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House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.

Topics

The BudgetGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

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

Vote #3

The BudgetGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Motion No. 4Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

moved that a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget, as updated on June 6, 2011, be concurred in.

Motion No. 4Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to the order made on Thursday, June 9, 2011, the next vote will be on Motion No. 4, under ways and means proceedings.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motion No. 4Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

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

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I requested these adjournment proceedings because I, and the people of London, would like to hear and have on record from the government the reason funding was denied to Diamond Aircraft.

I will quote the minister of state, in his response to my question last week. The minister stated:

After a thorough review of Diamond's request, the company was advised by this government that we could not support the request.

I would appreciate a more detailed answer and I would like the minister to explain to the people of London who lost their jobs why the government was unable to find money to lend to Diamond.

For the sake of clarity, I need to be sure that the minister of state has the details regarding Diamond Aircraft. It is a leading manufacturer of small planes and has operated a factory in London, Ontario, for almost 20 years. Diamond is an important contributing member of our community.

London's manufacturing sector has been hit hard during the recession with the collapse of the auto industry. In fact, the unemployment rate in London is the highest in the region. Diamond Aircraft was one of the few manufacturing employers left and our community needs to keep these jobs.

Diamond has completed the expensive and sophisticated research and development to launch its new D-Jet, the next generation of private jets. The company already has an order for 240 D-jets valued at $400 million; $20 million from the private sector and a $35 million loan guarantee from the Ontario government. All that was required to go ahead with the project was the final piece: a loan from the federal government.

The loan application process has been lengthy and thorough. The initial request goes back to January 2009. There were many meetings, discussions and applications, both formal and informal, with ministers, staff and even the Prime Minister.

Sadly, the ultimate response was no.

The government missed a real opportunity to make Canada a leader in the aerospace industry and bring more jobs to a city that is hurting from the economic downturn. This investment would have saved jobs. Diamond was compelled to lay off 213 workers from its London facility. There was also a potential for 500 new jobs that would have helped revive the manufacturing sector in London. How can the government deny the chance to create good jobs?

It is important to reiterate that the loan guarantee was not a matter of the government cutting a cheque for $35 million. The loan disburses progressively at about $2 million per month over the next 18 months. This would allow the government to stop and cut losses at any time if unsatisfied with the program's progress. It is a fully repayable loan. It is not based on the success of the program. No matter what, Diamond would repay the money invested.

All those factors make it clear that this was a smart investment where everyone would benefit: the Government of Canada, the people of London and the Canadian aerospace industry.

Again, I would like to ask the minister and have him explain to the people of London who lost their jobs why the government was unable to find the money to lend to Diamond Aircraft.

7 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Canada's aerospace industry and the importance this government places on this critical sector.

The aerospace industry is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy. In 2009 alone, Canada's aerospace industry recorded sales totalling over $22 billion, ranking it among the world's top five aerospace sectors.

While the economic slowdown undoubtedly challenged Canada's important aerospace industry, the government ensured that the right tools were in place to support this vital contributor to the economies of all regions of Canada, and we continue to do so.

Investing in innovation and creating new business opportunities for Canadian aerospace firms today will ensure that Canada is well positioned to full take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities.

The Government of Canada works closely with the Canadian aerospace industry in its pursuit of innovation and enhanced competitiveness. For instance, there are many benefits provided to industry through the Government of Canada's industrial and regional benefits policy, which leverages defence procurements to provide high value opportunities for Canada's aerospace industry now and for years to come.

Thanks to the federal government's investments to rebuild the Canadian Forces, aerospace and defence contractors hold obligations to invest approximately $20 billion in Canada. In July 2010, the Government of Canada announced its commitment to replace the existing fleet of CF-18 fighters with 65 F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The F-35 joint strike fighter program represents a unique opportunity for Canadian industry. Canada's participation positions our companies at the start of a multi-year, multi-billion dollar program where they will contribute to the development, production and sustainment of this highly advanced fifth generation fighter. Canadian companies have access to significant opportunities related to the production of the F-35, with more to come on sustainment.

In April 2007, the government created the strategic aerospace and defence initiative to support the vital research and development investments made by Canadian aerospace firms. To date, we have announced more than $800 million of repayable investments in 23 projects. With these funds, we have leveraged an additional $1.8 billion in research and development investments.

Five firms are already commercializing new technologies as a result of this program. It was through the strategic aerospace and defence initiative that the Government of Canada initially invested close to $20 million in Diamond's D-Jet project. This funding was awarded to Diamond to directly support its research and development efforts for this all new aircraft.

Diamond has since approached the government with additional financial requests, including a request for an additional $35 million loan. After a thorough review of Diamond's request by Industry Canada experts, the company was advised that the government, as the steward of taxpayer dollars, could not support the request. However, I am pleased to note that company officials have indicated that they continue to explore other financing opportunities to support Diamond's D-Jet project.

The government remains focused on what matters to Canadians, the economy. Our continued economic growth shows that Canada's economic action plan is working and that we are on the right track. Canada's economy has now grown for seven straight quarters, with over 560,000 net new jobs created since July 2009. While that is positive news, the global economic recovery remains fragile. We need to stay the course with our prudent low tax plan to protect the economy and create jobs.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the decision by this government has been catastrophic for the workers, the families, the community of London and the advancement of the aerospace industry in Canada. Highly qualified technicians have been forced to leave London for the United States. The people of London have a right to know the reasons this loan was denied.

This government can spend $30 billion in a blink of an eye to invest in the American aerospace industry. At the same time, it denied funding to a Canadian company while making unconvincing arguments about prudent spending.

The loan disbursement amounts are not much more than the loss of income tax revenues and the unemployment insurance costs associated with the layoffs. There was opportunity here to increase tax revenue and create more jobs. How can this government call its actions fiscally responsible?

Again, will the minister outline exactly why the funding was denied?

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, I have already spoken to that question. Let me turn to the many positive investments this government has made in the city of London, thanks to the efforts of my colleagues from London West, Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and my new colleague representing London North Centre.

Our government's investments include a new cargo terminal at the London International Airport, expanded research and teaching facilities at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, important road improvements throughout the London area and new affordable housing for seniors in the London area.

Because of our investments and low tax plan to create jobs and spur growth, the future for the people of Canada and the people of London has never looked brighter. Here again, I will reiterate the fact that our plan has created over 560,000 net new jobs across Canada since July 2009.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I had asked the human resources minister a question here in the House. In 2009, crab quotas were 20,000 tons or more, which gave my region a crab fishing season that lasted eight weeks. In fishing, there are all kinds of species, including crab, lobster, herring and so on. That many weeks allows plant workers to accumulate enough hours to be eligible for employment insurance. However, in 2010, on the advice of biologists, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans decided to reduce quotas to about 7,800 metric tonnes. That reduced the number of work weeks from eight to four. Since the workers had accumulated enough hours the previous year, it was not the end of the world. But this year, the biomass has increased by about 17%.

The then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans—who is now a minister—had increased the quotas to 8,700 metric tonnes, which provided just four weeks of work for the plant workers, the majority of whom are women. At the time, I had asked the minister whether she would be prepared to work with the province of New Brunswick on implementing a program to help those people. This could be through community programs or something else to help the people in these communities to be eligible for employment insurance, unless the government wants them to go on welfare.

The programs that would send people from northeastern New Brunswick and the Acadian Peninsula to work in Cap-Pelé or in Bouctouche are not the answer. The government needs to realize that many of these people are single mothers. They are not interested in leaving two children behind to go work in Cap-Pelé. We need projects in the region, back home, to help people get through the crisis in the fishery. The crisis in the crab fishery comes in cycles; the quotas go up and down. Currently, the biomass is on the rise. Let us hope this will be settled in a few years.

The minister told them to turn to the province, which was receiving money from the federal government and it was up to the province to solve its problems. It is the same amount of money the province received in the two or three previous years. There is a shortfall for the province. I am again asking the minister to help the province of New Brunswick implement programs to help the plant workers, because we do not want them to go on welfare. We want them to be proud and to have work. I am asking the minister to intervene immediately.

7:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for Acadie—Bathurst about his concerns regarding the provisions of employment insurance benefits to fish plant workers who may be affected by the quota for snow crab this year. In particular, he notes there is danger that plant workers will not have accumulated sufficient hours to qualify for EI regular benefits.

We are accountable to employers and workers who pay the EI premiums that support the program. As the hon. member knows, EI is an insurance-based program. Employers and workers pay premiums so that employees may collect benefits if they are unable to work, are temporarily unemployed, sick, pregnant, caring for a newborn or a newly adopted child, or provide care or support to a gravely ill family member.

Under the eligibility requirements for EI, workers receive benefits only if they have contributed to the program by paying premiums in the past year and if they meet qualifying and entitlement conditions. Workers can qualify for EI regular benefits with as little as 420 hours, depending on the unemployment rate in their regions.

Of course, I sympathize with those workers who may not be able to accumulate sufficient hours to qualify for EI regular benefits. However, removal of the eligibility requirements or qualifying conditions, even for those individuals with extenuating personal circumstances, would be inconsistent with the role of the EI Act and would change the nature of the program.

Let me also point out that the EI program responds to local market changes, taking into account the difficulty of finding employment. The EI program divides the country into 58 economic regions intended to reflect areas of similar labour market conditions. The unemployment rate for each region is used to determine the number of hours a person residing in that region needs to qualify for EI and the number of weeks payable.

Through the variable entrance requirement, the number of insurable hours needed to qualify for EI benefits and the duration of benefits varies depending on the unemployment rate of the EI economic region in which the individual lives. When a region's unemployment rate rises, the entrance requirements reduce and the duration of benefits increase.

For example, in the hon. member's economic region of Restigouche—Albert, the current number of insured hours required to qualify for EI regular benefits is 420, which represents the minimum number of hours to qualify for regular benefits, providing the maximum compensation allowed under the program. Simply put, the conditions in the member's riding are the most generous of any region in the country.

The government also provides funding to provinces and territories to help people find work through continued education. The EI Act already includes provisions that allow the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to provide income support to workers affected by the crab quota and who wish to take long-term training.

EI claimants who have exhausted part I benefits are eligible to participate in EI part II training for up to three years and can receive income support while doing so.

Both New Brunswick and Quebec have received substantial ongoing funding within their labour market development agreements and labour market arrangements. The flexibility of this funding allows us to adjust the priorities and spending to respond to the impact of the snow crab quota.

Furthermore, the funding provided through labour market agreements to the provinces and territories have helped Canadians who are not eligible for EI benefits or are under-represented in the labour market train for better jobs.

Service Canada will work with the provincial officials to provide information and to help individuals and communities as necessary, and our government will continue to be accountable to workers, employers and Canadian taxpayers.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has just said that the Conservative government is completely washing its hands of this problem. That is what the Conservatives are telling us. This crisis is happening in our region under the watch of the federal government, which was responsible for managing the fishery.

I am familiar with this program and I know that employment insurance is there to help workers who have lost their jobs. However, what the parliamentary secretary is not saying is that the Liberals and the Conservatives stole $57 billion from the employment insurance fund and were not shy about using this money to eliminate the deficit.

However, when it comes time to help the men and women who have lost their jobs because of the mismanagement of the fishery, the government is saying that there is no money allocated for that. Come on. That is why the employment insurance fund was established: to help workers who have lost their jobs and are in difficulty.

I suggest that the federal government stop washing its hands of this problem and start doing something for these people who are working and who want to live with some dignity—

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has provided unprecedented investments in training to get Canadians back to work. Our government has invested over $4 billion in training which has helped 1.2 million Canadians find new jobs.

We have provided significant additional funding under the targeted initiative for older workers in both New Brunswick and Quebec. New Brunswick has received $2 million and Quebec $13 million to help unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities.

As I stated earlier, the EI system provides the most generous conditions possible for the member's riding.

We continue to encourage further training and education as a means of increasing employment for all Canadians.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment. I wish you all the best in this endeavour.

I also want to convey my best wishes to the member for Ajax—Pickering and congratulate him on his appointment as a parliamentary secretary. He will soon learn that doing late shows is probably one of the least attractive aspects of the job, because for the next four minutes he has to tell the House why he is not answering the question that the minister only took 30 seconds to not answer. I wish him well in his responses and look forward to working with him over the course of the next few years.

I had a very simple question for the minister, which he did not answer. I asked him how much it was going to cost to close Camp Mirage and how much it was going to cost to open the Kuwait base. The minister said that my figures of $300 million were grossly exaggerated, so I simply asked him what is the number and thus far we do not know. Hopefully in the realm of time the parliamentary secretary will actually tell us the cost of closing Camp Mirage and then opening Kuwait. It does open up a larger series of questions with respect to the government's plans for opening all of the other bases.

We read in the press that the government is proposing to open bases in Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Singapore and South Korea. It has already concluded deals with Jamaica and Germany and is working on the deal with Kuwait. None of these things one would imagine is cheap. It is not only the cost of opening the base, but it is the cost of maintaining the base.

This also begs the question, what are we doing in all of these countries if it is for no other reason than to have refuelling stops around the world? Bases are not opened for no reason at all. It would lead one to the question of what are the government's plans with respect to opening bases all over the world?

I am looking forward to the response from the hon. parliamentary secretary. I hope that his response will be somewhat more forthcoming than the minister's response. I wonder if he could actually tell us the cost of closing Camp Mirage and opening Kuwait. In the fullness of time, could he possibly tell us how much he anticipates that the military would be spending on the opening of all of these other bases as well?

7:15 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for his interest in these matters. Our ridings are almost neighbours along the coast of Lake Ontario.

On this issue, as on many others, we have a common and shared deep interest.

The hon. member is asking for additional information on a matter that is under negotiation and that is the logistical arrangements being put in place to support the end of the Canadian Forces combat mission and the transition to a Canadian Forces training mission in Afghanistan that will last until 2014.

I am confident that the hon. member would not want the details of a negotiation still under way to be divulged to the House at a time that might adversely affect the result of those negotiations. So I am not in a position to give more detail with regard to the cost of the aspect of the mission that the member has asked about until those plans are finalized.

However, I can assure the hon. member that the closure of Camp Mirage has not had any adverse impact on our mission in Afghanistan.

Since Camp Mirage closed, the Canadian Forces have been able to pursue their combat operations and support the preparations for the new training mission. These operations are receiving a great deal of support, and this will not change.

They are supported through a number of locations in Canada and overseas that depend on routes through the air, on the sea and on land, and are not dependent on any single supply line.

The Canadian Forces are continuously seeking, as the member well knows, new ways to be more agile, efficient, and cost effective in meeting humanitarian and other challenges requiring their involvement. In this respect, the acquisition of the C-17 transport aircraft has already made our Canadian forces more effective and responsive. The training mission to assist in NATO's training of the Afghan national security forces until 2014 will be effectively supported as well.

We are there with over 60 nations and international organizations as part of a UN-mandated NATO-led mission.

We are implementing a government-wide response that includes aspects related to the military, diplomacy, correctional services, development and civil defence.

This effort is delivering real results and making a positive difference to the lives of Afghan citizens across the country. Of course, it involves a level of commitment that does carry significant costs.

The Government of Canada has always been open and transparent about costs. We have committed to submitting reports on the cost of the mission to Canadians and to Parliament on a regular basis.

That is what we have done to this point and we will continue to do so. The costs associated with the mission close-out will be communicated when they are fully known in an appropriate fashion. In the meantime, our Canadian Forces continue work at which they excel, providing security to Afghans and supporting the development of effective and capable Afghan national security forces.

As part of prudent military logistics, planning for the transition of our combat mission to our Afghan and NATO allies is well in hand.

In accordance with the parliamentary motion adopted in 2008, the combat mission in Kandahar will end by the end of July 2011, and all Canadian Forces personnel will leave the Kandahar region by the end of 2011. Thus, Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will shift to a non-combat training mission.

This role is vitally important: the continuing development of well-led, well-trained, and well-equipped Afghan national security forces. That is what will help the government of Afghanistan assume increasing responsibility for Afghan security.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is a quick read. I congratulate him on his non-answer. It was quite amusing to me to hear him say, “We are an open and transparent government, but we cannot tell you anything”. Then he went on to talk about C-17s, the whole of government approach, what we are doing or not doing in Afghanistan, et cetera, none of which had anything to do with the actual simple question, which was how much this is going to cost.

I take the view that the hon. member or those he represents actually know the cost, that it is not actually a point of negotiation, and that these costs are concluded. The only point of negotiation would be the issue of whether there is some possibility that Camp Mirage could still continue to exist. Clearly that does not, so the costs have to be known, and there is no reason they cannot be communicated to the House.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member really does test this point to its very limit in suggesting that costs were never revealed at earlier stages of this mission when his party was the government of Canada and when in fact this member for Ajax—Pickering was Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan until a negotiation had resulted in an agreement and the agreement met the criteria set by the House and the Government of Canada for an operational purpose being pursued in support of a mission in Afghanistan.

I can say in all good conscience that of all the nations contributing militarily to the mission in Afghanistan, the Government of Canada remains among the very most transparent in revealing costs in a timely manner.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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 7:25 p.m.)