal government should increase financial support for stem cell research from basic science to early phase clinical trials to globally competitive levels?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, we are investing record amounts into higher education in our country. In fact, if we look at the OECD measures on this file, the higher education research and development measure, which the OECD tracks for all member OECD countries, Canada ranks second only to Sweden in terms of the amount of money that we invest in Canada's universities and into research and development at those universities.

In answer to the member's question, any allocation of money through SSIRC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Council, NSERC and all the other bodies out there should be done on a peer reviewed basis. I do not think elected officials should be getting into the business of deciding which specific research projects should go ahead. That should be done by the scientists and researchers involved and done on a peer reviewed basis. That is the best way for the government to proceed.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my distinguished and hon. friend from Wellington—Halton Hills for sharing his time.

During the 41st general election, we all recognized that the economy continued to be a major issue for Canadians. In fact, this was the crucial reason for our success. The economy needs to be among our country's key priorities.

Despite this period of global economic uncertainty, Canada has one of the strongest fiscal positions of the major advanced economies of the world. While many countries' economies are slipping, Canada can say that it is creating employment. Here in the nation's capital, many jobs have been created in the past 12 months.

In October 2010, 505,400 Ottawa residents had work and the unemployment rate was at 6.9%. Helped by vibrant businesses in our solid and credible economic action plan, Ottawa is now turning the corner.

According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, more than 13,000 jobs were created in Ottawa over the past year, resulting in a 1.3% drop in the unemployment rate.

Right now, our region is reaping the benefits of the current government's initiatives and efforts.

Ever since Canadians entrusted us with managing the nation's affairs 2,129 days ago, we have reduced the tax burden over 120 times. We have cut income taxes to 15% of the lowest income earners. We have taken more than one million Canadians completely off the tax rolls.

We have increased the amount that Canadians can earn without paying taxes and the average family in Ottawa—Orléans is saving over $3,000 through the current government's tax reduction plan.

Last Thursday I attended the People's Choice Business Award gala sponsored by the Orléans Chamber of Commerce to recognize outstanding businesses as chosen by their customers. Several award winners eloquently pointed out that Orléans was a vibrant and positive environment for small, medium and large businesses.

The actions taken by the Government of Canada have certainly played a key role in the economic vitality of our beautiful corner of this country.

However, the work is far from over. The strength of the global economy is threatened by unwise choices made beyond our borders. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan is designed to ensure our economic recovery for the good of all Canadians, both today and in the years to come, through a number of targeted measures.

Seniors are among my biggest concerns and on countless occasions I have visited these Canadians with invaluable experience at Club 60, le Rendez-vous des aînés, the Roy G. Hobbs Seniors Centre, the Gloucester Senior Adults' Centre and many other places. They will certainly be pleased to see what their government will be doing for them.

The government will implement a new tax credit of up to $2,000 for caregivers.

The GIS will be enhanced. Eligible low-income seniors will receive an additional annual benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.

Finally, we want to remove the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim for their financially dependent relatives under the medical expense tax credit.

Seniors living in Ottawa—Orléans are very involved in their community and they volunteer their time. The district that I have the honour to represent here includes more than 300 community organizations and they will greatly benefit from our super volunteers.

As a servant of the people of Ottawa—Orléans in this place, I am pleased to note that the government wishes to invest an additional $10 million to promote volunteerism, mentorship and social participation of seniors. This amount will also help expand awareness of elder abuse, of which they sometimes fall victim.

Our young people will not be outdone: Ottawa—Orléans is an excellent place to raise a family, with young people aged 19 and under making up almost 27% of the population of Orléans.

Many of our brilliant young people attend well-established institutions, such as the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cité collégiale, which recently added a new campus in Orléans, just to name a few.

Two important organizations—the College Student Alliance and the Council of Ontario Universities—welcomed the 2011 budget.

On March 22, 2011, the Council of Ontario Universities wrote in a news release that it:

--applauds the federal government's 2011 budget, and its commitment of continued support and new investments which will help to sustain a robust pipeline of research. We are pleased in these tough economic times that the government continues to invest in university research as a critical driver of Canada's future prosperity and economic recovery--

The Council of Ontario Universities adds that this budget makes it clear that the Government of Canada believes strongly in the important role that research plays in driving positive economic and social outcomes for Canadians.

As well, I am sure that the Ottawa Police Service will be delighted with our $20 million investment to promote programs that help young people from joining street gangs or that help them quit. Ottawa, like many other major Canadian municipalities, is not immune to this terrible reality.

The young people of Ottawa—Orléans and I are deeply attached to the arts. Families will be pleased to see that their government is providing a 15% non-refundable tax credit on the first $500 of eligible fees for arts, cultural, recreational and child development activities.

As for our cities, I am sure that Ottawa City Council will be pleased that this government is putting into effect the annual investment in municipalities with the gas tax. Ottawa receives roughly $50 million per year from this annual investment of $2 billion.

Thanks to this money, the City of Ottawa can continue to improve services provided by OC Transpo. This should help reduce traffic on Highway 174, and the environment will ultimately come out the big winner of this investment.

In closing, I wish to point out that the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, tabled by our friend the hon. Minister of Finance, is a credible and sustainable plan that will provide an added boost to the families of Ottawa--Orléans.

In this period of global economic uncertainty, I am convinced that the people of Orléans, like all Canadians, will have the tools to prosper.

Although we are faced with major challenges, the residents of Orléans, and the people of Canada, have shown that they are able to step up to the plate and keep moving forward. My maternal grandfather, the late Omer Lacasse, participated in the community work project that built the St. Joseph's church in Orléans 90 years ago.

The St. Isidore de Prescott arena was built in 1957 by volunteers from that police village over which my uncle, the late Raymond Galipeau, presided. Do members know how much that arena cost? It cost $3,001. That is less than 1% of the cost of arenas in those days.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was right when he said that “Forced labour is less opposed to liberty than are taxes”.

There is an old saying, “Good workers have good tools”. With this plan, Canadians will have the right tools to build a strong, united and prosperous Canada.

I thank the House for its kind attention. I assure the House that I will hear my colleagues' questions with the same respect.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the last speaker referred to a number of elements in Bill C-13. I will mention a few, such as support for volunteer firefighters. Now that is a smokescreen. It is a measure that makes no tangible contribution, except to a Conservative speech about how they are popular, are doing the right things and are helping volunteer firefighters. There are 85,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada. Only 55,000 will have access to this tax credit, which totals $15 million. Divided by 55,000, this amounts to less than $300.

Is that help? Is that support? Will that provide them with trucks, equipment or training? Will they be part of a national public safety plan? No.

This is also the case of family caregivers. They are being thrown crumbs. Will there be a policy for maintaining people in their own homes? No.

How can the member say that this is a good budget when all it provides is smokescreens?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it regrettable that the members opposite are engaging in demagoguery. That is probably why 70% of Canadians voted against them on May 2.

When the Government of Canada invests in programs, the money comes from taxpayers' pockets, not the government's. We must make prudent investments and that is exactly what Canadians are seeing. That is why, on May 2, they endorsed the budget we presented in March.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2008 Massachusetts signed legislation that would set aside $1 billion toward biotechnology over 10 years to turn the state into the second largest with regard to stem cell research in the United States.

Governments are investing because regenerative medicine represents an enormous economic opportunity, a conservative $2 billion to $3 billion range over the next three years. Canada's stem cell researchers need more money. For example, diabetes costs Canada $12 billion annually. As President Obama stated, “Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident”. They require investment in people, research, equipment and facilities.

We need to invest in our world-class stem cell researchers and their work. Does the hon. member support more money for stem cell research?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been paying attention to the questions by the hon. member this afternoon. It seems that she is not aware that we are discussing Bill C-13. She thinks we are discussing stem cell research. Therefore, her questions, which are coming out of left field, are probably a testimonial to the fact that 82% of Canadians voted against her and her party. That is why she is stuck in the corner there today.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will not resort to the math here, but there is a reason why substantially more Canadians voted for our government in the last election than any other party.

The economic action plan has many moving parts. Is there a single element or characteristic of our approach that he can attribute that would explain the fact that Canadians voted overwhelmingly in support of that plan?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very safe and prudent incrementalists. They listened to our budget last March and they liked many of the elements in that budget.

However, when I was knocking on doors, I found out specifically that they liked what we were doing for families. They liked that we were introducing a family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types of infirmed dependent relatives. They liked that we were removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers could claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of financially dependent relatives. They liked that we were introducing a new children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Jean, Personal Debt; the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, Health; the hon. member for Etobicoke North, The Environment.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will share my time with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

I am glad to speak today and address some of the problems with the budget implementation act. My initial concern with a bill like this is its omnibus nature, a theme we have seen from past Conservative budgets. There is so much packed into the budget that it becomes the single most important piece of legislation we will have to debate in a year. I must remind the House that there are close to 650 pages in this budget and what we have to debate is an overly complex document peppered with supportable items, but one that also goes about preparing the ground for much of the dirty work the government intends to do.

The end result is forcing parliamentarians to vote to do the least harm, which means to vote against the more imposing items and sacrifice the lesser and often imminent supportable items in the process. This leads to a predictable parade of Conservative members saying, “We didn't support this item or that item without ever acknowledging the context”. I guess it makes for great TV, but I cannot imagine many Canadians would be impressed if they were given the complete story. However, we will not hold our breath waiting for that kind of development. It is the most partisan and disrespectful group Canada has ever elected.

It is safe to assume that everyday Canadians expect Parliament to buckle down and get to work examining the bill since it is so wide ranging and important. They would rightly expect a parliamentarian to ensure the budget is sound and that the measures will do what Conservatives have said they will do. In short, Canadians expect us to do our jobs, but the government does not see the value in that. Instead, it put time allocation on a bill yet again.

Parliament is barely getting going and we have seen the government use this heavy-handed measure on every major piece of legislation, six times so far. It has gone so far as to use time allocation on a bill before an opposition member has even spoken on it. How is that for democracy? It is not very good, if one asks me.

In fact, when it comes to democracy, the only concern from the government bench is making certain it uses every tool at its disposal to ensure there is not much of it. It has used its majority to cut off debate on nearly every significant piece of legislation and to ensure committees are not doing much of anything.

We have to ask ourselves, what is the rush? Why is the government moving every significant piece of legislation at breakneck speed? Is it afraid of the criticism for items it knows to be overly partisan? Is it trying to get everything out of the way so it can prorogue Parliament again?

I can imagine that the idea of avoiding Parliament altogether is very appealing to the government, no question period and less probing from the press gallery. It must look pretty good to a government that acts more like a king's court than a parliamentary democracy. We will see. Right now there are only questions.

There are a number of themes repeated in this debate. Of greatest concern to me is the way this budget does so little to address inequality in Canada. It is among the greatest of our pressing needs, yet there is not even the smallest of attempts to address the winding gap in incomes here in Canada. This is not just by observation, either. This is a fact.

We only have to look at the occupy movement. It recognizes the inequality in Canada. The Conference Board of Canada released a report recently that placed Canada 12th out of 17 comparable countries when it comes to income disparity. It is a trend that is growing. That is no way to run a consumer-based economy, which is what we have in Canada to a large extent.

The most disturbing trend in the Conference Board's numbers was that the average income of the lowest earning Canadians is shrinking. For those at the bottom, there is no growth, only negative trends. Here are some numbers to consider. For the years 1980 to 2005, earnings increased by 16.4% for the top income group, the middle-income group saw no change, and the earnings fell by 20.6% for the bottom income group.

What do we get from government after government? We get tax cuts for corporations with the misguided belief that this will improve employment numbers and not be siphoned off as executive bonuses. It is trickle-down economics and it has not been working for 30 years or so.

New Democrats proposed a better option in the last election. We are the ones developing budgets. There would be performance-based tax incentives for corporations. We would reward those good companies that invest in Canada whether it is for the nuts and bolts of their operations or creating jobs. Those are the tax breaks we would happily make room for.

Ultimately, New Democrats want to lower the tax rate for small businesses. They are the real job creators. We want that rate to be lowered so we can create jobs in our communities. Small businesses in northern Ontario would welcome that development. That is not partisan. That is smart.

The Conservatives stand in this place and try to tell Canadians that we are the ones who would raise their taxes.

In reality, the Conservatives are the ones increasing taxes on Canadian families, such as the recent increase in employment insurance premiums for employers and employees, or the HST, which is cutting into household budgets in the north.

We would put an end to the kind of corporate welfare that sees companies like John Deere stick around just long enough to line their pockets with tax breaks and then move to a jurisdiction where the labour conditions and environmental laws are substandard. I have yet to hear a single Conservative say a critical word about that.

We see it when companies go bankrupt. If a country were really looking out for its citizens first and foremost, it would ensure that pensions were the first thing taken care of with what money remained. Does the government believe that? Hardly. Does the budget do anything to address the problem, given the high profile cases we have seen lately, like the pensioners who were robbed as Nortel foundered and was ultimately carved up and sold off? No, it does not.

More and more Canadian seniors are living in poverty and are being forced into making terrible decisions on whether to pay for food or heat. When the government refuses to protect pensions, pensions that only exist in the first place because of deferred wages from a company's employees, it is showing full and well what it thinks of Canadian workers and retirees. They are an afterthought, at the back of the line. They get something only if everything else works out first. These are terrible priorities. These are priorities that lead to policies that entrench poverty.

The budget has a number of tax incentives in it, things which New Democrats have called for, such as an extension of the eco-energy retrofit program and credits for home caregivers and for families that enrol their children in cultural activities like dance or music lessons. These are supportable items that need some tweaking, but they are generally good ideas.

I heard from a number of constituents about the eco-energy retrofit program when it was reintroduced. They are happy to go ahead and do this work which has spinoff benefits for our local economy as well as helping Canada conserve energy and reduce our environmental footprint. There are some problems, though. In Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing there are fewer contractors, few inspectors and also less time in the year to do some of the big jobs that are eligible for the credits. Without enough inspectors, people have to wait to get the green light. Then they have to find a contractor who can do the work needed in the short timeframe available. In northern Ontario, that gives people eight or nine months tops for big jobs like replacing windows that really cannot be done in the heart of winter.

If I were to have one suggestion, it would be to make the eco-energy retrofit program multi-year at a minimum to address the inequality of opportunity in areas that have limitations like the ones I have described.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, last week two members of the NDP went to the U.S. and proceeded to try to destroy part of the Canadian economy. Was that an NDP-sanctioned trip, or was that just two rogue NDP members?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we were there doing the job that the Conservatives should have been doing there, but were not.

On that note, it shows again that the Conservatives are clearly out of touch with the needs of Canadian families.

I would add that when I spoke about the tax credits a while ago, for tax credits like those available for cultural activities and for caregivers, the fact that they are not fully refundable means that only Canadians who pay enough taxes can take advantage of them. In that respect, they are incomplete incentives, and that is a shame.

My colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue spoke about this last week. Her background gives her a unique view into the situation. She told us that when individuals become caregivers, they often have no choice but to cut down on their hours of work. As a result, they do not earn enough money to benefit from this tax credit. She also told us that the majority of family caregivers cannot take advantage of these tax credits, because they do not pay enough tax because of lost income.

These are real problems that could be fixed if the government cared to listen.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague did not get an opportunity during her 10 minute speech to put on record the impact the cuts to the public service are going to have going forward. It is obvious that one of the major fronts on which the Conservatives are going to fight the deficit is on the backs of public servants.

I sit on the human resources committee with the member. The member has a pretty good appreciation for the impacts. Six hundred employees were sent home from EI processing centres across this country. We already see backlogs of five to seven weeks. People are waiting for their employment insurance cheques.

Perhaps my hon. colleague would like to comment on the government's choice of jets and jails over people delivering services to Canadians who need them.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true. We are hearing over and over again in our communities that people are having a hard time accessing their EI benefits. MPs' offices are becoming Service Canada offices.

Instead of helping people who are most in need, the government has decided to add another tax for employers and employees. This is really shameful given the fact there was a lot of money in the employment insurance pot way back when. Unfortunately, as my Liberal Party colleague knows full well, the government took that money and put it somewhere else. It should not have happened, because it was actually the workers' money.

If the Conservatives want to serve Canadians instead of dictating to them, they could start by breaking up these omnibus bills, allowing Parliament and committees to do their work, and stop thinking the worst of everyone who has a different opinion or idea on how to achieve the same goals. That would be to the betterment of Canada and all Canadians.

We need to fix EI, but we also need to fix Parliament. If the government is absolutely serious, it will continue to work. It will not prorogue Parliament, and it will continue to work on committees and give these bills a chance to go through the process.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, in an earlier speech, I spoke in detail about everything that does not belong in omnibus Bill C-13, for example, the inappropriate use of non-refundable tax credits. People who do not have to pay taxes will never be able to benefit from these tax credits. This means that people who stop working to take care of a sick child or an aging parent will not have access to the tax credit for family caregivers. This also means that the 85,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada will have to share $15 million, which is a bit of a stretch.

In their bill, the Conservatives have decided to exclude all volunteer firefighters who already work for a municipality, including blue-collar and white-collar workers as well as first responders. They decided to exclude all those who do not work at least 200 hours. This means that 55,000 of the 85,000 will share the $15 million, which comes out to $300 each. They call that a policy to support volunteer firefighters? It does not give them the equipment to fight fires. It does not give them the training they need to stay safe. It certainly does not give them the support of a national civil security policy.

We could also talk about culture. The government is offering a $500 tax credit to give children access to culture. Unfortunately, once again, this is a non-refundable tax credit. Children from poor families who are receiving social assistance or employment insurance benefits and those from families who do not have enough money to pay taxes will not have access to this tax credit and will therefore not have access to culture. This is the Conservative Party's remarkable achievement: it is rewarding the wealthy but failing to support those who need it, those who need this culture so that they can then contribute to Canada.

This omnibus bill also contains elements that should never have been included, such as a reform of the Canada Elections Act related to party financing, and the creation of a securities commission. These two components of Bill C-13 should have been carefully examined not quietly buried in a budget bill that is more partisan than economic in nature.

In this speech, I especially want to point out what is not found in this bill. Despite a huge number of calls from every corner of Canada and every element of society, such as BMO, the Certified Management Accountants and the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada, the government continues to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the deterioration of the economy. And these stakeholders cannot be accused of being champions of socialism. No. They are neutral observers who see that the economy is severely deteriorating and that the government is failing to take action. They are asking the government to urgently intervene but the government is not doing so.

First, it is completely outrageous that people who are entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement are unable to access it unless they submit an application. That does not make any sense at all. This is a measure that the government could easily implement: group people by age, use their income tax returns to identify those who do not have sufficient income and give them this income supplement. But no. They have to apply for the it. Unfortunately, almost 150,000 of the most elderly and isolated Canadians are unable to receive financial support because they did not submit an application.

The government's laziness is responsible for the unnecessary hardships and suffering of what we call the generation of builders, those who made this country prosper.

Second, since the beginning of the recession in 2008, Canada has created only 250,000 jobs in three years. We have learned that, in the month of October alone, we lost 72,000 jobs. That is huge, especially because, since 2008, our country has lost 350,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, a sector that creates wealth and value added.

These jobs have not been recovered. They have been replaced by jobs in other sectors, by lower paying, precarious and often part-time jobs.

This employment weakness is the reason why more than 1.7 million people in Canada are either unemployed or underemployed. In light of this crisis, there is nothing in Bill C-13 capable of kick-starting the job market in Canada.

In short, we are allowing our manufacturing sector to disappear and the government is doing nothing. Bill C-13 does not have a recovery plan to kickstart job creation. Once again, it contains only smokescreens in the form a series of minor measures that will not have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. The Conservatives are doing nothing. They are only making speeches. The budget has a grand title, but it is nothing more than paper.

I must point out that Statistics Canada data clearly shows that Canadians' debt makes increased spending impossible. There can be no national growth without growth in spending. However, more than $500 billion in capital is being stored up by businesses and they are not investing this money. It is said that Canada is the best place to do business, but obviously it is not the best place to invest, because investments are not being made. The Governor of the Bank of Canada and all stakeholders have confirmed this. With the productivity rate at an all-time low, the balance of payments deficit hitting peak levels and the manufacturing sector disappearing, this money could be of more help to those looking for work if it were invested.

In this situation, what is this government doing? Nothing. There are no incentives in Bill C-13 to make businesses use their $500 billion to create jobs. Absolutely none. The Conservatives still believe in divine intervention. Perhaps it is the theory of seven lean years and seven fat years. Does that amount to structured economic reasoning? At any event, that is our government's economic vision.

Statistics Canada has already indicated that this $500 billion was in the financial sector, and the Bank of Canada continues to indicate—in all its economic reports—that this money is not being invested.

Last night, Peter Mansbridge said on CBC television that currently, with fears of recession all around us, the worry is that the private sector may keep billions sitting on the sidelines, money that could create new jobs. That is what was said on the CBC.

The more uncertainty there is, the less investment there is; and the less investment there is, the more the government needs to encourage businesses to invest that money. The government is still doing nothing. It is waiting.

It is clear that, choosing between the actions of this government and the proposals of the official opposition, the best party for Canadian families who are worried about their jobs and the economy is truly the NDP. The Conservative Party is doing absolutely nothing.

This same government is so obsessed with the zero deficit that it has completely forgotten to consider the infrastructure deficit. We want to invest in infrastructure projects to deal with the deficit there, to make us more economically competitive and improve life for Canadians. What is more, the interest rate is so low that now is the best time for investing.

This government is set on freer trade, but all the new projects in the north and in British Columbia require infrastructure immediately. The government is not investing in it. How can we export coal if there are no ports?

The government seems to want to destroy the public service, but we need public servants to assess projects and monitor and guarantee the quality of the products we consume.

The list of things missing from Bill C-13 could fill a library. Unfortunately, neo-liberalism has become an intolerant religion. Such is the Conservative government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the ozone layer is one of those things that is truly important. Life on earth would not exist in its present form without the ozone layer. Monitoring the health of the ozone layer in the name of self-preservation is a sensible and responsible thing to do.

Canada is already receiving intense international criticism on its stance leading into the climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. We must not fail the world at the ozone meetings in Bali as well.

Does the hon. member think that Canada should reverse its cuts to ozone monitoring?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a typical example of inappropriate cuts. Our public service is being cut. They want to make it disappear. They want to take away essential expertise that Canada needs both now and in the future. This expertise cannot be replaced by private business, nor can it just simply not be replaced.

The fact that the government is hiding its head in the sand and hoping that the hole in the ozone takes care of itself is more proof of its wilful ignorance. It is refusing to look at the country's real issues and deal with them.