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House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is usually very logical and rational, so I do not know why he insists that we want to raise taxes, because no one on this side has ever called for such a thing.

However, a weak and timid labour market strategy is not enough. We need a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that provides a strong social infrastructure that will support families and children.

There are many Canadians who do not have access to these programs—even though there are a number of good programs, they do not have access to them—and who need more targeted assistance.

That is what we are asking the Conservative government to do, and that is what it has failed to do thus far.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member to listen to her leader who proposes a $6 billion tax hike. We will not do that. Thanks to our Conservative government, more Canadians are working, families are paying less in taxes, they have more money in their pockets and vulnerable Canadians are benefiting from significant investments. We are investing in areas like skills training, housing and persons with disabilities, among others.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour admitted that the Liberals failed to help low income Canadians. He said: “We didn't get to where we wanted to get”.

His Liberal colleague from York Centre agreed that the Liberals failed. In speaking about the government's record on poverty he said: “We didn't do as well as we would have wanted to do”.

That is a fact. In fact, the steps the Liberals took while in government hurt the most vulnerable at the most difficult time by the actions they have taken.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on November 18, 2010 my question about temporary visitor visas was not properly addressed by the hon. member for St. Catharines. I hear from my constituents that the Conservative government does not give visitors' visas out. For that reason, I am alarmed about the transparency of Canada's temporary visa determination process.

While deciding who should be allowed in Canada is important, I disagree with the government, which places too much faith in the visa officers and gives them unaccountable discretionary powers. It shows that the government does not have in place a clear temporary visa determination process, but relies on random procedures.

A person is inadmissible to Canada if he or she has been charged with a serious crime, or is a threat to Canada's security, or has been involved in crimes against humanity. However, I know people whose applications have been refused many times, even though they have never committed any of these offences. I have seen cases of people who have money, well-paid jobs, and all of whom's family members in their home countries are well established, but they still are not granted temporary visitor visas.

Many individuals have visited their Canadian relatives before for important events such as funerals, weddings, family reunions, and anniversaries, but today for no reason they are being denied temporary visitor visas. They did not break any Canadian laws. They spent their money in our great country. However, now the government denies them entrance for important family events. This is outrageous. The system is obviously contradictory and subjective.

The hon. member for St. Catharines once said that each case is assessed on its own merits and not against any pre-established minimum levels of income, property value, or family relationship. To say that is to say that the visa officers can do whatever they want because they will not be held accountable to any minimal, normal standards. This means that visa officers can exercise their discretionary powers in unaccountable ways. The system is inhumane as it fails to consider the last wishes of Canadians on their deathbeds who want to see their relatives before they die.

The government should establish an accountable process of issuing temporary visas based on compassionate grounds and create visa bonds for these persons. Visa bonds would provide insurance that these people will return to their countries of origin. A visa bond is the only viable solution to the problem of the high rate of refusal of temporary visitor visas by the government.

6:30 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is responsible for facilitating the entry of visitors into Canada while at the same time protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians.

All visitors to Canada require a temporary resident visa, except citizens of countries where an exemption has already been granted.

All applications from around the world are assessed equally against exactly the same criteria, regardless of the country of origin.

Visa officers outside Canada review temporary resident visa applications and make their decisions based on the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness.

Those requirements include satisfying the immigration officer that they are in good health, that they do not pose a health risk, that they do not have a criminal record, that they do not pose a threat to Canada's security, that they have not previously violated immigration legislation, that they have enough money to support themselves while they visit Canada, and that they have sufficient ties to their home country to indicate that they will leave Canada when their visa expires.

Visa officers consider several other factors before deciding if the person is a genuine visitor who will leave Canada voluntarily at the end of his or her stay.

Among the things considered are the person's ties to the home country, the purpose of the visit, the person's family and economic situation, the overall economic and political stability of the home country, as well as invitations from the Canadian host.

As well, the Immigration Refugee Protection Act provides sufficient discretion to immigration officers to respond in a flexible and humane manner to emergency situations.

In cases where an applicant does not meet the requirements for the issuing of a visa, but where there are compelling reasons to allow him or her to travel to Canada, visa officers can issue a temporary resident permit.

We understand that people are disappointed when their visa applications are refused. However, it is our responsibility to make sure that all visitors meet the requirements to come to Canada, as set out in Canada's immigration law. The safety and security of Canadians and the integrity of our immigration system absolutely depend on it.

Our current system balances the need for safety and security with the realization that there are times when there may be compelling and compassionate reasons to allow a foreign national to enter Canada temporarily.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know of people whose applications have been refused many times even though they have never committed any of the offences listed. I have heard of cases where people who have money, well paid jobs, and family members who are well established in their home countries but are still not granted temporary visitor visas.

The government should listen to Canadians who demand that it establish temporary visa bonds and make the system more compassionate. In Canada we should not rely too much on the discretionary powers of visa officers.

The United States is much more generous in giving out multiple visas than Canada. In Canada we are so tightfisted.

The government should pursue this policy with diligence and not ignore it, as it is doing today. The government should start listening to the people now and increase the number of temporary visitor visas granted to people who want to visit their relatives in Canada for important family events, such as funerals, weddings, anniversaries and other important events.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, we certainly do listen to what individuals say when they want to come to this country and who have put their applications forward. However, we also take our responsibility for protecting Canadians very seriously.

Our visa officers review temporary resident visa applications and make their decisions based on the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness. The act also provides these officers with sufficient discretion to respond in a flexible and humane way where the situation warrants, as may be the case with a family funeral or another emergency situation.

We understand that people are disappointed when their visa applications are refused. Applicants are advised in writing when their applications are refused, and the letter sets out the reason for that refusal.

Refused applicants can submit a new application with a new processing fee, along with more supporting documents, or they may seek judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada.

Our visitor application process facilitates the entry of visitors into Canada while protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to continue the Liberals' attempt to get answers from the government in relation to its fixation on giving unaffordable tax breaks to large businesses. These corporate tax cuts, to the tune of $6 billion per annum, translate to $8 million per day. The Conservatives will be borrowing $6 billion during a time of high deficits to give tax breaks to large corporations. This is unbelievable. It shows the government's lack of economic competence.

Each and every working Canadian, therefore, will be burdened with extra taxes so that the Prime Minister can give his friends a huge profit. Small and medium-size enterprises employ 53% of all working individuals. They are the economic engines, but will not receive one penny from the $6 billion. Working Canadians also will not see a penny of these $6 billion, but will be forced to pay extra taxes as this unaffordable corporate gift will increase the government's deficit and debt.

When Liberals left office, they left the treasury with a healthy surplus of $13 billion, which was a result of sound fiscal management. The Liberals had to clean out the horrendous mess the previous Conservatives had left. As sound economic managers, the Liberals brought Canada back to a healthy fiscal framework. This ensured better services and billions of dollars in personal and corporate tax cuts.

The Conservatives have blown the surplus through mismanagement. They now have a deficit of $56 billion, to which they will add another $6 billion per annum, with more likely for their ideological spending.

The government is creating a further disadvantage to small and medium-size businesses. By cutting taxes for large corporations, they are effectively taking away the competitive advantage for the SMEs. This will allow the big box store chains even greater ability to force their smaller competitors out of business.

Canadians may be facing an election soon over the upcoming budget, which will implement this giveaway of taxpayers' money. The choice at the ballot box will be clear. Do people favour a tax break for big business that will cause greater debt for all Canadians and put small and medium-size business at a competitive disadvantage or do they want a Liberal government that looks after every Canadian?

Can the minister explain to Canadians why he favours this corporate giveaway?

6:40 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, there we have it, the first election speech of the Liberal Party right here in the House of Commons.

In any event, our government's top priority is in fact the economy. I appreciate the question from the member for Don Valley East. That is why we will continue to put in place the right conditions for businesses to succeed in this country.

We have made it easier for entrepreneurs to access the funding they need to start and grow their businesses. Under the Canada small business financing program, the government has increased the maximum eligible loan from $250,000 to $350,000, and up to $500,000 for loans toward acquiring real estate.

In my city of St. Catharines, Niagara College and Brock University have received federal support that will allow both of these institutions to help local business innovate and bring new products and processes to the market.

Other businesses in my community that have benefited from government actions are companies like Silicon Knights. The funding received by Silicon Knights will help ensure the city of St. Catherine's continued transition from traditional manufacturing to the tech industry. Their growth and success are important to my community. Not only in terms of job creation but also in terms of attracting and retaining the types of highly skilled workers Niagara needs to prosper.

Our government is taking action to help improve access to business financing. The business credit availability program, Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada are providing significant dollars in direct lending and support like mentorship, accounting and consulting advice all play a role in assisting those companies.

Our government is also working to relieve tax burdens on small businesses. Canada's economic action plan raised the amount of business income eligible for the small business tax rate of 11% to $500,000 from $400,000 as of January 1, 2009.

Moreover, the economic action plan provided significant funding over two years for the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program. This new funding will increase the research, development and commercialization skills of small and medium-sized businesses across Canada, and contribute to the improvement of their productivity and competitiveness.

We have created the advisory committee on small business and entrepreneurship to provide us with insight on the issues and importance of small and medium-sized businesses.

We have heard already from these companies that one of those issues is to simplify regulations and cut red tape. As a result, the government has also created the red tape reduction commission, which has already visited over 10 cities across Canada and is chaired by the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.

In March 2009, we announced that we achieved our goal of reducing the paperwork burden by 20%. This government believes entrepreneurs should spend their time and energy on building their success and not filing and filling out paperwork.

We have also provided the Canadian Youth Business Foundation with significant dollars over the last two years to support its work with young entrepreneurs and Canada's next generation of business leaders.

We have bolstered our support for the Canada Business Network, where small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs have access in person, on line, and toll-free phone service information about how to start a business, how to manage employees and get specific advice concerning importing and exporting.

The goal of these federal government initiatives is very simple and it speaks directly to the point that the member for Don Valley East has tried to make. We want to make it easier for small business to invest, to create jobs and be successful in this economy.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a few simple questions for the government.

Why is the Conservative government increasing payroll taxes for individuals to the tune of $8 billion while giving a tax break of $6 billion to the wealthy corporations?

Why is the government imposing airport fees and other indirect taxes on working Canadians while allowing big business tax breaks which Canada can ill afford, especially since the corporate tax rate is the lowest in the G7?

Why is the government increasing debt on the backs of all Canadians?

Canadians are tired of this arrogant, secretive, contemptuous government. Liberals are in favour of lower taxes and have given huge breaks to Canadians after cleaning up Conservative mismanagement.

Can the government explain why putting an extra $6 billion of debt on the shoulders of all Canadians to give benefits to large successful corporations is fair?

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government continues to deliver for Canada's small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises, the backbone of our economy and a major source of job creation across this country.

The last thing we should do right now is what the Liberal leader and the Liberal member have spoken about this evening which is to raise taxes on the job creators in this country. Many small businesses sell their products exclusively to larger companies.

The Liberal $6 billion tax hike would put small business right out of business. In fact, what it would do is bring this recovery that we finally have, that we have worked so hard to create, back down. The member mentioned the G7 and the G20. We are ahead on all counts in terms of where other countries are.

A $6 billion tax increase to do what? Bring this economy back down onto its knees. I do not think so. This government will not be doing that.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

(The House adjourned at 6:46 p.m.)