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.


Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13 and sharing my time with the parliamentary secretary this morning.

It is a privilege to contribute to this debate and speak in support of Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, which is the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. This bill will support Canada's economic recovery and promote job creation. It will support communities and invest in education and training. It will help Canadian families and respect their hard-earned tax dollars.

The bill is a low tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a continuation of the sensible fiscal policy that remains at the heart of our Conservative government's economic agenda. Our government is focused on what matters to Canadians, creating jobs and promoting economic growth.

While we see so much financial instability in governments around the world, Canada has become a leader on the international economic stage. We have the strongest job creation record in the G8. Close to 600,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009. We have renewed our triple A credit rating, and according to the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, we will have the strongest economic growth in the G8 and G7 over the next two years. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada as the best country in the world to do business. I can assure the House, one of the most important things to the people of my riding is to be gainfully employed.

The Canadian economy is intimately connected with the economies of the world and we must remain aware of the fragile economic situation in Europe and the United States. We are not isolated from potential economic problems that remain outside our borders. That is why we must stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Bill C-13 will promote Canadian job creation and economic growth. The hiring credit is precisely what small businesses have been calling for. The one time credit of up to $1,000 will be the catalyst for additional hiring, not only in my riding of Nipissing--Timiskaming but for small businesses throughout Canada.

Not only are we creating new jobs, we are enhancing programs to help businesses keep the workers currently employed through initiatives such as the work sharing program, the wage earner protection program, and the targeted initiative for older workers.

Small businesses are the engine of job creation in this country and our Conservative government is delivering results to them. Our Conservative government is also supporting the Canadian manufacturing sector. We are extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for two years, so that companies can write off investment in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. This will allow them to grow their businesses and to procure top of the line equipment that will bring them to the forefront of international technological innovation. In an era of economic uncertainty, this tax measure gives manufacturers the confidence to invest in their future.

Bill C-13 is also doing more to support local communities. We are putting into law a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund in order to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. This is something municipalities have been asking for year after year. They want to know they have the source of funding to do the many projects that are necessary to provide the infrastructure for continued economic growth. Making this investment permanent and annual will benefit the many towns and communities in my riding of Nipissing--Timiskaming and in the ridings from coast to coast to coast.

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

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

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

This will ensure that rural and remote communities, such as those in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming get the adequate medical services they deserve and require.

This is a plan that will support Canada's economic recovery and promote job creation. It is a plan that will support communities and invest in education and training. It is a plan that will help Canadian families and respect their hard-earned tax dollars.

This is a low tax plan for jobs and economic growth, and I support it.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech.

As I have already said in this House, job creation is of great concern to me.

The government can trot out raw numbers and brag about them, but the fact remains that when we take a closer look at the numbers, there are some disparities. The raw numbers do not necessarily reflect the quality of those jobs. When I look at the job creation measure for small businesses in the government's bill, I see another measure that, unfortunately, is missing the mark. Instead of applying to every job created, this measure can apply to companies that fail to create any jobs and just tweak their employment insurance contributions.

I would like the hon. member to tell me why the government is not trying to integrate our job creation proposal into this bill, because it would apply to every job created, instead of allowing companies to get money illegitimately.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member cannot get picayune about this. We have to look at the broader economic picture and our record. The proof is in the pudding: 600,000 net new jobs have been created.

The IMF indicate that we are among the best in the world. Forbes recognizes that Canada is the best place to do business. The NDP plan would simply add $10 billion in taxes to Canadians. If we were to follow that course, we would be in the shape of Greece, or possibly Italy or Spain.

Clearly, our plan is the right plan and our plan is working.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary who spoke previously took a lot of liberties when she was responding to questions. The Liberal Party has always stood for volunteer firefighters. I had private members' bills in the House many times on that issue.

I have to ask the member who just spoke, is this Conservative member suggesting, on the volunteer firefighters bill, that a volunteer firefighter who does not have the income, who does not meet the threshold, is less deserving of a refundable tax credit than someone with money?

If the service is done, a firefighter deserves the refund. Is the member saying that lower income volunteer firefighters should be disregarded, that their service is not as valuable as those with money? Is that what he is saying?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, all volunteer firefighters deserve this tax credit. The hon. member said he had a bill. I guess his caucus did not support it.

As I mentioned, this is part of a full package to get our economy working. It is working. The first phase of this work generated all kinds of jobs. It generated accolades from all over the world. We cannot get picayune on this.

Our plan is working. It is the right plan for Canadians. We are proud of our plan and we are going to move on to the second phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by referencing the previous member's comments about the economic action plan.

No one on the Conservative side of the House should deny that the job loss figure that we saw in the month of October of 72,000 full-time jobs should not be a source of worry. That eviscerated the Canadian economy, yet Conservative members have been patting themselves on the back.

The reality is that the jobs that have been created over the last three years under the Conservative government's plan actually pay much less than the jobs that the Conservatives lost. Tragically, we are now seeing an acceleration in the number of jobs lost. Some 72,000 jobs were lost in a single month. That is more than 2,000 jobs a day and we are seeing a continuation of that in the month of November.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer talked about 100,000 jobs evaporating out of the Canadian economy in the coming months. The Governor of the Bank of Canada talked about a huge slowdown. The government must be looking through rose coloured glasses and pretending that everything is just fine. That is simply not true. Conservatives who doubt it should talk to small business people and to workers right across this country from coast to coast to coast.

Canadian families are worried. They are dealing with historic debt loads that we have not seen in our country's history. We are talking about the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the last few weeks. Nearly two million Canadians are looking for work across this country. One million Canadians have to rely on food banks to make ends meet. Maybe everything is fine and rosy in the Conservatives' Ottawa bubble, but the reality is that Canadians need action. Our role in the House is to put forward powerful solutions to deal with the economic malaise that we are experiencing.

I need to comment on the government's actions around Bill C-13. The budget bill is a 650-page document. It is not the same budget bill that was presented last spring, even though the government does have ways and means orientation on it. We are talking about a 650-page bill and the government's refusal to accept any amendments.

Beyond the government's refusal to accept any amendments, last week it invoked closure. The Conservatives will rise and say it was not closure but time allocation. It is the same thing. They should not try to play with Canadians in that respect. They invoked closure before one second of debate could happen in the House on amendments that had been brought forward.

The Conservatives did allow some discussion on one amendment and then they used their sledgehammer and removed any possibility of even one second of debate on other amendments on a 650-page budget bill that most Conservative MPs have not read.

The government has refused to allow the kind of debate that has been a democratic tradition in this country since well before 1867, even prior to Confederation, but certainly in the House of Commons since 1867. We have not seen closure used to this extent. The government has used closure 7 times in 35 sitting days. It is a record that even the Liberals, at the height of their arrogance, were unable to match. It is appalling.

To tell Canadians that they have no right to hear debate on a 650-page budget bill and that they have no right to hear what amendments were brought forward on the budget bill is doing a disservice to Canadians and showing profound disrespect for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That really is the setting of what the government has done around Bill C-13.

When the Conservatives campaigned last spring, they put on their sweater vests and talked about moderation and about listening to Canadians. They said that they would be a moderate government.

What has happened since May 2 is absolutely the contrary. The Conservatives use closure in a way that we have never seen in the long democratic tradition in this country. They shut down debate not only on a wide variety of bills that could have been better served with more debate and discussion in the House of Commons, but on budget bills as well.

It is a very disturbing development. Last spring the government promised moderation and respect for democratic tradition. However, now that we are getting into the crux of the matter with a vigorous debate on behalf of the 102 members of the NDP official opposition, the government resorts to closure every single time. Why is that?

The government is resorting to closure because it loses the debates. As we bring forward our ideas, we talk about the content of what is being brought forward by the government. The Conservatives realize that their arguments, the talking points from the Prime Minister's Office, simply do not hold weight. The government could extend sitting hours or use a number of alternatives to allow for a democratic debate to take place, but it chooses the sledgehammer of shutting down that debate.

I just came back from British Columbia and I certainly heard great and growing concern on the part of Canadians that our debate and our rights as democratically elected representatives in the House of Commons are systematically being shut down. It is something that is increasingly worrisome to Canadians.

Let us examine the context of the bill that the government refuses to debate and has invoked closure on. As well, any discussion at the amendment stage and debate at third reading will be shut down within a few hours.

Before the government brings the sledgehammer down at the end of this afternoon, the reality is that this is an austerity budget brought forward at a time when we are experiencing economic slowdown. There were 72,000 full-time jobs lost in the month of October alone--this at a time when nearly two million Canadians are looking for work.

Over the last few years, we have seen a steady erosion in the quality of jobs available in the Canadian economy. We reference this point in the House continually. Conservatives can deny it, but Statistics Canada is very clear that the jobs the Conservatives lost paid more than the few jobs they managed to create.

The Conservative government created less than 200,000 jobs over the course of the last three and half years, since May 2008. This was at a time when the labour market grew because our population grew by 450,000. The government created barely 200,000 jobs, but lost 72,000 full-time jobs last month alone. The Conservatives were a quarter of a million jobs short even from just maintaining the level of employment that we had in the labour market back in May 2008. We have seen an erosion both in the quantity of jobs and in the quality of jobs. It is a doubleheader.

Also, the Conservatives like to make stuff up. They will throw out a figure from the back of a napkin and say that they have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. These arguments thrown out by the Prime Minister's Office, as happens so often, do not hold water. When we go to the actual Statistics Canada figures since May 2008, we see quite the contrary. Fewer than 200,000 jobs were created, but the labour market grew by 450,000. The employment percentage has gone down by 2% since May 2008. In terms of quality, the jobs created paid $10,000 less than the jobs the Conservatives have thrown away through what I can only call economic mismanagement.

That is the context of the budget, the 650 pages that the Conservative government does not want Canadians to know about. The context of Bill C-13 is that it is a time of economic slowdown.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and many economists agree that we are in a slowdown. The Conservatives can deny the Statistics Canada figures for the month of October, but they have been disastrous. There is no other way to put it. For Conservatives to rise in this House and say that everything is fine and rosy and not to worry about a thing simply belies the reality that is happening on the ground and across this country.

What did the Conservatives then bring forward? They brought forward an austerity budget that, aside from a few small tax credits, will continue massive, significant and ongoing corporate tax cuts. What it means is that for middle-class and poorer Canadian families from coast to coast to coast is that there would be significant cutbacks in the services that they enjoy.

On the one hand, we are talking about billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts for this year, and then, on January 1, even more corporate tax cuts going forward. The Conservatives' only economic strategy is shovelling money out to what are very profitable industrial sectors, but for middle-class and poorer Canadian families, it is cutbacks in services, getting less and having less support. We can talk about a whole range of things, but the reality is that it is an austerity budget.

Was that appropriate last spring? I do not think so. The government promised that it would be listening to Canadians. It is profoundly inappropriate in the fall, as we go through a profound economic shutdown with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, for the government to say, “That is quite all right; we're just going to continue and give more corporate tax-cut spending. We're going to spend another $4 billion on January 1, but we're not going to address the fundamentals underlying the Canadian economy”. Nothing in this budget does that.

What are the fundamentals? We have talked about the job loss. We have talked about the poor-quality jobs that the Conservative government has shepherded in to replace the better-quality jobs it lost. The government has lost family-sustaining jobs and replaced those with low-wage jobs, often part-time, often temporary, though we will never hear Conservatives rising and actually talking about the fact that most of the jobs they are creating are part-time or temporary. They try to put the temporary jobs in with permanent full-time jobs, and that way, on the back of a napkin, they try to mislead Canadians about what is actually happening. However, Canadians are aware of what is happening, because they see the economic slowdown occurring right across the country. They see the layoffs and they see the small businesses having to struggle now.

In British Columbia, one of the biggest problems that our small-business sector has had to contend with over the last few months was the HST imposed by the Conservative government on British Columbians. Thankfully, British Columbians rejected handily the HST in the summer referendum that we forced. We can be thankful for that, because the HST imposed by the Conservatives was just another nail in the coffin for the B.C. economy. As a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce and as a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade, I can tell members that this single action led to significant job loss in British Columbia.

The Conservatives' imposition of the HST should never be repeated; however, it is in the same context. They refused to consult with British Columbians in the same way that, on this budget bill, the Conservatives are refusing either to consult the opposition or even to consult Canadians on an austerity budget that is profoundly inappropriate.

What is the other context of what we are going through as a Canadian economy? Far from the pretensions we have heard in the few minutes of debate we have had thus far today on finance and budgetary matters, the IMF has actually said that Canada is among the worst among all industrialized economies--doing worse than Spain and Italy, the economies that are in trouble--for the current account deficit on balance of payments. As members well know, that deficit means that we are importing finished goods, job-creating goods, and exporting raw materials. In their so-called economic management, Conservatives have made a hallmark of shipping raw resources out of this country like there is no tomorrow. They would just ship them out and import finished goods.

Now our current account deficit on balance of payments, which is a key indicator of the health of the Canadian economy, is going to be among the worst in the industrialized world. It is because the government does not understand that shipping raw resources out and importing finished products, value-added products, means over time an erosion in the strength of the Canadian economy. It is worse than Spain and worse than Italy.

Not a single Conservative will address the issue, because they are scared about Canadians finding out the truth about their shipping out raw materials and what that has meant to the overall health of the Canadian economy. In this bill, nothing addresses that fundamental weakness. There is nothing that addresses the fundamental weakness of industrial sector after industrial sector.

I come from British Columbia, where the softwood lumber industry hemorrhaged tens of thousands of jobs after the government signed the softwood lumber agreement, which we have called the softwood lumber sellout. What that did was, again, give priority to the shipment of raw logs out of British Columbia and other regions right across the country. When we look at the forest industry generally, we see that raw log exports have increased substantially. That has happened because the government signed, yet again, an agreement that would facilitate the shipping out of our raw materials. What that means, again, is that our ongoing current account deficit is getting worse and worse.

When we look at the overall economic health of the Canadian economy on the eve of the government's invoking closure in just a few hours on Bill C-13, we see that we have hemorrhaged tens of thousands of jobs in the last few weeks, we have millions of Canadians looking for work and we have poorer quality of jobs. Every job the Conservatives lose, if they replace it, is replaced by one paying much less: almost $1,000 less a month, almost $10,000 less a year.

We have a crisis in exports. The Conservatives love to stand in this House and say that they signed a bunch of agreements and did some ribbon-cutting. That is not an export strategy. They have clearly failed. When we look at the current account deficit on balance of payments, we see that they have clearly failed, and failed worse than any other industrialized country.

Those are figures that tell the truth about what the government has done and what it has not done in dealing with the financial and economic challenges that the country faces.

What is in the bill, what we have, are austerity measures that are not in keeping with our current economic situation at all and that will hurt middle-class and poor Canadian families.

What we have includes the one big initiative that the government has not chosen to reference so far: the elimination of the democratic voting subsidy. As we all know, this per-vote subsidy was a tool in the hands of every single Canadian. They could choose the party that they voted for, and one dollar per vote would basically go to the party of their choice between elections. It is a very democratic, very pragmatic approach to democratizing our political system.

There are also a huge range of tax credits and supports that exist, and the Senate is used as a home of patronage. The Conservatives are not cutting any of those elements. What they are doing in this bill is bringing an end to the one element of political subsidies that actually is democratically distributed. The cost is $30 million, but the government is continuing with nearly $400 million in subsidies that mainly go to the Conservative Party. For shame.

I imagine that is why the government is invoking closure. It is because the only significant budgetary measure that it has is the elimination of the per-vote subsidy. There are a few measures that we support, but the significant one, the elimination of the per-vote subsidy, is another nail in the coffin of democracy under the Conservative government. That is why we are speaking against and voting against Bill C-13.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was quite a list of accusations. I am impressed when I hear all these plans and solutions to the problems.

At the outset I want to say that we in the Conservative government never said that we were not immune to what is happening in the world. However, if we look at the figures, we have 600,000 net jobs of which 80% are full time. I challenge the hon. member to compare that to our closest trading partner, the United States.

The member also talked about the need to increase corporate taxes and the need to address those problems by taxing the corporations.

We sit on the same committee and have heard from a number of these organizations, small and medium businesses from the mining sector, the extraction sector, the banks and the insurance companies. Does the member know of anyone within those sectors who would support the NDP's job-killing plan of raising taxes? Does he have the support of those people who he claims he would be helping by doing these things?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, given that 72,000 full-time jobs were lost in the month of October, one can only say, when looking at Bill C-13 and at the Conservatives' strategy, that they are job-killing plans.

I like the hon. member, and know that he is not preparing the notes. It is the Prime Minister's Office that puts out a figure and then pretends that the government has created x number of jobs.

StatsCan states that from May 2008 the Conservative government has created less than 200,000 jobs and that the labour market grew by 450,000 job seekers. That is not a line from the Conservative Party or the NDP but from StatsCan, the judge that is right. Therefore, the number of job seekers, the unemployed, grew. The reality is that the government was a quarter of a million jobs short from just treading water, from just standing still.

Rather than more corporate tax cuts, we need an intelligent approach that does not cut services to the middle-class and poor Canadian families. That is what we stand for on this side of the House.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the corporate tax cuts for a second.

In the year 2000, the corporate tax rate was 38% and the Americans' was 36%. Under the Paul Martin government, it was lowered from 38% to 20%, which put us in the middle of the G20 and, in fact, in the middle of the G7 among tax rates.

The present government has dropped it from 20% to 15%. That is taking $16 billion a year out of the fiscal capacity of the government to address the problems that we have today and the problems that I see every day relative to seniors.

We made the proposal to cancel the January 1, 2012, tax cut. We hear all this talk about tens of billions of dollars in costs. Companies are already paying that $3 billion to $4 billion right now. This is not a new tax. Let us talk about the present time. The present time says that we should cancel that because there are things that need to be done.

The government needs a manufacturing strategy going forward to address the infrastructure alone of $130 billion.

I ask the member to comment on that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek has been a strong advocate for seniors in the country. I commend him for all of the work that he has done on behalf of seniors.

What the Conservatives are saying is that the tens of thousands of seniors living in poverty in the country need to continue living in poverty because it wants to bring in more corporate tax cuts. It is saying to the one million Canadians who rely on food banks just to get through the month that they will need to keep going to food banks because it wants to bring in more corporate tax cuts. It is saying to the 72,000 Canadians who lost full-time jobs in the month of October, almost half of whom will not have access to employment insurance, that it needs to cut their benefits so that it can bring in this further corporate tax cut.

I could go on and talk about prisons and the F-35s.

Speaking as a financial administrator, which is what I was before I came to the House of Commons, I have never seen such appalling bad judgment on spending as we have with the Conservative government. It is more prisons, the F-35s that are untendered and the massive corporate tax cuts.

It is the middle-class and poor Canadian families who are paying the price for the government's irresponsible attitude when it comes to fiscal policy in the country.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want the House to know that the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster is from the city and I am a member for British Columbia from the interior. I have the fifth largest lumber company in the world in my constituency. I constantly speak with the CEO of that company and he tells me about what our government has done to benefit his corporation to be competitive and also all that we have done to help it find new markets for its products. Where it used to send 70% of its product to the United States, now it is sending it to China, with $170 million that our government put forward to help the lumber industry in British Columbia.

The lumber industry in British Columbia right now is at a peak. All the mills are up and running with more than one shift. How can the member say that our policies are not the right policies for British Columbia when that is happening?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am just flabbergasted. The member should know that we lost 50,000 jobs after the government signed the softwood lumber agreement. The exports to the American market have plummetted. For the member to stand and say that everything is rosy in the B.C. forestry industry, I am absolutely amazed that he is that out of touch with his own riding.

I will tell the House about my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, which he referenced. I am very proud to represent the riding. There were 2,000 jobs lost in Burnaby--New Westminster as a result of three mill closures that occurred right after the member's government sold us out and signed the softwood lumber sellout. There were 2,000 direct jobs which means thousands of additional indirect jobs lost when the Conservatives signed the agreement. We told them that would be the impact and just the same they threw away tens of thousands of jobs in the softwood lumber industry. That was probably one of the most irresponsible acts of what has been a very irresponsible government.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member earlier say something in relation to value added to jobs. I want to talk particularly about refining and upgrading capacity in our country. He mentioned that he had ideas and thought that we should add more jobs to Canadian industry. As he knows, refining and upgrading is one of the most unprofitable sectors of the oil and gas industry. In fact, most of the technology today found throughout North America is 50 years old or more.

I know the NDP always suggests that it stands up for environmental concerns, but if we are going to add more jobs to what is the number one industry in Canada right now, which is oil and gas, we need to do so by upgrading and refining. I wonder how we can do that being that it takes 8 to 10 years to build one of these facilities at a cost of $8 billion to $10 billion and they are simply not profitable. That is why in North America very little upgrading or refining capacity has been done in the last 50 years.

I wonder what rules the member would suggest we bend, where he would put these refining and upgrading capacities and how we would encourage companies to build them through tax credits or through ACCA. How would he suggest we do that?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the member asked me that question. What we have seen over the last seven years is the increasing number of New Democrats on this side of the House because we have been talking about a green economy and the development of green jobs. We have put together very specific proposals.

What has happened is that more and more Canadians voted, first 19 seats, then 36 and now 103 ridings are represented by New Democrats, in part, because people have responded very positively to what we have said we will do, in building a green economy and putting those green jobs together that many other countries around the world are already prospering from.

However, what we would not do is put in place and try to fast-track in the way the government has the Keystone pipeline. That would lead to a net loss, as the member well knows as he did an economic evaluation of it, of 18,000 jobs that would be shipped over the border, and that is not even the environmental impact. When we look at that, people can see that we stand for green jobs and a green economy and the government stands for shipping jobs across the border.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, the second implementation bill for budget 2011.

I want to speak to some of the unfair elements of this bill. We think it is wrong that the Conservatives continue to exclude the lowest income Canadians from budget measures that are designed to help Canadians by introducing programs, like the tax credits for family caregivers, volunteer firefighters and children's arts activity, and then only making them available to some Canadians while completely leaving out those who are most in need: low-income Canadians who will not qualify for these measures because these tax credits are non-refundable. We think that is wrong and that it will weaken Canadian society by increasing the already growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. It will contribute to a reduction in the equality of opportunity that is so fundamental to Canadians and Canadian values.

I will speak today to some of the economic challenges facing Canadian society and how measures introduced by the Conservatives will actually serve to reduce economic opportunities for some Canadians who are already disadvantaged during these difficult global economic times. I then will provide some examples of how a Liberal government would do things differently.

There is a rising income gap under the Conservative government. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing in Canada. A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada shows that income inequality is rising even faster in Canada than in the U.S. The Conference Board's July 2011 study helps to provide some context by discussing why growing income gaps are a problem. It pointed out the following:

—high inequality can diminish economic growth if it means that the country is not fully using the skills and capabilities of all its citizens or if it undermines social cohesion, leading to increased social tensions. Second, high inequality raises a moral question about fairness and social justice.

Again, that quote was from the Conference Board of Canada's July 2011 study.

Lower incomes can also lead to shorter life expectancies. A 2010 report from McMaster University found that the life expectancy of someone living in the wealthiest neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario, is 21 years longer than someone living in the poorest neighbourhoods of Hamilton, as an example. Rising income inequality, in terms of economic output, will increase costs in health care at a time when we already have a demographic bubble, or time bomb as some refer to it, in terms of the aging of our population and the commensurate increases in health care costs that will bring.

In 2008, in terms of economic output, a group of economists, including Don Drummond, estimated that poverty costs Canada between $72 billion and $86 billion per year in higher costs for health care, the criminal justice system and lost economic productivity.

One of the largest contributors to growing income gaps in Canada is the persistently high levels of unemployment and underemployment facing low-income Canadians. The reality is that we have almost 600,000 fewer full-time jobs than three years ago in August 2008. There is a significant gap geographically in Canada in terms of how individual economies are doing. If people happen to live in Saskatchewan or Alberta, resource rich provinces, provinces where people had the vision, foresight and wisdom to put oil and gas under the ground and, in some cases, smart enough to put potash under the ground as well, their economic situation is very different from that of places in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

We are seeing In this global economic restructuring the type of recovery in Canada that does not benefit all Canadians. In fact, a commodity led recovery, which is driving the Canadian dollar, for all intents and purposes, increasingly an oil and gas or commodity-based dollar, higher and, at the same time, as a result of that higher dollar, crowding out value-added jobs in other regions. While high commodity prices can disproportionately benefit some parts of Canada and some sectors in Canada, it is driving out a lot of manufacturing jobs, value-added jobs.

We just had an announcement of a permanent closure in my riding of the Fundy Gypsum Company. Part of the reason for that was the higher Canadian dollar in recent years that made its exports to the U.S. less competitive.

We have seen a lot of manufacturing jobs lost in my riding, food processing jobs, such as at Canard poultry and Larsen, close to my riding. We have seen a lot of losses in jobs in my riding. I latest information if have if that in Kings county, Hants county and Annapolis county, which is my riding and part of the riding next door, have 6,400 fewer jobs than in August 2008. The unemployment figures for Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties reached 7.8% in October 2011 compared to 5% in September 2008. That is almost a 3% increase in unemployment in my riding and half of the next riding, the riding of West Nova.

We are seeing it in our communities. We are seeing it in the small business community. The owner of a restaurant in Windsor, Nova Scotia told me recently that it had the worst year in 20 years. When people have lost their full-time jobs and have seen them replaced with part-time work, they cannot afford to take their families out for breakfast on a Saturday morning or for supper on a Friday night.

We have a responsibility in the House of Commons to evaluate how the economy and families are doing across Canada, not just look at the macro numbers, but look across the country and consider the plight of families in some of the regions. One of the realities is that during this technical recovery, this statistical recovery, many Canadians are still facing a deep human recession.

The other thing to realize is that before the markets tumbled back in August 2008, 17,366,000 Canadians had jobs. In October 2011, and these are the latest figures available from Stats Canada, that number stood at 17,402,300 jobs. However, that includes almost 600,000 net fewer full-time jobs lost in Canada over the last three years.

This issue has contributed as well to the growth of household debt. We are now at record levels of household debt in Canada, largely because Canadians are trying to replace their lost income from losing their full-time jobs with income from part-time jobs. They are having a lot of challenges making ends meet. They are seeing their costs going up on an ongoing basis and their pay going down as they are replacing full-time work with part-time jobs.

The reality is the household debt levels in Canada is $1.51 for ever $1 of annual income in Canada right now. That is actually higher than the family indebtedness in the U.S, record highs for Canadian households.

Canadians are worried about how they will pay the bills next month and they are petrified about what will happen at some point in the future when interest rates start to rise, which they inevitably will.

Within the context of rising inequality, the Conservatives have gone ahead and introduced a number of tax measures in budget 2011 that will actually worsen the situation by deliberately excluding low-income Canadians. We have repeatedly asked, both at finance committee and in the House of Commons, that the Conservatives make a family caregiver tax credit, the volunteer firefighter tax credit and the children's arts tax credits refundable so all Canadians can qualify, but the Conservatives have steadfastly refused.

I want to be clear. We support a family caregiver tax credit and a volunteer firefighters tax credit. In reality, it was the Liberal Party that proposed both of those before the Conservative Party. We proposed those tax measures because we felt a lot of families were struggling with aging and ailing loved ones, trying to keep them in their homes, and they needed the help.

Many communities, including my own communities in places like Summerville and Brooklyn, Hants county and Wolfville and Kentville, have a lot of volunteer firefighters. It is harder and harder to attract volunteer firefighters. Frankly, they are paying a financial cost. They are risking their lives and struggling to keep the fire departments viable.

We believe very strongly in a family caregiver tax credit and a volunteer firefighters tax credit. In our platform, we had both of those, but we had made them refundable. The reason they need to be, and ought to be, refundable is that by making them non-refundable, as the Conservatives have done, it perversely means that the lowest-income volunteer firefighters and family caregivers will not receive benefit. There is no way we can defend, economically or morally, that the lowest-income volunteer firefighters and family caregivers would not benefit from these measures. It is fundamentally wrong. I see families struggling to take care of loved ones now.

It is one of the issues I hear from constituents on an increasing basis, as we have an aging population, and the rural communities in the Maritimes are aging disproportionately. We have lost a lot of young people who have gone to other parts of the country for work. Therefore, in many cases, we have fewer young people to help out mom or dad, or granddad or grandmom stay in their homes. The burden on the people who are left behind, the family members and the caregivers, is immense. The VON does an extraordinary job helping a lot of people in my riding in Nova Scotia, but it can only do so much.

My mom and dad have a home care person who comes in a couple of times a week. She does remarkable work in helping my parents stay in their own home. My dad is 88 and my mom is 82 and she has Alzheimer's. I see how hard the home care workers are working and the difference they are making.

I see the sacrifice my sister makes. She is, for all intents and purposes, the family caregiver to my parents. There are three sons and then there is my sister. I can tell members that, disproportionately, the burden goes to the daughters in a family when it comes to these situations. That is unfair, but I see it. I know my sister would qualify, based on her income, for the family caregiver tax credit. However, it is not fair that some other person's sister or some other person's daughter, who takes time away from her work to take care of an elderly mother or father, would not benefit. That is fundamentally wrong.

I would like to see other family caregivers benefit from this measure, particularly, low-income caregivers. In my sister's case, she has taken time off work so she can help mom and dad in their home, so she is seeing a decrease in her income. That is happening to a lot of families across Nova Scotia and Canada. It is wrong that the caregivers in those lowest-income families would not benefit from this program designed to help caregivers and to help seniors and people who face long-term illness stay in their own homes longer.

Frankly, it would take a lot of burden off the provincial health care system if we could help people stay in their own homes. In most cases, the cost of putting people in nursing homes or long-term care families is a lot more than keeping them at home. Therefore, from the perspective of long-term fiscal policy, it is important for both federal and provincial governments to do everything they can to help people stay in their own homes.

I focused a lot on the disparity and unfairness of making these tax credits unavailable to low-income caregivers and volunteer firefighters. It is unfair, but it is also nonsensical from an economic perspective. It makes no sense socially, economically or morally.

Susan Eng, vice president of CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, has said:

We...encourage (the government) to put forward a refundable tax credit, particularly for the more narrow segments of caregivers who perform 24/7 care. Those are the people who have had to quit their look after families. They are not going to be in a position to benefit from a non-refundable tax credit.

That is from one of the largest organizations representing senior citizens in Canada.

Nadine Henningsen, president of the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, told the finance committee:

—convert the non-refundable credits to refundable credits, so that all Canadians with caregiver-related costs, regardless of income, will benefit from these tax measures.

Again, there is broad-based support for making these credits refundable from the people who understand caregiving the most, the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, and from the biggest organization representing Canadian seniors, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

At some level the Conservatives must recognize that there is a moral imperative to make these tax credits refundable so they are available to all deserving Canadians.

In their last election platform the Conservatives promised to make the Canadian fitness tax credit refundable so that low income Canadians could also qualify. However, they have only promised to include low income Canadians once the budget is balanced.

We know from the minister's latest oops moment, kind of like Governor Perry, with his budget number that it is going to be 2015 or 2016 by the time the budget is balanced. That is based on their latest numbers, but the minister has missed every target he has set. In fact, he inherited a $13 billion surplus and spent Canada into a deficit even before the downturn. He increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, and put Canada into a deficit even before the 2008 crash. He promised a balanced budget in the fall of 2008 and a few months later delivered a record high $56 billion deficit.

Therefore, it is hard for us to count on the minister's projections, but for low-income Canadians who are being promised some tax relief once the budget has been balanced, it is very hard for them to count on or wait for that inevitable balancing.

I also want to speak on the EI payroll tax increase of January. The minister confirmed that EI premiums would be increased by $600 million in January. With stubbornly high unemployment in many parts of the country, it makes no sense for the government to be increasing payroll taxes at this time. That is why we called for a payroll tax freeze and EI premium freeze at this time. It does not make sense to increase what is effectively a job-killing payroll tax at a time of high unemployment.

We also believe that we have to take a serious look at the Conservatives' plan that they introduced to force the EI system to self-balance over a short period of time. What that means is that it perversely actually increases EI premiums at times of high unemployment. It makes no sense to increase job killing payroll taxes at exactly the time when we need to either freeze them or potentially even decrease them. We need to have a longer horizon for self-balancing.

I also spoke with Jack Mintz, who spoke to a group of us recently. Jack Mintz says that we need a focus on overall tax reform in Canada. We need to simplify and streamline the Canadian tax code. My leader, the hon. member for Toronto Centre, has called for the same. We need to have a long-term focus on building a fairer and more competitive Canadian tax system, streamlining and simplifying the tax system, not making it more complex with boutique tax credits that do not benefit the lowest income Canadians.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague was in the House when the infamous fiscal update was delivered at the beginning of the largest recession since the Depression. The Minister of Finance said that Canada was not in debt, but according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer we were already starting to slip into billions of dollars in debt. The Conservatives' solution to the threat of Canada joining a world depression was that they would sell off public buildings and have no stimulus. That, of course, precipitated the situation where the other parties expressed clear lack of confidence and the Conservatives were forced to turn around. Within a month, they came back and we were suddenly $30 billion to $50 billion to $60 billion in debt. I do not think anybody in history has spent money as fast as they have done.

Why should we have any faith in the Minister of Finance who one month said Canada was not going to be in debt at all, that we were going to ride out the crisis, and within two months the Conservatives were spending what they said was $10 billion but they wracked it up to $50 billion in about six months? The Conservatives still have not explained how they are going to get us back to an economically fiscal plan. Their numbers seem to be in contradiction to everything we hear from the Parliamentary Budget Officer or anything we hear from the private sector.

Could my hon. colleague explain?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has been very active on the G8 and G20 spending file, perhaps one of the greatest misappropriations of public tax dollars in the history of the country.

I remember that now infamous fall 2008 economic statement where the finance minister claimed there would be a $100 million surplus. In a federal budget, $100 million is almost a rounding error. The only way he was able to reach that minuscule little baby surplus was to sell off $10 billion of assets. I remember day after day we asked the minister to produce a list of the assets that the government was going to sell. He never presented that list of assets because there was no list of assets. The government had effectively created this notion that there was going to be an asset disposal. It never created a list.

As a minister of public works in the past, I know it takes about two years to go from having a list of assets to actually implementing a sale. The government made up those figures to try to pretend it had a surplus and in fact it did not.

The member is quite right. It is very hard to have faith in the government's budget numbers or projections.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my hon. colleague's remarks because we actually heard some facts. The member expanded on the tax credits. We have long supported the firefighters' tax credits and other tax credits. The government continues the message on them as if they are going to benefit all people, when really they do not apply to low-income people who provide the same service.

I wonder if my colleague could expand on that. Just what does the government have against assisting people with lower income, and are there other examples?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Malpeque also represents rural and small town communities like mine. He knows that a lot of the volunteer firefighters in rural and small town Canada are people who are not making a lot of money. They are people who are struggling barely to get by. They are people who, in a lot of cases, are raising families on less than $20,000 a year and will not benefit from these non-refundable measures.

Again, anyone in this House, regardless of the politics of his or her party, has to understand that it is fundamentally wrong that low income Canadians would get less of a benefit than middle class or higher income Canadians. This applies to the volunteer firefighters and the caregivers. It also applies to children playing sports. Let us think about this. We all know that the cost of hockey, soccer, and any other sport has gone up. Kids need to have good activities to have healthy minds and bodies and to have a good and productive life. These tax credits are designed to help kids in sports, music and the arts, but they will not benefit children of low income families. That is particularly wrong. It increases the inequality of opportunity that is so menacing to a lot of Canadian families.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, regularly in this House we hear the Conservatives talk about the stable majority government. Some 60% of Canadians voted against the government. One of the reasons I think a fair number of them did was that in our election platform, and in the Liberal platform, there was mention of a $700 million increase to the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. In our case it would have applied to 300,000 seniors who take in less than $15,200 a year. The response from the Conservatives was $50 a month. That is about what the HST has taken out of people's pockets already.

I would like to hear a response from the member. Our suggestion was $200 a month to at least get these folks up to the poverty line.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are two types of measures: those that are done by political parties for politics, and those that are done to really help people.

I have to hand it to the Conservatives because sometimes they will take what seems like a good idea, in some cases proposed by the NDP or the Liberals, to help low income seniors or to help volunteer firefighters, but instead of funding it in a way that can really help people, they malnourish the proposals. They get all the bang for the buck out of the announcement. They get all the politics in the short term when people think they are going to get help.

There is a lot of after-sale disappointment when people realize their lives have not changed a bit, and that they have been duped. They have been sold a bill of goods by the Conservatives during an election, who said that they were going to help volunteer firefighters, or low income seniors who need help with the GIS. The Conservatives are counting on Canadians to not really do the math. They are expecting to get away with it, and they do quite frequently.

The reality is that if they are serious about helping people, they have to make sure the programs and the tax measures that they commit to are delivered substantively. Thee have to ensure that the funding is there to actually make a difference in people's lives. Otherwise it is just politics and it is not about helping people.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

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

It is my pleasure on behalf of the people of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke to speak in support of the legislation before us, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.

The decision by the people of Canada to vote in favour of a strong, stable, majority government was our mandate to get on with the job of providing Canadians with good government.

My constituents recognize that providing sound financial leadership means making the right decisions to keep Canada on track as the best place to live in the world. If Canada is to maintain its standard of living in today's world, we need to anticipate tomorrow's economy and the jobs that will be required for that.

Energy to power our needs in the future is recognized by our government as where we need to be proactive. Our budget continues to provide significant financial investment in the Canadian nuclear industry.

Bill C-13 contains elements of restructuring efforts of AECL dating back to 1993. The process is recognized as ongoing, which is where I would like to focus my comments today.

The Chalk River laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited represent the retained assets of the crown corporation in our restructuring efforts to strengthen, diversify and support the thousands of jobs associated with this industry.

Our government has provided financial support to AECL that was necessary after many years of neglect by the old government.

Just like a car that needs service and proper maintenance to keep it running smoothly and safely, the same is true of Canada's nuclear assets. For example, even though corrosion on the containment vessel in the NRU, Canada's research reactor, had been observed, the former government decided to follow a policy that would have resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and the hollowing out of an industry in which Canadians are recognized as world leaders. It viewed Chalk River laboratories as nothing more than an isotope factory, when in fact the science of nuclear medicine is but one of the lifesaving discoveries that have been made on site.

On November 16, 2011, Dr. Robert Walker, president and CEO of AECL nuclear laboratories, was pleased to report that we have a new five year licence at the Chalk River site. That is a demonstration of Canadian confidence in the nuclear labs at Chalk River.

The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act means supporting science, research and development for the jobs of tomorrow.

The former government did not foresee the increased demand for clean, affordable, sustainable energy.

The possible use of nuclear energy for electric power production was discussed in the early years of the nuclear research program, but the first definitive key decision came early in 1953 when it was stated in this very chamber:

Here in Canada we believe that the time has come to undertake the development of atomic power in this country, and discussions are going on as to ways and means of bringing about that development. We feel that the production of power is the concern of those who distribute power, organizations like the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario, or the major privately-owned power companies.

Half a century after Rutherford demonstrated for the first time the existence of the atomic nucleus, Canada launched into the 20th century of high technology.

The pursuit by W.B. Lewis, an outstanding scientist of world stature, and his colleagues at AECL Chalk River laboratories of the neutron economy resulted in low fuel costs for Candu, which stands for Canada deuterium uranium reactors, and this became a significant factor in their success. In 1987, the centennial of engineering in Canada, the Candu reactor was ranked as one of the country's top ten engineering achievements.

The former government did not recognize the achievements of Chalk River laboratories, such as in its role in radiation therapy.

In 1951, at the Chalk River plant in Ontario, a group of scientists isolated a source of radiation even stronger than X-rays. It was, and still is, widely used to treat cancer patients. The source of this radiation was the radioactive isotope cobalt-60. The production of this radioactive isotope and the required nuclear activity was carried out in Canada four years before it was repeated in any other country.

The Canada Student Loans Act is assisting young scientists who are studying neutron scattering. The former government forgot about the pioneering work conducted by Bertram Brockhouse, which laid the foundation for the field of inelastic neutron scattering, and for which he shared the 1994 Nobel prize in physics.

A beam of neutrons can be directed onto a specimen of material. By measuring how the beam is reflected, scientists can learn a great deal about the structure of a specimen at the atomic level.

Using the technique that Brockhouse pioneered, the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre at NRU today enables scientists from across Canada and around the world to investigate new materials with neutrons. In fact, after the tragedy with the space shuttle Challenger, NASA commissioned the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre to determine whether or not it was a seal that caused the accident.

Dr. Dominic Ryan, president of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering, outlined that the NRC-CNBC in Chalk River is Canada's scientific hub for research using neutron beams as probes of materials. Since everything is made of material, even our own bodies, materials research using neutron beams has a broad range of applications.

With regard to spin-offs from Chalk River, the Chalk River Laboratories act as a science and technology catalyst for innovation contributing to industry success both domestically and internationally. It has mastered the transfer of bench-top science through to practical applications, on to commercialization and manufacturing. That means jobs.

Another aspect of Chalk River is the security. In addition to maintaining and growing Canada's capability in the nuclear energy industry, improving reliability in the supply of medical radioisotopes and improving the understanding of the effect of radiation on human health, Chalk River Laboratories is ensuring the safety and security for Canada.

A key technology developed at AECL is used by United Nations inspectors to verify that countries are complying with the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and are not developing nuclear weapons.

Known as the Cerenkov viewing device, it allows the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, safeguard inspectors to examine nuclear fuel to confirm it is not being diverted from civilian to military purposes.

AECL Nuclear Laboratories recently patented the state-of-the-art advancement of this technology which allows for total automation of this vital task for the very first time. With millions of shipping containers around the world and over 45,000 trucks crossing North American borders every day, one of the significant challenges for port and border inspection agencies is the detection of illicit nuclear material in transportation containers.

Accurate and expedient results are not only vital to ensure the security of our borders but also ensure the efficient flow of goods and services between the two trading partner nations.

AECL Nuclear Laboratories, in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada, the Canadian Border Security Agency, Health Canada and several Canadian universities have recently patented a detection technology similar to CAT scan machines used in hospitals.

Instead of producing an internal image of a patient, it indicates the presence of nuclear material such as uranium and plutonium that may be hidden in shipping containers.

In parallel, AECL is currently working with a Canadian company developing low powered, inexpensive, pocket-size radiation detectors for infield use for practical radiation detection of nuclear materials. That, in addition to 3,300 AECL jobs, spells more jobs.

Chalk River Laboratories is also improving nuclear and related technology safety. It has developed technology to absorb the excess hydrogen and reduce the risk. It is called the passive autocatalytic recombiner. The technology uses no moving parts and is making our reactors safe here in Canada and around the world.

The domestic Canadian nuclear industry has specifically benefited from this technology and it is addressed as a requirement that the federal nuclear regulator placed on the industry to address the hydrogen hazards. AECL technology is also mitigating nuclear accidents.

I see that I am out of time, so I will answer any questions.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, for sharing her time.

It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to third reading of Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. I am proud to stand to speak in support of our government's record.

Last May Canadians elected a strong Conservative government, a government that has earned the trust of Canadians. Our government worked hard in two minority governments to achieve this. For too many years before that, Canadians had a government that lacked accountability and transparency, a government that treated taxpayers' dollars recklessly. In May, Canadians spoke loud and clear, and chose a government that has earned their respect and confidence.

Our government has steadfastly provided good economic policies that have allowed this great country to weather the global slowdown better than many other industrial countries. It is our task to continue on and support the policies that have allowed Canada to remain strong.

Our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth. While Canadians are keenly aware of this, the G7 countries are also aware of our economic position. The International Monetary Fund has projected that Canada will be among the strongest in economic growth of the G7 for the next two years. This is a time to continue with the sound policies of our 2011 budget which does this.

It is our duty as a government to look beyond this moment and work to create positive successful policies that will provide for our future generations. Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, is about precisely that. With the support that is provided to communities by legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities and enhancing the wage earner protection program, we are looking to the future and working beyond today's economy. Canadians expect that and we are delivering it.

In my riding of Willowdale, a very urban riding, we recently announced a new partnership between Seneca College with small and medium-sized businesses, enterprises that will help conduct research and bring innovative ideas to market, bringing innovative ideas to commercialization.

Commercialization is the engine for job creation and employment for young entrepreneurs and students who are coming into the job market. This is due to investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency. Our government is working to make the most of our opportunities to innovate, adapt and grow, and secure a prosperous future. I was proud to share in this announcement. It is policies like these that have Canada moving in the right direction, a direction that has been envied by many countries in the world.

We are continuing to help families by introducing the new family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types of infirm dependent relatives. We know that families are the pillars of our communities. We want them to have the resources they require to have the best opportunities and sound futures. By removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can now claim under the medical expense tax credit, we are assisting those who are financially dependent on relatives. We understand the pressures that Canadians face.

Furthermore, the child arts tax credit is one of that many parents in Willowdale will want to utilize. We understand the benefits of these programs to children and families, and we know that supporting these artistic, cultural and recreational activities will benefit our future citizens in many ways.

Our government has shown respect for taxpayers. The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act phases out the direct subsidy of political parties. Political parties should not be directly subsidized by Canadian tax dollars.

The Toronto Board of Trade has said that the 2011 federal budget achieves a prudent balance of taxability and deficit reduction measures while pointing to long-term infrastructure investment opportunities. This is a good plan for both Toronto and Canada.

Our government believes in low taxes. We want to leave more hard-earned money in the pockets of Canadians. My colleagues across the floor continue to have a high tax agenda that would increase taxes on job creating businesses to pay for billions and billions of reckless spending and bloated government programs in Ottawa. Canadians spoke against such policies last spring.

We have cut taxes 120 times since 2006, reducing the overall debt burden to the lowest level in nearly 50 years.

I think we are one of the most competitive low tax jurisdictions in the world.

Under our government, Canada has had seven straight quarters of economic growth and created nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009, of which over 80% are full-time positions.

Our government is enhancing our guaranteed income supplement. Eligible low income seniors will now receive an additional benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, helping more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. We understand the challenges that some seniors are facing in these tough economic times and the GIS will put more dollars in their pockets.

Recently, the Royal Bank of Canada released its economic survey suggesting that Canada's economy is set to pick up despite volatile global financial markets. The RBC has indicated that it is expected that the Canadian economy will rebound. I am confident that the sound fiscal and sometimes difficult choices of the government have paved the way for this.

On this side of the House we also understand that families want to lower their heating and electricity bills by making their homes more energy efficient. That is why we are extending the eco-energy retrofit homes program. This program has been a success. Until March 31, 2012, homeowners are eligible to receive grants of up to $5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient. I know many of the residents of Willowdale will want to make energy-efficient improvements at home and this program will help them.

Our government understands the importance of this program to Canadians. It has the added benefit of creating a green economy, the precise economy that we are looking for to meet the challenges of the 21st century and to help the new economy on its path to conserve jobs and to build new jobs. There has been much discussion with respect to new technologies and the new green economy.

Our government understands that Canadians are worried about the quality of the air we breathe, along with pollutants and chemicals affecting our environment. Canadian families deserve the best air, water and cleanest environment possible.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan maintains our Conservative government's strong record of supporting a cleaner and more sustainable environment. I will outline some of the measures that we have put in place to do this.

Indeed, for 2011-12, our Conservative government is investing more to protect the environment than in 2010-11. Investments include: $400 million for the eco-energy retrofit homes program to support Canadians in making their homes more energy efficient, $252 million to support regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality, nearly $200 million to help address the health and environmental risks posed by dangerous chemicals through the chemicals management plan, $97 million to develop and promote clean energy technologies, $86 million to support clean energy regulatory actions, $68 million to clean up federal contaminated sites, $48 million to develop transportation sector regulations and next generation clean transportation initiatives, $40 million to support new climate change and clean air projects under Sustainable Development Technology Canada, $35 million to support climate and atmospheric sciences research, and the list goes on.

Our government is moving in the right direction on the environment. I am confident of the results of these initiatives for today and for future generations.

We are focused on what matters to Canadians, which is to create jobs and promote economic growth. We have taken strategic measures to help weather the global economic slowdown. However, we need to stay the course and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

I urge my colleagues across the floor to support this legislation, which is a continuation of sound policy that has made Canada the envy of many countries.

We have worked hard as a government to assist our entrepreneurs and we are continuing this in budget 2011. The new hiring credit for small business will provide up $1,000 against small business EI premiums for new hires.

The World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the strongest and safest in the world. The policies of our government have not gone unnoticed. The Economist magazine has named Canada the best place to invest and do business in the next five years.

Having indicated all of these policies are in place, I urge my colleagues across the way to support these measures, the continuation of sound economic ideas that have proven to be sound and comprehensive.

Our Prime Minister and finance minister are working hard to keep Canada on track. I am proud to work with them on these vital programs in budget 2011.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very intently to my hon. colleague across the way comparing Canada, as the government often does, to other G7 countries.

The U.K. just announced that over one million young people in the United Kingdom cannot find a job. Thirty per cent of the young people in Italy cannot find a job. It is a bit rich for the government to be comparing Canada with economies that are in dire need.

I know the member opposite is a businessman himself. He understands these issues. He comes from the GTA. How many of these mythical jobs that the Conservative government has created are jobs that come with pensions, jobs that come benefits, jobs that we could see raising a family with, especially within the GTA?

Can the member opposite confirm that we can raise a family on a $10-an-hour job, with no benefits, with no pension, with no job security? I would like him to answer that question.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been in small business for over 25 years. All I can say is that a low tax regime where the government does not take away from my cashflow would help me to hire new students and would help new entrepreneurs entering business. These people come with the vigour and the will to work hard in order to make our economy a success.

What I would like to know from the member opposite is what kind of business is he looking at? My business requires research, innovation and commercialization. These are the permanent jobs that we need to meet the economy of the 21st century and the need for green technology, and that would build our new economy for the future.